Tag Archives: beef

Veal: Can it be humane?

Not that long ago, a war was waged between veal growers, HSUS and consumers. Traditionally, veal was raised in confinement housing, locked into tiny little areas where the calves couldn’t move around and fed milk and more milk. This was done to keep the meat white and tasteless.

Over the years, the standards have changed to group housing where the animals are allowed to move around and compete for food.

A couple of years ago, we set out on a path to find out what to do about the stigma surrounding veal. Most people will visibly cringe when I tell them I raise veal. What we do here is MUCH different than normally seen here in the United States.

Since we live in a dairy “district” so to speak, we have an outlet to many bull calves. Nearly all of the bull calves from the dairy industry land in the local auction barns and are sold as bob veal or raised as beef in other states. Having a couple of dairy cows ourselves and no way to sell or dispose of the milk, we started researching options on different avenues to add value instead of just dumping the milk.

My original inquiries lead me to @HeavesFarmVeal who raises rose veal in the Lake District in the UK. I watched their videos, talked with them via twitter and email. Learning all I could about what they do, why and how. I also stumbled upon @StraussMeats, which is a supplier of humanely raised beef and pastured veal. I started discussing veal with potential consumers, discovering the concerns over welfare and health of the animals.

Combining everything I had researched and learned, we raised our first rose veal animal in 2011. He was born to our rescued Jersey cow, Belle. We left him on his momma, drinking all the milk he wanted and tagging along with her as she would eat hay and pasture grasses. He was never given any kind of grain and was watched closely for health. We butchered him at 6 months old (don’t get mad yet, I’ll explain some more in a minute) and he dressed out at 200 lbs. We still hadn’t eaten any yet, but he was a good solid weight and his meat was a beautiful pink color with slight marbling.

All the cattle here enjoy pasture playtime!
All the cattle here enjoy pasture playtime!

Now let’s discuss this age thing. Trust me when I say that I know most people get upset when I tell them the age of the animal. I want you to remember a couple of things…. 1) Most of you have no issues with eating chickens. Well, most commercially raised chickens are actually butchered between 6 and 12 weeks (YES, WEEKS!) old. Under that same mentality, why would a 20-24 week old calf be different? 2) Hormones start kicking in on cattle around 6 months of age. Let me just say that once hormones kick in, they aren’t adorable long eyelashes, baby deer looking animals anymore. They can get aggressive and try mounting anything/everything with a pulse, humans included. Six months of age is the cut off age because puberty will alter the flavor of the meat too.

How are we different? We are different because we use the natural systems and the best pastures possible! Each and every calf is raised with lots of love and a great deal of hands on attention. This is done to ensure the highest quality of meats at the time of butcher because they are used to being around people. These animals are never stressed. They aren’t castrated, banded, dehorned or altered in anyway shape or form. They are fed whole milk from our farm, from cows that are also pastured on the highest quality grasses and hay possible. No veal calf is ever treated with any type of antibiotic, growth hormone or boxed at any time during their lives here.

After tasting the meat, I’m sold on this system. The meat, again light pink in color with a little marbling, has a delicate and light flavor profile. It’s soft texture melts in your mouth and it “takes” spices very well.

We do not raise thousands of these animals a year, instead keeping our numbers small enough to give each animal the time devotion we feel is needed. We have strict methods of rearing these animals too, based off all the information gathering we did from consumers to farmers alike. We work hard to develop a product that we are comfortable with producing and selling. One thing we don’t like around here is confinement. We love being able to sit in the pasture, watching everyone graze or lounge in the sunshine in a lush bed of green grass. We do our best to give every animal here the absolute best life possible… from chickens to calves to full grown cows.

All livestock are put on pastures as quickly as possible. Many have started nibbling grasses as early as two days of age.
All livestock are put on pastures as quickly as possible. Many have started nibbling grasses as early as two days of age.

If you are looking for veal raised with compassion, consideration and humane, look no further! We will have some available for 2015. We are also taking orders now for the season. Contact us for more details.

