So what does production first, last, and most important mean to us?
It means we chase production at the expense of quality. And unless you were born in the 40s you simply don’t know what beef used to taste like. All you know is mass produced, juvenile cows. That’s right, juvenile. A cow at 24 months old is the equivalent of a person in their 20s. As we get down to 18 months, we are talking a 16 year old. 16 months? A 13 year old. But how can that be? We aren’t eating veal!
Spork just turned 13. He’s 5’9 1/2″ tall. He’s lean and strong but as tall as an average adult man. If I’d put him on a diet of Twinkies (the human equivalent of a grain diet) instead of weighing 130lbs he’d weigh 180 lbs. He’d be fat and sickly, but he’d be the size and weight of the average adult male. Success! I’ve raised him to full size. But is he full size? Hardly.
Spork has years to go, and growing to do. He’s 5’9″ now, but he’ll be well over 6 feet before he’s done growing. He’s gangly and lean right now but as he matures he’ll broaden out, muscle up, and into his 20s maybe even put on some fat. I don’t need to give him a special diet for that, I just need to give him time.
It’s much the same way with cows. Can I get a 1000 lb cow, covered in fat, in 16 or 18 months? Yep, no problem. Is that cow mature, marbled, and muscled? No. This is the first article I’ve ever seen that addresses age as a factor. This is while everything else, and everyone else, is pushing for younger and younger cows in the freezer. Heck, even the USDA has gotten into this and requires that all cows processed for meat are under 30 months of age.
How old are our cows? We target the legal limit, 28-30 months. That is twice what the typical farmer targets which is 15-18 months. Why does your grass fed steak cost more? That’s most of the reason right there.
Except when I got into this, or when I talk to anyone in the beef business, they will tell you that they are finishing at 18 months. Maybe 24. I’ve never met a soul, till I read this article, that targets beyond 24 months. All the advice I’ve ever received, including school, was to push the age down, down, down. But having done it the other way, I’m pushing it up, up, up. Mature cows taste better, period.
So is finishing grass fed, grass finished cows hard? Nah, it just takes twice the time, twice the land, about 1000 other small details we didn’t even address here, and the ability to go left when everyone else is going right. Other than that, it’s a piece of cake.
Thank you Bill for sending me this article. I truly enjoyed reading it. Maybe there is hope for us grass farmers yet.