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Better Kentucky Beef

Black Hawk Farms raises beef cattle healthy, humanely

Firmon Milton Cook IV is the fourth generation in his family to grow corn in western Kentucky. These days, he and his extended family work about 11,000 acres in and around Caldwell, Crittenden, Livingston, and Trigg counties, growing white corn that’s headed for a barge and, later, corn tortillas, among other things.

Milton, who says, “I’m kind of a foodie,” thought he might add to his operation. With advice from University of Kentucky Extension agents, he set up a grain-finishing beef operation called Black Hawk Farms.

Fed a healthy mix of roughage, farm-grown wheat, dried distiller’s grains, and corn, and finished in a feed lot that is nearly odor- and insect-free, Milton’s cattle stay healthy and have no need for antibiotics or hormones. The docile animals are fed more than twice as long as conventional beef. Growing slowly on grain yields a beef with flavor and texture admired by chefs from Evansville to Nashville, Bowling Green to Cincinnati. At Le Moo in Louisville, Black Hawk is served as a 10-ounce hamburger.

Raising his own beef, says Milton, guarantees a source of high-quality meat. “Part of the problem with ground beef (bought commercially) is that it gets blended,” he says.

Cull animals are used, and fat is added to the right ratio. Wanting good quality meat “isn’t enough to put in a feed barn,” he says, “but it was kind of a feeling that if I want this, probably other people do.”

Milton Cook’s Easy All-Day Brisket

Ravioli with Spinach and Bacon

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