8 Questions to Ask Your Beef Farmer & Our Answers to Them
Many of our customers come to us having never purchased beef directly from a farm before. They don’t always know the terminology used or how the process works, but they want to make sure they are getting a product that provides the highest quality nutrition and taste for themselves and their families. They also want meat that is raised in a way that is good for the environment instead of degrading it.
If you are new to buying pasture-raised, grass-fed beef, we’ve compiled this list of questions that you may want to ask your farmer to make sure you are getting the quality of product you want.
1) Are the animals raised on pasture? If so, is the pasture sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers?
Just because an animal is raised on pasture doesn’t mean that no chemicals were used. The pasture could be sprayed with chemicals that you don’t want in your food and don’t want your food to be eating either!
Our animals are raised on a pasture that is never sprayed with any herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers.
2) Are the animals 100% grass-fed? Are they given anything other than pasture grass or hay to eat?
A cow that eats only grass and/or grass hay from the time it is born (after weaning) until it is finished is 100% grass-fed. You always want to make sure to ask if the cow is 100% grass-fed because an animal can be raised on pasture and therefore advertised as pasture-raised meat without being 100% grass-fed. Many beef cows are given supplemental grain to help them gain weight more quickly. Not only are cows not meant to eat these grains, but supplemental grains can be genetically modified (GMO) and/or sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.
Our cattle are 100% grass-fed. Three seasons of the year they eat directly from the pasture. During the winter months they eat hay. We do not feed any supplemental grain.
3) Are the animals fed silage?
Making silage is a way that farmers use to preserve pasture plants through fermentation. Corn is the most common kind of silage. Because corn is considered a grass until it reaches the blister stage, beef cattle can be labeled “grass-fed” and still be fed conventionally grown genetically modified (GMO) and/or sprayed corn.
Our animals are never fed silage.
4) What supplements do your cattle receive?
To ensure the health of the cow and higher nutrient quality in the meat, beef cattle should have free access to a mineral supplement at all times. Ask your farmer about the kind of minerals they use and if their cattle have free access to it. 100% grass-fed beef is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, but if cattle don’t have all of the nutrients they need as they grow they aren’t able to provide as much nutrition when they are processed.
Our cattle have free access to minerals at all times. We also provide kelp and apple cider vinegar to them to ensure they are able to get all of the micronutrients they need. This also helps to prevent disease.
5) Is any of your meat from dairy cattle?
It is perfectly acceptable to eat the meat from old dairy cattle, but they will not provide the same level of flavor and tenderness that meat breeds of cattle provide. Dairy cattle are almost always fed supplemental grain to increase milk yields, as well, so the animal will almost certainly not be 100% grass-fed.
Our cattle are always meat breeds, not dairy cattle.
6) Do you move your cattle from field to field/rotationally graze?
Cattle need to be rotated from field to field regularly. Fresh pasture is better for their health and the health of the pasture, as it gives the latent pastures time to regrow and ensures that the animals are getting a well-rounded diet.
Our pasture is divided into paddocks through which we rotate the cattle. Casey monitors the forage grass in the pastures carefully and rotates the cattle at the most appropriate time to maintain an ideal diet for the cows and maintain the health of the pasture. Depending on the time of year this can be anywhere from every couple of days to every couple of weeks. In the winter months when the cattle are eating hay, they stay in the pasture closest to the house and sheds so we can get the hay to them more easily.
7) Do you use antibiotics or hormones in your animals?
Using antibiotics or hormones routinely is not necessary or healthy for cattle, the environment, or for the humans that interact with them and eat their meat. Some farmers choose to use antibiotics with sick animals. Others use herbs to treat illness instead. Ask your farmer about their decisions and if the animal you are purchasing meat from has ever been given either antibiotics or hormones.
We never use any antibiotics or hormones in our animals.
8) How are your animals finished?
The majority of cattle are finished on grain for the last three or so months of their lives. While this brings them to a higher market weight, it nullifies the benefits of a cow being grass-fed before those final months of its life.
Our cows are 100% grass finished. They are never fed any supplemental grain and are truly grass-fed their whole lives.
Your farmer should always be willing to answer any questions you have about how they raise their cattle. In fact, most farmers we know that raise grass-fed beef would be happy to talk your ear off about pasture quality, rotational grazing, and raising the healthiest and most delicious animals possible! No question is too silly, so don’t hesitate to ask!