We’re shedding some light on Niman Ranch this week to celebrate their efforts to provide all-natural meats raised by family farmers committed to sustainable & humane practices. All of their meats will be 20% off this week for member-owners, and it’s a special 10-day sale this time around, so it’s a great opportunity to stock up the freezer! Read on to learn more about Niman Ranch, their dedication to sustainable meat, and the small family farmers who make it possible.
Niman Ranch began in the early 1970’s on an eleven-acre ranch in a small coastal town just north of San Francisco. The cattle 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. Today, the Niman Ranch network has grown to include over 700 independent American farmers & ranchers, who all share Niman Ranch’s dedication to the strictest protocols. Their meats are humanely raised, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and fed only the finest all vegetarian feeds.
Niman Ranch believes that sustainable agriculture is best described as livestock raising and production practices which balance current resource demands without compromising the future of these resources from an environmental, economic, and human perspective. They also believe that sustainability does not end with the farmer and must carry throughout the supply chain. For this reason, they choose to raise livestock in areas where feed sources are locally available to reduce the environmental impact of feed transport. Sustainability at Niman Ranch incorporates sustainable agricultural practices with economic sustainability for the farmers, the ranchers, their customers, and their employees; all of which are an integral part of their overall business philosophy of RAISED WITH CARE.
The Niman Ranch Top 10 Sustainability Best Practices
Pay farmers a premium in accordance to strict raising protocols
Establish a floor price for farmers tied to the cost of inputs of feed and fuel
Promote agricultural biodiversity by using breeds which thrive in their natural environment
Practice genetic diversity to keep breeds healthy over generations
Maintain livestock density well below conventional industry standards so as not to overburden the land
Raise livestock in geographies where feed is locally available to reduce carbon footprint incurred during transport
Mitigate soil erosion and/or loss through maintaining pasture with coverage for livestock, crop rotation, rotational grazing, and responsible waste/manure management
Prohibit use of concentrated liquid manure systems
Use buffer strips and grassed waterways
Provide a robust marketplace for farmers and ranchers and their livestock
Humane Animal Care
All Niman Ranch livestock are humanely raised according to the strictest animal handling protocols. These protocols were written based on the recommendations of animal handling expert Dr. Temple Grandin. Here is a summary:
Livestock are raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens
Livestock always have access to fresh, clean water
Livestock are able to express their natural behaviors in healthy social groups
All farms are gestation crate-free
Click HERE to read in-depth animal-raising protocols
Niman Ranch follows a 3-step process to ensure full compliance with their protocols.
All of their farmers and ranchers regularly complete affidavits agreeing to follow all protocols
Niman Ranch personally inspects each farm before it is accepted into their program to ensure it meets standards
The Niman Ranch field agents, located throughout the country, regularly visit and inspect the farms and ranches in their network. Niman Ranch has more field agents than sales reps!
Click HERE to read more about their practices and view maps of their farm locations
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Cabot Creamery this week to shed a little light on this nearly 100-year-old cooperative creamery, established at a time when cows outnumbered people in Vermont. Cabot’s full line of dairy products are 20% for member-owners this week! Read on to learn all about their humble beginnings, the local farmers that are part of the this cooperative, and how the Cabot name became synonymous with dairy in Vermont:
The Cabot Creamery, headquartered in Waitsfield, VT, is a cooperative made up of more than 1,200 dairy farm families located throughout New York and New England. We manage four plants in three states, employing over 1,000 people, who make “The World’s Best” cheese and dairy products.
The Cabot story reaches back to the beginning of the 20th century. In those days, the cost of farming was low and most farmers produced way more milk than they could market. So, in 1919, farmers from the Cabot area figured that if they joined forces, they could turn their excess milk into butter and market it throughout New England. Ninety-four farmers jumped on board, purchased the village creamery (built in 1983), and began producing butter.
Over the next two decades, as the nation’s population flocked to urban areas, Cabot’s farmer-owners thrived by shipping their milk and butter south. While the national economy shifted away from agriculture, the Vermont economy was still largely based on dairy farming. In fact, in 1930, cows outnumbered people! It was at this time that the company hired its first cheesemaker and cheddar cheese entered the product line for the first time. By 1960, Cabot’s membership reached 600 farm families at a time when the total number of operating farms around the nation was in sharp decline.
Steady growth continued and 1992 was a pivotal year in Cabot’s history as their farmer-owners merged with the 1,800 farm families of Agri-mark, a southern New England co-op dating back to 1918. Together, the combined companies boasted more than 1,500 farms, four processing plants, and a large product line.
