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Meats and Poultry

To Meat or Not to Meat

White-tablecloth chefs are beginning to pass the word that they’re interested in moving meat off the center of the plate, and they say that that’s in response to request from their customers who are interested in eating less meat but have no intention whatever of cutting back on flavor. Specialty food producers are hearing those whispers as well, and they’re also responding.

Sweet Earth Natural Foods is producing a line of handheld sandwich options that include no meat but will appeal to consumers who want options for multiple day parts. Think about McDonald’s decision to offer breakfast all day long and the early success of that strategy and about growing acceptance of the burrito as a breakfast option, and you’ll see why this is an idea with legs.

Quorn is a market leader in meat alternatives because it tastes great and even mimics the texture of poultry. Made from mycoprotein, which is derived from a fungus, the taste and mouth feel of the company’s chik’n and turk’y products are winning fans.

While the meat alternatives are offering great options for people who want to cut back on the amount of meat they’re consuming, other consumers are bound to decide that the way they prefer to go is to find meat choices that will give them more satisfaction. For some of those folks, Lone Mountain Wagyu, which won awards in this year’s sofi Awards competition, will be an option to consider. Vermont Smoke & Cure offers another line of meat snacks with great taste that will hit some of the same marks.


Three New Flavors of Meat Sticks from Vermont Smoke & Cure


By Lorrie Baumann

Vermont Smoke Cure imageVermont Smoke & Cure launched a bold new brand design and three new flavors of its Meat Sticks during this year’s Natural Products Expo East. Like the other half-dozen flavors of the better-for-you meat snacks in the line, the Spicy Italian Pork, Rosemary Thyme Chicken and Teriyaki Chicken Sticks are gluten free and contain considerably less fat and salt than competing meat sticks.

We are working to make the whole meat business better – with new products made from vegetarian-fed meats that are raised with no antibiotics or added hormones,” says Chris Bailey, Vermont Smoke & Cure’s CEO. “Our new packaging look better conveys our clean ingredients and the positive impact we work to bring about in our community and landscape.”

Vermont Smoke & Cure Meat Sticks start with quality meat. Beef in the sticks comes from lead supplier Pineland Farms Natural Meats in Maine or other similar suppliers. Pork comes from DuBreton in Quebec or from Coleman Natural Foods, which works with family farmers throughout the country to produce meat raised entirely without antibiotics.

Our Sticks don’t have overwhelming flavors – you get nice spice and you can still taste the meat,” Bailey says. “It’s all ingredients you’d find in your kitchen, just meat and spices with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.”

The Sticks have been the fastest-growing part of our business,” he added. “The bacon has been growing quite well also, but the Sticks have been outpacing it.”

To fulfill the demand for its products, the company just installed the equipment for quadrupling its processing capacity. Its Meat Sticks, which retail for $1.69 to $1.99, are currently distributed nationally in Whole Foods and through major natural foods distributors to hundreds of co-ops and natural and conventional grocers around the country.

For more information, visit


Gourmet Sausage from the Heart of Montana


By Lorrie Baumann

Uncle Bill’s Sausages started with a breakfast burrito. Today, Uncle Bill’s Sausages makes 50 varieties of sausage that are sold in supermarkets across Montana.

That breakfast burrito came into the story when Bill Stoianoff went to San Francisco to attend the Winter Fancy Food Show. He was staying with a friend, and he thought he’d make her a nice breakfast burrito one morning to help show his gratitude for the lodging. To make his burrito, he says, you boil a potato the night before, and then in the morning, you cube it up, dice an onion and fry it, and you scramble an egg with some sausage in it. He’d bought some chorizo to put into it, but when he opened the package and looked at it, it scared him so badly that he just tossed it into the garbage. “It was one of those aha moments where you think, ‘I could do this better,’ and that’s what I do,” he says. “I said, ‘You know, I could make this from pork shoulder, and it would be better.’”

That started something. In 1987, he went to New Orleans to take lessons in andouille. “I had a letter of introduction, and in the South, a proper introduction is everything,” he says. “I couldn’t get the good stuff, so I learned to make it.”

Uncle Bill Making Sausage at K C Foods 003He came back to Montana from New Orleans, met up with a friend who was opening a Cajun restaurant and made up a batch of the andouille he’d just learned to make. “We were in business after that,” he says. “I used to make it in a teeny kitchen in the back of a bar that was about three phone booths big.” Then after a few years, a butcher who was supplying him with his meat offered him the use of his kitchen, and Stoianoff made his sausage there for the next 15 years. “It’s just kind of the Montana way of things,” he says. “You just say, ‘This seems like a good idea,’ and run with it.”

