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Grass-Fed Beef From Area Farmers Added to Menu at Penn College

Ann Seeley (center) shows Food Services employee Kathy L. Bozochovic (left) how to cook patties made from grass-fed beef.For the 2004-05 school year, Pennsylvania College of Technology has added to the list of foods it will purchase from area farms by awarding its ground-beef contract to a cooperative of farmers who raise grass-fed cattle.

Northern Tier Sustainable Meats Cooperative Inc., made up of four Bradford County beef farms, will supply the College with approximately 20,000 pounds of bulk ground beef and hamburger patties. The College also purchases poultry, vegetables and dairy products from area farms.

Linda A. Sweely, director of Food Services, said, “Penn College has decided to use Northern Tier beef for the 2004-05 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 a morning recently educating 80 Penn College Food Services employees about grass-fed beef. The program, part of staff-development training, included a discussion of the benefits of grass-fed meats and a cooking demonstration.

Northern Tier President Dale Harper told the employees that, to raise meat for the cooperative, the animals’ diet must be 85 percent 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,” Harper said.

Several studies show the average food item travels between 1,300 and 1,500 miles before reaching a consumer’s plate.

Pam Harper, Dale’s wife, said 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 attempts to save money by using growth hormones to fatten animals quickly.

“Our meats contain no hormones and no antibiotics. The meat Penn College is getting this year is going from our farms in Bradford County to Leona Meats in Troy for packaging, then to Penn College,” Pam Harper said.

Ann Seeley, whose husband, Kim, and son Shon also raise beef for the cooperative, gave a cooking demonstration for the Food Services employees. Because grass-fed beef tends to be leaner, cooks must learn how to handle it.

“Overcooking the burger will make it tough and dry,” Seeley said. “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.”

The fat of a grass-fed burger is different from its conventional counterpart; grass-fed burgers are high in conjugated linoleic acids, or CLA, according to Pam Harper. Studies suggest CLA enhances immune function, acts as an antioxidant and may lower 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,” Pam Harper said.

Northern Tier Sustainable Meats Cooperative Inc. is a member of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, which runs a Farm to College Program designed to help farmers gain access to college dining services as a market for their farm products.

For more information about Food Services at Penn College, call (570) 327-4767, send e-mail or visit on the Web.

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