Sep 20, 2014
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April 2013 Archive for 100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

MarketinYour Meat Part 3

Apr 20, 2013

Welcome back to part 3 in a 3 part series on……



   The BEEF business is completely different from the cattle business. You need a completely different mind-set to market beef to customers, especially GRASS-FED BEEF. You will need a totally different set of knowledge and skills.  Pay attention to your competition.  Begin to read the food and business sections of your local newspapers.  Read on-line trade journals that will help you understand the beef, pork, poultry, lamb etc. businesses.   


Learn about regulations.


   Think about your geographical marketing area.   Are you located in a rural setting out in the middle of nowhere?  Are you within 15 – 30 minutes of a town, city or retail market or restaurant?  Learn about managing a business.  Look for training in marketing - selling approaches, demonstrating, negotiating with retailers or restaurants, and most importantly, closing the sale.


• Be prepared for your business to take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years to take off.

• Your processor/butcher is key to your success. Choose them carefully.  And talk to them on a regular basis.

• Look for close markets first such as Farmers Markets, health food stores and especially restaurants who       prefer to buy locally.

• Be yourself and be professional. Capitalize on your down-home, family farmer image.  It’s how you live your life, be proud of your heritage.


Always promote a positive impression of your products.


   In a world of unsafe food, consumers fears about food safety and quality outweigh any sociological considerations they may have about agriculture. You must appear to be well-organized, and committed to quality to build the trust you need to make the sale and have repeat customers.

• EDUCATE your customers.

  Compare your 100% Grass-fed BEEF to other species such as venison when referring to cooking time.

  If your customers cook your meat incorrectly they won’t buy more!

• Offer delivery for the elderly and restaurants that feature Locally raised food.

• Be positive when presenting your 100% Grass-fed BEEF, Pastured Pork, Poultry, Lamb etc.

• Building your niche market takes steady work.  Stick with it and be prepared for success!!


Target your marketing to the right customer.  We have found that individuals with an existing or new interest in healthy, lean meat are the choice consumer niche.   


The following points are some of the interests of consumers in the 100% Grass-fed BEEF marketing niche:

• Great taste.

• Pesticide-free food (for customers with chemical sensitivities).

• A healthy, high-protein diet (for reduction of cancer risk or for cancer patients).

• No artificial/injected growth hormones or animal by-product rations.

• Safe locally raised foods with no danger of E. coli or BSE.

• Lean meat.

• Humane Animal welfare.

• Cost-saving through prices lower than the chain stores.

• Convenience and TRACEABILITY!

• Desire to support farmers and eat locally raised foods.

marketing your meat part 2

Apr 14, 2013

Welcome back to part 2 in a 3 part series focusing on:


Marketing your 100% Grass-fed Meats


There are two good online sources for direct marketing information:


- Beef Marketing Alternatives is a publication from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service,


- How to Direct Market Your Beef, by Jan Holden is the second online resource. It is from the Sustainable Agriculture Network, the national outreach network for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


   If you’re going to direct market your 100% Grass-fed BEEF, Pastured Pork or Poultry, it’s important to accurately estimate how many pounds of meat or various retail cuts you’re going to have to sell after slaughtering and processing an animal. To estimate the amount of product you will have for sale:


-          Dressing percentage x live weight = expected carcass weight.

(dressing percentage is the percentage of live  weight that results in carcass weight).

-          Dressing Percentage = (hot carcass weight ÷ live weight) x 100

-          Expected carcass weight x expected lean meat yield (cutability).


            Example: 1200 pound beef steer with a 720 pound carcass.

            Dressing percentage = (720 ÷ 1200) x 100 = 60%


   When direct-marketing your 100% Grass-fed BEEF, Pork and/or Poultry, the actual pounds of saleable product will be determined by such factors as:


-          Carcass Fatness: The more trim fat an animal has, the lower the lean yield.

-          Muscling: Heavier muscling will result in a higher lean yield.


Meat Cuts Sold: The largest fat deposit in the carcass, by weight, is seam fat, not back fat, so cutting methods for marketing purposes greatly affects the amount of saleable product.


Bone-In versus Boneless: Bone-In products will result in more saleable pounds than boneless.


Leanness of Ground Beef: Selling a 90% lean ground beef versus an 80% lean ground beef will mean using less fat trim in the ground product. However, consumers generally like a leaner ground product. Especially when grilling.  And our customers have come to love the lack of burger shrinkage on their grills due to the lower fat content of our 100% Grass-fed BEEF products!


Trim: Closely trimming steaks and roasts will result in slightly lower yields due to more fat trim that needs to be used in other products.


Value-Added Products: Having the ability to make some sausage products, 100% BEEF hot dogs, etc. will greatly increase the ability to use fat trim.


   There has been allot of ill will focused toward this blog by readers who obviously feel that Grain-fed BEEF is best!  The reason these aggressive verbal attacks have been directed at 100% Grass-fed BEEF is because the Grain-fed/finished producers think only their process can produce tenderness that has been identified as the most important palatability attribute of meat, and the primary determinant of meat quality, and consumer acceptability.

   Let’s break it down. The two primary determinants of meat tenderness are maturity of the connective tissue, and myofibrillar toughness. Right?! One mis-conception that exists in the BEEF industry is that 100% Grass-fed BEEF systems always result in carcasses that have less tender steaks compared with grain-finishing systems.  However, this is not always the case.  In two studies where a forage based system was compared with a grain based system, the carcasses from grain-fed cattle had a higher marbling score, and whiter fat, but there were no differences in Warner-Bratzler shear force or muscle tenderness as rated by trained sensory panel scoring. This same finding was reported in 2006, while comparing forage versus grain finishing, however, in that same study there were no differences in marbling score, with carcasses in both groups being USDA Select.


