Tag Archives: Pork

Baby back ribs – A smoky, sticky summer treat that you can enjoy anytime

Baby back ribs are a staple of true barbecue masters’ arsenal — from St. Louis to Memphis, South Carolina to the heart of Texas.

And whether slow cooked for a few hours in a Crock Pot or an entire day in a smoker, baby back ribs are delectable no matter how they are prepared.

The cut comes from the top of a pig’s rib cage, specifically the area just below the loin between the spine and what we know of as the spare ribs. Baby back ribs are distinguishable by their tapered shape and the greater amount of meat — compared to spare ribs — often found on top of and between the rib bones. Usually, a rack of baby back ribs includes between eight to 13 ribs that vary in length from three inches to about six inches.

While any reputable smokehouse or barbecue shop will have baby back ribs, how to cook them — more specifically, how to flavor them — is a source of disagreement among the major barbecue regions of America: Carolina, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City styles. Although we don’t have to break down which version of BBQ is best at this moment, there is something perfect with having a little sweet and savory flavor added to baby back ribs. 


Baby back ribs are also one of the cuts of heritage-breed pork that ButcherBox Head Chef Yankel Polak loves to experiment with when he cooks.

“Every time I cook baby back ribs, I learn something new,” Chef Yankel says. “They are super flavorful and have just the right amount of fat.”

“And of course anything with a bone attached is just that much better.”

There are many ways to cook baby back ribs. You can check out a few in our recipe pages.

But Chef Yankel has a very specific method to get his ribs just right: “I give them one hour of smoke at 225°F, then two hours in the oven at 250°F, wrapped tightly in foil, bone side down and with a splash of vinegar.”

“To finish,” Chef Yankel explains, “I give them 30 minutes on the grill with about 10 applications of a sweet and sticky BBQ sauce.”

You can check out Chef Yankel preparing his “Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs with Chipotle Pineapple BBQ Sauce” in this video or use the “Sweet and Sour Slow Cooker Ribs” recipe below if you don’t have a smoker but want to slow cook your baby back ribs.

Sweet and Sour Slow Cooker Ribs


  •  1 pack ButcherBox Baby Back Ribs

The Rub:

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp ginger powder
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard powder
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1  tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt

The Liquid

  • ¼ c maple syrup
  • ¼ c coconut amino
  • ¼ c sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp liquid smoke


      1. Pat dry ribs with a paper towel and peel off membrane on the bone side of ribs. You can also score the membrane with a sharp paring knife in an ‘X’ formation.
      2. Mix all rub ingredients and massage into ribs.
      3. Place all liquid ingredients in slow-cooker, then add ribs. Cook on low setting for 4 hrs.
      4. Let rest in liquid 20 minutes before serving.
      5. For a super quick sauce, remove ribs from slow-cooker, then place all liquid in saucepan, and simmer until thickened.
      6. Pour over ribs and broil for extra crispy texture and real BBQ flavor!


Latin American cooking

The best Mexican and Latin American cooking methods and marinades for beef, pork, and chicken

Nothing is better than taking some delicious meats, tossing them in some marinades or throwing a bit of rub on them, chucking them on the grill, and then cutting them up, and wrapping them in a few soft tacos with some pico de gallo or cilantro and onion.

Steak tacos, pork tacos, chicken tacos. All great. All quick and easy to make. 

But there is so much more to Latin American cuisine than tacos; this is especially true if you combine the rich, sweet, and savory flavors with healthy grass-fed beef, heritage-breed pork, and free-range chicken.

With Cinco de Mayo coming up this weekend, we wanted to break down some of our favorite dishes inspired by Latin American and Hispanic cultures. And while there are a lot of amazing, flavorful dishes to choose from, these are the standout Mexican and Latin American cooking styles and marinades.

Carne asada

If you want to make steak tacos the right way, you need some vital components. Of course, you need some fresh tortillas and some fresh salsa or pico de gallo — the difference between the two is that salsa is more like a soup or sauce, while pico de gallo is chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. You might also want to add a bit of cojita or other cheese, guacamole, and some crema fresca or sour cream.

But meat is THE essential ingredient that defines a standard taco from a great taco.

