The Harris family has raised cattle at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Ga., for five generations. Stewardship of the land and respect for livestock are among the most important lessons that that have passed down over these years. The farm raises 10 different species of livestock; processes the animals on the farm; and markets beef, lamb, goat, poultry, rabbits, eggs and vegetables directly to consumers who seek regenerative, artisan products, explains owner Jenni Harris.
The tiny 200-year-old farm village of Bluffton, which has a meager population of just 103, had slipped almost into oblivion until White Oak Pastures came in. The community-conscious farm employs 120 cowboys, butchers, cooks, clerks, farmers and others., making it the largest privately owned employer in the county. The family is working hard to breathe life into their community, but it’s not without its challenges.
“It’s very important for us to communicate the differences in our practices, compared to industrially produced food, in order to justify the price of our grassfed and pastured meats,” Harris says. “Industrially produced food is artificially cheap, wastefully abundant, and passes for safe. However, that production system has horrific unintended consequences for the welfare of our farm animals, the degradation of our natural resources, and the economy of rural America.”
White Oaks Pastures does not operate as a factory farm, but instead adopts the mentality of “a living organism,” where 10 species of humanely treated animals live in symbiotic relationships with one another. The land is managed holistically and teeming with life. They don’t feed grain or use hormones or antibiotics on their livestock, and they go without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
“Producing food this way is not easy,” Harris says. “It takes a significant time and financial commitment, but we believe it is worth it.”.
From the day that one of their bulls first meets one of their heifers, it takes almost three years for grassfed beef to get to your plate. That’s why they practice appreciation for the food they produce and encourage customers to do the same. Follow the cooking tips, hints and information below to ensure the tastiest results when cooking any grassfed beef. And take it slow—a meal of grassfed beef three years in the making is well-worth the wait:
Don’t Overcook It
Due to grassfed beef’s lower fat content than conventional meats, the biggest culprit when preparing it is overcooking. This beef is best for rare to medium cooking. If you like well-done meat, then cook your grassfed beef at a very low temperature in a sauce or liquid to add moisture.
Thaw It First
For best results, thaw your meat in the refrigerator, or if it is important to thaw more quickly, place the vacuum-sealed package in water. Thawing completely will eliminate the “weeping” of watery red liquid onto your plate. Aging steaks has also proven to make grassfed beef more tender. When you receive your steak, let them thaw, and place them in a ziplock bag in your refrigerator. Leave them there for about a week before cooking.
Sear, Then Roast
One of the Harris’ favorite steak-preparation methods, also used by many chefs, is to sear a steak quickly over high heat (2 to 4 minutes per side) to seal in its natural juices, and then place it in a pre-heated 375-degree-F oven to finish the cooking process. If desired, use sauces to add to the tenderness when roasting.
Perfect Your Cutting Technique
When you cut the meat, cut across the grain, as this will improve texture because you are cutting the fibers in the meat into shorter segments.