The Star-Herald

Here’s the beef

As a general rule, the first time you do anything, you kind of stink at it.

No one is particularly surprised if teens and 20-somethings “dub around” for a bit with multiple jobs, a trek to see America, or a relationship with someone profoundly unsuitable before getting his or her life in gear.  The steep learning curve at nearly any new job can be a disheartening comedy of errors that only time can fix.  Games like Candyland exist (pure chance/no skill) so even small children can win without “reverse cheating” on the part of adults in the game.  Newbies mine the experiences of others to avoid common mistakes and we build success from our failures.  Most of us manage to land on our feet eventually.  

The folks at Aroostook Beef provide ample proof in the pudding.  Erin Parisien and Richard Nielsen are building their business in Aroostook County and farther afield by paying attention to important details.  They recognized that beef animals, like most living things, do best in an environment similar to the one in which they evolved.  Cattle are designed to graze, to get regular exercise moving around in open fields, and to nurse calves up to the point of natural weaning.  Their animals, therefore, spend their summers out on pasture and winters circling round bales, their calves close by, behind charged fences that keep them to heck off the highway and relatively safe from the neighbors’ dogs.  

The existence of feedlots, standing knee-deep in manure on concrete pads while picking at grain-rich rations designed to fatten them quickly rather than healthily to market weight, is unknown to these animals at any age or stage of production (unless cattle are secretly capable of nightmares).  Genetic selection goes deeper than “eye candy” (males that look particularly studly), utilizing bulls that consistently pass on desirable traits to their offspring.  Generational gains are the result of careful selection for desired traits, including mothering ability for brood cows and impressive feed-to-gain ratios from managed pasture.  Carcasses are evaluated to identify the management practices that are moving the business in the direction these young folks desire.

Attention to detail is also reflected in marketing plans. Richard and Erin have pulled all the stops.  They have a well-designed, informative and attractive website (www.aroostookbeef.com) with prices and cuts, contact information and pictures of gamboling calves and cows swishing their tails with contentment as they graze.  Their van also sports pictures of beef cuts.  

Aroostook Beef Company has a storefront facility in Fort Kent.  They operate a CSA, enabling members’ sound, sustainable consumption decisions year-round.   They are also regular vendors at the Presque Isle Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in the Aroostook Centre Mall parking lot.  

Stop by soon for a special treat or to form a regular, earth-friendly dining habit. The market runs 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Presque Isle Farmer’s market’s chair/president for the remainder of the season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at deena.albertparks73@gmail.com.

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