While Americanized — or Tex-Mex tacos — like the ones you can find at Taco Bell can be a good quick treat, they do a severe injustice to the original: The street taco prevalent throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Tacos using ground beef can be quite good. In particular, we prefer using grass-fed, grass-finished ground beef for our quick, homemade tacos. But nothing compares to a taco filled with a steak — seasoned and then seared on a grill or over hot charcoals — from the sirloin, tenderloin, or rib primals of a cow.

And, for the most part, that is what carne asada is. The Spanish word, “asada,” basically means grilled, and “carne” is an all-encompassing term for meat — even though carne asada is most often associated with beef. Carne asada is any Latin American-style steak. Kind of.

Carne asada is a steak preparation method most often associated with Mexico and some Central American countries. (Different Central and South American nations have other steak traditions that we’ll discuss below.)

Carne asada can be made from a wide variety of beef cuts. As a standalone steak, you can make carne asada from a ribeye. However, because it is often marinated, sliced, and served with pico de gallo, beans, and other rich dishes, carne asada is best with tougher cuts that benefit from marinating, such as flank steak, hanger steak, short ribs, sirloin tips, or skirt steak.

As for marinades, the typical carne asada marinade or sauce is usually some combination of salt, freshly-ground pepper, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, and chiles, like ancho chile or chipotle.

But the key to a delicious carne asada steak is an open fire or red-hot coals to grill over. Give the steak a little char, cut it up (against the grain if its a flank or skirt steak), and enjoy.

Across South America and Mexico, there is a range of different styles and processes to cook beef. Barbacoa, which originated in the Caribbean and gives us the word “barbecue” is a common way to cook beef over an open fire. Other methods are also well-known that derive from South America, including steak churrasco, which is a Brazilian-style of steak cooked rotisserie style (usually over an open flame) on a skewer or large knife.

We haven’t even delved into chimichurri sauce, which is one of the best steak marinades/sauces there is. But that’s a topic worthy of its own, lengthier breakdown. Most commonly used in Argentina, chimichurri accompanies steaks cooked in the Argentine manner — that is, they never touch a flame and are grilled over burning wood.


Al pastor versus carnitas?

Pork is often a featured dish in the cuisines of many Latin American cultures. Braised, slow-cooked, fire-roasted, or barbecued, there are many different ways that pork can be prepared for tacos, tortas, burritos, or even as the main dish in a variety of meals.

However, two of the best-known versions of pork made in Latin American countries are carnitas and al pastor, which, while cooked similarly, have quite different flavors.

Carnitas is a Mexican method of braising and then quickly roasting a large piece of pork shoulder, like a pork butt or Boston butt. Traditionally, a large portion of pork is placed in a copper pot and an array of spices — cumin, garlic, oregano, and chiles — are added along with lard or some other flavorful fat. After slow cooking for hours, the pork is then roasted on high heat, crisping the outer edge of the pork so that it is fall-apart tender.

Carnitas can be cooked in a Dutch oven or slow cooker, and you can experiment with a variety of different flavors, spice rubs, or marinades. However, a key step in the process of perfectly fork-tender carnitas is the finishing. While the best way to finish carnitas is by roasting, you can also quickly pan fry it so that it is both crispy and but maintains that fall-apart tenderness like pulled pork.

Al pastor is one of those fascinating international dishes that is the result of two culinary cultures mixing. Influenced heavily by the shawarma-style of spit roasting popular in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, al pastor is a combination of Mexican pork preparation reimagined by Lebanese immigrants who moved to Latin America in the twentieth century.

While spit roasting the pork shawarma-style has traditionally been the distinguishing mark of al pastor, these days, it is a unique sauce style that distinguished al pastor from carnitas for most Mexican food connoisseurs. Unlike most other taco, torta, or burrito styles, al pastor features a salsa that includes pineapple in addition to onion and cilantro.

If you get a pork dish at a Latin-American restaurant and it is heavy on pineapple flavor, you are likely eating al pastor.

Adobo and mole chicken

For quesadillas, fajitas, burritos, and tacos that feature chicken, there are endless preparation methods and flavorful marinades that can be used to give it the traditional spicy kick associated with Latin American food. But two of our favorites are chicken cooked in adobo sauce and mole chicken.

