Brandt Beef, Hiding in Plain Sight in O.C.

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Quality meat is by far the ingredient that’s most difficult for a home cook to procure—difficult, but not quite impossible. Even excellent Brandt Beef, favored by discerning chefs (and by me), is findable in O.C., if you know where to look.

The family-owned company is headquartered in Brawley, raises its animals without antibiotics or hormones, and employs sustainable practices like growing its own alfalfa and corn for feed. (Brandt cattle are not grass-fed.) What led me to the brand years ago was reading that every one of their animals is tracked individually through raising, butchering, and distribution—quite a difference from the commodity beef for which I was seeking an alternative. Of course, the proof’s on the plate, and Brandt is by far the best-tasting beef I’ve ever cooked at home.

Pacific Ranch Market, the perfect neighborhood market in the hills of east Orange, carries a selection of Brandt. When I lived nearby, this small-but-mighty store with fabulous wine department and produce that includes some local, was a daily stop. Not all the beef every day is Brandt, but the meat department people are happy to point out the cuts that are. Pacific Ranch owner Mike Walker also owns the equally useful Marbella Farmers Market in San Juan Capistrano, and the meat-case situation there is similar: Mostly Brandt, and the cheerful employees can tell you exactly.

And, as with so much else in life, there is a Third Way. Brandt has a warehouse in Buena Park where you can order online for pick-up. Note to home smokers (and I know you’re out there): Prime-grade competition-style whole brisket is $78—a stone bargain.

(Out-of-county note: In San Diego County, Harvest Ranch Market in El Cajon and Encinitas carry Brandt exclusively—worth a detour if you’re in the area.)

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