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Meat & Seafood News

First, the fish. This case is as well-curated as the Blanton. We can tell you a tale about every fish in it. Each one is locally sourced whenever possible. And every selection follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sustainability guidelines. We recommend you strike up a conversation with our fishmongers. They always know the best way to prepare a particular fish and can order you something we don’t have on ice that day.

Which brings us to the meat counter. On any given night this can be the star of your dinner plate. We make our own sausages, rubs and marinades from scratch every single day so it’s easy to bring home something spectacular. Of course we have everything you’d see in any ‘ole butcher case except ALL of our meat is humanely and sustainably raised. We only do business with reputable vendors. Consider what you see in the case as a conversation starter with our butchers. Talk to them about what you have in mind and they can custom cut anything your meat-minded heart desires.

Stuffed Chicken Breast

NEW! For quick weeknight meals or weekend company try our new Smart Chicken Stuffed Breasts.  Housemade  and chock full of fresh ingredients that provide great flavor and a nice presentation. Wheatsville offers the Stuffed Chicken Breasts in two preparations - a butterflied and stuffed single chicken breast and a larger  “roast” preparation. 

Roasts are made with two boneless breasts, turned in opposite directions with the stuffing in between them and netted together. Roast in the oven with the netting and cut it away to serve.  Look for cooking instructions on our stickered labels

Cordon Bleu

This popular classic is stuffed with ham & Swiss and crusted with Panko breadcrumbs for texture.


A delicious exercise in simplicity, baby spinach and toasted pine nuts –it’s a classic with a little pine nutty elegance and is Paleo friendly.

Sun Dried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts with Toasted Pine Nuts

This Mediterranean inspired profile is also Paleo-friendly and tastes fantastic.


Can you use a crock pot to “BBQ” Brisket?

As a matter of fact you can and you should! Set it up before leaving the house in the morning and when you get home, it's a short time to BBQ Brisket. It might not be BBQ in the purest sense, but it is certainly easy.


4-5 lb brisket, shoot for about a 1/4 inch thick of fat cover and lightly score the fat side 

The Rub:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbls chipotle chilis in adodbo sauce, minced
  • 1 tbls ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper

Combine the rub ingredients and rub it all over your brisket. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. 

The other stuff:

  • 3 tbls vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tbls tomato paste
  • 1 tbls chili powder
  • 1 tbls chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbls cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke-I make this recipe with out this, so I feel like it's optional

You will also need a metal loaf pan that fits inside your slow cooker.

The Process:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion until softened-about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until it starts to brown-about a minute.
  2. Mix in the chipotle, chili powder and garlic and cook just until fragrant. Put this mixture in the center of the crock and cover it with the upside down loaf pan.
  3. Add the water and put the brisket on the loaf pan-fat side up. Cook on high for 7-8 hours or on low for 10-12.
  4. Remove brisket and cover with foil to rest for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the loaf pan. The juices will accumulate under the pan and spill out when you break the seal—sweet, sweet sciencey stuff.
  5. Pour the contents of the crock into a bowl and skim fat if you want (i usually do not skim the fat). There should be about 2 cups left. If not, add water.
  6. Pour 1 cup over the brisket after slicing. Whisk ketchup, vinegar and liquid smoke in the remaining juices for your BBQ sauce. Enjoy.

How Awesome is the Crock Pot?

The Crock Pot is a versatile kitchen tool that allows you to choose your basic level of cooking involvement. The science and experiment based cooking shows like Good Eats and Cook’s Country as well as the Cook’s Illustrated magazine have done some great work in bringing the humble crock pot into a modern context and helping realize more of its potential.

Try this recipe for slow cooked pork chops:

• 2 cups vegetable broth            
• ½ cup salt
• ½ cup light brown sugar
• 2 tbsp black peppercorns, slightly crushed
• 1 pound ice
• 4 (1 to 1 ½ in. thick) bone-in pork chops
• 2 tsp salt
• 3 ounces dried apple slices
• 2 tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 large onion, julienned
• 1 ½ cups chicken broth
• 1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
• 1 tsp dried thyme

Combine vegetable broth, ½ cup salt, light brown sugar, and peppercorns in a medium sauce pan. Cook on medium heat until salt and sugar dissolved. Add the ice after removing from heat, Put pork chops into a 2 gallon zip top bag along with brine mixture. Place the bag in a bowl or container and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove pork chops-rinse and pat dry. Season with the salt.
Put apples into the crock pot. Heat 1 ½ tbsp olive oil in sauté pan at medium high heat and brown the pork chops on both sides-5 to 6 minutes per side. Place the pork chops ontop of the apples. Add the remaining olive oil and the onions to the pan. Cook the onions till they start to brown and caramelize-3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chicken broth to deglaze the pan. Add the black pepper and a thyme and move to the crock pot. Cook on high for 1 ½ hours. Reduce the heat and cook for another four and ½ hours.

