Locally Sourced Meats
EAT MAINE-March 2012
By Joe Ricchio
It’s time to start thinking about where the meat you buy comes from, especially with such a wealth of local resources at your disposal.
Here are a few of my favorite sources to satisfy your inner carnivore…
With over 65 years of farming experience, the folks at Caldwell Farm know a thing or two about classic American-style beef. The cows are raised in a safe and humane manner using traditional organic methods. They are fed 85 percent silage (hay) from the farm’s own fields and finished on locally raised, non-GMO grain. What this means for you is a large, juicy rib eye that needs nothing more than a bit of salt and a slathering of butter to accentuate the natural beef flavor. Yes, this also means you can throw that bottle of A1 Steak Sauce into the trash can, because letting even one drop of it touch meat like this would instantly undo any good karma you may have accumulated.
313 North Parish Rd. | Turner | 207.225.3871
Sebago Lake Ranch
Rotational grazing—strategically moving livestock to fresh areas of pasture to allow heavily munched plots to regenerate—not only is good for the land but makes for much happier and more productive cows. Feeding these animals an all-grass diet imparts an intense flavor to the beef, which is also higher in nutrients and leaner than corn-fed meat. This philosophy has put the meat from Sebago Lake Ranch in high demand, and you would do well to seek out a few steaks for yourself. Any questions about why it tastes so good can be answered on their website by Gidget, a talking cow who claims, “There is no comparison! Why on Earth would I want to grow up on a feed lot or have my calves grow up anywhere but a sunny pasture?” Why, indeed.
443 Sebago Lake Rd. | Gorham | 207.892.6820
Longfellow’s Creamery at Second Chance Farm
If you’re going to make great cheese, there are always going to be a few batches of mistakes, so why not feed them to the livestock, and in the process ensure a sweeter tasting fat than can be produced by non-whey-fed pigs? Crossbreed heritage hogs encourage the best genetic traits to shine, and the beasts live happily outside in a tree-shaded field. They are procured as piglets from a farm that Longfellow’s describes as the “Hilton Garden Inn for pigs”—a clean, spacious environment with premium living conditions and a complimentary copy of Charlotte’s Web for every little piggy.
20 Maple Ln. | Avon 207.639.2074
Heritage breed Large Black hogs, raised in a pasture without antibiotics or hormones, are a specialty of this small, diverse family farm. They supplement the pig feed with organic vegetables, raw milk, apples, and acorns in the fall, resulting in a wonderful depth of flavor and incredibly tender meat, which is also due in part to the breed’s short muscle fibers. In addition to being one of the more mild-mannered pig breeds, Large Blacks enjoy the luxury of being genetically protected from sunburns, allowing them to live comfortably outdoors on open pastures. Despite their friendly nature, it’s important to inform your children, no matter how much they beg, that they do not make great house pets.
63 Gott Ln. | Brunswick | 207.725.4554
Sumner Valley Farm
Once you taste the free-range chickens from Sumner Valley Farm, all of the hard work and long days committed to caring for these animals becomes wonderfully apparent. The birds are leaner, with a pronounced flavor that makes the generic supermarket brands I grew up on taste like cardboard by comparison. Such respect is shown for the lives of these fowl that the family still gives thanks and prays before each slaughter—a practice that should always be taken into consideration before cooking the chicken. In other words, put down the Shake ‘n Bake.
63 Morrill Farm Rd. | Sumner 207.388.3440
It almost goes without saying that more delectable eggs come from happier, healthier, well-treated chickens. And for this reason, Maine-ly Poultry’s eggs have become a staple in my household. In addition to raising broilers all year round, Maine-ly Poultry also offers turkeys for the holidays, with all of the essential cuts of meat available at the farm or any of the several farmers markets around the state. The farm also produces superlative chicken pies covered with flaky golden crust and filled with tender chicken, rich gravy, and most important, no peas. That is, you can have peas if you want them, but if you purchase one “with” please refrain from bringing it to my house. Thank you.
1461 Atlantic Highway | Warren | 207.273.2809
Lee Straw got his start raising lambs as a 4-H youth in Buxton, and he now manages flocks on both his home farm in Newcastle and on an island in Penobscot Bay. For eight months out of the year, the lambs are fed grass, allowing the meat to develop nuances of flavor directly related to their natural diet before they transition to overwintering on farm-raised grasses and grain. I’ll never forget the first time I encountered Straw Farm lamb at a Portland restaurant in 2003, where the chef informed us that these animals were “from an island” and this island’s location was “top secret”—as if he assumed we were going to commandeer a sea vessel and go in search of these legendary creatures ourselves.
30 Brick Hill Rd. | Newcastle | 207.882.6875
Crystal Spring Farm
The Katahdin Hair Sheep is a Maine-raised breed perfectly suited to thrive on the rich grass and clover pastures of Crystal Spring Farm. Shepherds Seth Kroeck and Tom Settlemire carefully tend their flock without relying on steroids or growth hormones. In addition to providing lean and flavorful meat, the healthy, vigorous sheep are also an important part of an extensive crop-rotation plan that keeps the farm’s organic vegetable operation going strong. And it turns out that lambskins from the flock are also the perfect material for constructing a rustic Snuggie that will keep you toasty warm in the depths of a Maine winter.
277 Pleasant Hill Rd. | Brunswick | 207.729.1112
Common Wealth Farm
Moving the ducks twice daily to new clover pasture ensures that they will continue to breath fresh air, eat grubs and grass, and—ultimately—internalize an ambrosial flavor. Common Wealth Farm strives for harmony with its surrounding ecosystem, which in turn benefits the entire operation: chickens, turkeys, geese, game birds, and of course, ducks. In addition to producing remarkable meats, these folks also bake damn good bagels, which benefit from a clean, stress-free lifestyle before being boiled in scalding water and loaded into hot ovens.
47 Rich Rd. | Unity | 207.568.9068