Today, Cabot’s future looks bright. Our company blends state-of-the-art facilities and a savvy entrepreneurial spirit with the timeless values and personal commitment to quality that comes from being 100% owned by our farm families. In our Middlebury facility, we recently installed a huge new piece of machinery that will allow us to process 4,000 more pounds of cheese curd per hour than the 8,000 pounds the current machine handles. This 22-ton piece of equipment known as the CheeseMaster will increase production of the 26 truck-sized vats — each holding enough milk to make 6,000 pounds of cheese — that get filled daily.
The Middlebury facility runs 24 hours a day/seven days a week, and serves to make and age Cabot’s famous Vermont Cheddar. The plant also processes whey liquids, which are left over from the cheesemaking process, to produce whey proteins and permeate, which is sold around the world. Additionally, the facility serves as a warehouse for cheese and whey products, with the capacity to store up to 2 million pounds of cheese. On a daily basis, 120 Vermont and New York dairy farmers supply the milk for the Middlebury plant, although that number increases on weekends and holidays when other plants are closed. Addison County is one of the largest membership areas in the farmers coop, helping to supply the milk that comes to the plant every day.
To learn more about the eight farms in Addison County that are part of the Cabot Cooperative, click on the links below:
Act 148, the Universal Recycling Law, marks the most significant change to Vermont’s solid waste system in recent history. This law includes a focus on reducing food waste, with the goal of all Vermont businesses, organizations, and citizens eliminating food from the waste stream by 2020. The program is being phased in gradually and is already experiencing impressive results, diverting 800 tons of food from Vermont’s landfills last year, representing a 40% increase in food rescue over the previous year! The impressive success of Vermont’s new law has garnered attention from the EPA and interest from neighboring states looking to enact similar legislation.
Why is the law needed?
Voluntary waste diversion rates in Vermont have stagnated over the past ten years and a significant portion of the current waste stream is comprised of items that could otherwise be recycled, diverted, and put to better use. Landfill space in Vermont is limited and one of the two major landfills in our state is nearing its capacity. If all recoverable materials were recycled, composted, or rescued, Vermont could cut its landfill waste by more than half!
Recyclable materials, food scraps, and leaf & yard debris are all valuable resources that should not be thrown away. When they are landfilled, these materials contribute significantly to climate change by producing greenhouse gas emissions. If food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases—surpassed only by China and the United States! Food loss and waste generates more than four times the annual greenhouse gas emissions of aviation and is comparable to emissions from road transport. Aside from greenhouse gas emissions from the decomposing food waste, itself, one must consider the wastes of water and resources that it took to produce that food. The later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences due to the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking.
This law is also needed to help combat food insecurity. According to a 2012-2014 consensus, 13% of all Vermont households are food insecure. This figure includes more than 20,000 Vermont children. Of the estimated 133 billion pounds of food that goes to waste every year, much of it is perfectly edible and nutritious. When one considers that over 40% of all food produced eventually finds its way to the landfill, it becomes clear that we don’t necessarily have a food availability problem, we have a food equity problem. One way to mitigate food insecurity at the community level is through food rescue, which redirects surplus food from the waste stream to people in need of food.
What exactly does the Universal Recycling Law do?
Act 148 aims to improve the capture and diversion rates for food scraps, recyclables, and leaf & yard debris. Here is the summary of how the law will work:
Imposes a ban on disposal of certain solid waste from landfills including recyclables by July of 2015, leaf and yard debris by July of 2016, and food scraps by 2020. The diversion of food scraps will take place in phases, beginning with the largest food scrap generators (those producing more than 104 tons/year) in 2014 and working toward implementation at the household level by 2020. Click here for specifics on the timeline.
Requires parallel collection at facilities and at curbside. This means that facility owners that offer trash collection must also offer collection of recyclables, leaf & year debris, and food scraps. Haulers must offer services for collecting and managing these items. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will oversee facility and hauler residential rate structures to ensure that rates are transparent to customers.
Provides incentives to reduce waste by requiring municipalities to implement variable rate pricing (aka Pay As You Throw) for materials collected from residential customers based on volume or weight. Haulers are also required to utilize variable rate pricing structures in accordance with the specific ordinances and rules implemented by municipal entities (solid waste districts, towns, town groups, and alliances).
Provides more recycling options by requiring access to recycling containers anywhere that trash cans are located (excluding bathrooms) in all public buildings and publically-owned land.
