Tag Archives: american

A guide to the best barbecue sauce (and beer) for every meat

Ahhh! Barbecue sauce. A hot button culinary topic if there ever was one. 

Fortunately, I’m a meat guy from the home of lobster and clam chowdah, so my loyalties with BBQ sauce aren’t regional and tend to be with whatever will make what I’m cooking taste amazing! 

Here’s a breakdown of some of the fantastic barbecue sauces you can find throughout America. These are best when done following a homemade bbq sauce recipe, hundreds of which are online and you can experiment with. The best bbq sauces avoid high-fructose corn syrup-heavy ingredients for cayenne peppers, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. However, sometimes a little ketchup can be all you need to make the perfect sauce for any meat.

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

The white barbecue sauce made famous at Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Northern Alabama is by far one for the more unique of the American BBQ sauces, but only because our national perception of the perfect sauce for BBQ chicken is shaped by the rows of dark brown Sweet Baby Ray’s bottles lining our grocery stores and the more midwestern and coastal influences of Kansas City, Memphis, and Carolina.

Honestly, mixing mayo and horseradish is phenomenal; Robert Gibson knew what he was doing 96 years ago when he invented the sauce.

Alabama White sauce is best for… 

Grilled chicken or pork chops. Lightly flavored meat, some char from the grill, a creamy tangy sauce to dip into. 

 It is amazing paired with a summer ale, something with a creamy finish and citrus notes.

Memphis BBQ Sauce 

Next, we go to the signature barbecue flavor of Memphis, Tennessee. Traditionally Memphis BBQ is dry rub only and often served with sauce on the side. Memphis sauce features lots of molasses and vinegar, and tomato-based, often by using tomato paste. This is all to say it’s certainly a familiar barbecue flavor but is often much thinner than your average BBQ sauce.

Try Memphis BBQ sauce on… 

Definitely smoked baby back ribs. Memphis BBQ is a great way to serve ribs if you want to avoid the mess of traditionally-sauced ribs. Memphis ribs are dry, the sauce is wet, and your fingers stay clean! Mostly…

The perfect beer for Memphis BBQ is definitely an IPA. With a light and refreshing taste but some bitter hoppy undertones, and IPA can bang heads with the smokey spicy bark on great ribs.

Texas Barbecue Sauce

Now to Texas. The Lone Star State is big, bold, spicy, and tangy; they also have great BBQ sauce. Featuring a tomato sauce base and a combination of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice, Texas sauce using has some extra heat from cayenne peppers, chipotle peppers, or some other chili pepper.

Seriously, Texas sauce has immense flavor and purposefully so, Texas barbecue is magnificent. 

Texas Barbecue sauce was made for…

Beef brisket. There is no choice but brisket. Beefy, bold, and fatty, the most flavorful of all meats is magical with the richest of all BBQ sauces.

As for a libation to go with the BBQ brisket, I’d go light here, mostly because I want room for more brisket. All the ranchers I’ve met drink Michelob Ultra like water. So judge if need be, but don’t knock it till you try it. 

St. Louis Barbecue Sauce

Rolling into Missouri we have the home of the great St Louis ribs. Good pork tends to be sweet, and the classic St. Louis sauce is sweet to match. Sticky. Sweet. Tomato-based. Unlike most other American barbecue sauces, St. Louis prefers to hold the liquid smoke from their namesake sauce. If you’re gonna sauce your ribs, this is the way to do it. 

Best use for St. Louis sauce…

St Louis ribs of course. But the flavors work great on really any fatty cut of BBQ pork.

And as for beer, the only choice is the St. Louis original, Budweiser, right?

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

Staying in Missouri, we next have the ubiquitous Kansas City style of sauce. This is closest to the universal BBQ sauce experience. Thick, sweet, smokey, and tomato-based, with ketchup as a key ingredient, Kansas City BBQ sauce is pretty much delicious on anything. 

Smother Kansas City sauce on…

The most beefy-tasty meats like sirloin steaks, chuck steaks, the cowboy cuts, or brisket burnt ends. All these cuts have to have enough beefy flavor to marry well with such a rich sauce.

I’d lean towards hops again for a beer to go with St. Louis barbecue ribs. You want something to cut the richness, definitely a hoppy lager. Sam Adams is a personal fave, but maybe I’m biased, having grown up not far from their headquarters in Boston.

South Carolina Barbecue Sauce

Moving into the Carolinas is where flavor and consistency get really interesting. In South Carolina, we leave the tomato-based sauces behind for mustard, vinegar, as well as ground black pepper, garlic, and other spices. This sauce is spicy, super tangy, and has a dash of sweetness. It is amazing on smoked pork matching well with the rich meat with incredible brightness. 

South Carolina sauce should drench…

Pulled pork. It’s how I was taught by a Deep South chef, and goshdarnit, if it ain’t still the best choice on tender, smoked pork.

Beer? Again, let’s match with a craft IPA. I’m looking for citrus, maybe even some tropical notes. Something fruity to add sweetness as a counterpoint the tanginess of the sauce, so a cloudy New England-Style IPA is perfect. I like local favorite Night Shift based in Everett, MA, which has an amazing choice of varieties. 

Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce

Into eastern North Carolina we go, where we encounter perhaps the simplest of all BBQ sauces. Basically, this style is just vinegar and spices like cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes. It’s a sauce that works well with anything grilled or smoked and really lets the meat speak for itself.

Use Eastern NC sauce with…

Pork chops, grilled chicken, dressing for a chicken salad, and any lighter meats that can use a tangy boost. 

Best with a lighter beer, I’d go with a pale lager or pilsner. Make sure it is full-bodied enough to add some richness but light enough not to overwhelm.

Western North Carolina BBQ Sauce

They take BBQ sauce very seriously in the Carolinas. It is, after all, thought to be the birthplace of American BBQ. And so, in western North Carolina we find a second variety. This one is similar to its eastern cousin, but with the addition of some tomato for flavor. 

Good luck arguing which sauce is better with anyone from the Tarheel State. Fortunately for me, I get to pick and choose my loyalties…

I can’t get enough Western Carolina sauce on…

Some of the richer cuts of light meat like chicken thighs, pork sirloin, and country-style ribs The tomato adds a bit of sweet acidity to this sauce that helps those more flavorful cuts.

Pair with a wheat beer — like an Allagash — that adds a bit of muted sweetness with a barely there tanginess. A real compliment to the Lexington Piedmont style sauce.


