Tag Archives: healthy eating

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.” 


steak marinade

Make a great chicken, pork, or grass-fed steak marinade for a mouthwatering meal

Quality chicken, pork, and beef can often be thrown directly on the grill without any seasoning — or with just a pinch of kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper — and taste amazing. But, an excellent homemade steak marinade — for instance — can take your meat to the next level.

Many steaks can be immensely improved with a little kitchen creativity and some minced garlic or soy sauce. This is especially true of skirt steak, flank steak, and similar tougher cuts with lots of connective tissues.

But if you really want to pack flavor into a grass-fed, grass-finished steak or some pasture-raised, heritage-breed pork or free-range chicken, a little knowledge of how marinades work and which flavor combinations are best can make a standard weeknight meal into a savory, memorable culinary experience.

Is it necessary to marinate steak, pork, or chicken?

Why marinate, you ask? Marinating before grilling is an excellent way to add additional flavors and to get more tender meat.

Marinades work well because of the natural attributes of beef, chicken, and pork, according to Head ButcherBox Chef Yankel Polak. “The longer you leave a protein in a marinade the more flavor it should absorb,” he explains, “and, what’s more, marinating will tenderize a tougher cut of meat.”

The problem is that, in reality, most marinades only penetrate about 2 millimeters deep. “And, get this,” Chef Yankel says, “it all happens in the first few seconds.”

So, while many people think that marinating meat for extended periods of time, or even overnight, is the key to having meat with fantastic flavor, that’s not actually the case. “While there is nothing wrong with preparing your ingredients the day before, remember that a good marinade only needs minimal contact with your protein to do everything it’s supposed to do,” according to Chef Yankel.

A good marinade enhances flavors

While there are many options for chicken or steak marinades, you can pull right off the shelf of your grocery store to have a pretty good meal, making your own marinades is healthier and leads to more flavorful pork chops or a nice juicy steak.

If you can, try to keep the marinades as natural as possible. It would be foolish to take a nice cut of grass-fed steak or heritage-breed pork and then douse it with some combination of corn syrup and lab-made additives.

Keep in mind that different cuts and types of meat have different flavor profiles. Some flavors will work best with, say, a flank steak more so than a ribeye, and vice versa.

“Think about the item you are cooking, whether that’s chicken, beef, or pork, and use ingredients in your marinade that will complement the flavor,” Chef Yankel says.

Flavor profiles for each type of meat

According to our chef, the best complementary flavor profiles are citrus for chicken, sweet flavors for pork, and marinades that are rich and savory for beef, especially grilled steaks.

This is why lime and lemon juices go great with other spices in chicken marinades; pineapple, brown sugar, and maple are great to have in pork marinades; and balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and mushroom flavors work well as steak marinades.

“While they don’t alter the internal structure of the meat,” Chef Yankel adds, “acidic elements in marinades will certainly give you that extra punch of flavor — the ‘wow’ factor that accompanies that first bite.”

Some flavors that can’t be made from scratch — unless you have time to ferment malt vinegar, molasses, anchovies, and tamarind extract for 18 months. So it is okay to mix some natural ingredients like rosemary or fresh lemon juice with a good soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.

Using a homemade marinade on your grass-fed steak can change a mundane meal into something otherworldly. Experiment and you might discover unexpected flavor combinations that work wonders for your palate.

And, to save you some precious time, now you also know that you don’t even have to marinate for too long to get those flavorful benefits.

Watch Chef Yankel break down his favorite marinades for chicken, pork, and beef here. In the video below check out an easy steak marinade — that has very little prep time —featuring garlic, cilantro, lime zest and olive oil. According to Yankel, that’s all you need for a delicious steak every time.

Also, here is Chef Yankel’s favorite one-hour steak marinade recipe for grilling New York strip steaks:

  • 3 limes, both zest and juice
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 head of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  1. Combine all marinade ingredients in small bowl. Mix well and coat steaks thoroughly.
  2. Allow steaks to marinate in a refrigerator at least one hour, then bring steaks to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Grill the strip steaks over charcoal or an open flame for 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until internal temperature reads 120°F. Rest steak 8 minutes before serving.

You can find more recipes here. Happy eating!


