For most of us, we just don’t have the space nor time (nor know-how) to run our own backyard farm. Sure, we have some awesome veggies growing, but livestock? That’s a whole different animal. I, for one, am making a conscious effort in 2018 to learn a little more about the meat
I eat. Truth be told, a lot of the neatly wrapped proteins at the grocery (unless otherwise marked) come from an industrialized farm that doesn’t look much like a farm at all. I want to know the protein I am eating is fresh, as local as possible, and was well-cared for before it came to me. Buying from a local butcher offers just that. This month Perkin’s Road staple, Iverstine Family Farms, gave us a full farm-to-table education and made it clear why butcher shops are back in a major way.
Phase 1: We put on those rubber boots and headed out to the farm. On their 65 acres of land in Kentwood, the Iverstine family raises the chickens, hogs, turkeys, cattle and lamb that supply the butcher shop in Baton Rouge. It is a passion for Galen Iverstine, who started the business with his parents after the purchase of two pigs.
“After finishing my degree in political science at LSU in 2009, I really got into learning about sustainable methods of farming,” Iverstine said. He then headed to a farm in New Hampshire to learn the ropes. Galen returned eager to bring high-quality local meat to market. “We started selling at the Farmer’s market in 2010 and have been growing ever since.”
We took a walk through the fields while Galen gave us the rundown of his intensive rotational multi-species grazing practices (try that one five times fast). To translate, he and his team move the cows and chickens daily, allowing for fertilizer to be evenly spread and good root systems to develop. The chickens move in after the cows and it all becomes this kind of symbiotic dance between the animals and the land, ensuring everything is in balance and the pastures aren’t depleted.
We then visited with the Berkshire pigs. I had heard of the breed as their pork, known for its richness in flavor and texture, often makes the menus of some of the country’s best restaurants. Iverstine Farms now produces 320 hogs a year, which roam on a large plot of low brush but they never stray too far from the grain feeder.
“The cattle are purely grass-fed and the poultry and pigs have a grass/ grain split, ensuring healthy happy animals and great taste on the plate,” said Iverstine.
We hopped in the car and headed to the Perkins Road store to test the results of this labor of love. The Iverstines’ right hand man at the butcher shop, Aarden, was an amazing and enthusiastic guide. They have everything you would expect and lots of new things to try.
Their succulent pork chops and sausages, which they make in house, are some of the best sellers. We tried the beef and pork, green onion, and “flying Hawaiian” sausage varieties. The beef and pork was hearty and traditional, while the green onion had a bit of a bite. The flying Hawaiian, made with pineapple and jalapeno, was my favorite. It has this amazing sweetness and kick that is a completely unique and a welcome surprise. All will be making an appearance on my grill this spring. They also have boudin for those in search of Louisiana favorites.
While we snacked, Aarden gave us a taste of the flexibility and expertise they offer shoppers.
“We are a whole animal shop,” said Aarden, “so if you need a certain cut or quantity, just give us a call or come on in. We can work with you to make sure you get exactly what you need. We get folks in from all cultures and backgrounds who use different cuts for traditional recipes. There is something for everyone.”
They also have your grocery store staples. A variety of steak lines the counter, they have chicken breast, and you can get your ground beef made to your preferred fat content. They recommend 80/20 but, again, are flexible to your needs. Aarden’s positive “can do” vibe was so refreshing that I felt excited to get cooking.
Iverstine Farms also offers weekly lunch specials for take-out (in the $7-$10 range). The “Cuban Sandwich Crisis” has been a staple and this week they were also offering “Porko Villa Tacos,” which were phenomenal.
Loaded with pulled pork and pickled veggies (both made in-house), the flavor was rich and decadent. I could have eaten five easily. Full and happy, I felt like I had a new understanding and appreciation of butchers and was encouraged by how accessible they are in Baton Rouge.
For catering options, lunch menus, and all their offerings visit IverstineFarms.com. The store is located at 4765 Perkins Road.
Images: Sean Gasser