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Where does your beef come from?  I know this is a topic that some have thought about before, but thanks to a pandemic it is becoming something of great concern for many consumers. With announcements of Wendy’s being short on beef and grocery stores limiting protein purchases the concern is growing. I have written about this topic before, but thought I would give a little further explanation of the process start to finish for our farm.  For fun I am going to take you through the process for beef being harvested in the Summer/Fall of 2020.

*DISCLAIMER* this is how things work for us, this is not always the way that each farmer or rancher does things.  Some sell directly to buyers that then sell to packing plants, some sell directly from their farms, etc. I am in no way saying our way is the only way, it is just one option. That is the beauty of where we live, many options! The actual time it takes for the process to occur doesn’t really change though, raising delicious, nutritious beef that ends up on your table takes time.

Planning and Preparation

The first thing in the process for Rob and I is picking semen to use in our heifers and cows. Yes, imagine us sitting on our couch in March of 2018 choosing which bulls we thought would be the best Daddy’s for our cattle that would be harvested in 2020.  We discuss choosing bull semen that will allow heifers and cows to calve easily while giving the calf the structure it needs to grow and flourish. Calving ease is just one of the qualities we look for in a list of many. 

Artificial Insemination

I will spare you all of the details of the heat checks, shots, and herd health that goes into this and save it for another post, but in May-July 2018 we then artificially inseminated heifers and cows that would eventually deliver our Summer/Fall 2020 “crop.”  A clean up bull is put out with the herd once we have finished AI'ing. Yes, clean up meaning if any of the artificial insemination didn’t work then the heifer or cow is bull bred.

Fall 2018

In the fall of 2018 we would have preg checked these mama’s that were artificially inseminated or bull bred.  I wrote about our 2019 fall cattle work here. This is similar to having an ultrasound to check to make sure a human is pregnant and can even include a baby calf gender reveal.  We do this to ensure the heifers and cows are healthy and that they are indeed carrying a calf.

Happy Birthday

Summer/Fall 2020 calves were born in 2019!  Typically when bull calves are born they are banded or castrated to become steers. The calf that you will see pictured a few times in this post was born in 2019.

 Mama’s and babies graze all summer on green pastures with the occasional bale of hay if we don’t get much rain for the grass to grow.  Calves enjoy their mother’s milk and as the summer goes on they will begin to enjoy a little creep feed. Again, sparing you some details here in regards to animal care and vaccinations that would be given.  Please just know that when you purchase your beef whether it is from a grocery store or directly from a farmer/rancher that there is a lot of care that goes into these babies. 

Weaning

When calves are around 500 pounds, they are weaned off of their Mama’s to focus on growing new babies and to allow calves to start being fed a ration of feed that would promote growth.

Feeding and Growing 

Through the winter of 2018/2019 our calves were fed a grain mix of cracked corn, protein, oats, etc. and they have full access to hay and water at all times.  During this time they are usually out of the winter wind and lounging on some nice straw or corn stalk bedding.  This helps them stay warm and clean in the cattle yard or barn.

Harvest

If you have been following the math and followed the timeline on this you can see that from the time a calf is weaned from its mother it is around a year or a little more before that calf is harvested.  When I say harvested I am referring to the animal being processed to be sold for consumption. Harvesting begins in the summer of 2020 and goes through the fall. Remember these are animals that we planned and prepared for in March of 2018.

Processing

We market our beef directly to the consumer through beef being sold in ¼, ½ or whole amounts. Locker appointments are made well in advance to prepare for the upcoming harvest. (Right now, during the pandemic, locker appointments are difficult to find.)We deliver the live animal to the locker, the carcass then hangs for a certain period of time to allow enzymes to increase tenderness. The consumer/buyer calls the locker to inform them of  how they would like their portion of the beef processed or cut.  We charge a price per pound on the hanging weight of the animal at the locker.  Once the carcass is hanging we get the hanging weights from the locker (typical 60% of live weight) and then inform the consumer of the amount they owe us for the animal.  The consumer pays the locker for the processing fees based on their cuts of meat (steak, roast, ground beef, etc). The consumer then picks the beef up from the locker and it heads to their freezer for consumption.

I am sure there are details that I have forgotten and questions that you have. So ask, ask away!  Ask me or ask your local producer. We want you to understand where your beef comes from and we are happy to talk about it.

From the gravel road,

Jen 


Where does your food come from? If you are like several Americans you would answer-the grocery store. The grocery store plays a vital role in getting your food to you, but they are the distributor, not the producer.

On our farm we are small enough that we market our animals directly to the consumer, so the meat we produce doesn't go to the grocery store. After it is butchered it goes directly to the consumer. For example, this month we had four hogs butchered and we sold that meat to 12 different families to enjoy. I cannot even tell you how great that feels, knowing that local families are benefiting from our love of farming and producing a product for them to purchase.

The same process is used for the beef that we raise, we market the beef directly to the consumer, the animal is delivered to the locker, butchered, and the consumer works with the butcher to choose how they want their meat cut. Some people choose to make dried beef or beef sticks, while others just choose to get roasts, ground beef, and steak.

From beef and pork to corn and soybeans, farmers are working hard to produce a great product for their own families and yours.

It is extremely important to us that our children are involved in our operation and can help share the message about where their food comes from. I will never forget a perfect example of this, at the age of 4, Ellie was standing at the fair watching the animals be weighed in for the auction. A woman walking by asked what was happening. Our 4 year old explained the entire process to the woman right down to that fact that it is hard to let some animals go, but it is important that we have food. I am not going to lie, the woman had to pick her jaw up off of the ground and if you know our Ellie she didn't keep the conversation real short. She provided the woman everything she needed to know about producing beef for a consumer.

So, the next time you sit down with your family or guests, I ask you to please make sure your children (and adults) know where that meal on their plate came from. While the grocery store is a vital piece of the agriculture industry chain, please make sure they know ALL of the parts of that chain, especially the producer that put their heart and soul into the product.

Happy National Ag Day!

From the Gravel Road-

Jen

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