A taco-stuffed sweet potato? Another great recipe from Paleohacks

The great recipe team at Paleohacks has shared another tasty dish with Roam. This Mexican-inspired recipe features sweet potatoes stuffed with taco meat and topped with homemade guacamole for a single serving meal everyone will love!

Ditch the tortilla and stuff your favorite taco fixings inside tender roasted sweet potatoes for a filling and guilt-free meal.

Tacos are a dinner staple that everyone can agree on. However, when following a Paleo lifestyle, tortillas can be difficult to replace. Traditional tortillas and other grain-filled foods can cause bloating, which is why sweet potatoes are such a great alternative. Plus, they’re big enough to stuff with drool-worthy toppings for a fun twist on taco night.

Grass-fed ground beef carries the smoky taco spices, like cumin, onion powder, and chili powder. A little tomato paste adds to the tangy zip. And as we all know, no taco is complete without a scoop of creamy guacamole. This one is kept simple with chopped onion, cilantro, and jalapeños so you can mash it together while the meat sizzles on the stove.

stuffed sweet potatoes

Get started by greasing the sweet potatoes with avocado oil, which helps to lightly crisp up the skins. Bake for one hour, then let the sweet potatoes cool at room temperature while preparing the other ingredients.

Meanwhile, heat ground beef in a skillet until browned, then stir in dry seasonings, tomato paste, and a little water. Cook about five minutes more.

While the taco meat cooks, make the guacamole by mashing an avocado until just slightly chunky. Add red onion, cilantro, sea salt, and jalapeños.

When everything’s ready, slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise and fill it up with taco meat. Top with a scoop of guacamole and finish with freshly diced tomatoes. Enjoy it while it’s hot!

stuffed sweet potatoes

Other great toppings to include:

  • Pickled jalapeño
  • Diced mango
  • Sliced radishes
  • Chopped bell pepper 

Tip: Try baking up a few additional sweet potatoes so you can have these decadent sweet potato brownies for dessert!

Taco-Stuffed Sweet Potato 

Prep time- 10 minutes

Cook time- 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total time- 1 hour, 25 minutes

Serves- 4 


Parchment paper

Baking sheet



Small bowl 


stuffed sweet potatoes

4 sweet potatoes

1 T avocado oil

1 lb ground beef

1 T ground cumin

2 t chili powder

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t onion powder

1/4 t cayenne pepper

2 T tomato paste

1/4 cup water

1 medium ripe avocado

2 T red onion, chopped

1 T cilantro

1 T minced jalapeños

1/4 t sea salt

1/2 cup tomatoes, diced


1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Grease the outsides of the sweet potatoes with avocado oil and set on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, then let cool.

3. Meanwhile, heat ground beef in a skillet over medium heat, using a spatula to break up the meat. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in dry seasonings, tomato paste, and water until thoroughly combined. Continue to cook for 5 minutes.

5. While the taco meat cooks, prepare the topping: Mash an avocado in a small bowl. Add the chopped red onion, cilantro, jalapeños, and sea salt. Stir well.

6. When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them down the center lengthwise. Stuff with the taco meat, then add a scoop of the guacamole and diced tomatoes and serve.

If you liked this recipe, then you’ll love this sweet potato cheeseburger casserole recipe that you can make with just one pan.



Everything you want to know about humanely raised beef, pork, and chicken

Humanely-raised meat — ethically, pasture-raised with sustainable farming practices involved — is of higher quality than standard, factory-farm meat for a number of reasons. Most importantly, animals live better when raised by ethically-minded farmers and ranchers.

It’s important that animal health is considered in every step of the lifecycle. Their natural tendencies should be honored: Cattle should be able to roam, hogs graze, and chickens should be raised on pasture.

When it comes to understanding humanely-raised meat, it is good to get a grasp of the decisions made by family farmers for whom animal welfare is a top priority. Was the animal healthy and content? Was it ever administered antibiotics or hormones? Farms and company facilities should operate with best practice s— for example, Dr. Temple Grandin’s livestock principles.

Below, we detail ethical practices for farming and processing grass-fed and finished beef, heritage-breed pork, and organic, free-range chicken.

Grass-fed, grass-finished beef

Only one percent of the total beef consumed in the United States is 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished. American beef that meets that standard comes from cattle that were free to roam on pasture throughout their entire lives, nursing from their mother for six to nine months, and then grazing on a natural diet of grass. Grass-fed and grass-finished cattle — usually only referred to as grass-fed — consume only grass for the entirety of their post-nursing lives, while grain-fed cattle may have been supplemented with grain or corn or finished with grain.

Grass-fed cattle feed on annual and perennial grasses, forbs—herbaceous flowering plants—and cereal grain in a pre-grain state. Grass-fed cattle graze year-round, with access to shelter when needed. 

This is in contrast to grain-fed cattle, which constitute the vast majority of beef consumed in the United States. Grain-feeding cattle is a relatively recent development; animals throughout most of history were free to roam and eat grass.

While grass-fed cattle roam freely in the fresh air, grain-fed cattle are moved to concentrated feedlots. They’re fed a grain-centric diet based on soy or corn and put on weight more rapidly than pasture-raised cattle. They are often treated with antibiotics and hormones to maximize growth. A vast majority experience very poor living conditions their entire lives. 

Beyond concerns about the life of the animal, grass-fed beef also offers major health benefits to the consumer. Typically leaner, it’s less fatty and caloric. It boasts more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef, more antioxidant vitamins and more healthy fats that might reduce chronic diseases.

While the animal’s food source is crucial to its quality, it’s equally important to ensure that the animal is humanely raised. In order to be certified humane in the United States, the animal can never be confined for intensive feeding. It must have access to adequate grazing pasture. It can only be confined for no more than 20 days a year for animal management, like husbandry or treatment.

A majority of the grass-fed, grass-finished beef on the market comes from Australia, which has very high animal welfare standards as well as the climate and pasture land to allow cattle to spend their entire lives grazing.

Heritage-breed pork

Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc—have you heard of these breeds of pig? They belong to a class known as heritage-breed pork. Traditionally bred for food, these breeds of pig dwindled in numbers during the rise of industrial agriculture. Heritage-breed pigs are better adapted to withstand disease and live in open pasture. Unlike factory farmed pigs, heritage-breed pigs are not treated with antibiotics, hormones, and don’t live in temperature-controlled indoor units. They possess unique genetic traits and are raised on sustainable farms.

