Where the Appalachian Mountains snake upward through central Pennsylvania, you’ll find Thistle Creek Farms, an Animal Welfare Certified, GMO-free, and chemical-free farm nestled in the foothills. The management-intensive, grass-finished practice at Thistle Creek represents over thirty years of trial-and-error and studious self-education by owner George Lake. Today, his farm produces beef that’s won the hearts of New York chefs and the Pennsylvania Forage and Grassland Council alike -- he’s earned himself both a place on high-end restaurant menus and land stewardship awards.
George is an ex-fighter pilot. When he got home to Tyrone, Pennsylvania from the Marine Corps in the early ‘80s, he knew he wanted to farm, but not in the way his family had traditionally farmed. His parents had raised dairy cattle when he was a kid under conventional farming methods -- which is to say, with pesticides aplenty -- and George had never been convinced that was the way he wanted to do things. For one, insecticides and fertilizers were expensive over the long-term, because their overuse bred dependence and the land couldn’t sustain itself. For another, he just plain didn’t like using chemicals.
So when George got back from Vietnam, he had one priority: earthworms.
Under the heavy spraying his dad had done on their dairy farm, the soil had not thrived, and the earthworms in particular had suffered. They were only one part of a larger problem, but they were an important symbol: The earthworms’ return would symbolize the widescale land-rejuvenation George desperately wanted to foster on the land that was now his charge.
So he cobbled together the money for two cows, and the rest is history.
Today, George says, “we have earthworms in such density it makes visiting soil scientists giddy.” And those visitors -- whether they be scientists, fellow farmers looking for inspiration, or curious chefs and journalists -- come from all over the world to study his sustainable, grass-finished farming methods, because the earthworms’ return is just the tip of the iceberg.
Under an extremely rigorous management-intensive grazing program, George also has rebuilt soil microbial populations, which he says are critical to the health of the whole farm, above and belowground. He’s often asked to speak at universities and conferences around the country on the topic of soil health, and this is exactly the point he likes to drive home: In order to have a self-sustaining farm, “you have to feed livestock and soil.”
We’re honored to partner with George and to offer beef raised under his management-intensive, soil-conscious grazing program. Join the ranks of happy New York chefs, and give his delicious beef a try!
Grass-fed, grass-finished beef is delicious, make no mistake about it. Speaking of mistakes, many people who write-off grass-fed beef make the mistake of preparing it the same as the grain-finished beef that they're so used to. At Crowd Cow, we've found more often than not, that the difference between a great grass-fed steak and a sub-par one all comes down to knowing how to cook it correctly.
At Crowd Cow, we've had the good fortune to taste a lot of grass-fed, grass-finished beef -- from different cuts and different producers. We've found that grass fed beef usually takes 25-30% less time to cook. You might be used to cooking your rib steaks 4 minutes per side, but for grass-fed beef, you'll want to only give it 3 minutes. Better yet, try sous-viding your grass-fed steaks or preparing them with a reverse-sear.
Lastly, consider a marinade or rub. These can often overwhelm more-mellow grain-finished beef, but are perfect for rounding out the flavor of grass-fed beef, and marinades in particular are helpful in keeping the meat moist, preventing it from overcooking and drying out.