Have you heard the buzz about our newest product on the farm? It’s actually not a dairy product.
Our newest venture is in Wagyu-Holstein beef. That’s kind of a mouthful —literally!
Wagyu, a breed of Japanese beef cattle, may not be a familiar term to most people. But it’s actually the breed behind the famous Kobe beef that you see on restaurant menus.
Real Kobe beef actually comes from the Tajima bloodline of Japanese Black Wagyu cattle, and it must be raised, fed and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. Many U.S. restaurants may put “Kobe” beef on the menu, but in truth, only a handful are certified to serve it (check out this article from Business Insider for more on that topic).
Highly desirable beef
So what’s so great about it? Wagyu (pronounced “wahg-you”) is widely regarded as highly desirable beef due to:
Superior marbling, shown in raw meat as tiny white dots or a spider web of ultra-thin veins throughout the muscle, which results in tender texture
Rich, buttery flavor
Healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids — especially oleic acid, which is responsible for flavor. These monounsaturated fats have a lower melting point, below human body temperature, so they literally melt in your mouth. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Starting a Wagyu herd
Blake Hansen, Hansen’s Dairy co-owner and herd manager, first heard about Wagyu beef about four years ago from family friends in Des Moines. They were raising a few head just to feed to their own family, and one taste-test had Blake hooked.
This family raised both full-blood cows (mother and father are both Wagyu) and Jersey crossbreeds (Jersey mother and Wagyu father). That got Blake thinking about crossing Wagyus with his Holsteins and offering a very nice selection of meat to customers who already knew us by our dairy products. Blake actually preferred the taste of the crossbreed to the full-blood. Because it wasn’t as rich, he could eat more of it. 😉
The first step was finding the semen. Our dairy cows are artificially inseminated so that we don’t have to keep live bulls on the farm. This provides a lot of genetic variety without having to house and feed bulls and worry about their temper. So to have a crossbred Wagyu-Holstein, we would breed a Holstein female with Wagyu semen.
Blake discovered that Wagyu cattle are typically butchered at 27-29 months old, as they gain the most marbling after 24 months. This is in contrast to more well-known breeds of beef cattle raised in Iowa, which are usually butchered at around 14-16 months.
So this is where things got hard to predict. How much demand would there be for this new beef? When you add up the time it takes for a cow to become pregnant, carry the calf for 9 months, and then raise the calf to 28 months of age, that’s more than three years. And he had to choose how many cows to breed to this Wagyu semen, and how often, because a pregnancy is never guaranteed. In the end, he decided to aim for one or two cows to be butchered each month.
Just like our dairy cows, the Wagyu-Holsteins are raised with great care and quality feed throughout their lives. They are housed in the same pens and fed the same diet as the dairy cows. We do not use growth hormones or preventive antibiotics, and we grow the majority of their feed — corn silage and alfalfa hay silage — on our own land. The genetic traits of Wagyu cattle just naturally result in better meat quality even on the same diet as a dairy cow.
Our first Wagyu-Holstein cow went to the meat locker (we use Marks Locker in Rowley, Iowa) in August 2018. We developed a great partnership with the new restaurant Table 1912, located in the Jorgensen Plaza development of the Western Home in Cedar Falls, to feature this beef on their menu. The Western Home Communities have purchased our dairy products for almost as long as we’ve been producing them, and their restaurant concept is focused on farm-to-table fine dining. They source many of their ingredients from Iowa farmers, so they were excited to be the exclusive server of this new local beef.
We also began selling the meat cuts privately to individuals. A Waterloo Courier article about our beef garnered national attention, as it was picked up by the Associated Press and published in more than 40 newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald (Fla.), US News & World Report, Washington Times (D.C.) and Houston Chronicle (Texas). Not bad for a small-town Iowa farm.
Try some for yourself
Is your mouth watering yet? Here are some things to know when preparing it:
Small serving sizes. Wagyu is very tender and has a buttery flavor. Steak serving sizes are typically smaller because of the rich flavor profile.
Faster cooking time. Wagyu cooks faster than other beef. It is recommended that steaks are cooked to no more than medium rare for optimum palatability.
Juicy hamburger. Wagyu-Holstein beef is about 90% lean.