Well that’s enough for this week.  Let’s meet again next week and finish this 3 part series on Marketing your 100% Grass-fed Meats.

grassfed lamb production

Apr 07, 2013

Grass-fed Lamb production

   Pasture lambing is best accomplished in April-May.  Why?  Because it is when temperatures start warming up the ground & forages begin to grow.  The milder outside temperatures also help reduce indoor housing and lambing accommodations that would be required if lambing was in February or March, especially in the North East. 

   But what is the right choice of management for lambs. Should a producer feed his lambs on a high concentrate diet of grains after weaning at 60 - 70 days, or should he/she raise them on high quality pasture?

I hope you know the answer to those questions relatively quick!

High Quality Pasture of course!

   This isn’t rocket science folks.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why any producer would think rearing and raising any livestock inside a building would be a better alternative to the animals being outdoors on healthy/lush pastures where they can run and romp in sunlight, not fluorescent light.  For some reason, at some point in time a bunch of corporate money baggers decided that raising animals on concrete with their feed, water and light being electronically controlled was a healthy option.  Think about it, isn’t that kinda like prison?!

   Thankfully many producers are now considering making better use of their forage resources by raising their lambs on pasture. Their decision is based on the following considerations:

- better soil stewardship and a higher quality environment.

- ability of ewes and lambs to harvest forage

- better carcass quality of lambs

- reduced cost of production

   When the carcass characteristics of lambs raised and finished either on 100% grazed alfalfa & white clover or on 100% high concentrate in drylot were compared, they were found to have no difference between the amount of intramuscular fat.  However, lambs raised on high concentrate grain feed diets had significantly more trimmable fat.  Folks, that’s called WASTE.  The trimmable fat may be reduced with the all forage finishing system but without large reduction in the fat content of consumable product. The forage based system would solely lead to reduction of waste during processing.

   If lambs are raised on forages and then finished on grain the amount of trimmable fat will be the same as on lambs raised and finished on a high concentrate feed/grain diet. Therefore, the beneficial effect of raising lambs on forage is lost if lambs are finished on grain after having been raised on a good quality pasture.  Again, WASTE of time and money.

   The carcass quality of lambs can be improved, in terms of external fat, only if lambs are marketed at slaughter weight directly off pasture.

Disadvantages of raising lambs on "drylots".

-Drylots have to be cleaned on a weekly (if not more frequently) basis.

-Urinary calculi can be a problem if ammonium chloride is not added in the ration.

-Rectal prolapses have to be expected at the rate of 1%.

-Drylots do not have a good image to the consumers.

-Some sort of feed storage will be needed.

-Drylot needs to be built on a well drained terrain to avoid accumulation of mud.

- Feed cost is very dependent on grain price.

Advantages of raising lambs on pasture.

-More natural environment and better image to the consumer.

-Manure returns to the land although it is in an uneven fashion.

-Lower overall feed cost.

   Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. The producer of slaughter lambs should study carefully before setting up his or her chosen system. Knowing that the carcass quality of lambs is not really affected by the type of feed, the choice of system will be based mostly on the management ability of the producer, your market opportunities, and your ability to find consistent trusted feed resources.

   Creating a label for grass-fed is proving to be very controversial. This is because people have different interpretations of what grass-fed should be. The standards that USDA originally proposed for a "grass-fed" label stipulated that at least 80% of the ruminant's primary energy source be composed of grass, range, pasture, or other forage. "Purists" oppose this definition because it would allow short-term feeding of animals in feed lots or feeding supplemental grain to grazing livestock.

   I will be the first advocate for Grass-fed livestock to point out the numerous health benefits that can be obtained from grass feeding livestock. According to various research studies, the meat and milk from grass-fed ruminants contains more conjugated lineolic acid (CLA), vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, and vitamin A than the meat and milk from grain-fed animals.

   CLA and omega-3 fatty acids are good fats with anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and anti-fat properties. The improved nutritional profile of grass-fed meat and milk may enable some producers to command a premium price for their products if they direct market them to consumers, restaurants, and specialty food stores/chains.  We don’t abuse the opportunities we have to offer a healthy and wholesome product to ALL consumers.  We understand that not everyone can afford to pay what allot of Organic or 100% Grass-fed producers are asking for their final packaged product.  We have been blessed by God to be a blessing to others.  We’re farming to make a living, not to make a killing.

   A New Zealand study showed that lambs nursing dams with high CLA content in their milk had 37% more CLA in their meat than those lambs whose dams had low CLA levels. Single lambs had 35% more CLA in their meat than twin-born lambs. CLA is produced naturally by the microflora that live in the rumen of ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, and goats. It is formed by the digestion of dietary linoleic acid. The linoleic acid content of grasses varies by plant species and maturity, being highest in grasses that are in a growing, vegetative state. CLA is readily absorbed by the animal from the rumen and ends up in milk, meat, and fat. The concentration of CLA in animal products varies, partly due to diet and management practices. Even without diet manipulation, lamb is one of the richest natural source of CLA. Dairy products are usually the best sources of CLA. Ewe's milk contains more CLA than cow's milk.

   As with all production and management systems, there are trade-offs to raising lambs and goats primarily on grass or confining them and feeding them a grain ration. A producer must choose the appropriate feeding and management system for his lambs and kids based on his available resources, market demand, and individual preferences.

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