We totally missed the Farm Week in Review this Sunday but I promise we have lots of great blogs coming your way! As the season ramps up our “inside” time decreases – we are still awaiting the arrival of piglets any day now and another calf in another week or so. Lots of projects are underway (function + beauty) on the farm and we are excited to share our progress soon!
In the meantime, something we’ve been meaning to talk about is label confusion – how are consumers supposed to wade through the increasing number of labels like local, non-GMO, organic, pasture-raised and grassfed? What is really the best?
Here is a great list, adapted from one found at Nourish Organic Market in Grand Rapids detailing each animals’ feed requirements and how you can choose to support farmers raising food in the way you’re looking for. We are assuming you’re looking for animals raised outside in a pasture-based production system with little to no genetically modified feed.
- Cattle are ruminants, which means they have several stomachs designed to digest grass.
- They can tolerate, and even enjoy, a small amount of grain.
- Dairy cows usually get grain while being milk.
- Some pasture-based beef growers like to finish with some grain, although many do not.
- Pigs need dirt, grass, roots, bugs, milk, nuts – ANYTHING – they are nature’s recycling crew
- They also need a lot of calorie-dense food and high percentages of protein so they need grain
- Chickens loves bugs, worms, grass, seeds, and vegetables – but they are limited since they are toothless!
- They also need a lot of dense food and high protein so they are also fed grain
- Sheep are also ruminants (like cattle). Some are given grain in winter and as a treat – grain gets the sheep to move where the farmer wants them to go 😉
- Beef: 100% grassfed or light non-GMO grain finished beef
- Dairy: Pasture-raised (primarily grassfed) with non-GMO grain treat
- Pork: Pasture-raised with non-GMO grain
- Chicken: Pasture-raised with non-GMO grain
- Lamb: 100% grassfed or light non-GMO grain finished
Some words of caution…
- “local” is no guarantee of pasture-based practices – West Michigan is home to many LOCAL CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) or factory farms
- “local” is also no guarantee of non-GMO. Most farmers DO use conventional feed which is always genetically modified
- “family farm” is no guarantee of pasture-based/sustainable practices and does not guarantee your food is non-GMO
- Assume that “Amish” and “natural” are GMO unless you have specific knowledge of the farmer’s non-GMO practices. They have no real meaning as descriptive labels.
- USDA Certified Organic will be non-GMO but does NOT necessarily mean that the animals are raised in a pasture-based system! It ONLY means that the feed is certified organic.
Know your farmer & their practices!