Grass fed beef, part 4

Yesterday when I explained how I had no cows for sale for years you had to ask yourself, “Surely there is a better way to do this. Everybody doesn’t go four years before they produce income, do they?” No, of course not. What someone in my situation would normally do is buy stocker cattle and finish them out in one season. Some farmers, that’s all they do. They buy stockers in the spring and sell them in the fall. Joel Salatin does this and sells a ton of beef all over Virginia.

However, I have an issue with this method of selling on my farm, and my issue is I feel it can be deceiving to the customer. Let’s say you are coming to me to buy grass fed beef. You come out to the farm and I show you our lush pastures, our happy cows, our organic management, etc. You see such a difference in what we do compared to factory farms and you feel justified in paying a premium for our holistically raised beef over supermarket beef. You feel good about your purchase because you are comfortable with what is going in your body and your families bodies and you are also supporting a healthy and sustainable operation. Everybody is happy.

However, what if you found out some months later that my cow I sold to you had only been on my farm less than a year. It wasn’t born there but had come from a cattle auction where I went and purchased cows already 75% grown. I have no idea where these cows came from nor do I know how they were fed, treated, vaccinated, weaned from its mother, etc.

Even though that cow spent nearly a year on my farm, that’s not even half of its life. Did all that could have been done wrong magically disappear the day the cow arrived on my farm? No. Will my management make whatever was done better? Sure, but how much better? There is research that shows cows are different from each other based on how the mother ate while the calf was in the womb. These cows are different all of their lives and even the next generation is different because of what the grandmother cow ate. What happens early in a cows life affects it for life, as it does for our children.

When you buy a cow from me, it was born on my farm and lived the type of life you are seeing and buying all the way through. That’s what I feel I am representing when I sell to a customer and buying and raising stockers breaks that trust you have in me, in my opinion. Joel Salatin knows his breeders and is very public that he buys stockers. I don’t think anything bad about what he is doing and don’t want to infer I do. I just don’t feel comfortable with that type of operation on my farm, with my customers.

Tomorrow the last part of this series.

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

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