For most of human history, our relationship with cattle has been about the foods they produce: milk, meat and cheese. Today, a new bovine "product" has captured our interest and may indeed affect the future production of the others. This new product is gas. Cow burps are the most recent in the list of accused contributors to global warming from the livestock sector. However, a simple measurement of methane production does not tell the whole story. A new report by the Soil Association reevaluates greenhouse gas production in agriculture, taking into account the grazing system - not just the "end product." This controversy erupted in recent years as figures emerged about agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. As we discussed in our November 16, 2009 blog, "Beware of Bad Science," grassfed cattle actually produce fewer emissions than those finished in feedlots, simply because of the carbon sequestration in their pasture-based systems. The new Soil Association report confirms this and adds new data to support the position.
The award-winning El Pinto Restaurant in Albuquerque, NM, has been in business since 1962. Jack and Connie Thomas established the one-room restaurant, which housed the kitchen and 10 tables. Today, the restaurant is now one of the largest in the nation with over 1,000 seats, and includes an 8,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that produces 25,000 jars of salsa or chile products a shift for retail sale in grocery stores across the country. El Pinto Restaurant is also the only restaurant in the nation to have a Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hen program on restaurant property—and the largest restaurant in North America to serve Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW eggs.
The restaurant’s success is in large part due to the efforts of the Thomas’ son’s, twin brothers John and Jim. In 1994, John and Jim purchased the restaurant from their parents and started their expansion project. By 2000, they started bottling the salsas and sauces inspired by their grandmother’s recipes. Today, their products are nationally recognized and sold throughout the country.
They opened the “Hen Hotel,” as it’s nicknamed at the restaurant, raising over 200 Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens to supply the restaurant with fresh, tasty and nutritious eggs. The hens have continuous access to range, where they can perform natural behaviors like running, dust-bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds.
“Our passion is clean and nutritious food for all of our guests,” explains Jim. “Healthy, happy hens produce eggs of amazing nutritional value and outstanding taste.” In fact, eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture and range contain three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the omega-3 fatty acids as industrial-raised eggs. The laying hens are fed a high protein organic feed, along with some extras from the kitchen: wheatgrass, jalapeños and other nutritious kitchen scraps. The eggs are gathered daily, before being thoroughly washed and graded according to USDA requirements and hand-delivered to the kitchen staff.
The Thomas brothers are proud of their Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW status and have even installed a live streaming ‘chicken cam’ that broadcasts the hens enjoying life on the range to a TV in the front lobby of the restaurant. “There is real lack of understanding in egg production standards, which confuses the consumer,” Jim explains. “Terms like cage-free, farm-raised and even free-range do nothing to ensure the welfare of the hens or the nutritional value of the eggs. Our passion is to provide clean and nutritious food for all of our guests. We chose to become Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW to show customers that we really do care.”
In addition to the Hen Hotel, there is also a greenhouse and vermiculture farm on restaurant property. Over 200,000 worms break down organic food scraps from the restaurant creating worm leachate which is mixed with effective microorganisms and used as a natural fertilizer on the chile fields and within the greenhouse. This provides herbicide free, pesticide free, and fungicide free growing of chile, lettuce, tomatoes and herbs used within the restaurant.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW eggs from the El Pinto Restaurant Farm, located behind the restaurant, are served daily at the restaurant and featured extensively on the Sunday Brunch menu. For more information visit elpinto.com. You can also follow the restaurant on Facebook.