Frequently Asked Questions of American Grass Fed Beef

Q.How long do your cattle graze, after being weaned, until sent to be processed?
A.Our cattle are born, raised, and finished on open pasture. As cow/calf pairs, weanlings, and yearlings they are on pasture their entire lives.

Our cattle are fed NO grain, NO animal by-products, NO hormones, and NO antibiotics. Calves stay with their mothers until weaning at about 8 months of age. They are then grouped in a herd of age mates and rotate on pasture themselves.

As yearlings, cattle are selected for our beef program if they meet our body conformation criteria and have been healthy (having received no therapeutic antibiotics). The animals in the beef program are grouped according to weight and rotate on our grass pastures accordingly.

In winter months when grass is not as plentiful, our cows are supplemented with alfalfa or grass hay harvested and sun dried from our pastures during the peak growing season when we have an overabundance of grass. As live food enthusiasts know . . . sun drying maintains the enzymes in our grass. It is a wonderful supplement to our winter pastures so our cattle can continue to graze and have plentiful supplies for their needs year-round.

The last 90 days or so we switch cattle to our prime pastures which contain lush super-food forage to produce the greatest amount of gain plus uniform tasting and incredible healthy beef for humans.

In the warm seasons, we finish primarily on our live alfalfa and grass pastures. In the winter, we finish on our oat, rye and winter wheat grass pastures that we plant in the fall season. Our grass fed cattle sold to you NEVER spend a second on a feedlot.

For those of our customers who recognize the benefits of super green live food, they will already know about the benefits of alfalfa and wheat grass juices. Humans need juicers to assimilate these super foods but for cattle this is their most nutritious natural diet and does not destroy their intestinal pH like feedlot diets. In fact this diet brings them to peak health.

So, in summary, from birth until our cattle load on a truck to the processing plant they are on green pastures. We go even beyond most grass fed operations by finishing on green super food pastures. Also, we rotate our cattle to new pastures as often as every three days to the extreme of twice a day depending on the needs of the herd and the condition of our grass during various seasons.

As the grass farm veterinarian, I oversee the health of our entire herd.

Q.You say that you raise your cattle with NO antibiotics. What does that really mean? If a cow gets sick, would you treat it with antibiotics?
A.As our grass farm’s veterinarian, I am not opposed to the use of therapeutic antibiotics to treat a sick animal.

However, we have maintained a closed herd for many years. We have not introduced any new animals to our herd except bulls which are quarantined for observation for a period of time. A closed herd greatly minimizes any risk to our herd.

Plus we take utmost care in keeping our herd healthy by using natural farming methods. I have not had to treat any of our cattle with antibiotics in at least 4 years.

Each cow is individually tagged with a number so we can keep precise records on its care. If we ever had to treat a sick animal with antibiotics, then as the farm’s veterinarian I would know about the treatment and would take the cow out of our beef program.

Any grass fed beef purchased from our grass farm will NEVER have been treated with antibiotics.

Q.You mention that your beef is “pasteurized.” Is your beef heat-treated like milk or do you mean “pastured” beef i.e. beef raised in a pasture?
A.The reference is a take off on the term pasturization. We mean an animal raised strictly on pasture (forage) never feeding grain or animal by-products.

Q.Are your cattle humanely slaughtered?
A.Yes . . . we treat our animals humanely their entire lives. On the day they go to market our cattle have reached their peak health, we only take 7 or less cows in our farm truck early in the morning for a calm ride to the processor. We have chosen the early morning so hot weather is not a factor and our cows are comfortable during their trip.

Our cows are used to being with humans, since we observe them daily and rotate them to new pastures so regularly. Usually they get into our truck with no excitement.

If they do get excited, we will abandon the trip for the day since beef from excited cows would be adversely effected and because we care about our cattle. Also, our older children are usually the ones making the trip and we are concerned for their safety, too.

A USDA inspector oversees the entire processing operation of each cow. Since our cows are processed individually, the inspector can easily observe if a cow is stressed before processing.

The USDA inspector will reject what as known in the industry as “dark carcasses.” These rejections occur in cases of extreme stress. We have never had one of our cows rejected to date because of health or stress.

As our veterinarian, I have personally inspected the entire process used by our butcher. I am impressed with the care he takes in all aspects of his operation. He and his staff are well informed of our special requests, processing requirements and how we want our cattle treated.

Q.Why is grass fed beef more expensive than grain fed beef? God’s grass, sunshine and rain are free.
A.Yes, grass-fed beef is more expensive than grain fed, but a little knowledge of the cattle industry can quickly explain why.

