Food & Drink

The Butterball Dilemma

Ballard's Gourmet-Burger-and-Ethics Battle

The Butterball Dilemma

Kelly O

LOCAL OWNERS Drew Reed (left) and Scott Simpson.

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Lunchbox Laboratory
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The Counter

Obviously, a burger from a ramshackle, kitschy little indie burger shack is going to kick the ass of one from a chain. Chains are evil; the little guys are doing things right. Right?In September, the Counter (4609 14th Ave NW, 706-0311), a Southern California–based "modern burger joint," opened in the new Ballard Blocks development. The 6-year-old chain has 25 locations throughout the United States, as well as two in Australia and Ireland. The Counter's concept: review mammoth menu and customize your heart attack from (no joking) over 312,120 possible combinations, or (simpler) choose a signature one. The kitchen then makes your burger to order. It's the same idea as popular, critically acclaimed, independently owned Lunchbox Laboratory (7302 15th Ave NW, 706-3092), one and a half miles away.

The Counter's website is undeniably irritating: Customers are "empowered" by their ability to stuff themselves with a gazillion burger combos; the "matrix" of choices gives the customer the "ultimate freedom of choice." But your knee-jerk initial response might be subject to change.

The remarkably human director of marketing for the Counter, Brian Berman, says each franchise is locally owned and operated. "We try to source locally for certain ingredients if they meet our standards. We want franchises to adapt to fit the community." The Counter uses organic produce when possible and does seasonal, too, like Ballard's halibut burgers. The beef and poultry is hormone-, antibiotic-, filler-, and additive-free; the beef comes from Meyer Ranch in Montana. Each batch of USDA prime chuck beef is ground to its specifications, delivered fresh three to four times a week, and origin verified (read: traceable in case of E. coli, etc.). The beef is vegetarian-fed (i.e., mad-cow free). Yes, Meyer Ranch finishes its cattle in a feedlot on corn, which ecologically is a fossil fuel–burning, chemical fertilizer–utilizing nightmare—but the feedlot is certified humane. At a certain point, you have to pick your battles: Meeting demand with consistent product is tough for chains (as well as high-volume independent restaurants), and 100 percent grass-finished beef isn't always regionally available. And regardless of what the Counter isn't doing, it represents a quantum leap in operational, environmental, and agricultural ethics for a midrange, multi-unit burger establishment.

The Ballard franchise is owned and operated by Drew Reed and his wife, Michelle. They live in Seattle. Reed recognized the risks of opening near Lunchbox Laboratory: "It was like, great, a 'big box' place coming in, but we're not that. We're local owners, and our dollars are on the line. I do everything from management to cooking and washing dishes. We're in a LEED-certified building and fortunate to be able to compost and recycle... the reception from the community has been great."

The space is spotless without feeling sterile, with attractive if familiar industrial modern decor. There's sustainable wood, recycled-content Staron tables, Energy Star–rated kitchen equipment. (The company plans to eventually achieve LEED certification for every franchise. Berman says, "We're pushing to leave a smaller footprint in every market we open.") Reed features only local, handcrafted beer on tap, a selection of Washington wines, a full bar, and handmade shakes. Service is friendly and efficient, and while it's easy to go overboard on the toppings, healthy options include turkey and housemade veggie burgers. Carb-phobes can have a Burger in a Bowl. It's $8.25 for a one-third-pound turkey or beef burger with one cheese, four toppings, and a sauce; $13.25 for a one-pound monster. My Counter beef burger with grilled onions, jalapeño jack, and avocado was quite good. It needed a touch more seasoning, but was plump, the toppings fresh.

You don't have to eat at the Counter, but it's hard to argue with the company's overall philosophy. For a chain, it's goddamned enlightened.

Detractors attack indie champ Lunchbox Laboratory for its high prices. However, considering costs, 12 bucks for a third-pound, organic, grass-finished, house-ground, prime-rib/sirloin/rib-eye blend, pan-seared cheese- burger is pretty awesome. But is everything there worth it? Owner Scott Simpson wouldn't reveal his proprietary beef sources—"The Counter had their people coming in here every day, being so obvious about [wanting to know] where we sourced our meat," he says—but he guarantees it's all from Washington. Out-of-state suppliers include heritage pork from Snake River Farms and antibiotic-free duck from Maple Leaf Farms. His lamb is conventional, from "a source in Colorado." The chicken is "standard chicken." And the turkey is Butterball.

