"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
It is true that to know what you are, you must experience what you are not. After working in the conventional agriculture industry for 10 years as an agronomist and CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) regulator, I've come to know who I am and what my purpose here is. I've always had an interest in health and wellness, grazing cattle, and raising my own food, but up until 2016, I only did it as a hobby. Having children completely changed the way I look at life and made me value the time I spend with them. All of these experiences have led me to quit doing it someone else's way and commit to what's written inside me: giving animals the life they desire, producing high quality grassfed products, and enhancing the environment in the process.
My intention is to become increasingly self-sustainable, relying less on those outside our homestead. I produce more food than our family consumes, so I sell whatever we don't need. This website is my attempt at educating you on the healthy alternative to conventional agriculture.
If you feel aligned with the way I do things and you'd like to get your hands on some of my grassfed products, click here. If you are the type of person who would much rather grow your own than rely on someone else, but you need a mentor to begin, click here.
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world." John Muir
Utilizing multiple species of animals to raise food enhances every aspect of the system. Cattle and pigs consume pasture plants and deposit manure. Chickens consume this manure and emerging insects, and they also deposit their own manure, which further fertilizes the plants that will be consumed by all species of animals. This process of consumption, deposition, and regrowth greatly enhances soil health. Plants utilize the nutrients that are deposited, which further protects surface and groundwater. Different species of animals consume different species of plants, which diversifies the pasture. Synthetic chemicals applied to our plants and animals will cycle through our ecosystem, and can end up in our drinking water, inside us, or they can negatively affect other members of our ecosystem. Routinely applying synthetic fertilizers to the soil will burn out the soil microbes (the life of the soil), which degrades soil health and plant vigor. Applying traditional macronutrient fertilizers like N-P-K will throw the soil nutrient levels out of balance with each other, creating micronutrient deficiencies in the soil, and further creating nutrient-deficient plants. The deficiency will continue through to the animals consuming the plants, and to the humans consuming the animals. As Dr. Seuss wisely said, life is a great balancing act. Mother Nature is always balancing out whatever harm we do to this world. She also has a way to take care of her creation if we just get out of the way and let her do it. It's when we utilize the creatures she's given us that we can benefit most. This is why I let the animals fertilize the plants and I do not use harsh or synthetic chemicals on my ranch. There's no benefit for me to use chemicals, since I am reducing or eliminating "problems" like parasites and illness by letting animals do what they are naturally born to do--rotationally graze on green, growing, life-filled plants, out in the sunlight and fresh air.
What are the health benefits to consuming 100% grass-fed and pastured products?
Just as human body tissue is affected by the food consumed, an animal's diet strongly affects the composition of its own meat, milk, eggs, and other products. Cattle, pigs, and chickens are all natural foragers, and they consumed growing grass in the wild, long before farmers ever started raising them. When animals are allowed to graze fresh pasture in the growing season and hay in the winter, their meat will be substantially lower in total fat, when compared to traditional confinement (feedlot) animals fed a diet high in grains. Conventionally-raised pigs are fed mostly corn and soybean meal, with an additive mixture of vitamins and minerals. Conventionally-raised beef cattle are fed a significant amount of grain, along with hay for roughage, in order to bring them to market weight quickly and produce that fatty marbling in the meat. You can tell the difference between grain-fed ground beef and exclusively grass-fed ground beef when you cook it in the pan--you will have to drain the fat out of the pan of grain-fed beef, but there will be nothing to drain out of the pan of grass-fed beef. Quality takes time--time to grow, time to mature. Beef cattle raised entirely on pasture plants (with no grain) take longer to reach butcher weight. My rotationally-grazing Beltie steers, which receive no grain, reach butcher weight at approximately 28 months. Compare that to 18 months for a grain-fed steer. By speeding up the weight gain of an animal with grains (and not allowing the animal to rotationally graze), the meat develops high levels of "bad" fats (ex: omega 6 fatty acids) and very low levels of "good" fats (ex: omega 3 fatty