On the meat map

Meat men: Alan Lang and Clint and Thomas Shepherd are putting North Carolina veal on the map. Photo courtesy of ASAP
Meat men: Alan Lang and Clint and Thomas Shepherd are putting North Carolina veal on the map. Photo courtesy of ASAP

Though the next growing season may seem far away, our area is still turning out plenty of local goods. Top on the list is local meat, the focus of ASAP’s December Get Local initiative, a project that puts the spotlight on an different seasonal and local product every month.

In the past year, our local-meat landscape has gone through a number of big changes. One of the most notable is the availability of veal and the quiet effort to change people’s notions of what producing it entails. Alan Lang and Clint and Thomas Shepherd, who own and operate Headwaters Cattle Farm and Headwaters of Poverty Farm, respectively, are the only local producers selling veal directly to area retailers. They sold their first product to a regional chef this January, and have since been selling to several other Appalachian Grown partner restaurants. Local meat retailer, The Chop Shop Butchery, has also started carrying Headwaters’ veal (read more about the Chop Shop in the sidebar).

Alan Lang (Uncle Alan to brothers Clint and Thomas) has raised cattle on the family’s 300-acre Barnardsville farm since the 1970s. Then-teenagers Clint and Thomas helped their uncle with feeding, vaccinations and other farm chores. About two years ago, in response to area chefs’ ever-growing demand for local food, Clint and Thomas borrowed on that farming experience and started their own enterprise. The duo now raise chickens and ducks for eggs and meat as well as Cornish game hens, heritage turkeys and other poultry at Headwaters of Poverty Farm, named for its location at the source of Poverty Branch waterway.

At the same time, they began thinking of ways Uncle Alan could expand his cattle operation into other areas of revenue. They’ve helped to make local veal become a reality in our region and continue to work for their uncle by handling marketing and delivery of the product — a product different than what may come to mind when you first hear the term “veal.”

“We refer to our veal as ‘French beef’ because of the breed’s origin and because of how they are raised,” says Lang. The breed he’s referring to is Limousin, a nearly 1,000 year-old French breed known for lean, high-quality meat. The cattle are raised according to a strict set of agricultural standards and quality requirements; Headwaters’ herd is raised without hormones, growth stimulants or antibiotics. The young Limousin run freely with the herd and grow fed on cow’s milk, mountain pastures and spring-fed water.

These standards appeal to downtown restaurant Table’s owner Jacob Sessoms, who goes out of his way to purchase pasture-raised, not caged, veal. Until recently, that veal had to travel a great distance from a cooperative in Canada. Sessoms is delighted to have a local source, he says. “Offering local veal follows our food philosophy much more closely,” he says. When available from Headwaters, he and his team purchase a half animal, break it down and use nearly every bit. Veal dishes may include steaks or braised short ribs. The chefs have grilled heart — which is surprisingly mild and tender — and served it up with house-made kimchi and Asian pears. They’ve even made veal hot dogs.

The chefs of The Admiral in West Asheville have also gotten creative with Headwaters’ local veal this year, taking a global approach. They’ve created a veal Milanese, a traditional Italian breaded meat dish; a veal schnitzel with spaetzle, a traditional Austrian breaded meat dish; and spiced it up with Mexican flavors and garnishes like avocado.

Lang and the Shepherd brothers plan to continue offering veal to area restaurants this winter, as well as to the Chop Shop. Both Table and the Admiral expect to incorporate the veal into their menus through the cooler months. (Because both restaurants’ menus change daily, they were not sure as of press time when or in what preparation.)

Of course, area Appalachian Grown partner restaurants will be serving up many other types of local meat this month, too. Look for everything from local pork to chicken and rabbit to lamb.

Where can you find local veal?

Dining out:

This year, in addition to Table and the Admiral, Headwaters Cattle Farm has offered veal to chefs at Bouchon, Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana, Cucina 24, the Market Place, Fig Bistro and Posana Café, as well as to Miller Union in Atlanta, Ga. Keep an eye on the constantly changing menus of these local food-supporting restaurants.
Dining in:

You can purchase Headwaters’ veal at The Chop Shop Butchery, Asheville’s first whole-animal butcher shop, which carries almost all local, Appalachian Grown-certified meats from farms committed to sustainable, humane and all-natural practices. The shop, which opened this fall, represents another big change on the local-meat landscape. There, you can find products from Apple Brandy Beef, Three Arrows Farm and Cattle Company, Foothills Family Farms, Bluebird Farm, Which Came First Farm, Busy Bee Farms and East Fork Farm.

Also find Headwaters’ duck eggs by the half-dozen at The Chop Shop, as well as the French Broad Food Co-op and Creperie Bouchon.

For more information about Headwaters Cattle Farm and Headwaters of Poverty Farm, including the meat and egg CSA the farms offer, visit their listing in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at buyappalachian.org. Thomas can be reached at 626-2795 or headwaters@tds.net. Also find Table, the Admiral and other Appalachian Grown restaurants in the online Local Food Guide. And, browse a list of restaurants spotlighting local farm-raised meats this month on the Get Local page of asapconnections.org.

— Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (asapconnections.org). Contact her at maggie@asapconnections.org.

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