Who produces the best beef in the world? I am beginning to think that may depend on whose farmyard I am in on any given day.
Last summer I was on Vancouver Island and visited Colin and Ross Springford who along with their families run Springford Farm, a commercial Hereford beef operation at Nanoose Bay (www.springfordfarm.com). They were a purebred beef operation for many years, but switched to commercial cattle and began farmer-direct marketing of beef about 10 years ago following the BSE meltdown.
They’ve built a thriving meat business, which includes sales of beef to several restaurants. And one I visited was the Pink Bicycle in Victoria. Odd name, but it is a gourmet burger joint — all kinds of exotic burgers and all beef burgers are made from Springford Farm beef.
I had the Blue Flame beef burger — Hereford beef spiced up with a hot chili mayo and topped with rich blue cheese. It was excellent. I would definitely recommend their beef and also a visit to the Pink Bicycle.
And then in February I visited Benchmark Angus near Warner in southern Alberta (www.benchmarkangus.com). Mike Munton operates this family-owned purebred Angus operation, the largest in Canada with a 500-head Red and Black Angus cow herd. The cow herd and up-and-coming breeding stock roam over a 10,000-acre spread of mostly native grass pastures most of the year.
Munton sells about 200 head of yearling and long yearling bulls annually, and any cattle that don’t make the purebred market are finished on farm and marketed through their own direct-marketing network as beef at the retail level and also in several Lethbridge and other southern Alberta restaurants.
Mike forced me to go for lunch at the Warner Hotel in beautiful downtown Warner, where we both had a great bowl of soup, followed by the Warner Burger. (We were going to have Benchmark steak sandwiches, but wouldn’t you know they ran out that day — it is so hard to find a good meat supplier.) We didn’t have to “settle” for a burger, it was an excellent second choice. Cheese and bacon on top of a very generous and flavourable Benchmark Angus burger. It was excellent. I would definitely recommend the Warner Burger at the Warner Hotel.
Just to be sure of the consistency in meat quality, I stopped at Munton’s retail meat store on the north side of Lethbridge and bought some fresh beef and beef sausages. Aside from my expert grilling techniques, these filet steaks were probably the most tender and flavourful that I’ve had. Well-marbled Angus steaks that you could cut with a fork. Great stuff.
(And if you are in the market for a good bull, Benchmark Angus is holding its 17th annual “Makin the Grade” sale at the farm March 12. They have more than 100 head up for bid that day in a nice, new sale pavilion. And I understand Mike’s wife who is a Red Seal Chef by training will be catering the lunch, so I am thinking I might go buy a bull just to get in on the lunch. Visit their website for details.)
And back to the “great” beef research, I can’t forget that earlier in 2012, I bought some steaks from butcher Clarence Den Boon at Fort Macleod and this was beef produced by Dennis Guitton, an organic beef producer from Claresholm (www.guittonfarms.com) and they got the excellent rating too.
Which leads me to suspect any tough beef I’ve eat must be coming from Brazil. So far I would say my research is telling me, there may not be great beef everywhere, but it appears there is great beef wherever I’ve been. †