One little known fact about me; I was a vegetarian for six years. It wasn’t a health kick, I simply read a book about food that grossed me out. The book was called, Diet for a New America, written by the Baskin Robbins heir, John Robbins. He walked away from his family’s food empire and inheritance because he didn’t like how the animals were processed and raised. Specifically, he was disgusted by the hormones and drugs used in dairy production.
Many years later, I am back to eating meat. I am now incredibly picky about the source of my meat. I will happily spend an extra few dollars a month to insure that Mad Scientist practices aren’t used on my food and that the animal isn’t tormented while it is living. I was recently turned on to Hilltop Pastures Family Farm. Last summer, I would drive down to the midtown farmers market just to stock my freezer. Last month, as I was running low on meat that I had purchased at the fall farmers market, I realized they delivered twice a month to the Ridgedale Target. How nice to not have to leave the Plymouth or Minnetonka area! What I like about Hilltop Pastures Farm is knowing the animals that I eat were humanely treated and humanely butchered. They were raised with regular farming practices that I grew up with, not within disgusting factory farms.
I asked Sarah, the farmer, how her animals are raised and this is how she answered:
“We are a truly small-scale family farm where all of our animals are raised sustainably and organically. All of our animals are raised in the open air, sunshine, and on grass. Farming practices such as these utilize the natural symbiotic relationships between the different species. On our pasture-based farm, cattle, lambs, and goats (ruminant animals) are solely grass-fed and finished. They receive no grain at all. Our chickens, laying hens, turkeys, and pigs are also raised on pasture in addition to receiving a non-GMO grain. This is because they are a non-ruminant animal. Our animals receive no antibiotics or growth hormones, ever! We offer genuine, true farming practices that heal the land and soil and keep our animals and family healthy. We use organic principles when raising all of our animals. The multi species farming practices that we use versus single species is good for the land and the animals. All animals move around on the farm so that they are always receiving fresh grass and its wonderful nutrients. Our animals don’t just have access to the grass, they are on the grass, always. All the animals follow the cows on the farm. The hens are the last to follow so they can scratch at the manure piles. That break up the larva cycle sanitizing the pasture. The hens love the fresh grass and bugs that they find out there.”
Is it just labeling?
As a consumer, one of my big concerns when shopping for groceries is whether I am paying more for pretty advertising, or am I paying for sound farming practices? Finding Hilltop Pastures Farms solved this for me. Since I know my farmer, I know that the money isn’t spent on packaging. It doesn’t have fancy graphics, and it doesn’t have buzzwords. When I asked Sarah about this, she had a lot to say about advertising and farming practices of the fancy big box groceries.
“Our mission statement is: Know Your Farmer Know Your Food. I know in this day and age, life is chaotic and busy. We look for the most efficient ways to get things done. We definitely shouldn’t do that with our health. I know it takes time to research and find good food, but it is so worth it! We aren’t a factory farm pushing out animals every day to keep up with the profit margins. We are small scale. Animals are raised with care and attention. They are allowed to grow at the rate needed for their health and well-being. We are face to face marketing with our customers. We truly feel that you need to know who is growing your food in order to know for sure that it is raised right.
Our mantra is that as consumers we shouldn’t just put our faith in a label! A label on a fancy package in the grocery store doesn’t necessarily mean that the source of that meat was truly being raised in a healthy pasture based system! Eggs and chickens are often “labeled” as free-range, organic, cage-free, vegetarian or any of the other buzz words. The reality is that the chickens are often raised in massive barns with only a small access door to a little area outside that hasn’t seen a blade of grass in years! Chickens eat bugs! They love them! So they are not naturally vegetarians… Beef labeled as Grass-fed is often raised in large feed lots that finish the animals on grain or other high gaining rations. The animal is only exposed to pasture for a few months of its life so it’s allowed to be “labeled” as grass-fed. You get the point, labels are deceptive. The big boys in the food industry are seeing the food revolution happening. They don’t want to give up any of their profits. They are buying organic companies and heavily influencing labeling and production models. Bottom line is if you really want to know how your food was raised you must KNOW YOUR FARMER.”