The Domestication of Cattle Cait

What is a "Heritage" Breed?

The Domestication of Cattle CaitWith the recent movement across the country towards sustainably-produced, organic, humane, Eco-friendly, grass-fed meats, one label in particular jumps out at me in places where it shouldn't: "heritage". The heritage label is rarely seen in the supermarket, but many smaller producers are jumping on the bandwagon, for good (and bad) reasons. Heritage breed livestock are known for being a bit hardier in conditions that pasture-based and non-conventional producers raise their animals in, they generally have better parasite and disease resistance, and it just feels good to help preserve an endangered breed with historical and cultural significance.

Unfortunately, the term "heritage" is muddled in many ways and leads to some confusion from the consumer and sometimes even the producer. The organization that coined the term "heritage", The Livestock Conservancy, defines that heritage breeds, as quoted from their informational website, " ... are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment, and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture."

The Livestock Conservancy is dedicated to preserving endangered heritage breeds that have fallen by the wayside and been replaced by industrial-type breeds that are better suited to conventional animal production practices. Heritage breeds are typically bred for specific climates, topography (mountains versus plains versus swampy woodlands), and use. They also must be able to breed naturally (unlike most industrial poultry varieties including Broad-Breasted turkeys and Cornish cross broilers). The organization also keeps a Conservation Priority List that outlines specific breeds of eleven different species and organizes them according to level of rarity.

There's a laundry list of reasons why or why not to raise heritage breeds, and that's for another post. Awareness is the first key step in preserving these genetically valuable animals; the second key step is integrity from producers. When buying meat labeled as "heritage", do research to ensure that actual heritage breed stock is used at the farm — or, if you are the producer, do your part in keeping purebred heritage-type breeds if they appropriately suit your needs. Angus cattle, Broad-Breasted turkeys, and Cornish cross broiler chickens are not heritage breeds, and these are only a few of the commonly mistaken animals. They may work perfectly for a producer, but honesty and understanding of this particular label are key for ensuring its integrity and meaningfulness. Heritage means a lot when applied properly.

palm turkey
Pictured: Stephen, Royal Palm tom turkey

How to Make a Lazy Semi-Polish Dinner

This is an exciting, easy dish to use to dupe your friends into thinking that you can cook exotic and delicious things. I dumped this one on my roommates last second, and they tolerated it with sub-par enthusiasm, but at least they sort-of picked at it. I, personally, absolutely loved it.

First off, you'll need to gather the things. I have to tell you that, having grown up in a Polish family in a Polish-strong part of the country, it was pretty annoying to have to hunt for decent sauerkraut and kielbasa that isn't from Hillshire Farm. I settled on a jar of domestic kraut, ugh, and the dreaded HF beef kielbasa. It isn't as good as our homemade pork kielbasa, but it did the job. That's probably why it didn't end up as fabulous as I had hoped.

IT WAS BETTER.

Just kidding, but I'd give it an 8.5. I impressed myself.

But seriously, here's the ingredients you'll need to make the best lazy Polska-esque dish ever:

2 things of kielbasa, or Hillshire Farms' imitation of kielbasa, which is essentially a hot dog in the shape of a horseshoe
1 jar of kraut, preferably imported but do what you can
1 pre-packaged, styrofoam-wrapped container of pre-cut sweet peppers and onion from the deli (you could also get sweet peppers and onion yourself and cut them, if you have the sort of excessive leisure time for such things)
1 fat potato
some oregano
some salt
some pepper
some EVOO
vodka (Sobieski, or Stoli if you live in a region that lacks quality alcohol. Down here in south Georgia, I'm stuck with Popov)

Cut the potato into thinnish chunks so that it cooks fairly quickly. Slice your horseshoe hotdog into slices, and dump the concoction into a frying pan with your pile of deli veg. Drizzle too much olive oil on it (because fat) and mix some of the herbs and salts in there. Turn the heat on high. In an ideal world, you could put a lid on the frying pan and let it all simmer and steam together, but four interns can't be expected to have full sets of cookware, so I just used a plate to contain the heat and then utilized salad tongs to slowly turn and mix the mess so that it didn't burn too badly. All in all this system worked very well. Put as much or as little oregano and spices as you wish. Take a shot.

After the potatoes seem to be decently cooked (I prefer them a little crunchy, more out of lack of patience than palate preference, but it's not bad), remove from heat. Take a shot. Let cool, and then dump on a plate.

Open the kraut. Try to open the kraut. Ferociously attack the lid of the kraut jar. Take a shot. Ask your stronger roommate to open the kraut. Ask your Internship Husband to open the jar for you, because this is his job. He successfully loosens it, but in reality, it was a group effort, so he doesn't get a sandwich. Take two shots.

Now that you're sufficiently woozy, anything is delicious. Dump your mess onto a plate, apply way too much kraut on top of the mess, and enjoy.

Take a shot.

kielbasa hash

Photo credit: Alena Ivakhnenko