In order to be considered certified humane, these pigs are not subjected to farrowing and gestation stalls. Gestation stalls enclose sows during pregnancy, while farrowing stalls pen sows in while nursing piglets. Just as with cattle, there are no concentrated feeding operations. While conventionally farmed pigs typically have slatted floors in their environments—proven to increase leg problems for pigs—heritage breed pigs are raised on farms without slatted floors.

Perhaps the best part about heritage-breed pork is its delicious, succulent flavor. Heritage-breed pork is more marbled than conventionally-farmed pork, meaning juicier, more flavorful meat.

Some breeds take a bit of time to get to market weight, but they’re so delicious, they’re worth the wait.


Organic, free-range chicken

Chickens given regular access to the outdoors, rather than being kept in heavily confined conditions, are much happier than their factory-farmed counterparts.

These birds are called free-range chickens. They have access to as much outdoor space as they do indoor space, including special enhancements like hay bales and places to climb. They roost in barns and roam in and out as they please, interact with other chickens, and live as nature intended. This results in a stress-free, cage-free, happy life for the chicken. The quality of your meat, in turn, is much higher.

In addition to free-range, higher quality chickens should be antibiotic and hormone free. Unfortunately, factory-farmed chickens are usually subjected to an array of antibiotics. Hormones, however, are prohibited across the industry.

Chickens fed vegetarian diets from both foraged and feed sources tend to be healthier. Additionally, free-range chicken often forage for bugs, grubs, and the like, which is exceptionally healthy for them. With non-genetically modified grain diets and pesticide-free growing environments for the feed, these chickens qualify as non-GMO and organic. Plus, in addition to being humanely-raised and healthier for you, they taste delicious.


NY strip steak – An iconic steak in New York and beyond for good reason

You can find it featured on the menu of most reputable steakhouses, and although it goes by various names, when one thinks of a perfectly sized, tender, and flavorful cut of beef, likely, they are imagining a New York strip steak.

The strip steak comes from the topmost section of the sirloin, a little-used area of muscle, the longissimus, that is commonly referred to as the strip loin or top loin. The strip steak is sometimes prepared with a bone attached; quite often, you can find the strip is part of a T-bone steak or Porterhouse steak when part of a larger bone-in cut that also includes tenderloin steak — by itself, filet mignon. 

Delmonico steak, Kansas City strip steak, or NY strip steak?

As a standalone steak, it is most commonly referred to as the New York strip steak, but it can also be called the New York sirloin steak, the Kansas City steak (with bone-in) or Kansas City strip steak, contré filet, strip loin steak, hotel steak, ambassador steak, club sirloin steak, or in some parts of the world, simply sirloin steak. Also, the New York strip can be — or has been known — as the Delmonico steak.

The connection to Delmonico’s, the famous New York steakhouse and restaurant first opened in Lower Manhatten in the 1820’s, is likely how the cut earned its most famous moniker, the New York strip steak. However, it is unclear if a Delmonico steak, or the original Delmonico steak, is, or ever was a strip steak from the top loin or a ribeye steak. The reason for the confusion is likely due to steakhouses across the country seeking to mimic Delmonico’s famous steaks, but using an array of different — yet similarly tender and thick — cuts. Those who have investigated the Delmonico and New York strip steak connection, refer to the cut also being called a club steak, a reference to the restaurant’s early days as one of the first American dining clubs. 

However convoluted the naming history of the cut may be, one thing isn’t up for debate: New York strip steaks take relatively little preparation and can be cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth level of deliciously quite easily.


The perfect NY strip steak

Whether pan seared — or reverse seared — grilling on a charcoal or gas grill, or cooking by some other method, all a New York strip steak really needs is a coating of crushed black pepper and kosher salt or sea salt and some compound butter. Just a few ingredients, a few minutes of cooking time, and you can get the perfect steak for any steak lover. The easy prep is one of the reasons it pops up on restaurant menus so often.

According to ButcherBox Head Chef Yankel Polak, the lack of too much visible fat also makes New York strip steak a steakhouse favorite.

“There is a breed of steak lover out there who likes things a bit leaner,” Chef Yankel explains. “I used to see them in restaurants all the time; they would order a big ol’ ribeye and leave all that amazing fat sitting on the plate. It inspired me to offer a NY strip steak as the lean alternative.”

“When butchered properly, it has only a thin strip of fat running down one side — and besides its natural marbling — the strip steak presents itself as the less fatty menu option,” continues Chef Yankel.

And, there is a business reason as well: According to Chef Yankel, a NY strip steak is a high-value item for a restaurant because there is nearly no waste. “It dry ages well, cooks quickly, and requires almost no skill to do it perfectly and deliciously.”

“Personally I like slow smoking them at 225°F until they are rare, resting them for a bit, and then finishing them over a raging fire for the ultimate crust,” he added.

The cut does also benefit from a bit of marinating if you want to marry a grass-fed, grass-finished New York strip steak to other flavors you may be preparing. Below are two of Chef Yankel’s favorite methods for marinating and cooking the perfect New York strip steak.

NY Strip Steak with Chef Yankel’s Zesty Marinade Recipe


  • 2 ButcherBox NY Strip Steaks
  • 3 limes, zest and juice
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tbsp crushed black pepper
  • ¼ c olive oil


1. Combine all ingredients for marinade in small bowl. Mix well and coat steaks thoroughly.

2. Allow steaks to marinate refrigerated at least one hour, then bring steaks to room temp before cooking.

3. Grill steaks over charcoal or open flame for 4 to 6 min per side, or until internal temperature reads 120°F. Rest steak 8 min before serving.

Chef Yankel’s  5-minute NY Strip Steak Marinade Recipe



  • 2 ButcherBox NY Strip Steaks


  • ¼ c balsamic vinegar (the higher-quality, the better!)
  • ½ c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Bring steaks to room temperature and season with salt and pepper.

3. Mix all marinade ingredients. Pour ¼ c over steaks and let them sit at room temp for 5 min.

4. Preheat cast-iron skillet. Once skillet is hot, sear steaks on both sides for 2-3 min per side or until a nice crust forms.

5. Place pan in oven for 5 more min, or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of steak reads 120°F.

6. Let steaks rest for at least 8 min before slicing. Serve alongside salad and enjoy!


The ultimate guide to steak

Meaty, beefy, juicy — steak is an American classic. 

