Michael and I (and Julia and Ludo at Urban Digs Farm) have been scheming over the past year to do something we don’t think anyone has really done before. It’s no lunar landing, but we think it’s a new and important way to source your food.
Many local farms offer seasonal CSA boxes. CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture, and that term is pretty descriptive. By subscribing to a particular farm for all their vegetables in a season, the community both supports the farm and shares in the ups, downs and interesting aspects of farming. The shares are paid for upfront, and thus the farmers can afford to purchase equipment, hire staff, etc. So, why can’t we do something similar with farm animals?
The BEASTY BOX program involves Burnaby’s Urban Digs Farm and rest of their farm co-op in the Fraser Valley. Based on the number of subscriptions, these farms will raise chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep, cows and even water buffalo specifically for beasty box members. We are also sourcing pigs from Gelderman Farms.
Re-Up BBQ, as the kitchen partner for this project, receives the animals from the abbatoir and gets to work butchering them and processing the meat so that it will provide a good spread for all the members. It’s a challenge to get everyone a good mix of meaty groceries when you’re not just ordering specific cuts of meat. There’s a lot of planning that must go into making sure a single cow gets divided up fairly between all members. This means that not everyone will get, say, ribs one week, but that some will recieve t-bone steaks, others will get some tenderloin and others yet may find an inside round roast in their boxes.
Additionally, we find that we’ve got to work hard to get the most value out of each animal we receive, so the kitchen crew takes the offal to make terrines and pates, grinds the secondary cuts to make sausages, takes the bones for stock, etc. Then they have to get really creative with the final bits, so they add in some veggies from the farms and make soup, pasta sauce, stews and pies.
We did an experimental subscription this past summer, and it was certainly a learning experience (a delicious one too). Now we think we’ve got into a good rhythm with the beasty box system and good things are going to come to the membership for the winter.
If you’re interested in subscribing, check out www.beastybox.com for more details and sign up sheets.