IF YOU ARE A CHEF, BUTCHER OR BLOGGER, WE WOULD LOVE TO SHARE YOUR TIPS, RECIPES AND LINKS! All links can be forwarded to @CNYFarmGirl on twitter.

The Book of Life

The past is nothing more than pages written in our book of life. The future is still unwritten (I think those are lyrics to a song). As the pages develop, chapters start and end. Each new page contains another memory.

Barrows Farm has a big, thick book already. To tell the tale will take some time but, eventually I hope to put it all together. There are stories like the family history within the deed. A deed that contains pages dated all the way back to 1850. A deed that contains information on parcels that go all the way back to the Boston Ten Townships purchase. 165 years of heritage contained within those papers, written and documented history of Barrows Farm.

In more recent years, there are stories about farm owners and livestock that bring a smile and shared laughter among the family, tales of buggy rides to Syracuse and how a young man worked with his Grandfather and eventually took over on the farm.

Not all the memories are happy ones. There are tales of government buyouts and the end of a dairy here. There are tales of barn and house fires. Many things have changed over the years, mainly with the last owners occupation. It’s hard to express the hardships that have been endured. Granted, I haven’t been here for the majority of them.

I’ve lived here for ten years and I love this place as much as this family does. Someday, I really hope to be able to have the time to sit with Rich’s parents to document some of the history. Even if it’s only ever to just put together to share with the family for future generations. I think it’s something important to be passed down throughout the years, from generation to the next.

As I sit here with this thought rolling in my head, I’m also saddened that it won’t be passed down to the next owner within the family. After so much that has gone on here since 2008, I’m devastated. I can’t even imagine the thoughts rolling in Rich’s head. Having been on or around the farm his entire life, it has to yank a piece of his heart out to make decisions like selling. Eventually though, when push comes to shove, self preservation takes over.

I’ve talked with others about concerns over farmers committing suicide because of these types of decisions, lack of funds and severe depression. In my way, I’m trying to explain how hard it is to lose a piece of yourself at times like this. Farmers who have worked the land, watched it grow and change have an affinity for the property that is unparalleled. They put their heart and soul into every piece of hay, every head of livestock, every grain of soil and every drop of water. Farmers love their farms like parents love their children.

To farmers, our farm is our legacy. It’s our book of life that we have written the pages for. Failures or success, risks and rewards, it’s all in there. Our pages might not be written over the years on paper, but they are written on our hearts, our souls and within each detail we find on the farm. It doesn’t make a difference what kind of farm it is, how big or how small. It’s just the way it is for farmers.

Change is Coming

Well, it’s the first week in January of the year 2015. It’s hard sometimes to believe that so many years have gone by for us. As the years have ticked by, we have watched the world change dramatically around us.

When I was a little kid on my Grandparent’s farm, there wasn’t the big, massive farm equipment of today. Cars were huge gas guzzling beasts that we now call classic cars. Four wheel drive trucks still had lockout hubs, not electronically transferred like most models have today. Neighbors knew each other and helped out during times of need. There weren’t cell phones or internet back then either. If you wanted to communicate with someone miles away, you wrote a letter or sent a card. If they lived close by, you would stop over for coffee.

Inside our homes, we went from home cooked meals with the entire family around the dinner table to fast food eaten in the car. Both parents have to work to make ends meet and the cost of goods just keeps skyrocketing.

Everything has changed. Nothing is as simple anymore as fighting for what’s right or standing on moral ground with the convictions you feel hold true. People will continue to express that change is good, it’s progress. I’m not so sure that I can agree. It’s when you feel you are forced to make dramatic changes that you gain insight into much more than you realized.

Why am I writing all this? It’s out of frustration, sadness, elation and tribulation.

