5/11/2013 7:00 AM
By Laura Zoeller Southwestern Pa. Correspondent
IRWIN, Pa. — Although the Logan family has been farming the same piece of ground for well over 100 years, things have changed a lot in that time.
For one thing, the turnpike came through in 1937 and split the farm in half.
For another, the family no longer milks cows and instead turns out high-quality, dry-aged beef to customers in restaurants, corporate offices and at the several farmers markets they frequent each season.
“My late husband, Carl, sold the dairy cows in 1963 because he was tired of milking,” Nancy Logan said, laughing. “But I told him to keep one and I would milk her. I did, too, right up to the morning I gave birth to Tom, my oldest son.
“By the time I got home, that cow was gone, too,” she said. “We never looked back at dairy.”
Carl began raising beef cattle on the farm instead, and the Logans have continued that tradition.
“My wife, Joann, and I had three children, all with an interest in meat,” Tom Logan said. “All of them pursued degrees in agriculture from Penn State. Our daughter Katie works as a meat scientist in research and development for Cargill, while both of our sons, Ben and Jake, decided to continue to farm here with us.
“In order to support everyone, we had to expand,” he said.
Logan Family Farms LLC upped its numbers from finishing 30 steers annually to approximately 150, and it also now rents nearly 1,500 acres of ground that are sowed with corn, soybeans and hay.
The cattle the Logans raise are both born on farm and bought from outside sources when they are weaned.
“We don’t have the space here to calf every steer we finish,” JoAnn Logan said, “but we buy only source verified’ calves. That means we know the cattle that they come from, the breeding that was used, the pasture conditions and their forage ingredients.
“We also ensure humane handling and care that reduces stress for the animal,” she said. “All of these things factor into the tenderness of our beef, which consistently grades high choice or prime.”
“Our beef is not organic, and it is not 100 percent grass-fed,” Jake Logan said, “but we rotationally graze our stock on 70 acres of pasture, feed an all-vegetarian diet of forages and grains that we have grown ourselves, and use no synthetic hormones or antibiotics.
“Our animals are raised all-naturally before being harvested at a USDA inspected facility and being dry-aged for 21 days,” he said. “There are also no flavorings or tenderizers added to our meat.”
Through hard work and dedication, the Logans have created a diverse market for their beef.
“There are restaurants in Pittsburgh that buy a lot of ground meat from us,” Ben Logan said. “One of them, the Bigelow Grill, is near the Consol Energy Center, and when there is a Pittsburgh Penguins home game, they sell a lot of burgers. They can’t keep burger in stock sometimes.
“That has been good for us,” he said, “as have the restaurants that want to buy steaks. But when restaurants are only looking for one cut of meat, it can leave us with a buildup of other cuts that we need to move.”
One way the Logans have gotten around that issue is by working with corporate offices that cater food for their employees.
“We work with Google’s Pittsburgh office as well as with PNC Bank in Pittsburgh,” JoAnn Logan said. “They know how to work with a side of beef and how to use all of the various cuts.
“We either take them a half of a steer or give them a list of what cuts we have available and they order from it,” she said. “It helps us sell all of the cuts that we have.”
Farmers markets and an on-farm retail outlet make up the remainder of the Logans’ sales.
“We utilize the farmers markets in Washington, Mount Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and others,” Jake Logan said. “We get a chance to meet our customers and get our name out in a face-to-face way.”
“So much of the marketing is in the people-to-people relationships,” Ben Logan added. “People trust us as producers because they have met us. They also have tasted our meat and know that we produce a consistent product.
“We grill our meat at the markets and give out samples so that people can taste what they are buying,” he said. “When they have the opportunity to taste the difference between our meat and what they find in a grocery store, they understand why it costs a little more and how it is worth the price difference.”
“One of the interesting things about the markets is having the opportunity to educate the consumer,” Nancy Logan said. “The cuts of meat that are popular change with each generation, and many people today don’t know how to cook some of the products we offer. So, we are prepared to explain where each cut comes from and how to cook it.
“It is one of the challenges of the direct-marketing approach,” she said.
The Logans are prepared to work through many challenges and are ready to change with the times.
“We use sustainable farming practices such as no-till planting methods and crop rotation for pest control,” JoAnn Logan said, “as well as using composted manure to supply the majority of plant nutrients, which reduces the need for additional synthetic fertilizers.
“We are experimenting with new rations, including Canadian peas, which studies show improve the flavor of meat, and flax seed, which is said to improve the Omega 3s,” she said. “We are also looking at more value-added products such as partially prepared meals — like marinated meat and homemade broth — for today’s fast-paced family who still wants to eat well.
“We are fully prepared to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers, just as long as we don’t have to sacrifice quality to do it,” JoAnn Logan said.
For more information, go to www.loganfamilyfarmsllc.com or call 724-875-1472.