If you have ever been interested in learning more about a healthier, natural alternative to traditional beef products, Russ Page of Head of the Meadow Farm invites you to visit the on Saturday.
Boasting less fat and cholesterol and higher omega-3 fatty acids, grass-fed beef is a healthier product, Page said. The health benefit coupled with his passion for the Farmers Market as one of it's are reasons why Page started down the path of grass-fed beef production.
Page elected to raise the Senepol breed, developed in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, after learning the animals are resilient, particularly to heat, and their beef is tender, he said.
He began selling grass-fed beef three years ago at the Farmers Market, but it took years of planning before he had product to display at his vendor booth.
"You've got to make a decision a long time in advance because it takes three years from birth to processing," he said.
The herd of 25 eat only hay and grass and are not exposed to hormones, antibiotics, herbicides, or weed killers. Oddly enough, the breed is naturally fly and tick resistant, too, he said.
"It's as natural as you can get; the way beef was raised 50 years ago," he said.
Getting the product from the farm to the Farmers Market is no easy task. Each live animal must be inspected and killed in the presence of that inspector, Page explained. The meat must be hung for two weeks, then it is processed, packed, and frozen, he said. The inspection information is included on all packages.
The closest place to do this is in Thompson, Georgia, Page said, so there are some weeks that he may be without product at the Farmers Market.
"The whole process takes several weeks, so it's not something I can turn around today," he said. On average 3 or 4 of his steers are processed each year.
Page sells over 20 different cuts of meat, including tenderloin, sirloin steaks, rib-eye steaks, chuck roast, and ground beef. With all purchases, he gives customers a set of recipes and a list of tips to keep in mind when cooking grass-fed beef.
"[Grass-fed beef] doesn't have the fat that normal steak or roast would have," he said. "It's easy to overcook it."
One such helpful hint is to mix a cup of chopped, sauteed onions into a pound of beef, which adds enough moisture so that it doesn't overcook, Page said.
“Once you’ve acquired a taste for grass-fed, you realize it’s not at all like [beef] you find at the grocery store,” he said.
Some customers have asked Page how he is able to raise the steers with the knowledge that one day they will be eaten.
He tells them that as a kid growing up in Connecticut, he learned early in life about the destiny of certain livestock when his parents gifted him a lamb that eventually became Christmas dinner.
"No one loves animals more than I do," he said. "But you have to understand from the beginning that the animals are destined to become supper. A steer understands that's his purpose in life."
If you visit his farm, you'll learn that each steer raised for that purpose carries a name from birth that reminds Page of the animal's destiny. Phillip Mignon is just one example.
But you'll also observe that the entire herd --including the bulls-- are docile, even approachable, and seem content with their existence as they freely roam and graze along the pastures.
For other tips on how best to prepare grass-fed beef, check out americangrassfedbeef.com.
Here is a list of items vendors will have for sale at the Oconee Farmers Market this Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the back lawn of :
- Yellow squash
- New potatoes
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Grass-fed Senepol and Angus-cross beef
- Local honey
- Sourwood honey w/comb
- Strawberry jam
- Cut flowers
- Live plants
- Pie (strawberry-rhubarb, chocolate chess, pecan, peach, apple with cheddar)
- Dog biscuits
- Bread (whole wheat, raisin walnut, pretzels, bagels, etc.)
- Cinnamon rolls
- Organic sweet tea
- Handmade soap
- Shea butter products
- Decorated gourds
- Gourd instruments
- Jewelry made from recycled items