Brad Martin on Grass Fed Beef

This is a newsletter that Echo Valley Grass Fed Beef put out this fall.  I liked the way he explains how a farm like his raises the animals and about what makes this type of meat so much better than conventional that I thought I’d post it here for your education.  More information on why grass based farming is better and the meat healthier can also be found on


Echo Valley Ranch Fall beef update /2011
Hi Every one,
Hard to believe the summer is gone already, but the children are back in school, the mornings are cool, and the geese are honking their way south, so I  guess there is no denying Fall is here. Fall is also the time when animals prepare for winter, by growing their winter coat of hair, and packing on the fat. We see this is happening with our cattle as well, and that means it is harvest time! I want to thank all of you for your patience, some of you have been waiting a long time for your beef, and we appreciate that.
I would like to go over why our beef is so seasonal.
1st of all, we want our animals to have fat! Fat adds tenderness and flavour to beef, and the fat from 100% grass fed cattle is very beneficial to us because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. The North American diet is too high in omega-6 ( from all the grains we eat, and the cooking oils we use ) and too low in omega-3 which we need for digestion, proper cell and organ function, hormone regulation, and brain and nervous system activity.
omega-3 fats are found in leafy green vegetables, wild fish ( farmed fish are fed corn ) and grass fed beef and dairy products.  Conventional and organic beef and dairy cattle are fed grains, and animals are the same as us. Their bodies can only work with what it gets. If they get too much omega-6 in their diet, their meat and milk will also contain high levels of omega-6.
That is why we DO NOT feed any grain at all to our cattle !
So to have animals that are fat, without feeding any grain at all, means we have to follow the same natural cycle that wildlife uses, and to do this means you have to buy into the complete system. Too many grass fed beef producers are trying to mesh natural production, and year round supply. THIS DOES NOT WORK! Natural is seasonal! We do not harvest in the winter for 2 reasons.
1- our cattle are eating hay (dried grass ) in the winter. Hay does not have the same nutritional value as grass, so neither will the beef.
2- our cattle are losing weight over the winter, which makes the meat lean and tough. Here is a very important concept. In nature wildlife has the following cycle.
WINTER (survival) wildlife uses up all stored body fat along with what little bit they can find to eat, in order to survive.
SPRING (renewal ) The feed sources in the spring are very rich in protein( young grass for prey animals, young animals for predators ) this allows wildlife to gain back strength, grow or give birth.
SUMMER ( easy living ) summer is natures reward for making it thorough the winter!
FALL (preparation) wildlife prepares for another winter, by storing as much fat as possible. Nature helps by providing more mature grasses that are higher in energy rather than protein.
In order to produce good nutritious grass fed beef, we have to follow this pattern. It may seem cruel to allow cattle to lose weight over the winter, but it is a natural and very important aspect of what we do. If we do not allow our cattle to lose weight over the winter, their metabolism will not be efficient enough to gain the weight on grass that we need to get well marbled beef. Plus I don’t think it is healthy to keep our animals fat all the time. Fat is something to put on in a time of plenty, and use in a time of need. A yearly cycle has both.
Of course genetics are important as well, to try and fatten an animal on grass that has been genetically selected to do well on grain for several generations, will not work well either.
Type of animal also plays a part. In the spring we harvest open heifers ( 24 months old ). These are females that where exposed to a bull for the 1st time the summer before. If they failed to conceive, being they are full grown and do not have a calf to nurse, they fatten up very quickly in the spring. This gives us some meat to sell during the summer, and we ration it a little in order to get our all customers through until our main harvest in the fall.
In the fall we harvest the male calves from the previous years. They are 18 months old at this time and are our main harvest. We we encourage people to buy larger amounts if they have the freezer space for it, to get them them through until the next Fall.
Beef keeps well for up to 12 months in a freezer, and being we never know how many animals we will have available in the Spring until after calving season, it is best to buy enough in the Fall to get you through for the year.
We are planning to build freezer space in the future, so we can store more meat and have it available on a more consistent basis, but it does not look like that will happen yet this year.
For those of you with beef on order, We will be contacting you over the next month for cutting instructions. Just to give you an idea of what to expect, from a 1/4 or 1/2, about 40 % of it will be ground beef. This comes from the trimmings that are too small to turn into a roast or steak. The remaining 60 % can be nicely divided into 30 % steak, and 30 % roasts and stewing beef. This gives you good steaks, and turns the tougher cuts into roasts, which are cooked longer, and gets them tender.
If you do not want this many roasts, we can cut most of them into steaks, you just have to marinate them longer in order to get them tender, before you grill them. On the positive side, these cuts do tend to have more flavour when you are done!
We will go over this when we contact you, as well as the thickness of your steak, the size of your roasts ect.
I would also like to thank you all of you that have made the trek out to our farm to check us out, and welcome those of you that have not, to do so if you ever get the chance. Meeting your farmer, and seeing his farm is the only way you can know for sure, you are getting what you think you are getting. Marketers are very good at labelling their products in a way, that they can collect the premiums for grass fed beef, even if it wasn’t raised how you would think grass fed beef should be raised! I could tell you some stories about that, but we’ll leave it for another newsletter.
In closing I would like to say, in the last 6 years of grass farming, I have seen the health of my pasture improve, I have seen the health of my animals improve, and I have seen my use of fossil fuel diminish. Our beef tastes just as good as it did when we where feeding grain, and if the consumers keep on supporting and promoting the grass fed industry ( beef, milk, eggs, chicken, pork ) I can see a future for the family farm.
Thank You, Brad & Donna
dec2010 094

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  1. Love the passion. You can tell just by reading it he really has a strong desire to give people healthy food. Good for him.

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