Includes a food recovery hierarchy. This represents most interesting and exciting aspect of this new law. It helps us recognize that certain methods of food recovery are more impactful than others and encourages us to think about capturing and redistributing those nutrients in a way that best utilizes their value. Here’s what it looks like:
Of course, one could simply choose to place their food scraps in a bin for collection with their recyclables and pay for the service of having it collected. Or, one could choose to drop by the district transfer station, pick up a compost bin, and begin composting food scraps at home. But, the food recovery hierarchy encourages us to think up the pyramid by reducing food waste at its source or rescuing and redistributing food to the people and animals that need it.
Following the guidelines of the Universal Recycling Law and examining the Food Rescue Pyramid affords new opportunities to conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and combat community food insecurity by redirecting unwanted food to those who need it most.
We can set new goals to reduce waste at the source by doing the following:
Shop with a meal plan for the week that allows us to avoid over-purchasing and better utilize leftovers. Shop in your refrigerator first! Assess what you have on hand and build meals around those items that need to be used.
Designate a prominent, visible place in your refrigerator for items that need to be consumed first.
Choose to embrace inglorious fruits and veggies that have cosmetic flaws, but are otherwise completely delicious and nutritious.
Store leftovers in clear containers, thus avoiding the out of sight, out of mind problem that leads to moldy, unidentifiable leftovers at the back of the fridge.
Understand that “sell-by” or “use-by” dates often have little correlation to food safety. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome, and delicious if handled properly. Let your senses be your guide. Foods can develop an off odor, flavor or appearance due to spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such characteristics compost it. Otherwise, enjoy it!
Take empty containers to gatherings to capture leftovers. Prepared food cannot be donated to food shelves, so the excess is often wastefully discarded. Bring a container to your next gathering and encourage others to do the same!
Make “tops & tails broth” by collecting all the tops, tails, skins, and peels of the veggies you prep throughout the week. Toss them in a pot of water on a weekend day, along with any leftover meat bones and/or cheese rinds from the week. Simmer for an hour or two, then strain and compost the skins, peels, rinds, and bones. You’ll be left with a fantastic broth which can be turned into a fabulous meal or frozen for use another day.
Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir-fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
Stale bread can be used to make croutons or processed into bread crumbs for a recipe. Stale cookies can be crushed and made into a delicious pie crust.
When produce, soups, bread, and similar items are reaching their prime, consider freezing them.
When you can’t eliminate food waste at the source, consider donating food to one of your two local food shelves, HOPE & CVOEO, or to a similar charitable organization. It’s a good idea to contact them first to be sure the items you wish to donate are items they are able to receive and distribute. Worried about liability? A Good Samaritan Law exists to help protect those who are contributing free food in good faith to charitable organizations.
If your excess food can’t go to the food shelf, consider the farmers in your area. Do you know anyone with chickens, pigs, or livestock? They might be thrilled to receive your glut of garden zucchini and your stale loaves of bread! Here at the Co-op, we donate all post-consumer food scraps to area farmers for use as animal feed and there is no shortage of demand for those bags of healthy scraps!
At the end of the day, it’s important to consider that approximately 40-50% of food waste and 51-63% of seafood waste in the US occurs at the consumer (household) level. We can do so much better! Whether we’re eliminating food waste through better planning and use of available food, donating food, or learning to compost food, we all have better options that don’t involve throwing food into the garbage. As your household prepares for the rollout of Act 148 at the household level, here are a handful of great resources:
Are you planning to put together a unique local gift basket for someone on your holiday shopping list? Check out this handy guide!
Select A Theme – The key to creating a thoughtful gift is to consider and understand your recipient. Is he/she a person you turn to for health and exercise tips? Do they love to cook and always have the latest lowdown on food trends? Or maybe you’re shopping for a college student or co-worker? With your recipient in mind, choose a theme they’ll love!
Presenting Your Present – Everyone loves a pretty package! Keep it simple and pick up one of our ready-to-gift cellophane bags, complete with ribbon, for just $.99, or feel free to get creative! Reusable totes, baskets, and ceramic bowls make fun containers, or you can wrap your items furoshiki-style with a pretty scarf or Co-op t-shirt!
Putting It All Together – Below are a few ideas we love to help inspire your unique gift basket:
Looking to stock up your pantry with holiday staples from local farmers and producers? Here’s a handy guide to the local offerings by department:
The produce department is bursting with holiday staples from local farms including plenty of winter squash, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, rutabagas, apples, apple cider, cabbage, cranberries, and winter greens like kale and spinach. The local farms we have to thank for this abundance include Golden Russet, Elmer Farm, Four Pillars Farm, Burt Rock Farm, New Leaf Organics, Harlow Farm, Champlain Orchards, Sunrise Orchard, and Vermont Cranberry Company.
