Buying Beef From a Local Farm

| 2/23/2011 6:37:29 AM

Tags: Andrew Odom, anotherkindofdrew, Tiny r(E)volution, beef, meat, farm, Nooherooka, eating, harvesting, steaks, Kabob, ground beef, Andrew Odom,

Nooherooka SignIt was just after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was confirmed in December of 2003 that it became clearer to me than ever that my diet needed to consist of more natural, organically produced meat. That was also the first year my folks took a step into a more eco-responsible diet as well. My family collectively purchased 1/2 side of Angus beef and a 1/4 side of hog. Both animals were raised responsibly and were harvested to our specifications. Why should we care though? 

Today’s industrialized process reduces the nutritional value of the meat, stresses the animals, increases the risk of bacterial contamination, pollutes the environment and exposes consumers to a long list of unwanted chemicals. Not to mention the sort of treatment given to the animals when they are maturing. You may remember the viral video of the sick and twisted commercial farms both here and here.(warning: videos are quite graphic in nature) Such is the reason a number of people choose to go vegetarian or even vegan. There is a growing lack of respect and stewardship for animals and the role they play in our world.

Before factory farming gained popularity in the 1960's (motivated largely by a growing export in beef by the American gov't as well as an insurgence in public school lunches and menu options), cattle were raised on family farms or ranches around the country. The process was elemental. Young calves were born in the spring and spent their first months suckling milk and grazing on grass. When they were weaned, they were turned out onto pastures. Some cattle were given a moderate amount of grain to enhance marbling (the fat interlaced in the muscle). The calves grew to maturity at a natural pace, reaching market weight at two to three years of age. After the animals were slaughtered, the carcasses were kept cool for a couple weeks to enhance flavor and tenderness, a traditional process called dry aging. The meat was then shipped in large cuts to meat markets. The local butcher divided it into individual cuts upon request and wrapped it in white paper and string.

This meat was free of antibiotics, added hormones, feed additives, flavor enhancers, age-delaying gases and salt-water solutions. Mad cow disease and the deadliest strain of E. coli — 0157:H7 — did not exist.

However, today’s industrialized process brings cattle to slaughter weight in just one or two years. It reduces the nutritional value of the meat, stresses the animals, increases the risk of bacterial contamination, pollutes the environment and exposes consumers to a long list of unwanted chemicals. The beef typically contains traces of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals that were never produced by any cow. Next time you are at your grocery store, take a look at the hamburger. It may look fresh but it may be up to three weeks old and injected with gases to keep it bright red! Oh, and the label? "Guaranteed tender and juicy" is code for “enhanced” with a concoction of water, salt, preservatives and other additives.

After talking for some time about our overall red meat consumption and the family budget Crystal and I decided that we no longer wanted anything "guaranteed tender and juicy." We wanted actual hormone-free, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, local beef. We began our search on which is a tremendous, online resource for finding he best organic food grown closest to you. It was there we came across Nooherooka Natural.

According to their marketing material, Nooherooka Natural LLC is a 7th generation farm family growing North Carolina Angus Beef. They are dedicated to bringing healthy and safe beef to market and to our tables! Their animals are humanely raised on grass pastures their entire lives, and are fed all-natural, GMO free whole grains raised right there on the Nooherooka farm. Their product is USDA inspected and are free from added hormones and antibiotics. I think their t-shirts say it best though, "Our Cows Don't Do Drugs!"

And yes, while the meat is more expensive by the pound, I think the largest advantage of purchasing at this level is that the weight before cooking is almost identical to that when finished cooking. A meatloaf using 2 lbs. of ground beef is, in fact, a 2 lb. meatloaf thanks to the 90/10 meat:fat ratio! It was an absolute pleasure to go by the farm, meet some of the family, purchase our fresh beef, and be invited back to tour the operations anytime we wanted. Our total expenditure was just over $200 giving us 4 - Filet Mignon steaks, 4 - Sirloin steaks, 3 - lbs. of Kabob meat, 14 - pounds of ground beef, 1 - round roast, and some cube steak to try. It was quite a haul!

