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The Crowded Acre: Where’s the Beef?

By Jen Welch
I have built my business primarily around the growing of pigs and the production of pork. From the breeding board to the farrowing stall to the finishing paddock to the butcher to the fork, I do pork and I do it well. So it should come as no surprise that when I opened my food truck, pork would sit front and center on the menu. When customers ask me what they should try, I usually suggest the roasted pork street tacos – a recipe that is my dad’s and was the inspiration for opening a food truck in the first place. But not everyone is familiar with street tacos and empanadas and, on occasion, we get a customer who just wants a burger and fries. But I don’t have that on my menu, and I’ll tell you why.

Ask any chef what makes up the bones of a good menu and almost all of them will include a burger and fries on that list. There is a fair amount of catering to the masses when it comes to dining out, which makes it less of an “experience” in my opinion. Especially in the world of fast food – which is what I consider my food truck to be – the menu options are generic and repetitive. If you consider the root of fast food restaurants in America, you realize that they began as small family-owned operations which focused on local flavors and foods. These places generally chose to stick to a small menu that they could do well and could do fast. Eventually they turned into insufferable chain establishments with large menus that aimed to please everyone who walked through the door. And with that change they lost the quality and the charm which made them so successful. Now the only thing that makes them successful is the economy of scale and appeal to the masses.

To be completely honest with you, I would go so far as to say that the burger is the epitome of what is wrong with our food system today. It has turned our landscape into strips of asphalt highways interspersed with cattle feed lots and fast food drive-throughs. It has created a thirst for cheap food made with cheap ingredients, and no real regard for the true cost of adequate nutrition. It has brought us to our knees with illness, left us handicapped by desire for more of the same. It has led to the overproduction of meat that lacks conscience and quality. It is becoming harder and harder to stomach. Sadly, I would be hard pressed to tell you of a place in town where you can’t get a burger.
So today, in my small corner of my little world, I will try to effect change in the way we eat. I will try to bring back the small, family-owned fast food restaurants of the past. And I will try to elevate the animals I use rather than reducing them to a single cut of meat. I will try to nourish my community with thoughtfully prepared meals. I will try, though I may not succeed in the way that the burger has succeeded. I will try.

Jen Welch lives and writes in the Upper Arkansas River Valley and though she enjoys dancing, she prefers to “eat like no one is watching.”