This week's Meet the Maker Interview is with Nathan and Lou Ann Robinson, Owners of Jake's Country Meats.
Jake's Country Meats is a Michigan farm that supplies Green Grocer with pasture raised meats that are raised without antibiotics or hormones.
Q: How long has JAKES been in business and how did the company start? A: The Robinson family that owns and operates Jake’s is a 7th generation family farm. The original homestead, this is still being used today, was originally purchased in 1873 in Cass County Michigan. Nate and Lou Ann Robinson started Jake’s Country Meats 20 years ago and have been working directly with consumers and wholesalers ever since.
Q: Tell us about how you source your meats for the products we carry at GGC? A: We raise everything on our farm in Southwest Michigan, just a few hours from Chicago. The only exception is the fish, which is wild-caught by members of the Chippewa nation in the Great Lakes. Our animals are spread over 200 acres of pastures which allows us to practice something called rotational grazing.
Moving our animals throughout the year to fresh pastures helps build a healthy environment and creates a strong soil rich in nutrients. Our pigs, cows, and goats are all breed naturally and born right on our farm. This allows us to ensure their health and well-being, and is essential in eliminating the need for antibiotics.
Our cattle are Certified Grassfed by A Greener World and are also grass finished. In addition to foraging, the diet of our pigs, chickens, and goats are supplemented with NON-GMO grains. Our pigs are also certified by Animal Welfare Approved, considered by many the gold standard of third party certifications.
Q: Why are these healthier than Big Ag products and those that might be found at Whole Foods? A: Most meat sold at larger retailers is not produced from animals that are raised outside on pasture. They may eat an organic diet and can be raised without antibiotics, but those are only part of the process to cultivating a healthy and wholesome product. When allowed to live outside, like our Berkshire & Duroc cross hogs, with access to natural forage and plenty of sunshine, their meat and fat is richer in micronutrients, particularly fat-soluble vitamins E and D, as well as minerals like selenium. Additionally, when animals are under stress their body releases chemicals that can have a negative impact on the flavor and quality of the meat.
Q: How do you decide on new products that consumers in urban areas like Chicago might want? A: We believe that consumers should know where their food comes from and how it was produced. One of our goals is to bridge the gap between producers and consumers. One way we have been able to do that is by participating in a number of farmers markets throughout Chicagoland for over 10 years.
This has literally shaped the direction of our farm and how we raise our animals. It was because our customers asked questions about NON-GMO grains that we made the move a few years ago to switch all our animals to GMO FREE feed. It is also because of demand that we have ensured all our spices are gluten free.
Q: Grilling season is here. Do you have a favorite meat that you like to grill and tell us how to prepare it? A: One of our favorite cuts to grill is our Country Style Ribs. Meaty and full of flavor, they are versatile enough for a wide range of tastes.
We love seeing what our fans create, so be sure and tag all your efforts with #showoffyourjakes and follow along to see what else people are making!
You can also follow us on FB and IG to see what is happening on the farm all year long.
Q: Any last comments to share with our shoppers? A: The experts said “You must get bigger to stay in business.” In our hearts, we knew that wasn’t true. We knew then and still know now that we have a quality product the American family will love.
We decided to market our product direct, to build a connection with the people eating the food we are raising. What better way to learn how to improve, or to plan for the future of our farm than to talk directly with the people who are enjoying the products from our farm.
We continue to raise our animals with pride, the way our parents and grandparents did. Our animals are raised outdoors and on pasture, without the use of antibiotics. We enjoy our work, especially in the Spring when the fields are full of new life and new beginnings.