Unfortunately, our beef is not normal.
Looking at a “normal distribution” of HOW all beef is raised in our country, we are definitely weird!
Normal is for the masses, we like being weird! No status quo around here. Actually, if you look at the pattern of nature and IF you consider nature normal, then yes we are normal. That is why we say, “unfortunately, our beef is not normal”. We hope in the future that pasture raised beef will be the norm, until then, we choose to be weird.
Fortunately our weird is some folks normal. We are currently seeing great demand for our beef and are happy to spread the word and connect interested customers with other weird beef producers.
Weird vs Normal beef:
The problem with normal food.
Seth Godin points out that “Normal diets made it easier for mass food manufacturers to generate a profit.” We have seen the results of the Standard American Diet (standard = normal). Our society has reached a point where some of the masses are realizing that their diet is directly linked to their overall health and they are seeking out healthy/weird food.
“We are all on a diet, be on a healthy one!” – Dr. Joseph Mercola
Being weird is not easy, as Godin also points out, “Do the hard work – be real.” For real health, you are going to have to do some work! Raising REAL BEEF, in natures image requires some hard work and commitment. Give us a call and come see some Weird Beef. As Dave always says:
“Be Weird!” – Dave Ramsey
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How is our beef different from 99% of other beef? We keep the herd in MOTION. This requires planning, implementing and tracking. Grazing guru Joel Salatin says it this way, “I’m just the orchestra conductor, making sure everybody’s in the right place at the right time.” His way of saying we are practicing “precision agriculture” 3 R’s; right place, right time and right amount.
The high-tech “precision ag” tools we use every day:
- Braided poly/stainless steel/tinned copper wire
- Electric pulse fencer
- Grazing Schedule – digital maps
The poly wire (1) and electric fencer (2), keeps the herd IN the right place. Our grazing schedule is the tool that keeps everything in MOTION (right time). Folks have developed many different techniques to create and keep up a grazing schedule. We do it with digital maps, very simply, in what is called a geographic information system (GIS).
DS Family Farm Grazing Schedule in a Geographic Information System (GIS).
The most important part of our Grazing Schedule are the principles behind our moves. We use the GIS to help us follow these principles:
- Provide a fresh pasture break nearly every day of the year.
- Prevent re-bite on any fresh grass regrowth.
- Graze, followed by plant rest AND recovery.
- Rotate date of use each year.
- Current animal needs, including wildlife.
Here is a simple example how our Grazing Schedule works:
Deciding where to move next using digital maps.
- View on left, today end of March 2017, the herd is near the large solid orange triangle. The yellow lines outline the paddocks we have grazed this winter (no grass to graze in these small blocks). The larger open areas with question [?] marks are where we could go next.
- In the view on the right, I turned on black lines and “dates” that show our grazing during this time period from a year ago. Last year at the orange triangle (where the herd is now) we grazed in June meeting our principle of not grazing at basically the same time of year. I have placed a yellow [X] over areas that have a [?] mark in the left photo. We want to avoid these areas based on the timing we grazed during the previous year and some other factors.
- So the remaining open areas in the right view are options for where we will graze next.
If you look again at the right view map, note that our “moves” or “paddocks” are rarely the same (yellow lines versus black lines). Most cattle grazing across the country is on permanent pasture areas getting grazed the same year after year. At DS Family Farm our cow herd grazes different patterns across the landscape every year, creating chaos and diversity. We feel this is better for the grass, animals, wildlife and overall ecosystem of our pasture.
We schedule cows to move! This is why we call our beef “Pasture Grazed” and not just “GRASSFED”.
Some grazing paddocks, 2014 – 2017, chaotic and on the move.
Visit our farm if you are curious about how we care for the herd and pastures. Public roads boarder two sides of the farm, so drive by inspections are possible any day of the year. Please call ahead to make sure we are around if you would like to see the herd first hand.
Annual Farm Audit
If you are not able to visit the herd or wouldn’t know what to look for, we are glad to have an annual inspection to verify our beef herd as:
- Animal Welfare Approved
- Certified Grassfed
Who is inspecting who?
Kim Alexander recently visited the herd as part of our annual Animal Welfare/Certified Grassfed audit.
Auditor Kim Alexander visited the farm this year. This was our second audit and a new auditor comes each year. Kim walked the pasture and inspected the herd. The audit is completed every 11 months. This allows inspectors to view the operation during different portions of the year (growing season versus non-growing season). Following the field review, we spent some time going over plans and records for our beef operation.
Auditors Know Their Stuff
Kim just doesn’t check boxes as an auditor, he practices what he reviews on his own farm. What a great opportunity to have an experienced grazer like Kim come and look over our operation. We shared some ideas and gained some insights to what we are doing and how we could improve.
Change Is Good
We have a few years of grazing under our belt now but every year is different. What worked last year may not work this year. When working with mother nature we need to be ready to adapt. The factory where we produce beef for your table is not a climate controlled building with a consistent stream of incoming parts.
