Buying Beef: It’s more than what’s for dinner
A purchasing prospective on choosing beef
When I first began using Niman beef, it was a small ranch owned by Bill Niman and Orville Schell on the mesa north of Bolinas. At the time, Bill’s efforts were still focused on moving hamburger meat (a continual issue for producers new to the venture) and with a quick call, would personally deliver 5lbs to my restaurant door.
More than 20 years later, Niman beef has grown into a national brand sold by mail in the Williams Sonoma catalogue. I saw it move from using the cutting facility at Golden Gate Meat in San Francisco to utilising its own cutting plant on East 14th in Oakland. In that time, its distribution and sales have been taken over by Del Monte meats.
As a purchaser, I always try to balance the many considerations in choosing a product: Loyalty to a long-time purveyor, the food philosophies of the restaurant, environmental factors, taste, availability, price, and order cycles, though not necessarily in that order. Planning a cross-country roadtrip on horseback would perhaps take less effort.
Recently, a new supplier approached us with offers of sustainable, local and humanely raised meats. We had had dealings before when he worked for Bassian Farms, the company that supplies us with Rocky Jr’s and Eden Heritage pork, and was well aware of our buying needs and priorities.
One item he brought to our attention was grass-fed beef from Oregon. In many ways, it was a hard switch for me. I grew up during the zenith of corn-fed beef in America, and that is the flavour I had always associated with the best possible beef. I believe this is an ingrained habit on my part, not a fact written in stone, and my desire to be a part of the change to a healthier, more natural and sustainable product weighed heavily on my choice. I’m happy to say the taste spurred me right along.
While I still hold the greatest respect for everything Niman Ranch has done to expand people’s consciousness on meat production, I am looking forward to a new relationship with our conscientious supplier.
I hope you will, too. Try our new grass-fed beef and as always, let us know what you think.
-sustainability coordinator and purchaser