writing by Kendra Aronson
photography by
Kendra Aronson

“I pulled up a bunch of peer-reviewed research from colleges that have huge meat programs to find out what consumers are searching for in terms of meat. The research was pinpointing that people want to know where it comes from—terms like ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’, ‘grass-fed’ were secondary to just wanting to know the source. It was consistent in all of these studies, the highest percentage of folks value the location of where the meat is being sourced,” explained Jensen Lorenzen, former Chef at The Cass House Inn & Restaurant, and now the Co-Owner of Larder Meat Co. “At some point, the vast majority of Americans decided that local sourcing wasn’t important anymore with meat—this is why butchers went away. Back in the day you needed to look somebody in the eyes and hear them say, ‘I would buy this cut today’. At some point that trust became not important either, and that is worrisome to me.”

In May 2016, Jensen and his wife, Grace, launched Larder Meat Co., a monthly subscription-based meat delivery service featuring curated boxes of fresh, frozen, local chicken, pork, and beef. Their mission was twofold: to seek out the very best ranchers producing the highest quality product on the Central Coast and to put the purchasing power back into the hands of conscientious consumers who want to directly support local ranchers. In short, the Lorenzens are putting their money where their mouth is—along with 60+ larder box subscribers—to strengthen the local food economy, one meaty meal at a time.

“We have a community that is willing to get behind the mission of Larder Meat Co. The demographic is people like us—people who cook, people who place a high value on what they consume and supporting their community. The majority of our customers are people that we know, which goes back to the whole notion of trust. They trust us to choose the meat that they stock in their freezer,” said Grace.

The 13-pound larder box ($199/month) features 1 whole chicken from Rinconada Dairy (Santa Margarita); steaks, roasts, and ground beef from Swan Family Angus (Paso Robles); bacon and ground pork from Winfield Farm (Buellton), plus extra goodies like fresh goat’s milk cheese from Stepladder Creamery (Cambria) and brines, rubs, spices made by Chef Jensen (San Luis Obispo).

Meet the fine folks behind the meat:


“Our chicken taste like chicken. I have the advantage of being older, so I remember what meat tasted like back in the 50s and what it’s supposed to taste like. Our chickens are the same breed as the industrial chicken, but it’s a completely different tasting chicken. They are raised differently—that’s the whole secret! They are fed a non-GMO grain mix and compost from the garden, and they graze on organic pastures. The industry usually kills chickens at 6 weeks old because they’ve been pumped full of God-knows-what; we harvest at 8–9 weeks old. Our chicken meat has texture, and the aroma of an older bird roasting in the oven is just so good.”


“One of my first thoughts when we left the Cass House was ‘Damn it! I don’t get to interact with these people anymore.’ That was a really important part of my job—it’s not just a friend relationship, we are business partners in a certain sense. For example: Christine scaled up her production to meet my needs, and so did a handful of other farmers. When I was no longer a buyer, I thought, ‘Shoot, now what? What are they going to do?’


“At the Cass House we bought 60 chickens a month from Rinconada Dairy, and that’s how many chickens we buy now for the Larder Meat Co. which is going directly to people’s homes.”



“I’ve had a long career in agriculture and cattle breeding. I worked with a company that did cattle artificial insemination. I AI’d cows on 75 dairies on the coast here and 225 different dairies from Chino to the Central Valley. I developed a California Cattles Services program working with 60 cattlemen in the 3 coastal counties, and all over the state, and all over the country. I’ve traveled 2 million miles between ranches, I’ve AI’d 150,000 cows, and I’ve pregnancy checked 850,000 cows—so that’s a million cows this poor hand has been through!”

—Rex Swan

“I was looking for somebody who had a background in the industry, [and] Rex has a lot of experience. I like it when people do the best they can at their level. It’s not a political thing, they do things that are appropriate for them at their scale. Rex even said, ‘I’m not going to bash big beef’—I look for tokens like that. Then I look at their practices, I want to make sure that all these animals are pastured, I want to make sure they have plenty of room, l want to be able to go to the to the property to see the physical operation with my own eyes. Then we talk, it becomes personal, and I can trust them.”


Diane & Bruce Steele
Winfield Farm · Buellton

“Winfield Farm operates entirely on solar energy and human-power. Bruce raises our Mangalista herd single-handedly. He has a personal relationship with every pig—they are treated with utmost respect and care, from birth to death. Their diet consists of pasture plus 100% naturally grown barley and organically grown pumpkins and squash. All pigs going to market are finished on acorns, walnuts, and almonds when available which mimics the diet of the Ibérico pigs renowned for their premium prosciutto.”


“I appreciate producers with a balance of goals and ideologies. Part of sustainable farming to me is to take into account what your environment can actually offer you and augment your farming practices to be okay in that environment. Bruce can’t irrigate his pastures all the time. It’s not a sustainable practice in California. We are living in a desert! When I hear about ranchers putting limitations on themselves, they are being honest with me and themselves, and this extends into their practices.”


Jack Rudolph & Michelle Angell
Stepladder Ranch & Creamery · Cambria

“I joke that we make fruits and fats. On the fruits side, we have avocados, 20 kinds of citrus, a collection of fruit trees, and passion fruit. On the fats side we raise 65 heritage breed pigs. They get whey from our creamery, brewer’s grain from the Libertine Brewery in SLO, and avocado drops—it’s all a recycled diet. We have 40 La Mancha goats, we use their milk to make our farmstead cheeses, and we also make some cow’s milk cheeses with Dairy Goddess milk (based in Leemore).”


“We believe Jack is sowing the seeds for the next generation of ranchers and artisan cheesemakers on the Central Coast of California. With his attention to detail, intimate connection to his herd, and pasture-to-plate control of his products, Jack is committed to continuing the legacy of Stepladder for years to come.”

—Larder Meat Co.

To start your monthly subscription, visit lardermeatco.com to learn more.

Whole Roasted Chicken
By Chef Jensen Lorenzen


1 whole chicken (completely thawed)
2 T of Larder Meat Co. Poultry Dry-brine
2 T of Canola Oil (or other neutral oil), for basting
2 T (about ¼ stick) unsalted butter, for basting


The day before: A day prior to cooking the chicken, generously cover the surface of the chicken with the Larder Meat Co. Poultry Dry-brine. Make sure to get the underside of the thighs, wings, and sides of the breasts. Once chicken is completely covered in Larder Meat Co. Poultry Dry-brine, leave the chicken uncovered to air-dry in your refrigerator overnight.

Day of: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place chicken on a wire rack and in a roasting pan. Add oil to the pan and place the pad of butter in the crest of the chicken’s breast bone. Place chicken in oven and roast for 40 min, basting with drippings after 30 minutes. After 40 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 to finish, approximately 20-25 more minutes. Baste again with the drippings and return the chicken to the oven to finish cooking. The chicken is finished when a probe thermometer should read 150 degrees at the thickest part of the breast. Allow chicken to rest in a warm area for at least 15 minutes prior to portioning.

Originally published in Edible San Luis Obispo & Wine Country 
Fall 201
6 · Issue 15