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New Letters> Fall 2008

Number 5


IS IT REALLY AUTUMN?

I am not ready to let go of summer. Sure, we will have more growing days, the pastures are still green, and the equinox is not yet here; but some ominous signs of fall have crept up on us. Last night I set a fire in the fireplace to take the chill off, then impulsively, Barbara being out of town, popped some short ribs, turnips, cabbage, celery, and kohlrabi in the crock pot for a hearty stew. The final nudge of reality was a necessary trip to the woolen chest to retrieve a sweater as I came in to the house tonight.

I look forward to more warm and moderately long days over the next few weeks, and to whatever gift we receive in an Indian Summer after a killing frost. But we must yield to a new season. The cycle rolls on. Fall and winter have their own charms.


OUR MODEL FOR PRODUCING LAKE COUNTRY PREMIUM NATURAL BEEF

A number of you have asked us this summer about how we raise our beef... We covered this in the first issue of the Natural Beef Update last year, but repeat it now to respond to any lingering questions.

It all starts with the right genetics. Our mother cows are predominantly Angus beef animals with a few Herefords and some Angus/Hereford crosses. Our sires are all registered Angus bulls from some of the best blood lines. For the past twelve years we have been refining the herd, culling those that don’t measure up, and selecting only our best female calves to add to the breeding herd. Though both Angus and Hereford breeds are known for their carcass quality, our beef animals are 80 to 100% from superior Angus genetics.

Our beef is “pasture raised,” which means that we practice rotational grazing from spring to fall. In winter we feed our own hay and supplement with some corn silage. For finishing, we continue the hay but add some ground corn. Calves are weaned at about six months. We harvest our beef steers at from 15 to 23 months, an age when tenderness is heightened. They receive no steroids or antibiotics throughout their life, and they are never sent to a feed lot.

Our meat is hand processed in a local USDA inspected packing plant. We have tried them all and settled on the one that does the best job. They contribute to our assured quality by aging the beef for two weeks, cutting to our specifications, then vacuum packing the cuts, and flash freezing. The aging concentrates the beef flavor and aids tenderness. The cryovac packaging preserves fresh quality when you thaw the meat for cooking.

Lake Country is neither strictly grass fed nor corn fed. We think our balance of these approaches gives our customers the best combination of both nutritional benefits and eating enjoyment.


HOME DELIVERY WILL ROLL ALL WINTER

Though our Lake Country Premium Natural Beef will be available in farmers markets for two more months, friends are already asking how they can obtain our products when the markets close. The answer is simply that we are as accessible as your telephone. We cannot fix a weekly schedule in advance but we will make timely deliveries to your home all winter.

We have an ample supply year around. With both Spring and Fall calf crops the pipeline of finished beef is always full. So whether you want custom cuts for a special occasion or want to stock your freezer we can meet your requirements. Custom cuts require some lead time, but we will strive to keep a ready supply of most of the standard items.

You can choose from one of the following Variety Packages or design your own:

Call us and we will send you an information flyer on these packages. Of course, custom cut sides and quarters of beef will continue to be available. Four to six weeks lead time is required for these orders.

Given the cost of fuel, we must limit free delivery to orders over $100. A fuel surcharge will be added to smaller orders.


ONE MORE NOTE ON THE MEAT INDUSTRY

We recommend an excellent book on the history of the meat industry in America: Roger Horowitz, Putting Meat on the American Table, John Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Horowitz describes the contemporary concentration of meat processing in four major companies that control over 80 percent of the beef market and have mechanized production in large factories handling as many as 5000 animals per day. He comments: “ Workers and farmers were the losers in this matrix of power relations.” Farmers who participate simply feed this commodity production losing the identity of any quality advantage they might seek. Packinghouse workers became subject to the same conditions that prevailed in the early 20th century. Neither workers or farmers could exert any control in this system.

Horowitz enumerates the societal costs of these developments as “additives to animal feed, foreign ingredients in the food, pathogens distributed in the processing system, and creation of a low paid, heavily immigrant labor force.” He suggests that these changes bring us a steady stream of controversies over meat. Particularly, “increased concentrations of livestock and comingling of carcasses in processing and disposal heighten the consequences of bacteria and animal diseases that once might have been confined to a single farm or factory. Animals fattened in confined settings offer a breeding ground for disease; technology, in the form of antibiotics . . .is the industry’s response. Animals are killed and cut up in factories with high line speeds and under conditions where carcasses interact with one another, giving bacteria . . . an opportunity to run rampant . . .” All this, he concludes adds to consumer anxieties over wholesomeness.”

We are happy that Lake Country Premium Natural Beef stands apart from these risks. You can be assured that we will preserve our own small scale, local operation to control quality meat production from our farm to your table, assuring both superior eating experiences and food safety. Walters Meats, our processor, shares our commitment to you and cooperates with us to make it happen. Attention to detail by skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen at every step of the process enables us to promise consistent high quality natural beef.