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Archive for the ‘Chicken’ Category

I first read about Fleisher’s Grass Fed & Organic Meats last summer? I was surfing around looking for places to buy grass-fed beef when it came up. Even though they were about a hundred miles upstate, I was curious. And a little bit intimidated.

The Fleischer’s website is everything that makes me feel doltish about my fumbling attempts to eat in a way that promotes sustainability. At Fleisher’s it seems like they have the whole thing down pat – affordable, available, grass-fed organic meat. Their website makes the whole prospect of eating with a conscience look so easy.

Of course, I wanted to visit them right away. But there was something that seemed off about driving an hour and half just to buy a chicken. That just couldn’t be green. They do deliver to NY, but the $12 service charge felt expensive. So, I had  been waiting for a time when we were in the neighborhood.

John knew about Fleisher’s, too. “It’s that butcher shop the Julia and Julia writer worked at.” He scowled sort of jokingly. “Didn’t she have an affair with some hot butcher?”

(He’s right, Julie Powell wrote Cleave based on her experience in Fleisher’s butcher apprenticeship program.)

The Fleisher’s site said that on Tuesday and Wednesday, they were open by appointment. The site also suggested we put in our order in advance.  I was worried that I would miss out on my opportunity so as we drove through Albany on the thruway south, John called. They were very relaxed. “Yes, we are open until 7.  Come on down.”

We turned off the Thruway at the exit for Kingston. It was a few days after the big blizzard after Christmas and the snow was gray and gritty.  The Catskills in general are melancholy. There’s always a feeling that you’re driving through someplace lost or, if not forgotten completely, kind of overlooked. A big sign welcomed us and pointed us in the direction of visitor information so there must have been some sort of a tourist trade. In the summer? Not now. As the twilight settled, and we wound through a familiar landscape of strip malls and gas stations, it was very suburban and a little sad.  I wondered when we’d hit the neighborhood that housed this eco-chic butcher with national acclaim

Fleisher’s was created to be a local butcher shop that only sold only premium products. The site said that they bought from local farmers who have raised their animals on a primarily grass-based diet or according to organic standards. The combination of grass fed and local makes the meat more sustainable.

According to their site: “Industrial farming requires transportation, processing, packaging and fossil fuel usage that puts tremendous stress on the environment. For example, between production and transportation, growing 10% more produce for local consumption in Iowa would result in an annual savings ranging from 280,000 to 346,000 gallons of fuel, and an annual reduction in CO2 emissions ranging from 6.7 to 7.9 million pounds.”

I’m already convinced that eating in this way is the right choice, but still I like to remember the facts behind my convictions once in a while.

After driving in circles in downtown Kingston, we finally found the store. We parked next to a snowbank and walked past a fancy real estate agency to the main street. I noticed a boutique that sold organic kids cloths and toys. But I quickly realized that was the only bit of eco-chic ambiance, I was going to get out of Kingston. Most of the main street was pretty dead.

The butcher shop was pretty much that – a butcher shop. It’s not fancy or slick. In the front, by the window, there were local and organic beans and soba noodles on some wooden tables. The beans were not cheap, $5.99 /lb but I scooped them up.

As I approached the butcher counter, a tall, bulky boy asked if he could help me. I was overwhelmed, there were chickens and tons of kinds of beef and lamb. Nothing was expensive by grass fed standards. The chicken was a bit more than I normally pay ($3.49 as compared to $2.99), but for fifty cents I thought it was worth it because I believed it was pasture raised. The Murray’s Chicken I’ve been eating is humanely raised but lives in a barn. I think of it as industrial farming light. Unfortunately, after digging a little deeper, I found that Fleisher’s chicken was supplied by Pristine Cuisine which is organic but not pasture raised. Oh well. I guess $3.49 was too good  a price to hope for for pastured chicken which normally in the farmer’s markets runs much more.

In addition to two chickens, I picked up some ground beef, a roast and a London Broil. While we were shopping, several butchers were slicing and dicing a large animal in the background.

“Do you mind if I take pic for my blog?” I asked.

Sure, one of the butchers said. They all posed.

Then he elbowed one of the other butchers. “Brian,” the butcher said, “take these nice folks on a tour.”

“Would you like a tour?” he asked me.  I looked at the kids and we all nodded.

“Sure,” I said.

Brian emerged from the pack of butchers. He was a young former musician with a healthy covering of tattoos. He opened the counter next to the cash register and invited us behind the counter.

He showed us the freezers with sides of pork belly that would become bacon. He showed us a big meat grinder where they grind the meat for sausage. He also explained how the leftover bits were used for pet food, so that nothing was wasted.

He explained how Josh Appleton came from heritage of butchers — his grandfather was a butcher in Brooklyn — but that he was a former vegan. When he decided to start eating meat, he couldn’t find local, organic or pastured options and thus the idea for Fleisher’s was born.

Z was excited by all the big knives and he watched with fascination as they sliced away at a pig. B on the other hand was horrified. He stared in dismay as one of the butcher’s helpers pressed the button and meat came dripping out of the metal grate.

One of these days, I want to go up to Fleisher’s and take one of their farm to table butchering classes. I also am eager for my next trip so that

Brian was great. He answered all our questions. He also told us that in early spring Fleischer’s would be opening “Grass”, a sustainable luncheonette in the space next door to the butcher shop. He even gave us a package of hot dogs on the house.

My last attempt at organic grass-fed hot dogs was a travesty. The kids wouldn’t eat them. But on Friday night, we grilled up the pack and as you can see by B’s happy face, they were a hit. I felt a little guilt feeding my kids such an all American 50s-esque dinner. But even John, who was eating vege-dogs was excited. “Hot dogs for dinner,” he sighed. “Wow.”

Grass fed hot dogs are definitely way more expensive than supermarket dogs. Even the Applegate farms brand (again industrial light) from Whole Foods —  they only run me about $5 a pack. In comparison, a pack of Fleisher’s dogs cost 13$. But it was sooo easy. And Chinese food (our former Friday night tradition), which costs around 35 bucks on a good day, is certainly no bargain. Plus, Chinese food made from industrially-raised chicken makes a ton of garbage even when I do my paper container trick.

I don’t think I will be making hot dogs a weekly meal, but once in a while it’s really worth it to be able to give my kids kid food and still be able to stick to my principles.

One part of  the Fleisher’s website I really recommend is their Is it Affordable? section where they map out how to serve 4 meals a week to a family of four for under $50. I think they under-estimate how much a family of four eats are a little bit — or maybe I just have two boys — but I still found it useful and worth checking out.

If you place an order of over $100, Fleisher’s will deliver to NYC. The delivery charge of $12 initially seemed like a big expense. But after tasting the quality of their meat, I would definitely consider it  for times when I’m not in the neighborhood. And for me, I  do hop upstate enough that I can see a trip to Fleisher’s as part of my new routine.

More Fleisher’s Online:

Every Wednesday, Jessica and Joshua publish The Butcher Blog for Sauveur Magazine where they share links that help us understand what artisanal butchers do and to appreciate where our meat comes from.

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