The unkindest cuts 

When ships used to sail the Atlantic Ocean from the Old World to the new, the kitchen roasted a cow’s haunch for the passengers. The haunch came to be known as the “steamship roast.” It is considered a sub-prime cut of meat, but a campaign by the Corporation for the Northern Rockies is attempting to show Montanans that a steamship roast—if cooked well—can taste even better than prime rib. Currently, Montana restaurants want prime cuts of beef, which make up about 10 percent of the cow. The message, in short, is that the rest of the beef is tasty, too, and Montanans can support their local beef industry by putting a fork in it.

Lill Erickson, who directs CNR, knows that plenty of people would rather see fewer cows and more prairie grass.

“It’s not my job to try to change anybody’s mind,” she says. Instead, the CNR, with the help of master chefs and a nationwide movement to eat more locally grown food, will try to inspire people—and restaurant owners—to think differently about meat.

Eric Stenberg, co-chef and co-owner of Bozeman’s Savory Olive, explains how he will prepare the meat at an upcoming demonstration at Chico Hot Springs. He will rub the steamship roast—a 60-pound hunk—with fresh rosemary, parsley, sage, garlic and olive oil. Then, he will slow roast it for 11 hours at 200 degrees. The result, the chefs and CNR hope, is that people will see that it isn’t just the prime cuts of meat that can please the palate.

The meat, says Stenberg, is from Montana. “Most of it comes from Wally,” he says.

On a ranch down in Dillon, Wally Congdon, 46, raises Scottish Highland cows. The cows browse on native grasses—the same stuff the buffalo ate, says Congdon—and he supplements their diet with grain.

Congdon also knows that beef is a political meal right now. But most people, he says, come to him with a different concern.

“I’m hearing more people that want to know where their beef comes from,” he says.

In Missoula, The Good Food Store sells meat from the Congdon ranch. The steamship roasts are good for large parties, but for a family meal, Wally prefers chuck roast.

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