We eat hamburgers rarely. That is, we eat them cooked rare and not very often, maybe once every few months. Why so infrequently? Because commercial ground beef, recalled, it seems, nearly as often as it is not, scares us more than serial killers. We don't want to end up a sad feature in the New York Times, but we're also not about to drop ten bucks on lunch and politely ask for it to be incinerated beyond edibility. Thus, we hedge our bets, spending serious coin for high-quality organic grass-fed beef and treating it with the care and reverence it deserves.
As the Chowhound forums reveal, there are plenty of places to find such meat in Los Angeles, but we stick to the bulky, plainly wrapped packages sold at the Organic Pastures raw milk stand at the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sunday mornings.
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Two women run the stand on Sundays and spend most of their time handling cold bottles of milk. Usually, the dry-erase board leaning against the side of the stand says that ground beef is available; some weekends, it does not. We suspect, though we are not by any means positive, that the supply is dependent on whether or not cows are producing. According to the farm's site, the San Joaquin Valley company is owned by the McAfee family. It became California's first raw milk dairy with certified organic grazing land back in 2000. In the YouTube video embedded above, you can see cows swaying around the farm's lovely, sun-drenched fields as McAfees' mobile milk barn gets rolled into action. These bovines are both grass-fed and grass-finished, which means they aren't fattened on corn in feedlots towards the end of their lives.
The proof, of course, is in the actual eating. When we sat down to our inaugural Organic Pastures hamburger -- one of those swollen, untidy Mom-style monstrosities Eddie Murphy made fun of in Raw -- we were reminded, at first bite, of the day we got glasses. It was sophomore year of high school, and we'd been tuning out our composition teacher for months. As it turned out, half the problem was that we couldn't read what she was writing on the board each morning. She was the other half of the problem.
That moment, when we walked out of Lenscrafters and saw a vivid, distinct world that had previously been steadily fading from view, was not so unlike the way we felt contemplating a truly excellent home-cooked grass-fed hamburger. It was fresh-tasting, absurdly juicy, deep, intense, the essence of hamburger concentrated and amplified many times over, the flavors brighter and clearer. By comparison, most other hamburgers fade away.
Organic Pastures organic grass-fed beef costs $5 per pound and is typically sold in 1.5 pound packages. Go to the Santa Monica Farmers' market on Wednesday mornings, the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings, or get in touch for more information.