With so many varieties and cuts of steak, though, it can be hard to know what sets each cut apart. What’s the difference between top sirloin steak, for example, and NY strip steak? Why are ribeyes and porterhouses so widely regarded in the culinary world? What’s the difference between skirt steak and flank steak, and how do you slice those thinner cuts?

This guide demystifies the world of steak and gives you the knowledge and tools to expertly prepare any kind of steak at home. From Philly cheese steaks whipped up with shaved steak to a decadent sauce-doused filet mignon, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing when preparing either. 

ButcherBox members receive many of these steaks in their monthly box. If you would like to sign up to get grass-fed, grass-finished beef delivered to your door, click here.

Top Sirloin Steak

Cut close to the round primal section of the cow, top sirloin steak is incredibly versatile. It’s rich like a roast but shares the texture and mouthfeel of a steak. You can grill it up to be served on its own or cube it and add it to stews and soups. It’s an economical cut of steak, making it great for everyday meals. Give this jerk-rubbed top sirloin with mofongo a try for a hearty, spicy meal.

Steak Tips

Incredibly tender, premium steak tips can be cut from tri-tip, coulotte, and sirloin. More pedestrian cuts come from various muscles but need a bit more help to be made into tender and juicy meals. They’re robust and meaty, and, at roughly one-inch a square, they make for some delicious hunks of meat. Try these braised in a soup or stew, or as full-flavored kebabs like this Dijon garlic smoked sirloin kebab dish.

Skirt, Bavette, and Flank Steak

Both skirt steak and flank steak are long, flat, and flavorful, while bavette steak is finely textured and flat. True bavette steak is hard meat cut to find in the U.S., despite its popularity across the pond. Flank steak is taken from the flank primal and is generally cut whole, and not divided into smaller portions. Skirt steak packs an even beefier flavor than flank steak, due to its connective tissue and fat content. Skirt steak is the default choice for fajitas, while flank steak responds well to marinating and grilling. Make sure to slice both thinly against the grain. For a good flank steak recipe, give this cilantro lime hickory grilled flank steak a try.

Shaved Steak

Looking to whip up a Philly cheese steak or a stir fry? Shaved steak is the ideal cut. Trimmed from the rib section, shaved steak is tender and full-flavored. It’s quick on the stove due to its thinness and pairs well with robust marinades.

New York Strip Steak

A favorite of steakhouses the world over, the New York strip steak can be cut thin or thick. It’s well-marbled and extremely tender, as it’s cut from the short loin, a rarely used muscle on the cow. The strip steak is a cut of beef that requires little more than a simple seasoning and a solid technique. Grill it, pan-sear it, or roast it—whatever you do, use lots of butter or even garlic butter. Enjoy this coffee-rubbed New York strip steak with berry sauce and parsnip mash for a well-rounded meal.

Ribeye Steak

The ribeye is a ButcherBox member favorite. Cut from the center of the rib section, it is smooth, rich, super beefy, and has significant marbling. Ribeyes respond well to an open flame due to their healthy fat content. Char them lightly and cook them until medium-rare. Here is a simple, sultry pan-seared ribeye recipe.

Ranch Steak

Ranch steaks are very lean—they’re trimmed of virtually all fat and cut from the shoulder muscle. They possess a distinct earthy flavor, in case you needed a reminder that they are indeed grass-fed. Due to the lack of fat, this steak can become tough if overcooked, so it’s best to aim for medium-rare. If you’re in the mood for something different, enjoy the caramelized and salty flavor of these honey and sea salt ranch steaks with rainbow carrots.

Denver Steak

While the term Denver steak has only been applied to this cut in recent years, a similar steak is called the zabuton by the Japanese due to its similarity to a plush seating cushion. It’s extraordinarily marbled and tender, coming from the same muscle section as the ribeye. It responds well to Asian flavors, like in this miso Denver steak recipe.

Filet Mignon

Famously fancy, filet mignon is a buttery, tender cut of beef. They come from the center of the tenderloin and are silky smooth in texture and mild in flavor. Grass-fed cattle are unique in that they produce filets with rich marbling and depth. Given their mild flavor, filet mignons hold up to decadent sauces like cream sauces or balsamic glazes. Date night? Here is the perfect filet mignon meal for two.

Flat Iron Steak

Flat iron steak comes from an area of the cow that is notorious for its tough, sinewy texture. However, researchers discovered a way to access the most tender section for a lean steak with rich marbling. Cut from the shoulder, it’s got a deep, meaty flavor and cooks up quick. Try it with a full-bodied sauce like a red wine glaze. Here’s a tasty pepper crusted flat iron with root vegetable mash.


The king of T-bones, a porterhouse is actually two steaks in one, consisting of a large NY strip on one side, and a filet mignon on the other. Fun fact: The tenderloin portion must be at least 1 ¼ inches thick to earn its namesake. Given its thickness, a porterhouse should be seasoned liberally, producing a thick crust of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Here’s a recipe for the perfect porterhouse steak with herb butter.


Aaron Williams: A sixth-generation hog farmer on legacy, family farms, and more

Aaron Williams took over his family’s hog farm in Villisca, Iowa, shortly after finishing college. And while he thought about going down a different career path, he knew the family farm — and the hogs that he had raised since he was a child — was his true calling.

After taking the reigns of the farm from his father Bruce, Aaron became the sixth generation of farmers in the family, a tradition he hopes to pass on to his own children.

For almost 20 years, the Williams’ hog farm has been part of Niman Ranch‘s collective of traditional, humane, and sustainable family farms. Aaron is proud to continue his father’s legacy and work with Niman Ranch. Aaron is also quite passionate, as you will see in our talk below, about farming the right way.


Roam: Talk about growing up on a farm, and what led you back to Villisca after attending college?


Aaron Williams: I’ve spent pretty much my entire life on the farm. 

I’m a sixth-generation farmer and my dad was the fifth-generation farmer, so I grew up around the farm. Since I can remember, my grandpa and my dad raised pigs. My first job was cleaning the hog pens, and pitching manure. 

When I was about seven or eight-years-old, I had 4-H pigs, so I always had animals I was taking care of all year round. When I got a little bit older, I had three or four different sows that I owned, and I ended up selling their pigs. When I was 12, I actually sold my first pigs to Niman, through my dad. Raising and selling pigs from an early age actually allowed me to pay for two years of college.

I left the farm and went off to college at Iowa State University and got an agricultural business degree. During the first few years of school, I thought I wouldn’t come back home, and if I did, it would be at least four or five years after I graduated.