ButcherBox Chef Yankel Polak.

Chefs and health: How to truly eat well

One challenging aspect of finding a career that you love can be, sometimes, loving it too much.

This is especially true for chefs.

The reasons I became a chef are quite simple: I love good food, and I love cooking and creating amazing meals. This is true for a vast majority of chefs. It is quite likely that we also might enjoy eating a bit too much.

Turn on the Food Network, look at the cover of any famous chef’s cookbook, or just pick up a can of Chef Boyardee. It is easy to observe that it is an accepted cultural norm for our trusted chefs to be a little on the plump side. Some have argued that a portly disposition has been seen as something comforting and a sign of a good cook at various times in history.

It is a reality that chefs often find it difficult to eat healthily. (An unhealthy cook doesn’t necessarily have to be overweight either, there is plenty of junk one can easily consume in the day-to-day bustle of a kitchen.)

Some of the reasons that chefs often don’t eat well are obvious, like access to copious amounts of food, but some are less so.

Generally, there isn’t much time to sit and eat throughout the day. Sometimes, you can spend an entire day tasting intensely concentrated flavors until your palate is totally overwhelmed and exhausted. After this flavor bombardment, when you are hungry, you don’t necessarily care about the saveur of what you are putting in your gut. This is often why the food you find at places that cater to late-night service industry dining guests is often burgers and cheap beer — that and the truth that many kitchen workers make a pittance. There were plenty of jobs where all I ate for sustenance were PBJ sandwiches and instant ramen.

So what is the key to eating healthy, for both chefs and anyone else?

Plan ahead.

For one, always get good, simple ingredients. Second, make sure you identify the times of day that you are vulnerable to poor eating choices, and have a meal ready for those instances. 

It helps to be able to have access to grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork, free-range chicken and other more naturally healthy food choices that ButcherBox provides to its customers each month.

As far as making healthy food interesting, find ways to boost flavors, while using minimal ingredients. Season thoughtfully and thoroughly. This is something you will find with many of our ButcherBox recipes and the cooking advice we share.

There are quite a few other best and worst industry eating habits, that you can discover by talking to other chefs, which you can use in your chef career or in your own lives in general.

God only knows how many family meals I ate out of a quart container leaning over a trash can.   

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Does grass-fed beef make you feel better?

There are numerous benefits to eating grass-fed meat that we have discovered or learned about over the years.

Beef from cattle raised and finished on grass — and some types of forage — is better for you mainly because the animal’s diet is healthier, as opposed to cattle which eat mostly corn and grain-based feed.  Additionally, cows that are allowed to graze — not raised on a feedlot — are generally treated more humanely and are typically not given feed that contains unnecessary antibiotics and hormones. If you want to go a step further, the use of regenerative farming practices by those raising grass-fed and finished cattle is believed to be better for the environment.

But there is another, underappreciated and less discussed advantage to eating grass-fed beef that we believe makes the experience far superior to the alternatives.

During one of the first discussions I had with ButcherBox founder and CEO Mike Salguero about his reasons for starting the company, he explained something that he had noticed since switching to a diet that included more grass-fed beef. After years of eating steaks and the like, he had become aware of a unique post-meal experience when eating grass-fed beef. 

He just felt…better.

For Mike, it was a feeling of lightness, of lacking a sense of the fullness and bloatedness that accompanied the consumption of non-grass-fed steaks in the past. These sentiments were supported by how he felt on the occasions when he had no choice but the eat a standard (or feedlot-raised) piece of beef. He told me how profound the contrast was eating non-grass-fed meat after spending long periods avoiding beef from cattle fattened up on a mostly corn-centric diet.

After one meeting at a highly-reputable steakhouse, Mike said that he could physically feel the differences. He was more tired, felt more gastrointestinal discomfort, and had a greater sense of tenseness and restlessness than he had experienced while eating grass-fed steaks. 

To Mike’s mind, this was due to the energy that the body needed to break down meat from cattle enriched with corn, versus that that was easier for the stomach to handle: Naturally-raised grass-fed cattle.

