Finger Lakes Beef—It’s what’s for dinner

John Christensen
Branchport area beef producer John Kriese shows culinary students a sample of semen during their tour of his farm.

The New York Beef Council enticed five culinary schools from across New York State to experience a two-day “Farm to Fork”  Beef Tour and Cooking Competition here in the Finger Lakes April 11 and 12. This event was made possible through continued support and funding from the South Dakota Beef Council.

Five culinary schools, SUNY Cobleskill, Erie Community College, SUNY Sullivan, Monroe Community College, and Finger Lakes Community College toured Spring Pond Farm in Branchport, and Wilson Beef Farm in Canaseraga. 

The first day, culinary students and their instructors toured Spring Pond Farm, owned and operated by John and Anita Kriese. Students had the opportunity to tour all aspects of the farm, learning about the uses of different breeds, particularly the Red Angus and Herefords the Krieses specialize in. The students, many of whom had never even seen a cow in such close quarters, were exposed to the realities of genetics-based breeding choices, artificial insemination, animal care and handling, feeding practices, manure and pasture management, and all aspects of the beef life cycle including birth to finishing to slaughter. 

John explained the extensive amount of data and decision-making that goes into raising high quality and efficient beef cattle. He also noted the benefits of vaccination in preventing diseases and the proper uses for antibiotics, being sure to dispel some widely circulated myths about their use in the beef industry.

The culinary students then toured Wilson Beef Farm, processing facility, and market, where they were shown how beef is graded and packaged. Students also had the opportunity to learn more about the aging process, value added beef products, and beef marketing. 

On day two, students learned some basics of food photography from Jessy, social influencer and creative genius behind the blog, “The Life Jolie.” Students learned quick and dirty tips when it comes to lighting, props, and cropping. They were even challenged to create their own roast beef sandwich and to capture their best photo using Jessy’s tips. Social media is a useful tool when it comes to food and restaurant marketing and photo worthy food is of an increasing importance to consumers. 

In the afternoon, all five schools took part in a culinary cook-off held at N.Y. Kitchen in Canandaigua, with John Kriese and Mike Baker, Beef Cattle Specialist at Cornell University, as two of the four judges. Students were challenged with the 112a Rib Subprimal in an effort to increase the their knowledge of different cuts and prove the increased value, of the Rib Subprimal, for restaurant owners. When asked how the competition made them think differently about beef on a menu one student noted, “It helped me realize the versatility of beef. It is much more than burgers and steaks.” 

The winner of the Culinary Competition was SUNY Cobleskill whose team, led by Chef Instructor Michael Lapi, consisted of Brianna Zabrisky and Chris Merandi. The team used the beef rib in two ways, as an appetizer and entrée. The appetizer, Beef Tataki, consisted of ponzu marinated beef, served with orange segments, fresh chilis, radish and scallions. SUNY Cobleskill’s main entrée was a pan roasted ribeye atop vegetable ragu, served with a side of shoestring fries. Each winning student was awarded a $500 scholarship. 

“This event plays an important role in providing some of the top future culinarians from across the state with the opportunity to learn more about beef from pasture to plate,” explained Katherine Brosnan, New York Beef Council Director of Industry Relations & Consumer Promotions. “Throughout the two days, students learned not only about the production of beef, but also the creative and diverse ways beef can be utilized.”

The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval. Consumer-focused and producer-directed, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and its state beef council partners are the marketing organization for the largest segment of the food and fiber industry.