Why Are You Always Out of Bacon?!

If you’ve been shopping with us for very long, you have probably seen the dreaded line through the BACON category on our farmers market signage.

Breakfast is ruined, emotions run high, panic ensues, it’s never fun… and I can assure you we hate it as much as you do!

Our bacon is pretty much amazing. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s crunchy, it’s good for breakfast, in a BLT, on a salad, as a midnight snack, the list could go on. It’s basically what dreams are made of, I completely get it.

In a perfect world, we would never run out of any cut, but it’s just not realistic for small farms operating at our scale. Each pig, steer and chicken only has so many body parts!

Part of the bacon challenge is that on a 200+ pound hog, we only get somewhere around 16 packages of bacon. The belly and a little bit of meat from the jaw is the only meat from a hog that can be made into bacon. The majority of a pig is chops, hams, shoulders, ribs and sausage.

As consumers, we are used to shopping the grocery store where every cut is stocked, at all times. We can shop any time of day or night and there will be bacon and pretty much anything else we could imagine, at any given moment, waiting for us to toss it into the cart.

It’s different for small farms. We use and need to sell the entire animal so nothing goes to waste and so we can afford to raise the next batch of animals.

The same concept of cut scarcity is true for beef and chickens too. We tend to run out of cuts like filet, ribeyes and rump roasts very quickly since each animal only has a small amount, but we can’t beef up (ha, get it!) beef production so we always have filet without balancing the demand for the other cuts.

Sometimes we also run out of cuts simply because all of you are amazing and we sell out faster than expected!

It takes 6-8 weeks to raise a batch of meat chickens, 5-6 months before a laying hen starts producing eggs consistently, 6+ months to raise a finished hog, and 2-2.5 years to raise a finished beef steer. When we run out of things, it takes time for us to stock the freezers again.

2019 will be our 4th year farming, and we are continuing to fine tune when we need to have animals processed, how many to raise, and what your favorite cuts are, but we always appreciate feedback about what you like or would like us to offer!

So, my challenge to you is to try incorporating a wide variety of cuts into your meals. Branch out, try something new! And if you need ideas on how to cook it, send me an email and I would love to help. The end result will be more bacon for everyone! :)


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Homemade For the Holidays - Mimmie Noodles

My Mimmie was such a cool lady. Not a day that goes by I don’t wish she was sitting in my rocking chair with a great grand baby on each knee or on the other end of the phone line laughing at all the stories I could tell her about my life now.

One particularly fun memory I have of her was right after she bought a new mini van. She loaded up my sister and I plus our cousins and took a trip to town. On the way home, out of nowhere, she announces “lets see what this thing can do!”, floors the gas pedal and we go flying down a little back road.

I mean, it was a mini van so we couldn’t possibly have gained speed that quickly, but it felt really fast! 

The railroad tracks were quickly approaching, we were all plastered to the seat backs screaming and Mimmie was just laughing! She eventually slammed on the brakes at the last minute and we made it home safely. We all tripped over each other trying to get in the house first to tell Pappap we almost ramped the railroad tracks Dukes of Hazard style.

Along with being the coolest and most fun Grandmother ever, Mimmie was an amazing cook and loved feeding anyone and everyone.

Big holiday dinners with Mimmie were AH-MAZING! We had the turkey, usually a ham, all the usual sides, 10 kinds of cookies and pies, but our absolute favorite thing she made was her homemade noodles. Our family still calls them “Mimmie Noodles”. 

All of us kids would find reasons to sneak through the kitchen and steal a few noodles off the counter before they made it into the pot. She let us snag a few, but then would start swatting at us with her spatula to save enough for dinner.

Oh and if anything ever went wrong in the kitchen her usual curse words were “oh spatula!” A solid 75% of my memories of her she had flour covering most of her body too. Oh how I miss her! 

I don’t know why, but noodle making was one activity I never helped her with. After she passed away I realized I had no idea how to make them! Thankfully my Mom and Aunt took good notes.

Turns out it’s fairly simple - eggs, flour and salt is all it takes! The actual “recipe” she used involved adding enough flour til it had the right feel plus a hand of salt, but I’ve tried to recreate the recipe with some actual measurements.

Mimmie Noodles

3 Eggs (Grass Powered pastured eggs make the best noodles!) :)

2 Cups Flour

1 tsp Salt

Ok, now keep in mind these measurements are very approximate, but this should get you pretty close!

