Digesting A Year Of Ingredients

On January 1st, 2018 I took on a personal project called “The Year Of Ingredients.” The goal was simple, find 365 ingredients grown in Hawaii.

I chose Instagram as my platform for the challenge. My job was to post an image of an ingredient every day with a caption of what it was and how to cook with it.

Learn more, about what inspired me to do this, here.

The ingredients could come from anywhere in Hawaii. They did not have to be organic, they just needed to be locally grown or produced with local ingredients.

year of ingredients
North Shore potatoes, raw honeycomb from Tolentino Honey Co., Banana Gabe’s banana bounty at the Variety Showcase

I gained a lot from this project: I got to form relationships with the people who grow my food, I learned about ingredients I had never seen or heard of before, I discovered local markets like The Locavore Store, and toured farms that often aren’t open to the public. Not to mention, establishing a daily writing routine.

Sometimes on tough mornings (last year was not the easiest) writing my daily Year Of Ingredients post was the only thing that motivated me to start my day. 

year of ingredients
Escarole, Mohala Farms

By completing this project I  found that there are way more than 365 ingredients growing in Hawaii. We can grow practically anything here with the right location and a strong enough desire. More small farms are stepping up to this challenge every day. Crops like peppers, once notoriously difficult to grow, are popping up at farmers markets and in locally made hot sauces in all kinds of varieties. 

year of ingredients
Counter Culture Farm

The Year of Ingredients took me on an epic culinary journey this year.

I’ve enjoyed hanging with the farmers, working the Go Farm program in Waimanalo, sampling ingredients ripped right out of the ground in front of me. Bryan and Natalie from Dela Mesa Farm, Priscilla from Vida Farm and Jacey and Miles from Roots and Remedies Farm have been amazing. 

farms and produce
Jay Bost (Go Farm), farmer’s market produce, Roots & Remedies Farm

I learned about new crop varieties being developed to thrive in Hawaii’s growing conditions at The Variety Showcase. I toured Ma’o Farms, spent hours photographing flowers and kale at Counter Culture Farm, learned about canoe plants at the Manoa Heritage Center,  attended farm-to-table dinners at Mohala Farms, sourced ingredients from all corners of the island from my laptop thanks to Farm Link and tasted freshly harvested honeycomb from Tolentino Honey Company. I’ve also learned about the struggles of processing meat and raising chickens in Hawaii and the need for harvesting wild deer and boar to help manage invasive species.

year of ingredients
Kahumana Farms radishes, Priscilla from Vida Farm harvesting puntarelle, Mangos from Kahumana Farm hub, Bryan showing us huitlacoche at DeLa Mesa Farm
Hawaii’s farmers, ranchers, fisherman and small business owners generously shared their bounty and knowledge with me. They are some of the kindest,  smartest and most humble people I’ve ever met. Their dedication to nurturing the land and waters of Hawaii goes beyond simply talking about sustainable practices, it is their life’s work. Getting to know them and their stories has been the most rewarding part of this experience. 
year of ingredients
Locally caught fish from Ashley at Local’Ia,

After a year of hunting I now have a good understanding of what ingredients are available locally in Hawaii and where to source them.  Most of all, I have an insurmountable feeling of gratitude for the people who grow them.

The Year of Ingredients has inspired me to know end.

I hope it did for you too.

year of ingredients
Ma’o Farms at the market and in the field

To see the complete project visit @yearofingredients on Instagram.

To stay up to date with my work and events subscribe to the Healthy Locavore Newsletter. 

My Trip To Ma’o Farms

Mao farms

Mao farmsI’ve never felt as warm and fuzzy about a farm, as I do for Ma’o Farms.

After shopping with them regularly, for a year at the farmers market, I finally made it over to Wai’anae for a farm tour.

Mao farms

Ma’o Farms is not your average farm. They are a non-profit with a mission to empower and train underprivileged youth to become entrepreneurs and leaders. They succeed at this while helping to create a healthier, more sustainable food system in Hawaii at the same time. It creates an opportunity for both the land and the community to thrive. I invite you to learn more about their social enterprise here.

Mao farms

We had two tour guides showing us around the 25 acre farm: Hiwa, the daughter of the owners of Ma’o Farms and Josh, who leads a small team of farmers, doing everything from harvesting to processing vegetables.

Ma'o Farms

We started the tour with a debriefing of sorts, similar to the way the farmers and interns start their day every morning. As we stood in a circle (symbolizing the seamless circle of life) we introduced ourselves, and talked about our intentions for coming on the tour and what we were there to learn.

Mao farms
A wall hand-made of rocks and soil lines the perimeter of the morning and evening gathering place.

The first stop was the green house where baby plants get their start. Many of the greens they plant out in the field, and even ulu (breadfruit) trees get their start here, before being transferred into the ground.

Ma'o Farms
Full grown ulu tree, just starting to bear fruit

The green house provides protection from pests and wind when these plants are still in their most vulnerable stages. Hiwa reminded us that Ma’o farms is situated right in the middle of a crater, which can act as a wind tunnel, with winds sometimes getting up to 50 miles per hour. Wind this strong would rip baby plants right out of the ground if planted to soon.

Mao farms

But, being in a crater has its advantages too. The type of soil here (vertisol)  is one of the top three most nutrient dense in the world. Because of its high clay content it gets rock solid and cracks when dry. These cracks allow for more water and nutrients to be absorbed and locked in when wet.

Ma'o Farms
There are 12 types of soil in the world. Ma’o Farms has one of the top 3 most nutrient dense types.

Ma’o has an interesting fertilizing system too. They use bonemeal made from fish bones and a method of burning weeds which puts nutrients back into the soil after harvesting. My imagination raced as Hiwa described a tractor driving through the fields with flames shooting out the back.

When asked if they ever worry about the infamous, rat lungworm disease that tends to affect organic farms in Hawaii, Hiwa said they didn’t seem to have many issues with it. This disease is carried by snails and slugs that like wet conditions, and since it tends to be drier where they are, they don’t often see them around.

Ma'o Farms

When it comes to pests, cabbage moths can be an issue for their kale. They use a natural citrus herbicide very sparingly for this, since it can cause the kale to turn yellow and create holes in the leaves.

Ma'o Farms
Sampling Lacinato kale straight out of the ground

Ma'o Farms
Lacinato kale, also known as dino kale or cavalo nero

When it comes to controlling weeds, Ma’o uses what they call a black weed mat. When the sun hits these mats, they heat up and essentially burn the weeds out.

Ma'o Farms
A black mat is used to control weeds

Ma’o used to be a huge chicken farm back in the day. The two former chicken coops are now processing plants filled with interns washing and packaging vegetables to be delivered.

Ma’o has the ability to track every seed they plant, all the way until they are delivered. It’s a food safety precaution. This way if someone were to get sick they could track back to the field where the plant was grown to find out if it had somehow been contaminated.

Ma'o Farms
The processing shed

Ma'o Farms
Baby red beets

Ma'o Farms
Baby carrots

On the way out we caught a glimpse of what Ma’o calls, “the chef’s garden”. Still in its early phases, this project will soon be available for local chefs to virtually choose what they want Ma’o to grow for their restaurants.

Ma'o Farms
The chef’s garden

Ma’o sells their produce wholesale to restaurants, at farmer’s markets, in local grocery stores and through their CSA program. CSA members often get the prime picks and speciality items that aren’t available to anyone else.

When we completed the tour we came back around to where we originally started––standing in a circle. Hiwa explained that, similar to the start of the day, they finish their day back in the circle to rehash the day’s work and plan for the next.

Ma'o Farms
What Michelle Obama has nicknamed “the Queens road”.

It was a reminder of  how much importance they put on the development of their interns, the thought that goes behind the running of the farm and the spiritual aspect of their organization.

It is truly admirable what Ma’o Farms provides for their people and for the land.

Ma'o Farms
The driveway leading into Ma’o farms is lined with kalo (taro), a sacred crop believed to be the original ancestor of the Hawaiian people.

Ma'o Farms
Ma’o Farms, a place rich in mana and built with love.