Simpson doesn't bill Lunchbox Lab as a temple for local, sustainable gastronomy, but charging premium prices for shitty industrial poultry is a tad at odds with the emphasis on ecologically sound, hormone- and-antibiotic-free beef—not to mention in complete defiance of customers' assumptions. Recollect: The Counter's turkey burger costs $8.25. (The comparable Lunchbox Lab turkey burger is $12.) It is free of antibiotics and additives. It is not Butterball.

When Simpson heard that the Counter was opening, "I was scared outta my skin, but now I know there's room for us both. A few of my friends like it better because it's bigger, so it's comfortable taking their kids there. Besides, people should try out different options—you never know what one place may have that you like better." Like, maybe, the turkey burger.

Simpson can apparently afford to be magnanimous. He says his investors are "at this moment" in negotiations for a move to a new Ballard location, which "will be a futuristic soda fountain with more items—it'll still be full of really weird Americana, but it will be bigger and more kid-friendly." And he says he intends to open as many as five more units in Seattle and the West Coast in the next few years. Ironically, if Lunchbox Laboratory became a chain, his sourcing problems would be solved. "If I go big," he says, "I'll be able to fulfill the ordering requirements of Thundering Hooves," an organic Washington family ranch with grass-finished beef and lamb, and pasture-raised pork, chicken, and turkey.

Personally, I prefer the messy beef burger at Lunchbox Laboratory. But the ethics of big versus little, Counter versus Lab, are all over the place, too. recommended

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Comments (68) RSS

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stevema14420 1
The Counter sounds like a fancy McDonalds.
Posted by stevema14420 http://www.aebn.net on November 26, 2009 at 1:02 AM · Report this
doctiloquus 2
Ate at The Counter with my partner. Two burgers of the smallest size, a combo fries/rings plate (shared), coffee and a milkshake. Over $40 with tax and tip. We left angry at the bill. That's a week's worth of groceries for our household, and we make better burgers at home.

Plus, they serve red High Fructose Corn Syrup disguised as ketchup (exclusive deal with Hinez - we asked) and they use corn-fed beef (corn makes cow stomachs bloat with gas). The marketing does not match up with the execution.

I predict The Counter won't survive. The prices are way too high for what amounts to rather standard fare.
Posted by doctiloquus http://iiwiiproject.com/ on November 26, 2009 at 11:33 AM · Report this
freesandbags 3
I am sooooo hungry.
Posted by freesandbags on November 26, 2009 at 11:39 AM · Report this
4
At least they're not serving inhumane and grade D- turkey for $12. Sheesh, Lunchbox Lab!
Posted by ThisIsWhyIFinallyGaveUpEthicalMeatEatingAndWentVegetarian on November 26, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
5
We have Elevation Burger here in Baltimore MD. Nothing fancy but grass-fed beef, home-made fries (the potatoes are in burlap bags at the back of the burger joint) and a few good wholesome toppings and you leave with a roughly 5.99 tab, excluding drink. Now that's a bargain. I hear Elevation Burger has other spots around the country (like Austin). Y'all so darn COMPLICATED on the West Coast!
Posted by spithole on November 27, 2009 at 9:34 AM · Report this
6
Dude, #2, do you make a habit of looking at the prices on menus before you order? How in God's name would you be surprised at the amount of a bill when there were only two of you and you only ordered a few things?

It does sound pricey, I probably wouldn't eat their (regularly) either but a)learn how to math and b)restaurants tend to cost more (often significantly) than grocery shopping.
Posted by Larfs on November 27, 2009 at 10:54 AM · Report this
7
Both places have GREAT food...buuuuut, like #2 wrote they're too spendy. I won't go back to either place until I make at least 100k a year.
Posted by FromUnderCastleKookooInTacoma on November 27, 2009 at 10:59 AM · Report this
8
If someone was smart they'd open a Steak 'n Shake or White Castle here.
I'm sick of expensive burgers with an attitude of doofus hipster.
Posted by meatloaf on November 27, 2009 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Mahtli69 9
@2, @8, etc ... if you want a cheap burger, go to Dick's.
Posted by Mahtli69 on November 27, 2009 at 5:15 PM · Report this
10
For the real deal at the right price check out Ballard Brothers
Posted by SPOSeattle on November 27, 2009 at 6:22 PM · Report this
hurdygurdy 11
Really Laurel? You get another chance at an article about local food and all you can do is whine about the one thing LL doesnt do fantastically? Lunchbox wows every time we go.
And a $12 burger doesn't seem so expensive when it easily stuffs 2 people.

