January 24, 2010 - 06:45 PM
There are poems, literature and quotations that crowd our memory for space and we try to recall the best. On occasion, you find one republished and it kindles in you the reason you liked it the first time. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is one such poem. I have a recording of it in Frost's own voice. His spoken words, in his New England dialect with flat delivery, gives meaning to the words on page more than a mere reader can discern. He stresses some lines stronger and in the end you truly believe that this poem is something from his own experiences.
There are choices each of us have made that affected all that came after them. Some we share and others we do not. In the poem, the road that was chosen "made all the difference" . These are the last words we read. We are left wondering if it was a good difference or one less satisfactory. I will leave it to you to make that decision.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
January 22, 2010 - 10:35 AM
This is a newsletter regarding our natural beef and how it can be purchased. The links do not work in this format, but if you email me I will send you the original with links.
Keeping In Touch With You
In the past, you received our newsletters mostly during the berry season, and each covered many topics. This year we are trying to be more focused and will have more regular newsletters, but on topics we think may interest you. We sent a newsletter a few days ago with Chef Eva's 2010 Cooking Class schedule. Many class reservations have been made. There is still availabiltiy for the Super Bowl Extravaganza class this Saturday. The time has been changed to start at 10:00 AM. This class will prepare you for a successful super bowl party in a few weeks. We also have a few cabins available this weekend if you want to combine a class and weekend away.
Texas Natural Beef From The Greer Farm
This newsletter is about a topic dear to me, Greer Farm beef. We get a lot of questions about the differences in the raising of our beef versus others, including feedlot beef, and the difference in grass-finished beef and that finished on grain. I have tried to give a brief overview, with links where you can find more information if you wish.
We believe we offer a beef product that will exceed your expectations at a fair price. Our beef is sold by the split quarter or half, and in February, we will have USDA inspected beef for sale by the individual package. All of our cattle is grass-fed, and most grass-finished, but if enough customers desire grain finished, we can provide that, too.
Taking A Step Back In Time
I am a third generation Texas cattleman. Earlier generations of the family raised cattle on their farms before immigrating to Texas from Russia and Kentucky, but I know more about my grandfathers' lives. There is a photo in my office taken on a ranch near Wichita Falls, Texas, around 1900 with my grandfather on horseback on a bluff overlooking hundreds of red and white Herford cattle. These cattle were raised only on grass, no grain, and when fat and ready for market, they were was loaded into rail cars and sent to Fort Worth to be sold into the broader beef market. Some were slaughtered in Fort Worth in the large Swift plant, but most went north to St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago. In those days, there was the rancher, the railroads and the stockyards leading to a slaughter plant closer to the major population centers.
After World War II, there was a surplus of grain. An easy way to get rid of it was to build single purpose facilities (feedlots) to raise animals to consume it. These factory farms changed everything. Cattle were no longer finished on grass pastures and sent to city distribution centers, but instead they went to very large feedlots close to where grain was produced. Near these feedlots, new slaughter plants were built. All of this happened not so long ago. The first cattle feed lot was built in West Texas in 1955. Factory farms to raise hogs and chickens also started to appear on the American landscape. This was the turning point where beef and other meats moved from being healthy to being something less than healthy because of how they were raised and what they were fed. There are well-documented problems with grain-fed animals. Northwestern Health Sciences University has an interesting
expanding on this.
The way many believe cattle are raised (based in part on western movies) has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. "Producers at the beginning of the beef cycle – ranchers – were moving away from consolidation. Some of the largest historic ranches were split up in the 1950s. Originally, these huge ranches in the West would breed the cattle, raise the calves and even finish them on vast expanses of grassland. But as the nation's tastes demanded grain fed beef, more and more ranchers were relegated to the breeding alone. Most ranchers ended up selling yearling calves to other feeders. Other ranchers sold out. Of the 70,000 ranches in 1945, about 10,000 went out of business by 1980. That's a higher rate of survival than the nation's mixed farming operations – since 58 percent of the farms sold out during that period – but some of the largest and best-known ranches were among the casualties. For example, the Matador Land and Cattle Company had been set up in 1882 and ran 50,000 head of purebred Hereford cattle on 1.5 million acres, mostly in Texas. In 1951, the company was liquidated, the land divided up and the assets sold. Other large ranches, like the fabled King Ranch in Texas, survived largely because of their oil revenues."
Source: Bill Ganzel, 2007.