We sell our Wagyu-Holstein hamburger in bulk and patties at our Waterloo and Cedar Falls stores for $8/pound. We don’t sell the finer cuts of meat in our stores because of limited quantities and higher price point. If you are interested in purchasing prime cuts of our Wagyu-Holstein beef, call Blake Hansen at (319) 610-1530. As of this post, there are several cuts available, including roasts, short ribs, top sirloins, New York strips, ribeyes and filets, ranging in price from $16 to $100 per pound.
Working for a family dairy that produces, bottles, and distributes its own high-quality products (and retails other high-quality items as well) has been incredibly inspiring for someone who loves food. Day in and day out, my time spent working with and for the Hansens has given me much opportunity to consider all of the elements that prove food is one of the most important things in a human being’s life. I’ve jotted down five things that immediately came to mind.
5.) Food is essential.
Everyone eats, or should. If not … well, I‘d hate to think about it. Almost all of the nutrition the body takes in comes from food. But more than that, what we eat, and how that food is prepared, can substantially influence our mood, the health of our skin, our digestive system, and our heart’s ability to perform its all-important job. Without food, no life. And without good food, no good life.
4.) Food connects us to our region, and our world.
Every segment of these United States (and, indeed, the entire globe) carries with it some regional cuisine. Oftentimes, this cuisine is inspired by what ingredients are readily available. This unites people to their region in the most fundamental way. Whether it’s an Iowan eating an ear of sweet corn during the summer, a resident of New Mexico eating a dish spiced with heirloom green chiles, or someone in Maine enjoying fresh clams, everyone in every region has something that they associate with their geographical identity, whether they realize it or not. Even in the age of widespread global distribution of food, local abundance still characterizes a region’s style.
3.) Traditions are passed down through food.
Family’s ethnic histories are passed down through dishes that stay in the family, and the smell or flavor of a favorite traditional food ignites emotions in a way that even the arts can not. In addition, learning how to cook is often an activity shared by grandparents and parents with their children and grandchildren. And who hasn’t instantly remembered a deceased relative when they were presented with, say, a certain type of cookie, or some classic casserole. And, like the regional connection that is made by certain available ingredients, regions and neighborhoods are often defined by their particular style of cooking, uniting friends and strangers alike via shared tastes.
2.) Culture is experienced through food.
People come together over food in a way that they do no with nothing else. Dining with others offers an opportunity to share and communicate even with strangers. Food is always a staple at gatherings, reunions, athletic events, block parties, and awards ceremonies. But beyond the regional elements mentioned above, food can serve as the center of religious rituals and seasonal ceremonies, and can be the binding cement in certain urban environments where diverse residents might otherwise seem at odds with one another. Foodies flock to certain coveted spots, inspired by social media, and saveurs worldwide associate themselves with foreign friends via shared affection for certain culinary hotspots. In every tourism-heavy locale, the sale of food is an economic staple, not only because those travelers need to eat, but because these cultural hubs are in part defined by the variety of cuisine they serve.
1.) Eating involves all five senses.
My personal theory is that this is much of why we have such an emotional connection to food — it’s a wam-bam, all-inclusive sort ofthing.
Visually, a chef takes great pains to make sure that an entrée has been properly “plated,” and this arrangement on the plate can sometimes seem like a variety of sculpture. When summer vegetables are in season, a full palette of vivid color can be seen across a table. (And rich, deep, or bright colors are often indicators of a food’s nutritional content.)
People may like or dislike something based on texture alone. When something is browned on top, it means not only a bit of color, but also a crunchy texture. Creaminess, chewiness, toughness, softness … these things can make or break a meal, and a lack of attention to them might prove a poor cook’s lack of technique.
Aroma triggers immediate memories, instantaneous transport to Grandma’s house or the grade-school cafeteria. But it can also whet the appetite of someone not all that hungry before sitting down at the restaurant and smelling the light smoke wafting off the grill. Maybe I will have something after all.
Meanwhile, sizzles and crunches are omnipresent amongst culinary experiences. And in the preparation and serving of food, there are clangs and clatters of knives, skillets, spatulas, and plates, and the bubbling of beverages being poured into glasses. Add some laughter and chatter, cue a little music (preferably live) and voilà! You’re on your way to a very memorable experience.
Flavor might seem to go without saying, but its connection to mouth-feel, aroma, and the visual and auditory sensations we’ve been discussing makes taste perhaps the most important element of all. Like the five senses, the five major flavors (sweetness, sourness, saltiness, savoriness, and bitterness) span a gamut of psychological possibilities. And the very word “taste” indicates whether or not we might value a certain person’s opinion — do they have it? Have they been paying attention?
