Entries in Research (26)

Sunday
Sep232012

15 minute challenge - 

I have a challenge for each of my readers -- 

 

Spend 15 minutes sitting down amongst the animals that will soon be your food.  It sounds a little ludicrous - however, the ludicracy of this has only become apparent in the last genration.  Up until recent times when the growing of food was NOT distantly separated from the everyday lives of the common man, everyone knew what the life of their food was like.  As a result, food was safer and healthier.  When you saw the life your food lived, you treated them well and ensured they were kept healthy.  As an example. no one would allow their family's beef cow to stand in manure up past its feet, fed feed that makes it so sick that daily medication is required to keep it alive, and living amongst squalor so infectious that strong pesticides are used internally to kill off the plentiful parasites.  They would not want to eat it.  However, that is what 90% of the Americans eat every day when they buy beef from the grocery store.  The alternative is buying beef that lives on green pastures, moved gto fresh ground everyday, never fed anything but grass, and is never needs any medications or pesticides.  It would only take 15 (probably less) minutes of living amongst that animal for you to decide.  

I realize this may be an unrealistic challenge, considering how secretive the food industry has become.  (Did you know several states have laws making it illegal to take pictures of farm operations- why is that?)  The next best thing is to do a "virtual" 15 minutes tour.  Go to youtube and search for Industrial Chicken House, Cow Feed Lot, Industrial Pork Production. Industrial Eggs Layers.  I will embed a few below.  After watching these videos we invite you to come out to our farm.  We can take you on a tour of how we raise your animals.  Or you can look at Own You Tube Channel -- where we regularly post videos of ou animals living the good life! 

Synergistic Acres Youtube Channel

I specifically chose videos that were produced and presented by there respective industries -- not an animal rights or other biased group.  This is these farms at their BEST!

Industrial Chicken Farm

Industrial Beef Feed Lot

Industri Pig House

 

"Organic" Egg farm

 

Industrial Turkey House

Organic Turkey House

 

What are your thoughts after watching these Videos?  

Tuesday
Aug282012

what exactly is 'natural' meat

In the recent Natural Grocers sales flyer, Heather Pratt, CNT shares an article, "It's a (food) Jungle Out There!" and tackles the issue of what 'natural' really means in relation to meat. Pratt notes the USDA term 'natural' when applied to meat means 'a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.' Even the term 'organic' doesn't imply that an animal had access to pasture or sunshine, only that they were fed organic feed. This really struck me as I consider natural and organic to be so much more than that, as it is on our farm. The USDA definition doesn't relate to how the animal was raised, how much access to pasture it had, or if the animal was given medicines - all factors I'd like to know as I make my decision about which meat to buy. If these are factors that weigh into your decision, I think knowing the farmers who raise your food is of the utmost importance. You can ask questions, see the environment in which the animals are raised, and connect with your local food sources. A win-win for consumers and farmers alike.

are these cows being raised 'naturally' or 'organically' or 'pastured?' Visit your farmer and find out!

Tuesday
Apr102012

the New York Times talks eggs

focus on the eggs, not the 'vintage' dishEggs with muscle-tone?  Thick walls?  Rich, intense taste?  That's how a recent NYT article describes farm fresh eggs.  The day after reading the article, I cracked open one of our pastured eggs and a store egg and was surprised to be able to tell such a distinct difference in the firmness of the egg and the thickness of the membrane.  The color difference was no surprise to me as I've long heard about the benefits of natural forage on yolk color.  Both our girls can tell a difference in taste between our eggs and store eggs - they actually won't eat store eggs, but request our pasture-raised chickens eggs each morning!  Research supports that farm fresh eggs are more nutritious than commercial eggs and a hearty, protein-rich breakfast is a win in my book!

We are gathering an average of four small eggs a day, so not enough to have eggs every day just yet, but it won't be long.  Soon, we'll have enough to share with you, too!

Have you had farm fresh eggs before?  Could you tell a difference?

Friday
Feb172012

Cornish X - are they the right chicken for our farm?

 

 

We have made it clear from the beginning that Synergisitc Acres is committed to heritage breeds. In our previous blog posts we outline the benefits of heritage breeds on small sustainable farm like ours.  Thats why we chose Galloway Cattle as our cattle breed to carry our grassfed beef operations and Large Black Pigs as the superstars in our Pastured Pork operations.  However, we have struggled more with what poultry breed to use for our customers.

