Happy cows

10 07 2007

With the holiday falling in the middle of the week, travels around Skagit County have been through a cloud of the delicious smells coming from peoples’ grills for a solid week! We didn’t have the opportunity to grill or smoke anything since we were sailing around Boundary Bay on Wednesday, but I didn’t wait too long to toss some meat on later. I decided on Indian kofta and fired up the gasser.

Highland Kofta

Of course, my ground beef didn’t come from just any old combination of hundreds of cows processed in one of four large meat packing plants in the country.  There are actually 10 that have 90% of the market share in the meat-packing industry, but in all likelihood it would have come from either IBP, ConAgra, Smithfield, or Cargill.

My burger started with a happy cow.

 Hemlock Highlands

There are a few beef ranchers in Skagit County and even some bison ranchers so the options for good homegrown meat abound. We’ve happened to settle on Hemlock Highlands due to a couple of factors – the flavor, the leanness, and the cute factor. This is food with a face that we like. 😉

Hemlock Highlands

If you’re not ready to scratch your dinner under its chin, other options include Ovenell’s Ranch for Maine-Anjou beef and Buffalo Run Ranch for bison. There are quite a few others in the county as well. Find out who is closest to you and start tasting.

Maija & Highlands bull calf

 “Our tender, delicious Highland beef is raised on lush green pastures, grain finished and aged for 21 days. It is naturally raised with no antibiotics, hormones or animal byproducts. Highlands are naturally lean, not needing fat on the outside of their bodies to keep warm due to their thick hide and hair coat. Because we need enough fat on the outside to protect the beef during the aging process, we feed them non-GMO grain during the last two months to provide the finish that gives a tender, flavorful result.

Highlands take 24 months to mature to perfection. They live a long happy life and we want to continue that to the end. We provide a stress free situation in the slaughter by doing it on the farm where they are eating from a pan of grain in their normal surroundings. They are not taken live to the slaughter house as is the case for most USDA beef.” (from Hemlock Highlands)

Hemlock Highlands (and most of the other local ranchers) use Silvana Meats down in Snohomish County for processing. When the beef has aged, they will give you a call and ask what type of cuts you would like. A few days later, you get the call to pick it up. You write two checks, one to Silvana Meats for the processing and one to the rancher for the meat. Dog bones included!  Don’t forget to ask for oxtails and brisket if you like those cuts. I also requested tallow which I got, but it came from other cows. Highlands don’t have enough fat!

When picking up your beef in Silvana, don’t forget to check out their other products. They have sausages, hams, and various pork cuts too. If you don’t have the freezer space for a beef purchase, you can buy frozen cuts at the store. They’ll also custom cut most things for you on the spot.

Oh and in case you avoid beef due to cholesterol problems, my Naturopathic Doctor says that Highland cattle and bison are both lean enough to be enjoyed on an otherwise low cholesterol diet.




2 responses

17 07 2007

Wow, Saara! This is some pretty cool stuff. I’ve spent some time thinking about going more local, but I just can’t figure out where to start.

I’m very impressed…and intrigued.

17 07 2007

Thanks! Watch this space, there’ll be plenty of things coming which are local to us in the sense of our state and not just the Skagit Valley. It’s a gradual process, but it’s easier in summer with all the bounty at the markets. Of course, I just smoked two butts that came all the way from Iowa.

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