The farmer uses his pitchfork to move hay, straw or other materials from one place to another. Much like the pitchfork our blog is designed to throw ideas, stories, advice, and our experience from us to you. I hope that you find this blog educational, entertaining, and practical as you spend a day or so on our farm.
Back to Pasture. Since the late 1990s, a growing
number of ranchers have stopped sending their animals to the feedlots to be
fattened on grain, soy and other supplements. Instead, they are keeping their
animals home on the range where they forage on pasture, their native diet. These
new-age ranchers do not treat their livestock with hormones or feed them
growth-promoting additives. As a result, the animals grow at a natural pace. For
these reasons and more, grass-fed animals live low-stress lives and are so
healthy there is no reason to treat them with antibiotics or other drugs.
More Nutritious. A major benefit of raising animals
on pasture is that their products are healthier for you. For example, compared
with feedlot meat, meat from grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and goats has less
total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. It also has more vitamin E,
beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a number of health-promoting fats, including
omega-3 fatty acids and “conjugated linoleic acid,” or CLA. Read more about the
nutritional benefits of raising animals on pasture.
The Art and Science of Grassfarming. Raising animals
on pasture requires more knowledge and skill than sending them to a feedlot. For
example, in order for grass-fed beef to be succulent and tender, the cattle need
to forage on high-quality grasses and legumes, especially in the months prior to
slaughter. Providing this nutritious and natural diet requires healthy soil and
careful pasture management so that the plants are maintained at an optimal stage
of growth. Because high-quality pasture is the key to high-quality animal
products, many pasture-based ranchers refer to themselves as "grassfarmers"
rather than “ranchers.” They raise great grass; the animals do all the
Factory Farming. Raising animals on pasture is
dramatically different from the status quo. Virtually all the meat, eggs, and
dairy products that you find in the supermarket come from animals raised in
confinement in large facilities called CAFOs or “Confined Animal Feeding
Operations.” These highly mechanized operations provide a year-round supply of
food at a reasonable price. Although the food is cheap and convenient, there is
growing recognition that factory farming creates a host of problems,
including: • Animal stress and abuse • Air, land, and water pollution •
The unnecessary use of hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs • Low-paid,
stressful farm work • The loss of small family farms • Food with less
Unnatural Diets. Animals raised in factory farms are
given diets designed to boost their productivity and lower costs. The main
ingredients are genetically modified grain and soy that are kept at artificially
low prices by government subsidies. To further cut costs, the feed may also
contain “by-product feedstuff” such as municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken
feathers, and candy. Until 1997, U.S. cattle were also being fed meat that had
been trimmed from other cattle, in effect turning herbivores into carnivores.
This unnatural practice is believed to be the underlying cause of BSE or “mad
Animal Stress. A high-grain diet can cause physical
problems for ruminants—cud-chewing animals such as cattle, dairy cows, goats,
bison, and sheep. Ruminants are designed to eat fibrous grasses, plants, and
shrubs—not starchy, low-fiber grain. When they are switched from pasture to
grain, they can become afflicted with a number of disorders, including a common
but painful condition called “subacute acidosis.” Cattle with subacute acidosis
kick at their bellies, go off their feed, and eat dirt. To prevent more serious
and sometimes fatal reactions, the animals are given chemical additives along
with a constant, low-level dose of antibiotics. Some of these antibiotics are
the same ones used in human medicine. When medications are overused in the
feedlots, bacteria become resistant to them. When people become infected with
these new, disease-resistant bacteria, there are fewer medications available to
Caged Pigs, Chickens, Ducks and Geese. Most of the
nation’s chickens, turkeys, and pigs are also being raised in confinement.
Typically, they suffer an even worse fate than the grazing animals. Tightly
packed into cages, sheds, or pens, they cannot practice their normal behaviors,
such as rooting, grazing, and roosting. Laying hens are crowded into cages that
are so small that there is not enough room for all of the birds to sit down at
one time. An added insult is that they cannot escape the stench of their own
manure. Meat and eggs from these animals are lower in a number of key vitamins
and omega-3 fatty acids.
Environmental Degradation. When animals are raised in
feedlots or cages, they deposit large amounts of manure in a small amount of
space. The manure must be collected and transported away from the area, an
expensive proposition. To cut costs, it is dumped as close to the feedlot as
possible. As a result, the surrounding soil is overloaded with nutrients, which
can cause ground and water pollution. When animals are raised outdoors on
pasture, their manure is spread over a wide area of land, making it a welcome
source of organic fertilizer, not a “waste management problem.” Read more about the environmental differences between
factory farming and grass-based production.
The Healthiest Choice. When you choose to eat meat,
eggs, and dairy products from animals raised on pasture, you are improving the
welfare of the animals, helping to put an end to environmental degradation,
helping small-scale ranchers and farmers make a living from the land, helping to
sustain rural communities, and giving your family the healthiest possible food.
It’s a win-win-win-win situation.