ChicagoBoyz Ag Update

Anecdotal ag information under the fold if you desire.

That is a photo of Arthur, our prize steer. He is not quite a year and a half old. His confirmation is the best we have ever seen from our tiny herd of Scottish Highlands and of the Highlands we have seen on other farms. We suspect winter will be good to him and he will be enormous (for the breed) by next summer and ready for butchering. He was our first calf. Here he is back in May of 2010 right after he was born with his mom, Annabelle.

We butchered two steers this year and the beef is of a very high quality – my wife and I were both surprised at how good it is. We sold one full beef in quarters and kept the other for ourselves. It is pretty cool to have good ground beef and steaks in stock at all times.

The ground beef is extremely lean – well, all grass fed beef typically is. If you are used to grain fed steaks and aren’t looking for a change, this probably won’t be for you. We use no hormones and feed these animals nothing but pasture grass in the summer, and hay from our fields in the winter. The taste is not wild, but to me, “beefier”. You don’t get the buttery melt in your mouth taste of a well marbled ribeye from a place like Ruth’s Chris, but the best cuts from our beef hold up well.

You have to be careful cooking the beef – this isn’t a breed for well done steaks, if that is how you like them. Fortunately my family all likes medium rare to rare (barely cooked in my case).

Burgers are great too, but care again must be taken not to over cook them or you will have a sawdust sandwich. The burger is where you really get the beef flavor that everyone must have enjoyed a long time ago, before feed lots, hormones, grain and all the rest.

It was very easy for my wife to sell the extra steer – there is a high demand, at least in these parts for naturally raised grass fed beef. People like to come by and see the “happy” cows munching on grass. We say “organic” and that is OK as our tiny operation is so small that we don’t have to be certified organic to say such.

We are ready for winter as the hay is all put up and ready to go.

More ag updates as time provides.

33 thoughts on “ChicagoBoyz Ag Update”

  1. A friend brought some very good steaks recently. I cooked them on very high heat so they were browned on the outside and just warm pink in the middle, and I served it in half inch slices.

    I put a little horse radish mixed with sour cream on the side.

    There were no leftovers.

  2. Dan,

    How do the fattiest cuts compare to marbled beef? Is the brisket nice and fatty, or is it lean as well? How about some of the chuck?

  3. Tatyana,

    I can imagine petting this cutie with clear conscience

    You get used to it. We used to raise our own beef when I was kid. I had a bottle calf that we bought precisely to raise up to slaughter. I named him “lunch”. I feed him up until he was old enough to graze and then we sent him out to pasture. When he was around 18 months old he ended up in our freezer.

    The ugly truth is that if you really live with animals, one way or the other you end up having to kill them.

    That is all the more true if you actually care about the animals.

    Farmers/ranchers rather often find themselves having to euthanize animals. Wild herbivores have to be hunted or they will overpopulate and destroy their echo system. If there are natural predators left, humans must step in. The same applies to critters like raccoons or coyotes. They will overrun everything unless thinned

    Domestic animals like cattle exist to provide food for humans. Their ecological niche is being symbiots for humans. They can no longer survive without us. We eat individuals (which would happen in the wild anyway) but in return we protect their linages, ensuring their reproductive success.

    Humans are predators. That is our evolutionary role. Our predation, even in the form of domesticated meat animals, keeps the ecosystem rolling foreword. If we abandon our predatory role the animals go extinct.

    So, yeah the calf is cute but if we want to have future generations of cute calves, that calf needs to end up on some human’s plate.

  4. One of my nephews has a neighbor with small children who decided to start raising rabbits for food. When she brought the first onces home, she told the kids not to give them names, and not to get too attached, because they were going to be eaten. They gave them names and got attached the first day. When it came time to slaughter them, she labeled the frozen meat with their names. Then, one by one, they had “Fluffy Stew” and “Roast Thumper”, and so on. The kids didn’t give names to the next batch.

  5. Shannon,
    where did I ask for a lecture or trivialities (“Domestic animals like cattle exist to provide food for humans” D’oh)? I can’t find it in my comment. Neither I appreciate your veiled accusations (“if you actually care about the animals”…)
    Besides, in your zeal to tell me how I’m supposed to think you missed the meaning of my 1 (ONE!) sentence.
    I’ll decipher it for you.