What Mike was trying to articulate is an argument that can be traced back to Michael Pollan’s writing in the New York Times and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  According to Pollan, cows aren’t naturally suited to eating corn; in fact, he has explained in various articles and interviews, that a cow’s digestive system, specifically the “rumen,” cannot digest starchy corn as easily as it can grass, which it can also turn into protein. This, according to Pollan, can make cattle sick when they are weaned off grass, but is economically cheaper and leads to fatter cattle and more marbled beef.

“In the same way ruminants [like cows] have not evolved to eat grain, humans may not be well adapted to eating grain-fed animals,” Pollan wrote in 2002.

This point makes sense when you think about it: We evolved as meat-eaters who naturally consumed animals that, for centuries, millennia even, ate nothing other than grass (and similar plants). While humans as consumers have gotten used to the ways that the food industry can more quickly and cheaply “produce” beef, this development may not be in the best interest of our bodies and, specifically, our digestive systems.

This evolution-related theory is a big reason why grass-fed beef is so popular with Paleo dieters.

Digging into the literature on this topic is a bit of a challenge. While there is a great deal written on the nutritional differences between grass-fed and feedlot-raised cattle, there is significantly less examination about how our body reacts to the process of digesting the two. 

One author I discovered, Lily Nichols, who runs the website PilatesNutritionist.com, said that she’s noticed a difference among her clients with food sensitivities when they switch from grain- or corn-fed beef to grass-fed. According to this post, choosing grass-fed beef has helped reduce heartburn, bloating, and other digestive troubles among her clients.

“grass-fed beef”

The Knowing Diet: What the French, the Japanese, and The Happy Body practitioners have in common

This is a guest post from ButcherBox influencers Aniela and Jerzy Gregorek, developers of The Happy Body. Aniela and Jerzy came to the U.S. from Poland in 1986 as political refugees during the Solidarity Movement. As a professional athlete, Aniela has won five World Weightlifting Championships and established six world records. Jerzy has won four World Weightlifting Championships and established one world record. They have also been professional coaches and personal trainers since coming to this country. In a recent TED talk, Tim Ferriss described Jerzy like this: “Of the 10,000-plus people I’ve met in my life, I would put him in the top 10, in terms of success and happiness.”

Have certain cultures developed the best way of eating? As the founders of The Happy Body Program, we recognize food as one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, and we have given a great deal of thought regarding how to make getting nutrition easy. But there are other considerations, and if we compare cultures that are known for refined eating practices, we can take the best from each.

The French tend to enjoy everything—good wine, chocolate, baguettes, pastries, butter, cheese, rich sauces, and delicacies. The magic comes from controlling the portion while also eating slowly and savoring every bite. This is why so many French people stay slim but don’t feel deprived; they practice moderation and sensuality.

The Japanese have another way of eating, which involves quality and careful preparation and presentation. Eschewing sweets, the Japanese diet focuses on lots of fish and seafood, seaweeds, fresh and pickled vegetables, and rice. Artfully presented fruit is usually the desert. The Japanese culture also has the concept of “hara hachi bu,” which means stopping when you’re just under-full, just around 80%. In this way, they’re aware of not just what they’re eating but how they’re eating, embracing beauty and mindfulness.

In the Happy Body Program, we prefer fresh ingredients as opposed to processed products and strategic food preparation in order to simplify cooking as opposed to involved, demanding recipes. By using seasonal ingredients and combining them in creative ways, we have a sense of freedom in how we eat, even though we stick mainly to healthful foods and avoid empty calories.

Image via The Happy Body
Image via The Happy Body

Happy Body practitioners also pay attention to where food comes from and how it was produced or created. Caring about how to maintain a healthy environment and sustain humane, organic practices that nurture animals or fruit and vegetables for the table is a priority.

For us, the most important word for food is knowing — knowing exactly how much to eat to lose, maintain or gain weight. Also important is where it comes from, how to prepare it simply and beautifully, and how to consume in a healthy way, for both ourselves and the planet. “What You Eat You Become” and “Food is Medicine” are our mottos. The better the quality of the food we eat, the healthier our bodies become, and so does our life. We can enjoy chocolate, potatoes, steak, and vodka as well as vegetables and fruits without obsessing or needing to be French or Japanese, always knowing how much is enough.

For more from Aniela and Jerzy, check out The Happy Body.

