When most carnivores sit down for a juicy steak or pork chop, they probably don’t think much about where the meat came from. But we all should. The vast majority of meat consumed in this country comes from factory farms infamous for their cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. These massive operations also pose serious health risks for meat eaters and pollute the environment. So, where do burgers come in?

Peter Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane of Marczyk Fine Foods want to ensure that good meat, specifically the humanely- and sustainably-raised Niman Ranch meat they supply their stores with finds its way onto American plates for generations to come. On Friday, July 20, they’ll host a special burger night fundraiser at both the Uptown and Hale Marczyk locations to benefit the Next Generation Scholarship Fund, which supports young Niman Ranch farmers as they further their educations and commitments to responsible husbandry practices.

Founded in the early 1970s, Niman is a cooperative of more than 700 farmers committed to raising livestock in the traditional way: outdoors, with the freedom to graze, and without any added hormones. It’s a method that has become increasingly rare; as the number of American farms continues to drop, the size of the farms increases. These massive industrial operations, often called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), can house thousands of animals under one roof, often in confined spaces. The Niman difference is palpable, both morally and in the flavor of the pork, lamb, and beef they produce.

On Friday, guests at Marcyzk’s burger night can determine the latter fact for themselves. For nine dollars, you’ll dine on a house-ground Niman Ranch burger on a City Bakery brioche bun with all the fixings: cheese, fresh heirloom tomatoes, and a rainbow of condiments.

You’ll also get the chance to chat directly with Niman farmers, including college senior Dane Kruse, a sixth generation hog farmer from Silver City, Iowa studying Agricultural Science at Northwest Missouri State University through a Next Generation Scholarship. After graduation in May 2019, Kruse plans to return to the land his family has owned for more than 100 years to continue farming in a sustainable manner.

Marczyk Fine Foods has a stake in ensuring these farmers stay in business: Since its first store opened 16 years ago, Marczyk has sold Niman products exclusively. “The first reason is, it’s amazing,” Macfarlane says. “The second is that there are many things America does well, but mass-producing animals is not one of them. What is the real cost of that 99 cent per pound pork?” Macfarlane says that Niman is the only reliable supplier that has been able to maintain its sustainable protocol in the face of tremendous challenges.

Which is why the Marczyk team plans to donate all of the proceeds from Friday’s burger night (minus the cost of labor) directly to Niman farmers. To further bolster the scholarship fund, the couple will hold a second fundraising dinner featuring Niman lamb at their home for 60 of their best customers.

“The challenge of keeping kids on the farm is real,” Macfarlane says. “So, if we can raise a bunch of money for them, that’s the best thing we can do.”

If you go: The Burger Night Fundraiser is on Friday, July 20 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Marcyzk Fine Foods, 770 E. 17th Ave and 5100 E. Colfax Ave.