So far we have used nothing more than two of the sirloins steaks for last night's Pepper Steak and Rice. It was beautiful to cook; almost no grease or fat content. The beef cut smoothly and was so easy to chew. I must say that for this homesteader, while raising our own beef may not be a viable option for us or our size land, it is great to know we have such a dynamic local resource.

What about you? Do you buy meat from a local rancher or farmer? Do you raise your own? Have you ever even thought about your meat consumption and its actual quality both before and after harvesting? 

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Some material sourced to Jo Robinson from the February/March 2008 issue of GRIT.

donna colbry
11/8/2011 12:30:33 AM

Due to the decline in quality of grocery store beef we have not bought any in three years. My husband is a hunter so we substitute venison in all our beef recipes. Perhaps we need to find a ranch that sells in our area.

don seymour
9/27/2011 9:28:02 PM

I would love to raise my own beef but I don't live near any people who raise cattle and I don't have a clue HOW to get started raising my own beef. I hope you can help me.

don seymour
9/27/2011 9:17:08 PM

I would love to raise my own beef but I don't live near any people who raise cattle and I don't have a clue HOW to get started raising my own beef. I hope you can help me.

muck boot diva
8/3/2011 3:20:36 PM

Yup. Stay away from the foodstore and support yer local meat grower! It's better, and sometimes cheaper too. Plus, you'll get to know another neighbor a little better and help your immediate community survive financially. MBD

2/28/2011 7:36:34 AM

@Shannon_4 - What a great testament to what I am talking about. Thank you so much for sharing that and I hope you continue to enjoy quality product while supporting local agriculture!

s.m.r. saia
2/28/2011 5:48:07 AM

Drew, I bought half a steer from a local farmer and took delivery in January. It is by far the very best-tasting beef we have ever had. I used to see the longhorns grazing placidly in a feild every time I went to the farm. I am so happy with the whole enterprise and will definitely do it again. It's well worth the investment.

2/27/2011 5:09:44 PM

@Barry - Thank you so much for speaking from your perspective. I wish we could hear from more ranchers who would talk to us as consumers, supporters, and friends.

barry baehr
2/26/2011 2:31:05 PM

I am a life long rancher and have raised and sold beef for over 40 years. I agree with most of the points in the article.I have worked at 10,000 head feedlots, the cattle are jammed into pens, hormone implanted every 6 weeks, fed ionophores and feed additives for fast growth and slaughter at a young age.One misconception that many people have is that feedlot beef cattle are fed antibiotics, this is not true. Pigs, chickens and turkeys are routinely fed antibiotics in their feed but not cattle. There seems to be a growing interest in GRASS FED beef. From personal experience and several studies, grass fed beef, while higher on Omega 3 than grain fed, is not as tender as grain fed. Our cattle are fed corn and hay 50/50 for the finishing period.Because they have no implants or feed additives they take longer to finish,have more flavor and due to dry aging for 3 weeks are very tender.

2/25/2011 9:48:06 AM

@Robyn - Thank you so much. I wish I was in your position. You are so right. You do, in fact, get what you pay for and so far we have been very pleased! @Dave - Yes, you should be more careful. I have really become aware of what is in grocery store meat and it is not good.

robyn dolan
2/25/2011 8:26:07 AM

Great post. We are lucky enough to raise our meat in the back yard. We do ponder quality and health when we travel. Of course that goes for all our food when travelling. My parents used to buy a hind quarter of beef every year from a local country butcher. It was great stuff, and I agree, you pay more, but you get what you pay for. And nothing wrong with eating less meat to make up for it, either.

nebraska dave
2/24/2011 1:30:27 PM

Drew, good questions at the end of the post. I have not sought out any organic meat growers here but then I don't really eat that much meat. I probably should be more careful about the meat issue. I plan on a purchase of a small freezer some time in the future and perhaps then I will get more serious about what I put in it. We all should be more aware of what's in our food in this day and age. Thanks for the always good information that makes me think. Have a great organic day.

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