Developing a customer persona: How “Pam” has improved the ButcherBox experience

Have we told you about Pam?

She is top of mind here at ButcherBox. To be honest, sometimes, she is the focus of most conversations.

In fact, at a recent meeting to discuss the content we are creating — recipe books, videos, and the like — Pam was discussed by almost every person who spoke about the projects they are developing.

That’s a pretty impressive feat for Pam seeing that she is a figment of our collective imagination.

You see “Pam” is what industry people refer to as a “customer persona.”

Businesses develop customer personas for a number of reasons. Among the reasons that companies create a non-existent person to plan around are the need to grow, in which case the persona is an ideal target customer, or the need to cultivate, to continue to support and enchant your most important customers.

Most often, customer personas are built by consumer-facing businesses, but that isn’t always the case. (For a good breakdown of how to develop a buyer persona, check out this HubSpot blog post.)

For ButcherBox, we developed a handful of different customer personas, each typifying a different customer profile; however, our primary focus at this moment is “Pam.”

To me, it’s become obvious that we are working with a niche audience, selling a niche product. The vast amount of people out there have no idea what grass-fed beef is. This topic so surrounds us in our everyday work, that we sometimes forget that there is a significant swath of the population who don’t have the same understanding of our products — not only grass-fed beef but heritage-breed pork and free-range chicken— as we do.

So we picked a user profile, “Pam,” to focus on as a way to make sure we give an easy-to-access, yet robust ButcherBox experience to both new and devoted customers. Pam is someone who has recently been awakened to the importance of eating healthy meat. She is thinking more about things like antibiotics and hormones in the food she eats and cooks for her family, as well as whether what she is eating is raised on a feedlot or has been on a pasture. She is drawn to ButcherBox because we make healthy, high-quality meat more accessible.

Pam isn’t the only customer we are building more products, offerings, and support for, but she is the one who we think most closely aligns with our own mission. It makes sense for her to be top of mind because of our shared passions. I believe this is a pretty great way to build a business.

Developing this persona has guided a lot of the marketing decisions we’ve made recently. One example of how it benefits us is that we have a better idea of who we are targeting on Facebook and other social media platforms. It isn’t so much that we are trying to onboard as many customers as possible; instead, we are trying to make those who are already part of our tribe aware that we exist.

This also impacts the influencers we want to work with and the companies we want to partner with. If it isn’t a person or a company that Pam would approve of, they are not a good match. This ensures that business decisions are very closely aligned with the beliefs of our existing customer base and those who will join.

Everyone on the team is aware of Pam and why she is a primary focus.

I’ve never gone through a persona exercise, so the whole process has been new. But from the experience thus far, it is evident how beneficial it is to have a clear understanding, across the company, of “who” we should focus on as we continue to grow.

It is also quite clear that what is good for Pam will likely be good for all of our customers.

*While this is all a bit of “How the sausage is made,” we think it is important to be transparent as we build this company for many reasons. The most important, we believe, is to help other entrepreneurs as they build their companies by sharing the lessons we are learning along the way.


Our Customers’ Company – Selling a product you love and watching new customers become equally passionate

Congratulations! Your order is complete. You will receive an email with tracking confirmation and a second reminder email when your box ships. We ship Monday through Wednesday and our boxes typically arrive on Thursday or Friday. The meat can stay fresh on your doorsteps for up to 12 hours. Please add support@butcherbox.com to your email address book to ensure you receive your tracking info.

I have read the statement above to each and every one of the thousands of people who have signed up for a Butcherbox subscription since I started working with this amazing company last May.

The pure excitement I get reading that simple script is just incredible. It means that another person or another family is going to try our product and realize how simple it is to have healthy, humanely-raised, and delicious meat delivered to their door.

Through this experience, I have spoken with individuals from every state in U.S., even ones that we don’t ship to (yet…) like Hawaii and Alaska. I have also talked with some ButcherBox friends in Canada and Mexico interested in our mission and the possibility of getting grass-fed beef or heritage-breed pork delivered to their homes.

Each person I speak with has a unique story: Different backgrounds, different financial statuses, and an array of other differences that have led to an interest in ButcherBox— and a call with me. And every one of them is, for me, an opportunity to sell a product I know so well — I proudly feed it to my own family — and have come to love.

