Monday, June 27, 2011

Meeting my Meat - A Visit to St. Brigid's Farm and Brooks Tavern

Viola, a Nurse Mom for Veal Calves, at St. Brigid's Farm

The best way to simplify anything is to start at the beginning. Whenever I want to simplify a post I try to figure out what first got me excited to write; the preliminary spark of my imagination. Then I can begin.

Now I am trying to simplify good food. I asked myself where good food begins and I got lost finding an answer. The problem is that good in relation to food is incredibly subjective. I am trying to figure out what it is that makes each of us sure that the food we are eating is in fact good.

One of the most morally controversial foods to eat is animal protein. Some people think animals are good food because they taste good. They say animal protein is good for your health and predatorial behavior is a natural human act. Many people feel that it is morally unjust to take the life of anything with a face. Since it is unnecessary for humans to rely on animal protein as a source of nourishment people feel that we should stop. And some just think consuming animal fat is bad for your health. Whatever the argument, it seems everyone can give valid reasons for why they do or do not feel it is right to consume animals.

I am an omnivore. I feel that being an omnivore you must assume responsibility for understanding and appreciating that a life was lost to provide you with nourishment. As long as I respect the food I am eating then my morals and my stomach feel equally satisfied after consuming it. 

So I'm starting with origination. At the beginning... the birth of our food... the genesis; be it plant seed, animal egg, or live offspring. What better way to appreciate a life than to experience it from birth to burger?

Two Months Old

I took a trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to check out a cow farm that sees their herd full circle. At St. Brigid's, a 55 acre farm in Kennedyville, Maryland, Bob Fry, the veterinarian, and his partner Judy Gifford, the "dairymaid" raise and breed a herd of veal calves, steer, nurse cows, and milk cows.

Bob and Judy produce good food by raising their animals on healthy farmland. They work with their neighbors to cut costs, and provide quality fodder for their animals. They are fortunate to have a local community of butchers, restaurants, and consumers who support them and allow them to do most of their business within a 30 mile radius of the farm.

Rolling plains, fuzzy cows, and spotlessly clean barns...

The herd fluctuates between 80 and 160 cows throughout the year. The milk cows are fed grass from mid-March through November and hay, silage, and grain in the winter. The Miller family at 4-Ms Farm do custom harvesting and planting for St. Brigid's. Judy and Roy Crow at Crow Farm, grow all of the corn for corn silage for the milk heifers. Brian Quinn grows spring oats, and supplies grass seed for the pastures. At Grand View Farm the Langenfelder Family provides 100% of the barley straw for winter time bedding.

The bull calves will be nurtured for 120-130 days on whole milk and spring grasses in the pastures. The calves which will be raised to steer will grow for up to two and a half years. When fully mature they will be brought to Haass’s Family Butcher Shop in Dover, Delaware.

A beautiful sable colored steer

Still, meat doesn't pay the bills. The majority of the farm's profit comes from commercial milk sales. The milk produced by the cows is sold to their co-op Land O'Lakes, or Roos Food in Kenton, Delaware. Roos Food uses two thousand five hundred gallons of St. Brigid's milk per week to make authentic Hispanic style cheeses.

Bob and Judy love their farm and their cows. They are dedicated to providing local restaurants and consumers with a delicious and quality product at reasonably competitive prices. The steers live short but happy lives and provide meat for hundreds of local carnivores. If you want to purchase their meat check out the details on the St. Brigid's website.

If you want to taste their meat you can check out a number of local restaurants which serve their beef and veal. After my farm visit I dropped in for lunch at Brooks Tavern 15 miles away in Chestertown, and engulfed a BT Burger made from St. Brigid's beef.

Kitchen Staff Deveining Fresh Shrimp and St. Brigid's Burger

Chef Kevin McKinney Preparing the Yeast Dough for the Housemade Burger Buns

Meeting my meal before eating my meal was a pleasant experience, and one I hope to repeat in the very near future. I am confident that the cows of St. Brigids farm are indeed good food. They have lived a happy life and I know that their contribution to nourishing the local population is appreciated.

Much thanks to Robert Fry, Judy Gifford, Mike Smollen, and Chef Kevin McKinney for introducing me to the meat I eat. 

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1 comment:

noah said...

Great post Robin, keep 'em coming!