Last week, I was fortunate enough to have been invited by The Wisconsin Beef Council to attend The Kansas Beef Council's Pasture to Plate program in Wichita, Kan. It was a three-day trip educating chefs and industry professionals about the chronological life cycle of beef cattle.
Some of you may be true carnivores – real meat-and-potatoes types who don't consider it a meal without a juicy cut on the place. Others are no doubt vegans or vegetarians, with personal or perhaps even public positions on whether or not meat is ethical.
It's no surprise that I'm a meat eater. But what I learned on this recent trip is that beef producers dedicate a tremendous number of people to responsibly breed, raise and process cattle.
The most impressive stop on the tour was the state-of-the-art Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kan. The company makes a point of producing less meat than the average beef producer – about 1,500 head of cattle a day, compared to some of the larger plants that can produce upwards of 6,000.
Their main focus is verifiable premium-quality black angus beef produced consistently with a high regard to animal welfare. They employ many animal welfare techniques introduced by Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., a leading expert on autism and animal welfare, portrayed by Claire Danes in the movie named after Dr. Grandin.
This trend is finally catching on with producers and consumers alike. When food producers have a higher regard for quality over quantity, the result is a better product. As a chef, the better the ingredient we have to work with, the less manipulation is required on our part.
If you don't already know, here are some other truly passionate chefs in this state that take these issues very seriously: Peter Sandroni from La Merenda, Tory Miller from Le Etoile in Madison, Justin Aprahamian from Sanford, Dave Swanson of Braise, Jan Kelly of Meritage, Dan Van Rite of Hinterland and Adam Lucks of Comet Café & Honey Pie, just to name a few.
Aside from the social responsibility, at heart most chefs are ingredient geeks and want to be the first in town with the latest techniques and most progressive ingredients. The fun part is, this thought process is bringing like-minded professionals together to further advance Wisconsin's culinary arts.
I've always said, just because there's a line around the block to get in, doesn't mean it's good. Do your part to support producers, chefs and restaurateurs that take the time to care about what you eat.
Chef Jason Gorman has been eating for almost 41 years, cooking for 26 years, and has had the privilege of working with some of the country's top chefs and restaurants.
He's been fortunate enough to have worked in many different aspects of the hospitality world, from fast casual service, "ma and pa" restaurants, catering, 1,000-room plus hotels, independent stand-alone restaurants, some corporate chains, a casino, 4- and 5-diamond restaurants, even a steakhouse and the state's No. 1 boutique hotel, The Iron Horse Hotel.