Survive in Demand

How one breed of cattle’s popularity on the plate is helping ensure its survival.

In 2002, the Randall Lineback, the last remaining American breed of cattle, was on the brink of extinction. In fact, the American Livestock Breed Conservancy listed them as critically endangered, with only about 100 left in the world.

The original Randall Linebacks were bred for three purposes in the New World: as sources of meat, dairy and oxen power. The breed became popular throughout New England in the late 1600s, before anyone had ever heard of feeding antibiotics (or grain) to a cow, and to this day, the cattle have maintained their clean body mass: hormone free and sustained purely on grass, as nature intended.

Chapel Hill Farm in Berryville has played a tremendous role in reviving this dying breed, starting with 25 cattle in 2002 and bringing that number up to 300 today. Joe Henderson, the owner of Chapel Hill Farm, estimates that to ensure the breed’s survival, that number needs to rise to 1,000. He’s on his way there—in an ironic twist of fate, today the breed’s survival depends on its demand. Eating the rich meat, high in Omega-3s, Vitamin E, and CLA, is actually helping the Randall Lineback survive.

Today, many top Northern Virginia restaurants offer Randall Lineback beef from Joe Henderson’s farm. In Old Town Alexandria, the beef is offered from time to time on the menu at the four star Restaurant Eve, as special Randall Lineback burgers at the American tavern Virtue Feed & Grain, and sold to prepare at home at the new Society Fair, an epicurean emporium for food lovers.

How to “Dress” a Burger: Winning Flavor Combos

Chef Ryan Wheeler at Virtue Feed & Grain shares a few ways he’s dressed his Randall Lineback burgers:

Aioli, avocado, and fried egg

Caramelized onions, and Cashel blue cheese, and Guinness stout sauce Sauteed local mushrooms and aioli

Blue cheese dip and pickled jalapenos

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