What is “Grass-Fed”? I thought all beef ate grass.
Yes, all beef eat grass. However the vast majority of the nation’s beef supply are fed a highly concentrated diet of grain for the last few months of life. 100%Grass-fed and grass-finished beef and ONLY consume grass for their entire life, and are NEVER fed grain. While practically any farmer could truly claim their animals are “grass-fed,” feeding grain (including organic grain) in any amount violates the intent of producing 100% grass fed meat.
What is so special about 100% Grass-Fed?
Cattle are ruminant animals. Their digestive systems were created to digest high fiber materials like grass. When grain is fed to a ruminant, the biological action in the stomach of the animal is thrown into a fit, becoming more acidic, causing illness, and high omega 6 fatty acids in the meat. 100% grass-fed animals do not have problems with E.coli that feedlot animals do and have never been diagnosed with mad cow disease. The nutritional benefits of consuming 100% grass-fed meats are numerous. You may read about them here www.eatwild.com
Why does grass fed meat cost more than conventional meat?
The US government heavily subsidizes the production of grain in this country. Because of these subsidies, corn is relatively cheap to produce, store and feed. Additionally, corn is very high in energy. When cattle are fed corn, they will put more fat in their meat, very quickly. Grain-fattened cattle can be ready for slaughter in as little as 16 months. Most grass-fed cattle are at least 18-24 months of age at slaughter. No short-cuts are taken with truly grass fed meat.
Fewer animals can be raised responsibly on pasture as can be raised on feedlots. We are committed to not polluting our land or our community with run-off manure or with offensive smells. We are also committed to the health of our animals. In order to achieve this, we raise only the number of animals our land can support.
We cannot compete with the low prices of subsidized, industrial, commodity-based farming without compromising on quality. However, our meat far exceeds factory-raised meat in terms of quality, health benefits and long-term costs. Our animals are healthier and our farm does not pollute the environment. In the long run, our meat is much less expensive than industrialized meat due to the fact that we do not contribute to rising health care costs by contributing to sickness (caused by pollution, unhealthy animals & antibiotic-resistance), nor do we contribute to expensive environmental contamination related to manure run-off. When all costs to society and the environment are included, our products are much more valuable than industrialized products.
Grass-based farming requires land and land prices are at an all-time high. We purchased our land at market price and may not re-coup that in our life-time. However, our goal is to have an economically viable business to pass on to the generations that follow us. We live very frugally and willingly gave up paid vacation and retirement plans in order to see this through and ensure this land would not be sold to development, but be available to produce food for our community for generations to come. In short, this is not a hobby for us. This is a cause.
How are the animals fed at Lighthouse Farm?
We are a pastured-based farm. We take great pride in the manner in which our animals are raised. Our cattle are never fed grain. During the spring, summer, fall and early winter months, they graze our lush pastures which haven’t had any chemical or commercial fertilizer applications for at least 15 years. In winter, we feed quality grass hay (hay is dried grass) raised on those same pastures. They are never given hormones or antibiotics.
Our pigs are raised outdoors with plenty of access to soil, sunshine, greens, and fresh air. Pigs are actually grazing animals and can obtain up to 50% of their nutrient needs from pasture. Contrary to pigs raised in the industrial model of pork production, our pigs are odor-free. In addition to pasture, we feed them our own open pollinated, GMO-free corn grown organically on our farm without chemicals or commercial fertilizers. As an additional protein supplement, we feed linseed meal and milk from our own goats when it is available.
For nutritional support, we give our animals access to natural minerals via kelp and real salt.
Is Lighthouse Farm a Certified Organic farm?
Our farm has not had any chemicals or fertilizers applied since 1989. We don’t use hormones or antibiotics. We are not Certified Organic, we are really beyond certified organic. Organic certification standards are now a moving target in the hands of the USDA. Large, corporate farm interests are pressuring USDA to re-define organic standards all the time. The goal of “Big Organic” producers is to push as close to the line as possible, without losing organic certification.
