Grass-fed cattle and the environment

One of the often cited reasons for limited or eliminating beef from your diet has to do with cattle being net carbon emitters. Grain fed beef emit high quantities of methane, which is one of the worst greenhouse gases. Not only are the grain-fed cows adding to the destruction of the ozone layer, but the methods used to produce commercial cattle feed are also contributing.

A new branch of research in cattle management, however, is finding that cattle raised on well-managed pasture land actual create a net carbon sink. Pastured cattle contribute to removing those nasty greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere!

There are a combination of reasons why grass-fed beef contribute to carbon sequestration. First, pasture land that is grazed, grows more productively (all that natural manure from the cow patties helps). Trees are one of the better known ways to combat carbon emissions, but all plants absorb CO2 to some extent, and grasses are no exception. Second, cattle that are grass fed emit less methane gas, because their bodies are better adapted to eating grass than corn.

There’s a lot to read if you’re interested in finding out more, but this article does a nice job of explaining why pastured cattle can lead to a net negative carbon output:

In Defense of the Cow: How Eating Meat Could Help Slow Climate Change

If you’re interested in numbers, some preliminary research out of Saskatchewan shows that most pastured cattle operations sequester even small amounts of carbon, although some can sequester significant quantities. Solving Climate Change with Holistic Management.

Just one more reason why grass fed is better!

Real food has flavour

Today’s episode of “The Current” on CBC Radio featured an interview with Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect.

Schatzker claims that we’re biologically programmed to like food that tastes delicious, but in the interest of increased productivity, agriculture has sacrificed flavour. Before the advent of industrial agriculture in the 50’s, foods that were the most delicious, were also the healthiest. Now, we’re left with bland healthy foods, and scientists who manufacture that flavour in a lab and add it to Doritos (and pop, and fast food, and even sometimes, pump it into chicken before it goes to the slaughterhouse).

Schatzker advocates for an agricultural shift that would use the same science that increased yields to increase flavour. But in the meantime, he thinks that heirloom, grass fed, and naturally raised foods do taste better. And that probably means they’re better for you too.

We notice a big difference between the taste of our beef and the USDA beef you can buy at the grocery store. Ours actually tastes like something. No need for steak sauce here!

It’s an interesting segment, have a listen:

Mark Schatzker: Our flavourless food leads to unhealthy cravings

Where’s the steak?

I ran across this news article this morning  that speaks to how we sell our grass fed beef and some of the issues with eating just steaks.

Ranch-to-table trend has some diners asking: where’s the steak?

We all agree that steak is delicious, I cooked a couple for dinner last week and the smell was enough to make me want two more than I had stuck in the oven. But in our household, steak is a special occasion meal. That’s because, most of the meat you get out of a side of beef isn’t good enough to be made into steak or roasts, and so it becomes ground beef. I have a long list of ground beef recipes posted, because: what’s an adventurous cook supposed to do when she has a freezer full of pound after pound of ground beef, except get creative.

We like to sell orders that have a high proportion of ground beef in them for exactly this reason, because we get between 50-60% ground beef back from the butcher, and only about 15% steak.

Our beef sales are a very small part of our bigger farming operation and we don’t have the facilities or the resources to be able to market ground beef the way the grocery store does. We encourage our customers to branch out into ground beef and save the steaks for a special occasion. Just one more of the differences you’ll encounter when you support local farmers.

How we price our beef

We’ve arrived at our pricing system by carefully tracking how many pounds of each cut we get from an animal, to be able to provide a cost effective price for a premium product. This price is based on a standard mix of steaks (high value beef) roasts (mid value beef) and ground beef (lower value beef). If you dislike or do not want steaks, for example, we could lower the price per pound on a custom box without steak put together to your specifications.  If you tell us what cuts you would like, we can let you know pricing on a smaller custom order.

The beef we are selling is a premium beef.  We run a closed herd, where all animals are born and raised in our own barn, with direct care provided by our family.  They never receive any antibiotics or hormones at any point in their lives.  They are always allowed free access to both shelter and the outdoors and free choice hay and water at all times.  The hay is all certified organic, grown on our own farm, and cut and baled ourselves.  They can eat as much or as little as they want, enjoy outdoor weather or shelter from the wind inside, all at their own choice.  We run a small herd, only 40 cows, so the animals are never crowded.  Animals are regularly handled so they are not stressed by being around people.  We aim for the best tasting beef, instead of the cheapest, so our steers are typically kept for over 3 years; this is more expensive, but a more mature animal has much better flavour and texture.

These practices are not industry standard, and the reason is because they cost more money.  The average producer uses hormones because their animals grow faster.  They crowd them into yards to lower their capital costs.  They buy GMO feed because they don’t have time or the resources to grow their own.  We do none of these things, and so our beef is more expensive than the USDA ground beef in the grocery store.