A naturally lean steak that has less cholesterol and fewer calories than chicken or fish does exist, and that’s those cut from Piedmontese beef. They’re also incredibly tender, with a robust flavor. Luckily they’re now available at city Greenmarkets thanks to Stony Mountain Ranch in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, a new family farm that raises Piedmontese cattle. Carl and Esther Swartzentruber started their operation in 2008, got their first herd in 2009, and are now bringing in the results to the World Financial Center Greenmarket in Battery Park every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and at the Tucker Square Greenmarket at 66th and Liberty Street every Thursday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Alternatively, customers are welcomed to drop by the farm to get their fix.) Beyond steaks from flat iron to sirloin steaks, they’re selling most every part of the cow, including organ meats, “ox” tails and excellent spicy and smoked beef jerkies and beef sticks in a mild, sweet or hot.
A true family venture, the Swartzentrubers and their eight children are all involved with the daily management of their farm, even the marketing: “The gene myostatin is what makes the meat lean and tender,” explains eldest child Sharon, 18, at the Greenmarkets recently. Myostatin, she says, produces “double muscles” that give the Piedmontese big and thick shoulders and neck, making the bovine appear muscular but not fat. The double muscles are the source of the Piedmontese’s tenderness. “The tenderness doesn’t come from fat, because the cow is very lean,” emphasizes Sharon.
Piedmontese cattle hail from the Piedmont region in Italy, and were introduced to America in the early 80s, where the beef has yet to take off with a mainstream audience. (In fact, Manzo at Eataly is one of the rare restaurants with a whole Piedmontese section comprised of different cuts.)
Pasture-raised and grass fed, Stony Mountain cattle roam freely around the Swartzentrubers’s 28-acre farm, and contain higher levels of omega-3 as a result. In addition, Stony Mountain’s calves enjoy the nutrient-rich goodness of their mother’s milk, which is reserved solely for them, as the family doesn’t milk their cows.
In comparison to other steaks, Sharon admits that “it’s not as juicy, because it doesn’t have fat to melt.” However, she says, “it just about melts in your mouth, the way it should be.”