Local Food System Series: Ugly Food is Good Food

Over the last few years, as discussions around ugly food have become more prominent, people are thinking twice about the food standards they apply in their grocery stores, farm shops, and at home cooking. 

Although there is more traction in this movement, there is still a lot of work to do. At Eat Local we really try to reduce food waste at all costs. If we have been given too much of a product that is perfectly fresh, have leftovers from an event we have run, or some of our items have a best by date that is only a few days away and needs to be used soon, we donate it to OSHARE or other local food spaces in the region to get food to those who need it. However, we still find ourselves sometimes questioning if food that tastes great and is completely fresh will result in some upset customer calls because of the way it looks. 

As you may know – a lot of organic foods sometimes have some bug pals that come along for the ride in delivery, some spots that are purely blemishes due to the absence of pesticides, and some vegetables just have a mind of their own when it comes to the shapes they try to grow in organic or not. Eat Local is dedicated to shifting social norms around what food is “supposed” to look like, why we have been socialized to think that conventional shapes for strawberries, for example, taste worse than the beautiful ones you see on advertising campaigns, and how to shift that logic! 

Pfenning Organics has done some amazing blog posts about this exact issue, go check them out! We would love to hear your thoughts.

Here is to all that ugly, perfectly fresh and delicious food in our futures!

Black Futures Month 2021

Black Futures and History Month 2021 at Eat Local! Year-round, we strive to connect people with local, affordable and fresh products, and this month we’re exploring how the local food movement is connected to food justice and racial justice. How is it all connected? Access to food has been a tool of white supremacy and colonialism. There is a long history of systemic racism in food systems, including theft or destruction of land and water, removal of peoples from their lands and from their traditional foods.

In June 2020, we made a commitment to do better. Our Board of Directors and Staff have stepped into a process of collective learning. We are learning more about the complex history of Black and Indigenous peoples in our region, and how Eat Local can make changes to repair damage done to these communities. For Black History Month this year, we will focus on three key areas: Education, Access, and Elevation.

We are running a film series that takes a deeper look at systemic racism within our food system. Two films set to launch in Fall 2021 will focus specifically on Black farmers’ experiences, they are just in the final editing phase.

We will soon launch a solidarity share model to support low-income folks within our community. This will enable low-income folks, who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, to have access to the same healthy, local and fresh products that more privileged and often white folks in our community have. Stay tuned for details!

We will be highlighting Black farmers, producers, distributors, and local businesses in our region and surrounding regions to elevate their important work, and contributions to the local food movement.

If you are a local Black farmer producer, distributor or local business and would like to be highlighted on our page send us a DM or email eatlocaloutreach@gmail.com

Cooking Grass-Fed Meat

Basic Principles

There are 4 basic principals to cooking grass-fed meats:

1. Put away the timer, get a good meat thermometer and use it.
2. Turn down the heat.
3. Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods.
4. Ease up on the seasoning and sauces.

Adapted from The Grassfed gourmet cookbook by Shannon Hayes. Highly recommended!

1. Put away the timer, get a good meat thermometer and use it

Grass-fed meats are significantly lower in fat than the meats you find in the grocery store. Since fat works as an insulator, it changes the way your meat cooks. Lean roasts will cook in the oven faster than roasts that are higher in fat. Although recipes often provide you with some time estimate, the only way to know if the meat is done to your liking is to use a high-quality meat thermometer. In most kitchen stores you can find a digital meat thermometer that has a probe connected by a long wire to a digital readout that sits outside of your oven. Make sure you put the probe deep into the cut.

2. Turn down the heat

In general, grass-fed meat is lower in insulating fat. If the heat is too high when grass-fed meat is cooked, the moisture and the fat will exit quickly, which will toughen up the protein. Until you are more familiar with cooking grass-fed meats it’s best to set the heat a little lower when you are grilling and frying, and to set the oven temperature a little lower than you’re used to.

3. Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods

This is a tip that works for all meats both conventional and grass-fed. When cooking meat, there are two methods. The dry heat method is the process where fats and water are pulled from the meat, thus firming it up until it reaches the desired doneness. Dry-heat methods include pan-frying, broiling, roasting, barbecuing, grilling, stir-frying, and sautéing. Dry-heat cooking methods are appropriate for tender cuts of meat (loin cuts for example) those that come from the parts of the animal that do the least amount of work. When you press down on a rib-eye steak it’s soft and squishy. The job of the cooking process is to remove the water and fat until the steak toughens just enough to make it firm but juicy.

The dry cooking method will do this. The moist-heat cooking methods are used for tougher cuts of meat and include braising, stewing, crock-pot cooking, and boiling. Tougher cuts come from the animal parts that do a lot of work, such as the shoulders. When muscles do a lot of work they form a connective tissue protein called collagen, which makes the meat tough. The chef’s job is to break down the collagen making the meat tender. Some cuts that work with moist-cooking methods also work with a dry-heat method called Super-slow roasting. Super-slow roasting can be used for tougher cuts such as shoulder roasts, beef chuck roasts, steaks, top rounds, and eye of rounds. In this method the cuts are put in the oven at 170 degrees F and allowed to roast for several hours. The resulting meat is extremely flavorful and juicy, because the juice does not escape at such a low temperature.

4. Ease up on the seasoning and sauces

Trust that grass-fed meats have sufficient flavour to stand on their own.