Here's the Beef

Pink slime? Not when you know the animals you eat.

At one time just about every small farm in New Hampshire raised cattle for beef, if only for the family table. The stony hillsides were the perfect fit for hoofed beasts, but we never became a state known for its beef. Now, small farms still dot the slopes of our state where some 35,000 head of beef cattle graze.That's a pretty good number and there is a movement afoot to serve the state its rightful helping of locally raised, grass-fed beef.

Miles Smith Farm is located in Louden on a hilltop with lovely views of Concord. Miles Smith farmed here in the early 1800s. Now the farm is well-known for its grass-fed beef, and owners Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson are active in marketing their products and making locally raised beef more visible in the state.

The couple settled into raising beef cattle after struggling to get the land in shape for planting produce in 2000. Soule says, "After consulting with Miles Smith" (safely ensconced in the property's cemetery) she jests, "we decided to use time-honored practices with cattle – and let them prepare the land."

The natural action of hooves tills the soil, while continual grazing tames the meadows. At the other end, daily deposits of manure fertilize the soil for even more luxurious grass growth. It is a beautiful and efficient cycle with low maintenance and overhead. And the cows, bulls and their offspring are happy – free to roam in spacious fenced pastures. Soule calls them "lawn mooers," doing what they do best.

The farm is only 36 acres, but Soule and Dawson spend most of their time shuttling cattle to borrowed pastures. In a trade for the land improvement done naturally by the beasts, the couple fence in a pasture area and bring in cattle to graze. They have more than 200 acres of pasture land adopted in this manner – with property at St. Paul's School on Silk Farm Road in Concord being the most visible. The NH Audubon Society, headquartered nearby, is trying to re-establish a low-grass area for breeding grassland birds such as Bobolinks, Savannah Sparrows and possibly others like American Kestrel and Eastern Meadowlark. The St. Paul's property project is really multi-tasking.

On a recent check at St. Paul's, Soule was surprised to find a new calf from a cow she didn't notice was pregnant. Seems a bull she let socialize in the pasture came of age earlier than expected. Normally breeding is done in the late summer and early fall with what is known as "natural service." All the cows and heifers to be bred are put in the field and the bull is set loose. Calves normally are then born in the spring.

In winter the animals are all brought close to home and fed hay, but are happy to remain outdoors. They are Scottish Highlanders, which Soule and Dawson chose because they are well-adapted to our cold climate, produce low-fat meat and have strong maternal instincts. The breed is handsome too, with long curved horns and a shaggy coat in shades from blonde to brown to black. Soule has a few favorite cows with "sweet" personalities that will live out their natural lives on the farm. One is named Cocoa and sports misaligned horns. She loves to nuzzle with Soule and have her neck rubbed. Soule has a small saddle for the sturdy cows and offers rides on the more docile ones.

The heifers are trained early on to load onto trailers for transport to remote pastures. The most cooperative get a stay of execution. It's just safer to work with a cooperative 1,000-pound beast.

"Some cattle, mainly Angus, we buy from other farmers who don't want to market their own beef." Without a long-term relationship, it is easier to send them off too, says Soule.

When the time does come for transport to slaughter it's not a pleasant duty, but Soule takes heart that the process is "not overly stressful" for the animal. Locally, PT Farm in North Haverhill just built a new USDA-approved butchering facility. Although not designed by Temple Grandin (made famous by the eponymous movie starring Claire Danes), the cows are herded through a curved race, keeping them calm by limiting their field of vision. Studies have shown that calm animals produce less cortisol, resulting in more tender meat.

Gail McWilliam Jellie, director of the Division of Agricultural Development of the NH Department of Agriculture, laments that there are not enough processing plants in the state. The less distance the animal has to travel, the better for all concerned. At issue is the Legislature and lack of funding for USDA inspectors. Also, federal mandates require each facility have an office and bathroom for inspectors, adding to potential costs.

Back at Miles Smith Farm, the farm store onsite houses more than 18 chest freezers filled with a wide variety of frozen cuts from both 100-percent grass-fed beef and grain-finished beef, all clearly marked. Soule explains that the latter has a bit more fat and hence is more tender. The popularity of 100-percent grass-fed beef has risen with the news that it contains more beneficial omega 3s than corn-fed. There are dietary groups, including the Weston A. Price Foundation with local chapters, that advocate for a return to "natural" eating, including grass-fed beef, considered an important part of a healthy dietary spectrum.

Also in the freezer is a large assortment of sausages. Soule earned a grant from the USDA to market beef sausage – a product that can use all the less-marketable cuts, without the "pink slime."

