The Sea Breeze Farm butcher truck—a “camion boucherie”—appeared like an apparition one late summer night on a familiar Northwest Portland street corner.
From a distance, driving by, it was hard to tell what culinary drama might be unfolding under the truck’s awning, the space drenched in come-hither white light. Clearly, something special was afoot, but what could it be? Passersby, myself included, were irresistibly drawn to the strange new spectacle.
On closer examination, it was as though a portal to a French street market had opened. The light was emanating from a refrigerated display jutting toward the sidewalk from the rear of the truck. It was chock-full of fresh and cured meats. Rose Allred, the driver and vendor, presided energetically from inside the truck, answering visitors’ questions as she wrapped up and took payment for duck rillettes, pork cheek and belly, whole chickens, ground beef and much more.
As it turned out, both the truck and the farm that supplies it are the life and passion of Allred and her “sweetie,” George Page. Page founded Sea Breeze 22 years ago, at first farming a few acres on Vashon Island, Wash. What led him to agriculture was an occupational epiphany: His degree in physics and job selling medical devices would never suffice as a fulfilling life path. He reflected on his interest in the culinary arts, which he traced to a stay in Southern France when he was 15. Page’s love of quality food was fed by many subsequent visits to France and elsewhere in Europe as a young adult. He began his agrarian avocation with a handful of animals, at first bringing cheese and baked goods to the Seattle-area markets he used to haunt as a customer.
Allred, a solstice baby with a passion for food, first joined forces with Page in 2012 as a market hand and cheese maker. The relationship turned romantic and, within the last few years, Allred and Page began a human brood, raising three children now 5, 3 and 1.
Beyond child-rearing, the couple made the life-altering decision to purchase a farm in Birkenfeld, Ore., in May 2021, and move their animals from Vashon. The Neverstill Farm, as they call it, is in the middle of Oregon’s upper-left “hump,” 90 minutes from Portland in Columbia County on surprisingly good roads. The farm is a sight to behold: 132 acres abutting forest land with a languid ribbon of the Nehalem River running through it. There is ample pasture for all the animals: cows, pigs, sheep, chicken and ducks. The old farmhouse where Allred, Page and their children live is majestic. A farm this size offered scale—it is nearly 20 times larger than the Vashon Island property—and access to the markets where Sea Breeze pops up in Seattle and, since August, in Portland.
If all this sounds like a food enthusiast’s dreamscape, it is and it isn’t. On the one hand, Allred and Page are accomplishing their dream of supplying responsibly raised meat and bringing pleasure to the palates of their Pacific Northwest followers. On the other, it is just the two of them toiling 80 to 100 hours a week to make the magic happen: caring for the herds and the land, breaking down carcasses of large animals that are butchered for them at a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility, then transporting the meat to markets several days a week. That all must get done in addition to standard household chores and parenting. When I asked Allred about the hardest part of her life, she said, “Everything,” but she clearly would not have it any other way. Page scoffed at the notion of work-life balance. “There is no balance. We integrate our work and personal lives.”
All this leads back to the camion boucherie, or “Magic Meat Truck” as Allred and Page refer to it. Page had long been fantasizing about owning a mobile meat shop like those he saw in European farmers markets. Inquiries to potential builders in the U.S. were fruitless. In 2016, Page first contacted Euromag, a French manufacturer of such vehicles, headquartered an hour outside Lyon. Four years, a visit to the factory, much design and customization work and $250,000 later (including the cost of shipping the truck from France in the middle of the pandemic), the dream became reality.
The truck is white with a proud red rooster, and “Sea Breeze Farm” and the motto “Grass-fed artisan meats. From our pastures to your plate” are painted on the back and side. The rig runs on electricity as do the onboard meat grinder, slicer, display case, and Allred’s fancy espresso machine—a concession to perpetual exhaustion.
When I first chatted with Allred on that late summer night, all I could think about was the cool new meat truck, like nothing I had seen around Portland, and a vendor who was 100% present in her chosen life. After spending time with her and Page, visiting their farm for a walkaround at their let-your-hair-down autumnal equinox party, and witnessing the magic behind the meat truck, my respect and admiration for them leapt that much higher.
The Magic Meat Truck’s Washington license plate reads “BOUCHER.” It is a fitting, if minimalist, description for this special pair of grand-scale dreamers.
EAT: The Sea Breeze Farm truck, seabreeze.farm, pops up at Northwest 23rd Place and Thurman Street 5-7 pm Mondays.