    Dan said the beef is too lean for prolonged cooking; he recommended rare steak, almost raw.
    I said I don’t like raw meat. Get it? Knowing this calf will not end up on my plate (because I don’t like raw meat, note) makes my conscience clear.

    You don’t care if you eat your pet. I know it might be habitual and/or necessary for a farmer – but I, I personally, find it despicable. It’s like eating your friend.

    Now stop bullying and patronizing me.

  6. That’s the hairiest steer I ever saw. Reminds me of the Musk Ox farm I saw up in AK.

    Wonder how many varieties of steers there are? If you have ever seen a TX Longhorn that is one strange looking animal, too.

    Bill (incognito)

  7. @DHL – in general, the beef we get is leaner – all cuts – than grain fed. Honestly I think it is a function of the feed, not the breed. I imagine if we grain fed and pumped hormones through one of these that we could get a highly marbled, more traditional carcass, but that is not what we are after. I may try to find a source of Highland beef that has been grain fed to compare. We had ribeyes last night that were pretty damned awesome, though. There was marbling, just not like a grain fed. The fat tastes different too. I like the flavor, it is not as buttery as a grain fed steer though.

    Shannon is right and so is Dr. Weevil – we name the cattle to keep track of them than anything. We have kids that are young and they accepted from the beginning that these would end up in our freezer and/or sold for this purpose and they were good with it. We really don’t show these – the males in general aren’t really interested in being pet anyways, while the females like to be scratched and pet. This is fine with us because the females are breeders and will be around for a very long time, and in the end their carcasses aren’t good for much anyway.

  8. @Lex – horseradish. Yes. One good thing about living up here is that we have a huge German population and history and this gives us great access to good beer, sausage, and horseradish among other wonderful things.

  9. Dan, I like this one, too. Art is a cutie, and I wanna hug-n-kiss him.
    [and I like my beef slowly braised with root vegetables, French style].

  10. Congratulations. I understand the satisfaction of having a full freezer and a full supply of fodder put away as winter arrives. All you need then, is a full root cellar and pantry.

    In my part of the country, it is not uncommon to buy a young steer and raise it for slaughter. And, perforce, people name them just as a shorthand. It is not uncommon for steers to be dubbed “T-Bone”, “Brisket”, or “Rib Eye”; just so that the kids keep in mind the end object involved. Seems to work. Mind you, we still do 4-H around here, so the source of meat is not as arcane as it is in urban areas.

    Subotai Bahadur

  11. Re: tongue
    It’s an appetizer staple in my family, for big occasions.
    Btw – that horseradish will come handy, but in minuscule amount. Also, Russian mustard (the one called, believe it or not, “MIL’s Tongue”. you can find it in Russian delis)
    The classic way of tongue presentation – to reduce the stock it was cooking in, about 1/4 – you will then have almost a liquid gelatin – slice the tongue, arrange on platter and pour the liquid over. Chill in the fridge overnight, it will be gellied, shiny and no sauce will be needed.

  12. Don’t forget the tail – it makes a great soup or stew.

    SB – when I still had horses (many years ago) I boarded them on a farm in Tennessee. The family had a calf they were raising for the freezer – named “T-bone.” While helping to “corral” him to give shots, T-bone landed a kick that came way to close to inflicting particularly unpleasant damage.

    The first bite from his (cooked rare) rump was one of the best I’ve ever had.

  13. We wanted to go grass/hay only, no grain (silage around here is basically finely chopped corn) to make it as natural as possible. Plus there are a lot of impediments to silage for a tiny operation like ours. The fermentation process has by products we didn’t want to deal with, nor did we want to make a silage bunker or deal with one of those ugly “silo sausages” if you want to go horizontally. Our farm has an old silo, but in general these can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing plus the equipment inside was totally junk and this would have cost a lot of money to make operable. We have kids and they bring friends over, another possible issue for safety/liability. Finally, just tossing a few bales of hay at the cattle is pretty damned easy compared to shoveling silage.

