At the center of building a more climate-responsive and responsible food system is changing the way we think about protein. We believe harnessing the purchasing power of institutions can help scale regenerative meat and seafood production practices — those that benefit land and water, advance worker welfare, and treat animals raised for food humanely. To that end, we have focused on increasing purchases of local proteins in institutions as a way to make sustainably raised local proteins affordable and accessible to the vulnerable populations served by schools, hospitals, and senior care facilities. In addition, we are exploring the development of value-added products that utilize local meat and seafood that meet the dietary requirements for school and hospital nutrition services.
In partnership with Healthcare without Harm and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, we’re working directly with institutions to reconsider center-of-the-plate proteins, and purchase more local food.
Bringing responsibly-raised and sourced local meat and seafood into institutional supply chains can be challenging for a number of reasons, from availability, to cost, to labor. The resources below were designed with that challenge in mind. Through these and other efforts we are supporting the connections between buyers and sellers that will have ripple effects across the food system:
Animals raised on small or mid-sized farms and ranches in the Pacific Northwest — raised without routine antibiotics and with room to roam outside — is going to cost more (and taste better) than product from industrial operations.
One key strategy for making the math work is to shift toward more plant-based menu items and shift meat away from center-plate. Recently, in partnership with Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center, we developed and recipe tested a burger product that blended local grassfed beef with vegetables to create a protein-rich product that also helped fulfill nutrition requirements in school and hospital settings.
The other key strategy is to buy the whole animal and use it all. In this model, buyers pay a consistent price per pound, which means less on a per-pound basis for traditionally more expensive cuts, slightly more for traditionally cheaper cuts, and lots of “bonus” items like head, bones, and trim that can be used to create delicious dishes.
Chef Andre Uribe of Sustainable Meals Oregon walks through his technique of breaking down a whole hog for an institutional setting, including suggested dishes for various cuts. See the timestamps below to navigate to guidance on specific cuts:
1:09 - Breaking down the leg
14:52 - Breaking down the belly
The United States has some of best managed fisheries in the world, so a great first step is to buy domestic, wild fish and ideally, from fisherman right here in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska. Taking a place-based approach to sustaining wild seafood starts with knowing where your seafood comes from and how your seafood is distributed to you. Shortening the supply chain and purchasing locally harvested product promotes responsible harvesting practices, supports local economies, and reduces carbon emissions.
Members of the NW Food Buyers' Alliance gather for a cooking demonstration of Widow Rockfish and Dover Sole.