Organic- we all know about organic fruits and vegetables, but do we ever really consider organic meat? Grass-fed meat is something within the last year that I’ve started to adapt into my eating routine. There’s no reason not to eat grass-fed and the benefits are outrageous. Of course there’s the old-timer knowledge not to eat too much red meat, that it’s bad for cholesterol (same crap as with eggs). I try to eat red meat at least once a day; preferably grass-fed (or I eat venison obtained through my own hunting endeavors). I can tell the difference (and it upsets my stomach a little) when I eat grain-fed cattle. I’ve already talked about us not eating grains, so why would we abdicate feeding it to our meat sources, when they weren’t evolutionary developed to eat that way either. Grain-fed produce is seriously lacking in nutrients as well!
Why am I so adamant about grass-fed meat? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits. It’s high in “good fats”, such as omega-3 (which we’ve been over again and again, but it is that important; we’re striving for that 1:1 ratio). It contains three times more omega-3 than conventional store bought meat (which is also extremely high in omega-6). What does this do? Once again, omega-3 is great for heart health (lower blood pressure and decreased risk of heart attack) and brain health (lower risk depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease). In addition, it may reduce the risk of certain cancers and in some animal studies it has shown that higher levels of omega-3 may result in cancer patients having a better response to chemotherapy. One report I read claimed that eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 20 times more omega-3 than factory hen eggs (Wow)! It also claimed that 40% of Americans don’t get enough omega-3’s and that 20% had levels that could not be detected! That’s insane, so doesn’t it make since to make the effort to try and increase your intake (besides grass fed, you can increase fish (although you have to be leery of contamination there) or with fish oil). In case I haven’t convinced you yet there are more reasons to eat grass-fed! It is one of the best sources of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA (it contains 5 times the amount found in traditional meat). What’s so great about this? It may be one of the best defenses against cancer. In animal studies, small amounts of it have been shown to reduce tumor growth. In addition, in a Finnish study, women with high CLA had a 60% lower risk of breast cancer than those with lower levels! Let’s not leave out that vitamin E in grass-fed cattle is four times higher (great antioxidant linked with lower risk of heart disease and cancer). Not enough? Grass-fed beef is lower in calories. A 6 ounce grass-fed steak has 100 fewer calories than a traditional 6 ounce steak. It claimed that by switching to grass-fed people could save 17,733 calories a year (that’s six pounds alone, eating the same thing just a different source)!
Now that I’ve convinced you that you’re only going to eat grass-fed meat, we can get down to basis of this article; where to find it in the Midwest. Although most may be under the impression that eating organically is more expensive (in two weeks I’ll run a special on the cost of eating organically), really it’s worth all the added health benefits. I’m going to be featuring three local farms that I’ve dealt with, but if you’re not based in the Terre Haute area, I would recommend searching at local farmer’s markets or at the grocery store look for labels that say USDA organic or grass-fed. I also stumbled across a website eatwild.com, which had a state-by-state list of grass-fed farms (this would probably be the best source to find sources in your area). Buying from local farms also supports local economics and is more beneficial to the environment (if you live from a green perspective) and to the animals because they’re raised in a less-stressful environment. Grass-fed meat tastes differently because they are a product of their environment. Also since they tend to be leaner than most meats they need to be cooked at lower temperatures, for a shorter time. Ok so let’s get down to it and see some of these farms, so that we can see were our meat is coming from!