But I worked three or four different internships through college and at every single one I talked to people that worked there about whether or not they enjoyed what they did. And to be honest, not anyone really enjoyed their careers. That made me realize that I wanted to go home and work on the farm. With farming, I could be an entrepreneur and be my own boss for the rest of my life. It’s a lot of work, but worth it. 


Roam: So once you did come home, you got the chance to take over the family farm. What was that like?


Aaron: So, at some point during my senior year, my dad was like, I’m 61, I’ve been doing this for 36 years, and I’m ready to either sell the herd or pass it on to you. I had been thinking that year about coming home, and I said, what’s the point of waiting for five years, I might as well just make this work now.

So I ended up coming back to the farm right after college and took over his herd. At the time, he had about 60 sows, and I just started growing it from there. Now, I’m up to about 200, so it’s been kind of a whirlwind in recent years, but it’s been fun.


Roam: Can you talk about the culture of family farms raising pigs in Iowa and how it has changed over the years?


Aaron: Our area, Page and Montgomery county, was the highest pig populated section of Iowa when my dad started about 35 years ago. And now, I think there are only about a handful of pork producers in our two counties. It’s simply that the whole pork industry has changed over the last fifteen to twenty years. 

Everyone used to have sows, and now nobody does. You’ve got a few hog farmers here and there but other than that, the hog industry in our area is non-existent. That’s why it has been so important to work with Niman. Working with them, we’re able to continue our farming business, which is my whole livelihood. 

Hog-farming is my full-time job, and without Niman, I wouldn’t be home farming right now. Through the partnership with them, I was able to come home and start my business, continue to grow the farm, and make a life for myself that maybe I can one day pass on to my own kids.


Roam: With Niman, you need to raise pigs to certain standards. That includes no antibiotics, no hormones or artificial growth products, and farms are audited by Niman staff on a regular basis for humane practices, among other rules. Can you talk about what that means to you?


Aaron:  I do 100 percent believe that the way we raise pigs is the best way to do it. 

The pigs live a better life. I think they taste a lot better. 

I can tell the difference when ordering pork chops at the market that comes from a pig farm that doesn’t operate at the same standards as a Niman farm. You know, there is a big difference with them being outdoors, in bedding, and not in confinement. I think it just helps a lot with the taste and the quality. I think the protocols and all the other factors, like pasture-raising, has allowed us to be part of an incredibly good quality product with Niman.


Roam: What are some of the difficulties you face while raising pigs to those high standards?


Aaron: I mean, there are obviously challenges. I think the main one is just labor. I’m out there all day, every day. I’m a one-man band, pretty much, it’s just me and my dad, and it takes a lot of work. 

It’s been nice that I’ve been able to utilize the buildings we already have on the farm. And if I do want to build something that is best for the pigs and our approved open-air structures don’t take as much capital as it does to build the structures compared to the commodity farmers.

Early on, working to Niman standards, we ran into issues with the antibiotics. But we’ve been doing this for so long, it’s not as big of a challenge these days. In the first three or four years it was tough, but since then, we’ve upheld the immunity with our sows. People don’t realize that immunity is passed on from those sows to their babies, that’s why the additional time our piglets spend with their mothers is crucial in establishing those immunities which are the very key to their overall health.

I think we do a pretty good job trying to keep our pigs healthy; you’ve got to start from day one and go until they go to be harvested.


Roam: And so where are you now with the farm, and what are you looking forward to?


Aaron: I guess the last three or four years that I’ve been just solely focused on growing my business and my herd. Over that period, all my labor has been utilized completely. In the first few years, I didn’t have as many sows as I could’ve handled. Right now, we’re to that point I want to be. 

The biggest thing that gets me out of bed every single day, and that gets me so excited, is that every ounce of energy and every minute of work I spend is seen on the backend for myself. It’s not like you clock in at a job, you collect your paycheck, and you don’t really see what you did. 

I really enjoy looking back at the end of the day, seeing what I did, and then thinking that it was a good day.

I think, in the end, the most rewarding part is going to be able to do what my dad did for me. When I’m older, I want to pass on this business to my kid, you know, to be the seventh generation of this family farming operation. I want to get this operation to the point that it will be easily transferable so my kid can continue with the business in the family.



The ultimate guide to smoking meat at home

Smoking meat is a prehistoric culinary art. In the past, the technique was used to preserve protein-rich foods. Smoking dehydrates meat and imparts antibacterial properties that keep it from spoiling quickly. While our ancestors used the method to preserve red meat and fish, today smoking is used for all kinds of meat — not just as a preservation method — and the enhanced flavor makes it quite the delicacy.

We’re most familiar with smoked meats in the form of barbecue: When meat is treated to the low and slow treatment in a smoker, connective tissues and collagen within the meat break down,  resulting in ultra-flavorful, ultra-tender food. Top that off with the bevy of barbecue sauces we’ve invented — vinegar-based, sweet, thick and tangy, you name it — and you’re in heaven.

This guide delves into the ins and outs of smoking meat at home — from equipment to wood chips to the best cuts of meat to smoke.


There are several fancy smoker options, from pellet smokers to vertical electric smokers to offset smokers for the true meat smoking aficionado. These smokers are specially designed for applying indirect heat at steady low temperatures, and most cost several hundreds of dollars.  While cooking with a Traeger wood pellet grill can be amazing, if you’re a novice who’s not ready to invest too heavily into smoking equipment, have no fear.

Everyday gas grills and charcoal grills can be manipulated to smoke meat with just a little effort.

Gas grills can be tricky to use as smokers, as they’re designed to cook meat over direct heat at high temperatures — the opposite of smoking, which is low, indirect heat over a long period of time.

With a little patience, however, a gas grill will smoke your meat. You’ll need to build an indirect heat zone and a direct heat zone within your grill, making sure to keep your meat in the indirect zone. Experiment with your burners until you’re able to bring the internal temperature to around 250°F which you can check with a meat thermometer (for most cuts of meat, anyway).

You’ll need a smoke box to hold your — soaked and drained — wood chips. Newer gas grills sometimes come with a built-in metal smoker box, but you can also purchase a heavy duty metal smoker box or make an inexpensive one at home by placing the wood chips in a foil pan, covering it with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and adding slits with a knife. 

It’s a good idea to set up a drip pan to collect the drippings of your meat. Also, be sure to add a small amount of liquid to the drip pan — like water, apple juice, or beer — to add moisture and keep the drippings from drying out. Don’t set the pan directly on top of the burners, but rather on a grate, with another grate above for the meat. 

