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Dining

Where to shop sustainably for your holiday table

Know where your food comes from
Pasture-raised hens produce eggs with rich, golden yolks. Photo: Susan Dyer Reynolds

When I talk about the importance of shopping sustainably, some people write me off as an “animal freak” (guilty) or point out how much more expensive it is (true). While I support Proposition 12 (which creates larger, more humane spaces for factory-farmed animals), it isn’t just about the animals. It’s also about what you put in your mouth, and thus, in your body — and that’s something everyone should care about.

Last month there was another outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella linked to raw chicken that sickened 92 people across 29 states, resulting in 21 hospitalizations. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating, hasn’t found a common supplier among the cases, which means it is likely widespread throughout the poultry industry. While there may not be a common supplier, I can guarantee one thing they all have in common: Factory farming, where chickens are raised inhumanely in tight, filthy quarters.

An October 2018 report co-authored by researchers from a range of public-interest groups including Consumer Reports and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups highlighted another problem with factory farming practices: Widespread antibiotic use. They assigned failing grades to 22 of the 25 largest burger chains in America. It turns out your beloved In-N-Out isn’t any better than McDonald’s — only Shake Shack and BurgerFi serve antibiotic-free beef.

I could fill this entire newspaper with cases like these (don’t even get me started on the cruelty and health dangers at factory egg farms), but I’d rather tell you how to avoid them. As we prepare to set our holiday tables, here are the Northside suppliers you can count on when it comes to seafood, meat, and poultry and other items.

SEAFOOD

Alioto-Lazio Fish (440 Jefferson Street, 415-673-5968, crabonline.com) is one of the last family-owned and operated fishing companies in San Francisco, with a rich history that harkens back to patriarch Tom Lazio’s demand for quality, freshness, and reliability. They’ve added a few modern touches (you can order online) but San Francisco residents are fortunate enough to have this iconic spot in their backyard.

With local Dungeness crab season set to begin this month (fingers crossed) it’s time to place your orders for whole crabs, or crabmeat if you don’t want to crack it and clean it yourself. Cracking and cleaning a crab is actually quite simple, and you get to keep the crab “butter” — the tasty innards that add flavor to sauces and soups. The Alioto-Lazio boats will soon begin harvesting local waters at least 25 miles out in the Pacific Ocean (weather and season permitting), so place your orders early. This is the best wild-caught crab you’ll find in the Bay Area. (Editor’s Note: Crab pricing hasn’t been determined yet.)

For oysters, head over to Hog Island Oyster Company (Ferry Building #11A, 415-391-7117, hogislandoysters.com), where you can order their Tomales Bay beauties by the bushel (if you haven’t tried oyster stuffing, you’re missing out).

MEAT AND POULTRY

Belcampo (1998 Polk Street, 415-660-5573, belcampo.com) burst on the scene in 2012, reinventing the meat industry with a mantra of compassion and sustainability that resonated with health-conscious and ecologically sensitive consumers. They built their own supply chain on 25,000 acres of farmland at the base of Mt. Shasta, taking full ownership and control of every aspect from raising the animals to the processing to their retail shops.

Their beef is grass-fed and finished, contributing to a diet rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and balanced Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. For comparison, factory-farmed beef is grain-fed, meaning higher Omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to disease and obesity. Factory farming practices also lead to water degradation via livestock waste and the spread of disease due to the inhumane way the animals are kept. At Belcampo, animals are free to roam, graze, and exhibit natural behavior. Certified by California Certified Organic Farmers and Animal Welfare Approved, all meat processed at Belcampo Butchery is also USDA inspected.

For the holidays, you can preorder their pasture-raised turkeys. Last year they sold two breeds: The more traditional Organic Broad Breasted White ($7.99 per pound) and the Heritage Bourbon Red ($11.99 per pound), which is closer to a wild turkey (leaner, darker, gamier). Call ahead to see what they’ll have for the 2018 holidays.

Other good choices for ordering your holiday bird (or roast) include Prather Ranch Meat Company (Ferry Building #32, 415-391-0420, prmeatco.com) and Marina Meats (2395 Chestnut Street, 415-673-6700, marinameats.com).

OTHER ITEMS

For house-made Jewish specialties, try Wise Sons (1520 Fillmore Street, 415-787-3354, wisesonsdeli.com), which marries classic deli recipes with California’s best ingredients. Bagels are boiled and baked daily, coriander-pepper crusted pastrami is smoked over real hickory, and corned beef is brined for a week with a secret blend of spices. Also not to miss: Freshly baked Jewish rye bread made with organic rye, babka filled with 62 percent bittersweet Guittard chocolate, unctuous classic smoked salmon (delicious on one of those fresh bagels with double-whipped cream cheese), and the signature ’strami salmon (that’s right … pastrami-spiced salmon).

Finally, when you buy eggs for your holiday baking, always look for “pasture raised.” Terms like “free range” and “cage free” are just industry buzzwords that allow factory farms to sell more eggs at higher prices. “Cage free” means hens were allowed to move about the henhouse but still live in over-crowded, dirty conditions. “Free range” require that hens be “allowed” outside, but they’re often discouraged with the use of small doors leading to small concrete spaces.

“Pastured” means hens roam a natural pasture doing natural things (pecking, dusting, eating bugs) during the day while roosting in a hen house at night to keep them safe from predators. These days a lot of people keep chickens as pets, so a quick search for “eggs” on sites like NextDoor will help you find neighbors selling their fresh eggs. I buy my eggs that way — I know all “the girls” by name and bring them treats like kale and watermelon. The eggs come in a pastel rainbow of colors (different breeds, makes no difference taste-wise), and the yolks are bright orange with rich, deep flavor. Once you go pastured, you won’t go back.

 

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