Every day, I get to see all of these elements at play in the world of the family dairy, and amidst Iowa’s agriculturally-driven culture. What could be more exciting? If this piece has your taste buds’ attentions piqued, stop by one of our retail stores or consider taking one of our farm tours. Additionally, consider eating at one of the many restaurants that boast an attitude of “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” or just get out and attend a summer barbecue or church potluck. Or heck, just treat a friend or family member to dinner — homemade or restaurant procured. There’s an inspiring life of food surrounding us, and amidst it an infinity of blessings.
In honor of Dairy Month, we decided to show you a few of our favorite easy to make dairy snacks!
Smoothies: A great way to beat that nasty Iowa heat. Combine yogurt, milk, ice cubes and your favorite fruits and blend to make a tasty, refreshing treat! For an extra-thick smoothie with added calcium, include a spoonful of milk powder. For addition protein, toss in a spoonful of peanut butter with a banana and vanilla yogurt – yum yum!
Ice Pops: A great snack for kids on the go! Mix leftover smoothies from the above recipe or 100% fruit juice, yogurt and fruit like raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. Pour into ice cube trays and pop in the freezer for a sweet, frozen snack!
Parfaits: Parfaits are easily made by layering yogurt, fresh fruit and granola or chopped nuts. Looking for something a little different? Use cottage cheese in place of the yogurt! (photo from blueprintforbeauty.com)
Mini Pizzas: A tasty, filling snack. Simply spread pizza sauce onto a whole grain English muffin and top with a small handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. For a heartier pizza, add lean hamburger, Canadian bacon and green peppers or mushrooms. Pop it in the oven for 3-5 minutes and enjoy your yummy, cheesy snack!
Fruit Pinwheels: Spread cream cheese and/or protein-packed peanut butter onto soft, whole grain tortillas. Add small pieces of fresh fruit, then roll and slice.
Quesadillas: Pack whole grain tortillas with shredded cheese, beans, corn, tomatoes and onions. You can also add cooked, cubed beef, pork or chicken. Heat in the microwave until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa. (photo from babble.com)
Fruit Kebabs: Layer fruits like berries, melon and pineapple on a kebab stick. Serve with yogurt or a dip such as softened cream cheese with a touch of drizzled honey and a drop of vanilla.
Whole Grain Waffle Sticks: Transform messy whole grain waffles into an easy-to-eat handheld snack by slicing them into small rectangles. Serve with softened cream cheese and fruit spread.
For additional recipes and to learn more about dairy foods, dairy farms and healthy eating, check out these websites:
Leave your favorite dairy recipes in the comments below!
Making butter is a fun, easy experiment — it’s educational and delicious. Try this at home with your kids. No old-fashioned butter churn required!
This activity will yield just enough butter for a single piece of bread or several crackers. For larger amounts of butter, use more heavy whipping cream and a mixer to thicken the cream. As a bonus, you can also make your own buttermilk by following these directions.
To start, purchase a quart of heavy whipping cream from Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the heavy whipping cream into a small sealable container (preferably glass, like a baby food jar).
Seal the container and shake it vigorously for 3-5 minutes. The cream will start sticking to the sides, but you’re not done yet. Suddenly, a chunk of light, fluffy butter will clearly separate from the watery buttermilk and you’ll be able to hear it start slapping around in the jar. Once you hit this point, it’s important to stop shaking the jar (don’t over shake). The cream turns to butter because of the agitation and the warmth of your hands.
The butter isn’t ready to eat quite yet. Drain the buttermilk (the excess liquid) from your container. Next, spoon up the butter left in your container and dip it into cool water to rinse the remaining buttermilk from the butter.
When the excess water is gone from the butter, sprinkle on a small amount of salt, or even some fresh herbs, and spread it onto your bread or crackers. Enjoy your homemade butter!
To store leftovers, put the butter in a sealable container and refrigerate it.
This Saturday Eric and I packed up the Hansen’s Suburban and drove out Highway 20 to Independence. We were heading to the Independence Farmer’s Market. Our morning started early – the market starts at 8 am every Saturday and we needed to be there early to get a good spot. Eric set up shop to sell milk, cheese curds, and other products as a vendor in the market.
I, on the other hand, set up shop to do a cooking demonstration! It was a brand-new experience for me, and I was a little anxious, but I had the best time. Joe Olsen, the Market Master, brought his grill, supplies, and delicious tomatoes, basil, peppers, onions, and even a watermelon from his own garden and the Independence school garden. Then we loaded up on veggies, bread, herbs, and even maple syrup from some of the vendors at the market.
