Bay Area pastured poultry panic may be premature
Damn. John Birdsall, the East Bay Express's restaurant reviewer, totally busted me on EBX's blog for prematurely panicking about the disappearance of Hoffman Game Birds from the Bay Area, now that the elderly owner is no longer selling at the Ferry Plaza farmers market. Doing the homework that I should have, Mr. B. called Magnani's butcher shop on Hopkins Ave. (near Monterey Market) and learned that they would still carry Hoffman chickens, and that Cafe Rouge and Oliveto would continue to serve them.
Stung, I have belatedly checked by phone and where noted, by Web, with some other local butchers to see who else might be selling Hoffman birds retail:
• Piedmont Grocery's butcher counter: Carries Rosie, the ubiquitous Petaluma Poultry organic chicken. No Hoffman.
• Enzo's at Market Hall in Rockridge: Ditto
• Drewes Brothers in San Francisco: Ditto
• Golden Gate Meat Company in San Francisco: Ditto
• The new Baron's Meat & Poultry in Star Grocery on Claremont that I've been hearing so much about: No one answered the phone, but the website said they carry Mary's and Smart Chicken. I think Mary's is the same as Mary's Turkeys, which sounds like a gargantuan operation a lá Petaluma Poultry and does not anywhere mention pasture, just "free range," which as we know is a term open to interpretation. Smart Chicken is only described in terms of its processing, which didn't sound promising.
• Guerra's Deli & Meats in the Sunset carries Rosie and Fulton Valley chickens, but no Hoffman
• Bryan's Meats in Laurel Heights: Rosie and "Martinelli Farms chicken." I was excited as I had never heard of Martinelli, but it turns out to be the producer of "Happy Dan" chicken they also sell at Berkeley Bowl, and I can't readily find much about their practices. Further research required.
And now for the good news
Jerry Ver Brugge of Ver Brugge Meat & Poultry on College Ave. in Rockridge (at Alcatraz Ave.), who answered the shop's phone himself, said he had carried Hoffman chickens in the past, but stopped as Hoffman requires a certain volume that he was unable to match. He said that Petaluma Poultry's Rocky and Rosie were just so much cheaper ($1.99 a pound, compared to $4 for Hoffman) that the Hoffman ones couldn't seem to compete.
When I explained that Hoffman had stopped selling at the Ferry Plaza and that those of us who care more about pasturing than organic certification were out of luck and cranky about it, his antenna perked up. "I've known Ruth Hoffman a long time," he said. "I'd be happy to carry the chickens again if the demand were there."
According to Jerry, the minimum wholesale order "just to get the truck here" is three cases per week, or about 60-75 chickens. So, pastured-chicken fans in Oakland and South Berkeley, let's give him a call and let him know there's enough interest to justify an order. His number is (510) 658-6854.
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