Restock Dates: Chicken, Sept 29 | Beef , Sept 24 | Pork, Sept 23

| Lamb, NLT Oct 15

Spring is just around the corner!

February 19, 2017

Spring is just around the corner! And with Spring comes grilling, bar-b-que and family cookouts. Now is also the time folks start making deposits for their half orders of custom processed beef and pork.

We continue to accept deposits for pigs that will go to slaughter by mid-March. We have a few left so if you are looking for “second to none” pork be sure to get your deposit in today.

Have you reserved your fresh chicken yet? All you need to do is let me know how many you want per batch. The first batch will be available April 22 and then every 4-weeks thereafter.

Steers are enjoying their diverse forage pastures and are growing just fine. Today, we will start taking deposits for Beef Half – Custom Processed. Just like pork, buying a half where you choose the processing is the “best value” for your food dollar.

Early March is our biggest demand for cash to pay insurance premiums and seeds for summer pastures. We appreciate your consideration to order promptly.

Next week I will share our trip to the State Capital on Feb 16th and an interview of Beth by MS Today.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BEEF

Since 2011 I have been associated with The Grass-fed Exchange – a volunteer, non-profit organization of regenerative ranchers and grass-fed industry supporters – exchanging knowledge, ideas, strategies, livestock genetics, products and services that expand the grass-fed industry’s transformative impact. Conference topics range from soil health, forages, grazing management, livestock, marketing, human health concerns, etc.

A key objective is to point producers in the right direction so they know what premium grass-fed beef is supposed to be.

As more producers come into the business of direct marketing “grass-fed beef,” it will become more important for consumers to be informed about what to look for in their beef – because when consumers buy an inferior product and are NOT satisfied, then all (including reputable) grass-fed beef producers suffer.

At this year’s GFE Conference I was honored to be part of the Producer’s Panel along with four other farmers. We each gave a brief overview of our farm and then answered questions from the audience. It was a rewarding experience!  

So, what do the experts say? How do you choose the best beef?

Breed: Select beef cattle – not dairy. English breeds like Angus and Hereford are best with little to no Brahma influence. A medium frame or bone structure is better than a larger frame structure because they will mature earlier and be more efficient on grass.

Harvest: A medium frame steer matures at approximately 850 pounds. Then, in addition to continuing to grow muscle, they will start adding marbling and fat. Note that fat in grass-fed beef is very healthy as this is where nutrients are stored to be used in leaner times. The last place you see fat collect is around the tailbone. This is one of the best indications the animal is ready for harvest.

For most medium framed animals on excellent forage, it will take 15 months or more to reach the proper harvest weight of 1,000 pounds.

However, it is NOT just about the age or weight as much as it is about the fat. The biggest mistake most grass-fed beef farmers make is not letting their cattle get fat enough. And, that requires good forage and time.

Forage: According to Mark Schatzker in his book “Steak,” the best tasting steak came from beef fed a diverse forage diet. This is totally opposite from the monoculture pastures that most cattle graze. As you may guess, each plant type offers different nutrient and flavor qualities that the cow consumes as they graze. That is why our pastures include grasses, legumes, and broadleaf forage species. Also, forage diversity helps build soil health. A win-win-win!

Additionally, I might add, some producers market their beef as pastured with grain, grass-fed plus grain, or something similar. While the grain can improve the marbling and amount of fat in the steer, grain also adds the risk of GMO and glyphosate chemical. In my opinion, this would make this beef only marginally better than feedlot beef that would include GMO and glyphosate. Note that chemicals are stored in the fat of grain fed steers.

One thing I have recently learned is how important (what a difference) processing makes to a quality product. Dry aging (which is all that is available in our area) is more art than science. Over the years I have read about aging and then recently I reached out to my friend Dr. Allen Williams who use to teach this at MSU and now consults with cattlemen and packers across the country (he also raises grass-fed beef that is sold to high end restaurants along the East Coast). He said that dry aging is becoming a "lost art". Proper dry aging adds tenderization and flavor - as the enzymes in the meat have to have time to break down. Important factors include the steer's age, amount of backfat and the cooler rooms temperature, humidity, and air flow. For our beef, the proper amount of aging will be between 11 to 14 days.

When we changed our business model July 2016, we also changed processors to Attala Frozen Foods. Initially, the driving factor was because they were a state inspected facility. However, a much added benefit has been the increased aging of the beef before cut & packaging. I was also impressed that Mr. Archie had reached out to MSU and together conducted studies on proper dry aging of grass-fed beef way before I became a customer.

We have really noticed the difference in what we have cooked. And, some customers have expressed the same. Maybe you would be interested as well!

Ben Simmons

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