I have never known how to brand it, but I am constantly divided between two far-distant lands. In one, a Rancher, Capitalist, Outdoorsman and Energetic young “take on the world” critter grazer lives. On the opposite side of the political, religious, world view perspective lives a concerned Environmentalist, Earth Lover and Student of Nature who cares deeply about any scars he might leave on the earth and holds a genuine concern for the world God has trusted us with - constantly aware of the inalienable fact that my children will inherit the choices I make.
I have often mentioned that Grass-fed and finished beef draws these two diametrically opposed worlds together. Many have entered into Grass-fed beef out of necessity – the cattle business is brutal and any marketing edge one might acquire is fiercely pursued – Grass fed and finished beef, with its higher premiums, offers a tempting choice for traditional cattle producers looking for higher profits on their herds.
The problem with this premise is that traditional cattle husbandry methods don’t match up too well with the Grass-fed and finished direct marketing strategy – in other words, it’s hard to take your feed-lot destined calves and “just keep them a bit longer” to make grass-fed beef out of them. It’s taken us years to perfect our methods – making sure we have enough really good grass to keep all the mouths fed and get those critters fat.
I spoke with a Rancher recently who proudly exclaimed that his cattle drank out of a stream, and had no water troughs, no modern conveniences and was “livin' off the land like in them old days” – I was absolutely aghast.
Most average folks know that when ruminant animals drink, they tend to manure about the same time. Here at SonRise, we use this to our advantage by placing the water trough in nutrient depleted areas thus attracting more manure deposits for future grass growth (did I mention my main goal as a cattleman is to grow grass?).
So, pray tell – what might the first true environmentalist (or, worse yet, any environmentally concerned millennial) say the first time you tell them that not only do you have running water on your Ranch, but you let your Cows poop in it?
Holy surface water contamination, Batman!
Worse yet, this guy was marketing and selling Grass-fed beef… so his likelihood of encountering that well educated environmentalist was far greater than your average worn out old Cowboy having a cold one at the pub complaining about the price of feed this year.
And what happens when that stuck-in-his-ways stubborn old Rancher does run into that environmentalist? You guessed it - Grass-fed cattle gets another black eye.
That is why Grass-fed cattle can’t be just a slick marketing technique, but must be a lifestyle change – I know I sound like a die-hard Paleo dieter trying to convince a WeightWatchers member to start eating Bacon here, but this is a really critical point – we can’t take on the industrial, confined mega-farming complex with those who don’t care about the environment in the ranks.
Either way – you are the judge…. And I will be the “Christian Fundamentalist Lunatic Libertarian Environmentalist Rancher” who can’t fit in anywhere.