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Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego Farm Bureau, tells me that the reason Curtis Womach, Carl Hempel, and Joel Mendenhall are succeeding is that they aren’t trying to compete with big producers in Imperial Valley or the Midwest. He says that most poultry farmers in San Diego sell only eggs because they can’t compete with larger producers like Zacky Farms. “But it’s all about local now. Local, local, local. Whatever the farmers can do to find a niche will make a market. The way to be successful is not to compete with the conglomerates.”

Despite a slow start, San Diego’s local meat industry does seem to be growing. Both Tamara Hartsten and Curtis Womach tell me that demand is high for their chickens, even at a price of over $15 per bird. Curtis Womach provides chicken to the Linkery, but Tamara doesn’t sell her chickens to local chefs. “We can’t produce the chickens fast enough,” she tells me. “With the price we get at the farmers’ markets, why would we want to go wholesale?”

Chef Jeff Jackson is equally optimistic about the future. On October 31, he held the eighth annual “Celebrate the Craft” event, which connects local farmers, chefs, vintners, and local foodies. He thinks that the local food movement — including meat — is going to continue to grow. “These guys are so intelligent that it makes your head swim a bit,” he says. “And they’re working like hell to live their life. If they figure it out, it’s a great life.”

Curtis Womach, who was a home brewer and stay-at-home dad before he started raising chickens, says his seven-year-old son likes to hang out on the chicken farm. The boy thinks the chickens are lucky to live on his 12-acre, oak-dotted farm. Womach is quiet for a moment. “Yeah,” he adds, “it’s nice where they are.”

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Visduh Nov. 20, 2010 @ 9:11 a.m.

Up into the early 90's there was a local, USDA inspected slaughterhouse. It was Talone's in Escondido. The place was still there, last time I looked. But in recent years I read reports that it was a custom slaughterhouse for those who brought their own animals in, such as goats and sheep. Back when it was processing cattle on a daily basis, it sold beef from a retail sales room. I don't know just what sort of beef it sold then, but I suspected much of it was dairy cow beef that came from local dairies such as Hollandia and a number of others in the San Luis Rey valley. (They are nearly all gone now.) If so, that sure wasn't restaurant quality beef, nor any sort of gourmet fare. It is very odd that in a county with a population of over 3 million, there isn't a single slaughterhouse remaining.


David Dodd Nov. 20, 2010 @ 10:27 a.m.

Same thing happened where I grew up east of Los Angeles. The once-plentiful dairies are gone, the land is worth too much anymore. Sad testament to changing times. And without dairies, I reckon there's no need for slaughterhouses.


MsGrant Nov. 20, 2010 @ 1:44 p.m.

Big agriculture works very hard to put the little guys out of business. One of the reasons I do not eat meat is the manner in which the animals are treated prior, during, and after the horrific process of raising them for consumption. The small slaughterhouses cater to the small farmers who humanely raise their animals and these places provide a far less traumatic slaughter. A few books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and Fast Food Nation come to mind, provide the back story as to why and how the USDA manipulates our food to the point of being criminal and why they want to eliminate small slaughterhouses. I would suggest to anyone who cares about their food and how it gets to their plate to read these books. You will be horrified. But most people in America do not give a sh*t about anything other than getting more food for less money.


Visduh Nov. 21, 2010 @ 3:43 p.m.

WalMart's big selling point is that they sell food for less than just about any other grocer, butcher or dairy. If you love agribusiness and Chinese made artifacts, you'll welcome WalMart into your city. Hmmm. San Diego just made it hard for Walmart to open its supercenters that sell food. Any disconnect here?


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 21, 2010 @ 8:08 p.m.

I find that many things are cheaper at Walmart, but not all. For some reason dog food is always 10% less at my local Stater Bros. Always.

And someone made the comment about the bakery-Walmart has AWFUL bakery/bread products. They must use low quality ingredients.

I also find their dairy products higher than the local grocey, but at least the dairy is the same manufacturer, so the qaulity is the same/consistant.

DO NOT buy bread/cake/any baked goods at Walmart from their bakery..........


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 22, 2010 @ 7:42 a.m.

No, I buy the 40# Pedigree small chuncks dry food, which I usually mix with regular rice that I cook. I then add in chicken broth on top to mix everything and that is their basic chow menu.


Founder Nov. 22, 2010 @ 11:04 a.m.

Have either of you seen the "make it yourself" dog food videos that use a meat grinder?


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 22, 2010 @ 12:14 p.m.

No, I do know a person who does make her dog his own food, using raw foods. But I have never seen a DIY video on dog food.


Joe Poutous Dec. 3, 2010 @ 9:29 a.m.

"And Homegrown Meats just introduced grass-fed beef hot dogs."

I want to try those dogs!


RCCP81 Dec. 10, 2010 @ 2:47 p.m.

According to Iowa Meats Farm/Siesel's anyone who wants to find local meat is not a REAL foodie. I get their Newsletter and the December Newsletter and attacked this article and anyone who doesn't want animals to suffer or want to help their community and the environment by buying locally. Here is what they said:

In the November 18th issue of the “Reader”, there was a lengthy article called “Local Moo, Local Cluck For Foodies”. The author attempts to explain why “local” meat products aren’t available here in San Diego. Although she does a fair job of doing that, it’s apparent that neither she, nor the people she interviews, have a true understanding of what it takes to produce the kind of meats we want in the center of our table. What they say sounds good, but it ignores reality. When talking about beef, they equate “local” and “grassfed” with “good”. They ignore the four elements for tender, flavorful beef. They are youth, inactivity, proper feed, and proper aging. It’s all rational, logical, and posted on our website for the world to see! We have seen this lack of true understanding in articles, blogs, and posted comments on review websites. It prompted us to coin a new phrase: “FAUX (as in phony) FOODIES”. By definition, these are people who learn the terms, but don’t know what they mean! They are the “culinarily correct”. They don’t appreciate food, they talk about it! This is why we really, really appreciate all of you. You, like us, are the true foodies. Your knowledge and understanding are what make this whole thing work. You keep us on our toes and always make us strive to do things better and better.


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