  1. Add flour and salt to a mixing bowl - whisk together

  2. Make a little hole in the middle of the flour and add in the eggs. Use your finger, or a whisk if you’re not into playing with your food, to scramble up the eggs a little bit then combine the flour mixture and eggs.

  3. Mix until the dough holds together. You’ll have to get your hands into the dough for this step! If it’s super sticky, add a tablespoon or so of flour at a time until it comes together and isn’t sticking to your hands. Sometimes you’ll need to add a teaspoon or so of water at a time to help it hold together better. I know it sounds complicated, but I promise once you start working with the dough you’ll know what it needs!

  4. I’ve never owned a pasta maker, but if you have one it can be rolled through it. We roll them out by hand Little House on the Prairie style!

    • Add a little flour to your counter where you plan to roll, plus a little on the rolling pin and dusted over the top of your noodle dough. Roll out the dough fairly thick if you want dumpling style noodles, or thinner if you want dainty little noodles. ThIn noodles do dry out better if you’re planning to store them, but otherwise it doesn’t matter at all!

  5. There are 2 methods of cutting the noodles:

    • One option is once the dough is rolled out, you can use a pizza cutter or knife to cut long strips of noodles. If you fail at cutting straight lines like I do - the next technique might work best.

    • Option two is to carefully roll the dough into a log (make sure you lightly flour the top so it doesn’t stick to itself), use sharp knife to cut slices, then shake out the noodles so they don’t stick to themselves as they dry.

  6. If you’ve planned ahead, it’s best to leave the noodles to lay out on the counter to dry for about an hour before cooking. It’s also totally fine to just plop them right in a pot of simmering stock! They just tend stick together in the pot without some drying time.

  7. To cook the noodles - drop into a pot of simmering chicken or beef stock in handfuls. If you drop a bunch at a time, they usually stick together so add in small amounts and keep stirring!

  8. Cook until noodles start to float and aren’t doughy when you take a bite. How long that takes will depend on the thickness of your noodles, so you’re just going to have to wing it and trust me that you can’t mess this up and it’ll be fine!

My family likes to serve them over mashed potatoes. Is that normal? I have no idea if other families carb load that heavily, but that’s our holiday meal style!

These are also delicious tossed into chicken noodle or vegetable beef soup, and can be frozen then cooked for a quick meal another day! If you’re planning to freeze the noodles, let them dry on the counter until they are slightly crisp and won’t stick to each other before putting them in a bag or container.

They can also be fully dried and kept in the pantry, but that’s not something I’ve tried yet so can’t teach you that method!

My sister and her husband are coming to visit this weekend for “Thanksmas” and I am so excited to be in the kitchen with her, my Mom and my little girls making noodles! I predict it will look like the flour bag exploded…. Mimmie would be proud!

Does your family have favorite holiday meal recipes or memories? I would love to hear them!

Hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday season surrounding by family, friends and delicious food!

~ Dana

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Deciphering Chicken Labels - Because Free Range Doesn't Always Mean What You Think!

So you're at the grocery store, standing in front of the chicken display. Making sure you feed your family high quality, nutrient dense food, free from chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, GMO's, etc. is all important to you. But there are so many choices! Organic, Free Range, All Natural, Vegetarian-Fed, Hormone and Antibiotic Free, Pastured, even Amish Raised are words you'll see on labels.  

I've been there, it's overwhelming, which is why I wanted to talk through some of the claims and what they mean, or don't mean. 

Hormone and Antibiotic Free - It's illegal to feed hormones to any type of poultry, in any production system in the United States. Some integrators will still use antibiotics in their birds, others are moving away from the practice. Either way, if proper withdrawal periods are met there should be no antibiotic residue in the meat.

Are there other big issues with feeding animals antibiotics and are there probably instances where withdrawal periods aren't met? Yes, I truly just don't know how often it's happening. There was a Whole Foods turkey scandal within the last few years where USDA inspectors found traces of an illegal growth hormone and antibiotics among other substances in turkey labeled as being raised without either, so I can't say it isn't a concern. 

All Natural - just like I talked about in my blog post about beef production, this means nothing. Chickens are fed a typical conventional feed, raised in the typical confinement broiler barns, they probably weren't fed antibiotics or hormones (which again, is illegal to feed any poultry produced in the United States anyway), but otherwise are no different than the other products on the shelf without the all natural sticker. 