The advent of factory farms also changed the environment in ways not considered pleasant. "You can smell Greeley, Colorado, long before you can see it. The smell is hard to forget, but not easy to describe, a combination of live animals, manure and dead animals being rendered into dog food. The smell is worst during the summer months, hanging heavy in the warm air, almost assuming a physical presence, blanketing Greeley day and night. Some people who live there no longer notice the smell; it recedes into the background, present but not present, like the sound of traffic for most New Yorkers. Others can't stop thinking about the smell, even after years; it permeates everything, sickens them, (and) interferes with their sleep. Greeley is a factory town, one where cattle are the units of production." Source:
Rolling Stone Magazine
Fast Food Nation: Meat and Potatoes, 1998."
Basically, when you raise cattle or any ruminant in a confined area with grain as its basic food source, you will have problems. I can tell you from my own experience, the cattle we feed grain to smell different. They have a sour smell. Those on grass, hay and alfalfa are more pleasant to be around. So what is the specific
problem with grain fed animals
and grain fed cattle in particular? "Ruminant" animals are “cud-chewing” species, such as cows, goats, sheep, and bison. Their specialized digestive system has evolved to digest the biodiversity of grasses found on pastureland. When ruminant animals (such as cattle) are fed a grain-based diet, it can cause them a range of health problems, including:
ACIDOSIS: Most feedlot ruminants suffer from a persistent form of acid indigestion.
RUMENITIS: Acidosis can lead to an inflammation of the wall of the rumen. This can eventually become ulcerated.
LIVER ABSCESSES: As the rumen wall becomes ulcerated, bacteria pass through the walls, enter the bloodstream, and make their way to the liver where they cause abscesses.
BLOAT: All ruminants produce gas as a by-product of digestion. When they are on pasture, they belch up the gas without any difficulty. When they are switched to a diet of grain, gas becomes trapped by a dense mat of foam.
ASPHYXIATION: In serious cases of bloat, the rumen becomes so distended with gas that the animal is unable to breathe and dies from asphyxiation.
FEED LOT POLIO: When the rumen becomes too acidic, an enzyme is produced which destroys thiamin or vitamin B-1. Lack of vitamin B-1 starves the brain of energy, creating paralysis. Cattle with feedlot polio are referred to as "brainers."
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
©2009 CUESA. All rights reserved
There is a lot of additional information at
or your can Google the "benefits of grass-fed beef. Michael Pollan's book,
The Omnivore's Dilemma
is also an excellent source of information. Grass-finished beef is high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and more. There is little to no risk of mad cow disease from grass-finished animals.
Not wanting to toss out the baby with the bath water, I do not want to condemn the entire beef feed lot industry. There are those who do a better job than others. Some feed lots have more room for the cattle to be confined in and clean their waste more often, but the basic problem is they all feed a diet of grain filled with medications and antacids to cattle that have received artificial growth and other stimulant treatments. On our ranch, we grain finish some cattle, but they are on a grass pasture, have free choice of hay, all natural grain and no artificial anything. So if you want more marbled beef, it is possible without resorting to feedlot beef.
The Cattle We Raise
There are 250 breeds of cattle and each has its own attributes. If you want cattle that fatten quickly on grain in a feedlot, you want Angus or Angus influenced cattle. If you want cattle that have a disposition to finish on grass, you want what is called an Exotic or Continental breed (originating from continental Europe). Our cattle are
. This breed is from France, and in that country, Mane-Anjou beef is considered the premier beef for white table restaurants. Like all the breeds of cattle raised in the U.S. today, most have been bred with Angus so they have a black hide and have the Angus disposition to fatten on grain. It is sad, but the fact is that any cattle 51% black is considered
in the meat trade. The majority of Maine-Anjou cattle in the United States and Canada are black. They call them purebreds versus the original cattle we breed that are colorful red and white, and called fullbloods. Our cattle are very good mothers with a lot of milk, docile and easy to work around.
How Do We Raise Our Cattle?
Yes, I am a third generation rancher who prefers the more traditional ways of raising cattle. We have not changed the way beef is raised on our ranch from the days of my grandfathers well over a century ago. Of course, we do not have access to the vast amount of land they had, nor do we raise thousands of cattle. Our techniques may have improved, breeding is more sophisticated, and we have more medicines available to insure our cattle stay healthy (which we use only if they are sick). We stick to a time-tested recipe: fresh air, clean water, shade trees, green grass or clean hay, and a low stress environment. Our cattle get lots of TLC... tender, loving care. Our cattle are pampered, and for better or worse, each of our cattle has a registered name. We do not just give them a number and end with that. Barbie, Bruno, Maria and Tarzan -- all have a home at our ranch. When a calf is born, we are excited. When one is sick, we are concerned. Whey they leave the farm, we miss them. They say a
is worth a thousand words...
