- 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 mostly raises our own cattle, but we are in the process of expanding our cow herd and we have been purchasing a number of 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. We do supplement their diet with free-choice salt and minerals.
Back to Top
2. Do you use Artificial Growth Hormones or Antibiotics?
No animals on our farm ever receive artificial growth hormones.
As a rule, we do not treat our animals with antibiotics, but there is some nuance here:
Due to our management practices we rarely have to treat an animal with antibiotics for an infection. If an animal does become sick with an infection that we are unable to treat with alternative methods, for animal welfare reasons, we will treat the animal with antibiotics and / or whichever other treatment is required to help the animal get better.
We commit to transparency and will disclose an animal’s treatment history when we are selling the meat. The vast majority of the meat we sell comes from animals that never received a treatment and if we don’t mention otherwise, the meat came from an animal that never received a treatment of antibiotics.
Back to Top
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 due to 2 reasons:
First, as we are still growing our own cow herd we need to purchase a few 1 year old beef cattle in the spring . 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.
Secondly, the land on which we are farming has been abused by over-tilling and use of pesticides. There was very little biological activity in the soil. Through our grazing and management practices, we are slowly bringing this land back to life. Currently, the land is not yet producing enough to provide our cattle with enough feed in the summer & winter. We graze the cattle on the pastures all summer and then feed the cattle with purchased hay and haylage in the winter. We have found it very difficult to find certified organic hay in quantities that we need. The hay we purchase comes from farms that do not use artificial fertilizers or pesticides, but is not certified organic. Hopefully in about 5 to 10 year’s time our fields will once again be teaming with microbial life and we will be able to grow enough grass to sustain our cattle in the summer and winter. At that point in time, we can certify organic.
Back to Top
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 among 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, frozen and wrapped in either butcher paper or vacuum packaging.
Back to Top
5. How does your pricing work?
Deciding what to charge for meat is one of the most challenging aspects of the farm. Do we look externally at the price of meat in the grocery store or what are friends producing similar products are charging? Do we look internally at what it costs us to produce the meat and add a few percentage points for profit? Do we take a free-market approach and charge what the market will bear?
Since we do this for a living, we do need to be able to cover our cost of production and pay ourselves for our efforts. On the other hand we do not take the responsibility of raising food lightly. We do want to ensure that what we produce is affordable for most. We also want to ensure that the price of the beef we sell is predictable and does not follow the fluctuations of the price of meat in the grocery store. As such, in 2015 we took a close look at our cost of production and set a baseline price for the beef we sell that we adjust for inflation each year.
In 2015 we sold beef for $9.90 per lb plus a $10 flat rate per delivery for packaging, storing, handling and delivery and in 2016 the price was $10.04. In February, Statistics Canada pegged inflation at 2.0%. This means that this year, we will be selling beef for $10.24 per lb plus a $10 flat rate per delivery for packaging, storing, handling and delivery. For example, a subscription of 40 lbs spread out over 4 deliveries costs 40 lbs X $10.24/lb + 4 deliveries X $10/delivery = $449.60. (Please note that we charge $0.26 cents per lb more for single orders, such as 10 lb Variety boxes, to help us cover the additional administrative costs.)
6. Is it possible to visit the farm?
Yes, we love having visitors on our farm so please come to visit. Please contact us to make an appointment before you come to make sure we are here.
We organize several farm tours and farm visit each 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 four times 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.
Our farm is located here:
7. How are the animals slaughtered?
Between the end of August and the middle of November, we ship batches of 6 or 7 cattle to the abattoir. The cattle born on our farm will be about 24 months old at that time, whereas the cattle we purchase in the spring 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.
The cattle are then trucked to the nearest federally inspected abattoir to the farm. Our aim is to have the cattle spend as much time as possible in the low-stress environment on our farm, as little time as possible in a truck, and slaughtered in a facility with high animal welfare, and high food safety standards. Since we farm in Québec and sell our meat in Ontario, we are required to have our animals slaughtered in a federally inspected abattoir. Although we had been using an abattoir called Les Viandes de la Petite-Nation (a federally inspected abattoir 1 km away from the farm), this abattoir is temporarily closed while they restructure. This abattoir is our preference because the cattle spend less than 5 minutes in a truck to get there and the facility is designed for low stress and animal welfare by Dr. Temple Grandin.
Until the abattoir in St-André-Avellin reopens, we are using Les Viandes Forget in Terrebonne, on the north side of Montreal which is 122 km from the farm. Generally the cattle spend about 90 minutes in a truck to get to this facility.
The cattle will arrive at the abattoir between 8:00am and 9:00am and are usually killed before noon. (Please contact me if you would like more details). This abattoir follows the federal meat processing guidelines. There is an inspector from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency 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.