Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chicago Meets Meat

On Wednesday, November 17th, Park Grill’s Executive Chef Bernie Laskowski and I attended the 2010 State of the Plate conference. It was the first of its kind in Chicago, bringing distributors, producers, educators, chefs, and restaurateurs together for one day to learn about and discuss sustainable foods, with a major focus on sustainable meats. It was a fantastic opportunity to really understand exactly how the meat industry works in America today (it’s not pretty) and to provide an opportunity for sustainable producers and distributors to connect with chefs and other consumers to form business relationships.

Because of this event awareness was raised about where our food comes from and how it’s produced, which has been intentionally hidden from the American public for years. It’s now our job, on the consumer level, to right the wrongs of the food industry by purchasing sustainable foods (foods that do not detriment the environment, the animals, the workers, or our health). America prides itself on producing food the cheapest and fastest in all the world, obviously there are consequences to that. Our mindset as a whole needs to change. Instead of looking for the cheapest and easiest way, we need to start looking for what is the best way; the right way.

The verdict at State of the Plate was that choosing grass-fed, not corn-fed, beef as well as eating local and seasonal produce are the best, most sustainable options. Finding grass-fed beef at grocery stores is extremely hard these days, but the Green City Market has made it a lot easier for Chicagoans to purchase sustainable foods from local farmers. Check out the website (http://www.chicagogreencitymarket.org).

If you are going to venture into the grocery store to look for sustainable foods you will need to be able to decipher the complicated and sometimes meaningless labels and terms that you will encounter. Click here to download a glossary of meat and agricultural terms created by the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op.

As far as restaurants go on the green food front, Park Grill has made some pretty significant menu changes to address this growing consciousness. The new menu offers dishes with more of an emphasis on seasonal vegetables, instead of huge quantities of meat, and when meat is offered it is often from the local farms we work with. Recently Chef Bernie purchased a whole cow from Marcotte Farms and created specials to ensure the whole animal was utilized, from tip to tail.
Click here to see the full menu.

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