Rain Crow Ranch – American Grassfed Beef has recently partnered with Athletic Greens to take the grassfed message forward. Chris “the Kiwi” Ashenden (Kiwi because he is from New Zealand) is the spokesperson for Athletic Greens. Chris Ashenden is about happiness, personal growth, living outside the box, and enjoying a spectacular life. Following is the recent conversation between Chris and Rain Crow that he submitted to his blog.
Grass-fed vs Grain-fed: An Interview with Vet, Rain Crow Ranch Co-founder and President of the American Grassfed Association, Dr Patricia Whisnant
I hope this finds you better than ever.
As you know I am a big fan of grass-fed meat. Yummy, phenomenally good for you, I class it as a human superfood, since people could live off it and nearly nothing else for a very long time.
Given how much it features in popular topics such as my Food for Fat Loss series, readers are always asking for good options on where they can purchase it.
Always on the look out, Courteney – our awesome GM at Athletic Greens and someone who likes to order grass-fed meat online for her whole family – recently came across Rain Crow Ranch.
A fair bit of time reading on their website, a few very yummy orders later, and they have promptly become my favorite direct from farm online source for grass-fed cow.
I decided to get Dr Patricia Whisnant on the phone for an interview. As a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, a rancher, AND President of the American Grassfed Association, she comes with a different viewpoint.
If you have questions about Grass-fed cow, this one is for you.
Unfortunately the audio quality was poor, so we are stuck with just the transcription here. If you are in a hurry, you can skip down, reading just the bolded bits, and my summary at the end.
Read time: In full 20-35 minutes
Bolded plus summary: 3 minutes
If you have a bit of time, I recommend you read the entire interview, I learned something, and I am sure you will too.
Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Beef
I could also have called it…. “Not All Grass-Fed Is Created Equal”
An Interview with Vet, Rain Crow Ranch Co-founder and President of the American Grassfed Association, Dr Patricia Whisnant
CA: Doc, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Perhaps you could give people a quick bit of background on you and your ranch, and then we can take it from there.
What I would love to ideally cover is your background, and perhaps a bit of your story with Rain Crow Ranch. For those listening, Dr Patricia Whisnant is a doctor of veterinary medicine, and has been for a while. I would love to get a story from you on how you got involved with grass-fed beef, and then I have a few questions here for you as well.
P: I am a veterinarian, graduating from the University Of Tennessee College Of Veterinary Medicine in 1981. I was in practice and we, my husband and I, had decided on doing our own ranch. We did it through a traditional market channel for long time, we had a calf operation.
We would sell a crop of calves every year and sell those into traditional markets. The majority would be sold into feedlots. We retained some of those animals ourselves for our own family use, and I was very strong that those animals were raised on grass. From a veterinary perspective all of the assets both for animal welfare and healthiness of the beef itself, all of that is capitalized on by allowing that ruminant animal to be raised properly. So we did grass-fed for a long time before it was ever the buzzword that it is today.
When we began, like I said, it was a traditional market channel, selling the calves on. Then we had a retreat at our ranch, and a vegetarian//
(Call drop. A fair amount of “oooops” from the Kiwi, then….)
CA: Were you raising the calves yourselves back in the day on grain? Or, were you raising them on grass at the very beginning?
P: Actually, we raised all of our cattle on grass, but at the same time, we had a cow/calf operation. So, we would sell the traditional way of cattlemen in our area. We would sell those calves after weaning to other backgrounders or even straight into a feed lot, rather than finishing them ourselves. And then we were…as…that was before grass-fed was, as I said, the buzz word that it has become today.
We would retain some of those cattle for our own family use. And one day I had a client who had been a vegetarian for about 15 years. She had been told by her healthcare provider that she needed to go back and start eating a bit of red meat. She had developed some deficiencies over time.
So, she did all the research and decided if she was going to make that choice, she wanted it to be a philosophical choice. So, here this vegetarian calls me one day, wants to buy a cow.
To shorten the story, it is out of that collaboration that we began to market some of our beef, finish it on our pastures and market it directly to customers who had an appreciation for what grass-fed meant and how it was a better, safer and healthier option.
