Labeling Defined Triple Lyoness Style September 4, 2015 19:34
Now we're back to me, Andria, restarting our blog posting rotation.
There are so many terms out there used to describe meat products, to increase sales and to inform consumers, but for those who do not fully understand what they mean, these labels can be confusing and even discouraging. There are a couple key words we like to use to describe our beef, chicken and turkey products and I thought I would take some time to write about our labels and what they mean to our family and the way we raise our livestock.
The first label/term that we use is 'free-range'. There is some confusion out there regarding the difference between 'free-range' and 'free-run'. 'Free-run' refers to the animals being able to freely move around their enclosure/barn/pen. It usually refers to laying chickens being in barns, not in cages. When we use the term 'free-range', we mean that our livestock is able to freely move around their pasture. Our beef, chickens and turkeys are all finished 'free-range', but will spend some time in enclosures, therefore classified as 'free-run'. When our chickens and turkeys first arrive on our farm, they will spend up to three weeks in a barn before we gradually move them onto pasture. We do this because young animals need the extra protection to keep warm and keep predators out until they are more mature.
We follow a similar pattern with our beef steers. When they first arrive on our farm, they will spend a couple days in our corrals with easy access to hay and water, extra grain, shelter and bedding. This time allows the animals to adjust to their new surroundings and by keeping the same group together that we bought them as, decreases their stress level.
The next term that we tend not to use, but is fairly common is 'antibiotic free'. We do use antibiotics on our farm in our beef operation. All steers are given antibiotics when they first arrive because they are exposed to new sources of stress. These sources include, new environment, new herd mates, exposure to new diseases and parasites, new diet, and usually they have just been weaned from their mothers. The antibiotics help boost their immune system during this time when it can be weakened from stress. In the winter months, its really easy for an animal that's a little sick to get really sick, really fast. During our daily checks, we look for any animal that looks droopy, slow, skinny or just a little off. These animals are brought in, treated, treatment type and date recorded and either kept in a protected pen if really sick or put back with their originating herd. The records ensure that none of our animals are sold inside the antibiotics withdrawal time.
Now for 'hormone-free'. Our chicken is hormone free. All chicken in Canada is hormone free. They are big and grow fast because of genetics and breeders selecting the breeding lines. On the beef side of our farm, some steers are hormone free and some are not. Each spring when we sort the steers into groups of smalls and bigs, we select a few steers that catch our eye. All the others receive hormones and are sold to a feedlot. We hand-pick the steers we want to finish and market directly to our customers based on a few key items. The first ones are a solid frame and good conformation. We also like ones with a calm disposition. The third and most important item we base our selection on is their health record. We check our records and make sure that they were not sick and did not receive antibiotics over the winter. This means that when they are processed, it has been six to ten months since they have had any antibiotics in their bodies. Therefore, our marketed beef is 'hormone-free'.
The last terms I would like to cover are 'grass-fed' and 'grass-finished'. All of our beef steers (and even our cow herd) are 'grass-fed'. In the winter they have free access to grass hay and in the summer, they spend their days roaming our pastures, grazing grass, so they are grass-fed. The steers that are chosen to be marketed to customers are finished on pasture but also receive grain twice a day. So they are grass and grain finished.
If there are any other terms that you would like explained, email us or comment below!