Our goal is not to get as close to conventional as possible while staying organic; our goal is to produce the purest, healthiest meat possible for our customers. We are a local farm, selling meat to local people. Our customers are welcome to our farm. We love to submit ourselves to their inspection. Fundamentally, we disagree with the USDA defining what organic or “grass-fed” means. Additionally, certification is costly, and at the heart of the matter is the fact that we are farming in harmony and alignment with nature, not against it. We are farming in much the same way farmers did for thousands of years until post World War II, when “modern” agriculture came in to being.
If you don’t use any antibiotics, how do you handle illness in your animals?
Conventional farms use shortcuts like antibiotics and growth hormones because they are more efficient. We aren’t after efficiency, we are after quality. This means we use all of nature’s tools in caring for our livestock. We mimic nature as closely as possible, which not only reduces stress in the animals, but it also allows them to consume what they need to be healthy. Our pastures are rotated among 4 different species of animals – beef, sheep, pigs, and poultry. This means that any pathogens which may be lurking around are defeated simply by not allowing them to reproduce. Each specie of animal breaks up the pathogen load. Our newborns are kept with their mothers as long as possible to ensure a healthy start. We routinely feed organic kelp as an immune system builder. Our animals receive plenty of fresh air and sunshine. They are never forced to sleep in their own excrement or breathe ammonia-concentrated air. As a result, illness is virtually non-existent with our animals.
Studies have shown that the deadly form of E.coli as well as the not-so-deadly strains are not found in properly managed 100% grass-fed animals. Nor have any 100% grass-fed animals been diagnosed with mad cow disease. See www.eatwild.com for the health benefits to animals of a pasture-based farming operation.
What do you feed the cattle in winter?
We feed high quality, mixed grass hay raised right here on the farm. We are particular about the timing and method of harvesting our grass. We preserve as much of the mineral and vitamin content as possible in this way.
Are the animals slaughtered in a humane way?
Yes. We have our animals processed in a small, local abattoir that is state-inspected. We are allowed to watch the process from start-to-finish. Our animals are calm and do not show signs of stress.
How can I know that the processor did not switch your meat with someone else’s?
The processor we use is not a large scale processor. They are a small, local business that does not cater to large, industrial volumes of meat. Working on one animal at a time is the daily routine. There is no mixing of one animal with another in this way. We have observed the process from start-to-finish and are confident that they know what they are doing. We are also confident they appreciate our business and will do all to ensure 100% satisfaction.
How does the tenderness of Lighthouse Farm grass-fed beef compare with that of conventional beef?
Tenderness, juiciness and flavor in the meat of any animals is generally enhanced by the “marbling” of meat. That is the small layers of fat scattered throughout the meat. Marbling is important and difficult to put on an animal without feeding a concentrated diet that includes grain. However, it is possible for 100% grass-fed beef and lamb to marble on grass. Factors include the breed of the animal, the quality of the grass, and the diet for the last 30 days. At Lighthouse Farm, our rotational grazing program keeps our animals on lush grass all the time. In addition, we choose breeds that marble well on grass.
The meat must be cooked at low temperatures for a longer period of time in order to preserve its tenderness.
Are there any differences in the preparation of grass fed meat from conventional?
All beef will benefit from relatively slow cooking, and moderate heat. Lighthouse Farm Grass-Fed beef is dry aged. The flavor is sealed in and there is really no need to do anything different in preparation. Click here for some of our favorite recipes.
Is your grass-based farm more healthy for the environment than conventional agricultural systems?
Most definitely yes. Since there is no overcrowding of animals, there is no manure run-off. And because there is no abuse of antibiotics, there is no issue of antibiotics or antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria run-off. Our farm does not omit offensive odors as far as 10 miles away like large, confined animal production systems do. As a matter of fact, one could stand within petting distance from our animals and not have to hold your nose in disgust! Furthermore, since we are concerned about the health of our soil for future generations, we are mindful of being good stewards of it now. Because we maintain and manage our soils, pastures and forests here, our farm does not contribute to greenhouse gasses and instead is a valuable asset for carbon storage.