The farm store itself is run almost entirely on solar power, including the power-hungry freezers. Soule was able to make the conversion with the aid of a grant from USDA Rural Development, a loan and grant from the Community Loan Fund, including ARRA funds, and an incentive program offered by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission.

Eating animals is an age-old dietary practice. Some think it is an outdated, cruel practice, but then, if these beasts were not raised for production, they may have never lived to enjoy a grassy meadow studded with wildflowers on a warm summer day. Turn, turn, turn. For every thing there is a season.

The Delmonico steak I enjoyed from Miles Smith Farm was tender and tasted like beef should taste. Damn, it was good. And I did not partake of the much-maligned "corn economy," excessive transport costs and questionable feed-lot practices. It was all good. NH

Miles Smith Farm
56 Whitehouse Rd.Loudon
(603) 783-5159

Farm store hours:
Tues., 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wed., 10 a.m to 6 p.m.
Thurs., 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Fri., 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Sun. and Mon.

Where to Find More Beef

Get to know your local farmer. Most meat is frozen at the time of slaughter but fresh would be available periodically, so just ask. A few have official farm stores, but many just sell out of the barn freezer or sell product at local farmers markets.

Monadnock Region

Paradise Farm
Scottish Highlander and Hereford

Rocky Mountain Meadow
Solid color Galloways
Whole carcass or sides only
(603) 547-6464

Hettie Belle Farm
Distributed in Keene and Warwick, Mass.
100% grass-fed beef
CSA memberships

Brookfield Farm
Angus cross, certified organic, 100% grass-fed
Walpole Farmers Market

The 1780 Farm
Grass-fed beef
Order online

Walpole Valley Farms

100% grass-fed beef
Farm store open on Saturdays

Colonial Top Farm
Black Angus
(603) 654-9462

Merrimack Region

Three J Farms
100% grass-fed beef

Cascade Brook Farm
North Sutton
100% grass-fed Black Angus by the side

Steve Normanton
100% grass-fed beef certified organic
Pre-order for fall delivery, bulk or by the cut, online

Huntoon Farm
Angus/Hereford cross beef cattle, meat by the pound, halves or quarters
(603) 768-5579

Belted Galloway, Polled Hereford
(603) 744-8032

Brookford Farm
Grass-fed farm where male calves are raised for beef
Farmers markets

Lull Farm, LLC
Farm stand – retail
(603) 465-7079

Owen Farm, LLC
Diversified organic, connecting people to traditional farming
(603) 225-2252

Webster Ridge Farm
Natural meats
(603) 648-2595

Gitch’s Funny Farm
(603) 934-8146

Lakes Region

Paradis Farm
Pinzauer, Grass-fed with supplement
(603) 332-5289

Arbutus Hill Farm
Grass-fed beef

Beans & Greens Farmstand
Hereford, Belted Galloway
Grass-fed beef sold on the hoof
(603) 293-2853

Top of the Hill Farm
Polled Herefords
(603) 569-3137

DMG Farm
New Hampton
Farm stand
(603) 744-3034

Echo Farm
Grass-fed beef
(603) 786-3600

Diamond B Farm
New Durham
Grass-fed with grain supplement

No-View Farm
Naturally raised, locally grown fine meats and poultry
(603) 539-7838

Dartmouth/Sunapee Region

Eccardt Farm Inc.
Hereford and Angus beef by the pound
(603) 495-3157

Oxbow Farm
Grass-fed Highland cattle
(603) 863-4494

PT Farm
North Haverhill
Naturally raised
Retail cuts available in the farm store

Seacoast Region

Pinewoods Yankee Farm
Belted Galloway, Belted Angus Cross
100% grass-fed
Farmers markets
(603) 659-8106

New Roots Farm
100% grass-fed beef
Farmers markets

Pheasant Ridge Farm
100% grass-fed
Farmers markets, Farmstand
(603) 749-0377

Hurd Farm
Grass-fed with grain supplement
Farm store

Ilneva Farm
East Kingston
Grass-fed with grain supplement

Kellie Brook Farm
Grass-fed with grain supplement
Farmers markets

Clarke Farm
100% grass-fed beef

Great North Region

Bennett Family Farm
Natural meats
(603) 237-5330

Northwinds Farm
N. Stratford
Beef, lamb, veal, vegetables and berries
(603) 922-8377

White Mountains Region

Winsome Farm Store
Certified organic and natural meats
Farm store
(603) 272-5875

Otokahe Farm and Belted Beef Jerky, LLC
Raise Belted Galloways and make beef jerky snacks
(603) 586-7702

Sherman Farm
East Conway
Naturally-raised beef
Farm store

Categories: Features