Have you visited Ma’o Farms? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore for more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Ma’o Organic Farms

86-148 Pūhāwai Rd.
Wai‘anae, Hawaiʻi 96792

808-696-5569

Variety Showcase Comes To Oahu

variety showcase

variety showcase

Farmers, chefs and food geeks flocked to this year’s Variety Showcase on Oahu. The annual event, which usually takes place in Portland, came to Hawaii for the first time this year on March 13, 2018.

The event gives attendees the opportunity to taste vegetable, legume and grain varieties, that are still being tested. It gives chefs the opportunity to cook with these ingredients and collaborate with plant breeders––which in turn gives the plant breeders an inside look at consumer preferences.

These plant breeders develop seeds that thrive under organic farming conditions, produce excellent flavor and can handle specific growing conditions.

Once the new varieties of crops are bred they are sent to the farmers to test along side other varieties that they are already growing.

I remarked when I first got to the event how I have noticed that the variety of ingredients being offered at the farmers markets has increased dramatically over the past few years. Kathy from Mohala Farms agreed, saying she believed that, “the new generation of farmers in Hawaii are the ones who are responsible for bringing all of these exciting new crops to the island.”

Jay Bost from GoFarm Hawaii and Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network, an organization whose mission “is to build community among plant breeders, farmers and consumers to improve culinary and agricultural quality” hosted the event at Kapiolani Community College. KCC is well known for it’s outstanding culinary program and weekly farmers market, sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

At the event, each ingredient was represented by either a farm, co-op or representative of the University of Hawaii that grew the ingredient along side a chef showcasing several varieties of each ingredient to try on their own, as well as in a prepared dish.

All of the dishes prepared were innovative, expertly crafted and delicious. To put it bluntly, I thought the chefs f*cking brought it!

Thanks to GoFarm, The Organic Seed Alliance and farms like Counter Culture who pushed to bring this event to Hawaii, we got to experience something truly unique, special and delicious. I would not be surprised if this event shows up again next year, three times as big. It was a huge success.

Here are some of the highlights (although truly, each table was just as good as the next):

One of the most promising and exciting crops being bred for tropical and organic growing conditions is the mild habanero pepper, since peppers are notorious for being hard to grow in Hawaii.

Bryan and Natalie, the owners of De La Mesa Urban Farm, highlighted the habaneros in two dishes: A pureed habanero salsa made with guijillo and arbol chiles (this would make a killer taco sauce) served with tortilla chips that were made with hand ground Waimanalo yellow corn and a ceviche made of fresh marlin, Kauai shrimp, pickled habaneros, jicama and pineapple.

Chef Ed Kenny offered us a side by side comparison between two different polentas. One made with Guisto’s, a respectable northern California brand and the other made with a polenta made with Nalo orange corn, bred in Waimanalo. The polenta made with Nalo orange corn was noticeably sweeter, had more character and a rounder flavor.

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef Keake Lee from Pig and the Lady created a dish of pickled purple winged beans and cold “Poamoho dark long” eggplant marinated in a black vinegar dashi broth, garnished with fresh basil. Everything Pig and the Lady does in my option is bold, creative and crazy delicious.  This dish was no exception.

variety showcase

The crew from Counter Culture had a strong presence, with several tables. They presented a mind boggling selection of legumes, jicama, and bananas.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef David Gunawam from the Farmer’s Apprentice came all the way from Canada to participate in the event and cook. He prepared Hirayama kai choy, paired with a slice of raw skipjack, seasoned with a house-made vinaigrette made by simmering skipjack bones with seaweed and soy sauce.

In addition, he presented two types of beans grown by Counter Culture: black beans marinated with culantro and charred scallion, and chickpeas flavored with Hawaiian shallot and herbs from Green Rows Farm.

variety showcase

Chef Scott Nelson of Vida Farms also cooked for Counter Culture. He prepared a crepe made “sourdough style” with fermented jicama, and stuffed it with raw slices of sweet jicama and hibiscus jam. It was divine.

variety showcase

Lauren Tamamoto, instructor at KCC blew everyone’s mind with her cauliflower chocolate mousse made of cauliflower, cocoa powder, coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract. It was velvety smooth and tasted like the chocolate pudding of your childhood (and I mean that in the best possible way).

Variety_showcase2018

Chef Jenn Hee from Juicy Brew grated cassava, soaked it in golden milk, turned them into hash browns and wrapped each piece in a piper sarmentosom leaf to showcase yellow cassava.

variety showcase

Chef Stacey Givens from the Side Yard Farm & Kitchen came out to represent Portland with her spiced carrot cookies stuffed with Side Yard Farms goat cheese, fig leaf dust and crispy fried carrot tops. Again, mind blown.

variety showcase

Chef Edward Domingo from Roy’s Beach House made a dish I could eat all day long. Moringa fried rice with lechon lomi lomi. Crack an egg on top and you’ve got the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner in my opinion.

An award winning variety of cacao, called Easton was presented by Skip Bittenbender of University of Hawaii. Manoa chocolate made a decadent 70% chocolate bar for sampling.

variety showcase

Robynne Maii, chef/owner of Fete, showcased broccoli using my favorite preparation, roasted with chile flake, garlic and lemon. I love the crispness and the nuttiness of this dish. Robynne made it even more complex by adding capers, golden raisins and crispy parmesan on top. She also presented Tromboncino squash pickled and served with local mint, roasted kukui nut and feta cheese.

variety showcase

Nina, from Nina Cucina Health (who’s food I miss dearly at the farmers market), took us on a journey of turmeric. Several varieties were pickled and put out for sampling and to wash it all down she made a lovely soup made with turmeric and coconut milk.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Hannah Vernon, from Home Cooked With Love, presented  Manoa and Leopard lettuces with a vegan creamy Italian dressing made with local herbs, Dijon mustard and olive oil for dipping.

variety showcase

On my way out the door I luckily caught Gabe Sachter-Smith, banana expert and farmer for Counter Culture, showing off his several varieties of tropical bananas.  Chef Janna Rose, from the Mossback Restaurant in Washington was scooping up banana ice-cream and vegan banana-chocolate chip cookie right along side him.

I had just talked to Gabe the Saturday before the event at the farmers market. He was the one who got me the most excited about the event in the first place. So it was fitting that, I ended the evening on a sweet note, wrapping the night up with him.

variety showcase

I’ve never seen so many happy faces in one room. The passion for high quality ingredients was swirling that night. Everyone involved in the event was there for the same reason––to continue to push for a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system in Hawaii. One with a lot of variety.

Did you have an amazing time at this year’s Variety Showcase too? What did you learn, what inspired you? What was your favorite dish and why? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavorefor more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on March 18, 2018 and has since been updated for accuracy. 

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A Year of Ingredients

year of ingredients

year of ingredients
Photo by Ketino Photography

2017 was a year of new discoveries after moving from San Francisco to Honolulu. But, I have only begun to scratch the surface of what these beautiful islands have to offer.

In 2018 I am starting a new project, that I am calling, A Year of Ingredients. A project inspired by the talented Bay Area artist, Windy Chien, who in 2016 introduced The Year of Knots.

Windy surprised me in Waikiki, the day before New Year’s Eve, gifting me with one of her famous knots (they are works of art really). And not just any knot, the star knot. A knot she admittedly had such a hard time learning she had to resort to watching a YouTube tutorial before throwing in the towel. At the time I marveled at its beauty but hadn’t yet realized its significance.

After hearing all about Windy’s inspirational journey of committing to her art every day without fail for an entire year I sprung out of bed the next morning knowing in my gut what I needed to do.

I needed to commit to my passion for local food on another level, in order to become the expert I wanted to be.

Starting January 1, 2018 follow me on Instagram as I introduce a local Hawaiian ingredient, and how to prepare it, every day for a whole year.

It might be one of the most challenging projects I have ever committed to, but I’m doing it for the knowledge, for the love of food and for my deepest appreciation for all things local. And I couldn’t be more excited.

Join me here for A Year of Ingredients on Instagram.

