Climatology 2011: Quiet weather continues. Concerns turn toward fire season as the winds pick up early and drying commences. I have not heard a snowpack estimate lately. A farmer from Southern NM asked me if I though there would be much water coming down from the mountains. My only observation is that the ski runs at Santa Fe look very plain and evident on the mountain, looking up from town. It seems very early for that.
Finance Revolution, continued! Www.CommonGoodBank.com
This week’s Cow stories: Mesa Top cows, and Jim Miller Ayrshire project:
Thank you to 2 readers for your plumber referrals. Nothing new on funds to support construction of the milk parlor and renovation of the cheese making room.
Do members and readers realize the connection between dairy and meat, between poultry (meat) and eggs? Simply put, there is no dairy without beef, there are no eggs without poultry (meat). The math is as follows: 50% of the offspring of any species (barring extraordinary technologies such as cloning) are male, and 50% are female. No more than 5-10% of the males are needed for breeding.
What to do with the rest of the males? In the poultry industry, specialized breeds of chickens have been developed that produce eggs at very high rates. The males are not “economically viable” to raise for meat. In other words, if the money is spent to raise them, they cannot be sold for more than the cost. As a result, the male chicks are identified at hatch and destroyed. At mesa top we have chosen a dual purpose (egg and meat) breed, the barred Plymouth rock, and have been breeding, selecting and hatching our own stock for 12 years to produce meatier roosters. We raise them to a good size in 6 months, and try to cover our costs. Generally we are unsuccessful as we have not been able to popularize our young roosters as meat. This has limited our ability to grow more hens and to pass them on to other farmers. In a truly economically accountable AND humane word, whatever we are unable to recover from humanely raising the young cockerels would have to be added to the cost of the eggs. The system should be humane AND pay for itself, right?
When it comes to dairy cows, the situation is only slightly different. The males of Holstein dairy cows and “culls” from the milking herds used to account for 40% of the beef in this country. Science figured out a way to determine the sex of the semen (Y chromosome, vs. X chromosome: the sex of the offspring is determined by the sex of the semen). The industry celebrated by overproducing heifers, which cut the value of the young cows by creating an oversupply situation. Meanwhile the value of the bull calves was further reduced and the practice of destroying male offspring at birth spread to the dairy industry. Soon there were no longer enough good quality dairy bulls to meet the needs of dairymen who preferred natural breeding, which in many dairies, even large ones, is preferred for heifers being bred for the first time.
Just as with poultry, mesa top has taken a different approach. We work with the Tarentaise and Ayrshire breeds which have dual purpose qualities (meat and dairy) and we raise the males for meat.
What makes the meat from our chickens and our beef different? The primary quality that most consumers seek in meat is tenderness. This attribute is a result of fast growth and limited activity. Meat is the muscle of the animal. Active animals that lived a life normal to their species have more sinewy muscle. They grew more slowly than the “preferred” meat varieties, who grow quickly. They were not “optimized through selection” to produce maximum weight gain per pound of feed eaten. Often they were selected to be less active, and to be unable to forage for themselves, so that they would be better adapted to confinement and feeds that promote faster growth.
Mesa Top Ayrshires and Tarentaise are terrific foragers. They grow into nicely shaped cows, with meaty frames. They are fed a forage based diet, whether through open grazing or through their winter hay diet. After processing, the meat is aged, to provide tenderness. Like Mesa Top chicken, the beef is tasty and delicious. It is truly a sustainable, New Mexico “slow food.”
In order operate a humane and sustainable dairy, we have to sell beef. If we are unable to develop that side of the business, we will still be able to recover some value from the males, but will do so by selling them as live cattle into the conventional beef market, where they will be fed in feedlots or processed immediately for lower valued uses. This loss will eventually impact our cheese prices.
We encourage you to try our range and forage fed and finished beef. We have a steer currently processed and frozen, ready to eat. We can take the beef cows to processing plants that operate under USDA inspection, which allows each cut to be sold individually, but generally we prefer to have the cattle processed under “custom” status, which means that the owner of the cow receives all of the meat for their own use. In order to utilize this approach, we have always sold the cattle in eighths, quarters, or halves, to members or groups of members. This also keeps the processing and handling costs down, and results in a better deal for the members. A quarter beef is about 90 lbs and includes steaks, roasts, ground beef, stew meat, and soup bones.
We encourage members who have never tried grass/pasture finished beef, as well as “slow grown” chicken, to learn how to incorporate these flavorful, humanely raised, sustainable proteins into your diet.
Put simply, there can be no sustainable and humane egg or dairy (milk or cheese) production without chicken and meat. And the meat that comes from sustainable dairies and egg operations is unique. Although it requires a different style of cooking, when prepared well, is tender and flavorful! You can access Mesa Top beef and chicken through the CSA. We need your support to assure this level of sustainability.
Next week – The latest on Woody, the miracle cow… and more on development of the Mesa Top cheese facility
This week’s cheese share update:
This week the cheese share will be Muenster and Gouda
This week’s Veggie/Share Update:
Greens arrive! Arugula from the greenhouses of Los Poblanos Farm in Albuquerque. Watch for other early produce through our collaboration with Los Poblanos. This week we also have sunny sprouts.
We continue with Arizona Organic Pink Lady Apples. They will be around for a month or so. Enjoy them! We also have the last of the season Rio Star Grapefruit from South Texas Organics.
From the grocery side come local bolita beans, a member favorite.
As a very special treat we include living sauerkraut from Gemini Farm. This flavorful treat is loaded with vitamins and nutrients and healthy flora. Members can choose between regular and spicy.
Thank you for your increasing investment in the CSA as we begin to anticipate our relationship building efforts with our farmers going into the 2011 growing season.
We appreciate your continued support!