So, that’s how we began, initially. I thought…well, if I could market a few calves, say 50, this way in a year, that that would be worthwhile. And as it was not very long at all until we began to turn efficient in everything we produced, and it went into a grass-fed system. The system was already in place; we just retained them to the whole finishing operation.
CA: Please talk us through from a veterinarian’s perspective, you yourself have only ever raised grass-fed cattle. It sounds like you then morphed into raising and finishing those grass-fed cattle and now are selling them.
I think many people don’t realize that we as humans are not just what we eat; we are actually what our food eats. So, perhaps utilize your vet’s perspective, if you could give a background on the typical health of a cow who is raised on pasture and walks around eating and living the way cows, as ruminants, are inherently designed to do, versus the feed lot cattle that ultimately are in misery.
And perhaps, if you could spell-out that from your perspective as a vet with a lot of experience in the industry, just the difference in what happens to the health and happiness of that animal.
P: Well, that was probably the most monumental reason behind us beginning to finish everything on a grass-fed system, because the ruminant animal is a fantastic machine to do what it’s supposed to do. It’s made to consume grass and forage. The cellulose in those cell walls is something that man cannot utilize. And so, it’s a perfect natural cycle that allows that animal, being 100% powered by a solar energy model, the grass, the rain. The soil, the sun, the rain and the soil grow the grass, we use the cattle to harvest it, that man couldn’t otherwise utilize and then it produces a wonderful treasure of protein in the beef it produces. From a veterinary perspective, when it’s allowed to work on that way, that is the way things should be.
Now, when we began to put that animal in the feed lot and feed him grain, we change that system. In grass-fed, we took an animal in the rumen, the microflora that is the good bugs there, break down the cellulose and then redistribute the amino acids so it builds the muscle.
When we put that animal on a grain diet, with corn, then that changes the microflora that is not there…the pH of that rumen is normally neutral. When we put it on a highly concentrated, corn diet, it changes it to make it an acidic environment. That does several things.
It actually is…that’s an aberrant diet that they’re not intended to eat. And it causes all manner of problems; anywhere from liver abscesses to a constant type of inflammation, to lamenesses to then open up the reasoning for they receive sodium bi-carb, they receive antibiotics to keep them going on that kind of diet.
But, a huge problem that it causes, too, is the development of acid resistance of pathogens such as E. Coli. And when normally E. Coli is just in the gut of most normal animals. But, there is a wonderful, natural barrier for human’s. When that animal, that ruminant, that cow, is fed on grass and maintains a healthy ruminant as it’s supposed to at a neutral pH, then if that E. Coli goes through and for some reason contaminates the finished beef, and is consume by a human, that pathogen is immediately killed by the acid environment of the human stomach.
Well, what we’ve done in feeding cattle grain, we let them open up the door to modify those pathogens so they can resist the acid of the human stomach and they can go on and cause…those pathogens can go on and cause disease, rather than being, you know, gotten rid of by our natural protection and barriers.
So, an animal on pasture has a million-fold less E. Coli than a grain-fed feed lot animal, but it also…it allows it…it’s a conduction system that allows you to produce that animal without antibiotics and hormones, et cetera, et cetera.
When you rotate an animal to clean pasture, it passes and leaves behind any parasites or pathogens and then, as the animal moves on to the clean pasture, the way nature intended, it’s not exposed to them. What happens then is the natural format and rotating pasture, we get rid of all of those so that when they rotate around in, say, three to four weeks, they’re on clean pasture again. Whereas in a feed lot, they’re constantly being re-exposed to those same pathogens and even parasites.
So, from a veterinary perspective, it’s just the way to go.
CA: Well, I’m definitely in the choir on grass-fed beef. And having grown up in New Zealand where all the cattle are essentially grass-fed, it was a pretty big shock to me to come to the US and find that it was very difficult to obtain it.
Now, could you please do me a favor? I understand what a ruminant is and the category of animals that are ruminants. If you could perhaps give a quick explanation on what is a ruminant animal and why they have that name and inherently what they’re designed to eat as that category. And in your knowledge, which ruminant on the planet, out of all of them, is designed to eat grains. And I think I know the answer to that one.
P: A ruminant animal is basically an animal that has four compartments. Some people like to refer to it as four-stomachs. That’s not really the case, but they are four separate compartments to the stomach, each one having its own function and use.
