Depending on where you are viewing this the Meateaters website from you may have noticed Google advertisements for Lake Farm Beef – their latest ad states: “Premium aged beef; ethically raised From our farm to your plate”.
Aged beef ethically raised is something that I’m very keen on, and is something I try to promote via this site. So I sent Colin Brown, the man behind Lake Farm Beef, some questions that I was sure that you, the visitors to Meateaters, might be interested in hearing about.
Here’s what Colin had to say in response to my questions:
Would you classify Lake Farm Beef as a ‘cottage industry’ and if so how will you expand without turning into ‘just another meat processor’? Do you want to expand?
We regard ourselves as a “boutique” player in the beef market. Accordingly, we only sell directly to consumers (no restaurants or resellers). We only have 65 acres, so selling our beef directly was the only way to make the operation viable. We do have some interested farmers close to us on the lake, to help grow some animals for us. This will give us more volume without loosing the Lake Farm Beef story. We currently can ship a beast a week (actually two a fortnight). We want to double this through outsourcing, but not to grown bigger than that.
Apart from starting your business to generate a better income for yourself do you see an increase in people wanting to know where their meat has come from and how it has been raised?
Our mission is to sell beef that is tender, tasty and healthy. Its easy to hit one or two of these tenets, but very hard to hit all three. We are cross breeding Piedmontese over other beef breeds to achieve this. We know its tender and healthy. Our Steak of Origin success suggests its also pretty tasty. It is, however, very much a “journey” where this is no end.
I see that there is a Beast ID on your website – do you provide details of the exact animal that the meat comes from?
Its important to know that all animals are traceable – and to even see the animals on our web site. The other big feature for us is our desire to give our animals a very happy life. We are sure that this also helps in their tenderness, but its more than that. We genuinely love the animals, and want to make sure that their short life is stress free and enjoyable.
Do your Piedmontese cattle have special qualities that allow for a better quality meat than other breeds?
We entered three Piedmontese crossbred animals into this years Steak of Origin competition. All three got though to the semi finals and one got third. I reckon thats an incredible achievement for a boutique player, and with over 400 entries.
Piedmontese cattle produce genetically the leanest and tenderest meat. It is pure form, in our opinion it’s too lean, so the crossbreeding program is very important. The result is an animal with a significantly superior carcass,and the ability to hit all three tenets af tender, tasty and healthy. We are now moving to have our animals crossbred mostly to British breeds (Hereford and Angus). In our opinion this will give the best fat balance.
Do you supply direct to local butchers or outlets where you can maintain your own prices?
Because of this unique beef, it is important for us to sell directly, and to offer beef that is different from what’s traditionally available.
How far afield can you supply meat from your base in Lake Karapiro?
We concentrate our promotional efforts in the areas very close to us – within 90 minutes of our place. This covers Hamilton, Tauranga, Taupo, Rotorua, Tokoroa etc. We will also do some promotion in Auckland (2 hours away). This will enable us to ship “same day” to most customers. You can purchase from us in Wellington (and the rest of New Zealand) on an overnight service.
We only have 65 acres, so selling our beef directly was the only way to make the operation viable. We do have some interested farmers close to us on the lake, to help grown some animals for us. This will give us more volume without loosing the Lake Farm Beef story. We currently can ship a beast a week (actually two a fortnight). We want to double this through outsourcing, but not to grown bigger than that.
I’m assuming that your animals aren’t raised organically. How much intervention is given in the way of antibiotics and drenches?
We are proudly “non organic” in that we don’t like thistles, and are happy to spray them (but not whilst cattle are in the paddocks, even though they say you can). We do only use seaweed fertilizers, though, as being close to the the lake, we don’t want to have fertilizer run off. We drench our young stock once per month up to 12 months of age – and after that only when we feel we need to. If an animal is sick we are happy to give it antibiotics (we genuinely want them to recover as soon as possible, for their sake). We don’t ship any animals, though, who would have had an antibiotic in the previous six months. This would only be 3-4 animals per year.
And now for the taste test:
I bought a five kilogram meat pack from Lake Farm Beef. It cost $89.75 (including $5 overnight delivery) – this equates to $16.95 per kilogram which is a pretty good deal.
The pack arrived as Colin said it would, inside a small Lake Farm Beef cooler bag. Inside I found a 1.2kg tenderloin roast; some diced beef; premium beef mince; half a dozen sausages; some wiener schnitzel; pack of scotch fillet; and a pack of sirloin.
We ate the diced beef on the first night. Difficult to do a good taste test as traditionally diced beef is used in casseroles where the other ingredients tend to dominate the taste.
Last night though, after careful defrosting, I cooked the topside roast. This would I think be the purest taste and texture test as a roast only needs a bit of salt and pepper.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of fat. Just a very thin layer on the outside but the meat itself could only be described as ‘solid meat’! I seared the outside in a heavy based frypan with some olive oil, and then roasted at 180ºC in a shallow roasting dish with some vegetables for about 20 minutes per 500 grams.
45 minutes later I removed the meat and rested it under tinfoil for 20 minutes while the heat on the veges was cranked up.
Carving the meat I was struck again by the low fat – there was no ‘stringiness’ in the meat – no threads of fat that often end up like trying to bite through shoe-laces. The meat was extremely tender. The rest of the family must have enjoyed it – there was nothing left on anyones plate.
I recommend Lake Farm Beef – for the ability to trace the animal you are eating; for the fact that you can have a direct conversation with the farmer that grew the meat; for the fact that this meat is grown as ethically as possible.
There has been a lot of discussion on this site about the legality of home-kill meat. Lake Farm Beef is as close as those of us in the city can get to eating meat directly from a farm – it’s as close to home-kill that we can achieve without actually breaking the law.
I reckon it’s worth it.
Colin says he can supply a regular standing order with the minimum quantity being the 5kg pack. It probably means you’re still going to need to freeze a lot of the meat, but if you handle it well there’s no reason to expect that the quality is still going to be far far superior to any supermarket meat.