By Susan Nefzger
Who would have thought a vintage breed of French cattle once reserved for members of the nobility would be found Arrowhead Beef in Chipley, in Florida’s Panhandle? Known for yielding very lean and tender beef, the proper name for this cow is le Parthenais, (pronounced PARTH-a-nay).
The cattle thrive in Northwest Florida and its temperate pastures. The breed was first listed in herd books in 1893, and county-fair photographs of the breed dating from the 1860s still exist.
Now available in the U.S., Parthenais registries are also kept in Ireland and Canada. In Florida, several farms breed and process grass-fed beef in locales across the state.
Tom Pellizzetti, co-owner of Arrowhead Beef, says, “We believe that great beef comes from great cows, and great cows must have a sustainable, humane life for their entirety. We never ship our cows to feed-lots or any industrial beef production.”
So, after being weaned from their mother’s milk, the cows are fed a completely grass and forage (i.e., harvested grasses) diet for their entire lives.
Pellizzetti’s explanation for the claim that grass-fed is better is this: The genetics of the heirloom breed provide what he terms a “consistent product profile” – so much so that the muscle fibers are different from those in other breeds. Having smaller muscle fiber in meat helps to provide a more tender, flavorful product after processing.
“There is much research that leads us to believe that grass-fed beef provides more health benefits than its grain-fed counterpart,” says Pellizzetti. For example, there are no added hormones, no antibiotics, and they do not eat grain.
The beef contains Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), beta carotene, vitamin E and vitamin A.
Another factor that affects the cows is their lifestyle. The owners and managers of Arrowhead Beef believe in the “herd-life harmony” concept wholeheartedly, and maintain that the lack of industrialization, along with the humane slaughter and two-week dry-aging process, is why the meat is so much better.
They bypass feed-lots and homogenization during processing, thereby retaining the special identity of the breed.
At Arrowhead Beef, it’s a cooperative effort
The farm is a local operation. It involves a cooperative of several local owners who raise the cattle on a total of about 800 acres on small farms in Chipley. The manager is George Fisher. He oversees the local beef processing to ensure that it occurs in small batches.
The processing takes place at a USDA-inspected plant in the neighboring town of Westville. The beef, once processed, is dry-aged for two weeks, which enhances its flavor and tenderizes the meat, Pellizzetti says.
Staying as “farm-direct” as possible, with Arrowhead Beef conducting all the sales, ensures the integrity and quality of the beef.
Where to buy Arrowhead Beef:
Arrowhead Beef is available at a number of butcher shops and retail stores, or it can be ordered directly from arrowheadbeef.com or by phone.
Along with premium steaks, roasts and ground beef, the company also offer a raw pet-food blend.
(Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Spring 2015 issue of Florida Food & Farm.)