A Wee Beef
People who think that bigger is better when it comes to beef should get to know the Dexter cattle raised on 180 Farm near Faber in Nelson County. A rare heritage breed that originally hails from Ireland, Dexters are about two-thirds the size of the usual breeds found in most pastures in this country.
What the Dexter lacks in size, however, it makes up for in the taste and quality of its meat, which is a distinctive dark red with yellowish fat. “It’s tasty, has good marbling, and is really tender,” says Lynne Simpson, who started the 16-head, grass-fed herd with son Andrew in 2009. “I’ve eaten grass-fed Angus, and that’s good, but I think this is more flavorful.”
Only a handful of small-scale producers are raising Dexters in Virginia. The Simpsons picked the breed because it is also known for being docile and healthy, and thriving on less-than-manicured grassland. “They don’t need pristine pasture,” says Lynne. “They like to go up in the woods and forage on different things.”
The steers are butchered two at a time at a USDA-inspected facility, and the meat is sold out of a freezer at the Apple Shed, the Simpson family’s well-known roadside stand just north of Lovingston on Route 29. “Some people try it just because they’re curious, but then they keep coming back for more,” says Lynne. “We even had a vegetarian who bought a roast and became a regular. I think that means he’s not a vegetarian anymore.”