What is grass-fed beef?
Grass-fed is a way to describe the diet of cattle that eat exclusively grass and forages, but no grains such as corn or soybeans.
Don't all cows eat grass?
Yes, all cows eat grass and must to survive. Cattle have a rumen, which allows them to digest grass. They are designed to be grass eating machines. Somewhere down the road, though someone figured out that cattle could get fatter faster if they were fed corn. Since that equates to making more money it has become common place that farmers feed their cattle corn along with grass. We call that corn-fed and it’s how 95% of cattle in the US is raised*.
Why is grass-fed better?
Cattle are designed for eating grass and that’s what their ancestors, the bison, ate in nature. I like to compare corn for cattle to candy for humans. If people ate excessive amounts of candy every day, they would feel sick, be unhealthy and more be prone to disease, but they would gain weight, which to many farmers is all that matters. Grass-fed producers believe that eating grass makes for a healthier animal, which in turn makes healthier meat. The infographic below shows the benefits of grass-fed beef over corn-fed.
How do I know it’s grass-fed?
Labelling for grass-fed is incredibly tricky since all beef are fed grass. Look for a label that says 100% grass-fed and even better look for certifications that assure the animals aren’t fed corn. AGA (American Grassfed Association) label is a reliable one. If a label says grass-finished, more than likely the animals were fed corn in their life, but were cut off a few months before being processed.
Things are starting to slow down for us here. And by slow down I mean go from feeling like we are working non-stop to being able to breath for about 10 minutes.
All the cattle are home from our rented pastures, which means only two different groups to look after. In the winter months we switch from rotating daily on fresh pastures, to feeding hay that we grew ourselves and harvested in the summer. Last year we switched from feeding out of traditional feeders, where cattle group around a ring with a hay bale inside, to feeding with a bale feeder. It hooks onto our tractor and takes a bale and unrolls it on the ground. It's a lot closer to how the cattle eat during the summer: off the ground and spread out. This way they aren't dirtying up one area, which in the spring can quickly turn into belly deep mud around a traditional feeder. They are also spreading their manure out naturally throughout the pasture along with any leftover hay, which will help grow better pasture in the summer, without using excessive amounts of equipment/fossil fuels.
The piglets are getting bigger, and maybe can't even be called piglets anymore since they are growing so fast! They moved out of their parent's house and into their own apartment complex, which includes three different houses, and an overhang. Needless to say they are happy to be on their own. We continue to get vegetables from our friends from Kings Hill Farm in Mineral Point, that they couldn't sell and the pigs absolutely love it. Their favorite is squash, but they also love sweet potatoes, cabbage and carrots.
As for us we have been gearing up for the holidays. We teamed up with Underground Meats and made two different kinds of dry-cured sausages using our meat and processed by them. The two sausages are soppressata and pepperoni. They don't need to be kept in the refrigerator as long as you eat them within a couple months, which makes them really nice as gifts or stocking stuffers. Another good gift idea is a meat box. We offer a few different beef and pork boxes that have a nice variety for stocking someone's freezer. Info about boxes here. If you want to purchase something from us, our online store is here.