You finally get around to admitting that you prefer they're beef burgers, but it sounds like a bad review. What gives?
Posted by hurdygurdy on November 27, 2009 at 9:34 PM · Report this
12
Went to the Counter on Sunday. The veggie burgers were tasty, but crumbly. We ordered a plate of fries - regular and sweet potato - and they were awesome, both thinly sliced and perfectly seasoned. The only problem with Sundays at the Counter are the Martians from Mars Hill. It just reminded me to stay in North Ballard...

@10 - Ballard Brothers is great! I definitely recommend them when you want a great variety of burgers and friendly staff to boot.
Posted by sloggerette on November 27, 2009 at 10:38 PM · Report this
13
Lunchbox is good but its too much, their sauce over powers the taste of the meat and I had to scrape practically all my toppings off to even feel like I was eating a burger. Dont get me wrong, it was delicious, but my girlfriend and I both agreed that we'd rather be at Dicks...which was weird for us lesbians, wanting dicks instead.
Posted by nowimhungrytoo on November 28, 2009 at 10:26 AM · Report this
14
The counter is light years better than Lunchbox Lab. It is quite obvious that LL uses poor quality beef. Scott should be ashamed for the prices they are charging for their costco ground beef.
Posted by moons on November 28, 2009 at 11:01 AM · Report this
15
This debate makes me miss GreenGo in Ballard. GREAT quality beef, Tall Grass bread, local, fresh produce, honestly priced, and unpretentious service.
Posted by Vicky on November 28, 2009 at 4:01 PM · Report this
16
Hmmmm. Don't see the dilemma. Yummy food, being as conscientious as possible. Problem? Only problem is if there are no customers, right? Why did this article even exist?
Posted by moriahl on November 28, 2009 at 7:47 PM · Report this
17
If I want a vegetarian's opinion of a burger joint I'll ask a (fill in the blank with another clueless moron who has no idea about the subject they are speaking about). Lunchbox Lab makes large horrible burgers that can easily fool the uneducated into thinking they are good. Large amounts of inferior ground beef does not make a good burger. too bad most Seattlites don't know any better.
Posted by duck4eva on November 28, 2009 at 11:26 PM · Report this
18
Eating animals is unethical period. "Organic free range" blah blah blah is just to make assholes feel better about themselves. Still killing animals for no good reason.
Posted by blk on November 29, 2009 at 12:53 PM · Report this
19
We need a Shake Shack in Seattle. Talk about one hell of a tasty burger. I personally like Red Mill the best of the Seattle choices, but it's hard to beat Dick's considering the price. Just get four of them and they will compare in price and volume to Lunchbox Lab.
Posted by John Boyen on November 29, 2009 at 2:27 PM · Report this
20
@2: Thanks for the warning! At $40 with tax and tip for two people still leaving angry at the bill, I can't afford to eat there, either!

High fructose corn syrup?!? BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Posted by cheapeats on November 29, 2009 at 9:41 PM · Report this
Jigae 21
Screw Shake Shack... that is one of the few things I don't miss about New York. So overrated. It's the experience there, not the food.
Posted by Jigae on November 30, 2009 at 11:22 AM · Report this
22
Why do white people always feel so guilty about eating meat or where their meat comes from if they do eat it?
Posted by smitty on November 30, 2009 at 12:39 PM · Report this
23
yeah, LL has some pretty lousy meat for certain. and the Counter has better quality, better scene, better location. Plus its a little cheaper. I will go back to the counter but my two times at LL have been ridiculous--its sloppy, trendoid seattle BS.
Posted by meat is tastier! on November 30, 2009 at 12:41 PM · Report this
24
"Killing animals for no good reason"? Obtaining good food is a great reason to kill animals.
Posted by Omnivore on November 30, 2009 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Baconcat 25
LL is great and Scott Simpson? More like Hott Simpson. God, I'm going to leave now before I make a rather inappropriate comment.
Posted by Baconcat on December 1, 2009 at 2:32 PM · Report this
leek 26
nowimhungry: I had the same experience at Lunchbox (sauce overpowering meat) but I figured it was because I ordered the homage to Dick's Deluxe.

