Everybody is talking about grass fed meat. As they should! An animal that is moving about and eating grass from the pasture- all year long provides meat that tastes the way that it is supposed to- like the animal that it came from. I would like to take this a step further and call it “pastured meat”.
I have been visiting farms in the Phoenix area and have noticed something. When a farmer here says that their animals are grass fed and on pasture- year round; what does it really mean? It generally means that the animal lives in a pasture and eats bermuda grass. I get it, bermuda is cheap. It grows without any work, seeding or special care. You irrigate it every couple of weeks during the season, you let the animals fertilize it and mow it for you. But it does not cover all of the animal’s requirements. Just like other living things, the animals need a variety of foods in their diet.
So, the farmer brings in hay and some grain to supplement what is missing. Also, the bermuda generally dies out in November and does not come back until spring. That animal is not eating grass-from that pasture-during that time. During those months, the farmer has to bring in a larger dose of hay and grain during the winter. So those animals are only actually eating “some grass” for a “few” months of the year. This is not pastured meat, milk or eggs. I would call it hmm- maybe cage free.
Add to that the fact that the majority of alfalfa fields around here are not organic, and we all know that a bag of grain from the feed store is seldom organic. Now our “grass-fed farm animal” is getting food raised with pesticides, chemical fertilizers and some GM stuff to boot. That is the animal that is providing our families with milk and meat. It is getting harder and harder to make this all happen the way that it was meant to happen.
I know there is the argument that cows in some parts of the country eat pasture only during the spring, summer and fall- then they get supplemented during the winter months. But that is a whole different argument. The meat animals are harvested in the late fall- after filling out on a pasture of multi variety grasses. The chickens lay more eggs during the spring and summer months. Then of coarse there is the spring/summer cream that makes the best butter. In those areas, you cull your herds to fill your freezers and pantries during the fall, before winter sets in. That way, you are supplementing less animals during the winter. There is a reason that baby animals are often born in the spring. Less mouths to feed during the harsh winter and more food for babies during the spring. Then the summer months are full of food and warmth for the young animals to grow and fatten up to get ready to endure a winter.
Ok, back to the desert…
My thoughts in prep for the farm are; since I live where the sun shines year round and I will have irrigation, why wouldn’t I take advantage of that? I would plant a mixture of pasture grasses that will thrive year round and self seed year after year to feed my livestock a true variety of grasses that provide more of the nutrition that my animals need year round. Then, because I am saving money, by not buying so many bales of hay and bags of grain; I can spend a little more for the higher quality, truly organic components to make my own formula for supplementation. If it is truly good quality stuff, I probably will not need to feed very much of it to get the best health results that I am after.
That way, the land works harder than me and is truly more sustainable. Ok, I talked myself into it.