  14. the hormones in beef is a PETA even the most “Industrial” feed yard the animals are not swimming in “hormones” other than small amounts. Most hormones are produced by the animal itself.
    if you want a bit of finish on a young killed (<24 month)beef try creep feeding a little concentrate,(past date bread,ear corn,<3lb/day)that way you get a bit of marbling started. then about 120days before kill bring carbs up to about 10lb/ will get a much nicer carcase.
    Beef fat is not the evil it is made out to be

  15. Ohhh, the tongue. Served thinly sliced and cold, with a small amount of salsa verde! (

    And the tail, Roman style, cooked gently and slowly on a very light fire, in tomato purée and a good amount of celery stalks. If you want an even more round taste, you can put a tablespoon of cocoa or grated dark chocolate during the cooking.
    After you’ve done, the tomato sauce can even be stored for future use as pasta dressing.

    I still blame my bourgeoise family for having ruled out, before my adulthood, any knowledge of studying to be a chef as a career.

  16. Gavin – we love fat don’t get me wrong. We know how to marble a carcass, just have chosen to go au naturel. We don’t criticize the beef industry or the way others raise their cattle, it is just a personal choice.

  17. Raising an adorable calf into a gorgeous steer, naming it Arthur knowing the day will come when you will butcher it might get some people into the psychic territory described by Frank O’Connor in Guests Of The Nation. A heart once softened cannot again harden without consequences, I think.

  18. Sejo
    November 10th, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Tongue, barely simmering in water with a couple of glugs of vinegar, an onion, cloves, carrots, and celery for 3 hours. Cooled, peeled and sliced. Served with either a raisin sauce, horseradish, or a good mustard. Mmmm. May happen soon.

    I am so stealing your Roman oxtail recipe.

    Subotai Bahadur

  19. Subotai, thank you for your yummy recipe. Will store and try it as soon as I get my hands on a good tongue. That could come out as a good, natural sweet and sour tongue.
    And why not put it on extreme and, once cooled, peeled and sliced, put it in a pan where chopped fresh tomatoes, a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of apple vinegar, and a lot of finely chopped white onion have been happily together for five to ten minutes? Lively fire, just a few minutes. Mmmh!
    It’s a traditional, lower classes way to use leftovers of tender meats. It’s called “alla picchiapò” which does mean… nothing really. (

    As for the “coda alla vaccinara” recipe, you’re most welcome. You can find a bunch of variations over the internet; here ( a good one, but I don’t like a “soffritto” for a dish like this. It gets too roasty when it should be a tender, tender pot-au-feu.
    Consider two to three hours of very gentle cooking. The correct time of turning fire off is when the meat starts to fall off the bone. Should the tomato purée get too thick, do not worry and put a glass of hot water in it. It has to stay semi-liquid, not as a traditional ragoût. I much prefer putting other tomato purée and salt&pepper as I don’t want a broth but a sauce, but I guess it’s just the same. Also, I do non chop the celery. For it is a dish – one of the few – where it’s almost mandatory to eat by hands, I like to give the chance to eat celery by hands too. The guests can easily cut it while eating, should they prefer forks and knives.

    Enjoy, and thanks for having reminded me that the butcher is waiting with two cheeks and three kilos of brisket for me :)

  20. SB: you might save yourself about 2hrs of tongue simmering if you remove vinegar from your recipe. The only reason acids are added to anything while cooking is to slow down the process of tenderizing. Which is counterproductive in this case.
    If you really like the flavor you can add your vinegar at the very end for about 5-7 min.

  21. Two things:

    1. I teach at a school with a huge FFA chapter. One of my students sold two Black Angus steers at the local Market Animal Show (originally called the Fat Stock Show). Of course, she knew what would happen to them, but was still a bit distressed when a substitute teacher told her a week later how delicious one of them was.

    2. I hope someone got to keep the hide. That would make an awesome rug or blanket, wouldn’t it, especially if it still had the hair on it?

  22. Dr. Weevil – we considered this. But the hide on this breed is extremely thick and you can’t make a blanket or throw out of it because it would weigh so much you could barely lift it. That is one of the reasons we went with the Scottish Highland – we really don’t have to worry about them a bit in winter.

  23. Sejo
    November 11th, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Oh, bugger! I should not type recipes off the top of my head late at night. I just looked back at it and I forgot something important; add to the ingredients for the simmer 1 heaping TSP of pickling spice. Sorry about that.

    Subotai Bahadur

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