Spring is in the air at Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee, FL. Since 2010, farmer Dale Volkert has been our main source for eggs at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. Since then, like us, the farm has grown from a small operation raising foul like feisty Rhode Island Reds, geese, ducks, and turkeys exclusively for egg production, with a few pastured cows, to a diversified, efficient operation serving restaurants like ours across South Florida with not only ample eggs but humanely raised and processed meat, including birds of all kinds like poisson and broilers, as well as lamb, goat and goose.
“Things are hopping here at Lake Meadows,” says farmer Dale Volkert. “All the animals are springing to life and in the reproductive mode for sure. The warm weather has made the turkeys and geese both start to lay early and we have a few turkey and goose eggs for sale before we start to incubate them for growing for Thanksgiving. We also got permission to harvest the livers from our Cornish hens, and these livers are hand harvested not machine harvested so they are beautiful lobes of chicken livers for appetizers and salads, pate and mousse…”
One thing new from Dale that we’ve been sinking our teeth into lately at Genuine HQ in Miami is lamb. Specifically whole lamb. And Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink executive chef Bradley Herron is having a field day.
“It’s amazing that Dale is the guy that runs his operation. I can give him direction based on how the product is eating. It’s a relationship I can trust. That I know he’s raising a responsible animal,” Herron explains. “The second you put your knife into an animal, it’s deteriorating. Buying the lamb whole means the product is at its freshest, probably dressed no more than 3-4 days ago. The smaller the parts are broken down at purchase, the older it is. As a chef I think it also challenges me to be more creative with the product and most importantly to not waste a thing.”
That’s for sure. Brad says when we get a fresh, whole animal in from Dale, it goes into everything. Here’s a sample lamb matrix: bellies cured to lamb bacon, neck braised and into flatbread with yogurt, loin seared and cut all nice for dinner, shoulder cubed into tartare, shank braised to top a special pizza, bones roasted and into stock for soup, head roasted and made into rillettes or torn into a salad.
On the egg front, Dale is excited about his new egg grader from Iowa, installed in December. Where as previously his team had to wash the eggs, dry them and candle them before grading and packaging them, this machine does it all and has increased his production from 2,000 eggs per hour to 5,000. There’s also a flock of Aracauna chickens laying and a limited supply of eggs with fun-looking greenish-blue shells.
“We had requests for some green eggs so we decided to try a flock. They are not great producers and only still laying 60% next to 98% on Rhode Island Reds, but they are nice to have as the colors are so nice for the children when they come to pick eggs at the farm,” Dale explains. “Depends on how they sell and how they do we may not grow another flock, but it is educational, which we like.”
We do too. For more information on Lake Meadow Naturals, please visit his website to subscribe to his newsletter, meet his team, and hatch a plan to visit the farm itself.