By Carolyn Twesten, Weaver Street Market Meat Merchandiser
This February I had the pleasure of organizing a training for Weaver Street Market staff on our local pasture-raised pork products. We had a great turnout of attendees and a wonderful group of speakers: Sam Suchoff of The Pig restaurant and Lady Edison Meats; Jeremiah Jones, hog farmer and president of the NC Natural Hog Growers Association; Emily Moose from A Greener World (the certifying agent for Animal Welfare Approved); and Sarah Blacklin and Sheila Neal from NC Choices.
The idea for a training like this one came to me while I was meeting with Sam and some folks from NC State University to talk about improving the local meat supply chain. In listening to Sam talk about his processes I realized how much effort goes into making what he does work. At the heart of it is whole animal utilization: purchasing and finding uses for whole animals (rather than “primals” or individual cuts) to benefit the farmer and the consumer.
Meat production in the United States is dominated by corporate giants who own the entire process from growing and milling feed, to supplying the farmer (contract farmer, that is) with young animals, to processing and marketing. Small local producers do not have that ability and as a result the process is slower, less efficient, and more expensive.
For example there are fewer than 10 independently owned meat processers in the state of NC to service over 1000 small meat producers. The farmers must carry their live animals sometimes hundreds of miles to the processor, drop the animal off, and return several days later to pick up the meat. If the farmer has the animal processed into retail cuts that they then have to market to restaurants and individuals, that’s more time and labor lost. Selling a whole animal is a much better option for the producer in terms of cost and efficiency, and this also benefits the end consumer.
Over the next month, we’ll share videos from the training session on our blog. Look for links to appear here, or at the top of the blog page.
Sam Suchoff of The Pig shared his experiences sourcing hogs from the NC Natural Hog Growers Association for his BBQ restaurant and charcuterie business. Read here.
Jeremiah Jones of the NC Natural Hog Growers Association shared the story of the association and the work they do, as well as some of the challenges they’ve faced. Read here.
Sarah Blacklin of NC Choices described the rise of pasture-raised meat production. (coming soon)
Emily Moose from A Greener World (the certifying agent for the Animal Welfare Approved label) discussed standards and labeling. (coming soon)