I got started right away and whipped up a watermelon and tomato salad while Joe started the coals. I wasn’t sure how the salad would go over with the Market visitors – but everyone loved it! The mix of sweet and tart flavors really went well together (we’ll get a pdf of the recipe up online real soon – stay tuned!).
We were given a couple of loaves of bread by a vendor – a sun-dried tomato ciabatta and a pepperoni pizza loaf. We sliced the bread and grilled the slices to toast them lightly. Then I put together a roasted red pepper bruschetta to serve on the toast. It was a hit!
We grilled zucchini and eggplant slices, too. Toward the end of the grilling we melted Hansen’s cheese curds on the slices – double yum! Also a hit – grilled apple slices and grilled winter squash slices drizzled with maple syrup right before serving.
Joe and I had fun being creative and experimenting with whatever we could get our hands on. I think what made the morning a success was that we weren’t afraid to burn things or try something new. Cooking with veggies really is just a matter of throwing things that you like together and seeing how it all turns out. We’ve put together a little inspiration for you as you think about grilling veggies. I’ll get a link up real soon for that guide.
I’m staring out my kitchen window at a horrifying sight. My outdoor thermometer is telling me it’s 100 degrees out there. The water sitting on the table next to me is just not going to cut it. This is the kind of day that demands a milkshake. We deserve it! Here are some ideas to get you started. Pick up some Hansen’s ice cream at the Outlet or Moo Roo and laugh at the heat from the comfort of your A/C.
Chocolate ice cream (1/2 pint) with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup peanut butter
Chocolate and coffee ice cream (1 cup each) with 2 Tbs milk and 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Classic strawberry: 1 pint strawberry ice cream, 1/4 cup milk, and 1 cup strawberries
Marshmallow: Broil 8 big marshmallows on foil until browned and blend with 1 pint vanilla ice cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and a tiny pinch of salt
Chocolate ice cream (1 pint) with 2 bananas and 1/4 cup milk
Chocolate or strawberry ice cream (1 pint) with 8 Oreos (or more) and 1/4 cup milk
Chocolate or vanilla ice cream (1 pint) with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup Nutella
Compiled by Disa, who is much more comfortable now that she’s eating ice cream.
Looking to spice up snack time this summer? Here’s a tasty frozen treat that’s guaranteed to keep you cool and satisfy that sweet tooth!
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Squares
Prep Time: 10 minutes
1 can (14 oz) fat-free sweetened condensed milk, divided
Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup Post Grape-Nuts or similar cereal
Pinch ground cloves
1 package (10 oz) frozen strawberries (about 2 ½ cups)
3 cups Country View Dairy 1% Strawberry Yogurt (available in multiple sizes at our stores)
Measure 1 cup of sweetened condensed milk; set aside. Line 8 x 8 inch baking pan with foil; spray with non-stick cooking spray. In medium bowl, combine cereal, cinnamon, cloves and remainder of sweetened condensed milk. Spread cereal mixture evenly on bottom of pan; place in freezer.
Place strawberries and yogurt in a blender; cover and blend. Add 1 cup sweetened condensed milk; blend until smooth. Pour mixture over cereal, smoothing to edges of pan. Cover with foil (or plastic wrap) and freeze 8 hours or until firm.
Use edges of foil to loosen and remove from pan; let that for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Tip: Squares may be individually wrapped and stored in freezer for single serving.
Kale is plentiful at the market by now. This salad is a really nice way to use it – sweet and salty all at once. Stop by one of the Hansen’s retail stores in Cedar Falls or Waterloo to get delicious olive oil and blue cheese.
Raw Kale Salad
1 bunch kale
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup dried cranberries/craisins (or cherries would be delicious too)
3/4 cup small-diced apple
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (or walnuts, pecans, or sliced almonds)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
Wash the kale and pat it dry. Remove the tough stalks so just the leaves remain. Stack the kale leaves two or three at a time, roll them up, and slice the leaves into ribbons (1/4 to 1/2 inch).
Place the kale ribbons in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle on the salt and massage it into the kale with your fingers for two minutes. You’ll notice the kale start to turn a darker green and the texture of the kale will begin to soften a bit.
Toss in the red onions, craisins, apples, and sunflower seeds. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar. Pour over the salad and toss. Sprinkle cheese over the top and serve.