Chicken cooked in adobo sauce is usually quite spicy. Adobo sauces feature any combination of dried, roasted, and finely chopped ancho, chipotle, guajillo, and chile de árbol. The spicy concoction is often used to marinate chicken before being grilled, or it is added later to kick up the flavor of a dish.

Mole is a dark sauce that is both sweet and spicy. The spice comes from its heavy dose of hot chiles, including mulato, guajillo, ancho, and pasilla negro chiles. A more challenging to find chile, the chilhuacle rojo can also be used if you can get your hands on it.

The sweetness — and mole’s dark coloring — comes from the inclusion of chocolate and cinnamon in the sauce. In addition to cocoa and cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, tomatoes, onions, and a number of other spices can be added to a mole sauce.

The mole most common found in the United States is actually “mole poblano,” a sauce that originates in Mexico. (Where exactly is often disputed as both Oaxaca and Pueblo claim it originated there.) However, the sauce is popular in other areas of Central and South America; often, the chiles and other spices differ, giving it a unique flavor, texture, and color in each different locale it is made. 

Traditional Mexican mole sauce is often used with turkey, but it is far more common to find mole chicken, which is the dark sauce either poured over boiled or grilled chicken or chicken that has been cooked and finished by simmering in mole sauce.

For more on some of our favorite Latin American dishes, check out the ButcherBox recipe page or some of Chef Yankel’s favorite cooking methods on YouTube.

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!


pounding chicken breast

For the best, perfectly-cooked chicken, the key is pounding chicken breast thin

When I was a senior in high school, I had some free time on my hands. At this point in my life, I didn’t love school and had no college plans, so I got a job at a restaurant near my house.

It was a tiny restaurant; it had ten tables in total, maybe.  But it was famous for its schnitzel.

If you aren’t familiar with the dish, a schnitzel can be any type of meat — usually, veal, pork, or chicken — that is pounded thin with a meat tenderizer, breaded, and fried. It’s likely you’ve heard of the traditional Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel, which is thinned and fried veal. 

The restaurant I worked at during those formative years as an apprentice chef was highly-regarded for its take on chicken schnitzel.

To make the dish, we had to take chicken breasts and pound them paper thin. We then breaded the thin chicken in heavily seasoned flour, egg, and dried challah breadcrumbs. Then, we fried them golden brown in skillets of bubbling oil.

The first time I took a bite of schnitzel, my life changed forever.

Up to that point, chicken had been mundane for me; it was just another all-too-common menu item, often barbecued on the grill at home. I couldn’t believe chicken could taste so good after that first schnitzel bite.

The wizened alcoholic chef who worked in the kitchen took time to teach me the process between his regular temper tantrums and naps on the old leather couch in the basement of the restaurant. The key, he said, was pounding the chicken breast to a perfect thickness. Not falling apart, but thin enough to cook quickly before the breadcrumbs burnt.  Thick enough to retain some moisture but thin enough to be cut with a fork. 

To get that perfect thinness by pounding chicken took some practice; I still remember the meat mallet we used, textured on one side and smooth on the other. To get the chicken breast to the right thickness, I covered the cutting board completely with several layers of plastic wrap. Then I made a blanket of plastic wrap that would go over the chicken breast by folding the film over itself five or six times. The plastic blanket does two things: It helps keep the flying chicken pieces to a minimum, and it helps distribute the impact of the meat mallet more evenly.

Rather than tenderize and pound a whole chicken breast — which can be quite thick — I sliced it down the middle, so I had two thinner breasts. Placing one of the thinner sliced breasts on the board, I covered it with the second layer of plastic. First, I’d give it a couple good smacks with the textured side of the mallet to soften it up sufficiently. Flipping the mallet, I would then continue pounding it until I had the perfect thickness.  

Pounding chicken thin is a vital process to prepare chicken for a lot of dishes that require boneless chicken breasts. If the step is skipped, it will result in uneven cooking when baking, grilling, or frying chicken. Dishes like chicken piccata, chicken marsala, schnitzel, chicken parmigiana, and chicken and waffles are just a few of the many popular chicken dishes that benefit from the pounding method to achieve a delicious texture and flavor.

