De-mucking the muckraking: what those terms really mean
We talk a lot about how our animals eat, but our methods don’t always align with industry terms. Our animals are in the fields or forest for as many months of the year as the soil can support. They eat grass, bugs, berries, and roots. The cattle and sheep eat grass in the summer, hay in the winter. Period. As designed by nature, the hogs and poultry require locally grown cracked grains along with their wild foragings. Most importantly, they eat, play, and sleep when they want; there are no forced feeding times, and no defined exercise hours.
So why aren’t we USDA organic? Farmer Mike has worked for and with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and USDA. He has planned the operations for many other organic farms both as a government employee and as a private consultant. Time and again, one common conundrum surfaces..."Certified Organic" as it pertains to livestock is NOT the end all authority...the CUSTOMER is! Big Horn Ranch livestock are grown exceeding the Organic philosophy. Is a flashing label from a multinational corporation claiming "organic" beef grown, slaughtered, and packaged in Uruguay then shipped to your local grocer comforting to you? Or would you rather each lunch with Farmer Mike and walk his fields and judge for yourself? Come stand knee deep in our sun soaked meadows watching the chickens chase down a grass hopper and judge for yourself! Know your farmer, know your food.
Modern farm animals are genetically engineered to produce more; to grow larger, to mature faster, to breed more frequently. But in selecting for specific traits, the animals lose the ability to feed themselves, to prevent disease, or even exercise as much as nature requires.
In raising heritage animals, we have selected the most closely related species to the wild, breeds which have been carefully raised to preserve genetic diversity. Our highland cows still roam Scotland like buffalo, and our turkeys sometimes attract a mate from the woods. These animals know how to live, and do a far better job of keeping themselves healthy than we ever could.
While the word has been attached to virtually every type of modern development, we think about sustainability in the most fundamental sense; the ability to maintain our present and future life. We farm as a livelihood, living off the produce and profits of our pastures. But in so doing, we ensure that our land is healthier than we found it, such that people can continue to support themselves for generations to come.