Category Archives: Beef
This Is Winter?, Cattle Breeds, & Chicken Palooza
This is winter?
Not exactly a snow scene for a February Newsletter, but perhaps it sparks a little excitement for upcoming spring time.
It is not the “winter for the ages” that we are used to, but I will take it. With our new hoop houses just nearly completion, I am personally happy that winter has not been harsh. Thanks to a handful of family relatives who are good at carpentry, I have some nice buildings to look at now & so do the animals! The cows are able to escape the wind, the pigs can burrow deeply into the straw pack, and the chickens get a whole building all to themselves. As nice as the barns are, the animals are equally excited for the grass to grow again so they can get out and roam. I can only imagine that they get the winter blues as well.
For those of you who are interested in our Beef Cattle and why we use the breeds we do, read on. For those who do not, skip a few paragraphs.
In a nutshell, we have the following breeds on our farm: Black Angus (refer to our farm name, example, Blackview), Horned Hereford, and Wagyu.
Our goal was to be always a purebred Angus farm because of the breed’s mothering ability, their popularity, and my familiarity with them growing up.
Hereford came into the mix when I read about them in Mark Schatzker’s Book, ” STEAK”. The Hereford cattle he speaks about is from a farm called Brae Arden (click to read more), and he refers to them as a “genetic jackpot” for grass fed genetics. We bred some of our cows to the “brae arden” line and this beef will be available mid-summer this year for the first time at Blackview, and Canada for that matter.
Trying to improve our cattle genetics has been fun. The genetic makeup of your herd has to work together with your farm environment and needs. Not all beef cattle are created equal. In fact, it is difficult to find cattle that “fit” a grass fed/finishing farm these days. For Grass finishing, you want a moderate frame, easy fleshing, easy doing cow. In simple terms, you want a type of cow that will convert grass to beef – efficiently. (I hate to use the word efficient because it sounds like a factory process). In other words, every bite of grass that cow eats goes to maintain it’s body. The sooner that her needs are met, she is able to put on fat – – & grass fed fat is amazingly great for flavour and nutrition.
Next is the wagyu. The famed Japanese breed that marbles magically. They take time to fatten on grass, because as a whole they don’t fit the “grass type” criteria, however, they do marble well and have a particularly active natural gene called SCD, which can translate more flavour when being cooked.
Every year we try to get better. And that is why we rely on your feedback and comments from emails and facebook comments. For my own knowledge of taste and quality, I sacrifice one ribeye from each steer we butcher….to my own plate…for testing and research.
Thanks to the Chicken Farmers of Ontario and groups like Practical Farmers of Ontario, we are now allowed to raise more chicken. Whoo Hoo!
It’s CHICKEN PALOOZA all year!
( Palooza – definition: a word describing an exciting, larger-than-life event, party, or celebration)
Heritage, Free Range, Pastured Reared Chicken will now be more available. In the past years, Chicken has done well for us. We will be raising only heritage and slow growth breeds (no big breasted, young birds). They will be hatched here, or brought in as day old chicks. As soon as the chicks are old enough they go out to the pastures to forage for bugs and grasses and supplemented with flax seeds and non-gmo grains. Each bird, depending on breed, will live on the farm from 12 to 18 weeks. The breeds will be Nova Brown, Frey Dual Purpose, Barred Rock, New Hampshire and Jersey Giant. The breasts are small, the meat may even be a bit dark, but boy are they super tasty.
Here is Dr. Richard Bazinet regarding our chicken and Omega 6:3 ratio:
“Often chicken comes in at 30 or 40:1. Bill’s chicken leg is 11.5:1 and the breast is 30:1. Both I would say are better than conventional. However, chicken does something interesting the beef doesn’t with the alpha-linolenic acid. Chicken turns this omega-3 into the omega-3s we would find in fish (EPA and DHA). EPA and DHA are not found in plants. So whereas these fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are pretty much not detectable in commercial chicken Bill’s samples have about 0.5 percent as EPA and 1 percent as DHA. For a reference, beef is less than 0.1% (usually) for DHA and wild sockeye salmon is 10%. Farmed salmon is 6%. So, while chicken is not salmon, it is a step in that direction. The simple omega-6:omega-3 ratio is a bit misleading and one has to look at the EPA and DHA here. Nutritionally speaking, this is, again, a solid product.”