Pounding a chicken breast paper thin, marinating it in an herb-and-spice-heavy marinade, and then grilling it is one of my favorite ways to grill white meat. Because of the thickness, it cooks in a minute or two; so fast that it never has time to dry out. Also, the grill and marinade make more contact with the meat because there’s so much more surface area. Pounding a chicken breast thin is a great way to cook chicken for sandwiches or to be sliced on salads, too.

Really, there are so many ways to use this method!

So get practicing and try one of our many ButcherBox chicken breast recipes. Or check out one of my recipe or how-to videos on YouTube.


The way to happy, healthy pigs: The secrets of pasture-raising

Here at Singing Prairie Farm, one question consistently arises during conversations about our pasture-raised pigs.

That question, in one form or another, is, “Is it reasonable for a pig to graze like a cow — and eat mostly grass — for the bulk of its nutrition?”

The short answer to this query is “no.” But, digging deeper, this question ties into some of the complex issues about modern farming that we are trying to solve on our farm.

There are a number of reasons pigs shouldn’t eat grass (or grains) alone: Biology, access to forage, and more. Pigs, unlike cows, have traditionally enjoyed some natural grains as part of their diet.

There are, however, long-term effects that need to be discussed in term of the implications for finding a happy medium for pigs to eat naturally. These include the complexities of reading the land, managing forage mixes, and the impact of mobile fencing technologies. Approaching the topics of how best to feed pigs will, to our mind, reclaim the genetics that was so common in pigs prior to World War II.

While it benefits all pigs to consume some grass, the degree to which they do is also important to examine. 

We’ve been asked consistently why we don’t just feed our pigs tons of grass, like those raising grass-fed cattle have been doing.

It turns out a pig has a digestive system much like a chicken, a single stomach. This contrasts to cows, which have four stomachs — or four stomach compartments, depending on who you ask.

The cow can break down high-fiber foods as a result of the beneficial bacteria residing in the first stomach compartment, the rumen, hence their animal classification as “ruminants.” Those beneficial bacteria are able to dismantle the fiber in grass to the point where the rest of the digestive system can extract carbohydrates from the matrix.

Lacking that particular superhero power puts our friend, the humble pig, at a significant disadvantage when compared to a cow’s ability to consume grass.

But wait! This does not mean it is impossible for pigs to receive the same benefits as cows do by eating grass.

Here on our family farm, we have undertaken numerous projects to find the tipping point for how much grass is feasible to ensure we have happy, healthy pigs. We’ve discovered a wide-range for what works; pigs can consume non-grain natural feeds that can range from 10% forage consumption all to the way to our permaculture specific herd which consumed 90% forage — I will talk more on this group of rock stars in a later essay!

Overall, the takeaway is that pigs on pasture still need some grain. That doesn’t mean that we can’t keep exploring pathways to get heritage-breed pigs simply to eat MORE grass.

For starters, appropriate genetics and animal history is a must. Taking a white pig out of its indoor factory farm and putting it in a grassy field with no grain would not yield a happy, thriving pig. The mystery of genetics is that the traits that will lead to pigs successfully consuming a better mix of grass and grain aren’t information available on the surface. Length of the digestive system, the ability to host a small amount of beneficial bacteria in the hindgut, and the eagerness to graze are traits that will lead to a beneficial experience for any pig on pasture. Most heritage-breed pigs still have some of these genes intact — unfortunately, many breeds lost them with the influx of factory farming.

Another important variable to the success of including a better grass to grain ratio in a pig’s diet is the farmer’s management plan.

Our favorite system, which we’ve been most successful with involves running pigs in groups of 35 to 50. These pigs are all born at about the same time of year and are half-siblings. They grow up together running around the woods like wild boars — luckily, they are more even-tempered. Once out on their own, these young pigs, called feeder pigs, are rotated into a large rectangular pasture. The boundaries of this pasture are made up of a movable solar electric fence system complete with special fence posts. We pull up the posts and move them every seven days. The hot wire (not in temperature, but the small electric charge) has a windup reel loaded with a spool of braided wire and plastic filaments. This tool that holds the hot wire looks remarkably like an enormous deep sea fishing reel.

Within this temporary pasture, there is a movable waterer, many moveable feeders, as well as a 20-foot by 30-foot shade structure that is also on wheels.

