First, we do not sell meat to the public. We are not a butcher shop. We merely act as the liaison between consumers and farmers. For all our classes, we purchase meat directly from farmers on behalf of our students. The students are technically the owners of the live animals before the animals are slaughtered and the resulting meat brought to our classes. If you are interested in buying meat directly from a farmer, we are happy to point you in the right direction, but we cannot sell meat to you as we do not have a meat reseller license.
Now, on to our meat philosophy: We believe that all animals raised for meat should be raised humanely and treated with respect from the beginning to the end of their lives. We also believe that if an animal is going to be raised for meat we, as consumers, should know how to utilize every part of it. Therefore we believe in whole animal butchery and charcuterie: a system by which we all understand that the bones, the trotters, the organs, the skin, the head, are just as important as those pork chops and bacon bellies Americans love.
While we are not a certifying body, we tend to agree with the animal husbandry guidelines offered by several certifying organizations—such as the Food Alliance. However, we realize not all farmers are interested in becoming certified, even if they follow the same guidelines.
This can mean a lot of things, of course. But on a basic level we feel strongly that animals raised for human consumption should be brought up in an environment that provides the animal with physical comfort. Their diet should make them healthy and fit and should make sense for the natural consumption patterns of that particular species. Animals should have access to natural lighting and pasture, and their living environment should allow for their natural behavior to unfold. The handlers of these animals should minimize animal stress during transportation and slaughter. Where possible, we prefer to buy animals that don’t have to be transported for slaughter—opting instead for on-farm slaughtering. We don’t agree with the use of hormones, and believe that antibiotics should only be used in the case of illness.
We buy animals from small to medium-size Oregon or Southern Washington farms that are in good community standing. We (meaning our team of subcontractors, instructors, and trusted volunteers) prefer to visit farms and taste their product before we recommend it to our students. And we tend to work with farmers who are willing to have a communicative, working relationship with us.
That said, we are aware that even farm visits don’t always guarantee that such standards are consistently met. Gut instinct is important. Some of our judgment is based on observations surrounding the size of the farm versus their general availability of meat, what they say we’ll receive versus what we actually receive, and other such factors. After interviewing many farmers, slaughterhouses, and meat retailers, we’ve learned that it doesn’t take much digging to be able to tell when a farm isn’t what they say they are.
We also only source from farms whose meat looks right and tastes good. Consistent quality is important to us, and if our students end up purchasing meat that they or we don’t deem to be of high-enough quality, then we’ll do the research to find out what’s unfolding on the farming, slaughtering, or processing end.