Grassfed Organic Beef Benefits for You:
Our grassfed beef has direct benefits for you because of the nutritional differences between conventional beef and grassfed beef. Research comparing grass fed and conventional beef has shown that grass fed beef is:
- Lower in overall fat.
- Lower in saturated fat.
- More omega-3 fatty acids, a heart healthy fat.
- More Vitamin E.
- More conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that has been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease risk.
- More beta-carotene, the natural precursor to vitamin A.
- More calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin.
In addition, organic beef like ours has no:
- Synthetic hormones.
- Antibiotic residue.
- Pesticides or herbicide residue, including glyphosate and pour-on insecticides.
- GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
And we take “grass fed” and organic a step further by grazing our cattle high in the mountains on unfenced wild pastures (see below section on “Inherding”). In a single day, an Alderspring cow might select from over 300 wild native species grown in rich volcanic soils. Typical grass fed cattle on conventional pastures choose from perhaps three or four species. The wild variety on Alderspring pastures offers the animal a chance to choose the very best grass for its health. And for you, this translates to nutritionally complex, flavorful beef.
Grassfed Organic Beef Benefits for the Environment:
The environmental benefits of grass fed beef accumulate because of the sustainable way grass grown beef is raised compared to feedlot beef. These include lower fossil fuel costs, better water quality, less soil erosion, and greater natural diversity.
According to David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist who specializes in agriculture and energy, the corn we feed our feedlot cattle requires a surprising amount of fossil fuel energy. Growing the corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil. Because of this dependence on petroleum, Pimentel says, a typical steer will in effect consume 284 gallons of oil in his lifetime. This is probably an underestimate. Additional fossil fuel costs accumulate in trucking animals, trucking feedstuffs, and removing waste. An important environmental benefit of grass fed beef is the significant reduction in fossil fuel requirements for producing beef, animals which excel at harvesting grass from marginal lands.
Water pollution from feedlot-raised beef is a growing concern. At Alderspring Ranch, we are careful about keeping the water that flows through our ranch clean. We have fenced cattle away from streams and riparian areas. We do everything we can to keep the valuable nutrients in cattle manure on our pastures rather than allowing it to escape and become water pollutants. We use a permaculture system of pasture maintenance. We do not plow and seed annual forages. We improve pastures through grazing management and hand seeding. This approach eliminates soil erosion, and works to build the organic matter and fertility of soil.
Finally, we avoid monocultures. We rejoice in our brushy fenced breaks that are home to deer, nesting birds and small mammals. We try to encourage the growth of cottonwoods along our ditches to supply shade for our cattle, and habitat for raptors that then reduce our rodent populations. We allow the wetter areas of our ranch to grow native sedge meadows, and graze these carefully to avoid hummocking.
When you purchase Alderspring, you also support our environmental efforts on our ranch. We are continuing to improve the ecological condition of Alderspring Ranch and our 46,000 acre certified organic range land. We’re excited about some of the things we are doing, and invite you to learn more. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to:
Our current environmental project is something we’ve called “Inherding.” This is an innovative method of stewarding livestock on public ranges to meet conservation goals. It’s a cooperative project between Alderspring Ranch, The Nature Conservancy, the Central Idaho Rangelands Network, and The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant program. 2019 will mark our 5th year implementing inherding as a way to improve habitat for endangered fish and wildlife and regenerate wild rangelands using conservation riders.
Here’s what inherding is all about:
- We literally live with our cattle on our remote rangelands for 3 months of the summer, 24 hours a day. Crews of three riders on horseback herd them by day and bed them down at night like the ancient shepherders of the alps.
- This 24/7 care enables us to avoid ecologically sensitive areas (like creeks with important willow growth or endangered species habitats). We’ve managed our range for a little over a decade and inherited it after fifty years of constant overgrazing, and we’ve seen massive habitat regeneration in the last few years. See the image below for a glimpse of the same spot after over a decade of care:
- Under the range riders’ care, the herd is constantly moving, so we avoid severe grazing impact by mimicking the movement bison that roamed our mountains 100 years ago.
- Simultaneously, the human presence of our riders enables us to avoid lethal interactions with wolves and other local predators. We coexist in peace with them.
- And we believe this entire process is not just better for the environment, but also better for our customers. Over the summer, our cattle enjoy a diversity of up to 1,000 wild native grasses and forbs from rich volcanic soils. Their selection is unconfined the way nature intended, which results in exceptional flavor and nutritional complexity on your plate.
Besides our inherding initiative, other environmental efforts at Alderspring include:
- Completed conservation easements with The Nature Conservancy on the 845 acre Pahsimeroi Ranch and 770 acre Little Hat Creek Ranch.
- Protected 1.5-miles of the Pahsimeroi River on the Pahsimeroi Ranch that has supported an average of 40% of the Chinook salmon spawning activity in the Pahsimeroi watershed.
