Question: What is the difference between Donald's Meats, Potter beef and Buffalo Creek beef? Answer: Nothing! In a small town like ours, the same thing often goes by multiple names. We locals know what is being referred to so we don't worry about what things are called. But this can really confuse visitors.
At the Red Hen, Buffalo Creek beef in some form or other is nearly always on the menu...although sometimes it is listed as Donald's Meats...and we will refer to it as Potter beef. This is because the Potter family owns and runs Buffalo Creek beef. And eight years ago they took over the Donald's Meat Processing operation and kept the name.
If you go to Donald's Meat Processing, you will see a Potter family member at the counter and the family's beef being butchered and sold. We recently stopped by and spoke with family patriarch Charlie Potter. His great great grandfather, Isaac Potter, began farming along Buffalo Creek near Collierstown in the early 1800's. As you might imagine, Charlie knows a lot about beef. He is present at every stage of his animals' lives and eventual "harvest", as he calls it. This is practically unheard of in America today.
Most beef cattle in our country are raised on pasture and then sent to one of the giant feedlots in the Midwest where they are "finished" (fattened) on corn before they are "processed" at the slaughterhouse. These are enormous factory slaughterhouses that will handle 300-400 cattle per hour. Yes, per HOUR. Processing on this scale and at this speed is what causes much of the beef contamination in our country.
The Potters do things the old-fashioned way. First, they use no hormones or antibiotics. "Our beef is an all-natural product," says Charlie. Second, only eight to ten cattle are processed per week. Third, the meat is aged anywhere from a week to ten days in order to give it extra flavor. And, after the aging process, the beef is "broken down" (butchered) by hand. According to Charlie, cut-to-order butchering is a dying art: "They process on an assembly line in the big plants, so you don't have one person breaking down a side of beef anymore." Cut-to-order butchering allows the Potters to offer specialty cuts of meat not seen in grocery stores.
At the time of our visit, Donald's was readying hamburger patties to be delivered to the Lexington schools for "Farm to School" week. Lou Hassler, Lexington Food Service Director, holds Potter beef in high regard and wishes she could serve it more often (unfortunately, the school food budget is too tight at the moment). For Farm to School week, however, she went all out: Spaghetti with Potter beef in the sauce on Tuesday, hamburgers on Wednesday, and sloppy joe's on Thursday.
And what did the kids think of their locally-sourced burgers? Check out these smiles.