Cattle producers today operate on an extremely low unit margin. Cattlefax stats over the last 20 years reports an average profit of $3 per head.

Only sheer volume allows survival and hence small family farms are disappearing, giving way to the vertically integrated huge corporate producers. These large producers, also, own the feedlots, the granaries, and the meat packing facilities.

In this industry where volume is what determines profit, the speed at which the animal can be fattened becomes very important. Cattle confined to feedlots and fed grain/corn fatten in a much shorter length of time.

Unquestionably, cattle in feedlots gain weight fast. However, the gain is at the expense of the health and comfort of the animal. Feedlot conditions necessitate the need for constant medicating while an animal becomes ready for slaughter at 12-13 months of age.

A grass fattened animal is often not ready for slaughter until 18, and upwards of 24 months. If you count this extra time as that animal paying ‘rent’ on the land grazed plus opportunity loss for time which could be used developing another animal . . . then it isn’t as hard to see how the cost goes up quickly.

Along the same lines are a consideration of space. In the feedlots, thousands and even hundreds of thousands of animals are confined to a few acres. The real estate required to fatten that same number of animals on grass would be very costly in a land where real estate prices soar.

Yes, God does provide the sun and rain that grows the grass, but often the bank holds the mortgage on the land and the government likes the taxes on it.

If you actually do a cost analysis, you would find that corn is a good bit cheaper to feed than grass (huge government subsidies help this be so).

A recent NY Times article by Michael Pollen “Power Steer” gives an excellent cost analysis showing how corn gives the cheapest, fastest gain possible plus he outlined the horrible conditions in our nations feedlots. You can hear an interview with Michael Pollen on National Public Radio on our site.

Currently, with few exceptions, the only sources available for true grass fed beef are smaller, family-type producers who have decided to market their product directly to the consumer.

Being a small family farm, our costs are phenomenal over the cost of the large corporate producers (IBP, ConAgra’s, Excel) or the huge retailers (Omaha Steaks, etc.) who can take advantage of volume when it comes to shipping and packaging.

For example, Omaha steaks has warehouses in all major regions to allow them to ship ground and decrease the tremendous cost of express air shipping. Many of our packages cost as much for insulated packaging and shipping as they do for the beef.

If you want to enjoy grass fed beef as inexpensively as possible, your best bet is to locate a local producer where you can pick up grass fed beef on the farm.

We have customers who drive 4-5 hours to pick up beef at our grass farm for substantial savings. These customers look at the trip as a fun outing for the whole family. They enjoy visiting and seeing the animals on pasture first hand.

If we aren’t in your area, then you may be able to find another grass farm close by. The majority of grass farmers will appreciate your business.

Q.If I find a group of friends to buy a whole cow, will I save money?
A.Yes, whole cows are less expensive than small quantities. Click here to find our quarter, half and whole grass fed beef prices.

As you will note, we came up with a generic quarter system so you could easily purchase large quantities and know what you will receive. Many grass fed beef providers require that you call for pricing and you receive estimates of the cuts that will be received. We thought our generic quarter system would be more comfortable and convenient for our customers.

If you are in our area, feel free to take a trip to our grass farm to see our operation and pick up your beef. This is your least expensive option. We will enjoy meeting you.

If you join our monthly grass fed beef buyer’s club, you can buy 11 shipments of beef and get the 12th shipment free. The club is flexible and if you don’t want the same order every month, we can cost average 11 months of purchases for the value of your free 12th shipment.

Another opportunity for savings is to join our grass fed beef newsletter mailing list via our grass fed beef drawing. You will receive our free monthly newsletter with our wonderful monthly specials. Occasionally we have some overstock specials which are phenomenal savings. Also, you could be our next winner of free beef . . . which is the best deal of all.

Q.How does wet aged grass fed beef compare to dry aged grass fed beef?
A.Truthfully, we have never tried wet aged grass fed beef. In the beef industry, wet aged beef is known to be more tender than non-aged beef but wet aging does not concentrate your beef flavor like dry aging. It is a less costly tenderization process.

When we considered marketing our beef via the internet, we thought that we would market non-aged, butcher wrapped beef. This was the way our family had always prepared our beef.

We chose a group of health conscious beef eaters to test our grass fed beef. These testers were brutally honest. Their overwhelming feedback was our sizes were too big, non-aged beef was difficult to prepare correctly and butcher wrapped beef was too messy.

This negative response drove, Mark, my husband crazy since he can’t provide second rate beef.

We decided to take whatever steps no matter what the cost to provide our customers with the best grass fed beef on the market today. In order to overcome all the objections, we had to resort to time honored old fashioned methods that our forefathers used for tender beef.