Grain Fed or Grass Finished: The Customer's Choice
Just as everyone looks different, each of us has our own preferences in the taste of what we eat. We offer finishing options to our customers. Grain fed beef from our ranch will be similar to that you buy in the grocery store, but different. As our cattle do not spend their life eating grain in a confined feedlot, they are less fat, less marbled, more flavorful and healthier than other beef you can buy.
An old rule of thumb is that it requires 50 bushels of grain to finish an animal in a feedlot. There are 56 pounds of corn in a bushel, for example, so you will need around 2,800 pounds of corn (and other grain) to produce an animal that weighs 1,250 to 1,350 pounds. Some cattle sent to feedlots young and lighter consume about 3,500 pounds.
In contrast, cattle finished at Greer Farm on grain live in a pasture in a natural environment, free from the stress of a feedlot. We have a source of all-natural grain, free of antibiotics and other artificial growth stimulants. Our grain finished cattle are fed a mixed diet of grass, grass hay, alfalfa and grain for 60 days or so prior to harvest. They lose weight the first 15-20 days or more when we introduce grain into their diet and then when they adapt to it will start to gain weight. The steers we finished last fall consumed about 1,700 pounds of grain. This is enough to add marbling and some fat.
Grass-finished beef is different. You have to thaw it out differently, use different cooking techniques and it will have a different flavor and texture than a package of prime or choice beef bought in the grocery store. It is more healthy for you and you will appreciate the wonderful flavor this beef has when properly prepared. We can provide information on how to cook with grass-finished beef or it is available on the web and in a number of special cookbooks on that topic.
The choice -- grass-finished or grain fed -- is the customer's. Our overall goal is to provide you the most satisfying beef you have every tasted.
What Can You Buy?
We sell our beef by the split quarter or by the half. A split quarter has all of the same cuts as a half, but only 50% of the quantity. A split quarter is about 2-1/2 freezer shelves. If we can find another buyer who wants only 1/2 of a split quarter, the two of you could share a quarter. This also is a way for family and friends to split a quarter of all natural beef, but a lesser quantity. Starting in mid to late February, we will have beef available here at the farm by the package.
What Does It Cost?
We charge $3 per pound hanging weight for our cattle. There are two weights for cattle, live weight, which is that taken when the animal is still alive, and the hanging weight, taken after harvest when it has been cleaned and the carcass is ready to age. There is no reason to charge for the parts of the animal that you do not get, so that is why the hanging weight is used. The processing plant (Mineola Packaging) charges $10 per split quarter for harvest and 65 cents per pound for processing and packaging, based on hanging weight.
Many ask why beef bought from a family farm is more expensive than beef bought in a grocery store. The primary reason is that cattle finished on a family farm are there for 24-28 months, while cattle that go through a feed are generally slaughtered before they are 12-13 months old. A lot more expense is involved in caring and feeding cattle over the longer time span. This extra time is an opportunity loss for land and resources that could be used for developing another animal.
If you purchase a half or more, we will discount our price 5%. If you bring us a new customer, you get another 5% discount on your beef. Our price has not changed for 3 years. We believe it is fair and reflects our cost to raise beef that are all natural. Those that desire grain finished beef pay only the actual cost of the grain to finish that animal. To grain finish a steer, we have to have all four quarters sold.
As a cost example, in the fall we harvested a 1,235-pound steer. The hanging weight was 641 pounds. The cost of the beef at $3/pound for a split quarter was $481. The cost for harvest, processing and packaging was $114. Total cost was $595. This is for about 2-1/2 freezer shelves of beef. If grain finished, you need to add about $100.
Our beef are humanely harvested at Mineola Packing, which is about an hour from the farm. This facility is USDA inspected. After harvest, the beef hangs in a humidity-controlled cooler for several weeks to dry age. Dry aging affects the beef in several ways. The process evaporates some of the moisture from the muscle, creating a richer beef flavor. It also allows the beef's natural enzymes to break down the fibrous tissue, relaxing the proteins in the muscle and naturally tenderizing the meat. Beef processed in a slaughter plant is not dry aged; it is boxed and ready for shipment to the store within hours of the cattle's arrival at the plant.
You can select your own cutting and packaging options. You determine for yourself the thickness of the steaks and roasts and how many per package. If you do not want certain cuts, you can have more hand-cut stew meat, chili meat or ground beef. This process personalizes your selections.