acids). Grass-fed animals have very high omega 3s and very low omega 6s. This is because omega 3s are formed in the green leaves of plants--which is exactly what pastured animals are consuming! The grain portion of a plant consists of oil, and is compromised mainly of omega 6s. We need both "good" and "bad" fats in the diet, but the ratio in the conventional (grain-fed) animal diet is reverse of what it should be, to reap the health benefits. Buyers beware: some farmers market their animals as "grass-finished"--this is NOT the same as "grass-fed." It simply means they gave their animals hay or put them on pasture a few weeks prior to butcher (not for the lifetime of the animal), which does not produce the same quality of meat as a truly 100% grass-fed or pastured animal. Vitamins are also more highly concentrated in grass-fed animals. For example, our bodies need Vitamin K2, which is nearly nonexistent in today's food products (thanks to our conventional agriculture systems). Fortunately, animals eating green, growing plants are consuming vitamin K1, and it is transformed into vitamin K2 within their bodies. When we eat their products (meat, egg yolks, cheese, butter, etc), we consume vitamin K2! Grass-fed animal products are also higher in vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin D (from sunlight), B-vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and so much more. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), another essential fatty acid and antioxidant, is found at much higher concentrations in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed beef, because dry grain-based diets reduce the pH of the digestive system in ruminants, which prevents the CLA-producing bacteria from growing. It really does matter what your food is eating in its lifetime!
Does animal well-being matter?
People often ask me how I can raise these animals when the end result is that I will consume them. After all, don't I have emotions? That is exactly why I do it. Butchering day has always been emotionally draining for me, but it is reality that for us to have life, we must have death. It's important to be connected to your food--to understand all that went into the process is deeply rewarding. These animals are giving their lives to nourish our bodies, so it is extremely important that their lives be filled with love and all their needs are met. I truly believe that raising an animal with love in their natural environment is the most important factor in raising animals for food, and unfortunately, this is often missing in most of our large-scale meat and egg producing facilities. It is extremely important to allow an animal the freedom to be itself. Each animal species has its own specific way of expressing that: chickens require the freedom to scratch, peck, and forage for food outside; pigs require the freedom and space to root at the ground and explore with their snouts; and cattle need to feel safe in a calm environment with space to graze. Stress really affects animals' bodies, just as it does our own. Handling animals with abuse, or denying animals their basic needs (ex: not allowing chickens to scratch the ground, pigs to root, cattle to rest) lowers their immune system, which results in sickness. The flavor and texture of the meat will also be negatively affected by increasing stress. This is why I carefully select my butchering facility for cattle and pigs, and choose to process my chickens on the farm. A low-stress, peaceful environment is important all the way up to the exact moment the life leaves the body. We are what we eat.
Why are pastured eggs so special?
Eggs from chickens consuming fresh pasture have ten times more omega 3s than eggs from confined hens. Just like other grazing animals, pastured hens convert the sunlight they are exposed to into Vitamin D. Guess where that Vitamin D ends up? Eggs! The yolks of pastured eggs are colored deep orange, and this is a result of the hen consuming other living things: green growing plants and bugs. Pastured eggs contain more Vitamin A, more Vitamin E, more beta-carotene, more "good" fats (omega 3s), less cholesterol, and less saturated fat than eggs from confined hens. And just because a carton of eggs says "organic," "free-range," or "cage-free," doesn't mean they are absorbing sunlight or consuming growing vegetation and insects. Don't be fooled by today's clever marketing tools. The only way to truly know how your food is raised is to visit the farm or ranch and see for yourself.
Organic? No...... GRASSFED!!
Because my ranch is so small (because I'm raising food for my own family and not selling a whole lot), I see no value in becoming USDA certified organic or certified in any other way. I am selling locally and encourage all customers to visit the ranch to witness my practices and decide for themselves whether they find the products acceptable to purchase. I do not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or drugs on my ranch. I use apple cider vinegar, diatomaceous earth, and garlic for illness and enhancing immune function. Read about my thoughts on organic feed here.