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GrassRoots Meats Newsletter October 2014

My Garden, Farmers Market, and This Year's Bounty 

It has been a great summer in so many ways. The Pagosa Springs Farmers Market moved to a new location, one that was well received by both the vendors and the public. Although I must admit I started the season with a fairly bad attitude, unable to forget my exhaustion after last season's market, it ended up being not only a lot of fun, but a very rewarding experience. Ben, our intern, was an amazing help and we worked very well together. And the new location proved to be just perfect..

My garden ended up being a delight as well. Even though we planted late and the harvest was a lot less than last year, in the end it was also just perfect. I bought and traded with other producers at the Farmers Market to supplement my shortages and ended up with a luscious bounty of produce to can, freeze, and dehydrate.

All of this fun and the good memories should surely put me in a better frame of mind when the Farmers Market starts up again next year.

A View From the Porch 

Caught this picture from the back porch one evening recently. What a beautiful time of the year this is, and what a beautiful place to live. We had a few days of wonderful, much needed rain in late September - the most rain in over a year - and the grass received a boost of natural nitrogen and other minerals followed by abundant sunshine, a combination guaranteed to make for fertile fields and tremendous weight gain for the cattle. The pond in this picture is full to overflowing and my garden, in the background, drank up the moisture, assuring me of an even greater bounty.

Thanksgiving Turkeys

Many of you asked for organic, non-GMO, free range turkeys last year but we missed the boat on ordering them. Not this year!!!  We have some 8 to 12 pound and some 12 to 16 pound turkeys on order that should be ready to ship the first part of November. The price will be $5.79 per pound, which I know seems terribly expensive, but the cost of organic, non-GMO feed is about three times the cost of standard feed, so the higher price is unavoidable. If you include them in a Custom Package order of $200 or more they will qualify for a 10% discount.   
I used to have a hard time getting my mind wrapped around the idea of paying so much more for an organic turkey or chicken, but I remind myself that it is still less expensive than beef or lamb, and if I make soup with the carcus I can get many, many meals from just one bird. And the comfort of knowing that neither the turkey nor my family is exposed to GMO grains makes it doubly worth it.

Get your order in early as our supply is limited.

About Our Rosie Chickens

We get lots of nice feedback on the Rosie chickens, so recently I called the folks at Petaluma Poultry to find out just a little more about how they are raised. Terry Johnson, head of consumer affairs, shared the following with me:

"All of our Rosie® chickens are free range, with access to the outdoors to roam and forage exhibiting their natural behaviors which includes pecking and scratching at the ground and dirt for bugs and grit. Beginning at approximately four weeks of age, when the birds are fully feathered and able to withstand both exposure to the sun and cooler outside temperatures, the birds are allowed to roam outside of the house beginning about mid-morning, and are then ushered back inside the house in the evening. They are locked inside the house at night to protect them from predators. There are multiple outside access doors on the sides of the house for the chickens to use the outdoor pen during the day."

This was especially good news to me, as I suspected that the birds were pastured on grass due to the very yellow/orange color of their skin, but having it confirmed made me realize both why they taste so delicious and also what an amazing value they are, since truly pastured chickens are hard to find. Free range can mean a number of things, but it certainly does not guarantee that the birds ever eat any grass. I asked why they did not label them pastured, instead of free range, and was told that since they "put the animals up" at night for protection they cannot be defined as "pastured." Crazy world we live in. 

Grassfed Versus Grass Finished? Organic Meat?

And the craziness gets even worse. Ever wonder what is the difference between grassfed and grass finished? The September newsletter from the American Grassfed Association explained the following:

For carnivores, one of the most confusing challenges at the grocery store is knowing what kind of beef to buy. Concerned consumers want meat that's healthy for their families, raised with humane principles, and not damaging to the environment. Food marketers know this and so they use many different terms to attract buyers, few of which have legal standards attached, and many of which are meaningless. Even those labels that follow standards and have the power of third-party audits behind them can be confusing.


Take, for example, organic and grassfed. Organic beef can be grassfed, and grassfed beef can be organic, but they're definitely not the same.


The National Organic Program regulates organic beef and audits farms and ranches annually. The animals have never been treated with antibiotics or hormones and are given organic feed. But only thirty percent of that feed has to be forage (grass), and they only have to graze on open pasture during the growing season or for a minimum of 120 days per year. So it's not unusual to find organic beef coming from animals confined to feedlots and fed corn, soy, and other organic grains.


