Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Hey Caylee, We're Gonna Eat You

When Foodgoat saw Scottish Highland cattle on a Discovery Channel show, he announced, "I must eat it."

So when I saw that Max VanBuren's farm was having a visitation day, featuring a tour of live organically-raised, grass fed Scottish Highlands cattle and a meal of dead, cooked ones, I signed us right up.

It seemed particularly appropriate leading up to August's Eat Local Challenge, as the farm is just under 90 miles away.

My previous exposure to cattle ranches was pretty much limited to hitting a stretch of I-5 flanked by endless miles of bumper to bumper cow and frantically closing the car windows to block out the godawful stench.

This farm was something else.

Located on top of a hill and former coal strip mine, the 50-some head of cattle live a good life. That is, until that one bad day. But up until then, they graze on large, open meadows and fields of organically grown grass, clover, even leaves and trees. Even the fuzzy looking baby cows get to stay close to mother.

Scottish Highlands, an ancient breed, don't look like my idea of cow (admittedly based mostly on the Laughing Cow cheese logo), with their shaggy coats (ranging from white to red to black), bangs, and big horns.

While at first the cows didn't seem to want to talk, after we had hung out for a while, they didn't seem to mind. I think this is Caylee (it might be Guinevere ... I lost track of all the names). Scottish Highlands are known to have gentle temperaments, but it also seemed that Max takes disposition into account in breeding as much as muscle mass. Mean cows get the fast pass to the butcher block.

We met the herd, we learned about raising cattle and raising them on grass (of which there are many ecological and health benefits). But we are foodies, so our question was: does a Scottish Highland cow, raised on organic grass, taste good?

For dinner, they served roast beef: delicious and so tender that a plastic spoon was all that was needed to cut it up. During the meal, they also passed around samples of various cuts, such as Swiss steak, a burger patty, and ribeye, which they were grilling up. Each cut tasted quite flavorful, with each having distinctly different qualities. The porterhouse steak was particularly wonderful: incredibly juicy and tasty. This was quite different from meat you might find at the corporate grocery store!

We left with two styrafoam boxes filled with various cuts of his beef. You know, just to be polite.

Also, we want to know when that cranky cow with no tail that wouldn't come near us gets the ax, because we'd be happy to eat her.

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