As for a kettle or charcoal grill, like a traditional Weber, things are a little simpler. Remove the cooking grate from your grill and place the drip pan on one side. Remember to fill it with some liquid. Next, pile up your coals or lump charcoal on the opposite side of the grill. 

Once the coals are white hot, you can add your wood and then smoke your meat over the drip pan. While you’ll occasionally need to open the grill to add more coal or wood, try not to disturb the smoking process.

Cuts of Meat

In truth, you can smoke pretty much any kind of meat or seafood. Poultry, red meat, pork, fish are all fair game — game meat, like venison, is also great when smoked.

But, if you’re looking for meats that respond really well to the smoker, you’ll actually want to aim low, rather than high. Low-cost, tougher cuts of meat tenderize when smoked low and slow.

For example, try Boston butt — or simply pork butt as it’s also simply called — for sumptuous pulled pork. Be sure to rub your pork butt amply with your desired spices — we like this smoky coffee rub recipe. Other pork options include ribs, like this brown sugar rub and mustard barbeque sauce-laced recipe. You can also smoke sausages for a complex, savory flavor.

While you can smoke leaner cuts like pork loin, it’s not ideal, as it responds better to grilling or roasting than smoking. 

Beef brisket is the king of smoked meat, and the perfect cut when it comes to smoked beef. Give this smoked brisket with citrus marinade a whirl. But one thing to remember is not to smoke steaks—seriously, a simple grill or hot skillet is a better bet.

Poultry like whole chickens and turkeys turn out great in the smoker. You can also smoke chicken leg quarters if you’re not feeling up to the whole chicken yet. Here are some pecan smoked chicken wings for a super simple smoked recipe.

Wood Chips and Chunks

Not all wood is created equal when it comes to smoking meat. For one, you should never use any old wood you chopped down in your backyard — it’s potentially toxic. Never fear, though, there are plenty of other woods to experiment with as you smoke meat

While wood chips are sold more readily in most grocery stores and hardware stores, they tend to ignite quickly and burn out quite fast. This is not ideal for smoking low and slow. Wood chunks, on the other hand, burn for hours in a smoker. They do take a bit longer to ignite, but if you’re smoking meat, you’ve probably already committed the time.

If you use wood chips, be sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes before using. This will ensure they burn long enough to impart some flavor to the food.

What about the many varieties of wood? Getting the smoky flavor you want requires choosing the right wood.

Consider them on a scale of mild to intense. Fruity woods, like apple, peach, cherry, and pear, are light and sweet. They pair well with poultry, fish, and pork. Hickory, maple, pecan, and oak are stronger, but not overwhelming. Beef, game, and pork all go well with these woods. Mesquite is the most intense wood—it’s best used in moderation and with red meat.

Once you’ve mastered smoking with one wood, feel free to experiment with mixing woods for different flavors. 

Now, you’re equipped with everything you need to know to get started on smoking meat. Get cooking!


By any name, coulotte or picanha, this is a cut everyone can enjoy

A hidden delight of being a ButcherBox member is the monthly unpacking. As proof, check out one of the hundreds of videos people have posted online of them opening and discovering the cuts included in each month’s shipment.

One of the reasons the unboxing can be so exciting is that each month we include unique, difficult to find, and often underappreciated cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. 

Some months, members may have come across a slab of beef that they’ve likely never seen at a butcher shop with a name they may not be familiar with: Coulotte, which is also commonly referred to as picanha, as well as fat cap, rump cap, or top sirloin cap by North American butchers.

This cut is derived from the triangular muscle of the top sirloin butt, also known as Biceps femoris. Coulotte is a lean steak that comes from this hindquarter section of the cow, specifically between the loin and the round. Often a couple of inches thick, picanha is usually identified by the thin layer of fat that covers one side of the cut. The fat layer gives the cut much of its flavoring as there is little marbling inherent in coulotte.

An international cut of beef

The name ‘coulotte’ itself has a bit of complicated backstory. There is some confusion over the derivation of the word from the original French. Some believe the word is closest related to ‘culot,’ meaning cap, a reference to the location and thin layer of fat of the top sirloin cut. However, there is also a belief that the name coulotte is derived from the French word ‘cul,’ meaning bottom or, to the dirtier-minded, is slang for the human derriere.  This interpretation is taken from the French word’s relation to the Latin word ‘culus,’ meaning bottom, and refers to the location of the muscle in the cow’s hindquarters or backside.

To complicate matters further, another cut, the ribeye cap, which is very different steak altogether, is known in France as the ‘calotte,’ a name also related to the cap-like nature of that cut.

Most people are first introduced to the top sirloin cap by its Brazilian name, picanha, which is the specialty of churrascarias — Brazilian steakhouses that grill and slice the steak off a skewer. Churrascarias derive their name from the term churrasco, which is Portuguese for barbecue.

“Picanha, or coulotte, is hugely popular in Brazilian BBQ,” our in-house ButcherBox chef Yankel Polak said. “It is a perfect cut to grill.”

One thing is clear, when dry-seasoned and cooked carefully — do not overcook — the coulotte is a delicious steak. The cut is fantastic when cooked on a grill, but it is also has a lot of other uses, including for kabobs, steak sandwiches, stews, stir fry, shredded Mexican-style beef, and more.


Preparing coulotte/picanha

In the summer, you can grill picanha/coulotte on skewers, Brazilian churrasco-style, over a wood fire or on a charcoal grill. When grilling the steaks outdoors, first score the fat cap, cut into smaller steaks — against the grain — and then season generously with kosher salt or rock salt and fold and skewer. You can also cook directly on a grill; to do that right, first cook with the fat cap down for a few minutes. 

Either way, whether you are in New York or California, grilled picanha will make you feel like you are in Rio de Janeiro in the summer.

“It’s crazy tender with a beautiful fat cap that just melts and crisps as you cook it,” he added. “Sliced thin and against the grain, this hunk of sirloin will literally melt in your mouth when treated properly, which is medium rare or skewered and slow roasted over an open fire.”

Chef Yankel loves a good mole. However, preparing the dish can be time-intensive. “Cheat the system by using mole-inspired flavors — peppers, nuts, spices, and chocolate — as a rub instead of a sauce,” he suggests. “Then top it all off with a spicy tomatillo salsa.”


