I just got back from the Thousand Hills Cattle Company open house event and I had to do a post. For those who don't know, Thousand Hills Cattle Company is a grass-fed beef producer that is based out of Cannon Falls. The Husband and I really like their beef. It has a much better flavor than conventionally raised beef and it has a lot of other benefits, too. I learned much more about those benefits at the the open house today.
The day started off at Grandpa's Garage in Cannon Falls. We met with Todd Churchill, the head of Thousand Hills Cattle Company, who spoke throughout the event about what they do and why the do it.
First we picked up the obligatory swag. I really liked the MN Cooks calendar, so I had to pick that one up. Then, we introduced ourselves (there were about 20 of us) and said why we were there today. I, of course, said that I love food and that my husband and I were very interested in the local and sustainable food movements.
We had grass-fed beef hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch.
It was great to have a hamburger that was not well-done. The burger was very flavorful with a nice char and very juicy - but not so juicy that it rendered the bun a soaked mess. The hot dogs were also excellent - a lot more robust flavor than any national brand hot dog with a more dental texture. The skin didn't have a lot of crispness (I like to have a bit of snap), but the flavor more than made up for that.
Todd spoke a lot about the benefits of grass-fed beef. There is the health aspect: Conventional beef has an Omega-6 fatty acid (the bad one) to Omega-3 fatty acid (the good one) ratio of about 20:1. Humans should really have an O-6:O-3 ratio of 6:1. The oft touted "Mediterranean Diet" has a ratio of 4:1. Thousand Hills Cattle Company beef has been measured to have a O-6:O-3 ratio of 2:1 and even 1:1. Pretty impressive stuff!
Additionally, cattle are meant to eat grasses - not grains. In order to eat the grains (corn, soybeans, etc), the PH of the cattle's stomach drops from 6.5 to 4.5. Guess what nasty organism thrives at 4.5 - that's right - E. Coli! Just by going grass-fed, we could eliminate 99% of the E.Coli that gets into our food supply. Doesn't that sound like a better way to go than irradiating our meat?
The environmental aspect: Properly managed grass-fed beef will actually build the soil up rather than depleting it. No chemicals means not killing the micro-organisms that help to create the soil. Having grass on the soil prevents erosion from both wind and water (and helps to keep the moisture levels up). Todd Churchill believes that we can really combat the increased carbon emissions using grass-fed cattle.
The animal welfare aspect: These cattle are not in a feedlot being pumped with antibiotics, being fed food that makes them sick, and are not standing their entire lives in a pile of smelly feces. These cattle are on grass, in fields, doing what they have been designed to do.
Some of you may say "Yes, but in the end, they still get slaughtered - and I've heard all those horrible stories about animal slaughter." Well, then you haven't heard of Lorentz Meats. Lorentz is the local meat processing plant. Thousand Hills Cattle Company uses Lorentz Meats for all of their processing. They do the whole thing - the slaughter, the hanging, the butchering, even some curing and cooking - all under one roof. They do everything as smoothly, calmly, and humanely as possible. Lorentz Meats was actually mentioned in Michael Pollan's book Omnivore's Dilemma for those reasons.
We got a small tour of Lorentz Meats. We missed the actual slaughtering, as they got done before we got there. But, anyone is welcome to come and see what they do and how they do it. We were able to look through a window into the kill room and also the processing room where they do the butchering. Today, they were butchering red deer.
Todd also took us to his farm south of town. He explained that he has specific things that he is looking for in both the cattle breed and how it is raised in order for it be Thousand Hills Cattle Company beef. It was interesting to hear his various opinions on types of grasses, how often to rotate the cattle, which breeds of cattle work best, where to get the best feeder cattle, etc. The guy is a font of knowledge. He's done his homework.
Thousand Hills Cattle Company is starting a line of raw dog and cat food, which they showed us in their warehouse. It looks pretty interesting and is just getting started. They said that if a store has their beef, they probably will have the raw dog/cat food - just maybe not out on display. So, if you are interested, you may need to ask for it.
I walked away having learned quite a lot about how Thousand Hills Cattle Company works, how they got to where they are, and why they do the things they do. I am even more excited about the fact that they are near us and we can reap the benefits of their hard work. But, most exciting of all, we all went home with free packets of their regular and habanero beef jerky. Yum!