In the summer of 2019, Atria's partner JN Meat participated, once again triumphantly, in the World Steak Challenge held in Dublin. The entrecôte provided by Atria to JN Meat took the title of the World's Best Steak. Last year, the prize went to Atria's beef sirloin.
Atria is the most traceable meat company in the world, and we know the origin of this steak, too, all the way to the farm. It comes from the Kankaala family farm in Kainuu, eastern Finland.
The information that the best steak in the world originated from their own farm brings out a down-to-earthness that is characteristic of the people in Kainuu.
– The prize was admittedly a surprise. I haven't thought of this as being something extraordinary, says Eero Pikkarainen, the farmer, with modesty.
The Kankaala farm is a typical Finnish family farm. The farmer's wife, Maritta, has a day job in the nearby town of Kajaani, so taking care of the beef cattle is the farmer's responsibility. Female calves come to calf rearing at about 4 to 5 months of age, and a year later they are sent for slaughter.
– We have found this to be a good model. When the next pen does not have swaying bulls, the heifers stay calmer, too. We have been rearing only heifers for more than 10 years, says Eero Pikkarainen.
The future is something that gets people talking at the coffee tables on Finnish farms. This is also so in Kankaala.
– About 5 years ago we were near to having a third cowshed built but, in retrospect, it was good that we didn't. The farm's agricultural area would have allowed a higher number of animals, Pikkarainen notes.
The media is full of stories about the carbon sinks in agriculture. When you are sitting on a tractor, you have time to reflect on the ways of the world.
– In 10 years' time, everything could be quite different. This business is at a kind of a watershed. What I have done for the climate and waterways is to reduce autumn ploughing and increase spring ploughing. Our aim is to have the fields covered with crops as much as possible, says Pikkarainen.
Agriculture has not fully been represented when carbon dioxide emissions from agriculture have been discussed in the public domain.
– All of the carbon sinks, such as forests and silage fields, have been left out entirely. They absorb carbon but are not discussed at all. With regard to agriculture, the discussions have focused only on emissions, says Atria's Account Manager Antti Arola, who was visiting the farm.
In Kankaala, animal feeding is based on silage produced on the family farm, complemented by complete feed. Four bales of fresh fodder and 800 kg of complete feed are mixed in an feed mixer wagon. This amount is sufficient to feed the 225 slaughter heifers on the farm for 24 hours.
- Good quality silage is just as important on a meat farm as on a dairy farm. Grass is based on timothy grass and meadow fescue, says Pikkarainen.
According to the farm owner, common sense goes a long way when raising the world's best beef.
– When you take care of the basics properly, everything will work out just fine. Good quality feed is the basis of everything, says Eero Pikkarainen.
Text: Pekka Moliis
Photos: Miska Puumala