What is your method of farming?
We are a pasture based farm that follows the principles of Organic, Regenerative Agriculture. A central part of this involves herds of migrating, grass eating animals. These herds are rotationally grazed, meaning they are moved to lush new pastures every single day. Eventually they return to where they started, a rotation that takes one month, on average, depending on the herd and the tract of land they're on. During this time, previously grazed fields are rested, allowing the grass to regrow and any undesirable organisms a chance to die off. This management of our animals and land is intensive and requires constant attention to detail. As an example, adjustments are made to the size of each daily paddock to compensate for growing herd sizes (new calves), how much the pastures have regrown, how wet the soil is, the necessity of tree lines for shade during extreme heat, and more. While this way of raising animals is indeed good for the environment (we capture and store carbon in the soil while continually building thicker layers of nutrient dense topsoil), ultimately it all results in healthy & happy animals. This is how migratory herds exist in the wild. Never confined to one place. So while some other farms have their animals prominently displayed in the same field all the time, we don't.
Where is our meat sold and how is it packaged?
All of our products are sold through our online store for on-farm pickup. Our 100% grass fed beef is dry aged for tenderness and increased flavor. We use a local, small scale, high quality artisan butcher. All of our meat is cut, vacuum sealed in thick packaging, then flash frozen to preserve it at peak freshness. This premium packaging allows for both "wet aging" and sous-vide cooking.
What breeds of animals are raised at Tussock Sedge Farm?
The cows are Red Angus, with all calves produced by natural breeding on our farm and not sourced from open markets. We have multiple Red Angus bulls whose sole job is to breed the cows. Our pigs are slow growing heritage breeds - mainly Red Wattle, Tamsworth, and Berkshire. Unlike many pigs, they are active grazers who enjoy eating grass, clover, and nuts/berries. Their meat is a deep red color with marbling throughout. The sheep are Katahdin, a breed of hair sheep which do not require shearing and remain very healthy on wet clay soils typically found in our region. Our chickens are a slow growing heritage breed derived from birds that have been raised in France for hundreds of years.
What do you feed your animals?
Do you feed growth hormones and antibiotics?
No, we NEVER feed antibiotics, growth stimulants, or hormones.
How long does it take to raise your animals?
On average, our pasture raised animals take about double the length of time to raise compared to industrial factory farms and feedlots. Additionally, we will only harvest animals once we're sure they are fully finished. If animals don't meet our strict criteria for processing we give them more time.
How do you treat illness?
We observe and closely watch for any illness while rotating herds. If an animal is in need of treatment, it will receive homeopathic or holistic care. If the illness is contagious (ie. pink-eye), the animal will be quarantined. Moving daily to fresh pasture though, keeps our animals consistently healthy.
How do you care for your pastures?
Primary fertilization is accomplished by grazing animals, as their manure is naturally incorporated into the soil. All fields are tested every three years for PH and residual Phosphate and Potassium as well as multiple nutrients and organic matter. Manure, as well as compost made from leaves, mulch hay and cow manure bed pack, is spread on the fields to enhance the plant growth. Lime and potash are also supplied to our fields to as needed. Pastures are continually monitored for a healthy balance of legumes (ie. clover, alfalfa) which return nitrogen to the soil. During the early spring frost, we might seed red and white clover if needed. Since we have begun rotational grazing, our pastures have improved remarkably from 1-2% organic matter to now 4-7% organic matter. No herbicides are ever used on our pastures or hay fields. We are completely ZERO SPRAY. All chemicals (including organically "approved" ones) have no place on our farm.
What environmental improvements have you done on your farm?
With the partnership of the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Services, we have restored a large amount of acreage to natural wetlands, no longer allowing grazing animals in those areas and instead, planting many native shrubs and trees. This serves to slow rainwater runoff by forming several dams and silt collection basins. This land supports an increasingly diverse habitat of insects, amphibians, birds and predators. We have installed many blue bird boxes and barn owl boxes for nesting across our seven farms. Most of our pastures have been terraced and contoured to prevent erosion and control the flow of rain water. We also have planted more than 2000 native trees as a buffer along the streams and waterways. All of this work attracts more native wildlife and ensures that we are doing our part to keep the waterways pristine.
What is 100% grass fed?
The purest definition of "100% grass fed beef" is meat from cattle that have never consumed any grains, eating only grass for their entire life. This is often referred to as grass finished. Our calves are raised on our farm eating only their mother’s milk and grass. They are weaned after 8-9 months, and are finished cattle on average around 36 months of age. In the warm months, the herds graze hundreds of acres of lush green pastures while in the winter months, the cattle are fed nutrient dense organic hay that we produce throughout the spring and summer. We utilize a method called "rotational" or "intensive" grazing. It simply means that we move our herds every single day to fresh pasture. This is good for both the cattle and fields, as they quickly consume most grasses, while at the same time trampling under some plants and manure for increased organic matter. It typically takes about 1 month for a herd to complete the rotation through a certain tract of land, allowing plenty of time for the pastures time to become lush and thick with highly nutritious grasses once again. We also offer at all times a free choice mix of organic minerals and Redmond Sea Salt.
Is there a nutritional difference between 100% grass fed beef and the typical commodity beef that is fed grain?
Absolutely! Grass fed/grass finished beef contains less total fat and less saturated fats than the same foods from grain fed animals. Among many other vitamin and mineral differences, 100% grass fed beef contains 7X the amount of beta-carotene (Vitamin A) than grain fed beef. Pastured raised beef also contains high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that some recent studies indicate may help reduce weight and prevent cancer, and which is absent from traditionally raised grain-finished cattle. Grass finished beef has a two-to-one ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 compared to a more than ten-to-one in grain finished beef. (Michael Pollan)
Does grass fed beef taste good?
Yes! This is what beef is supposed to taste like! Grass fed beef has a deeper, richer flavor since cattle require longer time to finish on grass. The flavor is sweet and nutty and takes on the unique flavor of the farm on which it is raised.
Do you cook grass fed beef differently?
Grass fed beef should be treated more gently than conventional beef because the fat is more finely grained. Cook roasts in a crockpot on low settings, or in a very low heat oven for many hours. If you choose to braise grass fed beef prior to cooking it, use extra fat in the pan like butter, lard, coconut oil, or bacon fat to do so. Steaks should be cooked hot and fast to a perfect medium rare or medium. The reverse sear method is our preferred way of preparing a steak.