So, what the uniqueness of that, of the way it should work is that they are uniquely designed to consume plant material that is in the form of grass of forage. The microflora that exists in the rumen actually helps to break that down. And the animal actually goes through the whole process of where they…at different…I’ll say their quite time, they actually bring up some of this grass, re-chew it. That’s called their cud.
CA: The mighty cud. Sorry for interrupting.
P: You’ll see pictures of cattle out, I call them happy cattle, but they’re actually out on pasture, playing around and they look like they’re chewing gum. But, what they’re doing is they’re chewing that cud. But, it’s the way the whole system works. And it breaks it down, utilizing the cellulose that’s contained in those cell walls and it breaks down the amino acid to then use as a building block for them to make muscle.
P: That is leading. The idea, if you think of a ruminant animal, uniquely placed to function the way, as we described, how that ruminant functioned on grass, then they are made to eat grain because the concentrated form of whatever grain that is contained there is just way too hot for the digestion of the ruminant, and they cause all kinds of problems. Ruminant animals are simply made to eat grass.
CA: In terms of the cattle you have on your farm, obviously there’s grass-fed, there’s grain-fed, there’s feed-lot cattle that are almost universally grain-fed. But, from our perspective, I’m very pro…I think ruminants, I think grass-fed, pasteurized, happy ruminants are actually the number one protein source for the human diet.
I look at some of the feed lots I’ve been through in the US and it’s pretty astounding to me the…how would you word it? Basically, the quality of life the animal has is shocking and it’s not hard to appreciate just how unhealthy they get, looking at how they live there.
But, in terms of leaving the animal behind and accepting that, okay, cows are designed to eat grass. They’re not designed to eat grains. As far as I’m aware, there’s no ruminant on the planet that is actually designed to eat grains. And obviously it’s a happier, healthy cow. The cow lives better; it doesn’t have to have hormones or antibiotics. They don’t need to make additives to the diet just so it can service without getting sick.
But, what about…what happens inside the cow in terms of the quality of grass-fed meat versus the quality of grain-fed meat? Because at the end of the day, most people are probably more interested in, okay, what’s in it for me, with regards to the cattle. We’ve got a lot of people who are very pro-environment, but I think also it will help people to understand potentially some of the differences between the actual meat of grain-fed cattle versus grass-fed cattle.
P: Well, that’s what initially… A lot of people come to grass-fed for different, varying reasons, either the human quality, the influence on the land, but primarily it’s the health benefits that are perceived with grass-fed beef.
Grass-fed beef is higher in omega 3 fatty acids and lower in total saturated fats than is corn-fed. And actually, the real benefit is in the omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio. When you look at a feed lot animal raised on corn, that makes the omega 6 go up significantly higher and you’ll have a ratio of something like 1:20. In a grass-fed animal, that ratio is below 1:4, and often even lower than that.
So, the ratio there is tremendously important to consuming healthy fats. And even though… I guess a few years back as the red meat got a bad rap because of all the saturated fats. That’s the feed lot beef where we pump it full of corn, and it produces both more saturated fat and unhealthy omega 6 laden fat at that. The fat contained in grass-fed is the type of fat you actually need to be healthy.
Then, it also is very high in a compound called CLA, which is conjugated linoleic acid. Now, there’s a lot of research that has been done and is continuing to be done, as it has a benefit of anti-cancer, kind of a…it’s not an antioxidant, but the same type of effect where it has a protective effect on the development or the prevention on the developing cancer cells, and also heart disease.
Now, animals on pasture, grass-fed animals, are something like four times higher in vitamin B. They’re higher the beta-carotene. They are healthier, the protein there is clean, they have all of the benefits that it was prior to the feed lot era.
CA: Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of the cattle that you have there, are they ever touched by antibiotics or hormones or…
P: No. We practice a never-ever system. Now, when I was explaining how we rotate pastures and how that fits into the ruminant, the way they live, that also cuts down on the need for antibiotics. But, from a veterinary perspective, I don’t hesitate to treat an animal if it should need to be treated. But, if that were to happen, then we take, we segregate that animal and when he recovers, then he leaves the barn, he’s sold elsewhere and never goes into our program.
And that is how it’s happened over the last ten years because of the management practice; I don’t remember the last time I treatment an animal with antibiotics.
