Why Local Food Matters

Local food movements have been popping up everywhere and are gaining in popularity, so much so that advocates of this cause have been dubbed “locavores.” To some, it’s just a fad or marketing scheme; to others, it’s a passion and a culinary way of life. But, what was the original purpose behind the first local food movement (and subsequently OUR local food movement)? Perhaps looking at some of the benefits of local food systems can help answer that question:

 

  1. Local food keeps money local. By supporting local businesses that don’t have corporate headquarters to report back to, you’re helping to strengthen your local economy.
  2. It builds community and resiliency. Local food helps support local families while creating close-knit connections. Since you’re buying directly from the farmer, those families get to keep more of the profits compared to when you purchase your food at a grocery chain.
  3. It’s (usually) more humane. Not only is there more accountability and transparency in a local food system, but the farms are usually much smaller than their industrial counterparts. Once you step into the realm of mass production, animals are no longer living, breathing, sentient beings, but dollar signs. Time is money, so animals are pushed quickly and heartlessly through the industrial system, given unnatural foods in order to get them to market weight as quickly as possible, and being sent through an irresponsible and inhumane slaughtering system.
  4. It’s healthier. Many local farmers grow organically and ethically — they just don’t go through the expensive process of getting certified. But these farmers are usually taking better care of the land and soil which both directly affect the nutrients in our food. If the soil is unhealthy and depleted of nutrients, so will the food we eat be.
  5. It’s better for the environment. As just mentioned above, local, small scale farmers usually act as stewards of the land, so they work with it instead of against it. Many of them respect the natural life cycles of the earth and value nature’s diversity. In the corporate world, our food is grown in large monocrops instead of utilizing companion planting and creating ecosystems where they plant.

What’s the big deal with grass-fed beef?

Grain-fed. Grass-fed. Grain-finished. What do all these terms mean and why are there so many options?

Cattle (just like sheep, deer, goats, and other grazing animals) are ruminants. They contain a rumen which helps them break down grasses into its digestible parts. Humans don’t possess this ability and therefore don’t eat grass.

Throughout agricultural history, humans eventually realized that feeding grain to grazing animals helps to fatten them up, a big plus if you’re in the beef industry. Where this becomes a problem is with the cow’s natural biology. The pH of a rumen is naturally neutral, compared to the acidic environment of a human’s stomach. Grain causes the pH of the rumen to drop to unhealthy levels, causing all kinds of health issues for the animals. This is where antibiotics come into play, finding their way into the meat you eat.

Grain fed cattle may be started off on grass at the beginning of their lives, but are then fed primarily grain, sometimes medicated, for the remainder of their days. Some feedlots switch to grass shortly before butchering in order to market their products as “grass finished,” but this is neither ideal for the animals’ health nor our own. Grass-fed beef has been fed grass ONLY from the day the cow is born until slaughter. The nutrient content of grass-fed beef also tends to be higher and have a healthier ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids.

Want to learn more about grass-fed beef? Check out our farm tour coming up on May 20 under our events tab above!