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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Scottish Highland cattle, humanely raised and good to eat

 These shaggy and sweet-faced Scottish Highland cattle live outdoors all year round in Geauga County.


I've been enamored of Scottish Highland cattle since I first encountered them in the highlands and on the islands of Scotland about 20 years ago. They're shaggy, with big horns and look a little like yaks, but they are sociable and sweet-looking, with long eyelashes and a docile demeanor that exhibited itself when they came over to the fence where I stood photographing them.

So when I discovered that local farmer Scott Boehnlein is raising Scottish Highland cattle and selling the meat to top chefs around town, I had to know more.

Turns out he chose to raise them for a number of reasons, including their wonderful temperment. Since the Boehnleins have eight kids who work around the farm he thought that would be important. The animals are also very hearty and prefer to be outdoors summer and winter. Their heavy coats protect them in the same way extra layers of fat protect other beef cattle. When Scott told me their meat is very tender since it's marbled with fat throughout, I knew I had to taste it.

Scott's cattle live outdoors and feed mostly on grass, supplemented by flax seed, which is rich in Omega 3. They're very healthy and are not fed anything with antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms. The Boehnleins need to buy their feed since they don't have enough space on their hilly farm to raise it. Their cattle live as free-ranging creatures until they are slaughtered at 30 to 32 months old - almost three years old -  in contrast to beef raised in feed lots which are slaughtered at 18 months. Obviously it costs less to raise beef in factory farms since the animals are fed lots of corn which helps them put on weight so they can be taken to slaughter younger.

The Boehnleins also raise Berkshire pigs, another very hardy and disease resistant breed,  which go to slaughter when they're younger. In five months they go from eight pounds to 250 pounds.
 I've heard that in Japan, where meat from Berkshire pigs is called Kurobuta pork, it's the most prized meat of all. Berkshires are one of the oldest breeds known to exist and is the only pork eaten by Britain's Royals. The large herd of Black Berkshires kept by the royal family at Windsor castle are descended from a gift to the British royals by the Japanese royals.

When I went out to the Boehnleins' farm to research a story due to publish  Nov. 12, I bought a porterhouse steak and some pork chops. The meat was expensive, but it's so good many of the area's top chefs are buying it.

I hope that the Boehnleins' belief that profit is secondary to the importance of respecting these animals and  allowing them to roam freely is something that can be sustained. They've got my support, for sure, because it's also what I believe.

The steak was one of the best I've ever eaten, and I'll let you know soon what I think of the pork chops. The video here shows the process from farm to my table and introduces you  two of the Boehnlein daughters.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your delightful front page article yesterday, I wanted to learn more so I checked out your blog and watched the video... I'm sure you had a time limit, but I wished you had shared your thoughts on how the meat tasted because I know from experience it yummy! What a wonderful story about the family, New Creation Farms and their products. I hope readers will give them a try. My husband and I met the family at Union Square Farmer's Market several years ago and have been buying their products ever since. The kids are healthy and happy and know their stuff. Sure, we pay more for the meat, but it is worth in in so many ways and not just taste. We know our purchase is supporting local family farmers and we know the meat is humanely raised and has none of the negative health or environmental impacts of factory farmed meats. Because we pay more for their meat, we eat meat less often and truly enjoy and appreciate every bite. Thank you for sharing this family's story!

November 13, 2012 at 4:27 AM 
Blogger News-Herald Blogs said...

The steak was the best I ever tasted. When I grilled it, it didn't spatter and flame up since the fat is thoughout the meat instead of on the edge. I also bought bacon that cooked the same way and pork chops which i will put to the taste test.
I will now count myself among this family's regular customers. Thanks for reading.

November 14, 2012 at 10:34 AM 

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