As many grass fed producers who finish their animals on grass we have come to understand the importance of breed selection in the quality of the beef we produce.Many fellow grass farmers are returning to heritage breeds in beef,poultry and swine as they journey back to the basics in livestock production.
Beef characteristics such as tenderness,cut out,disposition,birth weight,age at maturation (finished weight) and even loin size all affect the finished product.At American Grass Fed Beef we have returned to the shorter-legged English types that reach puberty earlier and finish faster on grazing conditions.Further, we select for those animals that do particularly well in our specific environment,those momma cows that maintain their body weight through the winter and through the lactation period on our hill country.In many cases this has meant a return to the cattle that are the breed types of pre-WWII (pre-feedlot) era.
On July 21,RAFT’s Jennifer Hall, Don Bixby,Jeanette Beranger and Makalé Faber joined with rare breeds rancher Nathan Melson of Sloans Creek Farm and Chef Thom Fox of Acme Chophouse in San Francisco, CA to discuss how ranchers, chefs and conservationists are working together to reestablish historic breeds for today’s modern menu.
The workshop, part of American Grassfed Association’s annual conference,engaged ranchers, chefs, retailers, and consumers from Wyoming to Georgia in a discussion of the cultural and genetic landscape of America’s historic breeds;the attributes chefs seek when sourcing meat;and the ways in which ranchers and chefs can partner in agricultural conservation efforts through the Collaborative’s Meat of the Matter project and Slow Food presidia projects.
As an example of how chefs and ranchers can work together to recover rare breeds and regional ecosystems, Alan Sirull, Executive Chef for Antlers Hilton in Colorado Springs, prepared a comparative tasting of grain fed and grassfed Red Poll Cattle.With the belief that consumer demand for a particular flavor can provide economic incentive for ranchers to raise rare breeds, the panelists facilitated a discussion on the taste quality of the beef and began outlining ways in which chefs, producers, retailers and consumers can eat em to save em.