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Producing Pastured Chicken And Influencing Change On Oahu

J. Ludovico Farm pastured chicken

J. Ludovico Farm pastured chicken
Julius Ludovico talks chicken with fellow farmer, Amy Shinsato at the Honolulu Farmer’s Market

If you walk over to the Neal S. Blaisdell Center on a Wednesday night you will see rows of white tents, tables full of fresh local fruits and vegetables, the Shinsatos selling 2Lady farmers’ pork and groups huddled around picnic tables slurping up hot bowls of pho at The Pig and the Lady stand.

If you aren’t paying close enough attention you would never know that you can also buy fresh local chicken at this market. In fact, it’s most likely the only farmer’s market on Oahu where you will find local pastured chicken.

At a modest table with no signage, probably scattered with some jars of honey and bunches of apple bananas, you will find a man with a long beard and thick black rimmed glasses named Julius. Julius owns and operates J. Ludovico farm, a chicken farm, slaughterhouse and processing facility on Oahu.

Tired from a long week of working on the farm, you will soon discover that Julius enjoys working the farmer’s market because it is essentially the only way he ever gets to take a “break.”

Almost every week I come down to the market to buy a chicken and chat with Julius. We talk about natural farming, how he got into the chicken business and what his hopes and dreams are for his farm. He’s a smart man. He is also extremely thoughtful when it comes to his business and delightfully unapologetic when it comes to his opinions on natural farming.

The inside scoop

Not everyone always makes the time to stick around and get to know their local farmer. Which is a shame. You may have the best intentions to buy healthy foods or support local businesses, but until you engage, chances are you know pretty close to nothing about what you are buying or who you are supporting. In the past 6 months of getting to know Julius and his farm I have learned a lot about natural farming and why it is really damn hard to find pastured chicken on the island.

Julius’s farm is a rare breed on Oahu and his story is remarkable.

You can take the boy off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the boy

Julius grew up in the Philippines raising pigs with his Mom. He remembers always raising them with the intention to have one to eat and one to sell. When the family picked up and moved to Hawaii all of that changed. Julius became an accounting major at the University of Hawaii and found himself working for a non-profit called The Partners In Development Foundation.

But, Julius missed his days growing up raising pigs. So, it wasn’t surprising that after being introduced to the principals of Korean Natural Farming by Hawaiian agriculture expert, Mike Dupont at work one year he decided to quit the company and go back to farming.

The next year, Julius and his wife Jamie moved to a one and a half acre farm in Pupukea and bought 16 pigs. They were the second farm on the island to practice Korean Natural Farming––a system that utilizes naturally occurring bacteria and other microorganisms to fertilize soil and care for animals without chemicals. The result is healthy soil, high crop yields, zero waste and animal pens that don’t smell or attract flies.

Although they were smaller and simpler versions, Julius built five pens modeled after the Korean natural farming system that he learned about from Mike.

Eventually Julius realized that what he had built was a labor of love. The couple realized that they could never scale the operation large enough to make a profit. So, reluctantly Julius sold off all of his pigs.

How Julius “accidentally” became a chicken farmer

After selling off the pigs, Jamie suggested that they try their hand at raising chickens. Julius, being open to the suggestion, agreed and five months later they owned 50 hens all laying eggs.

Baffled as to what to do with all the eggs, Julius went over to his kid’s elementary school and signed up to work the North Shore Country farmer’s market.

After completely selling out at his first market, Julius realized that there was a big demand there for local, pastured eggs. The couple bought more chickens, produced more eggs and kept adding more and more markets to their schedule every week. The hustle was real and ultimately they just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Completely exhausted and burned out, Julius started cutting back, finally only committing to one market a week, The Honolulu farmer’s market at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

One day a fellow friend and farmer of Julius’s was placing an order for some meat chickens. He asked Julius if he was interested in buying any. Julius was on the fence but his friend insisted, saying that since he was already going to buy some, that he may as well order some for Julius too.

Julius opted to raise pastured chickens using the Korean Natural Farming practices he had used with his pigs. He asked the farmer’s market if it was ok to started selling his chickens along with his eggs. Being naïve at the time he didn’t realize that he would need special permits in order to sell his chickens. Now Julius had a new problem, he had to track down the USDA FSIS supervisor to find out how he could acquire a permit.

After searching for the supervisor for two months Julius had to laugh at himself. He had actually been living next door to him all along. The supervisor told Julius exactly what to do, he did it and a few months later Julius was in the chicken business.

From the farm to the table

The first restaurant Julius approached was Real Gastropub. He brought them a sample of his chicken and after finding out if they were interested, disclosed that it would be two months until he could produce their first order. Real agreed and after just one delivery the chef was hooked. He no longer wanted a few chickens every couple of months, he wanted 12 chickens a week.

Julius realized he had a problem on his hands. He had the demand, but since the chickens took two months to grow, he didn’t have the supply for a weekly delivery. After a lot of thinking and researching Julius finally figured out how to make it happen. That is when the real chicken production started.

A year later Andrew Le from The Pig and The Lady called up. They had heard about Julius’s chickens and wanted in. Real Gastropub had officially put J. Ludovico farm on the map. They were now the go-to for pastured chicken and all the high-end restaurants on Oahu wanted it on their menu.

Controversy at the market

As the farm-to-table movement grew more popular on Oahu so did the demand for local, organic ingredients. Customers at the market started coming up to Julius looking for his certified organic sign. When Julius informed them that he was not indeed certified, they looked at him confused (even repulsed sometimes) and would keep walking.

“My farm is not certified organic nor do I plan to get certified,” he says. “I feel like there are other ways to do it. It may come down to a little bit more education or information but I’m not getting certified, it’s too expensive.”

I know from my talks with Julius that he does not use fertilizer or chemicals. In fact, chemicals scare him. He moves his birds everyday. They eat grass and worms in addition to commercial grain.

He admits he gets frustrated sometimes having to explain to people about his natural farming practices only to get shut down by customers who don’t understand.

“Just because something is labeled organic it does not mean that it is chemical and pesticide free. In fact, there are synthetic chemicals on that registry that the organic lobbyists petition the USDA to keep. When you are doing small-scale agriculture (like in your backyard) you don’t need chemicals or pesticides. But when you are farming on a larger scale (even just an acre) there are certain challenges that you are never going to have a solution to without pesticides. The use of organic bacteria (such as BT ) used for pesticides is regular practice on many certified organic farms,” Julius explained.

The other question Julius is inevitably always asked, is if he gives his chickens GMO feed. “When people ask me if the corn I feeds my chickens is GMO I say, I don’t know but, it is likely, since unfortunately 96% of all corn in America is now GMO”, he says.

Tired of being told week after week from customers that he should feed his chickens non-GMO feed, he decided to look into it. “I dug deep”, he said. “I looked at the literature on the Non-GMO project’s non-GMO feed. And what I found out is that, they have a threshold. Let’s say they get a container of corn for example, they take a sample and do a PCR test on it and if it doesn’t go beyond 10%, meaning if there is 10% GMO in that batch of corn they will label it “non-GMO.” I thought about this and realized that if I bought the non-GMO feed I would be paying a premium, have to raise my prices and my feed could still potentially contain GMOs. I just didn’t feel comfortable with that.”

Julius says he no longer engages with customers who turn their noses up to his natural, yet not certified organic, chicken unless they ask the right questions. “I don’t have time to educate everyone and if someone is stuck in their ways or uninformed then that’s their fault. I’m not here to educate them, I’m here to feed my family”, Julius says.

Luckily, as I have found out on my own, if you do ask and you do seem interested than Julius will tell you everything you want to know.

Desperately trying for sustainable farming in Hawaii

A while back Julius was teaching and taking frequent trips to the Big Island. Mike Dupont invited him, several other local farmers and a couple of the animal nutrition experts from the University of Hawaii to a meeting in Hilo. What they discussed at this meeting was, “What do we have in Hawaii in abundance and what can we do with it?”

Julius left the meeting intrigued and curious. Two years would pass before he and Mike would be reconnected. “What happened to the ideas we came up with at that meeting?” Julius asked Mike. Mike told Julius that he analyzed the list of ingredients and created a data base. Without hesitation, Julius said, “I’m farming chickens, lets do a feed trial.” Mike agreed to it.

