A Jackson County (Florida, USA) chestnut producer and the Marianna High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) are teaming up in an experiment that could make these students American pioneers in an emerging beef market niche.
David English and his L&E Farms partners have 11 hectares of chestnut trees from which he sells the nuts they produce to large-scale buyers. Chestnuts not meeting quality standards are discarded or used for pig feed.
English started thinking when he read about a program, in which chestnuts were added to the diets of their cattle in the last few months of fattening for the market. The nuts give the animals a particularly rich aroma, texture and flavour.
English contacted Brian Solger, faculty advisor at Marianna High. He asked if the Future Farmers of America division (FFA) wanted to take the extra chestnuts, for free, and try to add them to their cattle feed.
As Solger continued research into the possibilities, he became enthused about the idea English proposed. Few in the United States have tried the chestnut-infused diet, English said, but the world market is getting very interested. The going price for chestnut-fed cattle is about $50 per kg, according to his research and Solger’s.
The task for FFA members is to experiment until they find the right mix of chestnut to grass, hay and other components of the beef cattle diet.
The first chestnut-fed cattle will be available in the Jackson County Fed Cattle Show and Sale next February. In that event, FFA members sell the cattle they’ve raised through the previous months.