Chef Yankel has a few delicious coulotte recipes to share. First, check out the video of him demonstrating his “Smoky Chili Rubbed Coulotte with Red Pepper Salsa” recipe in the video below and also find Chef Yankel’s “Mole-Rubbed Coulotte with Tomatillo Salsa” recipe after the video. 

Chef Yankel’s recipe for Mole-Rubbed Coulotte (Picanha/Top Sirloin Cap) with Tomatillo Salsa

Servings:  4    Prep: 10 minutes    Cook: 1½ hours


  • 1 ButcherBox Coulotte (Top Sirloin Cap)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup pecan
  • ¼ cup almond
  • 1 dried ancho chili
  • 1 dried chipotle chili

Tomatillo Salsa

  • 6 tomatillo, husk removed and rinsed
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice


1. In a food processor, combine kosher salt, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, cocoa powder, both chilies, and nuts.

2. Pulse until chilies and nuts are finely chopped.

3. Rub both sides of coulotte roast with the spice rub.

4. Refrigerate for 3 hrs or overnight.

5. Place coulotte on sheet pan and roast in 200℉ oven until internal temperature is 115℉.

6. Remove from oven and sear in a hot pan on all sides, 1½ min per side. Let rest for at least 8 min, then slice thinly against the grain.

Directions:  Tomatillo Salsa

1. Toss tomatillos, garlic, and whole peppers in avocado oil.

2. Place on sheet pan and roast in a 400°F oven for 15 min or until tomatillos and peppers are browned from roasting.

3. Remove from the oven and place items in a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 min.

4. Remove the skin of the tomatillos and peppers and the seeds from the peppers.

5. Place tomatillos, peppers, garlic and the liquid from the mixing bowl in a food processor.

6. Add lime juice and puree.

7. Serve over the coulotte and enjoy!

Cooking music: The key ingredient in our kitchens

Anyone who considers themselves a cook — whether that be a master chef, a harried mom making dinner for a family of six, or a fan of every cooking show on the planet — has more than a few kitchen idiosyncrasies. It may be a favorite knife, a certain cutting board that has been passed down through generations of family cooks, or a habit of finding a specific place to keep herbs and spices.

One of the more common kitchen traditions — discovered through a highly-scientific process of asking chefs we know and discussing our own experiences — is the practice of needing to cook to a specific and favorite type of music.

Some of the world’s top chefs have been known to be very territorial about not only the genre of music to get the kitchen rocking out to while cooking, but the acceptable artists, volume, and such. 

One famous bit of lore has it that the late Anthony Bourdain viewed playing the wrong type of music sacrilege when he ran his own kitchen. According to an old Entertainment Weekly story, Bourdain number one rule was, ”If you play Elton John, Billy Joel, or the Grateful Dead, you will be fired!”

Bourdain, who grew up in New York during the early days of punk rock spoke about cooking and music a lot on his shows Parts Unknown and No Reservations. If you want a great dive into Bourdain’s punk roots, check out this great podcast he did with Damian Abraham for “Turned Out A Punk.”


But experiences vary. For some, the type of food one is cooking can dictate the kind of music to play. Jazz music? Louis Armstrong is a favorite for prep work or dinner. Italian music? Motown? Old-school hip-hop? Maybe they’re all a bit cliche, but that doesn’t mean that cooks across the country — professional or not — don’t still crank up their Spotify “Italian Cooking Music” playlist when preparing a bolognese.

We recently asked some of our customers about their kitchen habits, including their favorite cooking music. The responses were wide-ranging: ButcherBox subscribers like to listen to every type of music imaginable — from country to EDM, folk to pop, Christian to death metal, and artists ranging from Springsteen, the Beatles, and Van Morrison to Jack Johnson, Neil Young, The Rolling Stone, Adele and Frank Sinatra.

Our Head ButcherBox Chef, Yankel Polak, has his own rituals for cooking at home and for running a kitchen.

When doing food preparation and cooking at home, the mood or the food might dictate what he plays. For example, Chef Yakel has some strong opinions of what should be played at a Sunday brunch. According to Chef Yankel, Sunday is always a Blues day; so, while making brunch, he might play some Buddy Guy or Stevie or Tab Benoit —  powerful, great music with a positive vibe. “For me, that’s the music that says, ‘Hey, I’ve got all the time in the world, and I’m gonna cook the hell out of this Hollandaise while still in my pajamas,’” says Chef Yankel.

“Event preparation is a totally different animal,” he said. “If it’s an all-day cooking marathon, uplifting electronic is probably the ticket. Something with a driving beat but in the background, so it’s not distracting.”

“You don’t want to miss a detail!” he added.

Weeknight dinners are a bit different according to Chef Yankel. “Those will probably involve something instrumental — classical or jazz music — something to help wind things down from the day. “

But when he ran a kitchen, it was quite a different approach. For Chef Yankel, music served as a way to pump up and speed up the staff as they prepped and anticipated the start of each night’s dinner service.

For example, Chef Yankel said that he used to blast heavy metal or dubstep to get the crew riled up. There was nothing gentle or mellow. “We basically turned the kitchen into a two-minute mosh-pit before a crazy night of service,” he said.

“If you weren’t hyperventilating from sheer panic at the amount of business we were about to do, you weren’t going to move fast enough to get through it. The music reflected that.”

Once service began, the volume got turned down. “The chef’s voice was all the music you needed,” Chef Yankel said.

“But when that last order left the kitchen, the volume got cranked back up to maximum for that second wind needed to clean properly.” In Chef Yankel’s kitchen, that usually entailed the blasting of some Old-School hip-hop or bachata, music to get the crew dancing as they cleaned. Otherwise, as he said, “The end of the night could be a real drag.”

So whether it serves to inspire a passion for cooking, matches the vibe of a meal, or is necessary to pump up a restaurant staff, music is an integral part of most kitchens.

There really is nothing like moving around the kitchen to some great music or standing by a grill rocking out to your favorite Spotify playlist. 

We’d love to hear about your own music-inspired traditions too, so please share in the comments section below.


How well-known blogger and media influencer Dooce became a former vegan

This post was first featured, as the first of two blog posts on Heather Armstrong’s blog, Dooce, in September 2017 about being a former vegan. It has been edited somewhat, but the story of farmer John Arbuckle and what Dooce learned about animal well-being, sustainable farming, and American family farms. You can read the original post here, as well as the extended second post which gets into regenerative farming and more. Part 1 / Part 2.