Working with a local mill, Julius proved that if his farm milled its own feed locally, cutting out the need for shipping, then they could cut their costs in half.

Now came the hard part. Getting the feed just right.

It is not a matter of just finding ingredients that are in abundance. It’s also a matter of creating a blend of ingredients that creates the perfect balance of nutrients for the chickens to thrive on.

From talking to Julius I learned that there is a reason why commercial feed is made up of soy, corn and wheat (farm subsidies for GMO crops also play a role I’m sure). The combination provides the exact amount of protein, carbs and fiber needed for a chicken’s diet. Julius’s challenge is to find local ingredients that would replace each of those without disrupting that formula.

“We have tried macadamia nuts and they are amazing. They are high in protein but can only replace about 35 percent of the soybeans. Anything more than that and the chickens do not do well. They just don’t have the same amount of protein that the soybeans do. Next, is replacing the wheat and corn. We are currently doing a cassava trial to see if that could replace the wheat. But there are certain properties of corn that are irreplaceable, so if you want to replace corn you need to have a few different ingredients. The corn doesn’t necessarily make the chickens grow bigger but the carbs do give them the energy they need”, Julius said.

Julius wondered why they couldn’t just make a blend of cassava, macadamia nuts, corn and soy so that they could at least eliminate the need to ship over wheat. Mike explained to him that they can’t do that quite yet. They need to do trials with each ingredient separately first to isolate the nutrients and find out what each ingredient does exactly for the chickens. He said that sometimes combining certain ingredients can potentially turn them into anti-nutrients, which cancel each other out.

Once they tested each ingredient separately than they could start formulating a feed recipe. “If we had the funds we would have the information we needed by now and would already be producing locally grown feed, but as it is now the trial has been dragged out the past 4 years and it could probably take several more,” Julius admitted.

As it stands right now, Julius and Mike are the only ones doing this trial and it is completely self funded. When Julius applied for a grant he was told, “Sorry, we aren’t interested. Even if you are successful the country won’t benefit from it since it will only work in Hawaii.”

Julius did the math, if he grew all of the crops in order to make his own chicken feed he would lose money. “You’re better of selling what you grow”, he said with a defeated look.

It was then, that it really sunk in for me. Commercial feed exists for a reason and it is extremely difficult to change that reason.

“We may have the same commercial feed that conventional farms use but since we are not a factory we handle everything by hand and produce a better quality product. It’s kinda cheesy to say but, we actually care. We know the chicks from the time we pick them up at the hatchery day old to harvesting them and taking them to the slaughterhouse. We know them intimately. There is a certain connection that we have that factory farms never will. When you put in the effort and care about what you are doing it shows in the final product,” Julius says.

How you can support local farming

Julius encourages people to develop relationships with their farmers. “Get to know what they do and how they do it. Just because they are doing something different from what you think (or have heard) they should be, doesn’t mean that they aren’t putting out a good product or that it’s wrong. There is a good reason for what they do. Every farmer has their own quirks and special ways of doing things. In Hawaii there are so many microclimates that you have to adapt accordingly. You have to make it work where you’re at. One of the things that makes us not a factory farm is the fact that it can’t be replicated on another side of the island. You have to always observe and adjust according to your environment. Your farming practices and feed are changing constantly. You have to be quick because you could lose product. I never say what other farms should do, I just know what I need to do for my farm.”

Just the facts

J. Ludovico Farm has the only chicken slaughterhouse on the island. They encourage more farms on Oahu to raise chickens and partner with them.

Some of the top restaurants in Honolulu have J. Ludovico Farm chicken on their menus. Pig and the lady, Piggy Smalls, Fete, Herringbone, Basalt, MW, and Chef Mavro are just a few of them.

You can find Julius every Wednesday at the Honolulu Farmer’s Market at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center from 4-7pm. 777 Ward Avenue Honolulu, HI 96814

Customers who are interested in purchasing one of Julius’s chickens are encouraged to pre-order them. Julius does not store any frozen product. He slaughters on demand, so what you order on Friday, gets slaughtered Tuesday to pick up at the market on Wednesday.

You can email your request to jludivicofarm@gmail.com the weekend before a Wednesday market. Whole chickens are $6/lb

For more information on what J. Ludovico Farm has to offer visit their website at https://jludovicofarm.com/shop/

You can also follow them on Instagram @jludavicofarm

When asked about farm tours Julius got very serious and said, “Sure, we are happy to give you a tour but you better be prepared to show up at 5am and work the farm with us all day.” The same goes for the slaughterhouse. They would more than appreciate volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays to come lend a hand. But a word of advice, if Julius tells you to move, you better get out of his way.

Are you excited about local farming on Oahu? Which farms are you proud to support? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore for more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

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The Locavore Store

The Locavore Store

The Locavore Store

Have you ever walked into a store and thought, why didn’t I open this first? I am both super excited to have found The Locavore Store and kicking myself at the same time.

At the edge of downtown in the charming (and very health conscious) waterfront town of Hilo you will find a tiny market full of local treasures.

Husband and wife team Catarina and Arthur have expertly curated a selection of produce, pastured meats, eggs, grocery and skincare items all grown or made in Hawaii. Their mission is to “connect local people with locally-grown food”.

The Locavore Store’s website advertises that they carry products from over 100 local farms and artisans. Simply put, they know what it truly means to eat local and support their community.

Lilikoi, a.k.a. passionfruit
Lilikoi, a.k.a. passionfruit

Catrina and Arthur started out selling their neighbors’ excess crops at the local farmers market. Eventually that tiny stand grew to brick and mortar location in the town of Pahoa on Hawai’i Island. In 2014 lava flowing from the Kilauea Crater chased them out of Pahoa to Hilo, where you will find them now.

On my recent visit I discovered fruits I had never tried before, like  lemondrop mangosteen––which can be eaten like a lychee. I bought some blood red, Big Island rack of lamb and a turmeric spice blend made from Orchid Isle Herbs to take home and grill (which was heavenly by the way). I also scored some fresh pastured eggs, mango and apple bananas for us to have for breakfast the next day.

Lemondrop mangosteens
Lemondrop mangosteens

I found the store perfect for picking up odds and ends I needed for my trip. I could imagine myself stopping by regularly if I lived nearby to shop for meat and eggs, discover new produce or to buy a local gift to ship to the mainland.

Alaea-turmeric spice blend
Orchid Isle Herbs Alaea-turmeric spice blend

The cashiers were lovely on both occasions I visited the store, and the customers all seemed to be regular shoppers who care deeply about the quality of food they put in their body.

Supporting farmers markets and shops like The Locavore Store are so important. They help change the political climate of the food industry and little by little make buying local more mainstream.

Buying your food from small local farmers as opposed to large factory farms not only supports your local economy, but is far superior for your health. In a time were diseases like diabetes, cancer and obesity are so prevalent it is always a mystery to me why there are still people who find buying local organic ingredients a novelty fad or irrelevant.

Local chai spice
Local chai spice

The Locavore Store’s beef, chicken and lamb (as well as a variety of other meats) all come from family-owned farms and ranches on the Big Island. They are pasture-raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, making them lower in fat, higher in Omega-3s and much healthier for you than the factory farmed commodity meat you will find in your average supermarket. The produce selection consists of organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables all grown on the Big Island.

If you are curious about what they carry or want to support small farmers and artisans on the Big Island, The Locavore Store is launching their online store soon. Other than that make sure to stop by next time you are in Hilo so you too can support the local food movement.

Way to go Catarina and Arthur. You truly are local heroes.

The Locavore Store

60 Kamehameha Ave.

Hilo, HI 96720

(808) 965-2372

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How Eating Local Food Supports Your Health And Community

support local

support local

Eating local food is very important to me. When it comes to what I eat I try my best to select foods that are whole or minimally processed, organic and local. This practice results in eating seasonally as well.

Sometimes finding foods like these can be a challenge depending on where you live. Not everyone places this much importance on the foods they eat. If there isn’t a demand in a particular area there is often low availability. Cost and climate can also be factors. This is why if you have a farmers market pop up in your area or see local food in your neighborhood grocery store it is important to support it.

