This week, Charlotte Fresh and Hubby had to chance to learn more about The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) during a special dinner at HMG@D. I have briefly mentioned this organization before, but for those of you still unfamiliar with ALBC, it is a membership organization founded in 1977 to bring research and education to farmers so they can become member-breeders and “strengthen the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.” Based in Pittsboro, NC, ALBC works tirelessly to protect over 180 breeds. In addition, they support animal well-being and education on genetic diversity and the role of livestock in sustainable agriculture. Consumers can also join to learn more and to find local farmers from whom to purchase these fresh and healthy saved breeds.
How does breed conservation impact consumers? If you’ve watched any food documentaries lately, you understand that in today’s agricultural environment, food production involves a few select breeds that are selected to maximize output (and profitability) in a large-scale, tightly-controlled environment. While these environments currently have a place in society to address the large-scale needs of huge populations, they don’t always use sustainable practices, don’t focus on animal well-being as much as they should and are contributing to the loss of heritage breeds. Consider the chicken, turkey, lamb, pork and beef available at most supermarkets. They represent only a handful of the breeds in our agricultural history, and we have become accustomed to the singular flavor of each protein. If we can bring rare breeds back, especially via our local farmers who sell at our local farmers’ markets, consumers can experience more diversity and intensity of flavors and potential greater nutritional benefits. Often, if someone tastes a heritage breed, let’s say chicken for example, I hear the response that it tastes “more chicken-y.” As dedicated locavores, you likely understand that experience.
ALBC has a conservation priority list that tracks breeds in five categories: critical, threatened, in watch status, recovering and study. Increasingly, dedicated farmers are working with ALBC to bring these rare breeds back from near extinction so we can preserve our agricultural heritage and save these resources for future generations; especially interesting are those unique to North America. Chefs are also driving interest in these historic breeds, bringing them from farm-to-table. All these activities are terrific. As consumers, we can do our part by requesting heritage breeds from our farmers, by regularly purchasing from our local farmers who are already raising these fine breeds and by considering support of ALBC’s efforts.
Now that I’ve brought the issue and mission to light, it’s time to show some tasty visuals. I referred to chef interest above, so here are some pics of the wonderful creativity shown by Guest Chef Charles Taft (of ALBC), Chef Cassie Parsons and team at HMG@D’s awareness and fundraising dinner the other night. I know it seems strange to say a breed is rare yet you want to eat it, but I think of it as a process: the more consumer exposure to the breed, the more conservation is done, the less rare and more mainstream the breed will become over time, and soon it will be available to all. A total win-win.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take some pics of the talented team in action:
Thanks to the team for creating a delightful menu. I hope this puts a terrific cause on your radar; look out for and ask for heritage breeds from your local farmers – a couple in our area raising heritage breeds are Grateful Growers Farms and New Town Farms.
Ciao, for now!