Beef by the Package
Starting in late February, we will offer beef by the package. We will have the following cuts available
Ground beef $5.00/pound
T-bone Steak $11.00/pound
Rib Eye Steak $13.00/pound
Sirloin Steak $10/pound
Short Ribs $4.50/pound
Round Steak $6.50/pound
Chuck Roast $6.25/pound
We know you have a choice and have priced our beef to be competitive with other family farms in our area. Beef is available on a first come, first served basis. If interested in a quarter or more, we ask you pay a $200 deposit to confirm your order. We are taking orders at this time for February grass-finished beef. If your desire grain finished beef, we will take your order and when we have four quarters sold we will finish the steer.
If you have questions, please call or email us.
We thank you for supporting our family farm,
Sid, Eva and all of us on the farm
January 12, 2010 - 09:36 PM
We get our onion sets from Dixondale Farms in south Texas. Karl and I planted onion seed one October ,after constructing a hoop house, to protect the seedlings and found it way too much trouble to raise onions from seed. The best thing that came out of that was the experience we had together building the hoop house. This is one of my fond memories. We only planted a small amount of seed. Did you know it costs about $6,000 for the seed to plant an acre of onion sets. Considering each seed is like a grain of salt, that will make a lot of sets. We receive periodic messages from Bruce the Onionman at Dixondale Farms. His most recent shared how healthy is is to eat onions.
"And now our feature presentation: did you know that eating onions is actually good for your health?
It's true. Not only are onions nutritious and delicious, they can actually have health benefits. Back in the Colonial era, American settlers turned to onions to treat their colds, asthma, and coughs of all kinds. In Chinese medical tradition, onions have long been used as remedies for angina, coughs, bacterial infections, and breathing problems.
Sure, these are folk traditions, but they do have a scientific basis. It just so happens that onions contain a natural compound called quercetin, a so-called phytochemical which is part of the pigment found in not just onions but in apples as well. This powerful chemical is an antioxidant (a substance that protects against harmful substances called free radicals that damage tissue), and acts as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
The antihistamine action explains why onions help respiratory ailments like asthma, coughs, and the like; and the anti-inflammatory properties make it a good pain reliever for ailments like arthritis. Quercetin can also benefit men worried about prostate issues, and may also help reduce fatigue, depression, and anxiety symptoms.
But Wait, There's More!
In addition to quercetin, sulfides called organosulfur compounds are present in onions that may help lower blood lipids and blood pressure. The abundant flavinoids in onions have been shown scientifically to protect against cardiovascular ailments, and other chemicals in onions suppress clotting.
Some of these protective phytochemicals build up in the body after long term usage, and tend to be more highly concentrated in the more pungent onion varieties. So what does that mean? Why, that you should eat lots of onions, of course, and the stronger tasting, the better!
January 12, 2010 - 09:11 PM
We can report that the farm is 95 percent fenced in to try and prevent wild hogs from tearing up our pastures. When finished, our only gaps are the two entrances on the driveway to the farm house and we are considering night gates for these. By years end, we had only 950 feet of completely new fence to build. When not building fences we also repaired fences at Rocky Branch tore up by raging bulls in the last breeding season and added a few stretches of new fence to make life easier there. On a farm or ranch you can never have too much fence or too few gates.
Just before Christmas we worked our cattle, sorted the breeding females into several groups, and weaned a few calves. That was one long, rainy cold day. Every time we do it I say I will build a shed over the squeeze chute and working ally, but it never gets done. When you round up the cattle to be worked (shots, worming, etc) it is either blazing hot or bone chilling cold. I had good intentions of getting bulls out by years end, but that schedule slipped.
We were graced by having our entire family home for Christmas. What a treat to all be here. The only hitch was that a vicious, and I mean vicious, 24 hour tummy bug swept through the household like a wild fire. New arrivals were struck down the day after arriving. Guests that dropped in suffered the same fate. Despite this, we all had a great time.
New Years found Eva and I home alone. We went to a dear friends home and saw in the 2010 with good food and drink and fond memories.
We hope that each of you had an equally nice holiday with your friends and family.
January 12, 2010 - 09:08 PM
"You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth. For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession, ... Work is love made visible."
From "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran
January 12, 2010 - 08:52 PM
This year's cooking classes offer a broad spectrum of culinary experiences that will satisfy most any desire. Each menu has been carefully balanced to include parings of dishes that focus on a singular theme. Whether you are an experienced chef in your own right or just learning to cook, you will enjoy Chef Eva's method of instruction that keeps everyone's participation level high.