Even though the recipe calls for 4 and ½ hours-start checking them before that -the pork chops should be tender and pulling away from the bone.

To keep with the ease of cooking try the Near East Rice Pilaf, Couscous or Quinoa boxes. Some sautéed Brussels sprouts would be another great addition to the plate.


New Twists on the Grill

You know why a weekend road trip is so satisfying? Because it’s great to get away from your usual routine and see what’s going on somewhere else. I feel the same way about summer cookouts. Everyone loves ‘em, but there is such a thing as burger and dog burnout, no pun intended!

If you’re up to trying a new twist on the grill, here are a couple of personal favorites that I’m sure you will find grill-friendly and tasty too.

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks

The slow-grilling over indirect heat keeps the chicken moist and tender.

2 large cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
10 Smart Chicken drumsticks
2 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup finely minced onion
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Mash garlic, brown sugar, salt and pepper into a paste using a mortar and pestle or blender. Place the paste in a sealable plastic bag.

Rinse the drumsticks under cold water, pat dry and place in the bag rubbing and tossing to coat well. Refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onions until tender (about 5-7 minutes). Stir in ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Set aside

Prepare a medium heat grill. Oil the grill and brown the drumsticks over direct heat, turning once. Once browned, move the drumsticks to indirect heat (250°F or so) and begin grilling, turning and basting with the sauce every 10 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the juices run clear (about 40 to 45 minutes)

Garlic Butter Steaks

This recipe works well regardless of the type of steak. Just baste with butter for  the best fajitas ever.

½ cup butter
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 top sirloin steaks (10 to 12 oz each)
OR 4 boneless rib eye steaks
olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Remove steaks from refrigerator about 45 minutes prior to grilling. Drizzle olive oil on each steak, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover with plastic wrap or paper towel and place on kitchen counter.
Prepare a hot grill (450°– 600°)

Melt butter with garlic powder and minced garlic in a small sauce pan and set aside.

Grill steaks over hot direct heat for 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from grill and transfer to plates. Brush both side of the steaks with garlic butter and allow to rest 2 to 3 minutes before serving.


Selecting Steaks for the Grill

Steaks are the most lavish of grilling items. Here we are talking strictly about beef, which is what most folks think of when it comes to steaks.

The Middle Meats
The most familiar steaks for most Americans are the middle meats. The middle of the cow sees a lot less action than the front side, the forequarter, and the back side, the hindquarter.  This makes the Ribs, the Strip and the Tenderloin the most tender parts and the fat that surrounds these areas is of the highest quality throughout the animal making them the most luxurious and expensive cuts of beef. Wheatsville currently offers Rib Eyes and Tenderloin. Tenderloin, as the name suggests, is extremely tender with a mild flavor. A nice seasoned crust will help this absurdly tender steak melt in your mouth. Rib Eyes, while not as tender, have a lot of flavor. They are not as lean as tenderloin so You should keep an eye on them when grilling, to avoid flare ups that can over carbonize your steak. Just some salt and pepper is all you really need for these guys.

Sirloin Steaks
The sirloin is the top part of the hindquarter. These steaks are considered to be the second tier of steaks after the middle meats. Sirloin is tender when handled correctly and while not as flavorful as the middles, it certainly packs plenty in the flavor department. From the full cut, a steak from the whole Top Sirloin to the Sirloin Petite Steak, these steaks are a great addition to the grill. You can play with flavors here — use you favorite rubs or marinades. The Sirloin Tip Steaks are cut from a different area but are more tender and flavorful than anything else cut from the round area. They benefit from adding flavor and are great economical cuts for the grill.

Shoulder and Chuck
The simplest and most cost effective way to cut any steak is laterally. In the case of beef shoulders and chucks, this makes a steak that consists of several different muscles that have different grain directions which makes a chewy steak.This is compensated for by cutting the steaks very thin. Here at Wheatsville, we cut those steaks differently. We “seam out” the primal and separate each part into individual muscles and subsequently individual grains. By cutting single muscle steaks they can be cut thicker for the proper cook and a much better eating experience. From the shoulder we get the ranch steak. These steaks are pretty lean and can benefit from rubs and marinades. The Denver steak is cut from the chuck. Chuck is not as lean as shoulder and part of the chuck comes out of the rib eye and steaks cut from there are called Chuck Eye Steaks. These have the flavor and structure of Rib Eyes, but are less expensive.