For the past nine years, he’s been making his sausage in a commercial processing kitchen called the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Ronan, Montana. It’s a hundred-mile drive from Stoianoff’s home in Missoula, but it’s worth the drive because it’s also a US Department of Agriculture-inspected facility, which allows for commercial production. “Before that, I could only sell in the farmers market,” Stoianoff says. “Now I can sell to grocery stores.”

It’s just wonderful. I went to Bozeman to get more USDA training,” he says. “To do USDA, you have to be perfect. But once you’re certified, people will buy it because they know it comes from a completely clean situation.”

Stoianoff insists on using only high-quality ingredients. “No preservatives, no additives, no fillers, low fat, low salt, and I grind all my spices from whole just before I use them,” he says. “It’s made with pork shoulder. No noses, hoses or roses. They call that offal for a reason.”


Maple Leaf Farms Introduces Southwest Style All Natural Boneless Duck Breast

Maple Leaf Farms, a producer of quality duck products, has added Southwest Style All Natural Boneless Duck Breast to its retail product selections.

Maple Leaf FarmsThe gourmet-flavored duck breast is marinated with a robust, Southwestern spice blend featuring garlic and cayenne pepper. The marinade enhances the duck’s delicious natural taste which makes this product great as a main menu item or an addition to salads, pasta, stir-fry, quesadillas or fajitas.

Featuring all natural ingredients, the gourmet-flavored duck breast comes with unscored skin and offers easy-to-follow cooking instructions on the inside package label.

“This is the third flavor for our marinated duck breast line,” says Duck Marketing Director Cindy Turk. “Providing the duck breasts already marinated with gourmet flavor helps consumers create restaurant-quality meals with minimal time and effort in the kitchen.”

For convenience, Maple Leaf Farms Southwest Style All Natural Boneless Duck Breast is available frozen in clear, vacuum skin packaging that gives full view of the product. Nine duck breasts (7.5 ounces each) come per case for retail stores. Branded freezer trays are also available for display of the product. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Southwest Style All Natural Boneless Duck Breast is $8.95.

Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. Announces New Brand Logo, Products, and Consumer Campaign

Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. has just introduced a new brand logo reflecting its natural and organic product values. The brand logo is concurrent with the launch of new Empire® Kosher deli and grocery products, including the first-ever line of kosher uncured deli meat products that are minimally processed, contain no artificial ingredients, have no added nitrates or nitrites, and are made from turkey and chicken that are never administered antibiotics. Empire operates its own hatchery, humanely-raising its flocks on family farms in accordance with Empire’s standards. In addition, Empire Kosher will introduce a line of kosher, certified organic soups and broths, and a special reduced sodium chicken broth formulation certified kosher for Passover.

“Empire Kosher brand poultry and deli meat products are on-trend to meet the demands of our loyal consumers who have enjoyed Empire Kosher products for decades, as well as our growing number of millennial consumers,” stated Jeffrey N. Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. “Consumers can now enjoy new products meeting the high standards for kosher and quality that Empire Kosher delivers in its natural or certified organic products, and we are extending that vision to deli meat products, value-added poultry, and soups and broths to be introduced this year at Kosherfest, the world’s largest B2B trade show for the kosher industry,” he continued. “We will continue to build upon our very strong brand recognition in the kosher market to expand into new categories, with innovative products combining our expertise in kosher with our knowledge of the natural and organic market, to meet the demands of the growing number of consumers who want both,” he concluded.

Empire Kosher’s new deli line-up debuting at Kosherfest includes natural, slow-roasted turkey breast; natural smoked turkey breast; and natural turkey pastrami in both bulk and pre-sliced 7-ounce sizes. The pre-sliced products come in resealable packaging that has a reduced environmental footprint compared to the brand’s deli line previously sold in tubs.

Blue Sky Family Farms Eggs Now Available at Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division

 Blue SkyBlue Sky Family Farms, presented by Egg Innovations, the nation’s largest producer of 100 percent free range and pasture raised eggs, announced the arrival of Blue Sky Family Farms eggs to the Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division.  The three new offerings of Blue Sky Family Farms’ Free Range Non-GMO Brown, Organic and Pasture Raised Organic eggs are available in Whole Foods Market stores in KentuckyMarylandNew Jersey (MarltonPrinceton and Cherry Hill),OhioPennsylvaniaVirginia and Washington D.C.

Blue Sky Family Farms’ eggs are currently available at more than 550 finer grocery and natural stores throughout the Midwest.  The expansion into Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division represents the more than 100 years of success of the family-owned operation.  Egg Innovations’ 2015 growth includes completing 33 new barns, a new $5 million organic, non-GMO feed mill, and construction on a new processing plant that allows for future expansions in 2016 and beyond.

