New Letters> September 2007
WHY A NEWSLETTER?
The main idea behind our business is to build a close connection with our customers. We pro-duce natural beef with you, our discriminating consumers in mind, and so the link with you must be based upon our understanding what you want, and your understanding of both what we offer and who we are.
Hanova Hills is a family farm involving two families, the Bunkers and the Egans. While Doug Bunker and Dan Egan are most directly involved, Barbara Bunker and Susan Egan play important supporting roles. Dan manages farm operations and Doug handles marketing and business development. Both couples share a commitment to supplying the best beef quality possible to Western New York families.
While the farm has been in operation since 1978, we shifted from raising sheep to beef production in 1989. We are growing from our base breeding herd of about 160 Angus and Angus-cross mother cows which are selected for the quality of their offspring. We raise beef animals from birth to harvest on our farm, building our herd by retaining our best female calves for our breeding herd and using care-fully selected registered Angus sires. Keeping our carefully selected herd isolated and bio-secure enables us to maintain food safety as well as superior taste and tenderness for your table.
This is a brief word about who we are and what we are trying to do. We would also like to know what you think we ought to know about you, your culinary preferences, and how we can best meet them.
OUR MODEL FOR PRODUCING ARTISAN BEEF
In today’s environment there are many choices to be made if you are raising beef cattle. The prevailing pattern is to produce commodity beef which involves selling weaned calves to feed lots where they are implanted with growth hormones and fed a hot ration of corn, oats, and soy meal laced with prophylactic an-tibiotics in large pens until they reach the weight for slaughter. They are then processed in large mechanized factory operations at the rate of two to five thousand a day.
Another model is the grass fed option which involves keeping calves on a strict grass diet until they reach harvest weight, and then proc-essing the meat in smaller local plants with 24 to 28 days of aging to achieve tenderness. Grass fed beef has been found to optimize omega three fatty acids and conjugated lino-lieic acid in the meat which are said to have health promoting benefits.
Our choice is to capture most of the benefits of grass fed beef through rotational grazing in season and winter feeding of hay, while adding some corn to the ration for finishing. In our experience this leads to meat that is naturally more tender and tasty than most grass fed beef. We age our beef, but it takes only 14 days aging to concentrate flavor and enhance tenderness.
Other factors which assure quality are our choice of the best angus genetics, the harvest-ing of our beef while young (between 16 and 23 months), and the quality and ample quan-tity of our pastures and hay. Further, we en-hance tenderness by not using growth hor-mones or any other steroids. Finally, the iso-lation of our herd and our vaccination and health maintenance programs keep our ani-mals healthy so that we completely avoid anti-biotic treatments.
This is a brief summary of what we do to pro-duce meat we can be proud to supply to your table. A key to successfully producing superior beef is that we control the process from begin-ning to end. Our animals live their entire lives on the lush green pastures of Western New York. They never see a feed lot where they might be crowded together with many animals from other sources with incompatible immune systems. They are never on a “hot” ration, but have access to either grazing or winter hay year around.
We are grateful for your feedback as you have passed it on to us at farmers markets and in-vite your further comments. While we like to learn about your good experiences with our meat, we will also appreciate any reaction that is less than favorable, so please let us know. We are always adjusting our practices as we learn what works best.
AN INSIDER’S VIEW OF WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE BEEF INDUSTRY TODAY
A recent article by Patrick Goggins in a Mon-tana farm paper laments what has happened to beef quality over the last 20 years. He points out that while cattle production is more efficient through the use of growth promo-tants, the quality of beef has declined. He quotes Larry Korah, Vice President of Certified Angus Beef, as saying “As late as 1986, 3.31% of the cattle were prime and 93.3% were choice. Nineteen years later in 2005, there were 3.1% prime and only 57.2% choice. He also points to the fact that while breeders are trying to produce bigger loin sizes and larger ribeyes, the result has been a loss of marbling and an increase in the fat:lean ration.
This trend in the commodity beef industry is precisely why we have chosen to go our own way, emphasizing carcass quality rather than quick and cheap production of fat cattle. We produce for the taste and satisfaction of our consumers rather than for the large packers that dominate the meat industry.
