A Tale Of One Man And His Cattle

Author: Frank Mack

Our food chain is sick.
The wheels are greased by waste, pollution, and misery.
The proof is all around us evidenced by human obesity and animals raised under brutal conditions. All of this leads from a huge trillion-dollar industrialized system that goes about feeding over 300 million Americans every day.
Every bit of this is understandable. We have to eat, make a living and survive within the same food chain. I like to believe in human decency, and I don’t believe that most folks go into a business to be purposefully cruel to animals. It’s a tough business and like many, operates on slim margins.
A solution, however, would be nice. A solution to just a little part of the beef industry would be great. People try. We all see the “farm to table” label these days. What does that even mean? It all comes from a farm somewhere and yes eventually lands on a table so isn’t it all farm to table?

I started asking around, to folks I trust, about farm to table, in an effort to understand just what is going on. I followed a lead about a different guy and a world-class steak. I fully expected to find a bunch of bull. And boy did I find it.

The Man

Meet Steve Whitmire of Brasstown Beef just across the Georgia border in the North Carolina Mountains. He’s a tall, no BS, good ol’ American rancher who talks like Twain, walks like Wayne and invents like Jefferson. He is a man on a mission to reinvent the cattle industry. He’s a man changing how we raise, feed, and care for feed animals from the ground up. His Brasstown Beef is producing world-class beef that we can all buy and enjoy guilt-free. Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention he has a pet bull weighing a mere 2,800 pounds. His name is Ulysses and he actually comes when Whitmire calls. The beast is as gentle in his hands as a new puppy.

But this story is about the best beef you can buy, and it’s being raised just a couple of hours away. At present there are only a few local restaurants and one grocery store (Whole Foods) that carry Brasstown Beef, which is processed in their own family plant and sold here in the Southeast. At the end of this story, and through it all, you really only need to know that it’s about you eating the most succulent, perfectly marbled, all natural, good for the cow and you, beef.

You see Whitmire may have found a very large part of the answer but first we need to understand some of the problem. A concept like farm to table (F2T) is brilliant on the surface. We all get it, fresh is best, one taste and no smarts can tell us that. I love the idea of local producers selling to local retailers selling to local residents. Keeping the dollars local is always good but business is business and it’s hard to have serious standards and keep them away from the accountants. A trillion dollar system like the beef industry doesn’t change easily, if at all, just because we wish they would.

Another difficulty in this is that it is so easy to just BS the whole thing. I wish I didn’t have to say it but most places will put minimal resources into F2T just so they can put a logo on the menu without doing the required work to truly source their food. To be real F2T you must source, prepare, and serve carefully grown, handled and or raised products whether they be plant or animal.

Millions of people are involved in this. We eat a lot of beef, 28 million tons annually. That’s a lot of cattle, feed, land, hormones, antibiotics etc. Whatever it is, however, it is used, if it affects this industry, it is huge to us and even bigger on a planetary scale.

The Formula

What goes into the cattle is just half the story. What comes out and into our ecosystem is just as big a story and just as important. The science behind this is huge. At major universities reports inches thick are coming out but it comes down to this. Steve Whitmire has figured out the perfect balance of what goes into one end of the animal. His cattle eat 100% organic without drugs, hormones, or antibiotics. He raises the best beef on the planet with 99% of its USDA Grade A mouthwatering delicious.

Whitmire can see through the hide to tell you what kind of beef is in every cow he raises. While they may not live to see old age, the cows are happier and healthier than any you’ll ever see. How Whitmire and Brasstown Beef change the cattle industry is still to be seen but let me give you the highlights, which cannot capture the totality of everything I’ve learned but should give you a taste.

☛ Beeves (cows to y’all without poo on your boots) have several stomachs. Whitmire found a waste product that when added to feed provides an unusual enzyme, which produces desired marbling and flavor to the beef. The net result is better tasting feed, it’s cheaper to use, replaces several supplements, saves money, and removes waste from another industrial system. It also cuts down on the methane from the other end.

☛ Grass-fed is a myth. No grass by itself carries the nutrition needed to raise a half-ton animal. But if you assist Mother Nature by replanting with the best grasses, weeds, and natural mix available, the animals in return will self- feed the best mix for the best results.

☛ Free range is a myth. If what you want is tender, marbled beef, it is best they don’t have to travel like Gazelles to find food and water. The cattle know where the best feed is and will move along to it by themselves.

☛ Cattle are stupid but like most of Mother Nature’s creatures they instinctively know more then we can understand. Whitmire harnesses the animal’s own instincts to their furthest advantage. It’s what he calls Free Choice Feeding and Free Choice Grazing.

I could go on and on but if you add another ten secret feeds that Whitmire has come up with in some wonderful version of Yankee inventiveness and good old boy understanding of the world around him and couple that with his sixth, seventh, and eighth senses about his charges, the world may change yet. Understanding an animal at a deeper level allows your animals to choose by their own senses and intuition. Being able to turn that intuition into measurable science that others can duplicate is both genius and priceless.

The End Result

Bragging about a good steak is easy. I’m not talking about just one steak; I’m talking about never having a bad steak again. Now that’s a goal!

Locally, you can find Brasstown Beef at several restaurants. The Castellucci Food Group serves it, Sugo in Johns Creek, Double Zero in Sandy Springs, The Iberian Pig, and Cooks and Soldiers in Midtown. These guys run some of the best restaurants in Atlanta and if they don’t know good from great then no one does.

“This is the best beef in America. Period,” said Federico Castellucci. “Serving the best is what our customers expect. It all matters, everything we do, every choice and Brasstown is the best.”

But don’t just take his word. In Roswell both Table & Main and Osteria Mattone serve Brasstown Beef. Chef Woody Back at Table & Main grilled us burgers for a talk about all of this. Over dripping hot burgers, we went into quality, what it means and how it matters.

“The best out of a kitchen starts by letting only the best into the kitchen. Brasstown is the best, hands down, that is easy to say,” Back stated.

Quality to me is nice because it leads to consistently great food. But to guys like these, it is way more important. It is their business, their lives, and their families depend on their taste. Me? I just have opinions, but those opinions are now based on dozens of meals at the ranch, out on the town or in my own kitchen. I can honestly say this is the best beef on the planet. Whether you grill, pan, stew, pot or burn it, the beef is all 100% perfectly marbled and flavorful all the way through. Brasstown isn’t just good beef, its good ranching and good animal husbandry. It is great for the environment and your family. I had to convince myself first. Now I want to convince you. This is the real farm in farm to table.

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