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Following the beef to your backyard grill

July 4 rates second in beef burger consumption

By Carol Sones Shelter - | Jun 29, 2021

photo provided Buying local with emphases on fresh healthy food, Tracy Clayton of Kathy’s Cafe in Hughesville supports area beef producer, Misty Mountain Farms of Trout Run.

Ordering a beef-burger, whether at a restaurant or calling out your preferred preparation to the family grill-master, how aware are consumers as to time taken to provide one of American’s favorite foods?

For those who have never been connected to cattle raising, the first glimmer of thought from where burger’s come may have been noticing cattle trailers on local roads, transporting auctioned animals to the Cargill Protein Packing Plant near Wyalusing.

Animals from two area livestock auctions, Dewart and Middleburg, are trucked north early each week along Route 405 onto 220 bound to the Bradford County packer. At the plant, 1,200 workers covering three shifts process 1,500 carcasses daily. Established in 1941 as the Taylor Meat Packing Plant, it was purchased in 2002 by the Cargill conglomerate which packs meat in 52 countries and boasts of feeding 52 billion people annually.

According to Cargill, Memorial Day weekend rates first in burger consumption with July 4 and Labor Day tying for second.

The number of animals the mega meat plant processes is not the sum total, for there remains local family and privately owned butcher shops. Among them, Gary Gibson, Beaver Lake Road, Hughesville; Don Waltman Meats and Deli of Williamsport, who says, “If you don’t know your meats, know your butcher.” Other local family establishments include Rupert’s Quality Meats, Montoursville; Bobby George’s Meats, custom butchering and store, Potts Grove Road, Danville; Byerly Brothers and Fisher Meats, Lewisburg, the latter a vendor at Lewisburg Farmer’s Market cites itself as having eight generations of meat cutters. At many local meat markets, animals go directly from farm to the butcher thus saving auction and long distance transporting fees.

Carol Shetler/The Luminary Gina (left) and daughter Landree Fraley feed and care for calves in their nursery at the Fraley Family farm complex on Muncy-Exchange Road. These chores exemplify time consuming work needed to raise the young bovines to adulthood providing beef to your grill and table.

Buying local and with emphases on fresh healthy food, Tracy Clayton of Kathy’s Cafe in Hughesville, orders beef from Misty Mountain Farms at Trout Run. “This farm is like no other offering grass fed Angus beef, owned and operated by Holly and Dave Albert,” she said. Recently at Kathy’s, a customer enjoyed her burger so much she questioned the waitress to learn it’s source, learning the farm has a store for the public.

Farming remains prevalent in this rural area, an example being Adam and Gina Fraley who raise cattle at their farm on the Muncy-Exchange Road. Atop the Muncy Hills, newborn calfs spend time in nurseries. “We bottle feed the calves and offer a mixture of corn and molasses pellets,” said Gina, noting they purchase animal feed from Norm’s Feeds near Turbotville. The next step for the growing cattle is putting them in the heifer barn along with the springers, who await the birth of their babies, and the cycle begins again.

“Most of our herd is for showing, only those not making the cut go to market. We will have some of our show cattle at the fair, but they come home with us. At any one time we have 30 – 40 cattle on the two farms,” Gina said. The couple also manages the Dewart Livestock Auction where Gina represents the fourth generation of her Witmer family who established it, and Adam, a third generation of Fraley auctioneers .

At Dewart, a sales average of 120 cattle for beef are part of about 1,000 animals sold weekly. Many diary farmers have turned to raising beef cattle for less intensive labor and milk producing regulations.

Hauling contractors from farm to auction, then on to packing facilitates vary from individual truckers to companies such as Spencer Trucking of Watsontown. The latter is most visible on roadways having the Spencer name on its trailers.

COUNTY FAIR – FFA and 4H

Good news for beef consumers is the farming community consists of organizations geared to preparing the next generation in keeping America feed. Groups such as the Future Farmers of America, founded in 1928, trains youth leadership in business, science and the technology of agriculture. 4-H, another positive mentoring group for youth, teaches many skills including raising animals.

Two distinct agricultural organizations mark their 150th anniversary during 2021. They include the Lycoming County Fair and the Grange organization in Pennsylvania. During the fair, the Eagle Grange display will have the theme, “Why Preserve Farmland.” It will show the reasons for preservation and the progress being made in each of the local counties by number of farms and acreage preserved. This will be Eagle’s first fair display since 2010.

County fairs and state farm shows are places where the public can see, learn and met FFA, 4-H members and their farm families. Such a one-on-one experience aids in comprehending the time and work involved in bringing a burger to your grill. Consider making it a point to visit you’re neighboring farm families at the Lycoming County Fair this year.

Whether ordering your burger rare, medium or well done, prep time is not relegated to the grill only, but the 22 months or more required to raise the beef.