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Food & Drink

Q&As with Meatopia’s Makers and Shakers

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Tim Rattray: The future of barbecue, says Ozersky

Photo: , License: N/A

Josh Ozersky, food writer and Meatopia creator

What’s your favorite cut of meat to work with?
(He pauses.) I don’t even know if I can answer that. There’s something about perfectly smoked chicken, and melt-in-your-mouth brisket. It’s almost like picking your favorite child. I can’t even choose a favorite animal. You can’t really substitute aged steak from a cow. I like it all. The thing I enjoy most about The Granary is that if we want to experiment, we can order it in. If we want smoked rabbits, we’ll order some rabbits. I’m increasingly growing to love manipulating vegetables. It’s an underappreciated food group. The result is something really unique and I think delicious. We play with textures a lot, crunchy, soft, hot, cold.

The Producer
Chris Hughes, Broken Arrow Ranch

How does Broken Arrow work?
Hughes: We don’t actually own or raise any animals. What we do is work with ranches around the state with overpopulation of non-native deer and antelope. These are wild animals on large acres. What we do is take a shooter, a skinner on our mobile processing facility and choose a central location on the ranch where we basically hunt.  We harvest with a single shot to the head at a distance of about 200 yards from the animal. We electro-stimulate it, which helps bleed it and contract the muscles (the benefit of which help remove the gamey flavor), take it back to the mobile processing unit where it’s skinned and eviscerated and in a cooler within an hour. We weigh the animal, and pay the rancher based on weight of the animals harvested. It’s a win-win-win. The ranchers get population reduced and they get paid for it, the animals live a natural wild life without stress, and we win as producers.

How often do you go to these ranches?
Hughes: We operate on an as-needed basis for each ranch. We have a database that fluctuates where we keep in contact with over 100 different ranchers and we harvest off 25-35 ranchers a year.

Where do you find shooters?
Hughes: We have two full-time shooters on staff. That’s their job. They also help to organize hunts and keep the harvest. It takes a lot of practice and training to do it well.

How did you get into the business?
Hughes: I’m second-generation. My father started it in 1983. I came back in 2005 and took over running the company, but I was doing all sorts of things. I graduated with an engineering degree, went into advertising in Houston, then worked overseas for Haliburton in Bosnia and Macedonia. I came back and got my MBA at Wake Forest and then I decided to become a butcher. (He laughs).

What are some of the challenges you face?
Hughes: Supply. We market ourselves to the ranches, letting them know we are a resource and establishing a connection. It takes a lot of trust for us to come on and do these harvests. The method is self-limiting; we can do up to 40 animals in one evening. Sometimes we average 15 or 20, sometimes we’ll hunt all night and come back with zero. It also has to be a large enough area of land or else they’re not really free-range. We don’t want to stress the animals. We’re working on minimizing or eliminating stress at the time or harvest, which helps the quality of the meat.

What do home-cooks have to know about game?
Hughes: There’s an old saying, “there are two ways to cook game, a little or a lot.” What that means is on the tender cuts, steak tenderloins or leg filets that are very lean, you don’t want to trim anything off or cook past medium rare over a hot fire. On the flipside, because these are wild animals, they develop a lot of connective tissue in their shoulders and flanks. You want to cook that slowly over low heat for a long period of time to break down the tissues. It’s an absolute flavor bomb.

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