Patrick and I went to pick up our beef from the butcher yesterday. We go to a slaughter-house in Lewisburg, WV. It has been difficult finding a butcher nearby who will process meats with USDA certification. We are happy to have found a great family-run place.
When we moved to the farm I began research on beef, pork and poultry raising. We have been interested in organic farming and healthy-living for a long time, but I still purchased meat from Sam's or Costco or wherever I could find the biggest bargain for our hungry omnivorous family. A book came across my path that changed all that. Pasture-Fed Perfect, by Jo Robinson lays out the argument for forage-raised meat. I had no real idea the path that the average grocery store meat took from"farm" to store shelf. Such a little, easy to read book, showed hard data and research that indicates that meat raised on pasture, eating grass the way its body was designed to eat, ends up being more nutrient-dense, with more of the good cholestrol, less bad cholestrol than meat raised in pens, being stuffed with grain. Cattle were never meant to eat so much corn.
We purchased our first steers two springs ago. My dad raised beef cattle during my childhood, but I never paid much attention. Just stayed far away from the pasture with the big old bull, and had nightmares of "Old Sam" chasing me through fields. I did eat a lot of meat growing up. Took it for granted. Red meat has always been one of my favorite things. I hoped to raise for ourselves and others good quality beef. Our steers have been on grass, or with hay, their whole life, but the last 5 weeks we opted to give white-face steer a small bucket of non-gmo, non-medicated locally grown grain. Just enough to gentle him down. Not so much to give him a tummy ache. It is helpful to have a 1000lb steer willing to follow you around wherever you want him to go, because pushing is out of the question. We gave him and our other livestock access to minerals, salt and rather poor pasture. Could be worse pasture, but it takes a few years to develop great grass using the organic method, so we have to work with what we have. We chose to castrate at a later age than is standard practice so we would not have to give hormone injections. (Hormones are standard practice, by the way, even on the average small farm.)
Eighteen months is a very long time to wait for a home-grown steak. It called for a celebration. Our friends, the Thomas family, came over and we grilled the fatted, but not too fatted calf. First thing I noticed was the yellow tinge in the fat. What a difference. Just like our butter is golden yellow, the yolks of our eggs are orangey yellow, this fat was yellow as well.
Here are some things I have learned about grass-fed beef:
*Grass-fed beef has 2-6 times the Omega-3 fatty acids as grainfed beef.
*GF beef has twice the beta-carotene as grainfed beef.
*GF beef has 4 times the Vit. E of grainfed beef.
*GF beef is over 50%lower in saturated fat.
You can read more info yourself on Jo Robinson's Eatwild website. Her book will change the way you think about meat, eggs and milk.
So, eating healthy foods is pretty important to me. I want our children to grow up having access to real food. But what about taste?
It was delicious! We consumed several pounds of grilled steak, okra sauteed in butter, big mounds of golden mashed potatoes, everything harvested right here on the farm. What a gift. Certainly not a bargain-bin special. No way we can compete with Sam's club prices. But what a treat. I am thankful to have the opportunity to raise food for our family and for others who have other callings off the farm. I am pretty tired right now, and significantly overwhelmed by gallons of milk, cheesemaking, harvesting, canning, chicken killing, bread making, feed buying, fall garden planting, laundry, homeschool, etc., etc. Nevertheless, each month it seems apparent that farming and raising our food is indeed a noble calling. I am working to find my balance. Not getting it all done. But eating really well in the meantime. Trying to pause occasionally and listen, be still and be grateful.
Better get back to the pears. And plums. And apples. And tomatoes. And peppers. As I do I will savor the memory of that steak last night and look forward to supper. Grass-fed burgers with homemade cheese, anyone?