I have built a very robust referral list from people who not only want to eat better and change the way they feed their families but also can’t stop sharing their fondness for our mission with others. “Frank told me to call you, Michael,” “Ronald told me to call you, Michael;” it’s a constant refrain. And it’s not just because I am a pretty good sales professional; it’s because we have wonderful product supported by a lot of very health-conscious, busy, caring, and hardworking women and men who have fallen in love with ButcherBox. Or, as I prefer to call it, “Our Customers’ Company.”

I have customers that call me after a sale just to let me know how much they love the product. Sometimes, they may have been unhappy with a cut they received that was completely alien to them, but then they tell me once they tried it, they were shocked how good it was.

I get to talk to fantastic seniors who have realized that it’s time to start eating better, younger people that love to hit the gym and want to make sure they are eating the right meat, and families that want to make sure both they and their kids are eating the highest quality meats available.

In the end, putting our product in the hands of more people who have the potential to be enchanted by ButcherBox is incredible. I love picking up the phone with Karen in Texas on the other end and hearing about her three kids she wants to provide healthier food for but can’t find good cuts of meat in her town. Or, there’s Todd from Maryland who has realized that he needs to eat a better diet to improve his weight and overall health. These people and the potentially thousands more that will call are the reason I love this job.

Here at ButcherBox, we all strive to be the very best we can be, but we are also driven by a passion for our mission. For my part, that means opening up with one simple line and excitedly anticipating an opportunity to connect with a new customer…

Hi! My name is Michael from ButcherBox Sales, how can I help you today?

Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

The secrets of marinating mouthwatering meat

Quality chicken, pork, and beef can often be thrown directly on the grill without any seasoning — or with just a pinch of salt and pepper — and taste amazing. Many steaks — especially skirt, flank, and similar cuts — as well as pork and chicken, can be immensely improved with a little creativity and some great marinades.

Why marinate you ask? Marinating before grilling is an excellent way to add additional flavors AND textures to your meal.

It is the natural attributes of beef, chicken, and pork that make marinades work so well with these meats, according to ButcherBox in-house chef Yankel Polak. “The longer you leave a protein in a marinade the more flavor it should absorb,” he explained, “and, what’s more, marinating will tenderize a tough cut of meat.”

The problem is that, in reality, most marinades only penetrate about 2 millimeters deep. “And, get this,” Chef Yankel said, “it all happens in the first few seconds.”

So, while many people think that marinating meat for extended periods of time, or even overnight, is the key to having meat with amazing flavor, that’s not actually the case. “While there is nothing wrong with preparing your ingredients the day before, remember that a good marinade only needs minimal contact with your protein to do everything it’s supposed to do,” according to Chef Yankel.

But, you can’t just put anything on your meat to make it more delicious. While there are many options that you can pull right off the shelf of your grocery store to have a pretty good meal, making your own marinades is both healthier and leads to tastier food.

If you can, try to keep the marinades as all-natural as possible. It would be foolish to take a nice cut of grass-fed steak or humanely-raised pork and then douse it in some combo of corn-syrup and lab-made additives.

One thing to keep in mind when putting together a marinade is that different cuts and types of meat have different flavor profiles that will work better and make your food taste amazing.

“Think about the item you are cooking, whether that’s chicken, beef, or pork, and use ingredients in your marinade that will compliment the flavor,” Chef Yankel said.

According to our chef, the best complimentary flavor profiles are something with citrus for chicken, sweet flavors for pork, and marinades that are rich and savory for beef. This is why lemon and lime go great with other spices in chicken marinades, pineapple and maple are great to have in pork marinades, and balsamic and mushroom flavors work well on steaks.

“While they don’t alter the internal structure of the meat,” Chef Yankel added, “acidic elements in marinades will certainly give you that extra punch of flavor, the ‘wow’ factor that accompanies that first bite.”

Using a great marinade on your meat can change a mundane meal into something otherworldly. Experiment and you might discover unexpected flavor combinations that work wonders for your palate.

And, to save you some precious time, now you also know that you don’t even have to marinate for too long to get those flavorful benefits.


