Small Farmer's Journal

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NEW MARKET STUDY OUTLINES POTENTIAL FOR U.S. GRASSFED BEEF

Consumer demand rising; continued growth depends on accurate labeling, education and year-round availability of high-quality product from American farmers

Pocantico Hills, NY (April 19, 2017) – Triggered by explosive growth in the U.S. grassfed beef market, a new study finds an urgent need for accurate labeling to ensure that consumers are getting what they think they are buying, including the humane treatment of animals and environmental and health benefits. The study follows on the heels of recent consumer demands for improved practices, including cage-free eggs and antibiotic-free meat.

The study reveals that much of the meat sold in the United States as “grassfed” is from cattle raised in enclosed environments, where they are fed grass pellets in “grass feedlots,” rather than grazed on healthy pastures. “The U.S. market for grassfed beef has grown at 100 percent per year for the past four years, yet consumers don’t realize that much of this beef is coming from cattle that haven’t actually spent the whole of their lives on open pasture, eating real grass,” said Jill Isenbarger, CEO of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, one of the partners behind the study.

“Back to Grass: The Market Potential for U.S. Grassfed Beef” offers a comprehensive look at the U.S. grassfed beef sector, with a focus on market and economic dynamics. It bridges the gaps that currently exist between the USDA’s data on grassfed beef production prices and the pockets of information held by private sector organizations.

Among its findings: The price of grassfed beef could come down significantly if the industry were to establish well-managed grass-finishing operations that take advantage of economies of scale in processing, distribution and marketing. But these operations must be based on high standards for the humane treatment of animals and for land and water stewardship.

“We need a stronger standard for grassfed beef so that consumers know what they’re buying,” said Bill Niman, founder and president of BN Ranch. “Producers who follow best practices stand to earn a premium, but we need to first iron out the inconsistencies and confusion.” Currently a number of labels and standards confuse the marketplace and the consumer, as they conflate excellent management practices with poor ones.

The report brings together available data on the current state of the grassfed beef sector, identifies barriers to growth and highlights actions that will help propel further expansion. It examines whether grassfed beef can scale up to the point where it could displace a significant portion of the conventional, grain-fed beef system in the United States.

With input from one of the world’s leading chefs, the report also takes on some misconceptions about taste. “Grassfed beef has a taste that’s clean and rich, and undeniably beefy,” said Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. “It’s flat-out wrong to believe grassfed beef is chewy or dry. It’s not, if it’s prepared right. And whereas a grain-fed steak tastes the same whether it’s raised in New York or New Mexico, grassfed beef tastes different based on the pasture the cattle were eating—which means it varies by farm and even time of year.”

The report was produced through a collaboration of Stone Barns Center, Armonia LLC, Bonterra Partners and SLM Partners. On April 19, Stone Barns Center hosted a one-day summit to introduce the overarching benefits of grassfed beef to more than 100 chefs and beef purchasers and retailers from around the country—people who have the ability to influence the development of a more robust market for grassfed beef in the United States.

Read the report online here.

For more information, contact:
Martha Hodgkins
Communications Director
434.249.9907
marthah@stonebarnscenter.org

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a nonprofit organization working to advance sustainable agriculture and create a culture of eating that can support it. In our quest to change the way America eats and farms, we train farmers, educate food citizens, convene change makers and experiment with agroecological farming practices. stonebarnscenter.org

Armonia LLC is a certified B-Corp with a mission to restore harmony through long-term investments. armoniallc.com

Bonterra Partners is an investment consulting firm specializing in sustainable agriculture and other natural capital investments. bonterrapartners.com

SLM Partners is an investment management firm that focuses on ecological farming systems. slmpartners.com

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Peach

Peach

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The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

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The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

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The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

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Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

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Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

Walki Biodegradable Mulching Paper

New Biodegradable Mulching Paper

Views of any and all modern farming stir questions for me. The most common wonder for me has been ‘how come we haven’t come up with a something to replace plastic?’ It’s used for cold frames, hotbeds, greenhouses, silage and haylage bagging and it is used for mulch. That’s why when I read of this new Swedish innovation in specialized paper mulching I got the itch to scratch and learn more. What follows is what we know. We’d like to know more. LRM

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

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Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

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Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

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