WHY GRASS-FED: UNDERSTANDING THE TRUE COSTS OF INDUSTRIAL MEAT

In 2013, Trucost released a report that monetized the value of the negative environmental externalities produced by the world’s largest business sectors. The results of the report were damning, especially for the industrial agriculture sector, and specifically for cattle ranching and farming businesses. Of more than 1,000 region-sectors analyzed, industrial cattle ranching and farming in South America had the second greatest overall environmental cost, totaling to nearly $355 billion. When compared to revenues of only $17 billion, it’s quite easy to see that if these businesses were forced to pay for their pollution, land degradation, and overall disruption of ecosystem services they would not only not be profitable, but they wouldn’t even be able to cover their capital costs!

Cattle ranching operations in South America aren’t the only ones to blame, either. Cattle ranching in North America produced over $30 billion in negative land use externalities alone, and that doesn’t account for air or water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, or waste production! Because these operations do not have to pay for these costs, they are able to sell exceptionally cheap products while still turning a profit. That’s why you should be skeptical when you see ground beef advertised for $3.99/lb. That price certainly does not take into account the billions in environmental externalities produced during the lifecycle of the product, and it certainly doesn’t even leave enough wiggle room to pay the farmer a living wage, but that’s a discussion for another day.

At Walden, we only work with partner farms who are stewards of the land and are committed to raising animals the right way. This doesn't mean that they produce limited negative externalities - it means that they produce positive externalities through the implementation of 100% grass-fed pasture systems, practices that regenerate soil health & fertility and support functional working landscapes that sequester carbon and support perennial pasture growth. As we’ve written about extensively in prior blog posts, raising animals in a sustainable, regenerative manner can in fact leave our land, air, and ecosystems in a better state than if they were left untouched by increasing carbon sequestration, decreasing methane production, and improving overall ecosystem health by restoring natural ecosystem services. 

Feedlot Manure Lagoon in Tascosa Feedlot, Texas” (2013), Credit: Mishka Henner 

Feedlot Manure Lagoon in Tascosa Feedlot, Texas” (2013), Credit: Mishka Henner 

The Alternative: Rotational grazing systems to grow 100% grass-fed beef - in support of healthier soils, animals, and ultimately people!

The Alternative: Rotational grazing systems to grow 100% grass-fed beef - in support of healthier soils, animals, and ultimately people!

We are a Certified B Corporation!

We are thrilled to announce we are now a Certified B Corporation®!

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This is a tremendous step forward for our company, as certification involves passing a series of rigorous tests to demonstrate companies meet higher standards of social and environmental impact, transparency, and accountability—much like Fair Trade or LEED certification. However, this distinction is not just for a bag of coffee or building, it applies to every decision we make as a business!

Ultimately, the designation is intended to legally protect our mission and our values, and align us all around the idea that we will sometimes make decisions that do not provide short term profits, but serve our mission of supporting and growing local agriculture. Unlike traditional corporations, Certified B Corporations are required (and happy!) to consider the impact of their decisions not only on their shareholders’ short term profit, but also on their workers, suppliers, community, consumers, environment, and other stakeholders. Putting our community first has always been a pillar of our company and becoming certified has been a wonderful opportunity to solidify our mission. Our view is that our mission aligns nicely with our long term business interests, and the two do complement rather than compete with one another.

We are honored to join companies such as Patagonia, Seventh Generation, and more, which we have admired for their socially minded decisions.

Although we’re usually pretty skeptical about certifications and terms (especially when it comes to food), we are thrilled to officially join the common goal of Certified B Corps to redefine success in business to mean more than just profits.

Milk and Honey Ribs

When we first began testing and collecting recipes, we stumbled upon a phenomenal method for milk and honey baby back ribs. It may seem odd to cook with milk when most recipes call for glazes, sauces, or rubs. Yet, milk acts as a perfect buffer—heating the meat gently while basting it with cream. As the milk evaporates, the resulting ribs are impressively tender with a light brown toasted crust!

This recipe has become a notorious favorite at Walden. Especially in these intermediate weeks of spring where it may be too cold to grill and too warm for stew. To maintain the delicate flavors, we recommend sticking to the oven as originally imagined by Cesare Giaccone of Osteria dei Cacciatori. We urge you to give his recipe a try! Milk and Honey Ribs

For more info on the versatility of ribs, see HERE

As always, let us know how it goes! If you ever have a favorite recipe of your own, feel free to submit it to info@waldenlocalmeat.com for a chance to publish in our monthly card!

The Joy of Cooking a Pasture-Raised Bird

The difference between a Thanksgiving turkey raised outdoors on pasture and one raised inside in confinement is significant. As a result of getting exercise to forage for part of their diet and consuming green grass, turkeys raised on pasture tend to have smaller breasts and rich, flavorful dark meat.  Nutritionally, as a result of eating so much grass, these turkeys have been shown to have significantly more Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, and a higher Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio.  It’s also worth noting that they don’t contain Arsenic - many industrial scale producers commonly add Arsenic to poultry feed (it is permitted by the USDA at 0.5ppm or less), which in small amounts improves growth rates… but it also happens to be a toxin and the primary ingredient in most rat poisons!).

So what to do with your pasture-raised bird?  We suggest a dry brine (start today if you’re cooking Thursday!).  We find that a typical “wet brine” can make the meat squishy and watery, whereas a dry brine concentrates flavors and makes for a crispy golden skin.

Using about 1 tablespoon of salt per 4 lbs of bird, plus black pepper and your favorite fresh herbs (sage, rosemary and/or thyme work well), rub the bird all over, including underneath the skin as deep as possible above the breasts (be careful not to tear the skin!).  Place the bird on a open rack in your refrigerator, allowing water to drip off of the bird to a tray below.  Allow to rest for 24-48+ hours.

