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Squandered Treasures

February 28, 2011

I find it embarrassing. It’s beyond merely sad or disappointing.

The comment I received recently from Greg up on the farm only served to solidify my position. It’s embarrassing that our local restaurants don’t support this world-class local pork producer and that all of their output is being sent down to the big city.

Admittedly, Flying Pigs Farm is expensive. I would agree with Greg that it is not expensive for what it is. But compared to conventional pork from Sysco, it’s in an entirely different league.

So naturally when Flying Pigs Farm pork is on the menu it’s not cheap. At Telepan it’s on the menu for $31 and at Il Buco it will set you back $29. Mind you, these are Manhattan restaurants with Manhattan prices where restaurants need to pay Manhattan rents.

Obviously there is still something about restaurants in Albany that I’m missing, because it’s not uncommon for these price points to be in line with some of our local top tables.

One of my mantras over time has been that Albany restaurants should be less expensive. However, if they are going to charge the same prices as Manhattan restaurants, they should at least be able to deliver the same quality ingredients. Right? Especially since these ingredients come from our backyard.

Allow me to demonstrate how restaurants in our area would seem to be able to charge enough for an entrée that includes restaurant quality ingredients like the pork for Flying Pigs Farm. In no particular order:

Angelo’s 677 Prime has at least 11 entrées that are more than $30.
Taste has 8 entrées that are $28 or more.
McGuires has 11 entrées over $32.
Yono’s has 12 entrées at $28 or above.
The Brown Derby has 5 entrées at $28 plus.
Jack’s Oyster House has 11 entrées over $30.
Provence has 5 entrées priced at $28 plus.
Nicole’s has 8 entrées priced at $28 plus.

And this is just scratching the surface of Albany without even venturing up to Saratoga Springs.

A few of these restaurants would be a natural fit for Flying Pigs Farm’s delicious pork products. The Brown Derby carries a Pride of New York seal on its menu. The restaurant has shown a commitment to local products and having pork from Flying Pigs Farm would be consistent with that. 677 Prime is grill centric and its guests seem to be insensitive to price, so primal cuts of heritage pork seem like a match made in heaven. Chef Yono is into the unusual, so much so that he has kangaroo on the menu. Unique breeds of pigs that most people have never tasted seem right up his alley.

There really isn’t a serious butcher here that I would expect to carry this pork. Honest Weight Food Co-op seems to reluctantly have some frozen meat on hand for some of the most ridiculous prices I have seen anywhere.

With any luck Flying Pigs Farm will decide to start selling direct to consumers at one of our local farmer’s markets in the near future. I’m pulling for the Troy market. Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve been. But it seems to be the most convenient for those coming from the three cities to its north, west and south. Plus it’s four seasons long, and there are great donuts nearby (both glazed and Boston cream).

The Schenectady Greenmarket would be another good option.

But for now it is really up to the restaurants. Perhaps if they know that people are paying attention, one or two of these places will step up their game. I’d be thrilled to help promote each and every fine dining establishment that puts pork from Flying Pigs Farm on their menu. Hopefully you all would be equally thrilled to eat it.

Then we could all hold our heads up, just a little bit higher.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen permalink
    February 28, 2011 11:32 am

    Do we know for sure these restaurants don’t use another local pork source? Flying Pigs isn’t the only farm within 100 miles of Albany raising “happy pigs.” I agree these places should be serving high quality, ethically-raised food for the price.

  2. February 28, 2011 11:38 am

    I can’t understand why any local establishment that touts quality fare wouldn’t use as much local food as possible. Sure, off-season fruits and vegetables need to be obtained elsewhere, but meats, cheeses, dairy, and breads are nearly year-round.

  3. Stevo permalink
    February 28, 2011 12:14 pm

    Yeah, that’s what I look for in a farmers market, great donuts nearby.

    • March 4, 2011 6:02 pm

      Do not mock the donuts. If you mock the donuts, your priorities are clearly very wrong.

  4. Chris permalink
    February 28, 2011 12:35 pm

    Yeah, what’s up with the co-op recently? A ~1 pound grass-fed RibEye that used to run about $15 is now around $22. I can buy the same cut (fresh or frozen – nice to have the option) directly from the same farmer at the Troy market for $12-$13 or so. Even some of the ground beef & pre-formed patties have creeped up to the $12-$15 per pound range; $4-7 directly from the farmer.

    And of course, splurging on a side of beef will yield a mixed bag of cuts & ground for $4-5 per pound – which is how I’m sure the co-op buys it in bulk.

    Is a 100%+ markup on the meat really necessary?

  5. February 28, 2011 8:23 pm

    I’ve got to agree with Jen here. There are several local farms producing pork. Bornt Farms and a few others already sell pork at the Troy Farmers Market. I have never been to the farms, but what I have read about Arcadian Pastures and John Boy’s Mountain View Farm, they appear to be doing it right. Several other local farms can be found at local harvest.org. Is there a reason pork from Flying Pigs Farm is assumed to be more desirable?

  6. February 28, 2011 11:37 pm

    I spent some time on the farm with Paul and Phyllis Willis, proprietors of the Niman Ranch pig operation. What I know about happy pigs came from them. One thing I learned is that pig heritage is a fairly slippery issue… think about the fact that “wild boars” are simply domestic pigs that have had the opportunity to grow their tusks.

    In Washington County, the Lewis Waite farm raises lots of pigs who have been rescued from various unsavory conditions. They root around happily with no regard to provenance until they have, as Paul Willis says, that “one bad day”. They taste delicious and I believe it is due to lack of stress (which releases unappetizing hormones into these very intelligent animals) as well as the lack of processing methods that cause the meat to be watered down. Also, the pig is one of three omnivores along with bears and humans. What they eat is what you will eventually eat. “Healthful” Omega-3 rich pigs are created by eating lots of fish. There’s a Faulkner story about the pig eating people but I do not recall a nutritional analysis.

    So, bless the folks at Flying Pig. Sounds like they have great husbandry methods and it’s great they are prospering as a result. But let’s not gnash our teeth that we cannot find their meat locally. Instead let’s find others, and encourage others, to use the same husbandry methods.

  7. March 1, 2011 12:29 am

    Our restaurant, Farmhouse at Top of the World in Lake George has been carrying Flying Pigs Farm Pork on our menu for 6 years. It is great pork and is a staple on our menu. We buy in half pigs and our chef Kevin London does the butchering and is able to serve “nose to tail”

    • March 4, 2011 12:07 pm

      Kim, yes, we have been very happy to be able to work with Kevin and ToW for so many years.

      To the other folks, you’re right that there are other producers in the area that are doing really good things when it comes to pork. We obviously think we have a great product, but there are others locally that do as well. We encourage support for all the region’s farmers.

  8. March 7, 2011 10:28 am

    Tilldale Farms in Hoosick have incredible, affordable organic pork & beef. They vend at the Delmar Farmers Market June – December. Our family has been eating their meats all year and we’ve gotten to know the farmers, Dany & Joanne Tilley – they do an outstanding job of producing sustainable meats and they have a CSA (plus they’re friendly as hell). Shoot them an email if you’re interested in joining their rolling membership: tilldalefarm@gmail.com

    Britin

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