If you’ve been following us on social media or reading our monthly newsletter, you’ve probably heard us use the phrase “pasture raised” a time or two. We do so to distinguish our animal-husbandry techniques and to offer a bit of transparency about where our food comes from. So, why are we so proud of this distinction? How has this phrase come to summarize our daily operation? How does it affect you as a consumer?
Raising animals is not a responsibility we take lightly. We try to maintain a habitat for our animals that keeps them healthy and happy. This is why we raise them outdoors where they have room to roam, to graze, and to enjoy the comfort of fresh air and sunshine. So, when we say “pasture raised,” we are referring to this practice, which all our farmers employ.
Animals that live in confined spaces are at risk of injuring themselves or other animals. They are more likely to experience stress and to get sick (and to require antibiotics). These conditions affect both the well being of the animals and the quality of the meat they produce. Several studies have proven this. And here’s an article in The Atlantic that goes into a good bit of detail about the science behind why this happens.
To ensure the integrity of our methods and the resulting foods, our production staff has developed list of throughly researched livestock standards and best practices. This document is reviewed and revised annually to reflect any innovations that may improve the quality of our care. These standards ensure that—as a cooperative—we operate with respect for our animals and the land we raise them on. Our production team regularly visits each farm to make sure that these standards are being followed, and we do not sell meat from farms who do not comply with these expectations. Below is an excerpt from these standards. These are the first three of 17 rules that our farmers must follow with regard to their pastures, but you can read the entire document at the link above on our website:
Pasture and Forage
The aim of good ranging and foraging area management is to satisfy the natural behaviors of the flock or herd in search of food. The following standards apply to all livestock and poultry raised for Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative:
- Animals must be able to explore the ground and natural environment.
- Continuous outdoor pasture access is required for all animals.
- Though extensive and rotational grazing systems are permitted, the latter is preferred. Even within systems of extensive grazing, pastures and range areas must be used in rotation.
Being outside allows the animals to live in a low-stress environment. And rotating them to new pastures means that they have fresh, clean nutrient-rich grass to graze and that the land has time to regenerate.
And—not only is a pasture-based system beneficial to the animals and the environment—it serves the consumers as well. In the past several years, a good deal of research has been reported that declares grass-fed beef to be much healthier than that from cattle who eat grain. This article from the New York Times is a thorough summary of some of the findings, namely that grass-fed beef is lower in overall fat, higher in omega 3 fatty acids, has more vitamins, and contains antioxidants.
Additionally, meats from pasture-raised animals are less likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and salmonella because these animals are raised in a much cleaner environment.
So, yes, we are proud of our pastures. And we are proud to offer you good food raised right.
In our next post, we’ll talk about the specifics of the grass. What do we do to keep it clean and healthy? What are favorite snacks of our foraging friends? Stay tuned…