The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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22  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 A s The Tasting Panel's resident epi- cure and the descendant of a long line of Chinese chefs, I have strong opinions in the kitchen (and out, but that's another story). That's why we're introducing this monthly column, Chew on This, to delve into some of the issues, trends, and events impacting kitchens and tabletops around the country. As an avid carnivore, I understand that eating meat comes with certain responsibilities. Environmental impact and sustainable farming practices are important factors in deciding where our meat comes from, but I believe there's another aspect that's often overlooked: respecting the animals we eat. I've encountered many meat eaters who are repelled by the sight of an uncooked steak or a whole fish but would chow down on chicken nuggets without a second thought. They seem to believe that as long as the meat doesn't blatantly look like an animal, it's fair game, but avoiding the fact that we're eating something that was once alive only distances us from reality while making ethical consumption harder to achieve. I believe we should see the animal at all stages—alive, dead, butchered, and in its final cuts—as often as possible to be informed of the process it takes to feed ourselves. It's a hardline notion, but if you can't face your food, perhaps you shouldn't be eating it in the first place. It's easy to talk the talk, but in order to walk the walk, I recently attended a butchery class at Electric City Butcher in Santa Ana, California, to get up close and personal with my favorite meat: pork. While I've butchered a few pig parts in my time, I'm always willing to learn from the masters, so I arrived to the class with an open mind and an empty stomach. There, half of a Duroc pig—along with its head—awaited us on the worktop table. Electric City Butcher sources its pigs from two Northern California establishments: Stemple Creek Ranch, where animals are 100 percent grass-fed, and Rancho Llano Seco, which specializes in grain- fed pigs. Under the guidance of co-owner Michael Puglisi and fellow instructor Steve Sabicer, we first learned the difference between primal, sub- primal, and fabricated (or secondary) cuts. After the sub-primal cuts are further broken down, they're sent to restaurants and retail stores, while the fabricated cuts are sold to the con- sumer as chops, tenderloin, bacon, and other household meat products. Puglisi and Sabicer also made sure to explain that Electric City practices "whole-animal" butchering, meaning they use as much of the animal as possible in sausages, pâté, head cheese, and other products to minimize waste. The level of transparency seen through hands-on experiences like this allow us to form a closer connection to our food (the added benefit of sup- porting small businesses while joining in Electric City's mission to reduce waste doesn't hurt, either). With our busy lives, it's unrealistic for us to face our food every day, but it's important to recognize what our meals consist of and where they come from if we want to maintain a diet that's not only healthy, but conscious as well. CHEW on this Face Your Food: In Defense of Hands-On Meat Eating Facing our food (literally): Tasting Panel Managing Editor Jesse Hom-Dawson (right) butchers up some pork chops with Electric City Butcher instructor Steve Sabicer as a Duroc pig head looks on. by Jesse Hom-Dawson PHOTO: DUSTIN DOWNING

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