P: That’s a huge issue today. I’m very, very concerned about our issues of antibiotics. They’re miracle drugs and we have just flittered away their importance, as we have…80% of the antibiotics sold in this country today go into food animal production. They are used as a growth stimulant, a growth promotant, and used in low sub-therapeutic doses to enable animals kept in filthy conditions from getting sick.
As such, we have developed antibiotic resistance bacteria, kind of your super bugs, that antibiotics…people…the antibiotics do not touch. They’re resistant to antibiotics. And it’s felt that a great deal of that, even the government says there is a connection between using those antibiotics in food animal production and the resistance they see developing.
More people die in America today from the antibiotic resistant bacteria infection than die from AIDS.
CA: That’s quite staggering, isn’t it? I’m pretty big on that thought that ultimately human health really starts in the human gut and GI tract. And one of the arguments against humans eating grains and cereals is that some of the proteins inside those grains and cereals damage the intestinal lining and effectively allow what are known as gram-negative bacteria, such as E. Coli, directly into the blood stream.
Which obviously raises all sorts of pro inflammatory cytokines and causes a constant state of, depending on the person’s immunity, either minor inflammation or pretty massive chronic inflammation.
So, none of that’s good, and obviously if someone then enters in with not just acidic resistant E. Coli, but antibiotic resistant E. Coli, then the two human natural defenses get bypassed and then humans are now eating something that’s resistant to the antibiotic solution as well. So, I can see why that could be a pretty massive problem going forward. So, beyond the health benefits of eating grass-fed beef, I think that should be a push.
Now, talk us through, if you don’t mind, what else you’ve got, what else do you guys supply on your farm? I just had a look at your website, at raincrowranch.com it’s great. I can see that you keep adding new things every time since I come back and forth. And I insisted that a bunch of our team actually order from you before we decided to do anything on the Facebook page. Now, for those of you that don’t know, Patricia and her team have donated a whopping amount of over $1,000 of grass-fed beef to that competition. And we’re very, very appreciative of that.
I’d love to know what else can people get on your website that you’re particularly proud of in terms of cleanly-raised meat.
P: Well, we also have added, and this is actually at the request of customers over the years, we have added heritage breed, pastured pork. It’s raised entirely on pasture. It’s going back to those genetics that is pre-confinement era. So, it has not only…these animals again are allowed to live in a way that fits their biological and their behavior instincts. When you do an animal that way, it’s just healthy.
We also do pastured poultry in the same idea. The poultry, as it goes out there and forages, and it’s consuming bugs and in the soil and that sort of thing, but it’s developing a healthy bird. And I guess the simplest way of saying it is an animal allowed to be raised in the environment it is intended to live in is healthier. A healthier animal that we consume is healthier for us.
CA: I agree. I personally think that if humans allowed themselves to eat and live in a manner more according with our genetic norm, that there’d be a lot less…far fewer health problems running around. I think part of that is eating what we’re designed to eat.
CA: Here’s a quick question from a marketing standpoint. How scalable is your operation in terms of being able to deliver meat? I understand that you’re one farm there, is that correct? It’s just your family farm?
P: Well, we do…what we have done to kind of gear-up and stretch what we’re able to do… Let me step back just a minute. When I came up with all these reasons I wanted us to be a grass-fed operation, and I was talking about the high animal welfare, the healthiness and all of those things, my husband turned around and said, “Yeah, but if it’s not good, they’re not going to buy a second time.”
So, for years grass-feds had a reputation for being kind of off-flavored and tough. What we have done over the last long time, is we’ve entered into this, studied the whole situation to where we believe in the quality. So, we pay careful attention to the genetics, to how that animal is fed so that they are getting an increasing plane of nutrition at the time, the growth times, they need it so they never go backwards. In other words, they’re continuing that upward climb.
And then, of course, we have…we believe in the low-stress handling of those animals to make it the maximum quality possible. So, that is kind of our whole philosophy.
In doing that, is our…as consumer demand has driven us forward to expand, what we do is we do have a group of neighbors who will use our genetics to raise calves. Then, when those calves are ready to be weaned and leave momma, then we finish them on our place. So, that is the way…
See, it takes longer without the…to raise, to finish an animal on grass. So, that animal, if you talk about…though this number is not correct…. say a year of gestation, and then two years for it to be finished before it’s harvested, then you’re talking about kind of a three-year slump. To allow our neighbors to raise the momma cows and then bring them to us to be finished, we can allow for it to be consistently finished and finished in a manner that we have learned produces a higher quality of finished beef.
