by Melissa Arbiter, Meat Team
We love doing business with other co-ops, and this new cooperative is bringing local, grass-fed beef to our stores. At left is Whatcom County farmer and cooperative member Enrique Barrau.
Local, grass-fed, and cooperatively owned—we're so happy it’s here!
Having lived in Whatcom County for the past eight years, I have developed a passion for learning where my food comes from. I prefer local over organic any day and, given the chance, I will take a drive out into the county to get a glimpse of where my food is grown. Before working for the Community Food Co-op and becoming the meat department manager at the Downtown store, I was always curious about how and where to get local beef. Driving around the county, I’ve seen many pastures dotted with happy cows, munching on grass.
The question for me has been: where can I buy the meat from these cattle?
Up until now, the Co-op has carried a small selection of frozen, local, grass-fed beef from Matheson Farms located near the Guide-Meridian on Smith Road. Having enough beef from one small, local farm to supply two busy stores is a stretch, which is why we mainly carry Country Natural Beef and Painted Hills Grass-Fed Beef. These are both excellent sources of delicious beef that satisfy our Meat Guarantee, but definitely not as local as I’d prefer.
Thankfully, we now have North Cascade Meats: A Farmer’s Cooperative. This farmer-owned-and-managed cooperative has begun work to establish a new USDA meat processing facility, in partnership with Del Fox Custom Meats in Stanwood, to service farmers in Island, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties. They’ve already established the North Cascade Meats grass-fed brand in the region to provide their cooperative members with a marketing program offering an above-average return on their livestock. This means that those happy cows you see while enjoying pastoral views of the countryside may very well be what’s available on our shelves.
Barrau Farms offers lush pasture with a view that most any farmer (or cow) would envy.
North Cascade Meats is currently providing us with pasture-raised, grass-fed beef from two local farms: Forest Cattle Company in Skagit County and Barrau Farms in Whatcom County. As more farms join the North Cascade Meats cooperative, we’ll have more beef available. For the time being, what we have on our shelves from week to week will vary depending on how many cattle are processed from each farm.
So far the meat that has arrived is gorgeous and is competitively priced. Each cut is labeled with a “local” and “grass-fed” green sticker as well as a sticker noting which farm that particular cut came from. Looking for a particular cut? Just ask us at the meat counter!
In general, grass-fed beef has a deeper, “beefier” flavor than its grain-finished counterparts. Nutritionally, it contains less saturated fat but more of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Typically, you’ll want to cook grass-fed meat less as it tends to be quite lean.
My favorite way to enjoy grass-fed steak? A nice ribeye, brought up to around room temp, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper, and placed in a rocket-hot cast iron pan with some fat (bacon grease, ghee, or coconut oil are all good choices). Sear both sides and when it’s about 10 degrees away from the desired doneness pull off the heat to rest, covered, for at least 8 minutes (this allows it to finish cooking and ensures all those tasty juices stay in the meat).
As always, your meat department experts love what they do and are more than willing to share cooking tips and ideas … just ask us!