I would not have called myself a picky eater, until I returned to the US. Having lived for several years knowing more or less where my vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs and cheese were coming from, I found myself asking more and more frequently up here, “How do I know what’s really in my food?” By way of explaining what I meant by knowing “more or less” where my food came from, I’ll tell you a little story.
We used to shop most weeks at the local farmer’s market. And I use the term market loosely. Picture two rattly old trucks with stringy, sun-rotted tarps strapped over the top and down the slatted-sides, parked on a dusty and narrow curve in the road right before the pavement ends. Then picture ducking your head as you enter the “market” because you don’t want to guillotine yourself on the power wire that holds about 20 naked light bulbs and is strung from the bar across the street. Then picture yourself standing on dirt, in front of the town’s soccer field, which is mostly dirt or mud, depending on the season, and looking at two rows each of three folding banquet tables. These are heaped with whatever fruits and vegetables are in season and growing the the central valley, and I mean “the” as in “the only” or “the single one”. Picture yourself picking up a dirty plastic packing crate and filling it with lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, while being jostled by the 80-year old woman in a thin flowered dress at the same time as a 30-year old guy with no shirt on and a small child who’s playing hide-and-seek under the tables. You finish the 20 feet of choices and find yourself at the register: a scale and a cash box. If you’re in the mood, you can buy a fresh chicken, eggs and cheese from the coolers sitting on the ground behind the register.
At one point, after eating these chickens and eggs for a few years, you think to ask the pretty cashier (who after all these years, finally, finally concedes to smile at you) where the eggs come from. She tells you, “De la terraza. De mi tia.” From the porch. Of my aunt. I loved this answer more than she could have possibly known. The chickens we ate, nearly every week, also came from the porch of her aunt.
This experience is all but lost here in the states, and I find myself looking at these rows and rows of meat sitting in Styrofoam, covered in plastic and thinking, “Where did this animal live? Did it have a porch?”
As I become more aware and more involved in the remodeling of the food industry occurring here in the US, I find myself unsure as to which brands are truly free-range, or all-natural, and while my article on sustainable goat’s milk and cheese addressed some of those questions, it didn’t list specific brands found in actual stores that a person could feel confident buying. And so, I decided it was time to make that list.
Barbarosa Ranchers – Red Bluff, CA. One of my personal favorites. “Barbarosa proudly and conscientiously raises a number of the north state’s finest meats. Each species is raised as close to its nature state as we can.” Now raising cows, pigs, lambs, turkeys and chickens.
Black Pig Meat Co. – Healdsburg, CA. “Our pork comes from Pure Country Pork in the Northwest which is the first sustainable hog operation in the United States to earn Food Alliance Certification. The pigs are heritage breed, raised without antibiotics and hormones, and are allowed to roam free range.” Black Pig can be purchased on their website; in their restuarant, Zazu; or in several stores across the nation.
Glaum Egg Ranch – Aptos, CA. “Since our ranch is 100% CAGE FREE, our chickens, at anytime, have the luxury of roaming free, dust bathing, perching, nesting, eating and drinking.” CCOF certified organic, USDA certified organic, CAFF (Community Alliance With Family Farmers) certified, Certified Humane.
Green Valley Organics Dairy – Sonoma, CA. Their products are made from Diamond W Dairy and Spring Hill Dairy. USDA certified organic. Certified Humane.
Hearst Ranch Beef – San Simeon, CA. “Since 1865, the Hearst family has raised cattle on the rich sustainable native grasslands of the Central California coast.” Hearst Ranch beef is now featured at Four Seasons San Francisco. Food Alliance Certified, 100% Grass Fed, Certified Humane.
Heritage American Bronze Turkey – by Hearst Ranch. These birds are, “bred to live a robust and natural life in semi-wild conditions.”
Holding Ranch – Danville,CA. Family farmed meat including beef, lamb, chicken, eggs and pork, raised without antibiotics, synthetics pesticides or hormones, using 100% certified organic feed without GMO or soy for their chickens and pigs. Holding Ranch meats can be purchased at varous farmer’s markets and select stores, including the Menlo Park Farmer’s Market on Sundays.
Iliamna Alaskan Wild Red Salmon – Lake Iliamna, Alaska. Also sold by Hearst Ranch. “Lake Iliamna (ill-ee-AM-nuh), the terminal spawning grounds of the salmon, is the largest freshwater lake in Alaska. Iliamna Fish Company sockeye salmon are Marine Stewardship Council certified-signifying the ocean, rivers and lake where our wild sockeye grow are part of a healthy and pure marine ecosystem.”
Mellody Ranch Eggs – Watsonville, CA. Sold at Menlo Park Farmer’s Market on Sundays.
Old Creek Ranch – Cayucos, CA. “Cattle, sheep, and goats are rotated across their range…to mimic the beneficial impact of wild grazers. We are predator friendly. Our management style produces a thriving natural food chain for a diverse population of cougars, coyotes, hawks, and other predatory critters. We encourage plant, animal, and insect diversity in our orchards and rangeland. Fertilizers, when used, are organic. We use no chemical or artificial fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides or growth stimulants on land, plants or livestock.” 100% grass-fed beef, goat and lamb; pasture-raised pork; oranges and avocados. Available at various markets including the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market on Sundays. Organic Certifiers certified.
Prather Ranch – Macdoel, CA. “Prather Ranch is committed to the most natural way to raise wholesome beef for customers; the ranch does not administer growth-stimulating hormones or feed antibiotics. No animal sourced proteins are fed to the cattle.” Certified Organic, Certified Humane.
RedHillFarms Eggs – Petaluma, CA. The farm’s “Leghorn chickens are free to roam the farm’s certified organic pastures,…absorbing natural sunlight, eating the pasture’s bugs, worms, and grasses combine to produce unbelievably good tasting eggs. The eggs are hand gathered daily.” Marin Organic.
RedHill Farms Lamb – Marin and Sonoma Counties, CA. “RedHill Farms is the only producer of lamb in the San Francisco Bay that is raised entirely on lush grass, mother’s milk and free of vaccines, hormones and antibiotics.” Marin Organic.
Redwood Hill Farm – Sonoma County, CA. “Family owned and operated for over 40 years, we are committed to making the best tasting and least processed goat milk, artisan goat milk cheese, yogurt and kefir.” Humane Certified.
SummerHill Goat Dairy – Central Valley, CA. “Our goats are given fresh food several times a day and always have access to good food and clean water. Each kid is hand raised and individually cared for.” Found at Trader Joe’s and other local markets in California. Certified Humane.
The James Ranch – Penn Valley, CA. “Our flock has always been raised without hormones and without antibiotics on our small [200 acre] family farm.” Alice Waters has used The James Ranch meat at Chez Pannisse for over twenty years.
Valley Ford Cheese Co. – Sonoma County, CA. “That’s five generations of us, milking a prize-winning herd of 400 cows every day for the last hundred years, right here on the lush rolling pastures above the Estero Americano.” Available at various markets in Northern California. Certified Humane.
If a product is listed above as Certified Humane®, it has gone through rigorous standards to meet this certification. Certified Humane is, “A national non-profit 501(c)3 organization created to improve the lives of farm animals by setting rigorous standards, conducting annual inspections, and certifying their humane treatment.” If you live outside of California, or are interested in participating in Certified Humane, they have a nationwide list of certified brands and information on how to get involved.
For other organic products and food, check out our database at greennii.com.
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