What are your thoughts on this beef? Do you find this amount of grain to be acceptable? Should I look for other sources?
Some of the most important inhabitants of Neptune Farm are our forty to fifty polled Hereford and Hereford-Angus cattle. We raise Herefords because they are placid, vigorous, and finish well on a diet of grass and legumes. Every spring, a new crop of calves is born to our sixteen to twenty brood cows. They grow up here with their brothers and sisters, and begin to leave the farm a year and a half later, as plump adolescents.
Neptune Farm is certified organic by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. This means that our farming practices conform to the standards set forth in the USDA's National Organic Program. Because of additional fees imposed last year by the certifier, we have stopped applying for organic certification of our livestock. Our animal husbandry still follows the stricter rules imposed when we began raising organic livestock in 1992. In many ways, our farm exceeds current organic standards, including year-round access to pasture, restriction of grain feeding to ruminants, and housing dimensions prescribed by animal welfare experts. We continue to feed our animals on organic forages and feeds and do not use hormones or antibiotics on slaughter stock. (Appropriate medical treatment is furnished on the rare occasions it's needed, usually for older animals.)
Although the organic standards do not require it, we impose on ourselves guidelines for stocking density of animals on pasture. Our animals graze in daily rotation on a series of 30 one-to-five acre paddocks, with full-time access to run-in shelter. We are careful about stocking rates, both to prevent overloading the ground with nutrients, and to maximize our animals’ comfort and feed. The farm qualified for Tier 3 of the USDA's Conservation Security Program.
Our brood cows are tested annually for Johne’s disease by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Division of Animal Health, and we are certified at the highest level of Johne's-free status. Because they eat a natural diet of grass and hay, and are never ever fed any sort of animal byproducts, our cattle are not at risk for BSE.
The primary component of the diet of all of our cows and sheep is grass, in the form of pasture or hay. We have found, however, that we need to feed modest amounts of whole organic grain (3-5 lbs/day) to maintain our cattle during the winters. We've tried other dietary regimens over many years, but have found that without this supplement, our beef cattle lose weight in freezing weather, and the quality of their meat suffers. Organic wheat or corn is less than 3% of our annual beef rations, which is nothing by conventional feedlot standards, but more than grassfed purists like to see. Needless to say, we never confine our livestock to feedlots, and, unlike conventional cattle, they are never fed grain in amounts that require antacids or result in liver abscesses or breeding grounds for E. coli 157. We supplement with free-choice kelp and a naturally mineralized salt. Customers appreciate the healthiness of our meats, as well as their grassfed flavor and tenderness.
Our meat is processed by Bringhurst Meats, a local USDA-inspected, certified organic facility that has just received humane certification under the Animal Welfare Approved label. All our beef is aged for three and a half weeks to insure tenderness before cutting.
The price for beef is $4.00 per hanging pound, translating to about $5.50 per pound of finished weight for the whole order. A sixth share of beef takes up about the same amount of space as the freezer compartment over a refrigerator, about two shelves of an upright freezer. A typical share weighs about 70 pounds and is comprised of about a third steaks (T-bone, ribeye, sirloin, tenderloin, flank, London broil, sandwich); a third ground beef; and the rest in roasts (top and bottom round, shoulder, chuck, rump, eye, bolar) and braising cuts (short ribs, cubes, soup bones).
Wouldn't be enough for me. Most cattle is started on grass, then finished on grain.
I know German meadows don't provide enough protein after June, which is why my supplier adds hay and beets to the beef diet after that date. Both organic and mostly grown on the same farm... and no grain in sight.
Usually, adding grain to the diet just means easier, quicker, cheaper gains - and since the weight is what determines the prize when slaughtered, it is a shame to settle for less than wholly grass-fed. But again - if it is all you can get, go for it... anything is better than completely conventional meat. :)
I'm not impressed with the value of the offer.
First, I'm a bit concerned that $4.00/pound for hanging weight really translates to $5.50 in the weight of what you get. Those numbers imply you're getting a roughly 72% yield, i.e. 100 pound of hanging weight would translate into 72 pounds of meat you get. 55% to 65% seems to me to be a more believable yield but maybe the number is different for grain finished meat.
A rancher I really like and trust, Paidom, has this to say on their order page for their grass-fed beef (emphasis mine).
Side of Beef Pkg ($2.99/lb hanging weight; take home meat is about 200 lbs at roughly $4.70/lb, depending on your cutting order) This package is basically 3.5 boxes of the Beef Variety Pkg above, along with a few beef organs and some knuckle and shank bones. It consists of roughly 40% ground beef, 30% roasts, and 30% steaks, but you can grind any of the roasts and steaks if you want more ground beef. Incidentally, the hanging weight is the weight before the carcass is cut up, and the take-home weight is roughly 63% of the hanging weight. Prices include cutting and wrapping.
Or, you could buy 50 pounds of beef from Paidom at $5 per pound, which is not much more than the $4.70 estimate for the hanging weight.
I assume you're far from New Mexico given that you're considering a ranch in NJ. If I lived in NJ and had to choose between your offer and Paidom's I'd pay for the extra shipping and buy 50 pound of meat from Paidom. You might even come out ahead with Paidom depending on the yield from both offers (if you did the hanging weight offer) even assuming a big difference in shipping given that Paidom's meat is $1 cheaper per pound hanging weight.
You might also want to search the archives for other grass-fed beef offers and check out the eatwild.com site as well.
There are other sources of grass fed/grass finished beef in NJ. For one, Wegmans imports 100% grassfed/finished beef from Uruguay - not too expensive - ground is $5.49/lb and chuck roasts run about $6.50/lb
If you want to go to a farm -
http://www.snoepwinkelfarm.com/ - has lamb, eggs, goat and pork - no beef
http://tomenchokfarms.com/ - chickens, eggs
http://store.vermontgrassfedbeef.com/packages.html - vermont but they ship - sides are $3.60/lb
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