HOW WE DEFINE HEALTH
NATURAL AND PASTURE RAISED
Our beef and goats spend their entire lives with fresh grass underneath their feet while our pigs enjoy the shade of spacious outdoor forrest paddocks. These conditions help promote a natural lifestyle in which no antibiotics or hormones are needed to keep animals healthy. In the rare event that an animal gets sick to the point where it requires antibiotics to live, we will follow the advice of our local vet. However, if that animal is treated with any form of antibiotic, it will no longer be a part of our meat program. We are committed to these standards because we believe rampant antibiotic use in livestock production is unnecessary.
When we say pasture raised, we mean 100% pasture raised and finished. Most cows start their lives on pasture, only to be finished in the unnatural conditions of a feedlot. It’s not unusual to keep cattle in dense herds, but removing them from access to fresh forage is something that we believe will create undue stress. It also means their byproducts (manure and urine) are no longer being returned to the pasture. Therefore we ensure that our beef and goats, even during our proprietary finishing process, never see those conditions. Keeping grass underneath their feet 365 days a year is just part of the way that we believe in raising these animals. Pigs, on the other hand, while they will perform in a completely pasture based setting, tend to do best in a more shaded environment. Pigs do not sweat, and therefore can easily overheat. This is why they tend to wallow in wet, muddy pits that they dig up with their shovel of a nose.
GRASS FED VERSUS GRASS FINISHED
Labels can be misleading, unregulated, and intentionally ambiguous. Relying on a label might mean you are trusting the quality and health of your food to marketing professionals. While this is unavoidable in many respects, the best way we know to avoid the hype is to buy your meat directly from the people who grow it. This way you can ask specific questions about how the animals are raised and fed. What’s the benefit of eating a grass fed, grass finished cow if it spends its life in a dirt floored pen being fed low quality hay? This is just one example of how these terms can be misleading. In our experience, when folks ask if our meat is grass fed, there's a few questions wrapped up into that one particular slogan:
Are your animals raised in natural conditions?
Are your animals confined or prevented access to the outdoors?
Are your animals raised in a way that damages the environment?
Is your meat healthy to feed myself, family, and friends?
These are just a few examples of why it’s difficult to apply generic labels to a more complicated scenario. Our cattle spend their entire lives with access to fresh forage. That means they are eating grass until their very last day in addition to our specifically timed non-gmo, non-corn/soy, proprietary finishing ration (rainfall in a sack as we like to call it). This ensures a healthy, quality product that is most importantly consistent.
For folks wanting a completely grass finished product, meaning the animals do not receive any type of grain in their finishing phase, we offer seasonal grass finished beef and goat shares. These products are typically leaner and have a more inconsistent flavor depending on the conditions and time of year. For example, the protein content in grass is typically highest in Spring when the grass is growing vigorously. There are several other factors at play, such as nitrogen levels in the soil, but this is generally the case. If a cow gets into a situation where its protein intake is too high, it can produce ammonium as a byproduct. This will make the meat taste metallic, almost like beef liver. This is why we only offer these shares seasonally. Grass finished meat can be fantastic, and in other regions that receive more annual rainfall, have more moderate climates, or irrigate their pastures regularly, producing fat, grass finished animals for a longer period of time during the year is more of a reality.
FATTY ACID PROFILE
Fatty acids are molecules contained within fats and cell membranes. The lean meat itself is a nutritional powerhouse full of protein and vitamins, but the fatty acid profile is also very important. It tends to represent the most significant measurable difference in nutrition between a conventionally raised animal and one that is raised naturally with full access to pasture. One thing that gets talked about frequently in grass fed beef is the content of omega-3 fatty acids, but when you begin to look at the details, it's not as simple as it might seem.
Omega-3 fatty acids are linked with several health benefits and are an essential part of our diet, meaning we do not produce them ourselves so we must get them from our food sources. The primary type of omega-3 fatty acid found in beef is referred to as ALA (alpha linolenic acid). It’s important to look not only at the omega-3 content, but also at the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This ratio can become skewed in favor of the omega-6 when an animal is removed from grass, forage, or plants that are generally more balanced. Simply put, the standard American diet is much higher in omega-6 than omega-3, which many experts believe is a significant health risk. Ideally, the foods that we eat should promote a ratio not above 1:4 omega-3 to omega-6. We ensure that all of our animals maintain a high content of omega-3 (thus a better overall omega-3 to omega-6 ratio) through every day access to forage and nutrient dense plants that are present in our proprietary finishing ration.
Fat has been a controversial subject in the past, but more modern research is beginning to disprove the commonly held belief that fat is a dangerous or evil substance. Although not all fats are created equal, fat is crucial to our health. It protects our organs, helps with absorption of vitamins and minerals (hence the term fat soluble vitamins), and is required by every single cell in our bodies. Don't be afraid of fat, instead, focus on ensuring that the quality of your fat is higher. Another benefit is that it also makes everything taste absolutely delicious! Long live healthy fats.