Dave Sinick – Paleo as the driving force for a quality business and life

This week, we interview Dave Sinick, the CEO of PaleoHacks, a multimedia platform for experts and those interested in eating better to share their advice, recipes, and other best practices for living your best life.

Dave is a driving force in making PaleoHacks the go-to source for those fully entrenched in the Paleo lifestyle as well as those who are looking to try eating a Paleo diet for the first time. Formerly the CEO of an Internet marketing agency, his passion for finding ways to eat healthily led him to the world of Paleo.

We caught up with Dave to talk Paleo, grass-fed beef, and more.

ButcherBox: What is PaleoHacks and how did you leverage your understanding of online marketing with your interest in healthier eating?

Dave Sinick: PaleoHacks is the largest Paleo community on the web, featuring a blog with health, fitness, and recipe content. We also have a Q&A platform with an active social community, cookbooks, and health programs.

PaleoHacks kind of fell into my lap in that the previous owner was looking for help to turn it into an active business. I had a lot of direct response experience selling products from previous ventures, and selling something I was passionate about (health information) was a natural fit for me.

BB: When did you realize the importance of being selective about the foods you consume? What about getting involved in Paleo?

DS: In 2011, I was tired but couldn’t sleep; I was depressed, anxious, couldn’t remember anything, etc. I started having some serious bloat issues that wouldn’t go away, and I realized I needed to make a change.

I moved to San Diego where my roommate had just started Paleo for his own reasons. He mentioned that it involved eating a lot of quality meat, fruits, and vegetables — foods I already enjoyed — and I dove in.

BB: What has been most surprising, looking back, about the response to PaleoHacks?

DS: I always assumed that PaleoHacks would be a community for advanced Paleo people and cross-fitters, but our audience includes a lot of beginners and people discovering the Paleo diet for the first time.


BB: What is your take on grass-fed beef?

DS: It’s all I eat. If you can find it, it’s a million times better.

BB: What made you feel that way about grass-fed?

DS: I saw how factory farms work, the types of treatment the cows get, and I realized there’s no way that you can be healthy by eating an animal that is basically a meat slave.

BBWhat is your take on the meat industry in general?

DS: It’s grossly backward, too focused on profits as opposed to creating a high-quality food item, and I would like for it to change so that we can get easier access to grass-fed meat.

BB: What differences have you noticed about eating grass-fed meat versus grain-fed?

DS: I think grass-fed beef tastes better, to be honest.

BB: What do you value most when making decisions about the foods you eat?

DS: Food is fuel to me, so it’s about how healthy the food is and what’s in it.

BB:  What is your opinion about the dieting industry?

DS: If it helps people, it’s great. I just think there should be less religion about diets. It’s just food.

BBHow do you separate PaleoHacks from the other noise in the dieting space?

DS: We just try to be real and reasonable. We publish a ton of desserts because we know that although a dessert isn’t a ‘diet’ food if that’s your entry point into Paleo and healthier eating and living, that’s great.

BB: How important is it for you to maintain authenticity in being an authority on food recommendations?

DS: Very important. I wouldn’t recommend anything that I wouldn’t eat myself.

BB: Thanks for the time Dave! Great to get some real insight into what’s vital to the those seeking healthier ways to eat and live. If you haven’t had a chance to yet, you should check out PaleoHacks for yourself.



The possibilities — good and bad — with Amazon’s entry into the grass-fed industry

A report from Reuters revealed that this past week, e-commerce giant Amazon met — somewhat secretly — with a collection of grass-fed and organic beef farmers to look into becoming a larger player in connecting the grass-fed industry with consumers.

According to New Food Economy, Amazon’s interest in meeting with a small group of the most prolific ranchers signifies that, in addition to its in-process acquisition of Whole Foods, the company “intends to forge new supply chains, finding novel ways to get food from farm to table.”

Our initial thoughts to this news and Amazon becoming a potential competitor: This is great news for consumers and a tremendous opportunity for ButcherBox.

First, our mission is to bring the world the healthiest, highest quality meat — from 100% grass-fed beef to organic free range chicken and heritage breed pork. What matters most to us is doing this while causing as little harm as we can to the environment, empowering people to make healthier eating choices, and overall, influencing a cultural imperative to eat well.