In Bulk, you’ll find lots of local items to meet your holiday baking needs including whole wheat flours, all-purpose flours, bread flours, pastry flours, and cornmeal thanks to the fine folks at Gleason Grains, King Arthur Flour, Champlain Valley Milling, and Nitty Gritty Grains. You’ll also find local maple syrup from Hillsboro Sugarworks and honey from Singing Cedars Apiaries.
The grocery department is well stocked with local holiday favorites including packaged flours from King Arthur Flour; culinary oils from Full Sun Company; Olivia’s stuffing; maple syrup from Hillsboro Sugarworks and Shaker Maple Farm, honey from Lemon Fair Honeyworks, Singing Cedars, Champlain Valley Apiaries, However Wild Farm, and Ariel’s Honey Infusions; maple sugar from Little Hogback Farm; pie crusts from Krin’s Bakery; pepper jelly from Jed’s Northeast Kingdom; and an abundant selection of jams, preserves, and chutneys from Blake Hill Preserves.
Cheese & Dairy
Our cheese case boasts over 100 different local cheese options for your holiday cheese and charcuterie platters! There are far too many to name here, but the cheese department staff is always happy to offer suggestions for fabulous cheese platters and pairings. For local holiday staples in the dairy case, look for milk & heavy cream from Monument Farm, Strafford Organic Creamery, and Kimball Brook Farm. Also be sure to check out the famous butter & buttermilk from Animal Farm and fantastic cream cheese from Champlain Valley Creamery. Vermont Creamery has you covered for local butter, mascarpone, and crème fraîche, plus there are plenty of eggs from a number of local farms. Oh, and don’t miss the local eggnog from Strafford – it’s a staff favorite!
Deli & Bakery
An abundance of freshly baked bread and rolls come to us from Red Hen, The Bakery, The Manghis’, Green Rabbit, O Bread, La Panciata, and Klinger’s. You’ll also find local stuffing mix from La Panciata along with a gluten-free stuffing mix from West Meadow Bakery. ‘Tis the season for pies and in the bakery you’ll find fresh fruit pies from Krin’s Bakery, Vermont Gluten Free, Champlain Orchards, and Red Door Bakery.
Is there a delicious Italian dinner on your menu for the week? Be sure to check out Bionaturae! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Bionaturae this week to shed a little light on this Italian-American partnership that has been bringing us a fine lineup of authentic organic Italian foods for over 20 years! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners this week, so it’s a great time to stock up on these staples. Read on to learn more about this company and their philosophy!
While majoring in Italian in college, Carla Bartolucci spent a year in Italy and met her husband, Rodolfo, who had a background in agriculture. In 1995, the two teamed up and enthusiastically created an organic selection of authentic Italian foods for the American & Canadian markets. Now, more than 20 years later, Bionaturae has remained a family-oriented, privately owned company, with a heartfelt devotion to quality and tradition.
Bionaturæ (bee-oh-na-too-ray) roughly translates to mean “organic nature.” For the founders of the company, it means this and far more. It means the celebration of Old World tradition, of authentic Italian food and of family.
So what makes their products taste so great? A few things come to mind. Rather than the Teflon dies that most commercial pasta makers have turned to, Bionature uses the original bronze dies common to traditional authentic pasta making, resulting in a coarser pasta that holds sauce exceptionally well. Equally important is the slow drying methods they incorporate. Where most modern pastas are heat dried to speed the process, Bionaturae insists on using the more traditional method, which can take as long as 14 hours to dry the pasta and avoids cooking the wheat during the drying process.
According to Carla, “In Italy, we try to eat the foods that are the most seasonal, in their most natural form, with as little done to them as possible, and to eat a wide variety so that we are getting everything we need. The wisest thing, I feel, is to eat simply prepared, organic foods. It’s important to know where your food comes from.”
Here at our Co-op, you will find Bionaturae olive oil, balsamic vinegar, many different kinds of pasta (both packaged and in bulk), tomato products, fruit spreads, and nectars!
Thank you, generous shoppers! With your help, through the Rally for Change, we were able to donate $3,785 to our local Food Shelves, CVOEO and HOPE. The food shelves will use these funds to buy more of the shelf stable staples that their clients rely on, but they will also be used to buy items they can not often stock, such as fresh produce, dairy, and baking items for the holidays. Because of your kindness, hundreds of Vermonters will not have to go without food this holiday season. Half of these funds were raised by shoppers who rounded up their totals at the register 11/10-11/16. The Co-op matched these funds and mailed checks out to the food shelves, last week. What a difference a little spare change can make.
