January 1, 2014 came with a resolution: try to make healthier food choices the majority of the time. It sounded good but where to start? I already cooked the majority of meals at home and bought lots of produce from the local farmers markets so I felt okay there. A coworker had been raving about the meat from a co-op and that sounded like a good place to look. The descriptions and customer reviews were great. However, there were fees involved and waiting lists and orders had to be placed weeks in advance. Some items came in ten-pound increments. I didn’t want to do all that just to try it, so kept looking for a place that would not only let me shop on my schedule but also had no minimum for orders. Searching led to a family beef farm that happened to also sell chicken 'raised locally via the Joel Salatin method' in their farm store. They didn't have any of the chicken parts I wanted to try but they did have a few whole chickens from a place called Tyner Pond Farm. I bought one.
I've had one almost every week since.
That first Tyner Pond Farm chicken was all the proof I needed that pasture-raised makes a difference. With only a dry seasoning it turned into a golden brown, crispy-skinned tender and juicy delicacy. This is chicken so good you may find yourself eating dinner while standing in the kitchen. After letting it rest, flip it over and carve out the 'oysters,' those two knuckles of dark meat on either side of the backbone. Many consider these the two best bites on a chicken. Then try the crispy middle wing sections. Finally, there is that strip used to truss Tyner Pond chickens. It comes out so crunchy and delicious that hands are reaching for a piece as soon as the chicken comes off the heat. If the thought of eating chicken skin makes you cringe, you might just reconsider your position once you try this. That crispy strip might even become your favorite reason for making chicken.
The chickens became a weekly order and regular Sunday dinner. I took them to cookouts locally and sometimes on the road for people to try. The response was unanimous – it’s the best chicken ever. I’d like to take all the credit but I know it’s really the quality of meat making the difference. Pasture-raised tastes better.
This success led to trying other Tyner products and my first beef order was the 100% grass-fed sirloin. It was as flavorful as ribeye and lean as strip steak. The texture and grain was noticeably different. Maybe this is due to the cows being more active? Steak isn't on the menu too often at home so the real gem for me has been the ground beef. It's coming from the same cows that spend the days grazing on pasture and makes for incredible grilled burgers and meatloaf. It makes great jerky, too. And cheeseburger salad (try this). Recent experiments with cooking sous-vide have brought a tremendous new appreciation for grass-fed beef. This simple way of cooking focuses on the quality of the meat itself and having access to local grass-fed beef makes for home meals like you’d see on television or in cookbooks.
It came as no surprise that the pork happens to be great, too. If you cook pork, you know it can be tricky not to end up with something dry. Instead of marinating for hours, I found that Tyner pork could take a dry rub, go straight on the grill or roasting pan, and come out juicy as something brined. The ‘catfish’ tenderloin is second only to the whole chicken as my favorite Tyner Pond item. If you really want to see what a difference an active pig makes buy a pork shoulder from a factory and buy one from Tyner Pond. Put them both in a slow cooker for the same amount of time. When you then pull them apart and separate the fat and gristle you’ll see how much cleaner the Tyner pork is. There will be no question as to which one you would rather eat.
Back to the chickens. Those happy chickens are doing what chickens do and laying eggs. Everyone should try Tyner's fresh farm eggs. The difference between eggs from pastured chickens and eggs from chicken factories is as vast as the difference between factory chickens and pastured chickens. It’s apparent as soon as you crack one open. The shell is stronger. The yolk is brighter yet more deeply colored and more orange than yellow. It’s shiny and reflective. The whites are more cohesive. There are even double-yolkers occasionally. And since I trust my source, I feel ok with eating soft-boiled eggs again. With little toast sticks, just like at Grandma’s when I was a kid.
As the year went on turkey and lamb became available. Each Tyner product proved better than what I had been buying at the grocery. That superior taste is what made me a customer from day one. Truthfully, even if this pasture-raised method was less healthy than the factory version I’d probably still be eating it because it tastes so darn good. Fortunately, animals raised this way are supposed to be much healthier. I encourage everyone to read about the methods used at Tyner Pond Farm, research the benefits of animals raised this way, and make your own decisions as to whether you think it is worthwhile. To me, it tastes far better and I believe it is healthier. The free weekly delivery meant more meals planned around those deliveries and that reduced waste from otherwise shopping three or four times a week. Finally, cooking all that weekly Tyner goodness with lots of vegetables meant I could check my resolution off as fulfilled.
Tyner Pond Farm food - it tastes incredible and it's healthy. Those are really the only two reasons needed to order. It’s fresher and I’ve actually been to the farm where my food is raised, twice. Two more reasons. Also, ordering from Tyner Pond Farm and similar outfits supports local farmers, better stewardship of animals and the land, and promotes sustainable farming practices. I even enjoy cooking more with Tyner products just knowing how great they turn out. These are all the many reasons why Tyner Pond replaced Tyson and Perdue in my kitchen.