I believe eating local food is important for two reasons. It promotes good health and it strengthens your community. These are both very strong values of mine and something I encourage everyone to at least consider when buying food.

Eating local food for your health

This idea does not involve micro and macronutrients. However, food grown near to you, eaten soon after it has been harvested is more nutritious than commercially grown foods shipped from long distances. So, even though organic apples grown in California are just as nutritious as ones grown in New York, if you live in California and eat the locally grown apples they will be more nutritious because of the length of time between harvest and consumption.

Aligning yourself with nature

As I mentioned above, this idea is more than just getting the most nutrients out of your food. It is also a matter of aligning yourself with your environment or, living in harmony with nature. Eating local food ties you to the land you live on.

When I decided to leave San Francisco to move to Hawaii I had to prepare myself for the fact that my diet was going to change. Sure, I would no longer get to enjoy the bay area stone fruit season and Hass avocados but instead I would get to taste fresh lychees strait from the tree and make interesting dishes with breadfruit. I didn’t see it as a challenge or something I would miss but rather an exciting opportunity.

Eating for your climate

San Francisco in general has a very cool, dry climate. I would start every morning with warm lemon water, drink hot tea everyday and eat hot cereal, soups and stews to keep me warm.

 

One of the things that drew me to Hawaii was the climate. As a person who tends to run cold and dry, San Francisco’s climate was not a good balance for me. The warm humid climate in Hawaii already has my skin looking healthier and my immune system feeling stronger.

My diet has shifted here. I am constantly mindful of staying hydrated and regulating my body temperature using water and food. I now drink room temperature water in the morning instead of warming it first. I crave iced teas instead of hot teas. I eat more salads, fish and rice. I eat completely different types of fruit. I seek cold or room temperature foods as opposed to hot foods. I crave ice-cream way more.

Even though the weather doesn’t change as dramatically throughout the year, like the Midwest or east coast, San Francisco still has seasons that determine which fruits and vegetables are available. Hearty squashes and Brussels sprouts in the winter, asparagus and artichokes in the spring, heirloom tomatoes and melon in the summer are all examples.

Seasonality is significant because nature produces what will make your body thrive during that time of the year. Heartier vegetables keep you warm in the winter and lighter produce like lettuces, cucumber and stone fruit cool you down in the summer.

Giving your body what it needs in order to thrive in the environment you live in is very important for your health.

Balancing our bodies with food

Our bodies are constantly looking for balance. It is one of the reasons why we have cravings. All of the foods we eat have the potential to create warming, cooling, drying or moisturizing effects in the body. It is up to you to understand what you need in any given moment in order to thrive. This is the principal of yin and yang, opposite energies that compliment each other and create balance.

By being in tune with your body and environment you can choose foods that bring you back into balance. Alternatively, ignoring those two things can bring you out of balance with nature and have the potential to make you sick.

Eat with the seasons and let your climate determine diet. If you live in a warm climate and continue to eat foods grown in cold climates it could cause an imbalance. For example, a diet rich in red meat, high in fat and alcohol could overheat someone living in warm climate. However, if you live in a cold climate you need foods that pack more eat. Living off fish and raw vegetables may not keep you warm enough.

Here are some examples of foods that are cooling (ideal for warm climate) and foods that are warming (ideal for cold climate).

Cooling foods –

– Sweet spices (chai, fennel, elderflower)

– Mint

– Cucumber

– Lime

– Light proteins like chicken and fish

– Dark leafy greens

– Raw fruits and vegetables

– Chocolate

– Cabbage

– Watercress

Warming foods –

– Red meat, pork, duck

– Hot soups and stews

– Ginger

– Garlic

– Onions

– Oatmeal

– Winter squashes

– Peppers

Eating local food for the health of your community

Buying food from the local farmers market brings us closer to our community and environment, which results in a deeper connection to our food.

By buying your food from local farms and artisans you are supporting your neighbors and strengthening your local economy. This act unifies people, it keeps people employed and it allows you to really know where your food comes from.

Eating foods that are shipped in from somewhere else (at least on a regular basis) alienates us from our environment. You may not be physically equipped to consistently eat these foods and over time doing this may confuse your body and weaken your immune system. By doing this you are also supporting the excessive use of fossil fuels which is unfriendly to the environment.

Support local. Support community. Support your own health. It just makes sense.

For more information on how to eat local food in Hawaii check out my Hawaii Local Food Guide.

Osprey, Your Local Seafood Market

Osprey local seafood market

Osprey local seafood market
Osprey Seafood in Napa, CA

Where is your local seafood market? Have no idea? Chances are if you are a seafood lover and a home cook you may have struggled with this problem before.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of butcher shops, farmers markets or health food stores these days but even here in San Francisco I find it very difficult to shop for seafood.

Outside of dining in a high end seafood restaurant or purchasing seafood wholesale (the perks of being a professional chef) there really isn’t many local seafood market options in the bay area.

Last month I wrote about my favorite fishmonger in the bay area, Mike Winberg-Lynn. He is my number one trusted source here locally.

His market, Osprey Seafood, in Napa has an amazing selection and is amongst the freshest you can find around here.

What’s great about Mike is he’s been in the business a long time so he has good relationships with the fisherman and really knows his product.

I spoke with him recently regarding a few issues consumers struggle with when buying seafood. Here are his tips on how to become more confidant when selecting seafood….

Farm-raised vs. wild fish

I asked Mike what his opinion was on farm-raised fish. His take on this topic was simply this, “there is not enough wild fish in the world to feed everybody.”

He says “the argument with farmed fish has always been about the practices. The cleanliness, antibiotics, the amount of wild fish needed in order to feed farmed fish, fish swimming in their own shit. These practices took place in the 90s. The industry has evolved since then. They aren’t perfect but they are learning and their practices today are tons better than they were 10 years ago. Right now the ratio that they have to feed is 1-1. That’s 1 pound of wild fish to grow 1 pound of farmed fish. That’s even better than what it is in the wild. I visited a farm in Canada where the tidal flow was so strong and constant that I thought, there’s no way these fish could be swimming in their own shit.”

Although Mike agrees that wild fish is always the best option he admits that in places like the U.S., Norway, Scotland, Canada and Scandinavia they are producing respectable farm raised fish. He warns to stay away from fish farmed in South America where giving fish antibiotics isn’t regulated.

Basically when it comes down to it, if you took away farmed fishing it would tax the wild fisheries way too hard.

Which fish are sustainable to eat.

As you may recall from our last article together, Mike hate’s the word sustainable.

But to answer my question he said, “The United States is deemed sustainable, if you buy domestically or from New Zealand and Australia you can feel good about what you are buying”.

He says, “Every single domestic fishery has a managing group looking at everything it has found. (this is why domestic fisheries are so good). They count the catch to see how much volume they are bringing in so they can know when they have hit a maximum. Last year they were catching a lot of squid and the government stepped in and said that’s enough.

There’s no way to know how much fish is really out there. We can’t count them all, we have methods of maybe counting them but other than salmon, which we have a really good method of finding out how many are out there, we have no clue. Sometimes fish disappear because the water is too warm (like in the case of el nino). If you move 2 or 3 degrees your gonna lose a whole eco system.”

Mike says to stay away from buying fish caught in China and Japan who don’t always follow the rules.  And besides shrimp he avoids buying seafood from the gulf of Mexico because of frequent algae blooms due to high heat.

Seafood species found locally in the bay area.

Mike says that around summer and fall you can find rock fish, salmon, ling cod, petrale sole, sand dabs, mackerel and anchovies. Salmon season closes in October.

In March they hold hearings and decide when they are going to open salmon season and which salmon fisheries may be in danger. He explained that, “Salmon live their life in the ocean 5 years, give or take. At the end of that time period they go back up the river they came from to spawn. Certain populations of salmon will decrease. Right now the stress point where we are is the sacramento run. We try to stay away from all the sacramento river fish. As they started their migration back to the river we shut down areas to avoid fishing them. That was in July, no fishing in July because we want to make sure these salmon make it back to the river.

Sardines, anchovies and squid only show up during certain times, so sometimes you might get lucky and sometimes you may not. 

