An exotic 13-acre free range farm-to-table experience in the Inland Empire.
My love for animals began at an early age. My family raised chickens, sheep, goats, cows, horses, pigeons, rabbits, dogs & cats. Most of these were our pets but some of them eventually became our dinner.
While some people might not understand how someone could kill and eat something they’ve known and raised, I don’t understand how those same people can eat meat from a factory farm where the animals are treated poorly, live in disgusting filth and spend their entire lives living in fear.
At Anshu Pathak’s 13-acre spread which borders the Santa Ana River, his free range alpacas, ostriches, emus, peacocks, goats, lambs, and two water buffaloes are well taken care of and show no signs of any neglect or distress.
In fact they all seem quite happy.
Finding her light.
To get to the farm, I pulled off the freeway in Perris, a suburb of Riverside, and passed a fleet of vintage bombers at March Field Air Museum. I continued through acres of scrub and asphalt and newish tract homes before turning onto a dirt road.
Unlike some farms where animals are divided by breed, Anshu allows his to mix and match.
It’s not unusual to see ostriches, goats, llamas, and peacocks living in peace all within the same roomy enclosure.
This little man is really free range and is allowed to roam around the farm wherever he wants. He also makes a pretty decent greeter.
Pathak is short and compact except for a slight belly from eating all that exotic meat.
Four years ago, after growing frustrated with sellers who refused to reveal the age or lineage of their animals, Pathak started raising his own.
He first took up animal husbandry as a child in India, breeding thousands of dogs in his native city of Ahmedabad.
He came to the U.S. in 1989, following a pregnant girlfriend to Southern California.
In India, he’d managed 42 lakes for the government. In America, he got his first job selling diamonds in downtown L.A., but soon grew restless.
Door-to-door food vendors were common in India, so when he saw an ad for a similar business, he bought a stake. A few years later, he founded Gourmet Meat and Seafood of San Bernardino. He started off selling the basics as well as less traditional meats such as alligator, elk, bison, and turtle.
It’s hard to know just how large the national appetite is for exotic meat. For one thing, there’s no precise definition of “exotic.” For most Americans, it means anything outside of the big five: chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and fish.
To be sold legally in the U.S., all meat must be inspected by an authorized agency.
But the USDA is required to examine only meats named in the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act, neither of which addresses many of Pathak’s selections. So Pathak and other above-board purveyors of game meats must pay the USDA or a state agency for that service. The self-proclaimed meat enthusiast boasts that he carries everything from “A to Zebra.”
But generally the only animals he personally raises are goats, llamas, peacocks, chickens, alpacas, sheep, ostriches, emus, turkeys and water buffalo.
He also offers a variety of other meat sourced from around the world including elk, beaver, armadillo, coyote, camel, woodcock, and scorpion fish…
…but does NOT sell prohibited or endangered species.
What would probably surprise most people is how much he loves animals.
He walked around introducing me to some of his favorites.
Most of them allowed us to pet them without any hesitation.
This emu seemed to really enjoy it when Anshu’s wife Claudia rubbed its neck.
Anshu bought these two water buffalo as a Valentine’s Day gift to his wife.
He refuses to slaughter many of the older animals, who are well past their best years as meat or egg producers, the one’s that would usually be killed on other farms.
Pathak’s few competitors are scattered around the country, from Reno to Texas to New Jersey to Florida. Yet one of Exotic Meat Market’s main rivals is located just 30 minutes west and just happens to be his older brother, Nerry Pathak, whom he hasn’t spoken to since their mother’s death late last year.
Emus are quite gregarious and loved pecking at my shoe laces.
They also love to stare at you with their curious/evil looking eyes.
There were so many cute babies running around…
…including this cutie who was only two days old.
The goats, alpacas and Llamas were amazing and all but it was even more of a thrill to be allowed to enter the area where the big birds roamed.
In fact, the Ostrich and Emu are the first and fourth largest birds in the world.
While I was more than aware that an Ostrich could easily kill me with just one kick, for some reason I didn’t have any fear when stepping into their domain.
As the largest bird in the world, Ostrich’s have the largest eyes of any bird in the world. They take up so much room in the skull that the ostrich’s brain is actually smaller than either one of its eyeballs.
At 2 inches in diameter, measured front to back, from the center of the cornea to the retina, they are five times bigger than the human eye and bigger than that of any land animal. The eyes are shielded by eyelash-lined outer eyelids that blink from the top downward, as well as nictitating membranes that close from the bottom of the eye upward. This membrane protects the eye but is semitransparent so that the bird can still see. “I can see you.”
After visiting with the animals, the sun began to set and it was time for our exotic meat tasting to begin.
All of the items were prepared offsite by Anshu & Claudia (no animals were slaughtered while we were there) and we only found out what we’d eaten after the fact.
The first course was lamb brain and turkey egg over lentils. You would think that this would be gross but it was actually pretty good. Brains, it’s what’s for dinner.
For the second course, Anshu served us drob [think haggis] which was basically quail eggs in a goat / lamb liver Pâté. Mustard and cornichons helped it go down.
Soon the tiki torches were lit and our mystery tasting became even more exotic.
Next up was ground eland which we got to taste raw…
…before making it into a burger.
The fixins were kept sparse so we could taste what we were eating.
The setting was perfect…
…and it was kind of cool being able to watch the turkeys and peacocks set up to roost for the night.
Up next was slow-cooked Nubian goat in a mild curry broth which tasted good but grossed me out since I’m not much of a bone person.
Everyone eventually gathered around where all the action took place, the BBQ.
The Chital (a spotted deer from India) topped with a creamy red curry sauce was one of my favorites.
But the standout of the evening though was the Wagyu beef served tartare. Anshu informed us that this was the highest grade of beef on the market. Kobe beef raised in Japan is graded from A1 -A5, with A5 being the best quality. There is also a grading system called ”BMS” (Beef Marbling Standard). The fat marbling of the meat is graded on a BMS scale from 1-12, with marble Score 12 being the highest. The steak we were about to eat was rated A5 with a BMS score of 12. This was by far the best piece of meat I’ve ever tasted. The two raw strips I had melted in my mouth.
Everyone waited anxiously for another piece. He even pulled out some more and let us taste a seared piece. Yummy!
We ended the night with a dragon fruit, passion fruit, mango dessert.