I met Mr. Mac McGee at the Palmetto Farmers Market in Williamston, near West Pelzer, a little town between South Pleasantburg Dr (the 25) and Interstate 85, toward Anderson. We discussed the benefits of grassfed beef versus conventional, how to cook grassfed beef and by mutual understanding, we agreed on my visiting his farm in the near future.
My husband tagged along; he loves his beef but he also loves the crappy, commercial beef because it’s tasty. Mr. McGee greeted us and we hopped in his pickup for a tour. Why didn’t we walk? Mr. McGee’s farm spreads over 500 acres of land. It’s massive.
As we bumped along a dirt road that separated pastures, he explained how grassfed beef is more a job of land management than tending to the cattle. It’s important not to leave the cattle on one pasture too long. Grass has to grow to a certain level before the cow starts eating. It’s a delicate balance. Grass and soil have to regenerate before the cows can return to that pasture.
Cows came running along the fences to check us out. Mr. McGee pointed to a bull. “This one is 18 years old. I don’t have the heart to send him to processing so he will die here. We are using his son and grandson for our nursery.”
Mr. McGee’s farm is vertically integrated. He has his own bulls to breed and he keeps a nursery, where cows nurse their babies for the first ten months of their lives before moving to pasture to eat grass. He looked at my husband: “That’s how we get grassfed beef with some marbling. The calves have to be with their mothers to get the fats and nutrients from the milk.”
Grassfed beef is a long term business. Before a cow is ready for market, it will take up and over 24 months.
I asked Mr. McGee how he became a grassfed beef farmer. His father was a commercial beef farmer and he insisted on his son getting an education. Mr. McGee came back home with his animal science degree and ramped up the commercial beef production of the family farm and got married soon after. His wife wouldn’t eat his beef. With a smile, Mr. McGee told me, “I was going to meetings and here is my wife, not eating our own beef. It don’t look right, honey, I told her. What would it take for you to eat our beef? She said, get rid of all those chemicals and hormones and antibiotics and I will eat beef.” Thank you, Mrs McGee.
It took Mr. McGee two years to turn the farm around. His son is also on the farm and added pastured pigs and chickens.
Carolina Grassfed Beef offers whole beef or half and there is a waiting list. Mr. McGee sells other cuts at two different farmers markets. After our visit, we bought pork ribs, eggs and chicken and Mr. McGee gave us two ribeye steaks. They were delicious, seared in butter in a cast iron pan then finished in the oven.
Getting on his waiting list will be worth the wait.
You can visit Carolina Grassfed Beef on the web and at these two Farmers Markets: Palmetto Farmers Market and Anderson Area Farm & Food Association. Or call Mr. Mac McGee at 864-844-1621 to buy directly at the farm.