So, it is still all us. Rural economy has struggled. I used to say that our rural communities were losing our biggest and our brightest resource, and that was our kids who didn’t have the… the family farms were not sustainable enough in competition with big agriculture to allow them to come back home to farm. And in doing it this way, it has…it’s a benefit to us and we feel like it’s also a benefit to these other farms in our rural community.
CA: One quick question with regards to meat. So, I personally think that grass-fed tastes a lot better than grain-fed. I didn’t… I do not like the taste of grain-fed meat. I think it tastes like rubber. It tastes rubbery. Even if you go to a very expensive restaurant, it tends to be soft and rubbery with a completely different texture. This is a cow that hardly ever moved around and basically grew-up in its own excrement.
And versus a cow that’s walked around a little bit, and hence, it is slightly chewier, but much, much yummier, to my opinion. And the fat tastes completely different. I’ve told my nutrition clients for years to not be afraid of the fat from a grass-fed, cleanly raised animal, but to strip all the fat off a grain-fed animal.
Now, you take it one level further, and not only do you insist that your animals are always, always grass-fed, from start to finish. I do know a lot of people, even in supermarkets that are selling grass-fed cattle that were in fact finished on feed lots to shorten that fattening cycle. It’s horrible, it’s disgusting, and they’re still charging ridiculous prices for it.
But, talk to me about your use of herbicides and pesticides and fertilizers. I know that your answer is pretty spectacular in how they do this, but talk us through that process to how…talk us through your attitude to herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
P: Okay. We…our farm is actually certified organic, our pastures are. Even…we do not label the beef that way because we source some of the cattle that are outside of our actual farm so that the calves, I mean, even though they go through the same certification for grass-fed that we require. But, we are a finishing pasture from the time the animals are weaned and even though some come into us are all bred, whether it’s certified or not, they’re raised on pastures that never used pesticides. We never use herbicides and we never use chemical fertilizers.
And the actual pasture rotation system that I’ve described, actually puts what the animal takes out of that soil and out of that grass, is re-deposited back into that soil by organic material. It’s just a perfect system to allow that to happen.
So, we have wanted to verify to our customers and the people who support our farm by buying our beef, or pigs or chickens. So, what we have done is to…we maintain that organic certification to assure them of that.
CA: Well, I think a lot of people might not be aware that the government, the regulating bodies, essentially allow farmers who have raised their cattle on grasses that are not free of herbicides and pesticides… I think it’s 45… I spoke to a ranch owner, and I think it’s either 45 or 55 days prior to harvesting, as long as they come off the herbicide or pesticide grass onto herbicide or pesticide free grass, then they can claim free of herbicides and pesticides. So, I can’t remember the exact time frame, but is something like that. And I was staggered because in terms of tissue turnover, you’re talking about an animal that weighs hundreds of pounds, did not create all that muscle, all that tissue just in the last couple of months. And it was basically eating, I mean, you’re eating an animal that grew up in an environment where it was eating pesticides and herbicides that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your kids.
P: Right, exactly.
CA: So, I think that’s a wonderful point. So, you are now adding, it sounds like, some other things for people. What could I do to help you out in terms of what it is that you’re trying to do. Obviously, I mean, I poured over your website from start to finish. We went looking for someone who matched our approach for quality. We just put exacting standards in what we do in terms of the nutritional side of things. We don’t really have an interest in being the biggest, we just want to focus on being the best.
I’m very, very proud of the fact that I think we’re doing that. And it looks like you are absolutely doing that with what you’re doing with the beef side of things. So, we’re very happy to be associated with you and we’re going to try pretty hard to return the favor you gave us with the gift voucher. Thank you.
P: I’ll tell you what, since grass-fed is…has become a buzzword…I’ve worked for a lot of years with the USDA definition as legal interpretation of the term. Now, good part/bad part, is they find ways to circumvent things to come about to using it. But, as you mentioned, there are a lot of producers who feel like you put on the last 90, even 120 days on grain to, you know, that they’re going to be grass-fed, and that’s not the case. But, what the USDA regulation for that grass-fed label states…only addresses the feeding practice alone.
