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Chefs become breeders


Guest Aaron T

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Guest Aaron T

This seems a little insane to me. It is one thing to encourage small farms and livestock firms to raise specialty breeds but to buy a breeding bull seems a bit much....

 

This is from the Wall Street Journal - the article is much longer but this is a representative sample

For chefs, getting their hands on the best meat and poultry is one of the biggest challenges, one that pits them against the seasons and competing restaurants. But David Burke, who is opening a steakhouse in Chicago next month, has figured out a way to control his fate: He's breeding his own livestock.

 

Two months ago, Mr. Burke and his partner, restaurateur Stephen Hanson, bought a $250,000 Black Angus bull named Prime. Today, Prime lives on a ranch in Kentucky where, between lazy days munching on bluegrass pasture, he studs cattle that will eventually give birth to offspring destined for the plates of David Burke's Primehouse.

 

The latest form of oneupsmanship among chefs? Animal husbandry. To market their restaurants as places where you can sink your teeth into food you can't taste anywhere else, some ambitious chefs are now investing in their own farm animals or making deals with farmers or ranchers to breed livestock to their specifications. For diners, that means menus already brimming with details about what farm grew the arugula and where the organic eggs came from will soon be even more complicated. As chefs get meat animals custom-bred for their restaurants, they're touting unheard-of varieties of pigs, cows and lambs. At Primehouse, Mr. Burke plans to post the restaurant's livestock ownership papers on the back of the menu.

 

Chefs, of course, have already gotten deep into the food chain in their quest for unusual ingredients. Restaurants have been tailoring dishes for some time around the likes of heritage turkeys and hammering out agreements to buy vegetables direct from local suppliers -- playing up the details with diners at every turn.

 

But the stakes keep getting higher. A few years ago, for example, it was enough for chefs to say they got their pork chops from Niman Ranch, a specialty-meat supplier favored by some high-end restaurants. Now Niman Ranch meat is served at Chipotle Mexican Grill, a 480-unit chain of taco and burrito shops, and can be found in many supermarkets. Meanwhile, the growth of farmer's markets -- there were 3,700 of them in 2004, more than double the number a decade before, according to Department of Agriculture figures -- means that consumers can buy their own farm-fresh pasture-raised poultry or grass-fed lamb.

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Katy McLaughlin closes her article with the observation that chefs and farmers have significantly different objectives in the heritage meat, etc contest.

 

The chefs want something that's unique, and proprietary to them. They don't really want everybody on the block having access to their raw materials. Think about Niman Ranch beef and its present ubiquity.

 

For ranchers and growers, they need the volume, and they don't want to be dependent on a limited number of buyers.

 

I recall Ducasse had an exclusive deal with a cattle rancher in Arizona to provide specially raised beef for this tables. My recollection is that deal didn't work, and he went back to the wholesale meat dealer.

 

 

AaronT - great thread title!

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AaronT - great thread title!

This thread is not at all about what I thought it was going to be about.

 

Anyway, more to the actual point of the thread, last night I had a terrific meal at Oliveto's annual Whole Hog Dinner in the delightful company of Hest88 and her SO. On the menu, the Chef expressed his thanks to the providers of the porky goodness. (I forgot to take a copy of the menu, or I'd tell you who they were. Niman was there, but also a few other local names I remember recognizing.) He didn't mention breeding any pigs himself, though.

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I think Cathy's observation is accurate..in fact, I KNOW it is....whenever hanson is involved, you know the PR is going to be ratcheted up a notch, and as she said, Burke is no slouch at PR himself.

 

I can assure you, the beast does exist, in fact Dillon came back from Kentucky telling our 225lb. mastiff that he should stop thinking he's "all that" :unsure:

 

Of course, since this process needs both someone to gather the sperm AND inseminate the cow, it has been the subject of interesting dinner conversations as to just what Connor and Dillon Burke's summer jobs will be this year. :blush: :( :(

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