Be adventurous and try out some new steak cuts. Steaks bring a touch of luxury to the grill—flavorful, delicious and tender.

From our Co+op Kitchen Video Series
How to Cook a Great Steak with Johnny Livesay from Black Star Co-op


How Do We Choose Our Seafood?

Sustainability is one of those tricky words that get tossed around the natural foods world. We have the feeling that sustainable means the process can go on indefinitely without harm to a species or its environment. But there is no universal meaning of harm. It is impossible to have a unified theory of sustainability because different species have different needs.
Freshwater fish need to be farmed to be sustainable and saltwater fish generally should be wild caught. How wild caught fish are harvested can affect sea life from the surface of the water to the sea floor from bycatch, the unintentional catch of species other than what are being fished for. This may also include juveniles or underdeveloped fish of the intended species which are not sold, but disposed of. Some types of nets and lines tear up sea-life habitats. Third party sustainability certifiers evaluate these types of practices and attempt to raise awareness to help keep our oceans and fresh waters abundant with sea life. These agencies look at how the fisherman and the tools they use interact with the environment where the fish are grown and harvested. They observe if the life cycle of the species can maintain itself. They evaluate the impact that consumer demand has on seafood and the environment.

Wheatsville uses two of these watchdog agencies to determine our seafood selection.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has been around since 1999. They use science based, peer reviewed reports- that are available on their website- to evaluate fisheries and seafood. They use their regional pocket guides to raise consumer awareness of the best choices to keep our seafood healthy and sustainable. If scientific data is inconclusive or unavailable they err on the conservative side. Wheatsville only offers best choice and good alternative choices from the MBA Seafood Watch list.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a non-profit organization that uses a third party team to establish the highest standards of traceability and sustainability. This is a voluntary certification, whose standards exceed internationally recognized best practices for fisheries. Products with the MSC seal can be traced back to a certified Sustainable fishery.

Both of these organizations have mobile apps that can be downloaded to your phone or mobile device.
Most of our Seafood comes from the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.
• The Gulf is the closest ocean to Wheatsville. We’re glad of the opportunity to support Texas fisherman and fisheries.
• Alaska: Seafood is the state’s biggest revenue source. It is one of the best managed and maintained fisheries in the world. Alaska has rigid laws to maintain a clean, healthy and sustainable resource.

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Atlantic Farmed Salmon-from Scotland

Atlantic Salmon is in the 'Avoid' selection on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List, but MBA focuses on a whole fishery and not individual farms and fisheries. There are certainly sustainable salmon farms but the certifying world is still catching up with responsibly managed fisheries.

That being said, aquaculture and fish farming have come a long way in the last several years. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, sustainable certification has been pretty slow to catch up (an exception being fresh water fish) with fish farming. That is not to say that there are not plenty of farms and aquaculture that are doing everything right.

The Loch Duart fishery is one of those farms. With almost twice the amount of space given to most farmed Salmon, Loch Duart has tried to make their Atlantic Farmed Salmon as close to a wild caught product as possible. The clean, clear waters of the Scottish Highlands are a perfect place for a superb product that has a great pedigree and the honor of being one of the first farms to be awarded the RSPC's Freedom Food Certifications. This is a sustainability and welfare certification and monitoring program developed by the Royal Society of the the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

For more information, visit Loch Duart.


Knowing the Source of Your Food

It’s always rewarding to see where your food comes from. Whether it’s at a team-building event at Urban Roots or traveling to another part of the country to see the running of the salmon, pig farms in the midwest or just taking a ride to one of the dairies or chicken farms that are in our neighboring counties, being able to feel the land that brought forth your food brings a shared sense of home.

One of the ways for national programs to reduce the need for more and more industrialization is to use many farms with the same standards and genetics as a supply chain. This accomplishes a couple things. It helps to mitigate natural situations like weather and other random events that crop up on farms. It also helps to keep family farms on the land.

Niman Ranch

History: Niman Ranch started in the early 1970s on a small eleven acre ranch in a small coastal town, just north of San Francisco. The animals were raised using traditional, humane husbandry methods and given wholesome all-natural feeds. Before long, Niman Ranch beef became a favorite in local grocery stores and at San Francisco Bay Area restaurants.

