- What do you mean by grass-fed beef?
- Do you use artificial growth hormones or antibiotics?
- Is your beef organic?
- What is in the boxes of grass-fed beef you deliver?
- How does your pricing work?
- Is it possible to visit the farm?
- How are the animals slaughtered?
1. What do you mean by grass-fed beef?
At Grazing Days all of our beef is grass-fed and grass-finished. This means that our cattle only eat grass from pasture in the spring, summer and fall, and hay and/or haylage (a fermented grass) in the winter.
Grazing Days purchases 1 year old cattle from a farm in Vankleek Hill every spring. For the first year of their life, the farmer in Vankleek Hill follows the protocols that I have asked him to follow. The calves drink milk and eat grass with their mother during the summer and fall. During the winter they are fed hay and haylage and from the time they reach Grazing Days in the spring they only eat grass until they go to the abattoir in the fall. (I did supplement with some hay during the drought in 2012). I do supplement their diet with free-choice salt and minerals.
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2. Do you use Artificial Growth Hormones or Antibiotics?
We do not treat our animals with growth hormones or antibiotics. Due to our management practices we have not had to treat any animals (knock on wood). If we do need to treat a sick animal (and this has not happened yet), we will treat her with whatever is required and either sell her through the conventional sale barn, or ask if anyone in the CSA is willing to eat the meat from this animal at a reduced price (we will fully disclose what she was treated with and how many times).
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3. Is your beef Organic?
Although we do follow the Canadian Organic Standards on our farm, the beef we sell is not currently certified organic. This is mainly because we need to purchase 1 year old beef cattle every spring in our current business model. Certified organic 1 year old beef cattle are very difficult to find within a reasonable distance to Ottawa and we have had to weigh our desire to be certified organic with our desire to treat animals humanely and not have them be shipped on a truck for eight or nine hours. We have opted to work with a local farmer to raise 1 year old beef cattle that are raised in line with Grazing Days’ philosophy for clean, healthy, humanely raised and environmentally sound beef. The farmer that we work with in Vankleek Hill has no desire to certify organic, but (for a premium) has agreed to follow strict protocols outlined by Grazing Days to raise the 1 year old beef cattle that we purchase.
We are currently in the process of restructuring our business model and hope to be raising our own 1 year old beef cattle within the next 2 years. This means that we are aiming to be certified organic by late 2017 / early 2018.
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4. What is in the boxes of grass-fed beef you deliver?
On average, Grazing Days gets about 320 lbs of beef per animal it raises, or 32 boxes of 10 lbs. Each beef consists roughly of 25% steak, 25% roasts and 50% ground beef. In order to make sure that everyone gets the a similar ratio of tender and less tender cuts and to make sure that I as the farmer am not left with certain cuts of beef (that the beef industry would process into something like dog food), I split up the beef evenly amongst the 32 boxes. Each 10lb box should end up with 2 different cuts of steak (2 steaks per package), one 2-3 lb roast, one package of sausage or stewing beef, and 3-4 packages of ground beef (1 to 1.5 lbs per package). I keep track of what is in each box and make sure that over the course of the delivery season each household gets a variety of different cuts of beef. All the beef that you receive will be labelled, wrapped in butcher paper and frozen.
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5. How does your pricing work?
The price of our beef is based on our cost of production and currently incorporates an annual take home income for myself of between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. We are going to be making some changes to our production system in the next few years and we aim to be paying ourselves about $50,000 a year by 2016 without having to drastically increase our sale price. We publish our financials every year and share them with everyone who participates in the CSA at a meeting and with the public on our website. Please find the financial summaries for 2010 here, 2011 here, and 2012 here. The 2013 financial summaries will be published in April of this year.
Please look at the “Buy Our Beef for our different order option prices. Basically our pricing formula for 2014 works like this:
We charge $8.75 per lb of beef to cover our cost of production and wages and then $10 per delivery to cover the cost of packaging, storing, handling, and delivery. For example, the half share costs 40lbs X $8.75 /lbs + 4 deliveries X $10 / delivery = $350 + $40 = $390.
Our prices have been at $8.25 per lb since 2011. Unfortunately due to the North American shortage of 1 year old beef animals, the purchase price of these 1 year old beef animals has increase from $1.00 per lb live weight in 2010 and are at about $1.62 per lb live weight in January 2014. The purchase of 1 year old beef animals accounts for about 42% of my gross revenue and I have no choice but to raise my prices this year to maintain a $20,000 income for myself. In the future, we will be raising our own 1 year old beef cattle on our farm and we will peg our annual price increases to Canada’s annual inflation rate. (Interestingly using the inflation rates the $8.25 in 2011 would equal $8.70 in 2014, meaning our price increase to $8.75 based on the cost of production is not far from what would be expected based on our national economy.
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6. Is it possible to visit the farm?
Yes, we love having visitors on our farm so please come to visit. We try to organize an official farm tour or farm visit once a year to give people a chance to see how we raise our animals and how our pasturing systems work. On top of that, we move our cattle daily between the middle of May and the middle of November and everyone is welcome to make an appointment to join us on these daily moves.
We are in the process of moving our farm from Manotick Station to St.-André-Avellin, QC about 1 hour outside of Ottawa, but this has not yet been finalized. Please stay tuned for more information about “where” you can visit our farm.
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7. How are the animals slaughtered?
Between the end of September and the middle of November, I ship 6 batches of 6 or 7 cattle to the abattoir. The cattle will be about 17 or 18 months old at the time. They are loaded onto the truck using a low-stress handling facility designed by Dr. Temple Grandin. Once they are in the truck, I take one last look into the truck and thank their spirits for allowing us to harvest and eat their flesh. They are then trucked 52 km away to an abattoir in Crysler, ON called Desormeaux Meats (http://www.abattoirone.ca/), a small provincially inspected abattoir that handles about 10 cattle per week and about 15 pigs per week.
The cattle will arrive there between 10:00 and 10:30am and are usually killed by noon. (Please contact me if you would like more details). This abattoir follows the provincial meat processing guidelines. There is an inspector on site during this process who keeps an eye on the killing process and who inspects each animal while they are alive and after they have been killed.
These abattoir days are the hardest six days of the year on the farm. If you would like any more information about this, please do not hesitate to contact us.