When I'm allowing myself meat, I love Red Mill, myself... but I unfortunately do agree that it consists of killing animals for no good reason.
Posted by leek on December 1, 2009 at 2:46 PM · Report this
27
LL is totally gross and good lord, the people who work there are rude. I went there once (while hungry and craving a messy burger) and was really, truly disappointed.
Posted by *rollseyes* on December 1, 2009 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Fnarf 28
Stunt food. Those aren't burgers.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on December 1, 2009 at 3:19 PM · Report this
COMTE 29
I lurve teh haters complaining about the "inferior quality" of organic grass-finished ground sirloin/ribeye/prime rib.

These people wouldn't know good meat if it ambled up and dropped a grass-powered patty on their $100 Chuck Taylors.
Posted by COMTE on December 1, 2009 at 3:20 PM · Report this
burgin22 30
The Counter is very reasonable (healthy sized burgers start at $8.50), the food is tasty, the restaurant spotless and the waitstaff is friendly.

Lunchbox Laborotory is ridiculously overpriced, the food is salt-heavy, the location sticky, filthy and cramped, and the staff are downright hostile assholes.

Not even a close contest in my book.
Posted by burgin22 http://www.zombo.com/ on December 1, 2009 at 3:36 PM · Report this
31
burgerville is the nw burger chain that rocks. seriously when are they going to make it up to seattle?
Posted by jiberish on December 1, 2009 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Amnt 32
I've been to Lunchbox Labs once and The Counter twice, I enjoyed both. I don't remember the cost on LL but it was pretty pricey, Counter is up there for a burger too, but I think a little cheaper. The seasoning options on the fries at LL were great, but I like the sweet potato fries at The Counter too. The burgers at LL were a little more exotic, but I was happy with my burgers at The Counter both times.

I shop at Trader Joes a lot, so I'll probably stick with The Counter just for convenience. Oh wait! That is a chain, so I can't go there either!
Posted by Amnt on December 1, 2009 at 3:52 PM · Report this
33
Lunchbox Lab might be thinking they're trying to protect their 'secret mix' of their burgers, but for some of us who actually are trying to verify the source of the meat we decide to eat, they're pissing us off and driving us off.

When I approached them on it, I would have been fine with 'We don't divulge that sort of information.'

However, they had to gussy that up with a big helpin' of attitude and paranoia that even I was looking over my shoulder.

It's a pity. I used to love them.

But when someone I trust says they've seen the LL crew shopping for ground beef at Cash'n'Carry, and then I get attitude? I'll pass.
Posted by John Eddy on December 1, 2009 at 3:53 PM · Report this
34
FWIW: BurgerMaster has gone all grass-fed, at least up on Aurora acc'd to their signage.
Posted by John Eddy on December 1, 2009 at 3:55 PM · Report this
35
GIVE ME BURGERVILLE OR GIVE ME DEATH. They are way cheaper, way less likely to give you a hellish salty greaseball, and will make you a delicious shake out of seasonal ingredients even if the seasonal ingredient in question is spinach. WIN.

Now if only they were closer than Centralia...
Posted by thryn on December 1, 2009 at 4:46 PM · Report this
36
An amalgamated reply to a number of other posts:

I'm confused by the apparent controversy over Lunchbox Lab's meat quality...

1. As someone implied, Americans accustomed to eating corn-stuffed, factory-style, ultra-high-in-saturated-fat meat all their lives might have trouble adjusting their tastebuds to grass-fed, despite the objectively higher quality and consistency and healthier nature of the latter.

On the other hand, is L.Lab actually GUARANTEEING their meat is organic and grass-fed? The only explicit guarantee in the article is that it's "from Washington," which the Cash'n'Carry rumors wouldn't necessarily negate.

2. Thanks to whoever brought up GreenGo for comparison. They made a much simpler product: really fantastic beef, grilled right in front of you, with some super-fresh and seasonal griddled veggies, on a bun. No fancy sauces or toppings, but priced at $7 or $8, a bargain compared to these other guys. EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT was organic, sustainable, and local, and they had no qualms about revealing their source-list. GreenGo's closing played a pretty large role in my abandoning "attempted ethical meat-eating" and becoming a vegetarian.

3. Many high-concept burger joints will give lip-service to non-beefeaters, but many will either make a homemade veggie patty with no worthwhile toppings or a store-bought GardenBurger with some interesting toppings. Either way, the result is never worth the price. I really appreciate that The Counter makes a pretty tasty, ample, and hearty veggie-burger in-house AND gives you a chance to play with the 3 zillion mostly vegetarian-friendly topping/sauce combination, earning its $8-$10 price tag.

