Urban Agrarian Blog

Nitrate pros & cons?

Matt Burch - Monday, July 22, 2013

We have been looking into anything we can find on nitrates lately. We recently purchased some pasture-based, heritage-breed whole hogs from 38 Ranch and had to decide how to have them processed. One option was to have all of our bacon and hams cured in a nitrate-free way. After speaking with the processor who told us that many people wouldn't like the flavor as much if we went with the nitrate-free cure, we decided to have them done traditionally. Since then many customers have expressed interest in purchasing nitrate-free pork and the next time we receive pork from 38 Ranch we will opt for the nitrate-free cure. During this decision making process, we asked Jake Burga, a Harding Prep student working with us through the summer, to do some research on the issue. This is what he sent:

So, here's the thing: there still is not a substantial amount of research on the effects these compounds have on humans. There have been lab tests and general findings, but nothing that has given anyone any reason to stop the use of these substances. However, they are controlled and cautioned and what is known about them makes their dangers speculative.

You see, nitrates are also commonly found in plants ranging from spinach, beets, radishes, eggplant, celery, lettuce, collards, and turnip greens, and people are actually "likely to consume as 

much or more nitrates from his vegetable intake as from the cured meat products". This is ironic for adamant vegetarians or the like that are worried about such things. Nitrate toxicity in infants have been recorded in cases involving spinach left too long at room temperature. Also, due to nitrogen leaks from soil or fertilizers, water supplies have been found to be contaminated with nitrates. The considered safe level for nitrates is 10 parts per million (about 300 times less than that found in plants which actually varies greatly), but there are still numerous examples of water supplies exceeding this safe level, creating yet another source of consumption.

But it's not the nitrates you have to worry about, it's the nitrites, which form inside the body after the consumption of nitrates. Nitrates have two possible ways of killing you: they can transform your blood and basically suffocate you, or interact with the amines in your body (one of several types of "nutrients", I should say) and turn into nitrosamines (this process also happens in certain types of fish), a blanket term for several types of nitrogen containing carcinogens. So we think. There still needs to be further study, but there is evidence to suggest that nitrosamines aren't actually carcinogens, but rather precursors to cancer, which isn't much better. 

Incidents of nitrate or nitrite poisoning is extremely low and so are the chances of such an incident, but that should go without saying. Considering the amount people unknowingly consume, this should help proportion the significance of the issue. 

I feel like I'm just running over the same ground. So, the new information is that people consume nitrates with or without meats which makes the concern questionable and a need for more research on the matter greater, something science has to do (or rather the people that pay scientists to do this research. So, meat manufactures. Yea, fun world).

And I will reiterate: nitrates prevent botulism. It also gives meat its unique flavor, but for god's sake, botulism!   

1. Nitrates, Nitrates, and Nitrosamines
2. Nitrate and Nitrite: Health Information Summary

 Now we want to know from you what you think or know about nitrates in food. As a retailer of locally-grown foods our utmost concern is the demand and preferences of our customers. What type of processing do you prefer?

Thank You To all Our Spring Fest Sponsors!

Matt Burch - Saturday, April 20, 2013








Olive & Co. Now Available at Urban Agrarian

Matt Burch - Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Olive & Co. is dedicated to providing only the highest quality olive oils, and vinegars that until now, were not available to the Oklahoma City area. If you are looking to experience the health and taste benefits found in one of Olive & Co.’s ultra-premium, extra virgin olive oils, we now have a selection at the Urban Agrarian Market and our Mobile Markets.

Extra Virgin Olive Oils


All Olive & Co "extra virgins" are centered around providing absolutely 100% real, ultra-premium extra virgin olive oils to an often distorted market place. While up to 50% of supermarket "extra virgins" are mislabeled and made to appear to be higher quality than tests indicate, Olive & Co. guarantees that all "extra virgins" offered not only meet, but surpass all current USDA / FDA standards. Experience the full taste and health differences found in guaranteed quality olive oils, make Olive & Co olive oils a staple in your pantry.

Infused and Fused Olive Oils


Infused and Fused olive oils offer a flavor unlike any you've likely had. Whether used for dipping or as a base oil for cooking, all of our infused and fused oils are guaranteed to open your eyes up to the new, incredible flavors that can be created right in your kitchen. And make no mistake, the quality of olive oil found in our fused and infused oils matches that of our "extra virgins", however, they just can't be labeled as such after mixing new flavors with them.

White Balsamic Vinegars


White balsamic vinegars offer a unique way to spice up any dish. Simply add a table spoon or two to sautéing veggies, fish or salad dressings and your cooking will instantly be enhanced. Olive & Co.'s white balsamics are aged up to 12 years, which only adds to their already premium quality. 

Aged Balsamic Vinegars


Did you know, it's not unheard of for high end French restaurants to put aged balsamics atop vanilla ice cream? All of Olive & Co.'s balsamics are aged anywhere from 8 to 25 years. Premium aged balsamics are thicker, sweeter and much more flavorful than typical supermarket balsamics.  Once you've tried one, you'll never go back.

Now Accepting SNAP at Urban Agrarian

Matt Burch - Thursday, February 28, 2013

Press Release

Urban Agrarian supports SNAP-Oklahomas Supplemental Nutrition Program

Oklahoma City--As of January 11, 2013, Urban Agrarian (UA), an Oklahoma City local food company, is announcing its involvement in Oklahomas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  SNAP helps to supplement monthly food costs and provides nutritional education to more than 600,000 low-income households statewide according to the Benefits.gov website.

UA is a five year old company headquartered in the historic Farmers Market District  that networks with Oklahoma farmers, ranchers, dairies and other food producers to help provide fresh Oklahoma produce, meat, dairy and other foods to consumers primarily in the Oklahoma City area.

