Recently, I wrote a post here about the line of sausages Preferred Meats was working on. When I tried them, Preferred's corporate chef, John Paul Khoury, was making the rounds and getting chefs to taste the product. I got to taste the sausages, too, and was impressed.
All in all, the response was very enthusiastic and Preferred Meats, one of the premier suppliers of meat to top restaurants in Northern California, decided to go into production. It would produce its own line of sausages, bringing out a breakfast sausage and two versions of Italian sausage (mild and hot).
Then I noticed a post of the Facebook page of The Eatery, the hot new bistro in West Sacramento that is seems to be making all the right moves:
A brief explanation on why no sausage for brunch yet; Preferred Meats, our exclusive meat provider, is rolling out a truly artisanal line of sausage. It takes about 4 weeks for the USDA to approve the packaging. They obviously need to take a tip from the city of West Sac on efficiency. Until then, please enjoy our Eden farms bacon and black forest ham. And thank you for your patience. It will pay off. This is great sausage.
Curious about the bureaucratic process, I called Khoury and asked him about it. Turns out, making sausage is the easy part. Going through all the channels at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is another thing altogether. The lag time now is about the label that will go on the sausage packages. It has to include the ingredients and other information -- and it has to be approved by folks in Washington.
Khoury told me the main ingredients are listed (pork, water, salt), but that the exact mix of spices is not on the label, only the percentage of spices in the overall recipe. Interestingly, paprika is a spice that has to be listed separately, Khoury explained, because it will change the color of the meat. Paprika is in the hot Italian sausage, but not the mild or the breakfast sausages.
Unlike a lot of the sausage you get at grocery stores, this sausage is raw. As soon as the sausage is made, it is frozen.
"It's like flash-freezing shrimp on a boat once it's caught. It's often fresher," Khoury said.
Approval of the label will take 2-4 weeks. Foodies might be interested to know that the label is known to industry insiders as the "USDA bug." The bug is what goes on the packaging.
Once the bug is approved, Preferred will embark on an aggressive marketing campaign. And yes, The Eatery in West Sacramento will finally start serving some excellent sausage.
Note: Although Preferred Meats primarily sells to restaurants, home cooks will be able to order the sausages and other products by visiting the retail link here.