Having one of the most important companies in the world signal that they want to align their business with these same principles is encouraging to us because it means that the values we deem to be most vital are being accepted on a much larger scale than they have up to this point. Most encouraging is the potential benefit for some of the farmers we’ve met along our journey, many who have struggled to gain profitability in this industry, that could have their lives changed by Amazon’s entry into the grass-fed marketplace

We also believe that there is an equally important message that could be sent to consumers if, in fact, Amazon does start to be a player in the organic and grass-fed beef industry: Eating healthy is important and needs to be an option for a wider swath of the population.

That said, Amazon’s entry into this space does present an interesting opportunity for ButcherBox.

While we greatly admire many of the e-commerce and marketplace innovations made by Amazon since its inception, we know that the grass-fed industry is complex.

It is our firm belief that we are best equipped to handle the nuance needed to bring customers the highest-quality meat, free from antibiotics and hormones. We’ve created a unique system of standards — based on our experiences seeking the best meat from across the globe — so that our customers are getting the healthiest, most humanely-raised products with transparency into our process and our understanding of the industry.

There are a lot of opportunities in this industry to raise and distribute cattle, chicken, and pork in unethical and unhealthy ways. We attempt to positively influence farmers and companies, both big and small, to do the right thing every day, whether or not they are a partner.

This seems like a subtle nuance, but it is one that we’ve discovered is a central issue for a large number of our customers.

Doing things right or wrong in this industry can come down to how products are marketed, how compelled farmers are to go beyond the simple industry standards, making difficult decisions in order to get the highest-quality meat to consumers, or, in some cases, avoiding the shortcuts that can deceive consumers into thinking they are getting a product they actually are not.

The last point is one that worries us a bit as Amazon gets into this marketplace. Because we are a growing, nimble company, we have had to hustle to get a solid understanding of the grass-fed beef world. Along the way, we’ve observed farmers doing things the right way, and others doing the bare minimum — and sometimes even less — to be able to sell their product as “grass-fed.”

We have a lot of concern about that increased demand from Amazon/Whole Foods could cause a rise in some of the trickery that occurs in the surprisingly loophole-filled U.S. grass-fed industry beyond the current state where a few bad actors are mostly outliers. Just take a look at this breakdown of some of the practices in a blog post from Primal Pastures a couple years ago for some insight into bad practices that could potentially grow if more pressure to deliver grass-fed beef is placed upon the market. These are real issues that will need to be figured out for the sake of the customer.

We know there are a number of challenges for U.S. grass-fed cattle ranchers to scale their operations. We would love if this wasn’t the case and we will work with any U.S. rancher who has the same aligned values as we do.

Our advantage arises from the close ties we have with our producers. We know our cattle ranchers here in the U.S. and abroad, as well as our chicken and pork farmers. We have strong relationships with them and have been to their farms. We know they have the same aligned interests as ButcherBox and don’t have any desire to play with the lack of regulations in the U.S. that could result in inferior products being delivered to consumers.

And so, we worry for consumers when we read comments like those made in the New Food Economy article by Don Davis, the Texas rancher who is also on the American Grassfed Association’s board of directors. In the article, he says that Amazon’s logistical superiority could be key to the industries growth and also reportedly says that he, “likes the idea of building huge, grass-based feedlots—though he doesn’t like that term. “

This view of large-scale U.S. grass-fed operations — a world imagined under Amazon’s influence —doesn’t sound like it would meet our standards here at ButcherBox. Not only are feedlots inhumane, in our opinion, but trying to scale the natural process of grazing cattle eating grass their entire lives worries us that ranchers might lead to other less ethical practices. These include things we are already hearing about such as farmers playing with the amount of grass and forage fed to cattle or the potential for feedlots where cattle are fed in the same manner they are today, but with processed grass to give them the “grass-fed” distinction.

When it comes down to it, the impact Amazon could have improving the lives of others, by getting them access to healthier grass-fed food excites us. However, we believe our industry knowledge and the standards we uphold separate us and give us an advantage to this incredible company joining the marketplace.

We are looking forward to the challenges ahead and will be more vigilant in upholding our mission to improve the environment, help people make healthier eating choices, and allow more people to eat well, in general.