Add Blue Valley Meats from Walla Walla to the list of Washington farms that we love and frequent. We use their neighborhood pickup service and it’s worked out great; choose a participating delivery spot near you when placing your order online, then pick it up on the assigned date and time. Very convenient for those of us west of the Cascades. I highly recommend Blue Valley if you are interested in consuming more pastured meat since their livestock is 100% grass fed. One tip: the fat in grass-fed meat melts out more easily while cooking, so use care and don’t overcook it so your meat stays nice and juicy.
Is grass-fed meat better for us? Yes, it is. It’s also better for the livestock. If you’ve read any of Michael Pollan’s books, then you already know that grass and leafy vegetation is what cattle eat naturally; their stomachs are made to digest all those tough fibers. Grain diets are not natural for cattle. They weaken their immune system which, combined with overly crowded conditions of most grain feedlots, leads to livestock illness more often than anyone wants to think about. That’s why so many antibiotics are used in livestock, which contributes to why we are seeing more antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are difficult to wipe out with conventional treatment methods. Allowing livestock to forage in a pasture keeps them healthy and happy. From a human health perspective, certain strains of E. coli are dangerous to us, but the risks are greatly reduced when we eat grass fed meats. How so? First, E. coli lives in manure. Cattle roaming happily in the pasture aren’t covered in manure like cattle trapped in a feedlot. Second, farms like Blue Valley slaughter and process livestock one at a time, which ensures a thorough job of cleaning the carcasses. And third, naturally occurring E. coli bacteria live in our guts all the time but dangerous levels and strains are usually controlled by our stomach acid. However, corn-fed diets lower the pH levels of cattle stomachs, thus allowing E. coli to adapt to a more human-like stomach environment. This evolved, adapted E. coli is what is so dangerous to humans nowadays.
In addition to all this, pastured meat packs a better nutritional punch than grain-fed meat. We’ve incorrectly been taught to avoid fat in our diets, but we’re finally figuring out that not all fats are bad. Omega-3 fatty acids are very good for us and grass-fed beef has Omega-3 levels that can match wild-caught salmon. Omega-3 levels sharply decrease, and saturated fat levels significantly increase, in corn-fed cattle. This is why beef has gotten such a bad reputation over the past few decades. Corn diets make cattle fatter, and not in a good way. If we let cattle eat what and how they’re supposed to, it makes all the difference from nutritional, environmental and ethical standpoints. So what to do, besides swear off meat forever? We’ve focused on eating less, but mostly pastured or wild, meat. I’m not gonna lie, pastured meat is more expensive than standard grocery store meat. But when you think about the future and our collective health, pastured meat costs much less than a pile of hospital bills. And paying for it hurts way less than passing on that delicious, juicy burger. One further benefit is that we are voting with our wallets. By doing our part to increase demand of the good stuff, this contributes toward improvement of our food systems. We must all demand better for ourselves. Maybe someday we’ll even stop subsidizing corn and soy farming, but that’s for another post.
Blue Valley happens to make an excellent Chorizo. I’d been eyeing a package in our freezer for months and finally remembered to take it out to defrost. I picked up some gorgeous clams from Mutual Fish and a baguette from Columbia City Bakery, and dinner was well on its way. If you don’t have saffron (it literally does not grow on trees), you can omit it and you will still be happy with this dish. It’s the perfect one-pot meal.
This recipe serves 4 people. Serve it with a salad on the side to round things out if you’re so inclined.
1/2 to 3/4 pound good quality chorizo (if you cook it up and there’s more than a couple teaspoons of grease, it’s not good quality)
2 lbs fresh, cleaned clams (they should be clean from a store; discard any that are open or have broken shells)
1 leek, white and light green parts only -OR- 1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet bell pepper (I like red and orange), chopped
1 bunch of kale, any kind, stems removed and leaves torn into chunks
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
2 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 threads of saffron (can omit if you don’t have any)
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped cilantro to garnish
Cook it up:
1. Cook chorizo in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Remove the meat from any casings. You want the chorizo to be crumbled up after it’s cooked.
2. Push chorizo off to the sides of the pot when it’s almost finished cooking. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to the center of the pot.
3. Add leeks or shallots, garlic and peppers. Stir and cook until leeks or shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Everything can be stirred together at this point.
4. Add the white wine, water and saffron. Scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. If you feel like you need more liquid at this time, add a bit more water.
5. Add the kale. Stir it in and allow to wilt, about 3 minutes.
6. Taste your mixture. Add salt and pepper if needed.
6. Bring everything to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium-high, add the clams, give the pot a quick stir, then cover it. Cook about 5-7 minutes, or until all the clams have opened; make sure the pot is still boiling during this phase since the clams require steam. Discard any that do not open.
7. Serve in bowls so you can sop up all that delicious broth with bread.
8. Garnish with cilantro.
9. Pour some of that white wine into a glass and feel all fancy about a delicious meal that took about half an hour to make.