Our partner JN Meat took part in the World Steak Challenge in summer 2018 with beef supplied by Atria. JN Meat swept the board by winning the categories of best rib eye, best sirloin, and best grass-fed. Grass-fed sirloin also won the main prize of the challenge as the world's best steak.
The meats that were entered in the challenge came from three Finnish dairy farms. One of them is the Korpi farm in Ylitornio. The victory was a pleasant surprise for the dairy farm. The beef heifers get the same good care and food as the other animals on the farm.
The window in Hannu and Merja Korpi's house in Ylitornio offers “the world's best scenery” as Hannu puts it. The bank of the Tornio River rises steeply near the Korpi farm, and high on top of the bank is the couple's house. “From here you can see what's going on in Sweden,” they say jokingly and are not completely wrong. The road on the opposite shore is perfectly visible.
Hannu Korpi took over his father's farm together with his older brother Jussi when he was only in his twenties. “Already as a little kid I was out there working alongside my father. The grades in my report card weren't impressive because every day after school I joined my father to tinker with the machines,” the farm owner says with a laugh.
Jussi was more interested in cattle and Hannu from machines. This created a great combo for the farm. “Our parents were of course there to help for many years and still are. Just the other night, my father returned from hauling feed at eleven at night. I think it has been a good thing that the change of generation on the farm happened when we were in our twenties. It gave us the chance to develop the business when we were young an eager.”
New buildings were constructed pretty soon and after seven years a new wing to the barn. The new wing was actually built because a third member joined the farm: Hannu's wife Merja.
Merja also grew up on a dairy farm. “When I moved in here, I brought my cows with me,” she thinks back and laughs.
When the change of generation took place, Korpi farm had about twenty cows in milk, and now there are about 60. “Many farms in this town have called it a day over these years. But the nice thing is that many of the remaining farms have young farm keepers. We soon seem to be one of the older ones,” the Korpis say.
Good care and good food
“Winning the challenge was a real surprise. We did of course know that animal care and feed on our farm is first-class. Every now and then we send a couple of our heifers to slaughter based on genome tests, and this particular individual may have gotten a bit too chubby while waiting for the transport. So there was a nice amount of fat, which makes it taste good. In Finland we're just so used to the belief that fat is poison,” Merja sighs.
Slaughter heifers are taken care of on the Korpi farm in the same way as the other cows.
“Good care and good food. Lots of straw forage in addition to silage,” the couple summarises.
For the Korpis, making dry hay is an easy decision. “It's hard manual labour, but dry hay makes up a very important part of feeding on our farm. It has fibre and not too much nutrients. It's a real health food.”
Even though the steak prize was an extraordinary tribute, the Korpi farm is used to accepting trophies and plaques. “We've had a total of eight cows with a lifetime production of over 100,000 litres. I'm not sure if there are any other farms in Lapland with that many,” Hannu says.
Clearly defined responsibilities make work easier
There is a clear division of labour between the three farmers, which is what makes the whole thing work.
“We all work in the barn and have our own assigned cows. I have more responsibility for the cattle and paperwork. Jussi manages the field crops and takes care of the related fertilizer plans and paperwork. Hannu is responsible for the machines and equipment and stays clear of the paperwork,” Merja says with a laugh.
“The plan is that in the future we could also sometimes cover for each other, leaving us more free-time. In both families the children are hobby enthusiasts, so driving around takes a chunk out of our time.”
The menu at Hannu's 50th birthday in June featured meat soup made out of the meat of their own cow.
“Yes, people did ask for the recipe,” Merja says with a secretive smile.