Curiously hip 

click to enlarge Cows at HaR-Go Farms in Pavilion, Genesee County. - JACOB WALSH.
  • Cows at HaR-Go Farms in Pavilion, Genesee County.
As an overcast haze settles above a 200-acre farm in the hills of Genesee County, it’s surprisingly quiet, even among so many cows. They’re too busy grazing, maybe. Tucking their soft noses into the ground, their polled heads collecting burs from surrounding wildflowers. A light rain begins to whisper down.

Walking a nearby path in knee-high muck boots are Jill and Steve Gould, the husband and wife duo behind Butter Meat Co., a direct-to-consumer shop that specializes in dual-purpose beef and shrinking the distance between farmer and consumer. Both grew up on farms, and their care for the work is evident.

click to enlarge Jill Gould. - JACOB WALSH.
  • Jill Gould.
“I used to joke that my parents fought about pallets,” Jill said. “I grew up around cucumbers and green beans, and I didn’t realize until I was older how truly unique that is today.”

The impetus for Butter Meat Co. came when the Goulds took over Steve’s family’s organic dairy farm, HaR-Go Farms in Pavilion, NY. Suddenly, they had cows that weren’t considered valuable after their third or fourth calf, when they stop converting feed efficiently into milk.

click to enlarge Steve Gould. - JACOB WALSH.
  • Steve Gould.
“The economics of it changes,” Jill said. “If you have space in your barn, you keep them. In other cases, their time as a dairy cow is essentially up.”

Beef is homogenized in the United States. While a brewery might have up to six hops, a cafe up to five choices of milk, and cheese in Europe is arguably endless, the States don’t have that same culture around meat.

That was the case for the Goulds until a chef friend visited their farm. The aged meat, in his eyes, was brilliant. Most of the beef consumed by carnivores is young, mild, and filed under “prime” or “select” grades. Based on the current standards, dairy meat is only ever graded as “choice,” despite being more sustainable with richly golden fat and a nutrient-dense bite. So, he cooked for them.

“That meal triggered everything for us,” Jill said.

In 2019, Steve had their first cows slaughtered, and in February, 2020, Jill opened Butter Meat Co.
click to enlarge Inside Butter Meat Co. in Perry, Wyoming County. - JACOB WALSH.
  • Inside Butter Meat Co. in Perry, Wyoming County.

The store’s pink door is stark on the main street of what one internet reviewer referred to as “curiously hip Perry.” Light streams in through display windows painted to reflect each new season—blue and yellow bursts of flowers for spring, drool-inducing ice cream cones for summer—bouncing off speciality goods, local produce, dairy, and a cooler full of beef.

“There’s no other state like (New York),” Jill said. “We are incredible farmers. Shopping local is a way of showing that pride, and our farms need a foothold to get started.”

click to enlarge Soft serve ice cream at Butter Meat Co. - JACOB WALSH.
  • Soft serve ice cream at Butter Meat Co.
Since opening, Butter Meat Co. has become a beacon of New York State abundance at its current location, and will move to a larger space later this year. Supporting Perry has become intrinsic to the shop. One of the brands they carry and use in their coffee drinks is milk from Warsaw farm Burley Berries and Blooms.

“Having Jill’s store means the food system touches closer to home.” Megan Burley, matriarch of the family farm, said. “You can drive by this farm and then get the product right in town.”

Back in the grazing fields, the sky is darkening and Steve is called inside for a conference call about the Pavilion Public Library, where he serves on the board. Stella, the couple’s Great Pyrenees, follows Jill on one last round. She’s scared of the cows, even though they’re docile and kind. Over to the left, looking out towards the fields, calves moo a send-off.

Tomorrow, the work will start again.

“I wish farming was something we were more proud of in New York,” Jill said. “We’re kind of badass when it comes to food.”

click to enlarge JACOB WALSH.

Building Bulk Networks: Cornell’s MeatSuite

For those without an inside track, finding local meat producers often looks like aimlessly wandering farmers markets, rushing to take a photo while speeding past signs on backroads, or stumbling upon a roadside stand only to find the IGLOO cooler empty.

But since 2014, MeatSuite—an online database of local farmers maintained and produced with a grant from Cornell University—has been closing that information gap.

Matt LaRoe started MeatSuite while working with Cornell Cooperative Extension to survey consumers about buying in bulk, or purchasing an eighth, quarter, or full animal rather than individual cuts. Now, he’s the Director of the Cornell Agricultural Marketing Research Program.

MeatSuite helps consumers buy directly from the farm, which benefits both parties.

“Not only are you buying directly from the farm, but the price per pound is lower than grocery store prices,” LaRoe said. “Since you’re problem-solving for them.”

The best part? Buying directly from the producer means farms can cut the animal in a way that works for your family, without letting any parts go to waste. Which, as LaRoe says, makes meal-planning that much easier.

“People who have never bought in bulk before might be intimidated, but our farms are ready to serve and eager to help people navigate this.”

Jessica L. Pavia is a contributor to CITY. Feedback about
this article can be directed to [email protected].
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