Ben Meyer knows there’s more to your butcher’s case than meets the eye. Labels may tout “local” beef and pork, but in reality those Oregon connections may amount to creative marketing rather than any real “hooves on the ground” situations.
“Canadian pigs can come down on a train, and once they walk into an Oregon processing plant, they’re ‘Oregon pork,’” says Meyer, who co-owns Portland’s Grain & Gristle restaurant and Old Salt Marketplace & Meat Shop. “People don’t even know what they are and aren’t getting.”
And that’s if the meat even makes it to Portland. For years, the small number of USDA-approved slaughterhouses in the state* (there are only about a dozen)—has created a bottleneck for the local ranching industry; big operations hog the processing plants, which can leave smaller farms and ranches or purveyors trying to fulfill requests without a safe, legal way to get livestock from the farm to Portland plates.
Meyer’s solution? He and his business partners took over a small, half-century old slaughterhouse in Canby last winter, with the goal of helping more real Oregon ranchers supply Portland cooks and restaurants with high-quality, often sustainably raised, meat. “Our whole goal is to keep the identity of the ranch all the way to the consumer, with zero smoke and mirrors,” he explains.
The bonus for Meyer’s own popular Northeast Portland eateries? More elbow room to craft the sausages and cured meats they showcase at Old Salt and sell to other local restaurants, like Pizza Jerk and Ned Ludd. That includes Revel’s delicately flavored, creamy fat-capped hams (see recipe), which the crew brines and smokes over applewood chips at their new Revel HQ—in a smoker eight times bigger than their former box at Old Salt.
Just in time for the holidays, Meyer offers three truly local meats to pick up at Old Salt—and one salty-sweet Americana ham recipe that’ll double as an edible centerpiece for a festive table.
*By federal law, all livestock sold to the public for meat must be slaughtered in a USDA-approved facility.
Best in Case
Cattail Creek Lamb Cult Eugene-area rancher John Neumeister recently moved all his processing to Revel. The result? His legendarily tender, grass-fed lamb, typically only found on a few PDX restaurant menus, is now available for home cooks. Find whole legs, necks, and chops at Old Salt and at Whole Foods outposts across the Northwest—the first time locally raised lamb has been available at the schmancy market chain.
Payne Family Farms Pork If you’re a fan of Meyer’s flavorful, eponymous Ben’s Bacon, available at Old Salt, you’re already a Payne Family groupie. The Carlton-born-and-bred pigs are the only oinkers used in the chef’s kitchens (and as classic Crown Roasts and rolled porchettas in the holiday meat case). “They farm all of the grain for their hogs,” Meyer says. “I never have to ask where the feed comes from.” Revel also supplies Payne pigs for butchery queen Camas Davis’s Portland Meat Collective.
Six Ranch Beef This fifth-generation, women-run ranch in Enterprise specializes in rare Spanish Corriente cattle—small, lean beasties that spend their summers as roping calves at the Pendleton Round-Up and then return to graze on Six’s sustainable Wallowa County pastureland before they’re handed over to Revel. “Corrientes are flavorful because they’re little athletes, and the grind for hamburger is fantastic,” Meyer says. Look for Revel’s Six Ranch burgers at local restaurants in the coming months.
Applewood-Smoked Holiday Ham with Cabbage and Apples
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain two 8 oz cans of pineapple rings (in natural juice), and reserve the juice of one can. Whisk juice with ½ cup brown sugar until dissolved. Place a whole boneless Revel applewood-smoked ham in a dish large enough to accommodate the meat, fat cap side up, with space to collect juices. Use pineapple rings and a 2 oz jar of Maraschino cherries to decorate your ham: place fruit rings around the top of ham, adding a cherry speared with a toothpick in the center of each ring. Brush the entire surface with brown sugar-pineapple juice mixture. Spread half a head of roughly chopped cabbage and 5–6 thickly chopped apples around the bottom of the ham dish. Roast ham, brushing again with leftover glaze and basting juices several times, until it reaches an interior temperature of 155 degrees, about an hour. The surface should be a rich, dark caramelized color. Rest ham for half hour before slicing into generous slabs and serving with roasted cabbage and apples.