Honest question: we know that Lunchbox Lab screws over its poultry eaters. Does it do a veggieburger at all?
More...
Posted by ThisIsWhyIFinallyGaveUpEthicalMeatEatingAndWentVegetarian on December 1, 2009 at 5:00 PM · Report this
37
4. Americans need to get over the frequently regurgitated notion that $1-$3 is the cost of a "real" or "everyman" burger and that anything more is exorbitant.

Meat production and distribution is hugely time-, energy-, and labor-intensive, and there is no way to accomplish it that cheaply except for the horrendous American factory way, with its subsidized amber waves of crap-corn funneled into cows in high-density feedlots who are pumped full of antibiotics to keep them from developing lesions on their way to the slaugher-conveyer-belt.

No other country -- industrialized or otherwise -- makes meat this bad. And no other country's working class has been indoctrinated to consider meat this cheap a class-conscious badge of honor.

Earl Butz, Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture and the architect of commodity-corn subsidies and, by extension, countless other factory-food production methods, went to his grave professing pride at having given Americans the lowest food expenditure of any Western people. He never grasped the connection between his actions and the quadrupling of our health-care expenses.

The only thing worth than Dick's being able to serve trash for $2 are mid-range burger joints or bars serving the same trash for $5-$6. If The Counter and Lunchbox Lab (presuming L.Lab don't lie about the quality of their meat) help to eradicate the "real men eat $2 burgers" fantasy, then they're both doing something worthwhile.

(Side-note: Outside of Seattle, a similar fallacy remains, even among liberal champions of the working class, that "real coffee only costs $1." How ironic, and sad, that this misplaced rejection of "bourgeois coffee" requires the daily screwing of all the working people who grow, wash, ship halfway around the globe, roast, brew, and serve the sizeable mound of beans they demand in their cups each morning. That, just like a $1 burger, isn't "keeping it real," it's fucking entitlement!)

More...
Posted by ThisIsWhyIFinallyGaveUpEthicalMeatEatingAndWentVegetarian on December 1, 2009 at 5:31 PM · Report this
38
@2 A burger with one third of a pound of ground chuck is not a "burger of the smallest size" by any stretch of the imagination.

You're also exaggerating the dangers of dipping fries in Heinz ketchup. If you really are that concerned about your health, you shouldn't be eating deep fried vegetables! "Oh no, I can't dump my battered, deep fried onion ring in Heinz! It will kill me!"

Your predictions about The Counter are LAUGHABLE. They are not a chain of local franchises through some sort of accident.

Please regale us with the burger establishment you prefer. Where is it? What do they serve? How much does it cost? You can't, because this magical grass-fed, super-cheap burger establishment does not exist.
Posted by jsteel2005 on December 1, 2009 at 6:40 PM · Report this
39
Haven't tried either joint yet (and at those prices I may not) but it seems to me that you can also get damn good burgers at By's, and several carnivores whose opinion I trust swear by Zippy's. Kidd Valley is still pretty good, too. All local, and I'm pretty sure all three rely on ground cow that may not be boutique but that hasn't been frozen, either.

Oh yeah, and they all cost less than five bucks, too.

PS - Burgerville USA is OK, but I think their burgers are mealy. Kind of like a lesser Kidd Valley, as I recall.

Posted by Mr. X on December 1, 2009 at 11:32 PM · Report this
40
I've been to each several times, and I can tell you this:

1) Counter is cheaper.
2) Counter is cleaner.
3) Counter is nicer. Every time I've been to Counter, I felt like I could leave being good friends with the hostess, waiter, and bartender. Each time I've been to Lunchbox Laboratory, I received bitchy, fucking bitchy attitude with a side of bitchy. Once my burger was so raw/red, it was literally dripping red juice. I asked if I could have it cooked a little longer, and I got the response of, "We know how to cook it, like it or leave it." Leave it. Fuck you, never going back to Lunchbox Laboratory. I have many friends who don't live around Ballard who ask about it, and I steer them away.
Posted by mophandlemama on December 1, 2009 at 11:54 PM · Report this
41
Case in point... just 2 comments after my parsing the American frame-of-reference problem (@37), along comes Mr. X, parroting the familiar refrain that we should expect good worthwhile burgers to be "less than five bucks," insisting that he won't try either of the places in question "at those prices," and expressing a knee-jerk rejection of the need for "boutique" beef.

