In the two weeks since I wrote the last farm note I feel like we have lived through three seasons. It’s been a wacky start to the growing year—passing straight from the frozen soil of winter to the high eighties of summer and finally retreating to some springlike chilly nights and warm days. It’s been confusing knowing what to plant, the early season favorites of spinach and peas don’t tolerate hot weather real well. It seems we skipped right passed the cool weather ideal for seeding and growing those plants. Before we hit the eighties I did get a first planting of spring crops in the ground, those seeds are all up now and filling in the rows. Hopefully the cool weather will stick around long enough to enjoy some sweet peas and spinach.
Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Products
I came across a great website chock full of health studies and news releases reporting on the health benefits of pasture-raised beef, pork, dairy and laying hens. It’s an extensive collection of data collected by author Jo Robinson that will make you scratch your head over why you would eat anything else. Grass-fed beef has a fraction of the total fat of grain-fed beef and less than skinless chicken thighs. Grass-fed beef has fewer calories as well but two to four times higher amounts of omega-3s which reduce your chances of having high-blood pressure, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, depression, attention deficit disorder and more. Pasture-raised eggs have as much as ten times the amount of omega-3s as their indoor counterparts. Grass-fed beef and dairy is also high in CLA, another type of “good fat” that scientists believe reduces your risk of cancer. Pastured raised products have way higher amounts of Vitamin E which is linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease and shows anti-aging properties. Eggs from hens who are out soaking up the sunshine also have three to six times more vitamin D than eggs from indoor chickens.
There is also lots of scary news, with links to studies reporting that nearly half of all meat and poultry sold in US supermarkets is contaminated with the harmful (and drug-resistant) bacteria Staph which is not even tested for by the USDA, and that the source of the problem is over-packed industrial farms. There are lists of acceptable “by-product feedstuffs” used in dairy and beef cattle diets including candy and bakery waste which don’t need to be taken out of the plastic packages prior to feeding. A study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the e-coli count in grain-fed animals is 315 times higher than in grass-fed animals (that’s a difference of 20,000 count versus 6,300,000), and that the bacteria found in these grain-fed animals becomes acid-resistant and is far more likely to survive in our own digestive track (by contrast the number of bacteria from grass-fed animals that survived in our stomach juices doesn’t even register on the graph).
Check out the website, even if you don’t read every study scroll all the way down to the bottom to get the complete picture of what information is out there: http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm
Cattle on Fresh Pasture
We moved our main herd of cattle from their winter home onto fresh pasture yesterday, along with the jersey’s and heifers, they are happily munching down on the fresh stuff now. They were so excited at the tasty nibbles that it was a little hard to keep the group moving forward down the laneway to the next field. As I pushed at the animals from behind they would jog about 15 feet, just enough to not be last and to steal a few minutes of eating before they got passed and had me moving them on again. James credit’s the slow pace to our bull who’s a few years older now and after initially picking up steam to run decided it was actually easier to walk.
The last three weeks have brought us four new calves who do love running around, two heifers and two bull calves. Last week James and Cara took turns struggling to carry a just born calf a good mile down the road with the attentive mom following closely behind. We needed to switch this cow to the other group of cattle which prompted the heavy carrying. We’ve all decided that in the process the little guy imprinted with humans and now comes right up for a cuddle and scratch on the head as soon as he sees a person.
In the Farm Shares
In the veggie share: asparagus, ramps, nettles, beets, white and fingerling potatoes, celeriac, dried red chilies, wheat berries, whole wheat regular and pastry flour, corn meal and one more dose of maple syrup for the free-choice members. Coming soon, lots more asparagus, rhubarb and arugula.
In the meat share: Pork, broilers and stew birds in the freezer. Stock and organ meats from beef and chickens, lard and leaf lard. Beef to come after a few weeks of grass-munching.