In the industry, dry aged beef is considered the very best method. It concentrates the meaty beef taste while using the beef’s naturally occurring enzymes to tenderize.

Dry aging is becoming a lost art form because it requires time, a trained butcher who supervises the aging processes, additional storage and a loss of beef in the aging process. It is, also, more difficult to replenish low inventory levels since we need two weeks lead time.

Once we overcame the tenderness objections with dry aging, we focused on individual vacuum sealed packages which provide quick gourmet meals without any loss. After going to these extreme lengths to satisfy our test group, our grass fed beef got rave reviews.

Very few companies will go to our expense and effort. We have opted to focus on health conscious consumers who demand the very best.

If you want beef with no aging or wet aging and packaged differently than our standard, our USDA butcher could honor your special request. However, we recommend you first try our perfected process which gets enthusiastic responses from customers.

Many of our customers have tried grass fed beef using other methods and say our dry aged grass fed beef is the best.

Q.After reading through your website, I am concerned by the frequent suggestion to use marinades or tenderization methods even on the dry aged NY strips. Is this necessary or are you erring on the side of caution?
A.Maybe we do go a little overboard on our cautions. However, we want to make sure that our customers enjoy their grass fed beef.

Grass fed beef is a very, very lean beef and will become tough if overcooked or if cooked in such a way that it dries out. Most of our customers report success with our beef tenderloin even without using marinades or any tenderization methods.

Our NY strip steaks are a leaner cut than say our tenderloin or rib eye steaks. Steak chefs who have experience with lean steaks would have no problems with our grass fed NY strip steaks. We just want our customers to be very careful with NY strip steaks and sirloin steaks.

Personally, I use a Jaccard meat tenderizer on the NY strip and sirloin steaks which does an excellent job of tenderizing them. Beef tenderloin used to be my favorite cut. Since getting our Jaccard, NY strip is now my family’s favorite. It has a more meaty flavor than even beef tenderloin.

After jaccarding the steaks, you can throw them on the grill just like you would a corn/grain fed steak. Sear the steaks on high heat and then lower until cooked to your desired temperature.

If you prefer to not invest in a Jaccard meat tenderizer, try marinating or some other tenderization method. Once you have enjoyed several wonderful grass fed beef dinners, you can make variations based on what you have learned from your successes.

Please feel free to send us your recipes and what you have learned which will help our customers. We are constantly adding to our site based on feedback from others.

Q.What about special orders? I want a cut not listed on your site?
A.Yes, we often do special orders. Just remember that dry aging takes a minimum of 2 weeks so allow enough time for your order to be processed.

Q.Is your beef irradiated or treated with chemical baths?
A.Our USDA skilled butcher uses old fashioned cleanliness standards to maintain a safe facility. Our butcher processes each cow individually and sterilizes the processing equipment between each cow which eliminates the need for irradiation and chemical baths.

The large processing facilities in this country process 400 or more cows per hour. They will use irradiation and chemical baths to overcome hazards brought on by unskilled labor working at breakneck speed.

Many grass fed beef suppliers use these large processing facilities.

We found the processor with the best reputation in Missouri for our processing. Our butcher has actually been studied to learn his technique and to help establish government standards for safe processing.

Q.How is your grass fed beef packaged?
A.Our steaks, roasts and beef patties are packaged in vacuum sealed, clear, heavy weight plastic. This does an excellent job of providing fresh beef even with extended storage in your freezer.

Each steak and roast is individually packaged, so you can easily prepare what you need. You will find it is very easy and quick to thaw in a basin of water or in the refrigerator.

Q.How do you ship your beef?
A.Depending on the destination, time of year and contents, we have learned through experience how to package your beef for safe shipping. We combine dry ice with sheets of non leaking, reusable super ice placed in a special insulated container which has proven to keep our shipments frozen for days.

Many of our customers enjoy reusing our containers for their own personal needs.

Q.Is there any advantage from a quality perspective to have the beef shipped overnight?
A.We ship frozen beef via UPS only on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday unless you opt for the additional fee for Next Day Air. We provide you with a tracking number so you will know when to expect the delivery.

There is no advantage to shipping overnight unless you order on Thursday and need delivery for a weekend barbeque.

Q.Do you have meat available throughout the year? Our current supplier only harvests animals in late spring through fall?
A.Yes, we have beef available all year long. We harvest the bulk of our herd during the prime grass growing seasons of spring/summer/fall.

We harvest a small percentage of our herd which has been finished on our rye grass, oat grass and wheat grass finishing pastures during the winter. We use freezers to provide beef year-round.

Patricia Whisnant, DVM
Grass Farmer and Veterinarian

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