Most fish are seasonal meaning we get them just when they appear, like black cod. Its been a great year for black cod, but you will soon see that start to disappear. Albacore, same thing. We see them in the summer and that’s great but then by October they’re gone. But with El Nino everything flips. This year we didn’t hardly see any white sea bass.

Crab season starts mid November and lasts until early summer. There are times when the demonic acid levels are too high and they have to shut down crab season. This year it’s looking good.”

What to look for when purchasing seafood.

Mike thinks that in the bay area we do a pretty good job in general of offering good quality seafood. He says, “In the bay area the demand of quality is high. If you walk into a store and it smells like fish walk out. If it smells a little bit like fish give them a break it is fish. If it smells rank or overly bleachy walk away.”

Additionally, I would also say to look for clear eyes, firm skin and flesh and a nice vibrant color.

Local seafood markets Mike recommends. 

Mike says, “Besides Osprey Seafood in Napa I recommend, Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley, Hapuku Fish Shop inside Market Hall in Oakland,  Antonelli Bros in San Francisco  and even Whole Foods does a decent job. Programs like CSFs (community supported fisheries) are good. They will give you good fish. I don’t know if you want to eat as much sardines as they want to give you but they are usually using hook and line local fish.” An example of one of these would be Real Good Fish.

Favorite seafood restaurants in the bay area.

I asked Mike, when he goes out to dinner where are some of his favorite restaurants in the bay area for seafood. He said,Perbacco, Staffan (the chef/owner) knows more than any chef I have ever worked with, his knowledge of seafood and food in general is incredible, Gotts roadside, who is one of our accounts, their quality is very good, Swan Oyster Depot really knows their fish, Coqueta, Bottega, Hurley’s (just about any restaurant in Napa, really), Wood Tavern and Walnut Creek Yacht Club

Why I buy from Mike.

As I said before, I trust Mike over anyone else when purchasing seafood. I purchased fish from him wholesale when I was a chef in the restaurant business and I continue to purchase from him for my private chef clients and personal use.

Besides knowing the fish business inside and out Mike is a friend. He has a wonderful wife and family and has a wonderfully silly sense of humor.

Want to see just how knowledgeable and funny Mike is? Check out his educational video on oysters here. I laughed my ass off.

My favorite quote from Mike is this, “I had a fellow fishmonger say that when he retires he will be buying his fish from me. The reason is that we know quality and I love fish. My idea of a perfect day is to work with fish. I hate business. I am a poor business man, but I love working with fish. My brother Pat is better at the computer than me.”  Whenever I read that it makes me smile.

So where is your local seafood market? It’s time to get out there and take a look around. Help out the little guy. Support your community. And in doing so, support your own health and the health of the environment.

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

I also would love to invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore, for my weekly newsletter. I am so grateful for this community, thank you for being part of it!

Mike and Susan
Mike and his lovely wife Susan

Mike and his lovely wife SusanAs a physiological psychology graduate from UCSB, Mike looked forward to a professional future in the laboratories of the Bay Area. Newly married and with high hopes, he moved his family to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco only to find a hiring freeze up and down the peninsula. After several months of selling wedding presents to make rent, his life took one of those turns. Upon a chance meeting with a neighbor who owned the fish store across the street, Mike begged for any job at all. The neighbor, Peter Bird, hired Mike as a driver for $5 per hour. It was September of 1983 and Mike fell in love with the business from the very start. As he learned the day-to-day operations, his passion for fish and the people who worked with it grew. In December of 1986, Mike excitingly took the plunge and purchased a major share in Osprey Seafood. By 1989, Mike invested all he had in Osprey Seafood and became the sole owner. Since then, Mike’s goal to serve the entire Napa Valley area has resulted in the retail store at Wine Country Avenue. 29 years later and he still loves fish.

Local Spotlight – Dave the Butcher

Dave the Butcher

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at Soul Food Farm

I am hoping that after reading this article everyone starts googling the phrase “butcher near me”.

David Budworth, also known as “Dave the Butcher”, is one of those butchers who has changed the way people have looked at buying meat over the last several years.

He runs a modest shop in San Francisco called Marina Meats, where he embraces the farm to table movement and relationships with his customers.

His colorful past and liberal opinions are both hilarious and inspiring.

Here is his story

Dave started his butchering journey in 1989 working at Ashbury Market in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Seeing the older butchers break down whole animals intrigued and inspired him. But as a self-proclaimed “fuck up” he was not yet ready to settle down in a career.

So, off to Australia to live and work in the jungle he went. This is where Dave worked on a farm for tattooed, bearded bikers picking fruit. He said, “I lived in a tent for 6 months and half the time thought these guys were going to kill me”.

But they didn’t. And instead they inspired Dave even more to become a butcher and more knowledgeable about where his food came from.

The bikers raised wild pigs on their property. Dave would help slaughter them with his boss, Weed, to sell the meat off to nearby neighbors. The first time Weed strapped on his belt of knives Dave’s eyes lit up. He thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen.

In the evenings Dave and the bikers would head out (highly intoxicated) in a pick up truck to hunt crocodile. He learned that in Australia there are wet and dry seasons. In the wet season it floods and in the dry season when things dry up tiny ponds form where crocodiles get trapped and have to live in until the wet season returns. They would find the crocs in these ponds in the middle of the night, shine a light on them and shoot them, bringing them back to the farm to slaughter.

When Dave’s outback adventure came to an end he moved back to San Francisco and landed a job at The Real Food Company on Sutter street (which is now closed) working the meat counter. By a stroke of good luck the manager was getting ready to quit and in a bind offered his position to Dave. Dave, still not really knowing the art of butchery, saw an opportunity and accepted the position.

In the following months he became Bill Niman’s (formerly of Niman ranch) first butcher shop wholesale customer. Up until then Bill had only sold his grass-fed beef to Chefs at high end restaurants. He also brought on farms like Atkin’s Ranch for lamb. He said that he would order meat from Bill Niman and Atkins Ranch and then ask them how to cut it. The farmers trained Dave on how to cut their own product. And little did Dave know, that at the time, he was at the forefront of a food revolution that would surge several years later.

But in pure Dave fashion he grew antsy. With a pocket full of cash from his manager’s job he took 6 months off and moved to Amsterdam to grow pot.

Upon returning from his sabbatical he found himself living in the east bay where he stumbled into what would eventually become his true butchery training ground, Ver Brugges.

It was at Ver Brugge Foods where Dave learned the true meaning of hard work and what it took to be a real butcher. He worked long hours, never got weekends off, would get constant shit from the older butchers and cut his fingers daily. During the holiday season he remembers cracking crabs until three in the morning only to come home, drink a couple beers and go back to work a couple hours later at 6am.

He was the youngest butcher at the shop by 30 years. He had to fight to get taught what they knew and would often get pushed off on to the customers while the older butchers did the actual butchering in the back.

He would ask the customers if they wanted anything special done to the cuts of meat they were ordering from the case, such as boning out legs of lamb or trussing chickens. As with most of his butchering career Dave’s skills were self taught.

But, what he did learn from the owner of Ver Brugges was how to run a profitable butcher shop. Which became immeasurable later in his career.

A big reason why the owner preferred the more seasoned butchers to break down meat was that he had zero tolerance for waste. He had to. It was all about his bottom line and if Dave cut steaks while still learning and produced a lot of waste it was money taken out of his pocket. It was there that the idea of “clean bones” was instilled in Dave who went on to take pride in butchering meat leaving no waste behind.

Although Ver Brugge was a great shop Dave longed for the days when he got to watch guys break down whole animals which was something that they did not do there.

Dave found a shop in Santa Cruz that was doing just that. He called them every week for months until Shopper’s Corner finally gave in and offered him a job. Dave came in on fire getting quickly promoted to assisting the assistant manager on what he calls the “main block”. The manager would cut meat and Dave would clean up his “trim”. All. Day. Long.

Dave kept up his relentless butcher’s schedule until finally burning out. Making a significant change in lifestyle he moved to Berlin, opened a yoga studio and became a certified coffee roaster.

