WE HAVE SOLD OUT OF HALVES AND WHOLE GRASSFED BEEF FOR 2013.
Individual beef cuts are still available at the farm. Deposits for 2014 wholes and halves will be taken beginning January 2014.
Grassfed meats are a lot like wines in the sense that management practices, breed, locale, and aging technique all play a huge role in what the finished product will taste like. Virtually any animal having been raised on a predominately grass and hay diet can be called “grass fed” and any animal allowed to walk about can be called “freerange”. These are by no means a guarantee that you’ll be eating a quality product. All of our cattle are born and raised start to finish on our property and they only eat grass and minimal quantities of hay (also grown on our property) for their entire lives. We time the harvest so that the animals finish on our wild rangeland spring grasses when the grass is the most abundant and most nutritious which is in middle to late spring. For that 4 to 6 week window our cattle enjoy some of the finest grass in the country as the rangelands explode with new rich tender green growth. In order for grassfed meats to be tender and mild-flavored the growing patterns of the livestock must be timed with local seasonal grass cycles. Properly finishing cattle on grass involves orchestrating movements and timing so that you end up with mature cattle that have fully grown into their frame and muscling so that they can then feast on the best grass of the year and build up copious amounts of internal marbling and put on ample external fat covering. Animals only produce that marbling, which is what keeps the beef tender and juicy during cooking, when they are of the proper age and grazing the highest quality forages.
Cattle harvested before they are ready or during the wrong part of the grass season usually produce much tougher steaks with a strong gamey flavor unlike those harvested within the proper season for that locale. In this regard we think of ourselves as grass farmers first and it takes a tremendous amount of experience and effort to plan and best utilize the land in this manner. But it’s an art we’ve committed our lives to and you can certainly taste that commitment to quality when you eat our grassfed meats. Since we only harvest every spring once we are sold out we won’t have any more beef until the following year.
For unknown reasons, a misconception has developed that grassfed beef is incapable of handling high heat cooking methods like pan-frying or grilling. This is absolutely not the case with our meats. The meat is tender, well marbled, and grills up beautifully!
We are one of the few beef producers that still dry age our beef and we dry age the entire carcass not just specific cuts. Dry aging is an old fashioned process in which water from the carcass is allowed to evaporate resulting in beef that has more depth of flavor and further eliminates any grassy aftertaste. At the same time the enzymes in the meat break down the muscle fibers lending to the most melt-in-your mouth steaks and roasts you can imagine. Dry aging requires a high percentage of external fat cover on the carcass and this is what excludes most producers from being able to properly dry age their beef. The longer the aging the more external fat cover is required to protect the beef but also the more tender the meat will end up. We dry age our beef for a minimum of 21 days but often as long as 28 days if the butcher has room in his cooler. This is absolutely unheard of in the modern world where most beef isn’t aged at all or it’s briefly wet aged where it sits in the package in it’s own juices. The quality difference when eating meat dry aged for 21 to 28 days is worlds apart. Usually dry aged cuts of this caliber are only available at the highest quality 5 star restaurants and steakhouses. We also occasionally have Grassfed Lamb available at the farm.
How to Purchase From Us
We have few methods to purchase our meats. The most economical is to buy a half or a whole. We harvest beef once a year in the spring. Order forms for halves or wholes will be posted here if they’re available. The best way though to be notified about when product is available is to join our mailing. The other option is to buy cuts of meat from us at the farm or a local farmer’s market. We do not take pre-orders on the cuts of beef they are simply available on a first come first serve basis.
WE DO NOT SHIP MEAT PRODUCTS and are not in the position to change that so please don’t call or email with a special request. Use eatwild.com or localharvest.org to find local producers in your area. If that doesn’t work you can order grassfed meat through US Wellness Meats in Missouri.
The Meatrix – A brief History
Enjoy this spoof that aims to explain the modern meat industry. For more information and films that follow up this story got to www.TheMeatrix.com
Sometimes customers don’t understand the term grassfed, why it’s unique or why it’s better. People often say “But all cattle are grassfed,” citing examples of cattle roaming free grassy hillsides along the highway. What they don’t realize is that unlike pork or chicken the beef industry has not been able to vertically integrate. Pork and Chicken are often raised at the same facility from birth until harvest, typically in a huge cement or metal building referred to as factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). Beef however is different, cattle won’t tolerate such long term confinement; it literally kills them. So instead the industry is propped up by tens of thousands of family ranchers who own a herd of mother cows and raise a crop of calves every year. Those calves are what get sold to the open air beef feedlots we see so often on television crowded with animals shoulder to shoulder, up to their knees muck i.e. excrement, and eyeball deep in trough filled with golden yellow No2 Corn. Unfortunately, the family ranchers usually don’t know how to take on alternative maketing efforts even if they wanted to. Many abhor the feedlot system and hate knowing that’s where their animals end up but just don’t have other options. This fact though that the beef industry is dependent upon the large body of independent growers is why you’ve seen grassfed beef become more available in some regions than options for truly pasture raised pork or chicken. The infrastructure is all already there. Now we’re seeing both direct marketers like us as well as cooperative marketing efforts spring up all over the country and this is a very exciting thing!
Consumers are demanding clean healthy products to feed their families. Cattle and other ruminants by design are surprisingly well-equipped to turn grass, that would be inedible to us and grows wild through open rangelands all over the world, into clean healthy meat. Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma brought the masses out of the dark ages and unveiled a shining light of atrocity on what this country’s modern meat production system really looks like. If you can’t get a copy of the book read the article Power Steer which was actually his original NYT article that spurred Michael to write a whole book about the subject. The Academy Award nominated Food Inc and the fantastic film FRESH also both helped build consumer awareness.
