On Cairncest Farm in Plainfield, two brothers, Edmund and Garth Brown, have resolved to eat only what they raise/grow/forage/hunt themselves for an entire year. Edible Finger Lakes is carrying biweekly updates from the Brown brothers as they embark on this food journey.
Food for a Year: August 17-September 1
Consuming a hyper-local diet for a whole calendar year has its ups and downs. Currently I’m on the upswing because the garden is at its peak and I have lots of well finished grass-fed beef to pair with fresh vegetables. The other day I even made french fries to go with the beef.
I raise grass-fed beef and am of the opinion that New York beef (grass-fed) tastes its best when slaughtered during mid- to late summer. I’ve tried other times of year with my own cattle, from spring to December. I’ve also sampled a fair number of other producers’ beef, and find the same dynamic. Grass-fed beef produced on perennial pastures in New York is best “harvested” in July and August. Some years June and/or September work well too, but it varies from year to year. For example, this first week of September 2015 is providing good weather for finishing gains on my farm.
What is it that’s special about summer? Primarily the amount of energy the grasses contain. During spring and summer pastures have adequate carbohydrates to fatten cattle of the proper type. During the spring and fall (after frosts strike) the protein level of the pasture tends to be higher relative to the amount of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are a pre-requisite for fattening. There is a whole corpus of food science literature that demonstrates most people prefer the flavor of meat from animals that are actively gaining weight at the time of slaughter. In New York, active gains on only grass are easiest and most likely to occur during the summer.
For people in the market for freezer beef with all the health and environmental benefits associated with local grass-fed meat, I highly recommend trying products from multiple farmers and finding one who slaughters their cattle during the summer, not the late fall. –Edmund
Brothers Edmund and Garth Brown are owner-operators of Cairncrest Farm in Plainfield, New York. They produce and sell grass-fed beef and pastured pork. They blog about their 2015 homegrown challenge here.
Read the last Food for a Year post here.
Photo by Normandy Alden