New eggs on the block

Andy Slaven

Breakfast at NMU has just gotten a lot closer to home.

re-Chickens.ET.3As part of a push to buy local, NMU Dining Services is purchasing eggs from BSB Farms in Skandia, located just a 15-minute drive from campus. However, the idea behind buying local isn’t new to the university.

Certified Executive Chef at Dining Services Nathan Mileski, said it is a slow process, but NMU started out by getting away from boxed and bagged products and closer to healthier food produced locally.

“There is a taste difference between food that is mass produced and food that is actually cared for,” Mileski said.

In fact, egg consumption on campus has increased 8 percent since the switch to all BSB eggs in April. It’s an increase Dining Services attributes to better taste.

As of 2016, 28 percent of NMU Dining Services food is purchased locally at a radius of 400 miles from campus and 46 percent of their total food purchases are within 1,200 miles. However, Mileski said if you add in the local food initiatives they are working with such as the Michigan State University Extension farm, the number within 400 miles is closer to 33 percent.

NMU Dining Services have worked with their primary food vendor Gordon Food Services to continuously find and source local products as substitutes for non-local items when possible. Gordon Foods is one of the largest privately owned food distribution centers left in the country and it is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mileski has met with the Gordon family and works closely with them every week.

NMU began buying eggs from BSB Farms in April. The farm owns about 4,000 Isa Brown chickens and produces 320 dozen eggs each day. BSB Farms makes two deliveries per week to different NMU dining locations.

In an NMU press release announcing the partnership with BSB Farms, Stephanie Raboin, NMU Dining Services marketing manager, said studies have shown that free-range, grass-fed chickens produce eggs lower in cholesterol and saturated fats, with more vitamins A and E, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Mileksi said a few years ago, the Marquette Food Co-op contacted him and wanted to connect him to a local potato farmer. However, the farmer couldn’t keep up with the quantity of potatoes that dining services needed.

“Six months later, I found out the farmer threw away, for animal feed, 1,000 pounds of potatoes because he thought he was going to sell them to other customers,” he said.

Mileski told the farmer these are the things it is necessary to discuss because NMU could have purchased the 1,000 pounds of potatoes and not wasted them, he said. Mileski added that trying to find those partnerships that work at that quantity is important.

It is easier for him to find foods such as eggs and beef because those can be maintained year-round. However, since the growing season is short in Michigan, it is more difficult to find local products for certain foods such as potatoes.

Additionally, NMU Dining Services is officially working with Superior Angus to purchase and use beef. Superior Angus is a U.P. farm located in Rapid River. It focuses on natural food for the animals including grains containing no artificial hormones, antibiotics, or proteins derived from animal by-products. The farm was the recipient of the 2013 Delta Conservation District’s Agriculture Conservation Award for its environmental stewardship.

On top of working with Gordon Food Services and local farmers, Dining Services attends the 4-H Club auction at the Marquette County Fair every year. In 2011 they were raising around $52,000 for scholarship money and last year they were able to raise over $109,000. This year Dining Services purchased seven hogs, three rabbits, two lambs, and two turkeys.