Change Is Required
That is what Kim was checking on. Are we ready to provide for our herd when the unexpected happens?
- Records document what happened.
- Records help us compare from year to year.
- Plans make us consider our pasture and our herd.
- Plans make us prepare for emergency situations.
If you are curious about the different plans and records we keep, just drop us an email. We would be happy to share with you what we are doing.
We advertise our beef herd as “Animal Welfare Approved” and “Certified Grassfed by AWG“, but what do these labels mean? I don’t know about you, but when it comes to checking out claims, I turn to Consumer Reports. In August 2015, Consumer Reports published a “Beef Report“:
Let’s take a look at some of the report findings:
Consumer Reports – Sustainable Beef-Production Practices:
- Cows are ruminants—their natural behavior consists of grazing. Allowing beef cattle to graze on well-managed pastures from birth to slaughter (often referred to as 100 percent grass-fed) is at the core of sustainable beef production. What’s good for animal welfare is also good for the environment and for consumers.
- … pastures can only feed herds of a certain size, and in a properly managed pasture, the stressful and crowded disease-promoting conditions of the feedlot are eliminated. Healthier, less stressed animals need fewer antibiotics and other drugs to stay healthy.
- Soils of grazing land can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Managing cattle carefully to ensure that pastures are grazed moderately means restoring soil quality and cutting greenhouse gases by keeping carbon in the soil as organic matter rather than releasing it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
- More water is conserved in grass-based systems compared with conventional ones.
- Grass-fed beef isn’t just better for animals, public health, and the planet; it may be healthier for individual consumers as well.
If you have followed our past blog posts, the above findings are familiar information. It is nice to have the credibility of Consumer Reports back up what we know as common sense observations in the natural world.
OK, but what about labels?
The 2015 Beef Report had plenty to say about labels. From “Highly Meaningful” labels to labels that have no meaning at all. Please refer to the full report for all the label categories. A quick look at the first two labels under the “Highly Meaningful Labels” as “Verified” we find:
- Animal Welfare Approved
- Certified Grassfed by AWG
In a January 26, 2017 update at http://greenerchoices.org/, Certified Grassfed by AWG, is one of the four “labels to look for” when “choosing grass fed”.
Curious to read more?
Our farm is third party reviewed for Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grassfed by AWG. For more information on these specific labels we direct you to these resources:
- A Greener World (AWG) — “North America’s most trusted and transparent farm certifier.”
- Animal Welfare Approved (Program of AWG), remains the only label in the marketplace to ensure the following:
- Meaningful, verified, outdoor pasture and range based systems–not just a door at the end of a building or an outdoor concrete run
- No cages, crates or feedlots–ever
- Verified environmentally sustainable farming and ranching
- Responsible stewardship of public resources like air, water, soil and antibiotics
- Independent farms/farmers meeting the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S. and Canada
- Prohibit the use of hormones (like rBST), animal byproducts or routine antibiotics
- Industry-leading high welfare handling and management from birth through slaughter
- Independent standards for the inspection of slaughter plants
- (January 2017 AWA Press Release)
- Certified Grassfed by AWG
- Guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, raised outdoors on pasture or range, and managed according to the highest welfare and environmental standards on an independent family farm.
This is all good and well, but remember:
We invite you to come see the farm and our animals for yourself. Join other past visitors of our farm. We urge you to know your farmer and your food. We prefer to be certified by YOU, our customer.
Maybe you have heard of the “Know your farmer, know your food” movement. In the consumer – farmer connection YOU are the best inspector to find out how your food is raised. We have an “open door” policy here at the farm. Visitors are always welcome to contact us for a visit. Come see first hand how animals can be successfully raised on pasture alone to the benefit of all.
- YOU are WHY we do what we do!
- YOU are the one making change.
- YOU deserve to see how your food is raised.
- YOU are on a mission and we are glad to help.
We have added another layer of inspection at DS Family Farm for YOU the consumer. For those who may not understand animal husbandry and exactly what it takes to be grassfed, you can now feel confident of DS Family Farm products. We have completed the process to be certified by the folks at Animal Welfare Approved.
DS Family Farm appreciates the work being done by Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and are happy to announce that our farm is now part of the AWA family.
This certification program insures YOU:
- Animals raised and cared for based on science and timeless husbandry methods.
- Tracking animal welfare from birth to harvest.
- The term “Grassfed” is defined, Certified Grassfed by AGW means something.
We will continue to promote the term “Pasture Grazed” since our animals live their entire lives on pasture. Now YOU can rest assured that we do meet a certification standard for grassfed. Do you want to see what we are talking about? Please contact us for a farm visit. Here are some families that have recently visited the farm (photo page):
- The Spangler Family from Seward
- The Derbish Family from Omaha
- The Jay Family from Gretna
Feel free to stop by anytime. Contacting us ahead of time will ensure someone is around to answer your questions.
(note – links to AWA and Certified Grassfed within this post were updated 2/20/17)