Cooking with Chef Eva
2010 Cooking Class Schedule
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Super Bowl Extravaganza
Class Price $70
Butterflied chicken fried shrimp with habanero ketchup
Crab cakes baked in ramekins
Chuck roast super bowl chili with ancho peppers
Blue corn spoon bread
Coconut lime bars
Saturday February 20, 2010
Making Ordinary Pot Pie into Extra Ordinary
Class Price $70
Seafood pot pie
Wild mushroom pot pie
Supreme chicken pot pie
Grilled romaine and balsamic vinaigrette salad
Blackberry pot pie
Saturday March 13, 2010
Keeping It Green
Class Price $70
Fresh herb cheese stuffed snow peas
Kale salad with pine nuts and parmesan
Traditional roasted corn beef
Irish Whisky Cake with white chocolate mint ganache
Corn beef will be Greer Farm USDA inspected Grass-finished beef
Saturday March 27, 2010
Class Price $75
Eggs Benedict salad
Roast leg of lamb
Couscous and pine nuts
Fresh spring vegetables
Raspberry parfait with white chocolate and lemon mousse
Saturday April 17, 2010
Class Price $70
Learn to make the dough, sauces and assorted topping combinations. Then cook it straight on the grill. We will even do a dessert pizza.
May 1, 2010
Cinco de Mayo Fiesta - Authentic Mexican
Class Price $70
Yucatan chicken lime soup with avocadoes and tortilla strips
Appetizer salad with chicharones and spicy pumpkin seeds
Garnachas con frijoles y repollo en vinagre
Enchiladas smothered in red mole
Saturday May 15, 2010
Class Price $70
Tamales made with banana leaves and various fillings both savory and sweet
Saturday June 12, 2010
Mixed Berry Fest: Blackberries, Blueberries and Strawberries
Class Price $70
Strawberry with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar appetizer
Blueberry potato salad
Baby back ribs with Greer farm blackberry chipotle sauce
Blackened blue chicken
Ricotta soufflé with blackberry compote
Saturday July 10, 2010
Refreshing Mouth Watering Salsas
Class Price $70
Watermelon mango salsa with marinated grilled chicken tenders
Brie and pecan quesadillas with pineapple apricot salsa
Bruschetta with garden fresh tomato salsa, spinach and homemade ricotta
Grilled angel food cake with blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry salsa
Saturday August 7, 2010
Too Hot to Cook
Class Price $70
Fresh Mozzarella, Prosciutto, Basil & Parsley Pesto Tomato Sandwich
Chicken, Roasted Pepper and hummus on pita bread
Smoked salmon avocado spring rolls
Blackberry sorbet in chocolate wafer cups
Saturday September 4, 2010
Picnic Fare for Labor Day
Class Price $70
Watermelon salad with mint lime dressing
Chili spiked grilled corn with cotija cheese
Burgers with spicy mayonnaise, chipotle ketchup, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions
Beer braised hot dogs with sauerkraut
Roasted peach crumble with Greek yogurt ice cream
Burgers will be Greer Farm USDA inspected Grass-finished beef
Saturday October 9, 2010
Fall Fest with Winter Squash
Class Price $70
Acorn squash puffs
Stuffed heirloom squash
Gingered Winter Squash Bisque
Spicy Cheddar Cheese Straws
Enchiladas with butternut squash and pumpkin seed mole
Pumpkin brown sugar crème Brûlée
Saturday October 23, 2010
Prepping for Winter: Savory Stocks and Healthy Breads
Class Price $70
Basic Stocks: Chicken, vegetable and beef
Gluten free bread and natural whole grain breads
Saturday November 13, 2010
Getting Ready for Holiday Gatherings
Class Price $70
Cornmeal crusted miniature pies
Shrimp fritters with spicy ginger sauce
Portabella mushroom tarts
Chili infused chocolate chip cookies
Ginger cookies with white chocolate drizzle
All classes are at the farm starting at 11:00 AM unless you are advised otherwise at the time of registration. Classes last about three hours.
You eat your way through the courses prepared, so come with an appetite.
Classes are partially hands-on.
You receive all the recipes on the class menu.
Classes are limited to 12 participants.
Payment must be made at the time of class registration by credit card.
We reserve the right to cancel any class at any time. Classes may be cancelled due to insufficient participation, illness of the instructor or inclement weather. In such instances you can receive a full refund or offered a credit toward another class.
Private classes are available for groups of five or more for minimum of $90 per person. A selection of past class menus is available.
Cancellation Policy: We understand that events happen to change your schedule and you may not be able to attend a class. We will be pleased to refund your reservation payment 14 days prior to a class less a $25 processing charge. Reservations cancelled within 13 days of the class will not be refunded unless we can rebook your slot in which case you will receive a refund less $25 processing fee.
Reservations may be made by calling 903-645-3232