Natural Beef Is Only Option for Burbick Farms
COLUMBIANA, Ohio — Greg Burbick takes pride in raising cattle here the same way his family did at the turn of the 20th century. Next door to the house and barn his grandmother’s aunt and uncle built in 1905, Burbick has 40 head of cattle that roam the couple hundred acres his family has worked the better part of a century.
“I raise my beef the same way my grandfather did,” says the owner of G. Burbick Farms. “There’s a time and place for antibiotics or steroids and I choose to do it the old-fashioned way here.”
The decision to not use hormones or antibiotics or steroids on his herd “wasn’t some great moral choice,” he notes. “It came down to what I was feeding my family. That’s all it was.”
Burbick bought the family farm in 1996 after his grandfather died and began raising cows, pigs and chicken. Two years later, he began raising Black Angus cattle after noticing customers almost always asked if the American Angus Association had certified the cattle.
“Those requests came from the work the Angus Association did marketing their product,” Burbick says. “And it’s not only to the consumers but the farmers as well. They do a great job in tracking genetics so I can purchase exactly what I want from the association.”
Every year he buys about 40 cows, usually around 30 in the spring and 10 each autumn, after he looks through an Angus catalog for the specific traits he wants in a calf. The three things he looks for are the listed calf size, marbling of the meat and carcass –the quality of the dressed meat.
The calves typically arrive when they’re two to three months old and stay at Burbick Farms about a year. In that time, they graze on grass in the fields that surround the barn.
Burbick also grows corn, soybeans and wheat, with some of the wheat – he says he keeps 10% of each year’s crop – harvested to feed his cows in the winter.
“Obviously in Ohio, grass doesn’t grow in the winter. So to prepare for that, I bale the hay when it’s wet and feed it back to them as wet-wrapped silage,” he explains. “That way, it keeps the nutrients in the feed. It gets supplemented with grain, which gives them some tenderness and good marbling.”
After the cows have matured to Burbick’s liking, they’re slaughtered, dry aged three weeks in a cooler and sent to New Wilmington to be processed. When their meat comes back to the Columbiana farm, it’s frozen and shrink-wrapped, ready for sale.
Most of the orders Burbick fills are pre-packed boxes of ground beef, steaks and roasts. The cuts in each vary from package to package, he notes.
He also sells pork, mostly as sausage and loins, from other area farms.
The push for local food, he says, has helped business but hasn’t affected how he approaches raising cattle.
“I’ve been doing things the same way and only changed my marketing to let people know what I was doing,” Burbick says. “People want to eat cleaner and eat fresher. It’s up to producers like myself to adapt to that way of thinking.”
What brought the most change, he continues, is the launch of a company website (GBurbickFarms.com), which brought in customers using the Internet, sometimes just searching “local food” or “locally grown meat.” Now, Burbick sells to as many as 1,300 customers every year. Most of his calves weigh around 800 pounds when they’re sent to be processed.
“So I sell probably about 30,000 pounds of beef every year,” he says with a smile after doing the math in his head. “That’s not bad at all.”
Most of his customers are from Columbiana and Mahoning counties, but he does sell to consumers as far away as North Carolina. Among his local customers is Sarra Mohn, a partner with Jet Creative Productions, who says that healthful food has become a top priority for her and her family.
“Why would we buy imported meat from a farm several states away when I can drive 20 minutes with my family, see the cows, see the process, get high-quality grass-fed beef?” Mohn asks. “Plus, we’re supporting a local farm. Why wouldn’t we go there?”
The quality of the meat from Burbick’s cows is better than what can be found in supermarkets, they say. The farmer’s knowledge of quality, he relates, comes secondhand from his customers, most of whom rave about his products.
“I’ve never eaten meat from a supermarket, so I can only go off what they tell me,” he says. “What I hear the most is that it tastes fresher and cleaner. They say there’s a noticeable difference in the ground beef more than anything.”
The product Mohn buys year-round is ground beef, although she usually buys steaks during the summer to grill out and roasts during fall and winter.
But the one thing that stands out for Mohn has nothing to do with what Burbick does at his farm or what he sells out of freezers in his barn.
“It’s a beautiful and quiet ride for our family to the farm twice a month,” she says. “It’s definitely something our kids will remember as a cherished memory when they become adults.”
And despite the adulation that many customers accord him, Burbick is ready to admit that better beef is available to those who look for it.
“I don’t think people choose because my beef is the greatest. It’s that everything else in the markets so poor,” the farmer says. “People see a value in the type of beef I raise and how I do it.”
Pictured: Greg Burbick, owner of G. Burbick Farms, raises cattle without antibiotics on a diet of grass and hay grown on his farm.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.