(KIWI: THIS PART IS SHOCKING)
So, you can have an animal raised in a feed lot, fed harvested forage instead of corn, fed antibiotics, given synthetic hormones and the USDA will stamp on it ‘grass-fed’. Whereas we firmly believe that the majority of consumers, when they think about the term, they envision the system that we’ve been talking about and kind of a start birth to harvest, where it’s a forage diet in the environment it should be.
So, because there is more demand out there in the market, consequently you’re going to see the industrial alternative to pasteurized grass-fed. And I think that it’s going to help, that…people like you who can make the consumer aware that they are…that they get the real-deal, it’s important. Because, you’re going to see the major beef companies that already have it in the works to do the industrial model out of the feed lots, called ‘grass-fed’.
It all goes back to consumer education.
CA: Yes. Unfortunately, the amount of power that some of the agricultural giants have…especially the Corn Growers Association have, scares the living crap out of me.
CA: It really does. I live a part of the year in Colombia, South America, and obviously one huge pull for me is the fact that all the meat there is grass-fed. And I love the climate. It’s a bit like Goodwill Hunting, I went to see about a girl and ended up staying for a while. But, there are a bunch of guys there from a US University on TV pushing for the use of grain products in feed lots to fatten cows faster.
I don’t watch TV much, but I was sitting at a friend’s house and saw this guy come on and talk on national free to air TV about cows in lots, so I turned on the volume. I got so enraged because he was telling everyone, and he’s a veterinarian from Ohio, I think it was Ohio State or Iowa State. I can’t remember sorry, speaking on behalf of the American Corn Growers Association, telling the camera dead-straight that this is the healthiest diet for these animals. Saying it allows them to grow faster and that people will get better return. There are a lot of people there that have very small farms and they’re family owned and provide for the entire family. So they are listening, and they are listening to this guy state that people will get better return if they use…on their land, if they use this. And it’s the healthier way.
And I nearly threw the TV off the balcony. I was so enraged. So, if that’s the reach they have in a developing nation a thousand miles away…
P: And they have…they have very big pockets so that they can spin research and buy…my claim has always the cliché about follow the money. When you have the Corn Growers Association or even some of the chemical companies who fund research, that research says that feed lots are better, think about it. It’s fudge!
You know that an industry like the grass-fed industry, which you know, even ten years ago was very nominally known. It was hard to view…you know, a lot of explaining to tell anybody about it. It no longer flies under the radar. So, you’re going to see attacks by industrial agriculture aimed at being able to use that label, but do it in a management practice that we wouldn’t agree with.
CA: So, if the word ‘grass-fed’ is no longer enough, already, what do people need to look for? So, 100% grass-fed, which ultimately still allows the industrial model to feed and…to raise in feed lots. So, that’s not good enough. So, what do people need to look at on labeling?
P: We are…and I’ll disclose, I am a president of the American Grassfed Association. Because of the loopholes with the USDA definition of ‘grass-fed’, we launched our own certification program. Now, our standards read “100% foraged diet, birth to harvest, raised on open pasture, not in confinement, no antibiotics, no hormones and human animal care’ that links together what we consider the whole picture.
There is a logo put forth by that organization that…and it’s conducted by 3rd party audits to certify a farm to be able to use that. When you see that, you know it’s the real deal.
P: American Grassfed Association.
CA: Okay, I’ll just pull that up. Sorry, I’ve just lost… Oh, there it is. AmericanGrassfed.org. Is that it?
P: Yes. It is.
CA: AmericanGrassfed.org. Okay, and you’re the president of that? Are you?
CA: Okay. So, how else can I help you?
I love what you are trying to do with your ranch, and I think our readers will too.
I just wonder if there’s something else we can do. What sort of specials or packages do you have if people order beyond a certain amount or do you have discount code that I can offer our readers?
P: We have what’s called a buyer’s club. You buy the same kind of consistent order once a month. It’s shipped to you. You get your 13th month free.
P: We do have an referral type roots where…I say roots…where you can use the referral thing and that gets a discount. We also… We run specials. We’re in the process of flushing out and kind of overhauling our website, so it’s…be patient that we are still in that process. And then to ask your readers to support…the retailers and the restaurants that go out of the way to use the grass-fed products.
