Posted On: 02/01/2010
Beef – really? Why profile something so universal as beef in the Seasonal Shopper? Because the beef market is changing – rather rapidly, for a stodgy commodity.
Raising animals in more natural ways has improved how some beef tastes. Chefs are discovering pure-bred animals beyond Angus and Kobe, some wild and wooly, others wearing horns big enough to stop traffic, and some with a double-muscle gene that delivers flavorful, tender meat with less fat.
Where folks buy beef has budged a bit from big-box grocers to small corner stores and farmers’ markets. It’s still only a blip in the curve, but the trend toward eating locally grown beef from small herds is rising fast – too fast for farmers to keep up with demand.
David Whiteman of Ladue Market is on target to sell Hinkebein Hills beef this spring. “It’s hard to get locally grown beef. Everything is spoken for as fast as the farmers can grow it,” he said. “We’ve sold Hinkebein Hills pork, and we’re looking forward to offering our customers his beef.”
“I’d like to increase my herd,” said Karlios Hinkebein, owner of Hinkebein Hills Farm, “but it can take three years or more to get the right pasture, the grass you want.” Hinkebein runs 40 cows on pasture, the animals a Charleigh-Angus cross. He supplements the pasture grass with hay in winter as well as corn and soybeans.
He raises his cattle to an average of 1,200 pounds. “I like a little … more marbling in the meat for tenderness and taste, which takes longer – about 18 months.” He sells his beeves as fast as he can grow them. “Right now I’ve got waiting lists for half beeves and whole beeves.”
Jeremy Parker, owner of Missouri Grass Fed Beef, manages a herd of about 80 mother cows on his family farm near Salem, Mo. “My great-grandfather started the farm in 1945 with my grandfather when he came back after World War II,” said Parker. “We’ve never been in the corn-fed business. Our cattle have always been grass-fed.”
“We buy from Jeremy Parker one cow at a time,” said Mark Johnson of Local Harvest Grocery. The small market on Morganford moves one whole cow’s worth of Missouri Grass Fed Beef each month. Pointer’s Market in Benton Park carries Missouri Grass Fed Beef as well.
Like Hinkebein, Parker supplements winter feeding with hay. Both farmers shun antibiotics and hormones. Unlike Hinkebein, Parker harvests his animals when they are about a year old.
“It’s probably the No. 1 thing that sets us apart from other grass-fed producers,” he explained. “We process an animal … when muscle fibers aren’t so dense. Our meats are more tender and the flavor is incredible. The marrow bones for soup have a milder, richer flavor, too.”
For a new taste, Parker purchased a purebred Piedmontese bull this winter. “We’re two years away from bringing Piedmontese beeves to the market,” Parker said. “Piedmontese is one of the oldest breeds in the world. They carry a double muscling gene, always passed down, which makes the meat supertender. The beef gets its flavor from the meat, not the fat, so it’s low-fat and low-cholesterol.”
Others to watch are the crossbred Ankole-Watusi cattle and purebred Highland cattle. These two hardy breeds also produce low-fat, low-cholesterol meat with exceptional flavor. Highlands look like a shaggy roundish buffalo. Ankole-Watusi have horns that make longhorns look short and skinny. The new cows in town don’t resemble good old Bossy, but we’ve learned looks aren’t everything. Remember how great warty cucumbers, blue pumpkins, celery root and blackest salsify taste? It’s like that.
Both Hinkebein and Parker sell at the Maplewood Farmers’ Market year-round and at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market spring through fall. Additionally, Hinkebein will be at the St. Louis Community Farmers’ Market. He also sells at his retail store on the farm near Cape Girardeau.
Both men take custom orders for half and whole beeves. In addition to price advantages, customers can choose the assortments of cuts they want; both will advise customers on which cuts to consider. “But when you buy a whole beef, you get the marrow bones, the heart, the liver, the oxtail, the tongue – that’s all good eating, something you don’t just pick up at the grocery store anymore.”
Beef. It’s not the same-old anymore.
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