While the trend in burgers is to go fresh, Farm Burger takes freshness to the next level with its dedication to local, sustainable agriculture. In a week, the Atlanta-based chain moves through 500 pounds of grass-fed beef, which is blended specifically for the restaurants. For the parts that don’t make it into the blend, chef Cameron Thompson finds new uses, whether that be cooking the burgers in tallow butter or offering a special beef-cheek sloppy joe or pickled-tongue burger topping. This dedication to sustainable foods and ethical eating extends into other proteins as well, like pork, chicken, and fish, as with the brand’s March Catfish Sandwich LTO that utilized an invasive species in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay. QSR spoke with Thompson about Farm Burger’s progressive sourcing model and the deliciousness that results.
How does Farm Burger set itself apart with beef?
We use 100 percent grass-fed beef. Our whole carcass blend utilizes all major muscles and cuts available, including chuck, sirloin, round, short loin, rib, plate, flank, shank, neck, brisket, and trim. It’s got a deeper, beefier flavor, because we use the center cuts as well, not just the ends like the rump and the chuck.
Our processors are just processing 10–20 cattle a week, depending on volume. Other larger processors are doing thousands of cows. Ours have a more artisanal, hands-on approach and an inspector onsite. I feel completely comfortable getting and serving a rare burger because of that.
What sort of burgers do you build with that beef patty?
We have the No. 5, which we consider a hangover burger. It’s got pepper-jack cheese, a sunny-side-up egg, bacon, and salsa verde. It’s a big old protein punch. Then we have the No. 1, the Farm Burger, which is aged white cheddar, caramelized onions, and our Farm Burger sauce. It’s just a very easy-to-approach burger that’s full of flavor.
When most people think of farm to table, they think of fine dining, but what we do with our food is make it more approachable to everybody. We’re bringing farm to table
to the masses.
How did Farm Burger’s whole-animal program come about?
In the beginning, we were trying to convince farmers to give us their cows and not sell to commodity. Part of the incentive was saying, “Hey, we’re just going to buy all of the cow from you, to make this more lucrative for you guys.”
Parts such as offal, face, and tail meats are not included in our grind, but we are able to utilize some of these parts in other ways. We buy beef tallow and use it as an oil on the flattop to cook our burgers in. We use oxtail and marrow bones to create oxtail marmalade and roasted bone marrow—both of which are featured toppings on our regular menu. We’re trying to increase as much revenue between that partnership as possible.
What does the oxtail marmalade add to a burger?
The oxtail has that heartiness to it. What we do is reduce it down with vegetables and balsamic vinegar. It has acidity to it, almost like a condiment, but it has the finishing of the beef to it, like a pot roast. It hits you on the front end with the acidity and the sweetness, and then the savory or umami comes out at the end of it.
Do you have problems moving the bone marrow on the menu at all?
You know, it’s there and people do order it if they know how great bone marrow is. I think the percentage of people who consider themselves foodies is growing, and having something different on the menu attracts them.
How did you decide to include chicken and pork burgers on the menu?
Most people just stick to beef, but a lot of what we do is look for relationships with local farms and farmers. We thought it was an income opportunity for these guys and a way for us to get our name out there for supporting local agriculture. Pork was a protein that is readily available, and we just said, “Hey, let’s put it on the menu, get these guys into the fold and see what happens.” It’s a really great burger: light, yet a much fuller flavor than commodity pork.