I’ve been a bit quiet lately on this page. I am at constant battle of couponing versus healthy eating. A majority of coupons are for processed foods. A majority. I admit you can find the occasional produce or meat department coupon, but there are a lot of cereal, canned soup, Hamburger Helper coupons. As I have started to look more into what is in the foods we put in our mouths and in our children’s mouths I have changed our eating and shopping habits.
So lately I have abandoned shopping at Price Chopper, Tops and other big name stores and started focusing on locally owned shops that offer fresh, locally grown meats and produce. We are so fortunate to live in an area that is rich in agriculture and locally grown/ raised foods.
What perfect timing to feature a Q&A with Pat Robbins of Black River Cattle Company. Cuts of BRCC’s meats are now being sold at Old McDonald’s Farm and are used in dishes as local restaurants such as The Hops Spot in Sackets Harbor.
1. Tell me who you are and what it is you do?
My name is Patrick Robbins and I manage marketing and sales for Black River Cattle Company (BRCC) and I am also a teacher/educator in Jefferson County. Brian Robbins is the founder and owner of BRCC and the General Manager and equity share owner of North Harbor Dairy.
2. How did you end up going into this line of business?
My nephew Brian and I both grew up on our family farm and after both going away to college to Colorado and Georgia respectively, we both returned to the North Country to be involved in our family operation in some capacity after gaining valuable work experiences in other states. Brian is the general manager of our family’s large dairy and crop farm, and after witnessing a shift in the public consciousness in regards to knowing where their food comes from and in keeping with an underlying tenet of all our related businesses, which is educating the public on agricultural matters (see one of our sister companies, Old McDonald’s Farm), he decided to start raising some beef cattle a few years back. Using his adept knowledge of quality genetics, humane and sustainable farming methods, the infrastructure of our current family farm operation, and the need for a “local”, larger scale beef operation in the area, his little endeavor has proliferated into a herd of over 75 quality raised beef cattle. As a former member of the business world with experiences in marketing, sales, and customer service, we have combined our respective business acumen and our desire to provide a quality, local product back to the community we respect so much, to form BRCC. So far, we have enjoyed much success with our products, but more importantly, we have enjoyed giving back to the community we live and work in.
3. What is the benefit of customers buying in bulk and from local farmers? Look for answer with #4.
4. Where or how would consumers go about making a purchase from you?
I’ll answer questions 3 & 4 in 2 parts.
First, we have a continuous rotation of wholesale/bulk beef available throughout the year. In some cases, consumers of wholesale/bulk beef often have to wait on a list for 6 months or more while producers either raise the cattle or source it from other farms. At BRCC, we have a year around inventory with a short turnaround time. When one buys wholesale, or rather bulk, the customer buys a whole, half, or quarter side of beef. We take orders directly through or webpage at www.blackrivercattlecompany.com, on Facebook, or through me at 315-778-6998. We charge $2.60 per lb hanging weight which includes the beef, processing to the customer’s specifications, custom packaging, transportation costs, and delivery to the customer. This new streamlined approach is much more efficient for the customer, with only 1 entity to make payment to, and the delivery aspect has really set us apart from other producers. This way of purchasing beef is the most economical as you are getting all customary premium cuts and ground beef for a very competitive price-just think, ground beef in most box retailers from unknown sources has skyrocketed to almost $4.00 lb; a consumer could have a much better product from BRCC for around the same price which not only includes ground beef, but premium cuts also! The consumer also knows where the product is coming from as it raised “right down the road” in Sackets Harbor. We walk the consumer through the whole purchasing process and we are proud of our follow-up with the customers to make sure they are informed every step of the way and their expectations are set and met. Buying local is also a great way to support our local economy!
Second, we currently sell premium ground beef and individual cuts at Old McDonald’s Farm in Sackets Harbor and will also take pre-orders based on available inventory. We can set up pick-up times at 8 am and 5 pm in Sackets Harbor to accommodate customers. We also are proud to be partnering with the Hops Spot restaurant in Sackets which features our custom chuck and brisket burgers and steak specials. We will have more restaurant opportunities as the summer season begins.
5. There has been a lot of hype on grass fed beef lately. What are your thoughts on grass fed vs grain fed beef?
All beef is grass fed; some are raised entirely on grass and some only partially. Most grains are of the grass family, grain is just the seed or energy portion of the grass. Haylage or corn silage is natural forage that is preserved under a natural process of fermentation and then becomes more digestible to the animal. Animals raised entirely on grass tend to be older when taken to slaughter due to the lack of energy in the feed. These animals , much of the year don’t have excess energy from the feed to pack on weight and meat; rather meat becomes secondary to life functions which are first. A animal that is supplied grain in addition to grass or silage will have excess energy that can be used to produce muscle. These meats tend to have better marbling and flavor and tenderness due to the early age they can be butchered.
6. Do you eat your own product?
In reality, our 9 year old daughter is the biggest critic of beef that comes from unknown sources. She will not eat nor allow any other beef product in our home. We can notice the indelible differences immediately when consuming beef that is not nurtured and raised to meet proper standards and protocols that we have set forth for our products. It just doesn’t have the same qualities and more importantly, is not as healthy for you. We love our local, all natural, great tasting beef products and we find ourselves to be the best quality control specialist! (See also the answer to #7).
7. What is your favorite dinner?
A great tasting Delmonico from BRCC, of course!! It’s usually accompanied by a mixed green salad with vinaigrette dressing (no onions) and a starch. I also love any kind of seafood, especially scallops and linguini and clams (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention pasta-my wife comes from a large Italian family).
8. Do you have a TV show you can’t miss?
We are “Chopped” junkies; if only I was that quick on my feet in the kitchen. Of course, my early morning pre-workout TV addiction is a little Sports Center to catch up on the scores.
9. What is your favorite thing about Jefferson County?
I love the people and the community-oriented nature of Jefferson County. I have lived in different geographic places in the US ranging from large metropolitan cities to rural communities, and what has always drawn me back to this area has been the sense of community that seems to pervade all aspects of our county, including but not limited to our neighborhoods, our small businesses, and our schools. In fact, after having a child, a decided to leave the Southeast and move back to Jefferson County so my daughter could experience a similar upbringing that I had. Even as our demographic has changed for the better with the growth of Ft. Drum, those not indigenous to the area still seem to embrace and welcome the “family” vibe this area exudes….even considering the long Winters we endure.
10. What is the one material thing you own that you could not imagine going without?
I would have to say my tattered and frayed, 10 year old NY Yankees cap. A well-worn, good fitting cap, which also serves as a cover for my balding head, has become an extension of me. I have become identified by this pseudo appendage and as a huge fan, I don’t think I could ever part with it- even with the best efforts of my wife.
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