Make Mine a Classic

By treatyrockbeef - Last updated: Sunday, April 17, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Make Mine A Classic

Farmers all over southern New England are finding their way back to heritage breeds of livestock – varieties that were developed in particular regions due to their hardiness and multi-purpose functionality.  Many of the breeds thrive on native forage, display excellent mothering abilities and are central to food traditions that define the special “terroir” of a regional cuisine.

The decades following World War II witnessed the growth of interstate highways and a flight to the suburbs as our society abandoned agricultural production in favor of commercial and service industries.  Fewer people lived on the farm.  Animal husbandry changed from small, family-owned, multi-species operations to large production facilities built to an industrial model.  The livestock industry began to focus on just a few breeds that grew large quickly and tolerated containment at the expense of survivability and other valuable characteristics.  In doing so, they lost the robust genetic diversity of locally adapted breeds that grow more slowly but possess biological fitness and superior flavor.  The American Livestock Breed Conservancy (www.albc-usa.org) is a non-profit membership organization that seeks to reverse this trend by “Ensuring the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry”.  The recent upswing in popularity of the local food movement has generated newfound interest in breeds that fell out of favor with the homogenization of culture and abandonment of historic agricultural traditions.

The demand for Berkshire hogs has skyrocketed among chefs who know a good thing due to the unique marbling in their flesh.  Here in Rhode Island you can see a number of heritage breeds including Narragansett turkeys, Silver Fox rabbits, Red Devon cattle & Belted Galloway cattle.  The Belties at Windmist Farm in Jamestown stay outdoors all winter protected by their thick shaggy coats which they shed in the summer enabling them to tolerate warm climates better than most other cold-adapted cattle.  They are famous for their efficiency on rough forage, maternal ability, and high-quality beef.  The Red Devons at Watson Farm in Jamestown descend from the animals that walked off the sailing ship Charity in 1623 to provide milk, meat and muscle for the Plymouth Colony.  Red Devons pulled the prairie schooners down the Oregon Trail.  Today their grazing ­ability, easy birthing and fine-boned structure make them an excellent choice for grass‑based beef production.  For rabbit fanciers, the Silver Fox offers large size and gentle disposition in exchange for their small litters.  The breed dates back to the 1920′s when Walter Garland crossed a French silver meat rabbit (Champagne d’Argent) with a Checkered Giant with excellent results.  This immensely rewarding breed is known for excellent meat, superior mothering and spectacular pelts.  So the next time you place your dinner order, make it a classic.

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