“We’re excited to have Blue Sky Family Farms in Whole Foods Market in the Mid-Atlantic area to meet the demand for better eggs and more ethical treatment of chickens,” said John Brunnquell, Founder and President of Egg Innovations and Blue Sky Family Farms. “For more than 25 years, Egg Innovations has provided enhanced value specialty eggs, and we are eager to expand to this new area with a great partner in Whole Foods Market.”

With its tag line, “Ethical Eggs for the Humane Race,” Blue Sky Family Farms holds to the highest Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) “Certified Humane” standards for free range and pasture raised eggs.

Japanese-style Wagyu Beef Raised in America


By Lorrie Baumann


The judges at this year’s sofi Awards were apparently very impressed by the beef products offered for judging by Lone Mountain Wagyu LLC, awarding the company a sofi and two Finalist statues at the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show. Lone Mountain Wagyu beef products are made from 100 percent fullblood wagyu beef. Wagyu refers the breed of Japanese cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to a high percentage of unsaturated fat.

The cattle that produce the beef in the Lone Mountain Wagyu products are raised on a New Mexico ranch owned by Robert Estrin and his wife Mary Lloyd Estrin. The ranch has been in Mary’s family since her parents bought it in 1965. After they passed away, Robert and Mary took over the ranch, which was running a conventional Angus herd. But after Robert tasted some Wagyu beef at a restaurant, he decided to convert the herd to wagyu operation. “He just fell in love and decided that was the direction to take the ranch,” said Nellie Stadtherr, Marketing Specialist for Lone Mountain Wagyu.

He traveled to Japan to learn more about wagyu cattle and how they are bred and managed in Japan. By 2008, Estrin had converted the ranch into a 100 percent wagyu operation. “His passion for authentic wagyu beef has supported the value of the brand, which is around raising the cattle in the most humane and traditional methods to produce the best quality beef possible,” Stadtherr said.

The cattle are fed a mixture of grasses supplemented with grain feed, which is critical to develop the marbling that wagyu is so famous for. At about 1 year of age, they’re transferred to a Certified Humane feedlot where they’re fed a blend of grains specifically developed for wagyu beef until they’re harvested at 28 to 32 months. The long stay at the feedlot allows the cattle to gain weight in a natural, slow process, according to Stadtherr. “They’re not rushed to gain weight to slaughter, so they develop a more delicate marbling.”

In 2010 the ranch began offering its products direct to consumers on its website and started a restaurant program as well. A product line sold through specialty meat shops and gourmet retailers was launched in January 2015 at the Winter Fancy Food Show with the Lone Mountain Wagyu 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Summer Sausage that won a sofi Award at this summer’s Fancy Food Show along with the 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Sausage Links and 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Jerky that were named sofi Finalists this year. Both sausages are the first and only 100 percent fullblood wagyu sausages on the market, Stadtherr said. The products appeal not just to the very affluent but also to other consumers who appreciate the gourmet quality of the product or who prefer to eat all-natural humanely raised beef that they can be sure contains no antibiotics and no hormones, she added.


Dry-Age Beef, Charcuterie and Salumi at Home with UMAi Dry


By Lorrie Baumann

UMAi Dry® Artisan Meat KitUMAi Dry offers consumers the means of dry-aging or dry-curing their meats at home. Originally targeted for foodservice professionals when UMAi Dry was launched in 2009, the product has attracted the attention of culinary consumers who are using it successfully to dry-age steaks and dry-cure charcuterie and salumi at home.

Fundamentally, UMAi Dry is a moisture-permeable membrane for dry-aging meat in the refrigerator. It functions as a combination of the traditional dry-aging method and the modern wet-aging method. It allows meat to be exposed to enzymatic activity, which enhances its rich texture and buttery flavor, just like old-fashioned dry-aging methods, but it does so with modern technology, to provide the food safety protection and ease that people need,” said Thea Lopatka, President of Drybag Steak LLC, which produces UMAi Dry. The company was founded by Lopatka, who then brought on college classmate Igor Pilko as CEO in 2013.

To cure a prosciutto, a pancetta or bresaola with UMAi Dry, the user rubs the cut of meat with curing salt and spices, refrigerates it for a couple of weeks to absorb flavor and draw out moisture, then rinses off the salt and spices and vacuum-seals it into an UMAi Dry bag. The meat then goes back into the refrigerator for six to eight weeks until it’s lost 35 to 40 percent of its weight. The company includes recipes with the kits and demonstration videos online for a wide range of salumi and charcuterie projects, as well as a wealth of information regarding how to dry age steak.

We’ve noticed an increasing interest in capicola and in creating dishes like pancetta, which is rather simple to make because pork belly is now available everywhere,” Lopatka said.

