Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Meat Report

Oh, what a glorious day to be a yuppie!

Temperature: in the 60s. Sky: a deep, cloudless blue. Landscape: green and thriving. And I--I am buying a package of duck bacon. That's right: duck bacon.

We've been trying to eat more local meat lately and less factory meat, what with the cruelty and the filth and all the weird chemicals. We haven't gone cold-factory-turkey, but I am buying the majority of my meats from local producers and farmer's markets. This entails eating somewhat less of it, given the expense and hassle of the thing. Thank goodness for my CSA, with its eleventy-hundred pounds of Swiss chard to make up the difference.

Anyway, that's how I happened to be buying duck bacon. I was looking for packs of chicken thighs (much harder to find than you might suppose), but wound up at the charcuterie booth along the way. It wasn't a very practical or economical purchase, but when you stumble on duck bacon, I think you have an obligation to buy some. I did this latest round of research at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, so I'm writing up my findings before I forgot.

One of the difficulties of eating local meat (other than the fact that it's frickin' expensive and not exactly available at your neighborhood HEB) is that you don't always have the choices you're used to. For example, I have yet to find a supplier for veal (correction: I found a farmer who was willing to sell me an entire baby cow worth of veal. I'm all for purchasing in bulk, but since a single packet of veal cutlets is a bit of a special occasion for us, I can't conceive of how special an occasion would have to be to merit a whole calf worth of veal), I haven't been able to find a truly local lamb producer, and the vast majority of the pasture-fed local chickens are sold whole.

So for the benefit of anyone in the Elgin-Manor-Austin area who's looking into this kind of thing themselves, here's what I've turned up so far by asking around, going to farmer's markets, and searching online. These are farmers from whom I've at least bought something and who are readily available to... people who live where I live.

Local Meat Report
Dewberry Hills Farms ( Sells packs of thighs! The holy grail! They're located in Lexington, which isn't too terribly far away for Elginites, McDaders(?), or Paigeans(?). It's a bit of a slog for Austinites, but they sell at Sunset Valley Farmer's Market (which is where I was today) and some other markets. Judging from their website, they are very much influenced by that hard-core, libertarian, right-wing, organic, pasture-feeding farmer from Omnivore's Dilemma. (I know--seriously implausible string of adjectives. True, nevertheless.)

Shades of Green ( sells whole chickens as well as chicken and duck eggs. Used their chicken to make broth for a gumbo, and, as promised, the broth was astonishingly clear and flavorful. Sells at Bastrop Farmer's Market, but can also make other accommodations for buyers.

Arroyo Kimbro ( sells whole chickens, ducks, and eggs of both. And also massages (for all your poultry/massage needs...). I made a successful stewed duck with cherry sauce from his duck, but I roasted a chicken that was meant for stewing, and the results were not good. User error obviously the culprit on that one, so the jury's still out. Used to sell his eggs at Whole Foods--not sure if that's still on or not. Otherwise, drive out to his place in Manor.

White Egret Farm ( actually sells quite a lot of animals--chickens, pigs, goats, beef, and possibly some other poultry I'm forgetting. We've only tried the pork. We were very happy with the pork loin chops, each of which is the size of Greenland, and came out quite flavorful and (mercifully) tender. The bacon was good, and the sausage was okay, but not phenomenal. On the negative side, they've been hit hard by the drought, and their place looked a bit worse for the wear; also, We found a couple of complaints online about them failing to deliver what they promised. Not sure if those were valid issues, but as I say, the pork chops were really good, so I'm giving them a cautious thumbs up. The sell by delivery.

Peach Creek Farm ( sells some really delectable bacon. Definitely worth the extra money on gustatory grounds, nevermind the ethics of the thing. Haven't tried any of their other products yet. They sell at Bastrop Farmer's Market, or you can pick up orders from their farm in String Prairie, TX, south of Bastrop ("String Prairie"? Really? That's almost as good as "Old Dimebox" or "Oatmeal." Not as good as "North Zulch," though. Nothing is as good as "North Zulch.")

Bastrop Cattle Company ( Bought some ribeyes from them--flavor good, but a lot chewier than I like my beef. These were the folks who offered to sell me a whole (butchered) baby cow. Now if only I could find about 15 friends with whom to split the cost...

Ingel Creek Natural Foods ( sells beef and also various health supplements (they used to run a small health food and grocery in Elgin, but that apparently didn't work out, unfortunately). I should be receiving a bunch of different cuts of beef from them tomorrow, so I'll let you know how they taste.

Ah, lamb. Not many farmers are into the mutton, for some reason. The closest pasture-fed, organic lamb I could find comes from Corpus Christi: Loncito's Lamb (no website, but you can find contact info here: They sell at Sunset Valley, fortunately.

Thunderheart bison ( sells many different cuts of bison, as well as an extremely tasty jerky. I bought some ground bison, too--I'll let you know how that turns out. Previous bison experiences were a bit gamey, so I'm hoping this will be a little less feral.

I think there are a number of local goat producers. Based on my experiences with my CSA, I suspect that after the revolution/apocalypse/cataclysm, those of us in central Texas will be subsisting exclusively on chard, chili peppers, and goat. White Egret Farm sells goat, but I know there are others that do, as well.

Texas is bursting at the seams with local sausages (our favorite: Opa's beef sausage, from Fredricksburg), but other kinds of preserved meats, like prosciuttos, hams, pates, and confits are harder to come by. So I was tickled to stumble upon Kocurek Family Charcuterie and their duck bacon, which I sampled and found quite scrumptious. Their website, unfortunately, isn't up yet, but they do have a twitter... whatever you call it--feed? account? site? Whatever. It's at

Groups of Farmers
Sunset Valley Farmer's Market
Bastrop Farmer's Market
Bastrop Producer's Market
Greenling Organic Delivery--doesn't deliver to Elgin, but those who work in Austin might be able to get deliveries at work. They seem to be universally adored.

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