Place a few onions and apples, cut in half, inside the bird’s cavity.  Heat oven to 450 and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cover breasts with foil.  Reduce temp to 350 degrees, and cook for several hours (general rule of thumb for a pasture-raised bird is 8-10 min per lb).  You should begin to check after about 2 hours – you’re looking for a temp range around 140-160, depending on your preferences (note that we are lower than the USDA’s recommended 180 degrees, so please do so at your own risk!).

Beware: as a result of lower fat content and lower moisture from dry brining, we have found that pasture-raised birds tend to cook significantly faster than their industrial brethren.  There is nothing worse than choking down chalky, dry white meat and having to pull out the ketchup when the gravy runs out!  Remember, you can always return the bird to the oven if it’s underdone, if it’s overdone, well, you’re going to need to call Doc Brown for advice at that point. 

 

Painting Credit: Chase Audette

Painting Credit: Chase Audette

The Health and Environmental Benefits of Grass-fed Beef

This post is courtesy of Diana Rodgers, RD: registered dietitian, author, producer, and friend of Walden!

If you’re a fan of Walden, then you appreciate how properly raised meat tastes. Maybe films like “Cowspiracy” or the recent WHO statement on red meat and cancer concern you. As a “real food dietitian” living on one of the farms that supplies Walden, I’m going to explain how these are not issues with pasture-based herbivores.

 Americans are facing soaring rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer—partly because the food we’re eating isn’t giving us the nutrition we need. Our carbohydrate-heavy intake and reliance on highly processed, ultra-palatable, industrially produced food is making us sick, while at the same time leaving us malnourished. According to the CDC, the top US nutrition deficiencies are Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B6.

Red meat is the most common bioavailable source of many of these nutrients. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website lists beef as the #1 source for iron. It’s a more complete and absorbable form of protein compared to plant proteins. Beef is also a fantastic source of B12, a nutrient that vegans must supplement in order to stay healthy.

I heard red meat causes cancer!

The studies behind these claims are observational. They show a correlation between meat intake and cancer, but ONLY correlations. Not cause.

 These studies are relying on self-reported information from food frequency forms. Yet, many people lie or, at the very least, forget what they ate. It’s easy to remember things like “I ate red meat 3 times last week” but forget the sodas, chips, cake and cookies. Perhaps we “forget” how much we drink and smoke and inflate how much we exercise. Additionally, vegetarians tend to have a much healthier lifestyle overall compared to those eating a standard American diet. Comparing an “average omnivore” to a vegetarian without adjusting for other lifestyle factors like exercise, smoking, and fast food intake is called “Healthy User Bias” and has been studied here.

In fact, this study looked at people who shop at health food stores (therefore attempting to adjust for lifestyle factors) and compare vegetarians to omnivores and found no difference in mortality.

But we can sustainably engineer protein in labs…

The argument that plant-based proteins engineered in labs is better for our health and the planet doesn’t hold much weight. I’ve already addressed the health reasons for eating meat above, so I’ll now address the sustainability argument.

Alternative proteins like “tofurkey”, often seen as “sustainable” options engineered in labs, are ignoring the incredible amount of input required per calorie of protein. You can’t simply make protein out of thin air. Acres and acres of grains like soy, wheat and corn are required for this process, not to mention the amount of fossil fuels and water. These crops use incredible amounts of herbicides and pesticides, which not only require engineering of their own, but also degrade the land on which they are used.

Let’s compare this to grass-fed beef from a local farm. The cows eat grass (free), yes they drink water, but they also produce manure (read: fertilizer), which improves the soil (bonus) to provide nutrient-dense, bio-available protein. If you were to do a complete life-cycle analysis on this process, and compare one pound of lab-produced protein to one pound of locally produced, holistically managed, grass-fed beef, the clear winner would be the beef.

 

About the author:

Diana Rodgers, RD is a “real food” registered dietitian living with her family on a working organic farm near Boston, Massachusetts. She is the author of The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook, produces the Sustainable Dish Podcast, and runs an active nutrition practice helping people improve their health with nutrient-dense food. She’s the consulting dietitian to Robb Wolf and can be found at www.sustainabledish.com

Everyone Agrees To Reduce Antibiotics...Except These Guys

It's rare to see McDonald's or Perdue as examples of responsible production. While we're not in the business of praising the "lesser evil", Sanderson Farms' recent marketing gimmick has put these companies ahead of the curve.

It's no secret that unclear food terms are often used as marketing tools. Taglines like "All natural", "fresh" (and now even "grass-fed") are largely unregulated, but are often used to mask conventional products.

Yet, terms such as "no antibiotics" are clear and overwhelmingly seen as positive. Even companies like McDonald's and Perdue--typically the face of negative big ag--have made efforts to curtail antibiotic use. Unlike the other 4 of the top 5 American poultry producers, Sanderson Farms has doubled down their marketing to insist antibiotics are fine.

Lampkin Butts, president of Sanderson, defended antibiotic use as critical to his version of sustainablility: "using less of everything". This is a grossly shallow definition, especially when applied to critical resources to life such as feed, water, shelter, and electricity.

Sustainability means using more time and more space. It means doing things at a natural speed and accounting for waste. In farming, it means using the necessary amount of food and water to sustain life. If Sanderson Farms sees sustainability as meaning "less" then why not start with less antibiotics?

Read the feature article here: Poultry Producer Sanderson Farms Stands Its Ground: It's Proud To Use Antibiotics