In 1995, Niman Ranch added pork to its offering when Paul Willis, of Thornton Iowa was working to revitalize sustainable hog farming methods in the Midwest. Paul's commitment to raise hogs in a humane, old-fashioned way matched Niman Ranch's own principles. Niman Ranch now offered beef, pork and lamb - as rancher Jeannie McCormack had been raising lamb for Niman Ranch since 1992.

Today, the Niman Ranch network has grown to include over 650 independent American farmers and ranchers. Whether they raise hogs, beef or lamb, they all share Niman Ranch's dedication to strict protocols and the belief that all-natural, humane and sustainable methods produce great flavor.

  • Humanely Raised by the Largest Network of U.S. Family Farmers and Ranchers
  • Never Given Antibiotics or Added Hormones - Ever
  • Fed Only the Finest All Vegetarian Feeds

Going Beyond Natural: They go beyond the USDA definition of natural (minimally processed - no artificial ingredients) because they believe it also means the animals have been raised humanely, without antibiotics or added hormones and fed an all natural vegetarian diet. At Niman Ranch, “naturally raised” isn’t a trend. Naturally raised has been their business and passion for over 30 years. Their mission has remained steadfast: to raise livestock traditionally, humanely, and sustainably to deliver the finest tasting meat in the world.

Breeds:The finest tasting meat in the world starts with the finest breeds. To obtain the quality of marbling and tenderness that Niman Ranch pork has become famous for, they suggest Niman farmers raise a genetic cross of Durok, Berkshire and Chester White hogs. All of the cattle in the Niman Ranch program are from Angus breeds.

Feeds: You care about what you and your family eat. That’s why Niman cares about what their animals eat too—and maybe more importantly what they don’t. All their livestock are fed all vegetarian feeds. They are never given added hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products—ever.

Animal Care: We know that an animal’s quality of life impacts the quality of the meat we eat. Niman Ranch has the strictest rules for how livestock is raised. The hogs spend their time out of doors and in deeply bedded pens, with continual access to fresh water and protection from the elements. The cattle and lamb are raised on pasture and then finished on high quality feeds on lots where they are provided with plenty of space and access to water and feed.

Third Party Verification: Niman Ranch is proud to have to have set the industry standard, for sustainable and humane practices. They have worked with animal handling expert and renowned author Dr. Temple Grandin to further improve their program.

Farm Visits — I Saw for Myself How the Animals are Raised

I have been to Paul Willis’ pig farm in Iowa. Situated amongst corn farms, it is picturesque and smells alive. After you put on your boot-length shoe covers you approach a field of hogs. Round open-ended shelters appear out of the dust and corn. Sows and piglets are lounging about in their shelters. Some piglets run after each other, curious about the strangers, then seek the safety of their mothers. The land looks a little chewed over, but it is hog heaven.

Even though Paul Willis is one of the founders of Niman Ranch, when his farm’s turn comes, one of the inspectors from Niman Ranch’s third party organization will come make sure that his farm is living up to the breeding and feed standards and all of the humane treatment standards that all Niman Ranch farms adhere to.

I, along with many other people, was given a tour of this hog farm as part of a yearly celebration event that Niman Ranch holds for their hog farmers. Several chefs are chosen from around the country to prepare a very special meal for the farmers. Niman also give out educational grants for the children of farmers who are planning to go into the agriculture business.

When I attended, the median age for farmers was continuing to go up and most of the younger generation were not interested in becoming farmers. The last I heard, things were starting to improve and younger folks were getting more excited about keeping the family farms. Keeping family farms and helping to make them financially viable is one of the core beliefs of the Niman Ranch organization.

Smart Chicken

I’ve also been to the Smart Chicken Organic Farm in Nebraska. Their organic antibiotic-free line is produced by family farms in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. It is far more challenging to maintain certifications of many small farms than just the one.

The organic barns are nestled into the Nebraska countryside. Chickens are very sensitive to moisture and temperature, so the climate inside the large barns where they are housed is carefully regulated. About every three feet, a door is open where the chickens are free to go outside and eat bugs and small rocks while still being protected from predators. The barns are odor free and the chickens are docile and surprisingly quiet. Even when being transported to the processing facility, they are calm and stress-free. The organic farm is certified humane, not all of the family farms use the same size barns and Smart Chicken has not required that they change this. This is one of the ways that Smart Chicken helps to support their chicken farmers.

It is rewarding to maintain relationships with those who share our high standards. I am proud that Wheatsville contributes to making viable agricultural businesses, which is at the very heart of sustainability.