In the Kitchen

Discovering the Terroir of Acabonac Farms Beef

Discovering the Terroir of Acabonac Farms Beef

Discovering the Terroir of Acabonac Farms Beef

Long Island has distinguished itself as a producer of world-class wines. If the collective conditions under which grape vines grow define the contents of the bottle, then why not the same with other local products?

Long Island’s prized agricultural soils have distinguished Suffolk County as a leader in New York state agricultural sales. The same soils that yield beautiful grapes for wine also generate grass for our cattle. As the region’s soil affects grapes to define wine terroir, that same soil affects grass to define beef terroir.

We at Acabonac Farms believe that these prized regional flavors are not limited to wine and our beef has its own unique sense of terroir.

Terroir in food is not a new concept. For those unfamiliar with the term, terroir describes how a specific region's climate, soil and terrain affect taste.

For example, the distinct flavor of jamón ibérico comes from the diet of foraged chestnuts the Black Iberian pigs eat in Spain and Portugal. In another example, agneau de prè-sale or “pre-salted” salt marsh lambs graze on the coastal estuary marshes in Normandy.

So, what is it about the Acabonac Farms approach to ranching that contributes to the subtle undertones of flavor and texture in our beef terroir? The answer is in how our beef are grazing specifically on the East End. Our beef is soil and climate specific, environmentally specific and culturally specific.

Grass Specific

None have stated as eloquently as author Michael Pollan that “you are what you eat eats.” Our cattle eat a 100 percent grass diet their whole lives. They are finished on local pastures grown specifically to promote healthy and profitable weight gain and taste preference for our cattle.

Finishing is where all the distinct flavor comes in, so that’s why you can taste our local ecosystem in every bite of our beef. Giving an animal feed specifically manufactured for the purpose of being digested quickly (such as grain) yields a very different product than that produced by the natural method of grass fermentation that takes place in a cow’s unique ruminant digestive system.

Studies have even shown that there are chemical factors like pht-2-ene, a byproduct of chlorophyll breakdown, that contribute to the distinct flavor composition of grass-fed beef.[1]

Soil And Climate Specific

Our cattle roam freely on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean, grazing pastures specifically planted to thrive in our salt-infused air and sandy loam soils. Ironically, these same soils favor the production of cabernet franc and merlot, two varieties of wine that pair exceptionally well with our beef. Coincidence or place-specific?

Environmentally Specific

Our animal-handling practices make for happy, stress-free cattle. Stress inhibits weight gain and finishing, thus our quest for gustatory pleasure is directly dependent upon the happiness of our cattle, not the other way around.

Reducing production-based stress on cattle has been shown to improve flavor desirability. Physical, emotional and environmental stress affects the pH of the cattle’s muscles, which has been linked directly to palatability characteristics.[2]

Trust is at the foundation of our farming practices. You can taste this trust and humane animal husbandry in every bite of our beef.

Culturally Specific

Do you know how much cultural practices tie into the flavor of regional products? Leaders in some areas of the world understand this well. The Italian government, for example, has instituted regulated standards to preserve the regionally specific production methods that distinguish products like Chianti wine. Something as sacred and social as a recipe is now safeguarded by the government.

The anonymity our modern industrial system has imposed on beef erases the rich historical legacy this country’s animal husbandry business was built upon. Native Americans of the Great Plains trailed bison herds long before Texan cowboys began ranching in the 1800s.[3]

But few Long Islanders are aware this historical legacy of ranching extended far beyond the southern borders of Texas all the way to the East End. Locals have been ranching in Montauk for over 350 years. Acabonac, derived from a Native American word meaning “root,” celebrates the sustainable farming practices of the past while growing new agricultural roots here on Long Island. We seek to rediscover these ranching roots by honoring tradition and sense of place through the homage we pay in our farming practices.

We at Acabonac Farms think the environmental and cultural identity of Long Island is unavoidably captured in the flavor of our beef. We encourage our eaters to eat slowly, celebrating the nuances of steak hand-selected for each box. We think our beef’s unique terroir adds an extra sensory experience that cannot be replicated anywhere but the East End.

[1] Daley, Cynthia A et al. “A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Beef.” Nutrition Journal 9 (2010): 10. PMC. Web. 5 Jan. 2018.

[2] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9ad6/466fa154890e452b3ae6efcde2eade74defd.pdf

[3] Schatzker, Mark. STEAK: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef. THE PENGUIN HOUSE, 2010.

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