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Grass Fed Meat: Why bother?

I know I always say this, but in Scotland we are blessed, we have a mild climate with plenty of rain, and so we can grow any food that we need. As organic farmers though, our major crop is grass. Growing grass is a mild obsession, as grass, or more precisely clover grasses, are the cornerstone of everything we do here. What's less well known, is quite how many environmental and health benefits grass growing can deliver.

As farmers and land managers it has 3 main benefits:

1. its a naturally superb feed for our cattle and sheep, as both species have evolved to eat and digest grass.
2. the meat that comes from those grass fed animals has higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, so its a healthier meat option.
3. It has a vital role to play in managing carbon: permanent pasture locks carbon into the soil, and increases its organic matter. It is this increase in organic matter in our soils that has the potential to deliver enormous uplifts in soil fertility with consequent benefits for global food security.

Beef on the hook at Newmiln

Despite the obvious benefits of grass, there is quite a bit of confusion about what constitutes "grass fed" as far as cattle and sheep are concerned. Many cattle and sheep in Scotland are fed grains at some point in their lives. The phrase "Grass fed" is undefined, and is consequently being used to greenwash production systems that use grains to feed cattle and sheep.
We believe that we need to be clear about what we do here, as many of you ask us about how we feed our animals. So we decided to sign up to Pasture For Life, an organisation that promotes the benefits of meat from cattle and sheep that are fed without grains. We guarantee that all our cattle and sheep are fed without using ANY grain at all in their lives. Their feed includes clover grasses, and other things made from grass, like hay and silage (both made without adding ANYTHING to grass except time).

So far so good, and reassuring; if you buy from us you are (a) helping to lock carbon into our permanent pasture (our most recent soil sample found 22% organic matter in our permanent pasture, where most arable land has about 2%), (b) you are ensuring that our cattle and sheep only eat what their digestion is evolved to do, and (c) you are getting those lovely omega 3s into your diet, that keep your heart and brain healthy.
But what about taste, flavour, and all those things that move people to go "wow, thats delicious"? Do we deliver on that?

We had a visit in the summer from the BBC Landward team who helped to explain this all very clearly. Click on the link to watch https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2V5Zbr1e0nPblQ1SjdFT1hDSUE/view. Its a nice piece, with just enough"wow factor" to convince the sceptics.

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