Our shade structures are homemade contraptions which consist of a welded frame built on a hay wagon base. We span the frame with woven greenhouse shade cloth, so the animals always have shade and nothing to prevent the breeze from cooling them in the summer. Every day we move the shade structure to new fresh grass within the temporary pasture.

We do the same thing with the feeders so that at the end of a seven day period, the entire field has been evenly grazed and manured. This is referred to as positive animal impact, meaning the grass will grow back even thicker than before.

On the first day of each week, we hitch up a large Percheron draft horse and drag the shade structure, along with all the feeders and waterers to a completely new location. It is usually at least 60 days before the animals return to a spot they’ve already been for a second graze.

Whenever we string up a new electric fence, open the gate, and run the entire herd onto new ground, they are always eager to go. The lure of fresh grass, the clank of their feeders moving, the sound of water running into their trough is irresistible, and soon all 50 pigs are on fresh ground and nibbling green tender shoots of grass and clover.

This is the secret sauce to creating the best pork ever:  A large herd of grazing animals, tightly grouped, and constantly moving over clean ground is nature’s template for sequestering carbon, rewilding grasslands, and creating good nutritional profiles for the meat.

I hope you enjoy the fruit of our labors.

John Arbuckle is the founding farmer of Singing Prairie Farms, producer of  Roam Sticks often featured in our monthly ButcherBox.

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.   


Inspirational farming in America: Polyface Farms

Working with ButcherBox has enabled our farm, Singing Prairie Farm, to provide sausage from pigs we raise to more people than we could have imagined.

As ButcherBox has exploded with popularity, the demand for our products has created an opportunity for us to source meat from other family farms that share our strict standards. We are excited to announce that the East Coast sausage, which will be part of December’s ButcherBox, will be sourced from Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

For me, the opportunity to collaborate with Polyface Farms has been like meeting your favorite rock star from childhood.

When I started farming on my own, someone gave me a book called Pastured Poultry Profits, by Joel Salatin. At the time, I was working on an organic vegetable farm but wanted to diversify our offerings by adding pasture-raised meats. I read the book many times until I understood the principles and then began a slow and steady push away from raising veggies and towards livestock production. As the years passed, my family’s farm moved away from pasture-raised poultry to pasture-raised pork, which is our specialty today.

Joel — and his son Daniel — remain some of the most inspirational and creative farmers I know. Polyface Farms first gained acclaim in Michael Pollan’s bestseller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Joel’s enthusiasm for radically transparent poultry processing — as well as innovative farming philosophies — helped to create a renaissance for the sustainable family farm.

Here’s an excerpt from the Polyface Farms’ story to give some insight into how Joel and his family healed the land they remain stewards of to this day:

In 1961, William and Lucille Salatin moved their young family to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, purchasing the most worn-out, eroded, abused farm in the area near Staunton. Using nature as a pattern, they and their children began the healing and innovation that now supports three generations.

Disregarding conventional wisdom, the Salatins planted trees, built huge compost piles, dug ponds, moved cows daily with portable electric fencing, and invented portable sheltering systems to produce all their animals on perennial prairie polycultures.

Today the farm arguably represents America’s premier non-industrial food production oasis.

Now, years after reading Joel’s book, the story comes full circle for me. We get to work directly with Joel and Daniel to provide ButcherBox customers with some of the most radically sustainable pork in America. We hope you find the pasture-raised revolution as delicious as we do.

John Arbuckle is a guest contributor to Roam. He is the co-founder of Singing Prairie Farms.

Image via  White Oak Pastures' blog.

White Oak Pastures, getting sustainable farming right

White Oak Pastures is a farm outside Bluffton, Georgia where some of the pork sausage that ButcherBox distributes is sourced.

When it comes to farming multiple species, White Oak Pastures has it figured out.

Recently, I caught up with the farm’s marketing director Jenni Harris, the 5th generation of the Harris family to farm at White Oak Pastures, and she explained a bit of what makes her farm tick.

“My family has been farming here since 1866,” Harris said. “Back then, we farmed only beef cattle which we sold in Bluffton, a town about a mile north of here.”

“Over the years, we evolved to be the farm that we are today. We raise ten animal species —five red meat animals and five poultry,” she explained.

