Beef Up Summer Cookouts with Responsibly Sourced Cuts from Sonoma County
Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
June 30, 2023
As summer heats up, the forecast for the grilling season is an abundance of local food from the farmers market. When it comes to making responsible choices about proteins, there’s plenty to consider in terms of animal welfare and sustainability labels. For Rian and Jenine Rinn, sourcing protein that was raised for the good of the land, the animal, and the eater is at the heart of their local butcher shop, Sonoma County Meat Company.
“That’s why everything is so good,” says Litten Alley, who manages their wholesale and farmers market presence. “The ranchers take great care of their animals. Everything is pasture raised, grass fed. It’s just the right way to do it.” Since 2014, Sonoma County Meat Company takes pride in their role in the local economy, bolstering the viability of small family ranches and connecting community members with high quality meats.
A Lifelong Chef Answers Ranchers’ Call for a Butcher
Having been a chef in San Francisco for most of his life (and at the famed El Bulli in Spain), Rian Jinn was familiar with food at every level. While working in restaurants, Rian got to know local farmers and ranchers, and they reported dissatisfaction with their options for processing their animals.
Small and mid-sized ranchers in California face the challenge of limited access to both slaughter and processing facilities, which was exacerbated by closures during the start of the pandemic in 2020. Now, many of the 46 USDA-certified slaughter plants in California only service bigger producers, and USDA-certified cut-and-wrap facilities (where whole animals are brought in for cutting and packaging) are also few and far between.
Rian and his partner, Jenine, wanted to find a way to help small ranchers maintain their businesses, so they wouldn’t have to travel far or face long wait lists to process their animals. They also wanted to bring local, delicious meats to as many people in their community as possible. So, Rian trained with numerous butcher shops in Sonoma County, San Francisco, and Napa before he and Jenine started Sonoma County Meat Company, a USDA-certified cut-and-wrap facility.
At first, they did small-scale butchery services for local ranchers to be able to sell their own meat. Eventually, they opened a brick-and-mortar adjacent to their facility in Santa Rosa, and started reselling meat products to local restaurants and grocery stores and at farmers markets.
From Family Farms to the Butcher Counter and Local Food Bank
“Our number one goal is to provide for local agriculture,” says Litten. “We’re kind of the middleman to get good local, responsibly raised meat products into our local market.”
Sonoma County Meat Company sources all of their pig, lamb, and beef from specific family-owned and sustainable ranchers. Each are multi-generation family operations that take pride in prioritizing animal welfare by raising their animals on pasture, feeding them native grasses, and never using hormones or antibiotics.
For pork, Sonoma County Meat Company supports Mountain View Pork, a third-generation family farm with a 40-year-old tradition of raising hogs. The lamb that Sonoma County Meat Company brings to the farmers market is from Hamilton Brothers Farm in Solano County. And all of Sonoma County Meat Company’s beef products are from Oak Ridge Angus Ranch’ century-old cattle ranch in Calistoga.
Sonoma County Meat Company also collaborates with Oak Ridge Angus Ranch to beef up farm-to-table offerings at the Redwood Empire Food Bank and local shelters. As part of the food bank’s Range to Table program, Sonoma County Meat Company cuts beef donated from the ranch and then delivers it to the food bank, in addition to dozens of boxes of freezer overstock.
Cuts from these ranchers’ proteins are finished up with recipes developed by Rian and the Sonoma County Meat team, many of which have a culinary background. They utilize spices from Whole Spice, based in Napa Valley. “This is a truly local product because everything here is from within 50 miles of Santa Rosa,” says Litten.
Supporting Local Ranchers at the Farmers Market
When you venture to the farmers market this summer, keep in mind how your purchases, from farmers and ranchers as well as food makers and butchers, can nourish you as well as the local economy. At the Foodwise farmers markets, you can support sustainably minded local ranchers directly or through a processor like Sonoma County Company.
Whether your taste buds lead you to honey lavender bacon, Korean-style beef short ribs, or apple fennel sausages, Sonoma County Meat Company and other small businesses depend on the farmers market shoppers who want to purchase food that is not only crafted with care, but also supports their values and local community.
“We have a website, but we don’t really do any sort of advertising. Most of our business comes from word of mouth,” says Litten. “The farmers market is the best way to have our products and our brand in front of the people who care about what we do and care about supporting local agriculture.”
Support Sonoma County Meat Company at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Tuesdays (note: the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market will be closed on July 4) and at the Mission Community Market on Thursdays. For a list of other local ranchers you’ll find at the farmers market, plus grilling inspiration and recipes, check out our Farmers Market Grilling Guide.