"We're located in an urban area of Oklahoma City where SNAP eligible families don't have access to good grocery options.  We're proud to be able to offer residents in our area the option to buy fresh, local, Oklahoma foods," said UA founder Matthew Burch.

SNAP eligible families also have the option of purchasing food producing seeds and plants for use in home gardens which would allow them the opportunity to grow their own food.

Through the use of mobile markets located throughout the Oklahoma City metro area, UA helps to give consumers many options to support Oklahoma farmers and ranchers by bringing local foods from rural areas into urban areas where it would otherwise not be available.

UA provides source-verified organic and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy and meat products as well as Oklahoma produced food products from companies such as Prairie Thunder Bakery, Hiland Dairy Foods, Della Terra Fine Pasta and Lovera's Italian Market.

Urban Agrarian is located at 1235 SW 2nd Street in Oklahoma City. Hours of operation are year-round Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

Contact: Matthew Burch

Phone: 405-615-5797


Matt Burch - Thursday, October 25, 2012

November 4th is a big day for us at Urban Agrarian.  It marks the one year anniversary of being in the Earth to Urban Local Food Hub.  When we moved in the space was almost completely open and we took last summer to build out the Earth Elements Entrepreneurs' Kitchen, offices, cold storage, warehouse shelving, and then our Local Foods Market up front.  Since opening on November 2nd we have operated 5 days a week and not a day has gone by that we haven't served anyone walking in the door Oklahoma's finest foods being produced locally.  Our building was chosen for its location in the Historic Farmers' Market District.  In preparation for the festivities on Sunday we are going to take a little ride down memory lane in Oklahoma City's first and only produce district...

Wanna be a mushroom farmer?

Matt Burch - Thursday, March 22, 2012

As many of you know, OM Gardens is shutting down.  They have been producing organic mushrooms in Norman, OK for nearly 4 years now and have certainly accumulated some serious infrastructure over the course of time.  Steve Morton, owner and operator, is now looking to sell off his equipment and begin a new chapter personally and for his business.  I went down this week to take an inventory of the assets and help spread the word...

Here are some simplified instructions on the mushroom production process as well as some amateur photos and video of their current setup.  All of this equipment is for sale, terms are negotiable, and it should be mentioned Steve is very willing to help the buyer setup, grow, consult, or participate in the process in many ways. 

You could be the next (and at this point only) organic mushroom producer in the state of Oklahoma.  Let me show you what is available...

A shipping container mushroom farm:

2 fully equipped, wired, temperature controlled, humidity controlled 50-foot shipping containers sitting side by side with additional rooms built on to both ends.  Only 1 container has been finished completely, as you can see in the video at the end of our post.



Notable equipment:

First of all, there is the equipment for producing a suitable substrate for mushroom production.  

This includes (2) refrigerators with external thermostats for precise temperature control.  These are for holding your mushroom "spawn", small amounts of which inoculate  prepared blocks with mushroom mycelia.  


To prepare the substrate blocks, there are (6) pressure cookers which sterilize wood dust and/or grain in preparation for inoculation.  


Preparing substrate bags is done using this bagging stand.  


After sterilization, bags of substrate are taken into the laminar flow hood.  This hood blows a soft, constant, sterile wind during the inoculation process.  This prevents any foreign contaminants from entering the substrate.  

For post-harvest storage, there is a large commercial refrigerator with extra insulation added to the glass doors.  Also, handsinks are installed in the end rooms for proper sanitization.

I shot some video which has some poor spots regarding light and audio quality but it gets the point across and gives you a quick overview of their facility which can be slid onto a flat-bed truck and moved to a new location.


 Alright, that is what I've got.  Consider that this is an operating farm with existing customer base, website, and all proper licenses and certifications.  To contact Steve Morton email omgardens@gmail.com.

Saving local food, jar by jar

Matt Burch - Friday, November 05, 2010

Earth Elements Farm and Bakery in Lexington, Okla., offers more than 300 different products, a list that has grown in tandem with supply as well as demand. Supply is key because rather than growing food, Earth Elements helps preserve it. 

It wasn’t always that way. After battling cancer in her early 20s, Earth Elements owner April Harrington was inspired to start a small farm where she grew herbs for her chemical-free body care products. As her garden expanded, she started selling at area farmers’ markets and looking for ways to preserve leftover produce. 

“I had just started selling at the OSU-OKC market when we had a downpour, and it just shut the market down for the day,” she says. “One of the vendors had ten cases of tomatoes, and he just didn’t know what to do with them, so I said I would take them home and put them into jars. I realized that that was my niche—that I was a much better processor than I was a grower.”

April built a commercial kitchen, which allows her to legally to make food products for resale though Urban Agrarian and other outlets. She’s been helping local farmers with bumper crops of okra and zucchini ever since. She worked with 24 different producers last year and kept the contents of her product line 44 percent local.

April has also been instrumental in the growth of Urban Agrarian. The idea for our local food market was born while founder/owner Matt Burch was working for Earth Elements, and the two businesses still have a symbiotic relationship; UA sells Earth Elements products then delivers surplus produce to the Earth Elements kitchen for processing, which cuts down on waste.

When her kitchen isn’t busy cranking out everything from frozen black-bean burritos to pineapple-upside-down muffins, April rents her space to other local producers who need a commercial kitchen to process their value-added products. Nine businesses took advantage of the opportunity last year, helping the local food chain grow by a few more links.

 “A lot of people walk into my place and say, ‘Wow—you are the future,’ and I say, ‘actually I am the past.’ Food preservation is something my grandmother taught me, and it is part of our heritage,” she says.