Here at Happy Earth Farm we raise a variety of consumable proteins (that is fancy for animals that we eat:)). We started with egg laying hens, then added meat chickens, then turkeys and lastly, beef cows. I’ve had no problem enjoying the flavor of “day of” eggs, or my favorite recipe for foolproof fall-off-the-bone chicken, and I eat some form of turkey a couple of times per week (the spinach/garlic sausage is to die for). But I have openly wondered if I was going to be able to sit down to a meal of beef once our cows were ready for processing. No offense, but chickens and turkeys are not quite the same as a 800-pound cow that lives with you for a couple of years.
Steve has been looking forward to having our own beef, but he is also a guy who can eat a chicken salad sandwich while butchering a chicken. Honestly I was nervous about how I was going to feel after getting to know a cow well and then making him for dinner. Ever since we dropped the steer off at the processor, Steve has been talking about trying out the beef the very day we took delivery. I hemmed and hawed the entire drive to Kingstree saying that I didn’t think we would have time to thaw out meat for dinner. I dreaded it…….I didn’t think I could do it…..……if I put it off long enough maybe Steve will forget we have it. I was convinced that I would not be able to eat our beef, that is, until we got there to pick it up and then everything changed.
Steve put in countless hours researching how to best finish a cow on grass because it isn’t as easy as it sounds. What a cow finishes on greatly impacts flavor. Mike, the butcher, was waiting on the loading dock as I approached. I murmured something about hoping that the beef was going to be decent so that it wouldn’t have been a waste killing my “pet” cow. He looked at me and said, “ I can tell a lot about a cow during the butchering process and this one is going to be exceptionally tender. The marbling is perfect so I predict the flavor will be outstanding.” Wait…..What was that you just said? My cow impressed you?! Boom, that is all it took…….Steer Boy went from “pet” cow to prized beef instantly. I was so proud of that damn cow and Steve’s efforts that I went from being tentative to trying it to in a hurry to get home so I would have time to defrost some meat for burgers.
And what a burger it was. The flavor…..the tenderness of the meat….outstanding. Not only was it delicious, but I also took time to reflect on that burger. That burger came from a cow that was raised in a loving environment. That cow was grown and finished on clean pasture, in the bright sunshine and also under the shade of trees. That burger came from a cow that kicked up his heels and ran with wild abandon. That burger came from a cow that experienced a real life living on a farm. That cow knew the kindness of touch and the compassion of his caretakers. And yes, that cow had a name even though everyone told me not to name something I was going to eat. That cow lived the way all beef cattle should live: with dignity.
So I am left to wonder no more. Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.