In June 2017, I “came clean” and admitted that I have added meat back into my diet. Not a lot of meat, but enough to overcome some vitamin deficiencies and crippling depression that stemmed from a state of hunger I’m not even sure I can articulate. I trained for a marathon while eating a strict vegan diet and warped my body and mind in a way that I could not have anticipated. But it happened, and 18 months after that marathon I finally had my life back.

I believe in the concept of being vegan and wish that I could pull it off. I tried for two years. A lot of my critics will say that I too often veer toward the extreme, and I will admit freely that this is at times a character flaw of mine. I jumped head first into an icy mass that almost froze me from the inside out thinking that I’d eventually warm up and swim to the other side. But I couldn’t even make it halfway when my body started shutting down after the first two or three strokes. When I started eating meat again, I started to feel sensation in my fingers and toes, extremities that had lost all meaning to me.

This doesn’t mean that I have abandoned the value system that made me want to try the vegan lifestyle in the first place. The industrial food system is killing us and killing the planet, and unless we change the way we farm animals for food right now, we are simply screwed as human beings — the species that happens to be at the top of a very long and varied food chain. What I loved about doing work for Farm Forward centered around the recognition that we know people are going to eat meat. We must reckon with this.

How do we make this food choice reality sustainable?

While I was helping Farm Forward rebrand and relaunch their website, the head of partnerships at ButcherBox, Dan Littauer, contacted me to let me know about their service and why they do what they do. They are a subscription food service aiming to change the way Americans buy and raise animals for food. They deliver healthy 100% grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and heritage-breed pork (free of hormones and antibiotics) directly to your door.

So many of us want to eat and feed our families this type of high-quality meat for health reasons (better nutritional profile, healthy fat without toxins from commercial feedlots, humanely-raised animals, etc.) and we either don’t know where to look for it or have a really hard time finding it. And it’s expensive to eat this way. ButcherBox has done the work of finding it by partnering with a collective of small farms and buying in large quantities so that the 20 individual meals in each box work out to less than $6.00/meal.

I asked Dan if he could put me in touch with one of the farms they work with so that I could get a better idea of the whole operation, and a couple of weeks ago I spoke with John Arbuckle, a ninth generation farmer, who runs a farm with his wife in Missouri. Before our call, he sent me a few photos of the pigs on his farm and I was struck by how different a pasture-raised pig looks from ones raised in tortured confinement.


I asked John how he got involved with ButcherBox and his story is the kind of story that will have an impact on the food system, the kind of situation that will move the needle. It’s also the story of how we as consumers can more fully support the independent farmer.

There’s so much rich material here about sustainability and connecting people back to nature and why farm animals are so important to the environment. Most importantly, it’s a story about a man trying to feed his family.


An American farmer doing the right thing

Here is John’s story:

I would start out that by taking the long-term long view. I am a ninth generation farmer. My children are the tenth. And so we’ve been farming for a long time in America. We were farmers in Scotland before we got to America, so I’m not exactly sure how many generations we go back. But a long line of peasants and hillbillies make up the family tree.

My wife — Holly — and I moved to rural northeast Missouri in 2010. We had been running an organic vegetable farm in Maryland and just decided it was time to spread our wings and have our own place and raise our kids in the same environment that we had grown up in ourselves. So we bought a place in rural Missouri, and we were very firmly committed to the farm to table movement.

But you see, the game of agriculture is changing. So we felt like the way that the ball would move in the game in our generation was the farm to table thing. And we gave that a valiant try. We were sort of “Old MacDonald’s Farm” for many years. We raised grass-fed beef, we raised lamb, egg-laying chickens, meat chickens, Thanksgiving turkeys, pigs, we grew strawberries and blueberries and apples. We had a large organic garden. We brokered and wholesaled, you know, through our Amish neighbors who were not really interested in ever leaving their farms. And that was a positive learning experience, but we also very quickly realized that was not scalable to the point where we had living wages and things like retirement funds and college education funds for our children. Things that we wanted to develop.

We were talking with an Amish neighbor and had an “ah-ha” moment. His name was Ezra, and he told me, “John, we can grow anything that a person wants. But we can’t find the people who want it. Alternatively, John, there are a lot of people out there who are really interested in healthy eating, especially country food. And they don’t know how to find us.” And that’s where ButcherBox really links the gap.

So we started a national snack stick company called Roamsticks.

And we’re extremely passionate about what we do. Nine generations of living in the country kind of does that to a person, you know? And after we traveled to some trade shows and we would speak at conferences. We were trying to teach other farmers how to raise pigs on pasture. Then we’d share our snack sticks in all these places and pretty soon, people were asking us, “Well, what else can you sell us? We want to buy your snack sticks, but we also want to buy bacon and sausage and ham and ribs, and all kinds of things. We want to buy all that from you too.”

So we said, “Okay, we’ll give that a try too.” But we’re not really interested in shipping directly to people.

There’s a whole level of logistics in that. There’s only so many hours in a day, and we’re not really interested in figuring that out. But we are extremely excited to fill pallets and send them to distribution centers for ButcherBox.


And in doing that, we quickly came to a point where we simply weren’t able to raise all the pigs that were necessary anymore. And that’s what we wanted. We wanted the ability to shape the national conversation by helping people realize that shouldn’t settle for “natural porks.” That almost means nothing.

Don’t settle for natural pork. Don’t settle for simply the word free-range. That sort of gets diluted over time. Really, really look for the words pasture-raised. Because pasture-raised is where it’s at. Pasture-raised is where you find your pot of gold.

And that also gives us the opportunity to help a whole other generation of farmers go into farming because we need more farmers. America needs more farmers. And Roamsticks and Singing Prairie Farm need more farmers. So it’s a beautiful riddle to try and crack. If that makes sense.

You know, the more orders we get, the more we can get a whole other generation of farmers to be ecologically sensitive, pasture-based, family farmers. And get pigs out of confinement. Get pigs out of the big barns. And start raising pigs where all of our ancestors raised their pigs, in the woodlands beneath oak trees eating acorns, out in the prairies in the springtime, eating the new growth and the clover.


When I first published the above story of John Arbuckle, I will admit that when I hit publish I braced for impact. How could someone who ate an entirely plant-based diet for two years be touting the merits of a service involving meat consumption? How could this dreadful woman be any more dreadful?

But the responses were phenomenal.

As for the second part of my conversation with John, you can check it out — as well as some more reasons why someone who ate a vegan diet decided that eating meat again was the right thing to do — on Dooce.com: “Just like the caribou require the wolf.”