There will be 300 /month available, starting in late June. Keep that in mind please. We have never raised this many and would like to sell every one of them fresh if we can. It will be a great learning experience, I am sure.
On that note, enjoy the rest of your winter. And may spring come soon!
Polyface Farms & Springtime
When you attempt to do something extraordinary, outlandish, and outside a paradigm, you look around to see who else is also attempting similar things. When I saw the documentary FOOD INC, I was watching agriculture as I knew it- perhaps from a “darker” side of the business. But undoubtedly my favorite part in the movie is when a unique farmer is showcased and he is Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.
In the documentary, Polyface is featured as the pastured poultry, grassfed beef, pastured pork guru and is interviewed in contrast to modern day agriculture and ideals. I have always wanted to see how this farm looked since I have only read the books and listened to him speak in Guelph. What could I learn from Polyface?
Last week I had that chance while driving through Virginia. We made our way through the snake-like roads bordered by ranch-like pastures with wide open, hilly spaces. When we arrived at Polyface, which is 100 acres pasture and 400+ acres of woods, the farm was bustling with working interns. Spring work has begun and nothing energizes a winter-worn farmer more!
We saw on their website that walk-in visits were encouraged, so when we got there we started snooping around. We got to meet Joel, son Daniel and we talked with some of their interns- all of which were very friendly and happy we stopped in. “Make yourself at home” was Joel’s welcome.
We saw the infamous “Eggmobile”, “Pigerator Pork” (in action) and the “salad bar beef” were already on the hill’s grazing. Seeing all this made me anxious to get home and let my cows out to pasture!
The farm is transparent in it’s values, methods of animal husbandry and customer satisfaction. It is no secret that their #1 goal is to produce “Clean Food”. You sense it as you walk around, un-bothered and with no, “no tresspassing” signs. Their store is filled with Joel’s Books, t-shirts proclaiming “Grassfed” and information on where the animals are on the farm so that you can go find them. It was so inspiring to see first hand. If you haven’t seen or heard about Joel Salatin, or the movie Food Inc or Fresh or American Meat, I encourage you to take the time and educate yourself with what other farmers are doing to produce “clean meat” and produce. Another great film which is based in Ontario is To Make a Farm which is yet another refreshing documentary about food and farming.
Springtime at Blackview
With the thoughts of Spring comes grazing, calving, hatching, and farrowing…but it hasn’t fully arrived yet.
But until then, there are two things we are doing here at Blackview – we are clearing our freezers to make room for 2015 produce & we are wondering what the level of interest is for Beef, Pork, Duck, Chicken, eggs, and turkey. Send us an email and let us know what you and your family would like to try!
Rest assured that our beef is only fed grass…100%. Feel good about our proven Omega 6 & 3 Raio (3:1) and taste the delicious flavour that a grass fed and finished beef tastes like!
Our pork and poultry are also pastured and are as free-range as possible. They are heritage based breeds that are fed a varied diet of non-gmo grains, grass, sprouts and apples (all when they are seasonably available). Nutritionally speaking, our pork and poultry are showing really good levels/ratio of Omega’s, as well as finding 0.5% EPA and 1% DHA in the chicken (higher levels found in Fish, but none is found in grocery store chicken).
May we be your “clean meat” connection this year?
A New Year, Farmer’s Dinners, and Omega-3’s
As I write this the snow squalls are howling and I realize that winter has indeed settled in and has decided to call this place home. Well, that is just fine. On my farm I really enjoy the frozen ground and a fresh blanket of snow. As for the animals, they are far more healthy with the sanitary conditions that winter creates. I am sure they are dreaming about greener pastures, but at least they have good quality hay before them.
