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LOCAL FLAVOR

When it comes to local beef options in the Natural State, expect grass-finished animals as opposed to the grain-fed cattle of conventional supermarket beef. The biggest difference? Grass-finished beef, fed a natural diet of grass foraged on pasture the animal’s whole life, is much more lean and nutrient rich. “It’s got to be cooked a little bit differently, a little more delicately,” Travis says. “You’re going to have less marbling.”

Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative

Now 15-farms strong, the Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, founded by Falling Sky Farm’s Cody Hopkins in 2014, has a nationwide reach, shipping subscription boxes to customers quarterly, monthly or weekly. Grass Roots’ farms raise their grass-fed cattle in micro herds to ensure quality of life for the animal and a healthy product for the customer. And if you want to know the exact path your steak took from farm to table, one look at the packaging will tell you where the animal was raised, how much pasture it had access to and where it was processed. (grassrootscoop.com)

Ozark Pasture Beef

For folks living in Northwest Arkansas, Travis recommends Ozark Pasture Beef in Fayetteville. “[Owner Ann Wells] is one who I think is the real deal, very dedicated to animal husbandry and land husbandry as well,” Travis says. “Raising cows to her means raising good grass.” And when you’re raising exclusively grass-fed beef, good grass is pretty important. While Ann’s farm is based in Fayetteville, the business delivers along the Interstate 49 corridor from Bella Vista to Fort Smith, as well as along Interstate 40 all the way to Little Rock every six weeks. Delivery to other locations is available for an additional distance-based fee. (ozarkpasturebeef.com)

Ausley Family Premium Beef

Five years ago, Ausley Family Farms in Hot Spring County started buying Wagyu bulls and breeding them with their Angus cows. The result is a grain-fed American Wagyu style that serves as a midway point between the texture and flavor of traditional Wagyu and what the average Arkansan is likely used to, all at an affordable price. Currently, the farm ships within the state, taking orders through the operation’s website and Facebook page. (ausleyfamilybeef.weebly.com)


ONLINE BOVINE

Maybe the whole grass-fed beef thing isn’t for you. Maybe you’re looking for something a little more niche, like a dry-aged steak or a tomahawk ribeye, but you also want to be sure the animal was treated humanely and that you won’t be getting any added hormones or chemicals. If that’s the case, Travis recommends looking into some of these farther-flung farms that are producing some of the best meat around.

Creekstone Farms in Kansas

It might not be in The Natural State, but Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kansas, is the perfect place to shop if you’re looking for beef that has a little bit more marbling than some of the leaner, grass-fed options available locally. “These are more of a grain-finished, pastured animal,” Travis says, meaning that the farm’s cattle spend most of their life feeding on pasture before being given a supplement of grain just before processing. The farms’ premium steaks are also U.S. Department of Agriculture-graded choice or prime, but if you’re looking for a verified GMO-free cut or even grass-fed beef, they’ve got that, too. (creekstonefarms.com)

Southern Natural Farms in Tennessee

“They’re kind of like Grass Roots,” Travis says. “They’re a pretty big group, and they have farms all over Tennessee. They have a couple different options on beef as well. They do have strictly grass-fed, and then they also have their grain-finished.” The grain-finished options are all produced by the organization’s founding farm, Simpson Farms, including prime cuts and steaks that are dry-aged 14 to 21 days. (simpsonmeats.com)

Snake River Farms in Idaho

Travis recommends Snake River Farms if you’re interested in finding out what the fuss over Wagyu beef is all about. Snake River produces a variety of American Wagyu cuts and even has dry-aged options that go through the process for a minimum of 45 days. The operation also produces prime cuts, both wet and dry-aged (30-plus days), and if you want to go all out and get a tomahawk steak, Snake River Farms has those in both prime and Wagyu as well. (snakeriverfarms.com)


BIG BOX LIVESTOCK

While buying local or seeking out specifically graded beef might be desirable for some families, it isn’t necessarily for everyone, Travis says. Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of shopper you are. “If you’re a really good planner, and Sunday is a big cooking day for you and your family, then I think if you wanted to go to some of these online suppliers or quarterly packages, then that would be great,” he explains. “But if you’re like, Oh, honestly, we decide an hour before where we want to eat or what we want to eat that night, that’s where shopping somewhere like Fresh Market or Whole Foods, or even Kroger, for that matter, would be an easier choice.”

While you probably won’t have much luck finding a local producer in a big-box store, Travis says Whole Foods in particular is a good place to visit if you want to maintain high standards regarding the way your meat was raised and processed. And if you’re hoping to find some prime cuts or are in the market for a full primal—a whole section of the animal, like a whole tenderloin or brisket—Travis says the Sam’s Club in Northwest Arkansas has a pretty impressive butcher shop.

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