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Where the Beef Is


The Beef Is Here
All photos by me.

Earlier this year, I moved away from Seattle after calling it home for a decade. My destination: a small town in Lewis County. It's so small, you haven't heard of it, I guarantee you. Most people are vaguely familiar with our sister town, Centralia, which is twice the size, but still...small. Your association to Centralia is probably "that place with the outlet malls I pass on my way to Seattle or Portland."

But there's so much more here than outlet malls. For example: beef.

My husband and I just bought a quarter of a cow. Yep. A whole quarter. It's the meat of grass-fed, organic, free-range cows. These cows are also practically our neighbors, as we drove for, oh, about 10 minutes to get to the farm where they live.

The Beef Is Here

 I've never done this before, met the cows that will eventually become my hamburger. My former vegetarian self would be appalled.

 That's right. I was a vegetarian for about 13 years, and a vegan for a good chunk of that. Why'd I return to meat-eating? That's a rather big topic for another day (or a whole book, maybe, someday). But in a nutshell: I'm the type of body constitution that does best on an omnivore's diet and does worst on a vegan diet. If I could eat anything, I'd subsist entirely on a diet of raw fruit and vegetables, bread, and cheese. I LOVE tofu, for the record. It just doesn't love me. You know what gave me the worst food-allergy reaction of my entire life? Soy milk.

 But back to the cows. Because cows! They are beautiful, in a stand-there-and-ruminate kind of way. And they're raised by a couple, Dalene and Paul Olson, who live right there on the farm, where they tend to the cows literally out their back door. Here's Paul on the farm. Note his kids' former basketball hoop in the background:

The Beef Is Here

 It doesn't get much more local than this, folks. We cut a whole string of middlemen out of the loop and shrunk the carbon footprint to practically zero, I'm betting. The only other person involved in this transaction was the butcher, who took our slaughter preferences over the phone.

 The Olsons are, obviously, a mom and pop biz. We had to pick up the meat ourselves, which was wrapped individually, the steaks in paper and the ground beef in little plastic baggies, and all of it loaded into cardboard banana boxes. We paid with a check, which happens a lot here in Chehalis. (At first I felt as if I'd transported back to the 80s. Our local bookstore owner bought several books from me to sell in his store and paid me with a check!)

 Dalene and Paul were kind enough to give us a quick tour of their land. The pics above are of the calf barn and some of the calves. Here's where their parents hang out, in the field beyond:

The Beef Is Here

 The Olsons have been farming since the early 80s, when they bought Paul's father's dairy farm. Like a lot of family farms, they've been "organic" since before it was the thing to do, never using hormones on their cows or commercial fertilizers or herbicides on their pasture land. They recently converted to all-beef, and the two run the operation themselves now.

 If you're as obsessed with farms as I am, you'll appreciate the below darling tractor. It's so beautiful, I want to write a children's book about it. Oliver, the Green Tractor!

The Beef Is Here

 Where did we put a quarter of a cow, you ask? In our enormous freezer. The house came with it. The former owners of our home are the ones who referred us to the Olsons for beef. Everyone here in the twin cities knows everyone else, it seems.