Although he loved his new life and Berlin Dave had this constant nagging feeling of wanting to be behind a butchers counter. Alas, he found himself back working at Ver Brugges only three years later.

During his second stint working at Ver Brugges he got divorced from his wife, his dog died and his car got broken into and stolen twice. Feeling depressed and defeated he returned to Berlin with his “tail between his legs” to his old barista job.

He was there for 6 months. Life was easy. Too easy he thought.

Dave traveled to Spain where he says he “scared himself” to the point of returning yet again to the bay area.

He ran a shop called The Fish Lady in Santa Cruz where he re-did their meat, cheese and beer programs. He couch surfed and eventually landed back in San Francisco where his career had started.

By this point Chefs had made butchering whole animals trendy and accessible to everyday people. All of the sudden being a butcher was “cool” and farm to table was all the rage. What Dave had been doing for over twenty years and not getting any recognition for was now big business.

After a long awaited and much deserved recommendation from Ver Brugge, Dave settled in at a new butcher shop that had just opened in the Marina called Marina Meats, which he still calls home today.

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at Soul Food Farm

Dave the Butcher is born

2009 was an exciting time to be a butcher. The NY Times had just put out an article titled, Young Idols With Cleavers Rule the Stage and butchers now had rockstar status.

Chefs like Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats where becoming known for whole animal butchery and the farm to table movement was in full swing.

Having already had 20 years experience as a butcher, Dave was in a prime position by the time he entered back into the San Francisco scene.

Dave started getting approached left and right to do demos at festivals, “meet your butcher” dinners and butchery competitions. He was getting up to speak at large events about factory farming and supporting small farms. He joined forces with other local butchers to support them and build his brand as, Dave the Butcher.

Dave on labeling

Now that people were taking notice of butchers again and having a desire to know where their meat was coming from  more and more meat starting popping up in grocery stores labeled as “organic”, “free-range” and natural. The demand was now there.

So, what is the difference between, what butchers like Dave, are offering and the organic meat you find in a supermarket? Luckily for us one of Dave’s best virtues is that he does not hide his opinions or sugarcoat them.

I asked Dave how he felt about companies who label their meats as “all natural” and this is what he had to say…

“It’s a crock of shit. I think the organic, all-natural, free-range labeling is fucking bullshit. It’s a scam in a sense. They are all buzzwords.

I know farmers who go beyond organic, like Alexis at Soul Food Farm, but can’t afford to label themselves as such because of the cost of licensing. When Alexis was certified organic she had to source feed from Japan. The costs were threatening to put her out of business. Corporate factory farms have the money to pay the organic fees. For them it’s just marketing.

I look for animal welfare certification when I purchase meat because a company can say they have organic chickens but then go out and beat the crap out of them everyday. As long as they feed them organic food they can call them organic. “Free-Range” chickens? They leave the door to the coup open. Most of the chickens don’t walk outside and if they do its on to a four by four fenced in area. The pastured birds that I get for Marina Meats are certified heritage and pastured for 140 days and are what chickens should taste like.”

Dave on grass-fed vs. grain fed beef

I asked Dave if he has seen a shift in what customers are looking for as far as beef goes these days. For many years marbled, grain-fed beef was revered by chefs and consumers for providing  juicer and more delicious steaks. These days the promise of a healthier meat option is delivered with grass-fed beef.

Dave said, “There were no grain-fed marbled steaks before WW2. That all started with the industrial corn revolution. It’s what we were all raised on. That too was a marketing ploy.

All cows start out for their first year on grass so you can technically call a factory farmed product grass-fed. After a year it gets auctioned off and goes to a factory to live the rest of its life on cement. It was the industry standard. That was back when everyone trusted the government and the food industry not to poison us.

Five years ago people in their seventies would come in and scoff at the price of grass-fed beef. Now those same people are asking for it. It’s one of those things where if people vote with their dollars shit will change. That’s what is starting to happen now. Grass-fed is the new healthy trendy thing and people want to be told what is healthy for them.

Back in the 70’s we were told fat was evil and  everyone started buying diet this and diet that. Now it comes out that all that shit was a big scam, just marketing. With those ideas still engrained in customers brains they ask me for steaks with less fat on them. I tell them the fat is not the problem. In the beef I sell the fat contains a lot of nutrients. It’s the fat from factory farmed meat that you want to stay away from. It is there where all of the chemicals and antibiotics that were given to the cows are stored.  

There only used to be choice and prime labels for beef. When a carcass was run through the slaughterhouse the USDA guy looked at one spot on the carcass and if it was marbled he would label it prime. These meats were more rare so they were sold at a more expensive price. 

Now there are three choices of beef – select, choice and prime. Select used to be called “no roll” because it meant that it didn’t get rolled with the USDA stamp. It was non-graded meat, below human consumption level, but fine for dogs to eat. Safeway lobbied to have select become a grade. They re-labeled everything in their store as “Safeway Select” and turned it into a brand name that people now trust.”

The Philosophy at Marina Meats

The demographic at Marina Meats can change with the time of the day or day of the week.

Dave gets everyone from Italian grandmothers cooking old school classics like petrale sole and meatballs to busy parents looking for convenient pre-made products like crabs cakes and marinated chicken breast to the guy walking in on the weekend who just bought a green egg and wants to smoke a whole brisket.

Dave’s favorite time to work is the weekend. He cranks up fun music like disco or reggae and shoots the shit with the customers who are more relaxed and in a friendly weekend mood.

He says his philosophy and the philosophy of the shop are one in the same. To source humanely raised, non-factory farmed meat and support small farms.

He buys whole animals from several small farms spreading the love around.

But coming from a background such as working at Ver Brugge he has also learned the importance of making a profit. So because of that he tries to blend what he calls the “old world” with the “new world” butcher shop ideas.

He says, “the new world idea of only buying whole carcasses, supporting only small farms and doing everything in house isn’t completely sustainable from a financial stand point. You have to charge a lot and there isn’t much profit to be made.

So to get around that I combine that model with the “old world” approach which is to still offer cool stuff but to also bring in some pre-cut product at a lower cost.

Many “craft” butcher shops won’t sell things like boneless, skinless chicken breast. I’ll bitch and moan all day about selling it but at the end of the day it’s what many customers want and it makes us money.

Offering that boneless, skinless chicken breast gets people into the shop on a daily basis and allows me to build a relationship with them. I am then able to guide them towards purchasing other off cuts that they might not of ever tried before.

Instead of alienating those people I engage them. I figure if one in every ten people buys a pork belly or a beef shank or some off cut that nobody used to ever buy, sweet!

I may go through a ton of boneless, skinless chicken breast but I’ve also converted many people in the process. And that’s why I am able to afford to buy and butcher whole carcasses. It supports my business.

Instead of being snooty and telling people that they should just get on the “craft butchery” train right now, when they clearly aren’t ready, I just try to make the train more enticing. That’s my theory.”

The choice is yours. 

Living in the bay area I have to remind myself all the time that we live in a bubble. Not everyone across America has access to pastured meat or are near a small local farm.

But I know in my heart that if we stop filling the pockets of factory farm corporations it will make an impact on the kinds of foods that grocery stores everywhere sell. Like Dave said, when people “vote with their dollars shit will change”.

So go ahead, close out this blog and google “butcher near me”. You never know, there could be a Dave the Butcher of your very own working right around the corner.

What kind of meat do you want to eat and feed to your family?

Dave the Butcher
Dave the Butcher at The Eat Real Festival

Dave the Butcher

David Budworth AKA “Dave the Butcher” started his career in 1989 at the Ashbury Market in San Francisco. With the 2 words on a poultry box “Edible Feet”, he was hooked. He landed in the jungle outback of northern Australia where he worked on a farm for some bikers learning to slaughter and process wild pigs. He has since worked under many local butcher masters, cut meat at Avedano’s Holly Park Market and was the butcher for Fatted Calf’s weekly Pork Happy Hour. Dave is now the manager and head butcher at Marina Meats in San Francisco. You can also catch him teaching lamb butchery classes at the San Francisco Cooking School. Dave is a bartender of a butcher- full of facts, recipes and butcher lore. 

