Hemlock Hill’s cattle are Black Angus, the top-quality breed common to all markets noted in the Top Meat Markets sidebar. The farm, though, is able to dry-age its own, while the majority of the others’ steaks are wet-aged. The difference between the two is a function of modern technology: basically, plastics. Until about 30 years ago, all beef was dry-aged: hung in climate-controlled rooms allowing microbes to do their digestive work and tenderize the meat. The advent of vacuum-sealing plastic shortened both the time factor and the expense in water and muscle loss. The meat would now rest in contact with its own blood in an unbreathable environment: wet-aging. Sounds repugnant, but, actually, even the experts concede that there’s not much difference in quality. The taste, yes, with dry-aging the preference of most pros I spoke with. “It’s a deeper, more concentrated flavor,” says A&S’ Competiello. But like with most things, it’s all what you’re used to, and what we’re used to is wet-aged. It’s about 90 percent of what we buy.
Though Hemlock Hill’s cattle are dry-aged, they’re fed the same as the others apropos to this article: a mix of grass and grain. But where those others are raised on grass and finished on grain, the farms get a daily combo, and a coddled one at that. Their grain, served warm, is spent brewers grain sent daily from local Captain Lawrence and Peekskill breweries.