Resource: All-natural Authenticity, Rocky Plains LLP
Today Dave and I found an incredible local foods supplier that is also an invaluable reminder to be ever diligent in our scrutiny of food purchases. It's a sorry state, but the truth is that today we cannot afford complacent trust in potentially misleading labels, even those so wholesome seeming as natural, and even organic. For my Colorado friends, this same farm store is also a genuine gem of a resource, one I'm so excited to share with you (just in case you haven't already gotten to know it yourselves)! Rocky Plains LLP is a family-owned supplier of all-natural products sold direct to consumers, providing a range of reasonably-priced meats, seafood, raw milk, cheeses, and more, all of the highest quality. I first heard of them in the spring (thanks Jesse!), but finally became motivated to check them out after realizing that I couldn't face a bite of meat since seeing Food, Inc. the other week. Rocky Plains is one of only three farms in Colorado whose bison, raised free range, are grass-fed only. For the sake of cheap quantity, others typically shift to corn for the final months. As one of the owners explained to us this morning, this is because meat is paid for by weight, not value. Corn-finishing quickly adds fat, and increases price. We'd bulk up too if we spent entire months eating nothing but corn, but we'd hardly be the athletic specimens we desire to be. Hearing this came as a bit of a mild shock, realizing that even local and natural are subjective terms occupying a broad spectrum.
Dave and I arrived at a perfect quiet gap in the morning today, and were kindly given a personal tour through the store, modest in size but delightfully plentiful in product, rock-solid in reliability for excellent standards on health, humane, and environmental levels alike. Our guide, owner Phil, patiently pointed out the subtle yet clear differences in color of the grass-fed beef, elk, poultry, and pork products to their typical commercial counterparts. The sausages, for example, are solid in color, not the speckled blotchiness we've become accustomed to. This is because they are comprised of only 10% fat, as opposed to the allowed 43% in commercial varieties. Proteins are all frozen, but are vacuum-sealed immediately once prepared, and so can safely last a year or more in your home freezer without sacrificing taste. Newly equipped with a small chest freezer, our plan is to stock up monthly.
Not only is Rocky Plains an amazing go-to source for delicious food, the articles on their website are invaluable resources themselves. For example, I learned that in 2000, the FDA approved irradiation of most food classes, including beef, pork, lamb, and a whole lot more. According to a Rocky Plains article, irradiation is the process by which food is bombarded with high-frequency energy capable of breaking chemical bonds. It works by damaging the DNA of disease-causing bacteria. Sure, this practice lowers bacteria levels, but improperly handled meat can still be at risk for contamination. Further, not all diseases are caused by bacteria with DNA to kill. Mad cow disease, for example, is believed to be caused by infectious proteins called prions. And besides, just the name irradiated meat sounds pretty awful, don't you think? Yet the FDA claims that irradiation is so effective, meat which previously containing E coli may be turned around and marketed to consumers once irradiated.
Rocky Plains does not sell to grocery stores, but they do have two of their own stores, one in Erie/Dacono (which we visited), the other in Loveland. They are well worth the trip. Committed to quality, you can learn a lot just by browsing the freezer shelves or spending a few minutes chatting at the register. This is a family-owned business clearly driven by passion. They take painstaking efforts to make sure the suppliers of their other products adhere to the same code and integrity with which they raise their bison, standards which truly, every consumer deserves as the rule, not the exception.
Photo credit: Flikr user seanabrady