Raising high quality grassfed beef commercially has been a challenge in Whatcom County. First, it takes a lot of land to raise enough cattle for year-round meat availability. Second, they have to be slaughtered at a USDA-approved facility, and none was available here.
Several farms have overcome these obstacles and local beef is now available for those locavores among us trying to be healthier and reduce our carbon footprint by “eating local.” It’s very difficult and expensive for farms to get their grassfed beef certified organic, but most locally produced beef is raised as organically and humanely as possible. If you have any doubts, you can always ask the farmer (another benefit of eating locally), or ask the market where you buy the meat.
Bennett Farms (Everson) sells their beef through the Community Food Co-op. On Lummi Island, you can get island-raised beef at the Islander Grocery.
Other farms sell their beef directly to consumers as “sides” (half a cow) or “quarters”. Those may only be available at certain times of the year, and usually are cut and wrapped for you before you pick them up. You can sometimes specify which cuts you prefer most, though you will always get a mix. For example, some parts can be cut as either roasts or steaks. If a quarter of beef is too much meat for you to eat in a year, find some friends and split the purchase. The price is usually based on “hanging weight” (the weight of the quarter or half of beef before it is cut). The weight of meat you take home will be quite a bit less. A quarter might weigh 150 lbs, for example, while the finished cuts you take home from it might weigh just under 100 lbs. You don’t really want that big old leg bone, do you?
Sustainable Connections 2010 Food & Farm Finder booklet lists several local beef producers, such as Third Thyme Farm in Sumas. You can get the booklet at the Co-op, Terra Organica, the Sustainable Connections website, the Farmers Market, and various other locations.
This week’s menu takes advantage of local beef, seasonal napa cabbage, and Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill’s blue cornmeal:
Fabulous flavors in every bite!