$4 extra now? Or pay whatever portion the insurance company won't on your coronary bypass later? (Or a global antibiotic-resistant pandemic after that?)
Posted by I read previous comments before I post, why can't Mr. X? on December 2, 2009 at 12:55 AM · Report this
42
You know when a burger is great? When nobody's made a complicated mess of it, or stacked it so high that you need a demolition permit to eat the damned thing.

A menu boasting 312,120 possible burger combinations has about 312,110 too many. The difference only serves to capture the attention of those who consider North Ballard culturally distinct. Business is probably brisk.

Another warning sign: meat that's lavished with adjectives beyond "ground" and "beef". Hyphenation as in "grass-finished" is grounds for an ass-beating. Face it: they could be grilling up Kroger discount downer and you would never know the difference. I know you think you can. You can't.

The real knee slapper is the moral gymnastics that can somehow make a hamburger ecologically sustainable. A cow is a four-legged methane factory. It takes an obscene amount of real estate and fresh water to raise one to maturity. Beef is wrong. Beef melts glaciers. A tear trickles down Al Gore's face with every beefy bite you take. Beef is yummy and awesome. It's what's for dinner, but that dinner will NEVER be green, no matter if it was raised on corn, grass, or Prilosec.

Hamburgers should make you happy. If you want one, get one. It's okay! Don't obsess over the pedigree of the beef, what it ate, or if it was Waldorff educated. Don't deliberate on how many Prius miles it will take to carbon neutralize it. Go get a normal, everday hamburger. Don't pay more than 5 bucks for it. Grill it yourself if you want. I won't tell. Eat it, then smile yourself a big Sam Elliott smile.
Posted by Tyson Foods (we're hiring!) on December 2, 2009 at 1:15 AM · Report this
43
@42: You couldn't be more wrong.

When the price of a hamburger accurately reflects the real (unsubsidized) environmental and (unexploited) labor costs of its production, it WILL cost more!

Then, per basic principles of supply and demand, people will begin to eat somewhat less of it. The production quantity will decrease, but the quality of production methods should increase to keep the overall value of the industry stable.

With fewer meat-bound cows overall, the environmental impact will shrink. The public, eating meat of better quality, and less of it, will see its health improve. The humaneness of meat production will improve as well.

But this will ONLY happen if there is an educated public to demand higher-quality meat, to make it more lucrative and attractive than for producers than the current factory methods. As long as you insist on not paying more than 5 bucks, you ARE the problem.
Posted by d.p. on December 2, 2009 at 2:57 AM · Report this
44
@42: You couldn't be more wrong.

When the price of a hamburger accurately reflects the real (unsubsidized) environmental and (unexploited) labor costs of its production, it WILL cost more!

Then, per basic principles of supply and demand, people will begin to eat somewhat less of it. The production quantity will decrease, but the quality of production methods should increase to keep the overall value of the industry stable.

With fewer meat-bound cows overall, the environmental impact will shrink. The public, eating meat of better quality, and less of it, will see its health improve. The humaneness of meat production will improve as well.

But this will ONLY happen if there is an educated public to demand higher-quality meat, to make it more lucrative and attractive than for producers than the current factory methods. As long as you insist on not paying more than 5 bucks, you ARE the problem.
Posted by d.p. on December 2, 2009 at 2:57 AM · Report this
45
@42: You couldn't be more wrong.

When the price of a hamburger accurately reflects the real (unsubsidized) environmental and (unexploited) labor costs of its production, it WILL cost more!

Then, per basic principles of supply and demand, people will begin to eat somewhat less of it. The production quantity will decrease, but the quality of production methods should increase to keep the overall value of the industry stable.

With fewer meat-bound cows overall, the environmental impact will shrink. The public, eating meat of better quality, and less of it, will see its health improve. The humaneness of meat production will improve as well.

But this will ONLY happen if there is an educated public to demand higher-quality meat, to make it more lucrative and attractive than for producers than the current factory methods. As long as you insist on not paying more than 5 bucks, you ARE the problem.
Posted by d.p. on December 2, 2009 at 2:57 AM · Report this
46
@41,

I read a lot of the posts. I just thought yours was pretentious and idiotic.

