Yesterday I opted for an out-of-office experience, far from the catwalks of Paris. The kind folks at Animal Welfare Approved took a keen group of budding foodies on a farm-to-table tour unlike any other. It was all to celebrate the opening of Grazin' Diner Tribeca, the Manhattan franchise of the U.S.'s first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant. From the ice cream to the burgers, you can sit back, relax and have a guilt-free meal, thanks to the hard work of Manhattan-professionals-turned-farmers Dan and Susan Gibson.
It all started after 9/11, when many New Yorkers were rethinking their mortality and how they chose to spend their days. Dan Gibson, having helped launch W Hotels worldwide, decided on a sea change. With no farming experience, Dan and Susan set about on an adventure which resulted in a kind of 'farming utopia.' At Grazin' Angus Acres in Ghent, NY the cattle roam free, calves by their sides. The pigs have acres in which to play, raised on lush pastures, their feed supplemented with local, certified organic grains and milk. The chickens leisurely peck on organic grains, doing double duty by laying eggs and fertilizing the rich soil. And just as the animals have their place and purpose on this farm, so to, do the people.
Dotted throughout the sprawling acreage, lie the family's individual houses. Son Keith, his wife and two children live on the premises. An Iraq war veteran, he manages the farm along with his childhood friend. His sister and brother-in-law Chip and their two daughters live within walking distance and take care of the family's Grazin' Diner in nearby Hudson and the latest in Manhattan. While mom and dad, hold down the fort, their grandchildren close by.
Now, it may seem morbid to meet the cow, then eat the cow, but when you walk away from Grazin' Angus Acres to Grazin' Diner you don't feel that pang of guilt that you would expect. These livestock are happy. They are well taken care of, and they are there for a reason. As AWA representative Andrew Gunther, AWA Program Director, so eloquently put it, "It's my right to eat meat. It's my duty to ensure no animal lives in fear because of it."
The beef at Grazin' Angus Acres is 100% grass fed and finished. Why is this important? Cows were not created to live on a diet of grains—ingredients such as corn which is high in sugar and carbohydrates. They do however, fatten the cow quickly. Which is the goal of industrial farming. The downside is infection, increased ecoli in the gut of the cow and the need for antibiotics to be given to the animal to simply keep them alive long enough to be killed for consumption. Grassfed "and finished" however, means that the animal is living its life in luscious pastures eating a diet of grass that is fertilized primarily with nitrogen-rich chicken droppings. Go chickens!
With so many food horror stories in the news, Grazin' Angus Acres is a breath of fresh air. Proof that we do have tangible options within our midst to make sustainable change in our everyday lives. We are not powerless—particularly with delicious offerings on the menu of Grazin Diner. — ANGELA GILLTRAP