Recently, I sat down with Chef Hosea Rosenberg, owner of BlackBelly restaurant in Boulder, CO, to find out why antibiotic-free meat was as good for business as it is for public health.
In Boulder, CO, Chef Hosea Rosenberg and his staff at BlackBelly have built something great: food that comes “from source to plate... to serve our customers the very best product we can find.” Good quality, and undeniably good. And it’s no coincidence that the meat Blackbelly serves is raised antibiotic-free.
Why? Chef Hosea summed it up simply: “Antibiotic free meat is better.”
As a restaurant centered on seasonal, local produce, quality is paramount; to Chef Hosea, “The flavor, texture, and feel of the meat is better when you start with the best possible animals that have been treated well.”
Chef Hosea’s commitment to quality also lead him to start BlackBelly Farm, which in fact preceded the permanent storefront. Like all his meat, the farm raises its animals without routine antibiotics.
I asked Hosea what methods the farm uses to keep its animals healthy:
“It's all about giving them space, keeping the areas clean, and separating out any animals that show signs of illness. We feed them clean, quality food, and try not to stress them out ever... No antibiotics means a cleaner product for us to work with and we can tell our customers that it's as ‘clean’ as we can get it.”
That said, sometimes antibiotics are necessary for treating common and sometimes-deadly respiratory infections in his piglets. But these antibiotics are administered responsibly: only to the sick piglet, and only to treat a specific infection. That’s a far cry from the routine use common on factory farms, in which antibiotics are given indiscriminately, often through food or water. Later in life, adding garlic to the feed is often sufficient to fight of bacteria and keep BlackBelly Farm’s pigs healthy.
Incidentally, my own mother will attest that the same trick works on children.
Everything at BlackBelly ultimately starts with quality ingredients that translate into quality dishes. Animals raised in good health—without routine antibiotics—are a natural extension of that goal.
High-quality, delicious, and healthful food has made BlackBelly one of the most celebrated restaurants in Colorado.1 And perhaps even more importantly, BlackBelly demonstrates that antibiotic-free meat is both feasible and good business.