In this blog series, we will talk about the farms, food makers, and sustainable practices that make our food special.
In America we love beef. From hamburgers in the summer to stew in the winter, beef has become a mainstay of our diet, which makes it important to support sustainable beef production. The Intervale Food Hub works with Maple Wind Farm, Health Hero Beef, and occasionally other small farms to bring you local grass-fed beef from Vermont. This beef is 100% grass-fed and finished, a labor intensive practice that reduces environmental impacts while providing the best quality meat for you.
The Downsides of Conventional Beef
If you’ve watched popular food documentaries such as Food Inc. or Forks Over Knives, you may be familiar with some of the typical arguments in favor of grass-fed beef. These usually center around one main fact: conventional beef is bad - for animals, for eaters, and for the land. Animals are raised in inhumane conditions, kept in overpopulated feedlots all their lives.These tough conditions, combined with poor quality feed (often corn or other foods that are difficult for cows to digest), means that cows are often fed antibiotics, potentially making these medicines less effective for human use. Waste that's concentrated in these feedlots can contaminate the soil and drinking water supplies.
From a nutritional standpoint, the amount of saturated fat and lack of other nutrients in the meat that comes from conventionally raised cows can be correlated with heart problems and other health concerns for the eaters. However, rather than focusing on the negative side of things, we want to share the story of the Vermont farms who use practices that are good for animals, for eaters, and for the land.
The Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-fed beef can do amazing things for our water and soils. When properly managed, the nitrogen-rich animal waste serves as a fertilizer, and can even increase the biodiversity of grasses and other plants in a grazing area. Following rotational grazing practices, cows are moved from pasture to pasture, allowing plants and soils to regenerate after grazing, and spreading animal waste over a large area of land to avoid over concentration. These techniques serve to replenish our soils and protect our waterways. In fact, healthy plants in intensively managed pastures help to pull carbon from the air and sink it into the soil. Mindful practices like grass-fed beef production strengthen our food security and protect our land for future generations.
Additionally, grass-fed beef is good for you! Grass-fed meats are leaner than conventional cuts, lowering the health costs associated with a diet high in saturated fat. Grass-fed beef even provides Omega-3 fatty acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acids, which contribute to heart health and prevent a variety of diseases. Grass-fed beef also typically contains important nutrients like Vitamins E & A. While many health risks, including heart disease and early onset diabetes, are associated with the consumption of conventional red meat, grass-fed beef offers a healthy—and tasty—alternative.
Plus - we as Vermonters love and appreciate our working landscape. Can you imagine how different Vermont would be if we didn't have all of our beautiful farms, barns, and pastures? We love supporting farmers who work hard to preserve the natural beauty of our state.
For these reasons, the Intervale Food Hub is proud to partner with several Vermont farms that specialize in sustainably producing grass fed beef:
Maple Wind Farm, which produces 100% grass-fed and finished beef, raised and processed right here in Vermont. Maple Wind Farm practices management intensive grazing to promote the health of the local environment. Their cows are free of artificial hormones, vaccinations, and antibiotics. They also practice late-spring calving and local-only transports to reduce stress on their animals. Moreover, the animals are exclusively processed from June through October, during the best grass season, to maximize flavor and nutrition. You can read more about Maple Wind Farm and their beef production practices on their website.
This week we’re excited to be including Maple Wind Farm beef in our Omnivore and Localvore packages. Eat well and feel great!
Health Hero Farm, in South Hero, Vermont was recently awarded a grant for
Greenfield Highland Beef, in Plainflield & Greensboro Bend, VT
Meeting Place Pastures, in Cornwall, Vermont