CA: Yeah, I mean, it’s outstanding. I would love for more restaurants to do it. It annoys me, no end, to go to some of the higher-end steakhouses in the US and just find that it’s almost impossible to get grass-fed meat. I guess the last thing they want to do is undercut their other steaks.
P: A lot of chefs are beginning to feel like you do, that the grass-fed has a more pure, a clean flavor than the grain-feds. So, it’s been a slow process, but they’re beginning to come through with some…I don’t want to say alternatives, but some other choices than just feedlot beef.
CA: I’ve spent a lot of time in South America and Brazil and Argentina, and of course in southern Brazil and Argentina, it’s all grass-fed. And they do some amazing cuts…. yummy fatty cuts. And I’d love to eventually figure out a way of getting some…probably be my next business, is going to be do a Brazilian barbeque in the US using your meat, cut and cooked their way.
P: You know, I’m all about exchanging information, and there are people down there who have been doing grass-fed for a long time. And we have…whereas America kind of rolled over and let the feed lots and Big Ag kind of have their way.
So, what we’re doing is kind of a return to what I call the basics or return to simple beef. An exchange of ideas is always great. People…I’ve attended conferences where they’ve had people talk about forages, but also… I haven’t attended any where they had actual butchers come and talk about cutting. That would be interesting.
CA: They cut them differently. There’s a type of rump steak, it’s cut almost the opposite end on. It’s called picahña, and if you get the chance to get any Brazilian…if you ever get a Brazilian butcher to come over, get him to cut that and… That’s the cut you give to convert people once and for all. It’s preeeetty good.
P: I’d love to try it!
CA: Patricia, thank you so much for you time. I really do appreciate it. I’m going to get this transcribed. It will take a day or two. She’s pretty fast. I want people to hear both questions and answers, and understand and sort of the case for why grass-fed is better, why your farm in particular is better, the things people must look out for when buying their grass-fed beef, and then ways to make it cheaper.
You know, the complain grass-fed is more expensive, here’s a couple of ways to get around it, and one is your buying club. And the other, I always tell people, because we get a lot of students and athletes who don’t actually have that much money. And I always tell them to do what I did while I was staying with a friend in Arizona. He had a couple of monster freezers and we should simply buy a cow…
P: Oh, yeah, that’s the best way.
CA: That’s the best way. And so would you kind of agree that that’s kind of the best way to get the…
P: Absolutely. I talk to families all the time and since I have a lot of kids, I always said that by all means, buy a whole cow. And those…a family can utilize, you know, that whole cow is not just steaks. So, it’s kind of amazing to me growing up, where I have and where we live, cooking…in fact, all of my kids cook. In fact, there’s kind of a family rivalry like what will go on this weekend, about who does the best cooking. I’m talking about the boys.
But, it’s amazing how many people…don’t know how to cook, or are intimidated. So, they look at a cut…say a cheaper cut like a roast, chuck roast, which is one of the most awesome things to fix. And people…we get emails all the time about, ‘how do you cook a roast?” Or, how do you use some of these different cuts. So, it’s a little bit of a stretch. People think that when you talk about beef, you’re talking about just steak, and that’s not true. There’s lots.
CA: Well, I’m culinarily challenged. I’m sorry. But my sister is writing a cookbook, actually, and she, like me, is massively into the grass-fed stuff.
P: Let me say this, too.
P: We, a couple of weeks ago, had a photographer come out and she spent a whole week with us. And so I have great pictures if there’s any place that you want to use actual pictures of the farm. I have a whole new batch that I haven’t published yet.
(KIWI: these are the pics throughout this post! )
CA: Okay. And to confirm, you’re the president of the American Grassfed Association?
P: Yes, the AGA.
CA: How many years have you been involved?
P: We’ve been members since 2004. I’ve been president since 2005.
CA: And you’ve been a vet for 31-years, is that right?
CA: And how long have you been ranching?
P: Actually, it began when I got married, which would have been 32 years ago.
CA: And… Can you take visitors at all, people come by your farm?
P: Oh, absolutely. We’ve got friends that come all the time. We love having people come visit.
CA: That’s awesome.
