In many of my recipes, you may have noticed that I am repeatedly writing that local, grass-fed beef is ideal. Or that free-range chicken is best. Or that pastured eggs are more nutritious, etc, etc. Well, today, I’d like to share a little bit of information about why I choose to feed my family these foods, as well as where I buy these products and how you can, too!
Grass-fed and free-range meats are healthier for us, no question. Animals are meant to eat what they find in the wild. The nutritional quality is far better when animals are raised using responsible production practices, allowed to live in the environment they were created to live in and allowed to eat the foods they were created to eat. On the contrary, cows raised on large commercial feedlots are crowded and stressed, fed corn and grain (which causes digestive problems), and are given antibiotics daily. Grass-fed cows are given room to roam and play and they aren’t given growth hormones, which results in cleaner, healthier meat. If you haven’t watched the documentary Food, Inc. yet, I highly recommend it. It will completely open your eyes to the differences between pastured-raised and commercial feedlots.
If you’ve been following along with my blog for a while now, you’ve seen me link to Honored Prairie numerous times. Honored Prairie is a group of like-minded farms working together to distribute grass-fed products directly to local consumers. Seven Sons Family Farm is a part of this group and we have been buying our meats from them directly since last September, when we attended their first-ever farm festival. We’ve loved every single product we’ve tried. Seven Sons is located in Roanoke, IN, but the group of farms known as ‘Honored Prairie’ has pick up locations all across the Midwest! If you live in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, or Illinois, there is a high likelihood that there is already a pickup location near you.
Seven Sons Family Farm (yes, there really are seven sons…and no daughters!) is part of a new breed of farmers who are challenging the conventional wisdom of today. Below, is a picture of the family that raises the cows, pigs and hens that feed my family. How neat is it that I can put a face to the people that are helping to feed my family the most nutritious, high-quality meats we can find???
At Seven Sons Farm, calves begin their lives eating grass and drinking milk, while living a low-stress life. Once the calves are weaned, they are taken to the grassy finishing pastures until they reach 1,000 pounds. They are 100% grass and plant forage-fed (meaning they are never fed grain). They also have never been fed drugs or antibiotics. In a typical commercial feed lot, antibiotics are administered daily in order to help manage the highly concentrated grain diets and cramped living spaces. Grass diets eliminate this concern. Seven Sons’ cattle have also never been given hormones, steroids, artificial growth stimulants or animal by-products. (This is something I especially find important when feeding my own growing children. I’m convinced that more and more kids are reaching puberty at an earlier age due to all the growth hormones and toxic ingredients found in our processed foods and commercial feedlot meats.)
Most eggs you find in the grocery store today come from factory farms where laying hens are caged and given no other choice but to eat medicated feeds and animal by-products that provide a cheap source of protein. The hens that Seven Sons Farm raises live in a large barn with bedded floor space, secluded egg nest boxes, natural lighting cycles and fresh air ventilation. Weather permitting, hens are also given access to pastures where they can enjoy the natural sunlight and scratch around while foraging for green plants and insects. They are fed top quality feed made from Seven Sons’ own corn and soybeans. I think it’s safe to say, ‘the healthier the hen, the more nutritious the egg!’
And as far as the chickens and turkeys, they are also raised in open fields with lots of sunshine and fresh air. Their food consists of fresh grass, leaves, plant roots and all the little bugs, worms and small critters they can find. The birds are given access to free choice feed, which consist mainly of ground seeds like corn & soybeans, mixed with plenty of vitamins and minerals. No drugs and no antibiotics of any kind. Many products in grocery stores claim ‘natural’ or ‘free-range,’ however, this simply means that the birds did not spend their entire lives cooped up in cages. In actuality, almost all poultry can be labeled “free-range.” Conventional meat birds (think, Tyson & Perdue) are raised in large barns where thousands of birds roam about on concrete or dirt/manure packed floors, usually without access to the outdoors. Because these birds are raised in such large numbers and are not given proper access to sunshine and fresh air, disease becomes a big problem. Producers are left with no other option but to give the birds drugs and antibiotics, which eventually filters down to the consumer. The result of these irresponsible production practices is a very unhealthy and tasteless product. This is the kind of meat you will find in almost every grocery store and fast food restaurant.
And the same ideals go for Seven Sons’ pigs. They will spend most of their lives rooting around in the woods, eating all kinds of things like plants, roots, leaves and wild berries. When they’re not eating, they will probably be either relaxing or having fun taking a mud bath!
So, now that you know why you should eat grass-fed/free-range meats, next you need to know where can you buy them! If you live in the Midwest, Honored Prairie is a great option. You can find all the pickup locations on their website. (I actually buy directly from Seven Sons’ Roanoke, IN farm store; so if you’re located close enough, that’s an option, as well.)
Are you interested in what products Honored Prairie has to offer? Then check out their online store. They sell beef, pork, poultry, lamb, eggs, yogurt, raw honey, pure maple syrup, wild-caught seafood, and much more!
Here’s how it works and how you, too, can buy your meat from Honored Prairie:
First, sign up for an account on their website (it’s free) and select your pickup location (and date of pickup). Once you’re signed up, you can choose from their large selection of items and place items in your cart. (Deals are better if you buy in bulk.) On your scheduled pickup date and time, you simply show up, pick up your order, and pay with either cash or check. Simple as that! And then you have nutritious, properly-raised meats to take home and enjoy.
If you live outside of the Honored Prairie pickup locations and haven’t found a local farm like this around you, I recommend checking out www.localharvest.org. It’s been a great resource for me to find all varieties of local farms, farmers’ markets, CSAs, and more.
If you know of anyone that lives in the Midwest that might be interested in buying grass-fed and free-range meats, please share this post with them. I would love to spread the word about Honored Prairie and the excellent products they sell, as well as why it’s so important to buy grass-fed meats!