Dry-aging a steak cut is even simpler: a whole subprimal ribeye will go into a large UMAi Dry bag that’s vacuum-sealed and placed in the refrigerator to age for four to six weeks.

UMAi Dry® Artisan Meat Pack - Dry Aged SteakAt a butcher or a warehouse club store, you can find the full subprimal piece in the processor packaging, so that it has all the fat attached and the muscle is intact. Whenever possible, try to transfer from processor packaging directly into the UMAi Dry. During the aging process, the meat will develop a mahogany brown bark, and when that is trimmed off, it is best to strip the parts that would be cut off anyway. You want to leave on the fat because that will develop the nutty, earthy taste that’s characteristic of dry-aged beef,” Lopatka said. “After you’ve dry-aged the meat, trimmed off the bark and cut it into steaks, they can be individually sealed and frozen. They freeze beautifully.”

The secret to the process is the UMAi Dry bag, which is made of a special membrane that’s moisture-permeable and oxygen-permeable. This allows moisture to flow out of the meat and into the refrigerated atmosphere around it, and the result is the kind of product that’s usually only available from a specialty meat shop.

The products designed for the retail market have been selling well online since the brand launched them through a Kickstarter campaign that began in April. Those commitments have now been fulfilled, and the company is ready to expand distribution into retail stores.

There are currently three products for the retail shelf: the Artisan Meat Kit, the Charcuterie Pack and the Dry-Aged Steak Pack. The Artisan Meat Kit, which retails for $170, includes a small appropriately designed vacuum sealer, a charcuterie pack for five items and a dry-aged steak pack that allows the user to dry age three full boneless ribeyes or strip loin subprimals (14-20 pounds).

The Charcuterie Pack retails for $30 and includes two large and three smaller UMAi Dry bags, enough curing salt to cure 30 pounds of meat, some juniper berries and VacMouse adapter strips that allow the UMAi Dry membranes to be sealed with the vacuum sealer. (Consumers can use basic model vacuum sealers or the one UMAi Dry offers). The Dry-Aged Steak Pack retails for $28 and includes enough supplies to dry-age three 14-20-pound strip loin or ribeye subprimals.

The kits are available online now, through Amazon and at Visit to learn more.


Fork in the Road Foods Launches Gourmet Sausage Line at Whole Foods Market

Most Whole Foods regions will begin offering Fork in the Road Food’s Non-GMO Project verified gourmet sausages and hot dogs in early September. The line includes six chicken and heirloom pork varieties.

“We are continually striving to improve our standards and take a better path,” said Phil Gatto, CEO of Fork in the Road. “In speaking with our customers and farmers over the past few years, we knew that going non-GMO would be a step in the right direction. We are happy to offer consumers a product that is free of genetically modified organisms and meets our guidelines for animal welfare and quality.”

Fork in the Road received Non-GMO Project verification after a rigorous testing process to ensure all animal feed and product ingredients, as well as their manufacturing plant, met the Non-GMO Project Standard. As with all Fork in the Road products, the sausages are produced from meat raised without the use of antibiotics and added hormones, and is animal welfare certified under the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step Program. Products contain no synthetic nitrates or nitrites, or artificial ingredients and preservatives.

“Whole Foods Market is excited to introduce Fork in the Road’s new line of sausages and hot dogs from non-GMO-fed chicken and pigs,” said Becky FaudreeWhole Foods Market Global Senior Meat Coordinator. “We are proud of this exclusive partnership where we have both worked hard to bring our customers a new and unique product in the meat space.”

Fork in the Road’s new non-GMO sausage line includes:

  • Vermont Maple Syrup Breakfast Sausage
  • Bratwurst Made With Heirloom Pork
  • Asian Style Pork Sausage with Ginger and Scallions
  • Fire Roasted Fuji Apple Chicken Sausage
  • Spicy Heirloom Pepper Chicken Sausage
  • Honest Dogs™ Uncured Chicken Hot Dogs

For more information, visit

Smithfield Foods Expanding Dry Sausage Facility

Smithfield Foods’ Cudahy, Wisconsin, facility, which produces the company’s Patrick Cudahy brand as well as additional Smithfield branded products, has broken ground to expand its existing facility by 12,500 square feet, adding four new smokehouses and two dry rooms. The new space will increase production capacity by 3 million pounds annually and allow for four additional dry rooms when future sales demand more volume. The expansion is scheduled to be complete in March, 2016. Smithfield will continue making various salami and pepperoni products at the dry sausage facility.

This marks the second major expansion to the facility this year, as the facility also broke ground in April on a new $12 million bacon slicing plant. The 17,000-square-foot plant includes four slicing lines that will increase Smithfield’s bacon capacity by approximately 10 million pounds annually. The plant is expected to be fully operational by October.

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