Sunday, October 17, 2010
Meadow View Farm
This week we are pleased to feature all natural grass-fed beef from Meadow View Farm of Lyndonville, Vermont. All this week, Chef Casey Graham will use Meadow View Farm products in main dishes, appetizers, soups, and salads. Be sure to ask your server about tonight’s Farm to Table Special!
Meadow View Farm raises 100% all natural grass-fed Belted Galloway beef on their property on Darling Hill, right next to the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vermont. Meadowview Farm beef can be found on the menu at Juniper’s Restaurant at the Wildflower Inn as well as at summer and winter farmer’s market in Lyndonville, Vermont and in Massachusetts.
The Downing Family’s properties on Darling Hill in Lyndonville, Vermont, are the realization of a family philosophy: care for the mind, body and spirit. Meadow View Farm, which raises all natural grass-fed Belted Galloway beef, is a sister property of the Wildflower Inn, the Stepping Stone Spa, and the Chapel of the Holy Family. Meadow View’s herd of 120 “Belties”, large black, red and dun cows with a broad white stripe encircling their bellies, dot the fields surrounding the Inn, Spa, and Chapel. The beef on the menu at Juniper’s Restaurant at the Wildflower Inn is exclusively from Meadow View Farm, and it gets rave reviews from diners eating signature Beltie burgers, meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, filet mignon and New York sirloin. Paul Downing, sales manager at Meadow View Farm, works with his sister Mary and brother-in-law Jim O’Reilly at the Wildflower Inn and Juniper’s Restaurant to help their guests experience food that benefits the mind, body and spirit: grass-fed beef that is good for the consumer, the cows, and the environment.
Richard Downing Sr. and his sons began raising cows in the 1970s at their home in Massachusetts. They started with a small herd of Herefords, kept mainly to help feed their large family. When the pasture they leased from a neighbor was sold to developers in the 1980s, the Downings moved their herd to the Wildflower Inn, a property they had recently purchased in Lyndonville, Vermont. Over the next decade the family bought adjacent properties on Darling Hill totaling 895 acres, 275 of which is lush pastureland perfect for raising grass-fed beef, and in 1996 Meadow View Farm was born. The Herefords were unsuited to the harsh climate of the Northeast Kingdom, so in 2001 the Downings decided to switch to Belted Galloways they purchased from a breeder in Maine. The animals were cold tolerant, well suited to eating grass, and did not need to be milked, in addition to being good-looking and docile. “We couldn’t be happier with them. They are just phenomenal,” says Paul. “They are such nice animals. The people that train these cows are, on average, 14 year old girls, and even the bulls are so calm that these kids can handle them.”
Meadow View Farm’s Belties are regularly shown at local and regional fairs where they have collected dozens of blue ribbons. One of their bulls recently won a national award, which is especially significant because he was in direct competition with grain-fed animals. The herd at Meadow View Farm possesses some of the best and oldest Belted Galloway genetics in the country, highly sought after by other breeders. Belted Galloway is an over four hundred-year-old heritage breed that originated in Europe and is growing in popularity in United States. Written history traces Belties to the islands of North Wales, and before that they are known to have been bred in Scandanavia. They are originally descended from extinct European Bison, which until seven or eight hundred years ago inhabited the plains of northern Europe. Thanks to their ancestry, Belties are well suited to Vermont’s long, cold winters. A warm double coat of fur allows them to spend most of the year outside and prevents them from developing a thick layer of back fat.
The Belties’ distinctive coats also help them retain more energy from their feed, which is entirely made up of grass. Even in the winter, the cows are fed on hay made on the farm. Meadow View Farm practices Intensive Rotational Grazing, where 30-40 cows graze a half acre of lush grass for a short period of time and are rotated to new pasture throughout the season. Grazing on the high quality, pesticide-free grass quickly adds nutritional value to the beef and adds nutrient rich manure to the pastures. Grass-fed beef is high in vitamins, trace minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids), which suppress the formation of cancer cells and reduce vascular blockage. According to Paul, the human body requires 1.2 grams of CLAs per pound of fat to process red meat. Feedlot beef has .6 g/lb, which means that in order to process the meat the body is depleted of CLA’s. Grass-fed beef from Meadowview Farm contains an average of 2.6-2.8 g/lb, so eating it actually replenishes the body’s stores.
In January of 2009, Time Magazine ran the story “How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet.” Reporter Lisa Abend explained to America that, in addition to being good for human health, grass-fed beef benefits the environment by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“It works like this: grass is a perennial. Rotate cattle and other ruminants across pastures full of it, and the animals' grazing will cut the blades — which spurs new growth — while their trampling helps work manure and other decaying organic matter into the soil, turning it into rich humus. The plant's roots also help maintain soil health by retaining water and microbes. And healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of the atmosphere.
Compare that with the estimated 99% of U.S. beef cattle that live out their last months on feedlots, where they are stuffed with corn and soybeans. In the past few decades, the growth of these concentrated animal-feeding operations has resulted in millions of acres of grassland being abandoned or converted — along with vast swaths of forest — into profitable cropland for livestock feed. "Much of the carbon footprint of beef comes from growing grain to feed the animals, which requires fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, transportation," says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. "Grass-fed beef has a much lighter carbon footprint." Indeed, although grass-fed cattle may produce more methane than conventional ones (high-fiber plants are harder to digest than cereals, as anyone who has felt the gastric effects of eating broccoli or cabbage can attest), their net emissions are lower because they help the soil sequester carbon.”
-Abend, Lisa. How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet. Time Magazine. 25 January 2010.
Grass-fed beef is more expensive for the consumer than feedlot beef, but the true cost of feedlot beef is measured in its negative effects on the environment and on human health. Paul points out that in Argentina, where nearly all of the beef is grass-fed, the incidence of heart disease is 70% less than that of the United States.
Not only is grass-fed beef better for you, it tastes great, too. The flavor of grass-fed beef differs from grain-fed beef and can take some adjusting to, but Meadow View Farm beef has a reputation for high quality, consistent flavor. Paul’s favorite cut of grass-fed Meadow View Farm beef is a New York strip steak, cooked just shy of medium and allowed to rest for 3-4 minutes. He recommends paying close attention when cooking grass-fed beef because it can overcook more easily than grain-fed beef. Paul’s favorite cut of beef from the menu at Juniper’s Restaurant is a harder question to answer. “I like everything at Juniper’s,” he says. “The Burger and Beer is definitely a favorite.” He is referring to the Tuesday night special, where any of Juniper’s 100% all natural Belted Galloway burgers and a pint of Vermont-made Switchback or Trout River Red on tap are only $10 ($11.50 with tax). Meadow View Farm’s grass-fed beef is good for the mind, body and spirit, and on Tuesday nights at Juniper’s Restaurant, it's good for the wallet too!