In the culinary world there is much talk around farm to table. The pride of a chef, one may say. The idea is just as it says. Chefs choose ingredients that come from farms that are local. Conceptually, there is often a menu that is developed which may be limited to a small amount of selections that focus on the selected ingredients.
Chefs develop relationships with farmers, who grow or raise a number of products that chefs turn into delectable treats. The question arises why does this style "Farm to Table" differ from regular restaurants.
Let us dig in to the philosophy of food and the involvement of government interventions. Many chefs follow the philosophy that natural foods are best. The concept is that foods, in natural form, have the most flavor and chefs can allow the foods to act as a symphony of flavors.
Natural form is determined by the freshness and purity of the item. Purity can be determined by a number of factors such as the use of hormones, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. You can't talk natural without the term Organic being mentioned. Organic is a determination that no chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides other than natural forms are used. This determination would also say that there are no hormones used.
The consumer and chef often choose Organic for the Natural appeal, however once regulation comes in the idea can get watered down.When the certification of Organic comes in there are certain qualifications that are attributed to being classified as Organic. One example of this I mentioned earlier in the first article on "The All Important Farm in Farm to Table" . Free range chickens is a name used with organic chickens. I visited a growing house for chickens and the determination "free range" gives you the vision of chickens roaming the fielsds and pastures living the land and coming to your table full of flavor because of its Naturalness.
As mentioned in the previous article. The "Free Range" bird raised in a growing house needs to have vented louvered blinds that allow a certain amount of light in daily. They also need to have an area that they can walk outside "Free Range" this area proportionally is small and really gives less of a "Free Range" than you would like for your natural bird.
When it comes to beef cattle I had the oppertunity to interview 2 farmers, 1 an organic mennonite farmer and the other a small family farm that raises up to 35 cattle at a time.
I also learned of large cattle farms and the process at the feed lots and slaughter which I will introduce here and we can begin to see what differences between local and lgarg may exist.
Large farms exist in super efficient forms. The trend looks for the smaller farm to yield way to the largers farms. This isn't any different than the trends in vegetable farms. Likely the efficiencys of large operations make the sustainability more prevalent.
Beef cattle are most profitable when they reach maximum size with the least costs. The average size of a steer going to slaughter is close to 900 lbs. There are a number of costs involved in raising cattle. Some of these costs are hay and feed, equipment, trucking marketing and vets. A farmer needs to grow and harvest there own feed, hay.
The average cost of raising a steer is between $440.00 and $600.00 or higher with escalated fuel and inflation costs. The steer are sent to feedlots at about 550 lbs. The high price of a steer is near $1.30 p/lb which would yield about $1200.00 for a 900 lb cow, which would be the finish weight after the feed lots. The steer go to the feed lots prior to slaughter where they spend between 90 and 300 days gaining about 4 lbs per day.
The farmer who sells their steer and spends $440.00 per animal and yet recieves $608.00 per head yields $168.00 per head. The average size cattle ranch is about 50 head of cattle which would yield about $8,000.00 in profit. The numbers get larger, obviously, when the number of heads increases.
The more independant a farm can be the more profitable they can be, however you can see the profitability really isn't a lucrative. Farmers will raise their own hay and grind there own blends of grains for feed.
The 2 farmers I spoke with both came at it from the most natural of approaches. The 1st farmer also had a dairy farm and discussed the concept of grass fed. The ideas is that the cattles food is primarily gained through the eating of grass by grazing in the fields. The amount of land needed for grass fed animal is between 1.5 and 2 acres per head which means that you need about 50 acres for 25 head which is what "Stacy" the other farmer had for her cattle.
The large ranches work to maximize profits by maximizing health and weights of animals. This can be done through growth hormones and sterioids, enhanced feeds. These large farms can capitalize on the mere volume by an increased average weight. If the average weight of a head of cattle is 20 - 50 lbs greater than others they stand to gain an additional $40. per head multiplied by 200 - 1000 head $200.00 on 50 head, 8,000 on 200 head and 40,000 on 1000 head.
In both the farms that I spoke with they banked on nature, or Gods provision of food. The grass fed farm relied primarily on the fields. We discussed the quality of the ground yielding the riches grass for consumption. I asked what made the grounds the best and he stated that the grass or soil that had the most earth worms being the best yield.
Stacy stated that she primarily fed her cattle hay and feed. The feed was a home ground blend of corn, barley and oats, and for a treat they always enjoyed eating alphapha. I asked Stacy a question of the best meat and she stated that one year she had a lot of peaches and fed the cows peaches one year and that year she noticed that the meat was extra sweet.
It makes sense now when you see some of this information. The massive farms are looking to be consistent, yield the most profits and sustainable year after year. The small farmer gets creative or can get creative and is surviving. Mass produced beef or the small farmer survival who might work with you and go the extra mile.
The idea behind the farm in the farm to table is that the chef can work with the farmer and maybe yield peach fed beef or custom hybrid vegetable. Local usually doesn't mean massive and promotes the local economy and farmers. Farm to table puts you closer to your food through the local farmer. Enjoy