Kim Destino’s children are allergic to corn and corn products. That means no corn-fed beef, chicken or pork. Even if Destino can find protein that is labeled corn free, she must ask detailed questions to make sure that no corn or corn by-product makes its way into her children’s diet.
In the case of beef, she asks not only about what the cattle are fed but what supplements are used – including vitamins and minerals – and how the beef is processed. Even cryovac packaging can be suspect, because some processors use packaging materials that are dusted with cornstarch.
Through an online allergy support group, Destino searched for grass-fed beef and found West Ridge Farm in Little Mountain.
West Ridge is owned and run by John and Adam Frick. This father-and-son team have come back to the land after divergent careers: Adam was a chemist, and his father John retired as an engineer at nearby VC Summer Nuclear plant.
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“Adam let us try a roast to start, to make sure the children didn’t react to the beef,” said Destino. It all worked out and she and her family have been buying beef from the Fricks for about three years now, making the drive from Charlotte to Little Mountain to purchase a half-cow at a time.
Where it all began
In 1982, John Frick bought the land where today the cows graze, raised for commercial beef production.
“The soils here weren’t very fertile to start with (for crop farming) and then on top of that, it was a cotton farm and that really depleted the nutrients,” John Frick said.
“When people couldn’t raise enough crops to feed their families, they planted pine for timber,” Adam Frick said. Then the timber took over. Clearing the hilly acreage for pasture made sense to John.
“We’re really grass farmers,” John Frick said. “We have a close connection to the land.”
The farm land has been in the family since King George II of England issued a land grant to Frick relatives back in the 1700s. A Civil War-era cemetery on one of the ridges is the final resting place of family members.
In 2006, the Fricks debuted their beef at the Saluda Farmers Market; in 2010, after listening to customers and factoring in the soaring price of corn, the Fricks went exclusively to a smaller grass-fed cattle herd and eliminated commercial cow production at West Ridge Farm.
The change in feed meant the make-up of the herd had to change, as some cattle breeds are not suited to an exclusively grass-fed diet.
The Fricks brought in Red Angus bulls to mix with existing Charolais, Limousin and Simmental cows. The men chose the Red Angus, because the English breed does well on a diet of native grasses and has a high fat count for better marbled meat. Although the Red Angus/Charolais cross doesn’t grow as fast and the animal’s frame is smaller, John Frick said every pound you add on is more valuable because of marbling.
The Fricks constantly monitor the pH balance of the soil to help ensure a healthy grass mixture that will lead to a better-tasting product. The cattle is fed on a mix of rye grass, clover and vetch, a legume that is high in protein. The Fricks dry and bale the vetch in the field.
“The cows love it,” Adam Frick said. “When it’s unrolled, it smells like molasses.”
In the winter, the herd’s diet is supplemented with pellets that are “a mix of soybean hulls, citrus pulp, whole cottonseed, cottonseed meal and some peanut byproducts (basically what doesn’t go into your peanut butter),” Adam Frick said. “Our goal is not to compete with humans or other animals for a food source and utilize the cows’ long digestive tract to their advantage to digest fiber. We use a range of products because the availability changes due to the season, as well as the nutritional needs of our cattle.”
West Ridge Farm cattle are raised without steroids, hormones or antibiotics. The steers, weighing between 1,200 pounds to 1,400 pounds, go to market between 18-24 months when the meat is tender and flavorful.
In 2013, West Ridge Farm produced its first group of animals that had been grass-fed from birth to slaughter.
Looking forward in 2016, the Fricks plan to market their beef at Ole Timey Meats locations, at 3718 Rosewood Drive, 10181 Two Notch Road, and at 405 Rutledge St. in Camden. They also hope to add some cooked products to the line that include Texas BBQ smoked brisket, hash, jerky and sausages that will be available for sale at the West Ridge Farms website, along with the featured beef bundles and half and whole steers.
West Ridge Farms
What: Grass fed beef, available in bundles or portions of steer for purchase
Where: 2311 Old Dutch Road, Little Mountain
2016 Grassfed Exchange Conference
A weekend exchange of information and networking opportunities for producers, processors, distributors and consumers, anyone interested in grassland farming and ranching. Organizers will offer suggestions on incorporating grass fed meat into the diet, lead a farm tour, present talks on soil health and foraging, and a Thursday night social/tasting event featuring pitmaster Myron Mixson.
When: April 27-29
Where: Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, Perry, Georgia