Livestock raised exclusively on a grass diet produce meats with health benefits not found in animals raised in feedlots finished on grain. Grassfed meats have less saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. They also have more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a number of health-promoting fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, a compound that has been shown to act against cancer and heart disease. Grassfed animals have also exhibited a drastically lower risk for harboring human harming pathogens particularly things like E. coli 0157:H7. For more information go to the Eatwild.com website.
Good for the Land and Environment
Supporting ranchers who raise livestock within a truly grass based system is good for the environment. Our ranch preserves open space which might otherwise be plowed under for development. The majority of our property is rolling open rangeland and savannahs on rich volcanic soils. Grasslands are an amazing ecological resource. They are like giant biological filters. An acre of grassland sequesters more atmospheric carbon than an acre of rainforest and most of that is stored underground where it builds richer soils and is preserved should a fire come through. They also are capable of filtering incredible amounts of water and increase the grounds ability slow down and absorb moving water to avoid runoff which can lead to eroded damaged ecosystems. All of these benefits actually depend on the grassland being grazed. Without ruminants to graze the grasslands, the land will become covered in a dead grass thatch layer and eventually choke out all new growth. Appropriate management of grazing actually promotes grassland growth and builds strength and resilience into the ecosystem.
Overgrazing is actually a function of time not a function of stocking density. Wild herds usually run in extremely dense packs. When herds are bunched together there is competition to eat whatever was in front of you because if not your buddy next to you will eat it and you’ll go hungry. This is not the time or place for picky eaters. On the flipside a handful of animals in a large fenced area have the opportunity to select their favorite species. When an animal grazes and bites a blade of grass to consume, the grasses solar collector is now damaged. So the plant takes soluble energy from the lowest portion of the roots and then sloughs off that lower root to die. It then begins to use it to regrow a new blade of grass to continue photosynthesis. If an animal comes in and bites the blade of new grass growth before more root mass has been developed, then we’ve broken the law of the second bite and overgrazed. The cow with free choice at the pasture buffet will choose her favorite most palatable plant species over and over again until those grasses are decimated and gone until eventually all you have are invasive weeds that she won’t or can’t eat. These are usually nature’s bandaid plants that are thorny spikey and nasty looking but are poor competitors when other plants are around. They show up as a last ditch effort to hold onto precious topsoil.
But what happens to our wild herd when we have competition and a nice herd grazing together. They eat like lawn mowers. Each blade of grass gets bitten and then where there is no more food the herd moves on. Ahh now the time for rest comes into play. The plants slough off their roots, grow new blades, and the livestock have moved on. Depending on the climate and available feed they could be gone for years before returning to once again provide the catalyst for regrowth. The root mass that sloughs off is the key to all the beauty here. That’s organic matter, and best of all it’s below the soil surface. Imagine if you had the ability to inject compost into the soil into your garden. This graze followed by periods of ample rest model literally builds topsoil. You’ll sometimes here this oscillation between growth and graze called lub dub grazing, micking the sound of a heart beat. The broader terms are management intensive grazing or mobstocking (PDF on principles of Controlled Grazing).
In addition very little of the biomass or grass eaten by the cow actually leaves the ecosystem. Cattle are ruminants which means they use their rumen, basically a large fermentation tank, to allow beneficial bacteria to break down the cellulose in the grass. So as the cows are actually feeding this microbial flora with grass, much of the protein the cows get is from those bacteria that pass through her gut. So as that grass gets digested and excreted back onto the soil surface very little is lost from the system to go towards maintaining and growing the animal. In fact the manure is now inoculated with new species of beneficial bacteria to enhance the flora of life in the soil. The roaming herds are what built our fertile lands that we now grow monocultures of annual grains on. But the land is actually much better off and the whole system much better suited for grazing. Its grazing rangeland relationship is one of the most beautiful systems in nature and unfortunately the most misunderstood and the first to be overlooked. One of the best articles ever written about this topic is The Amazing Benefits of Grassfed Meat by Richard Manning for Mother Earth News. Be sure to check out the Resources section of this site for more information.
Brock Dolman one of the brightest people alive in terms of the grassland grazer connection talks more about the science behind this system
Importance of being Predator Friendly
What holds those wild herds together is the fear of predation. Bunching up in groups is the defensive mechanism for herd species. Our ranch is Certified Predator Friendly which means we don’t use lethal force on native predators. Predators play an extremely crucial role to keeping native wildlife populations in check. This is only recently being understood after centuries of depredation throughout the West. It’s the predator pressure that actually encourages cattle to mob and prevents the risk of overgrazing. With the protection of electric fences, guardian dogs, and frequent moving our livestock are able to work into this complex system without actually taking losses from predators. Instead the predators have ample supplies of their native prey as and leave our livestock alone. For an in depth video on how all this works together watch Allan Savory’s video on How Cattle Can Reverse Climate Change
When an animal is stressed it affects meat quality. Animals that are raised in close confinement or handled roughly will release stress hormones that have a negative effect on taste and tenderness. Our animals are accustomed to moving to new areas frequently so they actually come when called, in anticipation of moving to new pasture. This makes for extremely low stress gathering and handling. We are pleased to be able to offer consumers an alternative to conventional CAFO meats and give them peace of mind that our animals are raised in a manner where we put the animal’s comfort and well-being first in addition to enhancing our local environment and building fertility back into our land rather than degrading it.
By law for retail sales we are required to use a USDA inspected butcher to harvest our meats. There are only a handful of USDA inspected facilities left in the state but we are extremely lucky that our local multi-generational artisanal butcher is one of those remaining USDA facilities. In contrast to the huge factory slaughter houses that only deal in truckloads of 50,000lbs our butcher only has the capacity for 8-10 animals each day. Like us, his business stresses quality over everything else and we are so lucky to have such a unique resource available to us locally.