Posted by Mr. X on December 2, 2009 at 9:19 AM · Report this
More, I Say! 47
d.p. fail
Posted by More, I Say! on December 2, 2009 at 9:21 AM · Report this
48
@41,

Dick's uses a local meat supplier, as does the fabulous California chain In N' Out Burgers (which also does a wonderful burger for well under $5).

As a general rule, I don't take marital advice from Catholic priests, or tips on eating meat from militant vegans. Sorry.

And by the way, European hamburgers cost about the same amount as American ones (and they aren't as good).
Posted by Mr. X on December 2, 2009 at 9:35 AM · Report this
49
@36 "On the other hand, is L.Lab actually GUARANTEEING their meat is organic and grass-fed? The only explicit guarantee in the article is that it's "from Washington," which the Cash'n'Carry rumors wouldn't necessarily negate."

They used to. Now all they told me was 'We use the good stuff.'

And when you're trying to go CAFO free, that isn't good enough.
Posted by John Eddy on December 2, 2009 at 10:06 AM · Report this
50
@42 "You know when a burger is great? When nobody's made a complicated mess of it, or stacked it so high that you need a demolition permit to eat the damned thing. A menu boasting 312,120 possible burger combinations has about 312,110 too many. "

....

Speaking of the Counter, the beauty is _you don't have to make a mess of it_.

You don't have to pick as many topping as you want, you could pick *as few* as you want.

Hell, despite the fact that you get 4 free regular topping, I usually only get 2. The joy of the Counter is the ability to perfectly customize the burger with what you want.

Heck, here's my suggestion: Get the burger in a bowl. Too many toppings *does* ruin the burger on a bun, but when you get it in the bowl, you can customize each bite. Try with one topping, try with two. And so on, and so on.
Posted by John Eddy on December 2, 2009 at 10:10 AM · Report this
51
Okay, I can see that this is all about personal choice but give me a break. Yes The Counter is the new guy in the area, but it seems to me that people are going out of their way to bad mouth them because they are a chain. Yes they have regular ketchup..what does the LL serve? Organic? Doubt it. As for the price..the smallest burger is 1/3lb (thats the weight after cooking) and it is always juicy and delish! As for the environment, yes it is a little sterile but by god at least it is clean! The staff is super friendly and the place is eco friendly. What the hell more do you people want? They serve local beer, use local products and are trying to find their place in what appears to be an area full of burger snobs.
Posted by burgergal on December 2, 2009 at 8:38 PM · Report this
52
I really appreciate an article like this that breaks down the sourcing of meats. Call it "doofus hipster" (whatever that means), but some of us care about the planet and what lives on it—while still occasionally enjoying a plate of meat.

I find it appalling that Lunchbox uses "conventional" chicken and Butterball, and charges premium prices for it. Even worse: They won't reveal their beef source. I won't be going there for the latter reason alone, but I will definitely check out the Counter.
Posted by mitten on December 3, 2009 at 8:35 AM · Report this
Fenrox 53
I can't wait for both of these assholes to go out of business.
Posted by Fenrox on December 3, 2009 at 8:57 AM · Report this
54
Sorry, Mr. X, no "militant vegans" here. You've proven yourself a victim of the "real American burgers should be cheap" brand of mistaken class-consciousness, but I didn't realize you were also illiterate. (Do you vote for the "Cut Taxes GOP Party," too?)

As my display name clearly stated, I'm a recent meat-eater and someone who likes meat, who finally threw up his hands and went vegetarian because ethical meat-eating is so fucking difficult in the States, thanks to the near-universal reliance on some very destructive meat-production practices.

In Canada, in most European country, and in any number of pre- and post-industrialization Asian countries, meat produced by less destructive methods is the norm, not the exception.

Those countries do spend far more of their GDPs on food (your ultra-cheap European burger is a fiction) but they get what they pay for. I'm willing to call the curious American tendency to reject anything of quality as "bourgeois" (or to label me "pretentious" just for bringing it up) what it is: pure self-defeating stupidity.

As for In-N'-Out Burger: they recently took a vocal public stand against the most inhumane of cattle-raising practices, and this was a step in the right direction. But their burgers are still emerging from a cheaply fed, antibiotic-pumping, ultra-mechanized mode of production that hardly puts them in the "quality meat" category.

Posted by ThisIsWhyIFinallyGaveUpEthicalMeatEatingAndWentVegetarian on December 3, 2009 at 3:42 PM · Report this
55
Just had a lovely $3.50 1/3 pound angus burger at Orange King in the U-District. Yum!