Learn more about David Budworth on his websiteAsk Your Butcher

Or visit him at –

 Marina Meats 

2395 Chestnut ave. SF

(415) 673-6700

Is Boycotting Hawaii’s Fishing Industry for Forced Labor Allegations Sustainable?

If you hadn’t heard, Hawaii was in some hot water last month. Allegations of allowing forced labor and poor working conditions for foreign crew members on longline fishing boats were all over the internet and consumers were in an uproar.

But is shutting them out and writing them off for what they did sustainable?

Show of hands, whose tired of hearing the word sustainable being thrown around like dirty socks when it comes to fish? There is probably nobody else I know who is sicker of it than my long time friend and trusted fishmonger, Mike Weinberg-Lynn, owner of Osprey Seafood.

Sustainability has become a buzzword among foodies, in markets like Whole Foods and in the news for a long time now. It’s what the “responsible” people are talking about.

But what happens when one of the biggest fisheries in the world, known for using the most sustainable fishing practices around, gets busted for allegations of human slavery?

There was nobody I trusted more to get the facts from than Mike.

But before we get down and dirty on what went down in Hawaii I would like to tell you a love story.

Neurologist turns fishmonger

Once upon a time in the Haight-Ashbury there was an intelligent man with a degree in neurology who married the love of his life.

As with many newlyweds the young couple had a baby on the way and was struggling to make ends meet. Work at the time in Mike’s field was scarce. Wedding gifts were reluctantly sold in order to pay rent.

Enter Peter Bird. Picture a man with long bushy red hair and an even bushier red beard knocking on your door on Haight street asking if he can crawl through your window. Mike’s first reaction was um, no and as he went to close the door in the man’s face Peter called out “wait I’m your neighbor and I’ve locked myself out of my apartment!”

As Mike allowed the bearded man to crawl out his though his window, in order to get in through his own, Mike shouted “hey what do you do for a living anyway?” in which Peter replied, “I own the fish market across the street!”

A light bulb in Mike’s head went off. He asked Peter for a job and just like that Mike’s career as a fishmonger was born.

Happily ever after

It was 1984. After a year of slangin’ fish together Peter realized how much of an asset Mike had become to him and his business. He was reliable, dedicated and unlike him and the rest of the staff actually came to work sober. Mike was so dedicated in fact that he turned down a career at Genentech, something he had worked so hard for all those years in college, in order to keep delivering fish for Peter. Looking back on it now he realizes he would have been retired 20 years ago if he’d of taken that job.

But Mike was a new Dad, the hours he worked at the fish market allowed him to spend his afternoons with his family and on top of that he was absolutely loving the fish biz. Peter offered him a partnership and over 30 years later, Mike still owns and operates Osprey Seafood to this day.

How Osprey Seafood made its mark

Osprey got on the map when they started selling scallops to a high profile restaurant in the Napa Valley. Peter was one of the first fishmongers back then to ship freshly caught fish from the east coast overnight to San Francisco. The French chefs loved him. They were blown away by the quality of their monkfish and scallops, just to name a couple and told all of their fellow chefs about it. After making a name for themselves in Napa it didn’t take long for Chefs in San Francisco to take notice. More and more accounts got added and Osprey Seafood became one of the most trusted names in the seafood business.

What’s really been going down in Hawaii these last few years?

Mike’s first knee-jerk reaction when I asked him about Hawaii’s recent fishing boat slavery scandal was “Those assholes! We aren’t buying any fish from Hawaii until they work this out.”

He hopped on the phone right away with his contact over at the Honolulu fish auction to find out what was going on over there. Unaware of the situation and not realizing the magnitude of it Mike’s buddy laughed it off in which Mike replied sternly, “you better look into this because this is not going to play out well”.

By the next day Mike had answers.

It turned out, due to legislation that had been passed in Hawaii, through a loop hole Hawaiian longline fishing boats technically had the right to employ undocumented foreign workers on their boats and because they did not have work visas they were not protected under U.S. labor laws. These workers had signed contracts and were being paid more than what they could make in their own countries.

What Hawaii had on their hands were a few longline fishing boats that would not allow their crew off the boat for 2-3 years because they could not legally be on Hawaiian land. The pay sucked, the working hours were ridiculously long and living conditions were rough. The reality is they were being abused.

Why you probably shouldn’t boycott in times like these.

As Mike had more time to sit back and digest this new information he started to look at the bigger picture.

Hawaii was and is one of the leaders known for their fishing techniques and sustainable practices, he thought. They did not need a mark on their record like this.

As he recalled there had been times in the past when campaigns such as “say no to swordfish” and “dolphin free tuna” brought more bad than good to the fishing industry.

He said that back in the 80’s when people stopped buying tuna to try and save the dolphins it had a tremendous impact on the gulf of Mexico’s fishing industry which has led to it’s downward spiral ever since.

Because of the campaign the fisherman went bankrupt and had to sell their boats.

As time passed and people “forgot” about the boycott they started buying tuna again only now there weren’t enough boats in the gulf to keep up with the demand.

Immigrants from Vietnam showed up to take advantage of the opportunity fishing tuna would have to offer. But unlike the original fisherman who had passed down important information from generation to generation they did not know the fishing cycles, about patterns, about what size the tuna should be when caught and where the spawning grounds were. They fished without knowledge and in doing so they depleted the gulf.

Mike said, “if people boycott buying fish from Hawaii all of these people are going to go out of business and these are the people who are doing it the right way.”

Is there even such thing as sustainable anymore?

When asked to touch on what sustainability in the fishing industry meant to him Mike answered, “I hate the word sustainable. It has no meaning anymore. Dump the term sustainable and start talking about responsible fishing practices. Stop buying crap from countries that we know are not playing the game and following the rules like China and Japan. Buy domestic or from New Zealand and Australia if you want to support sustainability. Places like Hawaii have the boats that are fishing responsibly.”

Hawaii handles business

Since the articles on forced labor went flying around the internet and the Hawaii Seafood Council started their investigation there has been some major changes.

The first thing they did was form a task force who evaluated all labor practices on all Hawaiian longline fishing boats.

They immediately implemented a system of checks and balances that would protect the foreign crews from further forced labor and abuse and improve working conditions.

A new standardized contract has been written and distributed to crew members in their own native languages.

Large retail and wholesale seafood companies were informed of the new criteria for responsible labor practices so that they could feel good about selling their products again.

The Honolulu fish auction, where these boats deliver and sell their catch, warned that any boats “that are unable to prove that forced labor is not being used” would be denied auction services. A zero tolerance policy has now been put into place.

Additionally the Hawaii Seafood Council promises to offer continued outreach and education for the Hawaii longline fishing boats on this subject of forced labor.

As stated in the Hawaii Seafood Council’s press release: “This fishery has proven itself over the years to be responsive and an industry leader in meeting the challenges arising from new information about fishery impacts on fish populations and protected species. The allegations of labor abuses present a serious and new challenge, and the industry is rallying to respond quickly. I am confident that through this process we will ferret out any vessel from the fleet that is involved in forced labor, labor abuse or substandard working conditions and treatment of the crew.” says John Kaneko, Task Force member and Program Director of the Hawaii Seafood Council.

The decision is up to you.

Was what the owners of these boats did morally wrong? Yes. Did the industry take it seriously. Yes. Did they take every action possible to right their wrongs. Yes.

In the end it comes down to this for me, Hawaii is dedicated to producing a high quality product in a way that is safe and sustainable for the environment.

Nobody’s perfect but I think if you learn from your mistakes you deserve a second chance, especially with a track record like Hawaii’s.

What will you do? Will you stop buying fish from Hawaii to stand up for what these crew members went through or will you support a fishery that at the end of the day produces some of the most sustainable seafood in the world?

I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

I also would love to invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore, for my weekly newsletter. I am so grateful for this community, thank you for being part of it!

Mike and Susan
Mike and his lovely wife Susan

 

Osprey seafood has a retail shop, open to the public, located at 1014 Wine Country ave. Napa, CA 94558. It is also one of the major seafood wholesalers in the bay area supplying restaurants such as Perbacco, Coqueta and Swan Oyster Depot.