Free Range - this is a super confusing one. So back in the day when the term free range first started to be used it meant literally, the chickens were free to roam about the farm eating bugs and worms and doing chicken stuff. Then the chicken industry latched onto this and USDA ruled that the "free-range" label can be used when chickens are raised in conventional broiler barns, on conventional feed, but given "access to the outdoors" at some point in their lives.

This typically takes the form of a little fenced, concrete lot with a little door that is opened when the chickens are 5-6 weeks old. Broiler chickens are processed at 5-6 weeks old, and after spending that much time indoors they likely don't venture outside at all in their last few days of life. And there's nothing to do out there besides walk around on a concrete pad. 

Free-Range doesn't mean anything unless you visit the farm and can see that the chickens are actually roaming about in pasture!

Organic - these chickens are raised in the same confinement broiler barns as conventional birds only fed an organic feed. They don't get to venture outside because they might eat a bug or seed that isn't certified organic. There has been a big scandal lately about cheap, but fake, organic grain being imported from China, so what's being labeled as organic grain, probably isn't. 

Vegetarian Fed - chickens are not herbivores, they are omnivores which means they prefer to eat both plants and animal proteins to meet their dietary needs. We can use high protein plants and grains to meet these needs, but their natural diet includes things like bugs, worms and on occasion even a frog. If your label says the chickens were vegetarian fed, they were more than likely not given access to the outdoors at all because they might eat a bug and not be vegetarians anymore! 

It could just mean their feed was 100% vegetarian, but you'll need to ask. Our feed includes a tiny bit of fish meal to add protein, but some feeds might include other animal byproducts. 

Amish Raised - I didn't know this was a thing until I was in Chicago for a conference and every restaurant had "Amish Chicken" on their menu. Now I know some great pasture-based Amish farmers, but I also work in the Ag lending world and can tell you with certainty that this Amish chicken was raised in a conventional broiler barn. Depending on what the specific Amish community allows as far as amenities, sometimes barns have to be retrofitted to run off natural gas or propane, but they operate in the same manner, work with the same few poultry integrators, feed the same feed, etc. as a typical "English" conventional broiler barn. 

Don't be fooled by the buggy on the label, it's the same chicken as the cheaper stuff sitting next to it on the shelf.

Pastured - Finally, I can go full scale pastured poultry nerd and tell you why I am so passionate about this and believe this method of production produces the best tasting and healthiest birds! 

The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA for short) created this video showing pastured poultry production in action and talks about why pasture-raised poultry is so far superior to any other product on the market. How chicken is raised and what they eat really does make a difference!  

You've read enough of my words, so I'll just let the video tell the pastured poultry story! 


In closing, while I truly believe our chicken and method of production are far superior to anything else available, I do not villify commercial chicken farmers. While I have heard stories of some chicken farmers who won't actually eat the chickens they produce, for the most part these farmers are doing what they believe is a good thing and just trying to make a living for their families. 

Cheap food has it's place. With a messed up food system like we have right now when families are struggling to keep their bellies full, I'm grateful there is an affordable option beside processed, prepackaged junk. What bothers me is that "creative" aka fake marketing is fooling consumers into thinking they are buying a quality product when the reality is, they are charging more for the same conventionally raised chicken with a fancy label stuck on the package. 

I was shocked recently when Pasturebird - a pastured poultry farm out of California - posted they were approached by Whole Foods to visit their farm to take pictures and videos for marketing purposes saying their farm was "a farm that represented what their products stood for". As in, the chicken on our shelves isn't actually raised on pasture, and we don't want to spend the money to source real pastured poultry, but we want our customers to think they were raised on pasture. Super shady. 

I feel strongly though that we need to move towards a more localized food system with fewer large scale integrators and more individual farmers or local cooperatives providing products directly to our own communities. We want you to know your farmer! 

I know as farmers we have a reputation for just wanting to be left alone with our animals in our fields, but at least for Jesse, Eliza and I that couldn't be further from the truth. We absolutely love interacting with all of our customers, love having people visit the farm, chat with us at the Farmer's Market, the connection with you and your family is what keeps us going!  

As food eaters and buyers we have the power to control the direction the food industry moves in. We vote with our food dollars every day! 

By feeding your family locally-raised pastured poultry, you are contributing to the change and feeding your family the highest quality poultry product available! Not only does your family benefit, so do the farmers and their families along with our communities and small businesses. 

If you have questions or need help finding a local pastured poultry farm in your area, I'm happy to assist!

- Dana

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