The best way to know what you're buying is to get to know your farmer, or at the very least, ask plenty of questions at the meat counter.


The USDA has a grassfed standard. It dictates that the diet of the animal must be derived exclusively from forage from weaning until harvest, and animals must have access to pasture during the growing season. This doesn't mean that the animals spend time on pasture - it just means they have access to it, and then for only a few months of the year. The USDA standard does not address the use of antibiotics or hormones, and permits "incidental" supplementation with grain, as long as the rancher keeps records of it. So it's conceivable that consumers could be buying grassfed meat that came from animals confined and fed antibiotics and other growth promoters.  


The USDA standard is not audited, meaning that the rancher or farmer self-certifies the truth of their statements, but there is no independent third-party inspection to verify the claims.



Which is why it is so important to ask questions, and to know who you are buying your meat from. We welcome your questions and we want you to know that the meat you buy from us is 100% grassfed and grass finished, without the use of added hormones or antibiotics.


Ben's Blog
The first time I really felt like a cowboy or a rancher was when my boss, Allan, was out of town. We had a sick calf in the herd. It was drooling and foaming at the mouth, barely walking. I called him to ask about the course of action to take and after we talked I went out and roped a calf for the very first time and administered the appropriate medication with a syringe. Walking away from that scene that day, I can remember the feeling of the rope burn in my hand and the slight ache in my leg from pulling the calf down. More clearly, though, I remember that I fell more deeply in love that day, that moment, with being a cowboy or a farmer or whatever it is that you'd like to call what I do.  

To be completely honest, I can't tell you why I love what I do so much. On paper it makes little logical sense. My work makes me sore. I usually have to wake up earlier than I want to, and work later than I had planned, crumbling underneath a growing list of things that need to be done either before the end of the day, or before the end of the week, constantly prioritizing and re-prioritizing the tasks as the day evolves. While the money works out, I'm certainly not doing what I could do if, for whatever reason, I fell in love with accounting and worked for Morgan-Stanley, or something of the like. 

Regardless though, once I've pried myself from between the sheets I find a great satisfaction in having the morning to myself. It feels to me like I have the world to myself. The one hundred twenty something acres on Quarter Moon Broken Arrow Ranch feel like they are mine, even though they in no way belong to me. I think I feel that way because I have grown to have such an intimate knowledge of the workings here. Where the water flows, and when. Which arroyos are filled with tailwaters and which fill up when seasonal rains hit. I can look at fields and blades of grass and make a pretty good guess about when cattle were last grazed there, and how long it's been since we had water running across that field. With time, that intimate knowledge becomes integrated with every part of my being. When I alter or change a bit of ditch with my shovel and get a blister or when a piece of wire scratches and scars my arm, my body and the ranch very briefly become one. When I program the knowledge into my brain of the seasonal variations that take place on the ranch, it becomes part of my mind. And somehow the love of the sweat and blood and of the daily challenge to orchestrate a delicate dance between man, nature, and the beasts of the field have come to be an inescapable obsession, and are rooted in the depths of my soul. 

October Lamb Lover's Grilling Package
With grilling season coming to an end soon it's a great time to take advantage of our Lamb Lover's Grilling Package, containing the following (approximately):
  • 2 pounds Rib Chops
  • 2 pounds Loin Chops
  • 4 pounds Sirloin Chops
  • 3 pounds Leg Steaks
  • 2 pounds Boneless Leg of Lamb
  • 2 pounds Ground Lamb
Over $230 of meat for the total price of $199 - a total of at least 15 pounds of our delicious, mouth watering, juicy Colorado lamb. 

In Closing . . .   

Allan's mom is taking us, along with his sister, brother, and sister-in-law, on a Caribbean cruise the end of October. We are really looking forward to it, but it means we will be out of pocket for about two weeks. I will be checking emails and we will still be shipping orders, but things might get a little crazy so we would greatly appreciate your patience during that time.

We are thinking of this as our 40th anniversary honeymoon. While we treated ourselves to a Comfortaire bed earlier this year, this will definitely make our 40th a year to remember. I am praying that I do not succumb to motion sickness, something I am prone to do. 

God bless you all.
Lois & Allan

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