As we have worked for years on expansions on the farm, nothing has come easy. Working hard at multiple jobs to make ends meet, save a few dollars here and there and struggling with the burdens of debt have taken a toll of both of us. Rich, being the sixth generation on the farm, has done the best he could to keep the farm going and kept mostly together. Each year, that struggle gets harder and harder. Income stays the same but expenses keep raising. Property values go up but in turn generates more tax debt every year. The struggles are very real and very frightening. The expansion past this current generation into the worry about who will take over for the next generation. Who could manage such an operation? Who would even be interested?

For three years, we’ve struggled with the taxes, debt load, and worry about who could take over. As time has gone on, the realization is we can’t afford to keep struggling with no potential future. We don’t want to continue working this hard to keep going no where. We can’t get a milk market developed with a small herd like we had hoped. We don’t have the extra funds to expand our beef herd because of the money invested every month into just getting by. After hearing from one that she wouldn’t ever milk cows and the other now located in another state, neither of which showing a real working interest in the farm, we know that the next generation won’t be taking over on the farm.

It’s with a heavy heart that we announce that we will be selling the farm. It’s frustrating to know that we just can’t do it on our own. The reality of the situation is that at some point, we need to admit defeat and do what needs to be done for our own self preservation. Maybe if we had funds to invest for a larger herd or a milk market developed, we wouldn’t be doing this. I’m sorry to say that here in NY, I feel that all the promotion for beginning farms and farm expansions is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. I can’t even begin to express the disappointment of stepping aside after all the time and energy spent into building the farm into what it is today.

I’ve lived in this area my entire life and I’ve always thought it was a shame to see so many abandoned barns, empty fields and vacant lands. I now know why my Grandfather advised me to stay away from farming. It’s always a fight. A fight over taxes and land values. A fight over markets. Risks in income. Struggles to just earn enough money to live. It’s a fight for any kind of working help. It’s a fight with Mother Nature. This isn’t the job for the faint of heart or the people light in the wallet.

For months, we have held a discussion about what the future may hold. We’ve fought over selling or keeping family property that has been in the family since the Boston Purchase. Neither one of us can do it anymore. The farm will be sold to someone who has the funds to bring in a bunch of beef and be able to make the farm into what it’s meant to be. It’s all setup now and ready to go, all you need to do is bring the animals.

What will we do? We will be keeping some of the cows, stepping back on our size and scale. We will be relocating to a small farm somewhere in Tennessee. We aren’t sure yet on a time frame but are hoping it’s in the very near future. We are looking forward to more relaxing days, not working so much and being able to take vacation, relaxing and just enjoying life at a slower pace. It’s discouraging to leave the history and the farm here. It’s a beautiful place with spectacular views, a secluded pond and in a good area. The future though is that we just can’t manage all of this alone anymore.

I (Doreen) may be staying for a while to work with the new owners to assist with the learning curve of the rotational paddocks and connecting them with the locals. It will be an adventure over the next year that will hopefully end in the successful transition into a less stressful life for both of us. It’s been suggested that we do some video recordings and write ups on the whole transition, which I will start working on in the near future.

Thank you all for your support, follows and comments up until now. You have been a huge encouragement for us to follow our passions and our dreams, I just wish the interim result was a little different.

If anyone is interested in buying the farm:
149.9 acres located in Center Lisle, NY with approximately 100 acres fenced with new 5-strand high tensile fencing, perimeter and cross fenced. An older double wide home, a 48×72 stick build barn with a new metal roof, a 32×70 hoop building. Rolling hills and spectacular views. Private 6 acre pond. Brand new cattle watering pond and pipelines (constructed and installed fall of 2014). A partially construction two story cabin. A sugar bush for making maple syrup.

Optional: 13 head of cattle, Ford 2120 tractor with fork and bucket attachments, New Holland 489 mower, brush hog, 2004 Dodge Ram 1500, Evaporator, temporary paddock supplies including step in posts, wire and reels and remaining hay and bedding.

Tasty Thursday #3 – Thimble Soup

Beef Stuffed Dumplings

For a little background, I found this amazing recipe over on Give Recipe while doing an internet search for ravioli. Boy am I glad I did!

