Savoring the Seasons: Highland Cattle Both Lean and Tasty


The Recorder

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
(Published in print: Wednesday, June 3, 2015)

Hooray for recent rains! While we need more to move beyond the current drought, I hope that the rain eases things for the many farmers and gardeners in our community.

One of the great things about the Atlas Farm Spring Festival in May was chatting with many local farmers and food producers who I’d yet to meet. Thanks to the festival, I learned about two South Deerfield farms that raise beef cattle and sell their beef through the Atlas Farm Store on Routes 5 and 10 in South Deerfield. Max Antes runs H.B. Farm based on Stillwater Road and Julie Chalfant and her family run Roaming Farm on South Mill River Road.

Max raises grass-fed beef on pastures around South Deerfield and you can reach him at and 413-665-2427 to learn more about his beef.

Julie’s family raises Highland cattle, which I think of as shaggy cows with big horns. I laughed when I read about them on the Roaming Farm website. It says, “We have been asked if they are buffalo or yaks — they’re not; they’re just fuzzy cows.”

I knew they were fuzzy, but I didn’t know much else about Highland cattle. Julie said, “The Highland breed produces very tasty beef that is extremely tender, low in fat and cholesterol, and high in protein and iron. Usually there is a trade-off between tenderness and low fat, with grass-fed beef providing leanness and grain-fed beef providing tenderness, but Highland beef is both lean and tender — and tasty. Testing by the Scottish Agricultural College shows that pure Highland beef has about one-third of the fat of commercial beef.”
I also learned about different cuts of beef from Julie. She said, “One interesting aspect of working with a local beef farmer is getting custom cuts. We have one customer who likes his sirloin steaks two inches thick, another who requests that we save sweetbreads for her, a local stone mason from Tibet who likes very large bone-in cuts, a local mead producer who likes beef heart, a customer from Hatfield who requests a tenderloin roast for Christmas dinner, and one from Deerfield who likes our brisket for Passover.”

Julie continued, “Most people know the highest-quality steak names: T-bone, Porterhouse, Sirloin Strip, Tenderloin, and Ribeye. These are all superb steaks, but can be pricey. The tenderness of Highland beef opens up all sorts of possibilities for grilling that might prove a little tough in conventional breeds, particularly if they are grass-fed. The New York sirloin is my favorite — the steaks can be very large (around 2 pounds), so my family will grill one and split it among all four of us — and be sure to slice across the grain. One somewhat new cut is the flat iron steak. Researchers recently figured out how to remove a thick connective tissue running through the middle of the cut, leaving a thin, extremely tender steak. Skirt steak, flank steak and the (somewhat unattractively named) flap meat are all thin cuts that are superb for fajitas and good when marinated and grilled. Bone-in short ribs are very meaty and delicious when slow-cooked. The London broil and top round steaks are quite flavorful and nicely tender in the Highland breed.”

Julie shared her advice on how to grill flat iron steaks.

What’s your favorite way to prepare local beef?

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This Week We’re Eating…

Flat Iron Steak

By Julie Chalfant, Roaming Farm, South Deerfield

4 Flat Iron Steaks (thin, about ½ pound each)
4 cloves garlic



Since these steaks are thin, keep them cold until putting them on the grill — don’t let them come to room temperature first. This will help you get the steak seared on the outside without overcooking the center. Pat them dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, press minced garlic evenly into steaks, and cook immediately for about 6 to 7 minutes per side. Delicious this time of year with a crispy-skin baked potato and fresh local asparagus!

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