How does that even work? I’ll let Jenni explain. “It’s our belief that having all those animals following each other around the farm creates the same sort of synergies that you find in nature. In other words, they help each other grow and be comfortable.”

The pigs at White Oak Pastures are also a special breed that lives in the forest. “Here in Georgia,” Jenni said, “pigs don’t want to be out in the sun…They get too hot! So our pigs live out in the woods. They dig around and eat brush and roots as well as our unsalable eggs (raised by pastured chickens), local peanuts, and 100% non-GMO grain.”

But for Jenni Harris, the White Oaks Pastures’ mission is bigger than creating great, naturally- and humanely-sourced meat.

“When people ask me what my favorite thing about our family’s farm is, I like to tell them that we want to fill the countryside with farmers!” she said. “Imagine a whole world of middle-class farmers? We are trying to make it happen right here.”

“We started out as a farm full of cowboys,” Jenni said explaining the evolution of her family’s farm. “As we grew, we turned into a farm full of both cowboys and farmers. Then we grew some more and turned into a farm full of cowboys, farmers, accountants, graphic designers, chefs, and educators.”

That’s a pretty great family business right there.

“That’s our vision for the American countryside,” Jenni added, “with agriculture leading the way.”

John Arbuckle is a guest contributor for Roam. He and his wife run Singing Prairie Farm in Missouri, which supplies ButcherBox with the farm’s signature Roam Sticks as well as pasture-raised pork. John was featured earlier this year in Roam.

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.


Meet farmer John Arbuckle

We have a dream of helping provide the healthiest, highest quality meat to the world — ranging from 100% grass-fed beef to organic free-range chicken and heritage breed pork.

It is widely understood that commercial farmers today raise and distribute cattle, chicken, and pork through processes that are ethically questionable, and, unhealthy for both humans and the animals. We’re on a mission to change that by working with farms across the world who raise the highest-quality meat, free from antibiotics and hormones.

We work with farms both large and small to change the food system for the better; John Arbuckle is one of the farmers that we work with that we believe makes ButcherBox so special.

We met John in a manner that is quite unique to entrepreneurs these days. At last year’s Paleo f(x) conference in Austin, we connected and hit it off while comparing recent Kickstarter campaigns.

Finding kindred spirits in John and his wife Holly, we thought it would be a grand idea to work together.

And, so, we include the Arbuckles’ Roam Sticks, snack sticks made with non-GMO and pasture-raised pork, as part of our ButcherBox subscriptions. Additionally, we use pork from their pasture-raised pigs in our breakfast sausages.

We love their delicious products, but, more than that, we are enamored with the passions that drive the Arbuckles: Love of adventure, family farms, and regenerative agriculture (pasture-based farming).

Pork grazing on the Arbuckle's farm.
Pork grazing on the Arbuckle’s farm.

John is a tenth generation farmer, a lineage that can be traced to Scotland, where ancestors raised wheat and lamb north of Glasgow. While living in Maryland, he grew organic vegetables as part of the business model that relied heavily on CSA, farmer’s markets, and farm-to-table restaurants.

But the itch for more wide-open space to roam was ever present. And so John and Holly packed up for what John refers to as “the-middle-of-nowhere” Missouri to raise livestock and their family. “You can stand on the roof and watch the dog run for three days,” Arbuckle said trying to explain the vastness of their space in the “The Show Me State.”

The greater expanse of Singing Prarie Farm lets John continue his passion for cultivating a wide array of delicious greens, and also allowed the Arbuckles to let pigs graze and forage peas vine, kale, and more. This alone is no small task. Pigs really like to eat. By John’s estimation, their livestock has consumed more than 100,000 pounds of kale.

Eventually, John and Holly decided to use their foraging pork to create a snack they’d feel good about giving their kids.

And so Roam Sticks were born. The sticks come in different flavors including hickory smoked pork with uncured bacon and hickory smoked pork with pineapple. John raises the grazing pigs and later naturally ferments and smokes the meat to create these healthy snacks.

The most rewarding part of these efforts is the understanding that they are not only helping people eat healthier, but they are also doing good by the planet, as John explained. John even uses sustainable farming techniques, including ecologically-friendly cultivation techniques. The entire farm is also 100% Non-GMO antibiotic free.