By Alanna Jones
Maureen Legg has been an important vendor at the Sunday Musquodoboit Harbour Farmer's Market for many years. She offers a selection of fresh meat (beef, pork, free range chicken, smoked meat products, sausages and pies) from her family farm in Middle Musquodoboit.
It's a lot of work to bring fresh meat to the market, but it's a valued service and she draws regular customers each week. She can also be found at the New Glasgow Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, in Halifax on Tuesday evenings and the meat shop on Fridays.
Maureen loves to cook and prides herself on offering her customers delicious, tender, well-marbled steaks, hamburger, roasts, and organ meats. She has been offering this flavourful, wholesome, homemade food at the markets in Nova Scotia for 40+ years and has enjoyed seeing her customers' families grow and thrive.
Legg’s customers have plenty of questions, but the one she gets this most is “Are your cows grass-fed?” It’s a simple question, but it’s really a hot topic these days that touches on all aspects of farming.
“Well, to begin with, we don’t sell knacked old ‘cows,’” Legg explains, “we sell ‘beef.’” By beef, Legg means cattle raised for market, usually around 18 months old and 1,000 pounds. Their mothers calve out in the pasture, mostly in the months of May and June, with the bull on site. They remain on pasture until weaning time when they are brought into a roomy, shaded, dry feeding area and provided dry, fresh bedding. The barn is next to her house, so keeping them happy is key.
Defining what “grass-fed” means can be tricky. “An animal is only as good as what you feed it,” Legg says. Her beef are pasture raised from birth until finishing time. They drink their mothers’ rich milk and chew on fresh grass and get in on the feed for the herd. They are all provided hay (dried grass/forage), grain (barley, roasted soy beans, corn kernels, wheat) and silage (chopped non-GMO corn, and grass mix) throughout the winter months.
Many farmers have jumped on the "grass-fed" bandwagon for marketing their product. Is beef that has been fed grass exclusively healthier for us? According to the Canadian Beef Center of Excellence, June 2016, “ ...all beef whether grass fed or grain finished (grain fed) contributes significant amounts of nutrients and the difference between the two nutritionally are small.”
But consumer concern about where their beef comes from goes far beyond basic nutrition. In this age of giant fed-lots where cattle are closely confined, stuffed with antibiotics, and have no access to pasture, consumers worry about issues like animal welfare and environmental sustainability. One of the advantages of buying from local producers like Legg is knowing exactly where your meat comes from and how it’s raised.
Legg’s loyal customers swear by the great flavours of her many meat products. She was recently featured in a video by Cajun chef Isaac Toups, who was in Nova Scotia to learn about his Acadian ancestry from Atlantic Canadian Cuisine Ambassador Alain Bosse, “The Kilted Chef.” For the special stew they cooked together, the two chefs went to Legg’s counter, where she handed a large chicken over the counter with the same welcoming smile that her customers have enjoyed for more than four decades. (The video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibB9H7Nnq5E. Bon Appétit!)