When you watch a Kurosawa you don’t expect the shock and awe of a Michael Moore. Like the increasing sugar levels in many foods, we are expecting more shock and awe from our movies including food documentaries such as Food Inc. and Super Size Me. Unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you won’t get this from the film American Meat, a solutions-oriented documentary directed by Graham Meriwether.
American Meat is subtle, tells several real stories from the U.S. meat industry, points to some solutions as well as things that haven’t worked [yet], but doesn’t freak you out. It builds on the body of work of existing food documentaries and has a focus. It assumes we already know about industrial farming's methods from Food Inc or that eating too much McDonalds is bad for you as told by Super Size Me. American Meat could go into how Americans eat too much meat but it assumes that’s a constant limiting the fronts it takes on.
Key points that we liked in the film:
We need more people to go into farming, it is an industry where the average age is over 50 where a healthy average age for an industry is around 35.
Many animal farmers do not own the animals they raise. The big food companies such as Tyson and Perdue make the farmers take the risks of owning the equipment and land but keep ownership of the animals which leaves less money in the hands of the farmers.
While technology can be demonized in places such as industrial farming, people like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms has built contraptions such as eggmobiles and pigaerators. This is technology which enables him to efficiently replicate the natural ecosystem of land rotation so that poultry, cattle, and pigs can use the same land in a way that nature intended.
Transparanecy is important. Joel at Polyface Farms has an open door policy and is not afraid of being inspected, visited, or asked any questions. Good luck getting that from companies like Monsanto.
Food subsidies from the US Government help keep industrial farming cheaper for people who do not have the luxury to buy the higher priced grass fed or organic meats.
Some farmers have tried to move to grass-fed farming but have not been able to get customers to sustain their business. These farmers do prefer the taste of grass-fed meats over the industrially farmed meats.
Vote with your dollar. Everytime you buy something, you are making a statement. Farmers get as little as 10 cents for every dollar you spend at a supermarket. Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) gets more of that money directly to the farmers which means [in theory] that they can make a healthier product. We are joining the CSA in Flushing, New York.
We attended the screening at New York University on March 26, 2013 hosted by the NYU Earth Matters group. According to the IMDB page of the film, it will premier on April 12, 2013 in New York City.
We’re big fans of Bare Burger. One of the first places we saw with Hunts Ketchup with no High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) on the guest tables; this made John a fan! Getting people to think in terms of organic, local, and sustainable foods is a great thing. We need more of this.
I’ve had brunch and lunch and dinner, many times. Always going for a burger as I thought anything else would be like getting salmon at a steakhouse. Today, while having brunch at the Bayside Bare Burger, I ordered one of the Mexican Egg sandwich (not exact name on the menu). I ordered them over easy. The plate came and looked good but then I noticed the egg yolks. Not the orange we’ve come to expect from places like Queens Farm but pale yellow that we’ve been warned about.
I’ll be back but not to order eggs and Bare Burger, please put your eggs on the table!
As I leave Atlanta, I was thinking about my stay there. My expectations were pretty low. Not sure why and it certainly wasn't based on anything factual. Maybe cause there's no beach and no terrain. Plus I've had plenty of BBQ in the past year. Of course the Southern US is more than one big smoker. As I was searching for grass-fed BBQ, the unicorn of the culinary world, I found a place near me called Heirloom BBQ. I guess Google associates grass-fed with heirloom from the organic world. The website made no mention of grass fed beef but it did talk a big game in more of an artistic way rather than a macho way. There was mention of Korean influence and some of the items looked conspicuously Korean. From the reviews the owners are an American man and a Korean woman at which point John and Yoko came to mind.
I went there on Wednesday; a regular BBQ place, sauces on the tables and real casual. I had the ribs and brisket combo with a Brunswick stew on the side, apparently a Georgia dish. I avoided anything with Korean connotations as my home in Auburndale has many Korean restaurants. And then, in a metal tray, my food was brought to me. Brisket, ribs, a side of stew, and some token veggies, your standard BBQ. I go for the ribs, I bite, I chew, and then comes the surprise; Korean spices! I was blown away. Eventhough Korean influence in the BBQ should have been obvious, the obvious and I have a way of avoiding each other. With every bite I was taken back to my younger years when I wasn't on repeat of various foods. Like a child eating spicy ice cream for the first time I was estranged, intrigued, and smiling all at once. I won't bore you with more adjectives on the rest of my meal but the Brunswick stew was great.
I did ask if the meat came from grass fed animals and they said "no." Overall, don't expect BBQ to have grass fed meats. Good luck finding one and let me know when you do. Butcher Bar in Astoria, New York is a big exception to this.
When I travel I avoid going to the same place more than once. Going to a place more than once on a short trip and in a place with a population greater than 40,000 should mean something! And so I went back to Heirloom BBQ another time. This time on Friday before heading to the airport in Atlanta. I ate again and this time as I was prepared for the Korean spices I was able to enjoy things on a different level. No more was I the little kid having spiced ice cream for the first time. I knew what to expect and my taste buds were set to red alert playing more offense than defense this time around! Ahhh! That was good and then I wisked myself off to the airport to head to Portland, Oregon with its rich culinary offerings. Until, then stay hungry, unless John would eat it!
Seeking good BBQ in New York City for the well traveled may seem ridiculous; why not go for Italian, Asian, or French? I could just wait until my next trip. But even then, the so called really good BBQ places in places like Texas, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Oklahoma [many of which I’ve been to] may not always be keen on having grass fed meats. It’s either good sauces or grass fed, but rarely both. I’ll never forget some of the BBQ places in Kansas City, which as good as it tasted, was advertised as “corn fed.” Really? Was this menu printed in the 90s?
Enter Butcher Bar located on 30th Avenue in Astoria, Queens. Half butcher, half BBQ, fully fresh, locally sourced, grass-fed meats, this is our new favorite place! While our food was being prepared we were given a tour of the kitchen and the patio in the back. No freezers or deep-fryers guarantees that food isn’t frozen forever to be eaten whenever. Reasonably priced and open for a little over a year, this is one of the top rated BBQ places in New York City. They’ve been in the NY Times and other newspapers. They are Michelin recommended in case the opinion of a French tire company is important to you. But take our word for it and go in for the burnt ends, the brisket, pork belly, or some of the cane-sugar sodas! And right now it’s a BYOB so bring in your favorite IPA or wine…