Category Archives: dairy

Eating Local Beef & Dairy in Sonoma County

This summer we took another step towards eating more local, organic and grass fed. Produce has always been easy for us to eat locally and organically because if we don’t grow it ourselves we have endless choices here in Sonoma County for finding what we do want. We can get local milk by buying Clover Stornetta in the grocery store, but what about beef, specifically grass fed beef and butter?
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Earlier this summer a good friend of mine, who is a journalist, was asked to write a story on local cheese. One of the cheese makers told her that our cheeses are so good because of the great dairies the milk comes from and that she should go check out McClelland’s Dairy. She took a tour and raved about it, which of course I signed up for in about half a second. So on one Saturday afternoon I rallied the troops and we headed west of Petaluma.
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What a great afternoon we had walking around, petting calves, admiring the beaucolic scenery, learning about the organic dairy business, and even milking a cow!
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McClelland’s is a family run organic dairy which sells most of their milk to Clover Stornetta. It was really interesting to learn about how a diary runs. And the entire family was so nice, I highly recommend that you take a tour if you can. At the end of the tour you get the option to buy their butter, which is made from organic grassfed milk. I sent Scott up to the counter to buy a 5lb brick of it. ‘Really, do we need SO much?’ he asked. Yes, yes we do! We cut it up into bar sized chunks and have been enjoying it on toast and homemade jam all summer long.

The other thing we began to research was how to buy grassfed beef. After watching Food Inc. and reading beef recall after beef recall, we did our best to eliminate all beef from our diet that wasn’t grass fed and somewhat local (from California). But that gets to be expensive, especially when your little boys are growing to be bigger eaters every day! So we did some research on eatwild.com but ended up buying from a local source here in Sonoma, Beltane Ranch. I had seen their sign as I’ve driven up Highway 12 for a while now that they had grassfed beef but they recently added a sign down by the square to advertise too. So we called and now we have a quarter of a cow in our freezer!
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We happened to call just in time, they had just slaughtered the cows by using a local, traveling butcher, and sent the beef down to Broadway Market for them to dry age for 20+ days, butcher down and wrap up. We eagerly awaited our order and went to pick up our 187 lbs late in July. Each package came neatly wrapped and marked with the cut, which includes at least one cut of everything imaginable and about 40lbs of ground beef and stew bones.

We’ve had hamburgers several times now and I have to say that we are eating the best hamburgers I’ve ever had! The butchers got the fat/meat ratio just right and the deepened flavor from dry aging and grass feeding really comes through. The bigger cuts of meat we are getting better at cooking as they are much, much leaner and cook faster that your typical beef. However I think we’ve gotten the hang of it and had an incredible London Broil the other night.

All in all, I believe we paid around $4.50 per pound for this meat, which for dry aged, grass fed beef is a steal!

You can read more about Beltane Ranch’s grass fed beef and also check out the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club if you are interested in getting a wider range of meats on a monthly basis.

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Let’s talk about milk for a moment

Milk & Cookies
Do you mind if I talk about milk today? Milk has been on my mind lately. A funny thing to spend your quiet moments thinking about, I realize but, that’s me and the way I think.  

I never really thought much about milk until we started giving it to the boys when they turned one. We always just bought whatever low fat milk was the least expensive before we had kids because we used it sparingly in our diet and we were on a budget. Milk was an after thought. And every once in a while we’d buy Straus Family Creamery  milk because it was so neat that it came in the glass bottle with the cream at the top. We treated more as a novelty than anything else. But within the last year or so my thoughts on milk have become more passionate. There’s so much to consider when buying milk, low fat, non fat, whole fat, and what about raw? Then there is the price. Milk is somewhat expensive to begin with but then the organic is even more expensive and switching to a diet of raw milk might cause you to take out a second mortgage on the house. And should we even be drinking cows milk at all? What about the rice milks and soy milks? Then there is my friend who only would give her daughters goats milk because cows milk is harder to digest. There’s so much to consider it makes my brain hurt.

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Scott and I made the switch to exclusively drinking organic milk. His descriptions of  the mid-west feed lots and corn fields turned our eating around in a lot of ways, frankly. When babies are in there second year between the ages of one and two, it’s recommended that you give them about four glasses of milk a day. That’s a lot of milk, especially when you have two thirsty boys. But we realized that all of the trace chemicals that collect in standard milk just wasn’t worth the savings.

Then after reading In Defense of Food I became worried about the percentage of fat in the milk we drank. This book by Mr. Pollan had a big influence on me, but there is this one little sentence in that book that haunted me. He never really expanded on it or meant it to be a key point but for some reason I thought about it everytime I went to the store to pick up another gallon. He said that low fat and non fat milk is often beefed up with dry milk to make it creamier. And that dry milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which is a bad kind of cholesterol. Not the good kind that whole, raw milk provides. This is the artery clogging kind of cholesterol. Knowing Scott’s family’s struggles with heart disease I take great concern in the health of all three of my boy’s (big and small) hearts. Bad cholesterol, even in tiny amounts,  is not something I want to invite into their lives, or mine frankly. So we made a vow at that point to only buy whole organic milk.

But now I’ve been thinking of raw milk. I keep hearing and reading more and more about it. I had heard of raw milk before and been a tad bit curious, but being a good ultra-pasturized raised American, it just seemed like inviting a whole lot of risk into your life by drinking it. I’ve been pregnant and breastfeeding for many years in a row and that’s always one of the biggest no-no’s: to eat unpasturized anything. So I always passed it up. But lately I’ve been thinking about it again. Both my father and Scott’s father were raised on farms and both drank raw milk growing up. And they survived just fine. Maybe this pasturization preaching that I’ve heard my whole life really isn’t as vital as I thought.

If the idea is to eat things that are processed less and in a more whole state, shouldn’t raw milk be what we all drink? If pasturization makes milk completely devoid of nutrients, why do you we even bother to drink it? I’ve heard a few times now that raw milk is like liquid medicine. Is this true? I suppose the only thing holding me back at this point from converting to a raw milk drinker is the price. At our local grocery store a gallon of raw milk ranges from $16-$20/gallon! Versus $4 for standard milk and $6.49 for organic. We consume about two gallons a week so you can see how that would add up for us. I realize that we are incredibly fortunate in this economy to even be able to afford milk, let alone organic, let alone even contemplate paying for raw milk.

And you realize too that switching to raw milk would only be the beginning. Soon we’d have to switch to raw cheeses, raw milk, raw ice cream and raw butter (which was $12.99/lb!!). If money were no object, I would switch us all over tomorrow. But like most folks, we have to keep a watchful eye on our spending habits.

We had a new friend over yesterday for the afternoon. Not knowing that she was into nutrition or food at all she suddenly started telling me all about her families switch to raw milk. Isn’t that funny, how the world works? Just when your thoughts are all about milk, in walks a converted raw milk drinker into your family room to tell you all about it. Anyway it made me realize that I’m probably not the only milk thinker out there. Do you drink milk? What kind do you drink and why??

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Filed under dairy, Musings, what we've learned