HOW DO YOU FIND OUR BEEF AFTER THE FARMER’S MARKETS CLOSE?
Many of you have inquired about how to find our beef after October, and we have a new answer. In addition to our retail outlets we are adding a home delivery service. Stores now stocking some cuts of Lake Country Premium include the Lexington Community Co-op in Buffalo, The General Store in East Concord, and the Natural Link in Lewiston. For those of you for whom these are inconvenient, and for those wanting access to the full range of cuts you can now have our meat brought to your home beginning this fall. Gary Gabel who has been helping at the East Aurora Farmers Market this season will provide this service. Lake Country Direct will take orders by phone at 716-965-2249. Deliveries of most cuts and variety packages will be available within three business days. Custom orders for sides or quarters of beef will take the usual three to four weeks. Delivery of orders of over $50 dollars will be free. Smaller orders will incur a $3 delivery charge. A regular schedule of weekly delivery routes for your community or neighborhood will be announced later in the fall.
SEASONAL CUTS FOR FALL: STEWS, SOUPS, AND ROASTS
While we will continue to enjoy the grilling season into the fall, the cooler temperatures and turning leaves will soon prompt thoughts of slow cooked, moist braised meals to warm our souls. The right cut of meat provides the core flavor and protein substance of a good stew or soup. Promising candidates include:
Bone-in Chuck Roast
Boneless Chuck Roast
Cross-cut Beef Shanks
Stew Beef Cubes
Beef Stew Bones
WHAT IS HAPPENING AT HANOVA HILLS FARM
It has been nice to see the pastures and hay fields green up with the recent rain. The ground dried up enough in July to slow the growth rate, so we are grateful for the restora-tive effect of rain. After the animals graze a paddock we cut down the remaining weeds, and that combines with the precipitation to let the pastures bounce back in a few weeks to be ready to graze again. Each group of cows and calves have four to five paddocks that they ro-tate through over the season, so their nutrition is always fresh and plentiful.
As to hay production, we have finished our first and second cuttings, and are now waiting until mid-September for the hay to reach a cutting height again. The second cutting was lean, but we took it off anyway, because that as-sures a good start for the grass, clover, and alfalfa that are thriving in the good moisture of the last three weeks.
Cows with calves by their side look good in the fields. The spring calves, born in April and May are thriving on their mother’s milk and their own grazing. They will be with their mothers until November when they reach full independ-ence and are placed in pens for winter feeding. Meanwhile the fall calf crop is already under-way with a few early arrivals on their wobbly legs. They bounce around actively within a few days and so we try to catch them when newborn to tag them and give them their first shot of selenium and vitamin E.
Since the cattle may graze in pastures until mid-October, the daily chores involve checking on and moving the animal groups to fresh paddocks, and assuring that their water tanks are filled two or three times each day. We have six strategically placed wells which have electric pumps but no wired supply of electric-ity, so we take a generator around to each of the wells to pump enough water to keep their 300 gallon stock tanks full. A mature cow will drink as much as 15 gallons of water on a hot day especially when lactating.
The other necessity is to give the animals ac-cess to salt blocks and trace minerals in a hard cake form which they lick.
Dan Egan checks the animals several times a day to monitor health and growth. Our cows are generally good mothers, but if a calf is re-jected, Dan is on top of that immediately.
There are also constant projects to improve our facilities. We spend a lot of time building new fences and maintaining those in place. In September we will begin a major project to ex-tend a concrete apron outside one of our barns and improve our waste management facilities.
The fall will involve another busy season of haying and of harvesting corn. We will write more about that later.
REMEMBER YOU ARE WELCOME
This is a great time to arrange a visit to the farm. The cows look good in the fields. The hay and corn crops are flourishing. We also have great trails for a walk in the woods. We will offer a warm welcome if we know you are coming. Just call us at 965-2249. One limita-tion is that the Bunkers are busy on Saturday mornings at Farmer’s Markets and on Sunday mornings for church, but someone will usually be here to show you around even on those days until the rest of us can get back home.