BBQ Test: Heffron Farms
The sky’s were gray.
Temperature between 35-40 degrees.
The meat was frozen
Family hungryAlthough I have known of Heffron Farms
for many years and really admire their entrepreneurial spirit, I have never bought any of their products for the grill. I have a bias against frozen product. No good reason.�
However I have become very curious about the entire process of sustainability and agribusiness, especially as it relates to the different meats I buy for the grill. I was disappointed last summer with some baby back ribs (pork) that I bought at the downtown farmer’s market. Far to lean and not enough meat on the bone to make it worth barbecuing. But as I continued to read and talk to people about the differences between organic, grassfed, natural and CAFO’s, I am convinced that there is a significant difference in products. So this gets us to where I was at last weekend; time to put the meat on the grill.
First, here is the official Heffron Farm description and philosophy:
We welcome you to Heffron Farms Markets. We take great pride in making available products that are raised without the use of growth hormones, preservatives, dyes and antibiotics on a daily basis (see FAQ) and raised in a humane way. While working with other local farmers, Heffron Farms Markets bring our customers a variety of naturally raised beef, pork, chicken, turkey, dairy products, eggs and much more. Currently our stores are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. We also ship products throughout the United States.
All of our meats are USDA or state inspected, vacuum packaged and frozen to ensure freshness that lasts as long as a year or more in a well maintained freezer.
Q. Is our beef grass-fed?
A. Yes. Some may call it grass, farmer terminology is hay.
Our cattle are fed an all vegetarian diet that consist of both grains and roughage. This allows for our cattle to have a balanced, nutritious diet that their bodies are designed to handle.
To continue, I bought:
- 1 flank steak (approx. $9.99/lb)
- 1 skirt steak (approx. $4.99/lb)
- 2 boneless pork shoulders (approx. $3.99/lb)
All the meat products were frozen, so you were limited a bit in selection (I like having a butcher cut my steaks to order. I also like having the ability to order my pork shoulder either bone-in or boneless and also specify the size) I thought the pricing was about 10-20% higher than what I could get elsewhere)
I grilled the flank and skirt steak on Friday night.
The flank steak was OK/good. Maybe a little tougher than what I get at a butcher. The fact I tried to thaw it out quickly so I could grill it that night maybe made a difference (it might not of been completely thawed when I was ready to grill) �
The skirt steak was a different story. Without a doubt, it was the tastiest steak I have grilled in a long time. It was also a great value. I typically have a hard time finding skirt steak on short notice. Knowing that I can get it anytime at Heffron Farms will put me fajita heaven on a regular basis.�
For the two boneless pork shoulders (about 3.5 lbs each), I used two techniques: I brined one in a simple salt and brown sugar solution. The other one, I only used a seasoned salt. I put both shoulders on Saturday (Weber kettle, Lazzari lump, pecan chips) around 2:00 and pulled around 6:30. I did not use an internal temperature gauge, instead relied on my instinct. A small mistake. Both shoulders were done, but I never reached the “magical pulling internal temperature” range of approx. 195 degrees. Instead I had to slice and chop. I think this had to do with the meat being frozen. I think the core temperature was still very cold when I put it on the grill. I could of waited, but in reality, BBQ is a fickle mistress, and she waits for no one.
The meat was terrific. The brined shoulder a bit moister. (I used Penzey’s BBQ Rub for the first time too; good and a bit spicy)
I attached pictures of this experiment. Please note the beautiful smoke ring on the pork. I actually liked the chopped pork better than pulled pork.�
I still prefer non-frozen meat. Allows for more spontaneity. However, the pork and the skirt steak were great. I would recommend Heffron Farms to anyone.
My next post will focus on the differences between natural, grassfed, grain-finished, organic, and CAFO products…from the perspective of a consumer.