- Protected approximately 50 acres of riparian habitat along the Pahsimeroi River and Big Springs Creek for fish and wildlife.
- Provided perpetual protection from habitat fragmentation on 1,550 acres of existing agricultural lands in the Pahsimeroi and Hat Creek watersheds and created compatible agricultural practices adjacent to river corridors.
- Eliminated fish migration barriers at 2 irrigation diversions, the P-9 and P- 11, on the Pahsimeroi River opening up approximately 6 miles of habitat for anadromous fish.
- Modified irrigation system (e.g., eliminated one cross ditch) to provide Chinook salmon access to approximately 3 miles of previously unavailable spawning habitat in Big Springs Creek, more than double the habitat that existed previously.
- Increased instream flows in the Pahsimeroi River and Big Springs Creek by as much as 13 cfs through overall water conservation projects on the ranch.
- Increased available anadromous fish habitat and improved water quality by reconnecting Muddy Springs Creek with the mainstem of the Pahsimeroi River.
- Implemented conservation-oriented ranch management techniques focusing on improving land health through innovative and alternative practices including: management intensive grazing, winter forage stockpiling, and natural weed management without pesticides.
Organic Grassfed Beef Benefits for Rural Communities and American Agriculture
We have grave concerns about the direction and future of American agriculture. Aided and abetted by government policies and the cry of “free trade,” more and more of your food is being produced in other countries or on large corporate (or sometimes large family-owned) agribusiness farms. What does this trend away from small-scale ag mean for you?
- Big ag means producers have very little accountability to you, the customer.
- You have very little means of controlling how your food is produced.
- Significant social and ecological costs as small, diversified family farms are replaced by large farms managed by hired labor.
- Big ag means little flexibility for caring for land in an intimate, human way or adapting care to uniquely fit one piece of land.
In short, the increase of big agriculture means that human care is replaced by mechanical equipment. Love for a place is replaced by maximizing profits. The dignity of the independent farmer is replaced by the hired-hand mentality of a farm manager, management skills replaced by corporate directives. As large farms replace small farms, rural communities die, as income generated from the farm is transferred to distant owners in metropolitan areas, rather than circulated through the local business economy (see more extensive discussion below in Peter Rosset’s policy brief).
Since 1981, more than 620,000 productive farms have disappeared, either bought by larger farms or “developed” into ranchettes, subdivisions or strip malls. This is not the future we envision for Alderspring Ranch. By opting out of the agricultural system, and buying directly from us, you support a small family farm committed to providing you with healthy and superior food, committed to improving the ecological health of our land, committed to the kind treatment of all our animals, and committed to our local rural community.
Rodney Leonard of the Community Nutrition Institute of Washington, DC. Wrote in 1988: Two agricultural systems are emerging. One is a system of small independent farms relying on the management skills of farm owners who produce natural, organic foods that provide arising portion of the American diet. The other is an industrial agriculture system managed by executives of corporations that genetically convert plants and animals into miniature factories producing chemicals, drugs and body parts through biotechnology; farmers will grow and harvest these factories on command of corporate managers.”
We at Alderspring Ranch are committed to being a part of the first system. Our ranch is run by our family and a few dedicated team members. We are passionate about stewardship of our land and animals rather than ubiquitous processes. We highlight and talk about articles and news on sustainable family-scale agriculture over at our blog Organic Beef Matters.
Organic Grass Fed Beef Benefits for Animals
The life of a grassfed beef on Alderspring is about as good as it gets. Our cattle are never confined in a feed lot. They spend their days on lush diverse pastures on the home ranch along the Pahsimeroi River, or on wild ranges cared for 24/7 by our conservation riders. Even in winter they remain unconfined and free to cover a large area in search of stockpiled grasses from the summer, or to enjoy the fresh hay we lay out for them every day, hay that was harvested from our pastures in the long days of summer.
At all times, they are allowed freedom of choice in their associations and herd dynamics, their general activities of moving, eating and resting, and their choice of what to eat. After over 20 years of raising grass fed beef, we have come to realize the wisdom of the animal in choosing what to eat when. We think it is why our beef is so good, and our animals so healthy.
The freedom of choice in feed is complemented by low stress handling at all phases of the animal’s life. We find that animals handled quietly and slowly are healthier, calmer, and, we think, happier. They are safer to be around because they do not see us as a threat, but they retain many of their wild innate behaviors.
Our philosophy of raising cattle is to allow the animal to express its native behaviors and health. We try to mimic the natural rhythms of our native grazers like deer and elk. This means that we calve late in the spring, rather than in midwinter. It means we leave the calf with its mother until the mom naturally weans the now teenager as she readies to calve her new baby. It means we do not confine our cattle, but allow them to move to the places that they feel most comfortable.