 

Nowhere has farming changed the very animals it grows more than in poultry.  The modern meat chicken has dramatically changed shape since the early 60's and with it has changed our diet and very view of what a chicken looks like. You see, there is this dichotomy in public perception of the chicken.  The normal American still pictures chickens that look like their Grandma's chicken running around an old farmyard.  However, when they picture that chicken on the plate they instead picture a chicken that has a gigantic breast and oversized thighs that is tender, almost to the point of mushy, and very mild flavored.  This is the Cornish Cross, not the farmyard chicken they pictured at the farm.  There is no connection between the chicken people are used to seeing alive to the one they are used to seeing on their plate.  

 

The bird that we have become accustomed to seeing on our plate, the Cornish X has been selected and hybridized very effectively to grow fast and efficient meat with the cuts American's value most, breast and thigh meat.  A modern Cornish X can grow to a delicious 7 pounds in less that 6 weeks on a strict natural diet without antibiotics or growth hormones.  It will have a large double breast that makes up over a third of its cut meat weight and have two large drumsticks.  It seems to be the perfect bird.  So why not grow it on your farm.

 

Well, there are no free lunches.  With the all of the birds genetics clearly being driven by unnatural growth rates and body proportions that are simply not natural, the birds have a high propensity for health problems. We found this to be true when we grew them out this Fall.  We had a fairly high mortality rate (around 22%) compared with a very low mortality rate (<5%) with our egg laying breeds.  

 

There is also an aesthetic element to them not fitting into our farm.  They are not pretty.  One of their genetically selected attributes is that they are very thinly feathered.  This makes processing much easier. Besides, so much of their metabolism is funneled towards meat growth, this often comes at the expense of growing things like feathers.  A coop full of Cornish X chickens looks like  scraggly bunch of white chickens all with heir heads in the feeder and their their pink butts pushed out  in the air.  

 

A more traditional breed of chicken will have a very different body shape and taste profile.  Its meat will be darker and more richly flavored with a more firm texture.  Its breast will be thin and less of its highlight.  It will cost more to grow because of its slower growth rate taking nearly double the amount of time to grow as a Cornish X. 

 

We have decided to spend one year trying three different options and then to solicit feedback from our customers to see what they like the best.

 

We will grow a large number of Cornish x broilers this season along with a Prairie Ranger chicken bred for France's gourmet poultry markets and America's traditional meat bird, the Barred Rock.  Our hopes are that several customers will take our poultry challenge.  Try each of these different birds and then give us feedback at the end of the season which you would like to see return and why.  

 

Tuesday
Nov012011

State of the Rural Economy - as told by a Farm Auction

The United States economy, according to most Americans right now, is less than great and this would be considered particularly true for rural America. Unemployment has always been higher in rural areas and is exponentially higher now -- nearing 20% on average for rural counties in America. Trying to look up the statistics can be confusing. However, there is an even more accurate indicator of rural economic health - The Farm Auction.

I have attended several farm auctions in the last couple months as I acquire equipment for our farm. Auctions usually take place when a farmer is "retiring" from the life and is selling off all of his possessions. You never know how much you have acquired in life until it is set out on tables for public viewing.

The auction will be selling a combination of both household items, barn items and equipment. Equipment may be the big draw for the auctions, but most of the time is spent selling household items and small tools from the barns. These are often combined into lots. This video is small snippet of of the auctioneer selling a tangled pile of ropes that lay on the table. They started the bidding at $25 and worked down from there until someone made a starting bid and then the games began. On these particular ropes -- the starting bid was $5 and they ended up selling for $15 after going up in $1 increments.

 

In this video, we have moved into the barn and the auctioneer is selling some ground rods used for electric fencing. (watch carefully and you will see the auctioneer "catches" me filming him - but never misses a beat.

As the video shows, most people never bid and instead are local friends and neighbors that are there to gawk and see what Farmer Joe had in his barn and see how much things go for so they can feel good about the stuff they have in their own barn. Several things did not get an opening bid so did not sell and most things went for considerably under market value. That doesn't mean there wasn't some money spent. A large tractor that was for sale went for nearly $50,000 and a 15' bush hog had some spirited bidding all the way up past $7,000. But generally, most things sold for less than $5. Most of the bidding was done by 2 or 3 large & established cattle operations that were buying up surplus to add to their own enterprises.

So....What did I buy? Well, I went for one thing in particular and ended up buying it for what seemed like a very good price. A livestock trailer. It's an older model -- but has everything I wanted. 16', goose-neck, strong floor and solid axles.

In addition I bought a seed spreader to go on the back of a tractor and a large lot of steel step in posts for electric fence. There were several other things that went for good prices and I might of had a need for in the future -- but I am very careful not to buy things that I do not have an immediate need for. So....to close on my original point. This auction further illustrated to me that rural economy is mirroring the national economy - just from a lower vantage point. Most of the small farmers there had very little money to spend and would be quickly outbid by larger cattle operations that were still able to get decent supplies and equipment for a very low price.

Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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