We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.
Today: Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA, shows us the ropes of how to be a responsible (and realistic) carnivore.
Patrick Martins certainly isn't having an Omnivore's Dilemma. As the founder of Heritage Foods USA and Heritage Radio Network, and the co-author of The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat, the man knows his way around a lamb chop or a pork shoulder. And now, he's pushing Americans to eat meat smarter and more sustainably -- a noble goal indeed.
Don't expect to find Martins on a high horse, though; he's much more at home on the ground, with the farmers who supply the ethically-raised cuts of pork, beef, goat, and poultry that he ships around the country. While he admits that we're never going to live in a grass-fed utopia, that hasn't stopped him from getting worked up about the current state of American meat in The Carnivore's Manifesto.
We'll take a side of his realistic optimism with our burgers any day.
You founded Slow Food USA in the late 1990s. What drew you to the movement, and how is it still relevant today?
I was drawn to Slow Food because of founder Carlo Petrini’s charisma, but I find that the Slow Food movement's ideas are still very much the best way to think about sustainability. I'm a big fan of the Ark of Taste, its biggest project, and the next step, the Presidia. Those active interventions on behalf of slow farmers remain, to me, the wave of the future.
You work with many of the country’s top chefs, farmers, and distributors every day. Who inspires you, in terms of how they're raising and preparing meat?
Farmer Frank Reese is pushing the boundaries by upholding the American Poultry Association's standards of perfection for raising poultry ethically. He’s being innovative by staying true to tradition, which is rare these days. Mark Ladner, executive chef of Del Posto, is another big inspiration to me. He placed the first order with Heritage Foods; started Lupa and Otto and Del Posto; and is now starting [the gluten-free fast food concept] Pasta Flyer, so he is definitely a big innovator. Most people I work with do things in traditional ways. Innovation can be inspiring, but it can also be a problem -- sometimes the simple recipes or techniques are still the best.
Your book The Carnivore's Manifesto preaches sustainable meat consumption. In light of that, what are some cuts or meats that people aren’t consuming, but should be?
There’s only about six to eight livestock that the entire world eats, and they each have a few cuts. There are no "new" cuts. I roll my eyes when I hear about pig face sandwiches, or a pig trotter for a main course. I think it's important to use every part of an animal, but basically we’ve got breasts, strip steaks, chops, and a few other cuts. If we’re going to launch a sustainable alternative, we need to think of slow food like fast food, and play the game whose rules we know already.
Ground meat is the key to launching and supporting sustainable lamb, goat, and pasture-raised beef and pork. That’s the stuff of meatballs, pasta sauces, and burgers -- that's what people eat! We should be eating billions of pounds of ground meat from small, sustainable family farms. Really good meat should be the everyday option. It doesn’t have to be so spectacular.
Every season has its meat, too -- it’s important to buy seasonal animals in bulk when they’re naturally available. October is the time for goat, November is for turkey, Easter is for lamb, July is the time for salmon. It’s important to eat those animals throughout the month, and not just at one elaborate meal. You also should buy the whole animal if you really want to get the most out of your meat.
You point out in the book that no one can completely avoid processed food. What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Pepperoni on my pizza. Gray’s Papaya hot dogs. Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches. Peking duck pancakes with scallions and duck sauce. Those are all things I love. We don’t call for utopia in the book; we know that the bacon in every greasy spoon diner in America likely comes from a cruel system. But we should be trying to steer the train in the right direction.
What tips do you have for people looking to eat meat more responsibly?
Eat animals who have had sex. Eat animals in season. Demand no antibiotics. Buy from a purveyor you trust, or Heritage Foods, or the Meat Hook, or people who can tell you the name of the farm where that meat came from. Don't put any trust or faith in publicly-traded companies that put profit ahead of the health of animals and people. That’s a big goal, but we need to move towards that.
We're giving away two copies of The Carnivore's Manifesto! To enter, tell us in the comments: Which books have influenced the way you eat? We'll pick winners at random this Friday, June 27th.