Last month I wrote about how I buy produce. That task has gotten a lot easier now that the farmer’s markets have reopened and the abundance is rolling in off the valley floor. However, my challenges purchasing beef have gotten much more difficult. For years my job was made easy because of Oregon Natural Meat. Stephen Neal and his family ran this small operation and it was the perfect solution. Stephen’s nickname is Dr. Meat. He has a PhD in food safety, once taught at Oregon State and consults on matters of food safety for governments around the world. They have a ranch on the family homestead in Goshen, Oregon, just south of Eugene. Oregon Natural would put their year-old cattle on feed supplemented by upcycled Ninkasi brewer’s mash for six months. The cows were treated kindly; the kills were humane and the butchering was well-managed and precise. This year they let me know that they were discontinuing operations. Kyle and I set out to find a replacement. It hasn’t been easy.
Painted Hills is an option; they have an excellent reputation, the animals are naturally pastured, antibiotic and hormone free. They are a co-op of seven ranching families in Central Oregon. It’s a good story. They do not grade their beef and, in my experience, it tends to land between Select+ and Choice-, maybe Choice o. The meat is tasty, but it is hard to rely on the degree of marbling, i.e. tenderness. I wish this wasn’t as much of an issue as it is, but as much as customers wish to send their love and dollars to our friends in Central Oregon, they really like their beef graded Prime. Should you want to try Painted Hills beef at home, drop in at The Meating Place. They are great folks and offer the complete lineup of Painted Hills beef.
I have had great luck lately with Allen Brothers out of Chicago. We get their beef from our local specialty grocery supplier. The big drawback of Allen Bothers is that they are 2,000 miles away, and that fact really sticks in my throat. But their beef is the best quality meat we have served here at Bethany’s Table. One of the things I look for when researching a new producer is whether or not they comply with the steps and standards specified by Temple Granden. Dr. Granden has two specialties: Livestock handling and autism. She has been changing the way the cattle industry treats cows. She is gifted, an autistic cow whisperer. Allen Brothers complies with her standards. We were excited at one time or another by the discovery of other producers that apparently had a good story, only to learn that they shipped their cattle from Montana to Iowa for finishing on corn in the feedlots and slaughter in the facilities that made Food, Inc famous. The devil is definitely in the details. We keep trying.