Kaua‘i-raised Gourmet Beef

Sharleen AndradeBalmores sells gourmet cuts of dry-aged, grass-fed beef under the brand The Rancher’s Daughter Reserve. Balmores is the daughter of Manuel H. Andrade Sr., whose family has been ranching on Kaua’i for five generations.

Andrade’s cattle graze on 500 acres and are rotated monthly on pastures in Omao, Po’ipu and Wailua. Approximately 200 head of Hereford, and black and red Angus are grass-fed and antibiotic-free. The Andrade family also maintains a slaughterhouse in Kalaheo, where they process beef for a number of Kaua’i ranchers.

“We are asking local ranchers to hold back some of their animals,” says Manuel of the cattlemen who earn more money by shipping live cattle to the Mainland. “As long as they abide by our standards, we can sell them.”

Every week, Balmores picks the best animal from her father’s herd, or those reserved from local ranchers, and dry-ages it for a minimum of 21 days. On Wednesday morning, her butcher processes the whole carcass and vacuum-seals gourmet cuts of beef for the market that afternoon. Market cuts include filet mignon, ribeye (boneless and bone-in), top sirloin, tri-tip, N.Y. strip, London broil, Hawaiian Steak and steer-burger.

“Normally, hamburger is made from 15-year-old cows that are too old to make babies, because they don’t make a nice steak,” says Balmores. “I call mine steer-burger because it comes from nice market steers that are no more than 24 months old.”

HAWAIIAN STEAK

“I call it Hawaiian Steak because in Hawaii, it’s really popular with teriyaki,” says Balmores of her sliced round steak, which can be used in stir-fries, fajitas and tacos, marinated and used to make jerky, or layered on skewers with fresh pineapple and grilled.

Cuts of beef from the round or hind leg section are less tender than the loin, sirloin or rib, but for many steak lovers, they offer the best combination of texture and flavor.

Round cuts include top round, bottom round, round tip, rump steak and eye of the round.

“Most people don’t like the round because it’s tough, but since I dry-age mine, it’s tender,” explains Balmores. “I’m doing gourmet cuts of beef at the gourmet farmers market for people who appreciate quality and want something nice, clean and totally natural.

“On the Mainland (in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs), cows are slaughtered after 13 months,” says Balmores, whose father slaughters cattle at 24 months.

“They feed them corn and cattle byproducts. That’s how they get mad cow disease, and they get E. coli from living in the feedlots. In big slaughterhouses, they can’t clean the carcasses well because they process so many. That’s how the diseases spread to humans.”

CAFOs use GMO corn to fatten up cattle and give marbling to the meat.

Since grass is a natural diet for cows, the corn gives them ulcers. This is one reason why cattle are given antibiotics and are slaughtered at a young age. CAFOs (also known as factory farms or feed-lots) house hundreds or thousands of animals in one concentrated location, creating sweeping and devastating impacts throughout natural and human environments, polluting soil, air and water.

“It’s unfortunate, but these days one should ask where their food is coming from and what is being added to it,” Balmores notes. “I’ve seen firsthand what good-quality beef looks like. I am convinced that it’s a combination of what the cows eat, their genetics and how well they are cared for.

“It’s been said, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,'” she continues. “Twice a week at 2 a.m., I meet my 82-year-old grand-uncle Charlie Vidinha, and first cousins Koni Silva, Kevin Blackstad and Kyle Blackstad, to run our 85-year-old family meat plant.

“We have benefited from our inheritance and are charged as curators of this privilege for those who succeed us, and as a means of continuing our legacy and paying homage to those who came before us. We are the heirs of those pioneers and are now the caretakers of our culture. We have the responsibility of preserving the tradition of cowboy: ranching, making animals ready for meat and serving our community.”

These days, wild cattle still live in the mountains, but on the Andrade ranch they are as tame as can be. “They hear my dad’s truck and come running to greet him,” says Balmores. “I believe that raising these animals in such a way not only produces delicious beef, but it also is the right thing to do.

“My mission is to make available fresh, clean, healthy beef that comes straight from cattlemen who really care about their animals. I know where the beef is. I just so happen to be a rancher’s daughter. I was raised on good values, to give thanks and to respect these animals, because they are our food.”

The Rancher’s Daughter Reserve dry-aged beef can be found at: Kaua’i Culinary Market at the Shops at Kukui’ula (Wednesday, 4-6 p.m.) For ordering information, call 212-8118 or email sharstar@hotmail.com.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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