She calls it Thimble Soup or it’s called yüksük çorbası. It’s actually a popular wedding dish in Turkey according to her blog. We sure didn’t celebrate a wedding but the marriage of ingredients made my mouth very happy. I did have to change up the ingredients from her original recipe due to some dietary restrictions…so here is what I came up with.

Dough for dumpling wrappers
4 cups flour
3 eggs
2 cups water (I need WAY less, so I recommend adding about a 1/2 cup and then a little at a time until it balls together)
2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients, by hand mixing and kneading (wet hands to prevent sticking) until the dough doesn’t stick to you hands. Divide into 4 big equal parts.

Filling
Chopped Onion
1 lb Ground Beef
Parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

Now flour the counter and place a dough ball. Flour the top and flatten with your hands. I used a rolling pin to roll it out, dusting with flour to prevent sticking until I got it very thin. I could almost see through it at this point. You can now use a knife or pizza cutter to cut squares or you can use a small 2″ biscuit cutter. Now place a small bit of the meat filling into the center. Pull up edges and combine corners. There are many different methods to choose from. I like the referenced one in the link above or even small half moons. I actually have a tart crimper that would work perfect for this task! One sealed, set aside on a tray with a small space around each one.

Now that you have  your dumplings built, it’s time to boil them in broth. Use a large stock pot for this.

Broth Bath
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chickpeas (I used home canned sweet corn instead)
1 lemon (juiced)
4 cups water

I actually did 6 cups of beef broth instead of the broth and water since I also altered away from the chickpeas.
Bring to a boil, slowly add the dumplings. As they begin to float, in roughly 10 minutes, remove from heat and add one cup of cold water.
*Since I had several pots full because I made all of the dough and filling instead of cooking them in the oven for a later date, I would pull them out of the broth bath and submerge into a bowl of cold water with just enough to cover them until the pot was refilled. These have very good flavor at this point and could be topped with just about anything or eaten plain, as is (I had to taste test them at this point). I then added them into the sauce base after draining the water.

Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pepper paste (I used 1 tsp of red pepper flake)
1 tsp dried mint
Paprika powder to taste
2 grated tomatoes (I used stewed tomatoes we had canned up this last year)

Once the sauce is heated and the tomatoes are just pulp, remove from heat. This is the stage that I just added the boiled dumplings. Once all of your dumplings are cooked, then go ahead and add in 1 cup of water to the last batch of boiling dumplings after removing from heat. Stir in your sauce base and pre-cooked dumplings and it’s all ready to be served.

On the page I pulled this recipe from, I noticed that she also tops with a yogurt and garlic cream. It’s 1 cup of yogurt with three mashed cloves of garlic combined. I think sour cream would work just as good or maybe even a cream cheese and garlic. For those that can’t have dairy, I recommend using mashed cauliflower and garlic.

So there you have it. The best overall meal I think I have ever experimented with. Not too overly spicy and perfect for subzero temperature days!

A steaming bowl of yummy goodness!
A steaming bowl of yummy goodness!

Tasty Thursday #2

I have been waiting for a couple of reviews to come back on this sauce. But the overwhelming majority love it…with a few minor tweaks to the original. When I first made the sauce, I just kept adding ingredients until I thought it tasted right…never did get it perfected but I knew I was close to have a really good all around sauce that could be used on beef, pork and poultry.

The original recipe is:

3 cups Ketchup
1-1/2 cups Chive Vinegar (follow the link for instructions)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
3-4 tbs. black pepper (use less for fresh ground)
2 tbs worcestershire sauce

Blend all the ingredients over low heat and allow to simmer until the sauce thickens. Once it starts to “stick” to a wooden spoon, it’s done.

The feedback is that it has a little too much vinegar (which you could allow to cook out for a little longer) and that it’s a got a little too much pepper. I think it depends on what meat you are applying it too. I like a little more pepper when dealing with beef, but ultimately, the taster (you the cook) can decide.

All feedback is always welcome! Enjoy!