Sourcing Our Ingredients
The quality of our ingredients determines the quality and value of our foods. From our founding in 2006, we have made every effort to source the highest quality, most nutrient-dense ingredients while keeping our foods affordable.
Organic & Non-GMO
Almost all the vegetables, fruits, dairy products, grains, and legumes used in our kitchen are certified organic, which generally means GMO-free. At the same time, we also focus on building relationships with trusted producers who may choose not to go through the cost and process of organic certification. (See detailed notes below about organic labelling and GMOs in animal feed and meat.)
Grassfed and Pasture-Raised
All of our meats, eggs and dairy products are from animals that are grassfed or pasture raised. Our animals deserve to be nourished in the way that’s best for them: on open land. We are learning now that not only is this more aligned with our nutritional needs, it is also a critical component in capturing carbon and rebuilding depleted soils. When supplemental feed is needed, we are working to ensure only organic or GMO-free feed is used, though sometimes it is either not available or it is prohibitively expensive. (See detailed notes below.) The eggs we use are organic, pasture-raised and often soy-free.
Local and Seasonal
We are developing new models for sustainable food distribution and processing by collaborating with small, local farms and ranches and cooking with an authentic taste of place. Eating with the seasons brings us into closer connection with our land and with the players in our food system, and provides nutritional qualities suited to our needs throughout the year. He have begun to incorporate more foraged items as well, such as bay nuts, elderberries, nettles, nasturtiums and sea vegetables, and have begun offering seasonally appropriate sustainable seafood.
Due to widespread digestive sensitivities and intolerances to local staples such as dairy products, as well as our desire to celebrate a wide range of traditional cuisines from around the world, we do include some far-flung ingredients that provide valuable nutrition, such as coconut products, bananas and plantains, ginger and spices--always organically grown, fair trade, and sustainably produced.
Our Primary Sources and Suppliers
Marin Sun Farms (MSF) - grassfed beef and lamb, pastured pork and organic pastured chickens, including meat and bones for broth
BN Ranch (Bill Niman) - grassfed beef and bones for broth
SunFed Meats - grassfed beef and bones for broth
Riverdog Farm - pastured organic chickens
Mary's Chickens - pastured and organic chicken bones, livers, hearts and gizzards
Green Star Farm - pastured, organic, soy-free
Coastal Hill Farm - pastured, organic
Marin Sun Farms - pastured, organic
Straus Family Creamery - organic grassfed butter, milk, cream, yogurt
Sierra Nevada - “Graziers certified” raw grassfed cheddar
Authentic Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy - raw, grassfed
Veritable Vegetable (VV) - a leading organic produce distributor in San Francisco with a strong commitment to local farms and sustainable practices. Local farms include Tomatero, Full Belly, Happy Boy, Willey, Route One. VV also brings in organic produce from Mexico and points south when not in season locally (which we don't buy), and sources a few items that are not grown locally at all, like ginger and bananas (which we do buy).
F.E.E.D. Sonoma - a wonderful organic produce distributor based in Sebastopol that connects over 50 family farms in Sonoma and Marin to restaurants and kitchens in the Bay Area. Farms we regularly source from include Paul's Produce, County Line Harvest, New Family, Live Oak, First Light, Bernier, Singing Frogs, Shone, Marin Roots, Devoto Orchards, and many more.
Riverdog Farm, Yolo County - not only does Riverdog provide the highest quality produce at wholesale prices, they also provide year-round employment for their farmworkers, who can settle in one place and send their kids to the same school each year.
Feral Heart Farm - one of many small farms located in the 18-acre urban agriculture park surrounding the Sunol Water Temple in the East Bay.
Rice - Massa Organics, near Chico, CA
Almonds and stone fruit - Kashiwase Farms, Winton (near Modesto)
Walnuts - Double A Walnuts, a small family farm in Colusa County
Beans - Iacopi Farm, Half Moon Bay; Pleasant Grove Farm, near Sacramento
Coconut oil and butter - Artisana, Oakland
Coconut Milk - Native Harvest (no gums or additives in the restaurant-size cans)
Special Note on GMOs, Animal Feed and Meat
While we source all our foods as organically as possible, when it comes to meat, our approach has been to emphasize pasture-based (and grassfed) even over organic.
Organic labeling in meat is a complicated matter, and includes jumping through many hoops, including being processed in a certified organic facility. As a result, few of our meats are certified organic. Some of our meat suppliers do feed certified organic feed to their animals even if the meat itself is not certified organic. Other meat we get is from animals fed certified GMO-free feed that is not organic. Some of our meat is from animals that are fed conventional grain.
When considering the issue of GMOs in animal feed, it is important to keep in mind that GMOs are so widely used in our industrialized food system that it is very hard to avoid them. Much certified organic feed is contaminated with GMOs, and it is only through testing that farmers can ensure that feed is GMO-free, and even then it is about an allowable percentage. Testing is expensive, and in general only very large producers are able to afford this testing.
Here at Three Stone Hearth, we are committed to supporting small, local ranches, and we believe that smaller scale usually leads to greater integrity of the food and more humane animal husbandry. For many smaller-scale ranchers, organic feed is simply too expensive, and testing their feed for GMO contamination is even further beyond their means. This is part of why even Vermont's progressive GMO labeling law didn't require labeling meats from animals fed GMOs.
Our approach here has been to work with small-scale producers in a long-term way to support and encourage them to shift their feed-purchasing towards more organic options. This often comes down to a bottom-line question, "Are we willing to pay more for meat that has been fed certified organic grain?" In many cases these increased costs have to be passed on to our customers, and we're working on that challenge as well.
We have worked with Marin Sun Farms in particular over the last several years to produce GMO-free chickens and hogs. MSF's GMO-free hog program began early in 2017; unfortunately, we're still figuring out how to afford this meat without raising our own prices too high. After atrial program with us two summers ago, MSF's organic, GMO-free chicken program is scaled up and running, and we source them along with the organic birds from Riverdog Farm.
Another project in the works here at TSH is a whole animal program. As we develop the expertise to break down whole animals and use all the parts in our products, we will be able to source from smaller, often more expensive producers by committing in advance to buy the whole animal.
In general, we tend to emphasize resilience over purity. We put a lot of energy towards evolving our food system to be more sustainable, more accessible, and more resilient. We try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If some of you are disappointed that we cannot guarantee GMO-free animal products, know that we too are disappointed. The state of our food system is indeed troubling. Know that we labor every day against the industrial mindset and its economic imperatives, to do what we believe to be the greater good. But we are not perfect.