First farm that we visited was Royer Farms in Vermillion County, owned and operated by Nikki and Scott Royer. Their twin sons living on the farm makes the sixth generation on the farm (it’s been in their family since 1874). They have pastured hogs, chickens, sheep, cattle, and turkeys. Their meat is butchered mostly by a local butcher (just down the road from their farm). A great way to purchase the meat is in wholes like 1/4, 1/2 or whole animals. They sale it per pound of meat, and not by carcass weight, because they view that as fair (they strive to work with their clients to give them what is best for them; including cuts too). They asses what the family needs (like size) to determine what is best. They were the only farm we visited with lamb products. Generally pig yields 100+ lbs of meat, sheep about 50-75 lbs, and cows around 300 lbs. Like I said their animals are pasture raised, with access to grass and rotational grazing (they’re also given pellets with protein and vitamins). Electric fences are set up for an area of grazing, rather than just the whole field (the animals will just pick over and not eat everything, so by giving them smaller patches at a time they forced what is there (plus it’s better for the fields that way too). They also sell eggs (both blue and brown eggs). About 15% of their cattle our 100% grass-fed, the other percent have access to corn (although they would rather raise only 100% grass-fed). They have a variety of products and cuts (including bacon and sausages as well). If you want to visit them to get product call or email ahead of time, but I would recommend purchasing their products at Baeslar’s or at fresh markets. It’s great that they sell products at Baeslar’s because of convience (anyone can go at any time that they need and find their products). If you have time on the weekends to go to the market then that’s great too! Saturdays you can find them at the Terre Haute market (June- October 8 am- noon), Broad Ripple market, or at the Fischer’s market (these last two are great for our Avon based clients). You can order through their website as well at royerfarmfresh.com. They were great to visit, they believe strongly in what they do, and about raising animals they way they were meant to be raised, and providing quality products for the clients.
Next we have L & A Farm located just over the border in Illinois (don’t worry though they have their products butchered at a USDA certified location so they can sell in Indiana and Illinois). It’s owned and operated by Brian and Andrea Lau, and Kevin and Joyce Augustus. Not only do they have chickens, cattle, and now turkeys, but they also have vegetables. Their 5 acres of gardens have green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, and more. They grow everything from their own seeds to greenhouse to the field. They rotate their meat animals and veggie farm (to fertilize and break the weed cycle). They get 200 meat chickens from a hatchery, where they keep them in a breeder for 3 weeks before they’re put onto grass, then after 7-8 weeks they’re ready for process. They’re kept in by an electrical fence which is portable to allow for rotational grazing. They also have two different kinds of egg chickens, and they’re licensed to sell retail and wholesale (you can find their eggs at Baeslars). They just recently got turkeys for the first time. They’re still in the breeder house, but will soon be moved to grass, where they hope to have as much success with them as with the chickens (they have had great success with their fencing and few preditor problems). Next we saw the cattle, which are again controlled by fencing to decipher how much grass they eat. This way they’re forced to eat everything and it’s better for the grass. They joked that they view themselves as grass-farmers, that the cattle just happen to be there to even out the grass. They also don’t use any antibiotics or growth hormone, so however long (even if it takes 2 1/2 years) the animals need to reach full size, then that’s all that matters. They’re very passionate about their business and have an open door policy (but be polite and email or call ahead of time). They realize the health benefits of grass-fed meat, but they believe in raising animals the way they were meant to be raised (letting a chicken be a chicken). During the summers they sell their products at the Paris and Terre Haute markets on Saturdays. You can also find them outside of Terre Haute location. Visit their website l&afamilyfarms.com to check out more information and pricing on products.
Swiss Connection: The farmland has been in their family since 1851 when David and Magdalena Jergelehner moved from and bought 104 acres in Clay County, now five generations later it’s owned and operated by Alan and Mary Yegerlehner. In the 90’s they began switching to a more pastural farming system. IN 1998 they eliminated all grain, and the cows graze all year round. They strive to raise the cows on a natural seasonal cycle. In addition to selling grass fed meat, they also make raw chesses (I’ll write another blog on raw cheese because if you eat cheese, raw is the way to go). They have a variety of grass-fed (jerky, salami, and pepperoni as well) in addition to whey-fed pastured pork and pasture-fed veal. You can go to their on-farm store (with fridges full of salami’s and cheeses, and freezers full of meat cuts). They also sell at the Bloomington and Zionsville markets. Check out their website http://www.swissconnectioncheese.com/ for more information.
Final thoughts: I loved visiting these farms. I know for ost it’s not convient to visit fams, but it’s great to see where your food is coming from and how it’s raised. The farmers are passionate and truely care about not only quality product, but also in raising their animals in a stressed-reduced, natural environment. Once you know what to look for (again I highly recommend the eatwild.com) it’s not so hard to find. Check farms, markets and groceries. So support your local economy and give yourself a yummy healthy meat option.