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.
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.
CareerCast.com recently posted their annual listing for the 200 Worst Jobs in America for 2013. The rankings were based on five factors: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. “Dairy farmer” was listed as No. 6. So what do the farmers at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy have to say about that?
“If everyone loved their job as much as dairy farmers, there wouldn’t be such a list,” says Blake Hansen, herd manager.
Indeed. Working with cows can be very satisfying and rewarding, and a dairy farmer has to be completely committed to his craft in order to be successful. Like other self-employed people, their whole life revolves around their business. They do what they love to provide a nutritious food group to feed America. Their livelihood relies on those animals staying alive and healthy for years. If a farmer takes proactive steps to maintain the health of his cows, he maximizes his chances of success. If he takes care of the cows, they will take care of him.
Let’s address the factors that went into creating this worst job list.
Physical demands. Dairy farmers milk their cows at least twice a day, feed them three times a day, and care for them around the clock. They deal with inclement weather, delivering calves, heavy lifting and being on their feet all day. But Blake says the physical demands are nothing compared to the mental effort. Keeping track of the needs of 375 animals in different life stages is mentally taxing.
Work environment. OK, sometimes the smell is a little overwhelming. (You get used to it.) But who wouldn’t love the wide open spaces a farm provides? The steady supply of milk right outside your door? The opportunities for your kids to learn the value of family and hard work? Our small-scale farm (375 cows from newborn to 10 years old) allows us to get to know each cow by name and temperament. Blake knows who likes to be first in the milking parlor, who loves her tail rubbed and who is ready to calve. Imagine working with a group of girls with very unique, individual personalities, and not a catty one in the bunch!
Income. We’ll agree with this one. Many small dairy farms have had to sell out because of high input costs (feed and fuel) and low income (market prices for the milk). Twelve years ago our family took a financial risk by investing in facilities and equipment to bottle our own milk, and it has paid off in a big way. But we know it would be much harder for single-family farmers to put in that kind of time, money and effort. We are grateful to be able to support five families with the size farm we have.
Stress. Every job has its ups and downs. The death of an adult cow who you saw being born, trying to get fieldwork done ahead of the rain, working side by side with family members, and managing employees can all be stressful. There’s very little vacation time. But there is nothing like the feeling of seeing a cow nursing her newborn calf that you helped deliver overnight. The life cycle is renewed, and it’s wonderful to think about that calf’s potential down the road. Our oldest cow has produced enough milk in her lifetime to fill four semi-trailers. And she’s still going.
Hiring outlook. Land prices around here have skyrocketed, so if you don’t already have a farm in the family that will be passed down to you, getting into the business by yourself is financially tough. And with large operations streamlining milk production, jobs are harder to come by. But hey, if any of you are looking for a job in the dairy industry, we usually have something available!
So, we would argue with dairy farming’s placement on the worst jobs list. The proof is bottled in a jug on your table with our name on it.
You may have noticed a new product in the Hansen’s stores recently…or perhaps a new aroma – coffee! We are now carrying coffee from Sidecar Coffee Roasters, a new and very local business in Cedar Falls. We’ve had a lot of questions about the new coffee, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about Sidecar and the man behind the whole operation. This is the first in a series of features that we will post on the product lines we carry at Hansen’s stores. Aaron McNally, local poet, writer, grad student, and Moo Roo employee, wrote this feature on Sidecar.
When Jed Vander Zanden sets out to roast a batch of coffee beans, he has a lot on his mind.
“Every time you get a different coffee you have to figure out how to develop it,” he explains. “The longer you roast it, you gain some things and you lose some things. It’s a matter of finding the balance of time and air and heat to really get it where you actually nail it. You go way too dark, you get that carbony bitter dirt flavor. If you don’t go dark enough, it’s equally bad.”
The Ethiopian bean he’s working with today “is a wild coffee, it’s funky. It’s really good. I’ve been trying to figure out how to roast it now for it seems like forever. It’s been fun—it’s a real challenge. I’ve gotten to where I actually think it tastes good, it’s just this never-ending pursuit of making it better.” What are his goals for this particular bean? “I just wanna see if I can tweak the profile a little bit. Maybe stretch it out a little longer or speed it up. see if I can get a little more balance, a little more body, a little more sweetness. Which is a little harder in a really dark roast.”
Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers.
Jed prides himself on controlling every element of his roasting process, from selecting the perfect beans to making sure he has the freshest coffee on the shelf. This is something that only a local, small roaster can do to perfection. In a larger operation, “the level of precision that they achieve is not anything like this,” he says. “I can adjust and modify the profile within ten to twenty seconds, just by controlling the air and temperature. The amount of variability I can create with this type of roaster is just entirely different.”
In addition, Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers. With larger operations, “we’re talking about millions of pounds a day being roasted. Then it goes to a warehouse. Then it goes to a distribution center. Then it goes to a secondary place before making it to the shelf. Who knows? It could be three months, it could be nine months old. Coffee is perishable, like anything. The flavor compounds, the essential oils, they all dissipate, they go rancid.”
Jed says that the “sweet spot” for coffee freshness is about one to three weeks. Every bag that he has on display at Hansen’s is stamped with the roast date, so that our customers can determine for themselves whether the product is fresh enough for their liking.
“People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s.”
Beyond that guarantee of freshness, Jed is also very excited to be selling at Hansen’s Outlet and MooRoo stores for other reasons. He says that Hansen’s customers are the perfect customers for his coffee: “People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s. Really good milk, cheese, eggs, butter—all those things. Everything Hansen’s provides is stuff that I want to buy. Every week, for my shopping, I have my Hansen’s list. There isn’t a better place for this coffee than Hansen’s.”
In particular, Jed is a fan of Hansen’s whole milk, and prefers it to Half & Half in his coffee. “The milk makes this coffee taste so good. It adds a whole depth of sweetness. I always think that the fat content of Half & Half kind of coats the roof of your mouth, limiting the palate. But the whole milk seems to mix in perfectly.”
Vander Zanden moved to Cedar Falls with his wife, a professor at UNI, two years ago. He has lived in Indiana, Colorado, and D.C., though he grew up here in the Midwest—in Wisconsin. He’s very excited to be in an area where local businesses seem to be popping up and thriving. His coffee business seems to be doing very well here. “I’m loving that it’s growing organically, slowly and steadily, by word of mouth,” he explains.
Come meet Jed on March 16th at Hansen’s Moo Roo location. He’ll be performing a tasting from 1-3 p.m., and will be happy to answer any questions and explain more about his roasting process.