We have been truly thankful for this past year and have leared a lot. I feel that I can relate to Forrest Pritchard’s comments in his book, Gaining Ground pg.313, “We rarely got it right the first time, We often didnt get it right the second or third time, either. But we didn’t stop trying…”. 2014 has had it’s success’ and here are a few of them:
Our First “Farmer’s Dinner” was held at the Four Season’s Cafe Boulud with Chef Tyler Shedden. I was privileged to have a sold out crowd to appreciate my offerings, along with sharing my table with Bonnie Stern, Jonathan Gushue, Mark Schatzker, Richard Bazinet and Norm Hardie.
Tyler Shedden is a chef of such amazing talent and quality.
A few weeks later, we attended another Farmers Dinner closer to home at The Culinary Studio in Kitchener, where we supplied the pork for a roast. Again, tonight we are invited to another “Farmer’s Dinner” where we are supplying three types of meat. We are really excited to taste the artwork from this studio!
In short, here are things that went very well and we hope to do more of in 2015:
Grow more duck! With predators not a real threat, duck are a real treat to raise. They have amazing temperament, good feed conversion, and after a season of foraging – they have proved to be an excellent flavoured bird. Turkeys also fall into this category. Such wonderful birds to grow.
Expect even better beef! In 2013 I really paid attention to what genetics that I was selecting for my herd of Angus cattle. In 2015, I see the results and notice a positive difference. Grass fed type genetics are a smaller framed, easier keeping animal that put on more gain than larger animals. Simply, we want our cows to eat grass and be completely comfortable in doing so.
Bring the Bacon! Everything has improved in 2014, but I would have to say that the pork has really stood out in the area of flavour. It’s very exciting to hear the comments, especially on the pork chops and bacon.
We wish you an amazing New Year from Blackview! We hope you stay healthy and make time for your family and with what’s most important. This is coming from a farm where we focus on using just grass for raising our animals, and using NON-GMO grains where we have to (pigs, poultry -never beef).
Our friend at the University of Toronto says this about our beef regarding the omega-6 (linoleic acid, found in corn, grain etc …) to the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (found in grass, canola, flax etc …) , “Your samples are a remarkable 3.4:1 (feedlot beef is 20:1). This is top notch! Nutritional guidelines vary a bit, but the most common recommendations is 5:1 – you exceed that.” (Richard Bazinet).
Now with that, I will go tend to my beef soup bone broth that is brewing and enjoy that tight omega ratio goodness!
The Grazing Begins, Rostock Farm
May 20th marks the first day of grazing; a good few weeks later than previous years but we will take what we get. The cows are happy to be eating the lush spring grass. Our farm is divided up into many different mini-pastures and the herd is moved daily to ensure they eat the highest quality of grass each day. Ideally, we try to move the cattle between 2-5pm when the sun is at it’s peak and the BRIX measurement is at it’s highest.. The sun builds up the nutrient density in the grasses so the cattle can absorb them more efficiently. When the cattle move to a new pasture, they feast ; and this is how we can “finish” on grass.
In October, 2012 I was privileged to be able to purchase the entire herd of 10 Registered Angus cows from Rostock Farm in Harriston, Ontario. These were some of the best cattle I have ever seen and the owner of the farm was Warren and Janice Ross. I knew Warren from childhood as my dad and I visited his pristine pastures one time and talked with him at various cattle meetings. Warren milked cows in earlier days and then switched to the Angus breed later on in life. He contributed much to the Ontario Angus Association with well selected genetics; he exampled himself as a respectable Angus breeder, excellent farmer, and a first class meticulous role model.
When he offered his cattle for sale, I jumped at the chance and he was gracious enough to not only sell them to me, but also calve them out for me as well. Those same calves are giving birth to their own calves this summer.
On Monday, May 19th, 2014, Warren passed away in Palmerston. I will take to heart all that he has taught me. I am proud to own part of his life’s work, that being his cattle that graze in my fields.