..and Mr. Longhandle is still a self-righteous prig.

Posted by Mr. X on December 6, 2009 at 11:21 AM · Report this
56
...and thanks for telling me where and what I've eaten, Mr. Omniscient.

Posted by Mr. X on December 6, 2009 at 11:32 AM · Report this
57
...and thanks also for illustrating what assholes food snobs can be.
Posted by Mr. X on December 6, 2009 at 11:32 AM · Report this
58
THE BEST BURGERS IN TOWN ARE AT RED MILL. BACON CHEESE TO DIE FOR. PERIOD!
Posted by LeCREATURE on December 6, 2009 at 3:33 PM · Report this
59
...just to beat a dead horse (cow), the $2.99/lb rib eye steak I got at the White Center Market isn't of the same quality as a $50/lb Omaha dry-aged rib eye they serve at high end steakhouses, but is was still very good indeed.
Posted by Mr. X on December 6, 2009 at 6:51 PM · Report this
60
ack, "it" was....
Posted by Mr. X on December 6, 2009 at 6:52 PM · Report this
61
Best burger in Seattle? Probably Zippy's.
Posted by presently out on December 6, 2009 at 11:39 PM · Report this
62
Caprice Kitchen in Ballard serves 100% locally sourced (except coffee, chocolate, and sugar), ethically produced ingredients. It's an 8 table restaurant. They get their meat from Thundering Hooves.

If they can do it why can't Lunchbox Labs?
Posted by Take only what you need. on December 9, 2009 at 6:00 PM · Report this
63
@62 "Caprice Kitchen in Ballard serves 100% locally sourced (except coffee, chocolate, and sugar), ethically produced ingredients. It's an 8 table restaurant. They get their meat from Thundering Hooves.

If they can do it why can't Lunchbox Labs?"

Believe me, I'm not going to defend Lunchbox, but, it could just be the valley in the economy of scale. Caprice is small enough to be able to just buy as a 'person', while a business with larger throughput such as Ray's can get in on a cheaper, business plan, while Lunchbox is in some middle ground where they can't afford the amount they need, but the amount they need isn't enough to get a discount.

_*maybe*_
Posted by John Eddy on December 11, 2009 at 11:24 AM · Report this
64
Amazing how every one of Mr. X's eight dickish and reactionary posts did nothing but prove my point.

"I got a big pile of crappily-produced meat THAT CLAIMS TO BE OF QUALITY for $3.75," he gloats again and again.

I explain why that's a bad thing, so he accuses me of snobbery (and, by extension, proves his mettle as a "real non-fancy red-meat American).

But my favorite thing is when proudly uses the word "angus" to assert that his food is of quality. Angus cattle is just a breed -- an inbred breed with genetic disorders, by the way -- and calling something "angus" says nothing of the quality of the meet or how it was raised. Moron.


Posted by ThisIsWhyMrXIsADouchebagAndApparentlyI'mASnob on December 11, 2009 at 12:54 PM · Report this
65
Amazing how every one of Mr. X's eight dickish and reactionary posts did nothing but prove my point.

"I got a big pile of crappily-produced meat THAT CLAIMS TO BE OF QUALITY for $3.75," he gloats again and again.

I explain why that's a bad thing, so he accuses me of snobbery (and, by extension, proves his mettle as a "real non-fancy red-meat American").

But my favorite thing is when proudly uses the word "angus" to assert that his food is of quality. Angus cattle is just a breed -- an inbred breed with genetic disorders, by the way -- and calling something "angus" says nothing of how it was raised or the quality of its meat. Moron.
Posted by ThisIsWhyMrXIsADouchebagAndApparentlyI'mASnob on December 11, 2009 at 12:57 PM · Report this
66
Make that a Dick's Deluxe, please.

Posted by Mr. X on December 17, 2009 at 12:19 PM · Report this
67
...and of course I know the difference between boutique grass fed micro beef and the cheaper industrially produced stuff - I just don't care all that much (I eat tortured baby cows, too).
Posted by Mr. X on December 17, 2009 at 12:38 PM · Report this
68
I will never go to Counter. Scott is local and one of my five favorite restaurants in Seattle. Scott's a genius and I know that there's nothing that any burger place I'll ever go to again will ever come up with the flavors that Scott dreams up.
Posted by suomynona on August 31, 2010 at 10:45 PM · Report this

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