Last week Grand Central owner Piper Davis took her passion for well-raised meat to New York, joining some pretty heady chef colleagues (Rick Bayless for starters) and 100 diners to explore and taste what responsibly raised meat means, and learn why eating better meat – and less of it – is crucial to public health, our economy and the planet. The Meat Matters NYC dinner at Food Network Kitchen kicked off an effort by Chefs Collaborative – Piper sits on the group’s national board – to explore meat issues through food. Similar fund-raising dinners will be held across the country this year. Let’s start with the menu, then hear from Piper what the event was all about.
MEAT MATTERS NYC MENU
Skillet tacos with skirt steak and green adobo – Chef Rick Bayless, Topolbampo, Chicago, Il.
Lamb meatball with spiced yogurt and carrot – Howard Kalachnikoff, Gramercy Tavern, New York
Peas and fava beans with nettles and almonds – Bill Telepan, Telepan, New York
Stone-ground grits with braised pok cheeks and onion gravy with crushed herbs; smoked pork ribs with a spicy BBQ sauce and pickled watermelon rind – Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon, New Orleans, La.
Chicharone de pollo with spring vegetable slaw – Shanna Pacifico, New York
Goat in various forms – butcher/author Adam Danforth, Ashland, Ore., and chef Derek Wagner, Nicks on Broadway, Providence, R.I.
Rhubarb tart with a flaky leaf lard crust and whipping cream/strawberry fool – Piper Davis, Grand Central Bakery, Portland, Ore. & Seattle, Wash.
Q. Piper, tell us more about the dinner.
A. It was a hearty graze with courses from six chefs. There was a great collection of about 100 supporters from the New York area and some really fun chefs to cook with. We were trying to highlight the ways in which you should and can eat meat. Each chef had a station either based on a species of meat, or not. We had pure vegetable station because we wanted to highlight the fact that one of the most important things in improving the quality of meat on our table is that we are going to have to eat a lot less of it. We had Adam Danforth (a butcher and author from Ashland) butchering a whole goat and one of our board members, Derek Wagner, was immediately cooking up those pieces, so people were able to really make the connection from the animal to plate.
Q. What did you make for the event?
A. I was serving a delicious rhubarb tart made with a lard crust and served with a strawberry fool. Every last one got eaten – those skinny new Yorkers were hungry for dessert! I talked to people about how using lard was an important thing because it utilizes the whole animal in addition to how this particular lard is from pigs being used for weed eradication. So, we try to grow the issues around meat to look at all the potential good and potential harm that meat production can do in society.
Q. Why this event at this moment?
A. Chefs Collaborative is committed to the dual purpose of fund raising and awareness raising around issues about our food. Right now we’re focusing on the issues that surround meat production, primarily the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics and humane treatment.
Q. What are your concerns about meat?
A. The lion’s share of hogs and chickens in this country are raised with a daily dose of sub-therapeutic (non-disease-treating) antibiotics, which is a part of their diet primarily to increase their rate of weight gain. This is a danger to both human and environmental health in that it builds a perfect situation for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop. It also leads to confinement farming, which has terrible environmental consequences because the waste is concentrated in one central place. Not to mention the issue of humane animal treatment….
Q. How is your commitment to better meat reflected in Grand Central’s menu?
A. Over the years we have slowly changed our menu at Grand Central to where we don’t serve any meat that was raised with antibiotics. Also, we’ve moved away a lot of meat-heavy sandwiches. We realize that meat is expensive and it’s precious and we need to eat less of it. Meat is just one part of an overall challenge to buy the food that is going to be the most restorative or least damaging to the earth.
Q. How do I know, as a meat consumer, if I’m getting responsibly raised meat?
A. I always recommend you look for 100 percent antibiotic-free meat and if possible, ask if it was produced with sub-therapeutic antibiotics. The Chefs Collaborative is a great place to learn more about antibiotics misuse and other issues.
Q. What would you like chefs and eaters to know about humane animal treatment?
A. You should really ask questions and want to see pictures of what it looks and have a gut check: Is the animal able to express its natural tendencies? Are they piled on top of one another so much that they are standing in their own feces? It’s pretty obvious when you see animal production whether it lives up to your moral standards or not.
Q. If there was one thing you could tell chefs and eaters to do to improve our food system, what would it be?
A. Buy better meat and eat less of it.