Okay, I’m going to get this transcribed. If you could please share a dropbox folder with me, or with Courteney that would be fine. She’s awesome. She loved ordering from you. And then, she loved the taste of the steak!!
I’ll put something together, I’ll get this transcribed as well and then we’ll put it up on the blog. It will probably be titled grain-fed versus grass-fed. Okay, and then we’ll take it from there.
Thank you very much for your time.
P: Well, thank you for calling.
CA: Thank you, Patricia. I hope you have a great day.
P: Okay. Bye.
You are not just what you eat, you are what your food eats.
Ruminants are designed to eat GRASS
Ruminants do not have an intestinal system designed for grain
Cows, surprise surprise are ruminants
Placed in the natural setting of forage for grass, rotating pastures, and being able to roam around, cows are healthy animals, and rarely get sick
Place them in grain based feedlots, and the cows get sick and are ripe for disease, these leads to anti-biotic mis-use
Cows in feedlots are fed anti-biotics and growth hormones, they frequently grow up in their own excrement, in horrendous conditions
Grass-fed cows are healthier, happier cows
Grass-fed provides superior Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios (a lot more Omega 3!)
Grass-fed meat contains a lot more CLA
Grass-fed provides higher amounts of vitamins in the meat, especially Vitamin A
Grass-fed provides less chance of consuming acid resistant and antibiotic resistant bacteria
Considerations AND ”Not All Grass-fed Is Created Equal”
Consider the highly sustainable and natural cycle of sun, grass grows and extracts minerals from soil, cow eats grass and does amazing job of converting aminos in grass into protein, cow poops (fertilizer for grass), move to new pasture. Repeat.
Not all grass-fed is created equal. With the rise and rise of popularity in grass-fed, “Big Ag” (big agriculture) is moving in, trying to maintain their proposed definitions of what is “grass-fed”.
Right now, USDA rules mean that you can buy grass-fed at the supermarket, and it may have been grown in a feedlot, been fed grass that was cut and placed there for it, normally from herbicide and pesticide covered grass, but also fed growth hormones and anti-biotics. That would be “Grass-fed” as defined by the USDA.
Some “grass-fed” you see without the USDA tag may have grown up on grass, but been finished on grain.
If you want to ensure that your grass-fed beef is raised in the best, healthiest, most sustainable manner possible, look for grass-fed meat that contains the American Grassfed Association, who are pushing the USDA about the definition of grass-fed.
To carry the AGA badge, the farm must comply with the following:
“AGA certification is a third party audit system with strict standards to insure the animal has eaten nothing but grass from weaning to harvest, has not been confined, and has never been given antibiotics or hormones.”
And, make sure you support your local restaurants and markets where the proprietors have gone out of their way to get you GRASS-FED meat!
Right. I hope you enjoyed that. I never realized I said “SO” so much, so I deleted those out of the transcript, otherwise it is pretty much untouched. Next time, I will do a better job of recording the audio.
I believe that, in order, the ideal protein and fat food sources from mammals for humans to eat would be
Number 1: wild caught game
Number 2: grass-fed pasture raised AGA approved beef and other pasture raised ruminants to the same standard, such as bison, sheep, goat.
Number 3: other grass-fed beef
Number 4: grain-fed beef
Sooooooooo, I would prefer you ate grass-fed beef ahead of grain fed beef. I believe most can do this more cheaply than they realize. More on that below.
However, if you can only get grain-fed, due to lifestyle, location, or budget, don’t worry, you are still better off eating that cow than you are returning to the Standard American Diet of crap.
Just trim off all the fat and go for lean cuts. I covered this in more detail in the Food for Fat Loss Series.
For those looking to maximize their budget while eating grass-fed, this is exactly how I recommend you do it.
Formulas to lower the coast of buying grass-fed
1. remember there is more to grass-fed meat than just “steak”
2. buy direct from the farm if you can
3. consider a buying group or club
4. buy large pieces of cow, quarters, halves, or even the whole cow (these come pre cut up)
5. place unused portions in a big freezer
6. thaw when needed and eat
This will massively lower the cost per lb of meat.
If you have your own grass-fed meat adventures, then please post it in the comments below.
As always, over to you mate. Enjoy.
“100% Focus on Happiness”
That is my mantra, and it starts with phenomenal health.
Chris “the Kiwi”