10 Questions to Ask Your Meat Provider
1. Are you certified organic? Why or why not?
Certified organic is a good indicator because organic saves the land from millions of tons of chemicals. But you can get great meat that isn't certified organic. For example, we follow organic practices but aren't certified because we didn’t see the value for our customers who would incur additional costs. Our transparency transcends the need. Organic certification is a layer between you and your food that's good to have if you can't talk to the farmer directly.
2. Where do you get your animals?
What's important here is if the provider knows and cares where they get their animals from. The safest answer is they are born on the farm and under the farmer's control for the entire life cycle. But we buy cows from another farmers because we don’t have enough land to keep them 100% grass-fed and finished. So we go find farmers we trust. Unfortunately a lot of farmers start with cow that’s vaccinated and medicated and if your provider can't answer exactly where they come from, that may be the case.
3. What do you feed your animals and where does it come from?
Animals need to be fed foods they are best suited to eat based on how their digestive systems have evolved. For most farm animals that means a major component is grass and for cows it should be 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. Other animals such as pigs and chickens are omnivores, which means a healthy human-like diet is best-- loaded with greens and fruit and have a balance of meat and fat.
4. How much nutrition do they get from foraging?
Animals are use to foraging and pasture raising can offer them most if not all of their nutritional needs
5. How do you prevent them from getting ill?
This is kind of a trick question but keeping them in a clean and healthy environment and feeding them healthy food is the key. Many animals are routinely given medication and antibiotics to prevent disease and make them gain weight faster even though they are healthy. Obviously the ideal situation is to raise the animals on pasture where they gain the weight the should and to have ample room and peacefulness so they don't get stressed (which lowers their immune system and makes them more likely to get sick).
6. How do you treat them when they are ill?
Most animals that are healthy have robust immune systems to fight off most illnesses--just like us. If they do come down with something, rest and recuperation--giving them their own space to recover works wonders as does a little vinegar and a touch of sugar in their water.
7. How often do they move to new pastures? Pasture-raised is great, but how many animals do you keep per acre and how often are they moved? To effectively raise an animal on pasture they should be moved consistently before they can damage the pasture or cause dirt to show through the sod. To do this a farmer needs a plan and would know how many animals per acre he or she could handle.
8. Where are they processed? How are they processed? A good producer who is looking to make the healthiest meats would know how his animals are processed and why it is done that way.
9. How do you know you are getting your animals back from processing? Unfortunately the real answer is that you don’t. That’s why it’s important to us to work with a slaughter facility we trust. We stress to them how important it is that they track our animals thru their process.
10. How many animals can you keep on your farm sustainably? Again someone who is concerned about sustainability will have thought through this and be able to describe their rationale.