The sustainable food movement is made up of two groups: farmers who want to grow better food and customers who want to eat better food. Customers go to the farmers market seeking out organically grown produce or bread made with local flour, thereby creating demand for those goods. Farmers bring to market pasture raised meats and new varieties of vegetables helping to educate their eaters and open a dialogue about food.
There is a third critical group. I like to think of them as the fixers of the food movement. They look for the missed opportunities, the holes and gaps, the tricky ideas that no one else wants to tackle. It happens on a regular basis that certain things we might want to accomplish as part of the food movement require a lot of coordination or a lot of infrastructure. This is all lead up to explain why a company like Happy Valley Meat Company is so important.
Alex Dimin and Dan Honig started Happy Valley just a few months ago to make it simpler for chefs and companies like Quinciple to get sustainably raised beef. Chefs are used to ordering 20 lbs of skirt steak or four pieces of brisket. Farmers have two options for their beef. They can get them back from the slaughterhouse in large primal cuts or individually vacuum sealed and ready for retail sale. The farmer doesn’t always have a lot of control over how their animals are butchered.
Alex and Dan stepped in to become the intermediary. Their first step was to find a slaughterhouse willing to do the kind of custom cutting that chefs have become accustomed to. And that search led them to Rising Spring. Located in Spring Mills, PA it has been around for more than 100 years. But as the meat industry consolidated butchering in a few large plants, Rising Spring closed. Three local farmers realized what a terrible impact this would have on area animal farmers. They found the financing to reopen Rising Spring.
Once Alex and Dan found Rising Spring they looked for local farmers to partner with. The area around State College, PA is called the Happy Valley. Its lush soils make for some pretty fertile pastures. Alex and Dan work with farmers that keep their cattle on pasture for as much of the year as possible. The typical herd size is 60-80 animals, allowing for individualized attention from the farmer. The animals are never given hormones or antibiotics.
With just a few months under their belts Alex and Dan have already gotten Happy Valley beef on the menu at Franny’s, The Green Table and Fette Sau. Dan used to work at Heritage Foods and Alex at Sea to Table so they both bring valuable experience working with chefs to their new venture. They’re helping to fill that gap between farmers in Pennsylvania and chefs in New York. We’re excited to begin working with them in a couple of weeks. And we think you’ll be excited too. Happy Valley beef is pretty darn tasty.