Want to learn more about our local Food Shelves? Check them out at:
There are few things more frustrating than purchasing a really nice piece of cheese only to see it spoil before you can enjoy it! Proper handling and storage can mean the difference between a vibrant, flavorful cheese or a moldy refrigerator experiment. This time of year, you may find yourself buying a selection of nice cheeses to offer to your holiday guests, so it seemed like a great time to share this handy guide to caring for your cheese.
How to Ensure the Most Flavorful Cheese Experience:
The first and most important step – remove the plastic wrap from your cheese as soon as you get home. Cheese is a living, breathing thing and closing it off to air can affect flavor and longevity. For best results, replace the plastic wrap with specialty cheese paper. No cheese paper? No problem! Simply wrap the cheese in parchment or waxed paper, then place into a loose plastic bag or similar container.
It can be tempting to start nibbling on your cheese straight out of the fridge, but a little patience goes a long way. If you wait until the cheese reaches room temperature, you’ll be so glad you did! The flavors intensify and reach their maximum potential at room temp.
Aim to purchase only as much cheese as you’ll consume in one to two sittings. Bringing home smaller quantities more often will ensure that you’re not having to store your cheese for long periods. The longer you store cheese in your fridge, the more likely it is to lose flavor or take on other unwanted flavors from nearby items in the refrigerator.
Moldy Cheese Does Not Necessarily Equal Bad Cheese:
Finding a bit of mold on your cheese might not be a deal-breaker. In fact, there are many cheeses that rely on healthy populations of mold spores to make up their bloomy rinds.
Hard Cheese- If you unwrap your hard cheese and find it moldy, try “facing” the cheese. This is done by slicing down the cheese one-eighth of an inch from behind the moldy spot(s). Of course, if you’ve faced your cheese and the cheese tastes bad, then it’s time to say buh-bye to that glorious hunk of cheese. Let taste, not sight, be the sense you use most to determine whether your cheese should stay or go.
Soft Cheese – If the offending mold is on the rind of the cheese, cut off the rind and proceed. However, if the mold is on the paste of the cheese, it’s time to toss it.
Our Co-op Connection Business of the Month for December is Ben Franklin! Did you know that Co-op member-owners get 10% off their purchases at Ben Franklin when they shop on Saturdays? Whether you’re looking for gifts, stocking stuffers, or doing some holiday crafting, be sure to check them out!
It’s tough to imagine Middlebury’s Main Street without this throwback five-and-dime store. They offer a great selection of crafting supplies including colorful yarns, thread, fabrics, art supplies, scrapbooking materials, and more.
They also have a large toy department and lots of great gift items – including many locally made products.
They offer a very affordable custom framing service and have lots of interesting posters and artwork to adorn your walls. They also have a nice selection of inexpensive kitchen and household goods, so when you’re making your way through your holiday shopping list be sure to give Ben Franklin a try! Oh, and don’t forget to show them your Co-op card!
We’re shining our Co-op Spotlight this week on one of the most awarded specialty food companies in North America- Trois Petits Cochons! Les Trois Petits Cochons has produced award-winning, all natural pâté and charcuterie since 1975 by crafting small, handmade batches using only the finest high-quality ingredients. Their full product line is 20% off for member-owners this week – just in time for creating beautiful, crowd-pleasing holiday platters! Read on to learn more about this company that has been producing high-quality, hand-crafted products for over 40 years!
Les Trois Petits Cochons first opened its doors as a small charcuterie in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1975. It has since grown to become the leader in the pâté and charcuterie industry, offering a complete line of artisanal pâtés, mousses, terrines, sausages, saucissons, smoked meats and other French specialties. Their products have garnered a long list of SOFI awards, earning great respect in the culinary world.
Les Trois Petits Cochons is committed to continuing the tradition of making delicious, authentic and quality pâté and charcuterie for its customers. By combining time-honored recipes, choice ingredients, innovative cooking methods and strict quality control they are able to create consistent, handcrafted products. All of this, together with dedicated customer service and a passion for good food, have allowed them to stay true to their small charcuterie roots.
Les Trois Petits Cochons believes in taking care of the earth that gives us so much. All Les Trois Petits Cochons paper packaging is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. This means that all paper is harvested legally and sustainably and that the chain of custody — from the forest to the grocery store — has been verified. In addition, Les Trois Petits Cochons uses all-natural ingredients and hand-crafts its products in small batches.
Be sure to check out the fabulous collection of recipes on their web page!