September 27, 2010

Food fair showcases heritage cattle breed

On Friday, Oct. 1, at Emory’s annual Sustainable Food Fair, students, faculty and staff will be able to sample and view one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the U.S., the Pineywoods.    

The midday event, held from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Cox Hall Bridge, will feature music and dozens of merchant stands and locally grown fresh food for sale, chefs offering samples and vendors featuring sustainably grown foods and other products.  

This year, Emory is again attempting to preserve a disappearing breed of livestock with its purchasing power by creating a viable consumer market for consumption, similar to last Thanksgiving’s Heritage Harvest Feast: that preserved an endangered breed of turkeys.

“Pineywoods cattle were brought to our shores by Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s,” says Julie Shaffer, Emory Dining’s sustainable food educator. “It’s a big part of Georgia history and heritage and sharing this breed with the Emory community has substantial implications for the ongoing preservation of the breed.”

At this year’s fair, the curious and the hungry will get to sample this distinctive entrée in the form of mini beef tacos with salsas made from local, organic vegetables.

According to Shaffer, “this breed, which is smaller and rugged, has adapted well to changing weather conditions in the southeastern United States.” Pineywoods cattle are more heat tolerant and able to live on marginal forage. They are valued for their meat, milk and hides.

“Resurrecting these heritage breeds will be slow going and the numbers are very small in the U.S.,” says Patty Erbach, Emory’s senior director of food service administration. “This is a treat and rare event for us to have this beef. Hopefully, we will increase the numbers so it will always be available to consumers as it is a regional and state native breed.”  

Why would Emory display a live calf during the sustainable food fair? “We want the Emory community to make the connection about the food they eat and where it comes from,” says Shaffer.

Since purchasing Pineywoods cattle is consistent with Emory’s commitment to sustainable foods and protecting biodiversity, the University has been working on this endeavor for over a year, along with American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and a cattle rancher from Brantley Ridge Farm in southeastern Georgia. Emory’s sustainability vision calls for 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in Emory hospitals and cafeterias by 2015.  

“Reaching our sustainable food goals will take the support and participation from everyone on campus,” says Peggy Barlett, chair of the Sustainable Food Committee and anthropology professor at Emory. “Sustainability can be a complex issue but the more you learn, the better you feel about everyday choices.” 

The annual Sustainable Food Fair is held in conjunction with Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives, Emory Dining and students from anthropology.

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