Pennsylvania, Posted September 7, 2004: Pennsylvania
College of Technology recently awarded Northern Tier
Sustainable Meats Cooperative, Inc., a local cooperative
of grass-fed beef farmers, the school’s 2004-5
ground beef contract. The cooperative will supply the
college with approximately 20,000 pounds of bulk ground
beef and hamburger patties. Linda Sweely, Director of
Food Services at Penn College said “Penn College
has decided to use Northern Tier beef for the 2004-5
school year because we feel that the product is a better
quality and more nutritious option for our student body.”
Three representatives of Northern Tier spent Tuesday morning
educating around 80 Penn College dining service employees
about the fundamentals of grass-fed beef. The program,
part of an in-service training offered by Penn College
Food Service, included a discussion of the benefits of
grass-fed meats and a cooking demonstration.
Northern Tier’s President Dale Harper opened
the program with a bit of history. “It wasn’t
that long ago that the producer-consumer connection
was tight,” Dale said. “A man might have
shoed your horses in exchange for a bushel of tomatoes.
Today, we are completely divorced from the source of
our food.” Harper told dining service employees
that he was there to “put a face on the ground
beef you’re getting this year.”
Northern Tier currently has four members, all of whom
farm in Bradford County. Harper told dining service
employees that to raise meat for the cooperative, the
animals’ diet must be 85% grass-based, and farmers
cannot use any chemical wormers, hormones or antibiotics.
“We were all already producing beef this way,
so forming a cooperative was easy,” Dale said.
Dale’s wife Pam, a school teacher and mother
of four, gave personal testimony for why they choose
to raise food naturally. The Harper’s fourth child
has marked behavioral and learning disabilities. Pam
told the group, “When you have a child that is
so different, you ask yourself, ‘Where did I go
wrong?’” Doctors suggested medicating the
child, but Pam “didn’t want to raise a zombie.”
She turned instead to nutrition, and got results. “When
I learned how conventional meats are produced and processed,
I said, ‘No more!’ We haven’t bought
meat from a grocery store in 20 years.”
As Pam pointed out, every time animals are packed together
for transportation or confined feeding, the risk for
disease is increased. To combat this risk, animals are
given regular doses of antibiotics. Another concern
the Harpers expressed is the industry’s increasing
use of growth hormones to fatten animals quickly to
save money. “Our meats contain no hormones and
no antibiotics. The meat Penn College is getting this
year is going from our family farms in Bradford County
to Leona Meat Plant in Troy for packaging then to Penn
College,” said the Harpers.
The relationship between Northern Tier and Leona Meat
Plant is significant. According to a USDA Food and Rural
Economics Division report, by 1992 the four largest meat
packing firms in the US accounted for 71 percent of industry
output. The trend toward consolidation continues, forcing
smaller, locally owned packing houses to go out of business.
By establishing a relationship with a local processor,
Northern Tier not only gives Leona Meats a substantial
share of business, they ensure for themselves a local
packer with whom they can work to develop products.
"It wasn’t that
long ago that the producer-consumer connection
was tight. A man might have shoed your horses
in exchange for a bushel of tomatoes. Today, we
are completely divorced from the source of our
President Northern Tier
One of the products Northern Tier and Leona Meats have
developed together is a quarter pound hamburger patty.
Ann Seeley, who, together with husband Kim and son Shon,
also raises beef for the cooperative, gave a cooking
demonstration. Because grass-fed beef tends to be leaner,
cooks need to learn how to handle it.
“Overcooking the burger will make it tough and
dry,” said Seeley. “Don’t push on
the burger with your spatula to squeeze the fat out.
It’s a hard habit to break, but you want those
delicious juices to stay in the burger. The difference
is in the fat!” said Seeley.
In fact, the fat of a grass-fed burger really is different
from its conventional counterpart. Grass-fed burgers
are high in conjugated linoleic acids, or CLA. Studies
have suggested that CLA enhances immune function, acts
as an antioxidant, and even lowers the risk of cancer.
CLA may also play a valuable role in changing body composition
by helping to decrease fat while maintaining or gaining
muscle. “This is the good fat that won’t
raise your cholesterol,” said Pam.
Penn College has been purchasing from local farmers
for several years. The culinary school at Penn College
uses a variety of local produce, meats, and dairy products
in their restaurant, Le Jeune Chef, and for special
events. For over four years, the student dining halls
have featured milk from cooperative members Ann and
Kim Seeley’s Milky Way Farm.
CAPS: 1= Ann Seeley teaches PCT cooks how to prepare
grass-fed beef hamburger and 2= Dale Harper, president
of Northern Tier Sustainable Meats Cooperative, feeds
one of his grass-fed cows.