7 Important Grilling Tips Big John and I have 7 very important grilling tips to
Farmer’s Market awareness
It’s summer, and that means plenty of Farmers Markets. Did you do your homework during the winter on the meat vendors at your Farmers Markets? The markets are nearly devoid of produce vendors in the winter and the only vendors there are meat producers and some crafts people. You can spend ample time investigating the authenticity of your meat producer.
There are a few observations to make when approaching the vendors table. The first is neatness, orderliness, cleanliness. If it is apparent that the vendor cares about this aspect of his marketing then chances are he uses the same approach to his farming practices. Start your questions off with location of the farm, are they local? This is important as you want to support local food sources and small local businesses. The next question should be “do they believe in and practice natural humane farming practices”? If they do that’s fine but your next question should be to ask for third party validations such as ; “Humane raised and handled”,” Animal welfare approved” or “USDA certified organic”. These are the primary certifications that assure you that the product you purchase is raised and cared for in the best possible environment.
There are so many questions you can ask a producer when you visit a Farmers Market:
1.) Can I visit your farm?
- This is extremely important; a true grit farmer is not only proud of his land but also in what he has produced from it.
- This should include location, directions and a time to visit for a farm tour.
2. Did you grow/produce your products?
- This goes along with how proud a producer/farmer is. With a large grin they should say “I did”. If the answer is no then they aren’t true farmers, they don’t have full control over what occurs in the growing process. The products could have been handled in a way that is not humane, natural, organic or healthy. There is no control over genetics, feed or how the animal is treated.
3. Do you use pesticides or herbicides?
- Most growers now use greenhouses not only to protect their crops but to also minimize the amount of chemicals they use. After speaking with a couple of growers at the our market, the use of harsh chemicals have dramatically decreased because of the use greenhouses.
- As I was doing my research, multiple sites stated “healthy strong plants come from healthy strong soil”. From nutrient deficient soil comes weak plants that are easily destroyed by insects.
- There are also horticultural oils that will only effect the insect and not the produce.
4. What does pasture raised mean?
- If a farmer says their animals are pasture raised then they should be able to give a full explanation into what is means. How large are the pastures? Are solely grass fed? Are they supplemented? What do you supplement with? Is it a true pasture or a dry lot without any sign of vegetation?
5. What does ‘natural’ raising mean?
- The answer to this will differ from everyone you talk to and has a very broad definition. Unless you have a third party certification that supports natural, such as Animal Welfare Approved, Humanely Raised and Handled, or USDA Certified Organic, “naturally raised” can mean something different to everyone.
- Be wary of this. Unless the farmer has a third party certification to verify growing and processing practices, a farmer may just tell you what you want to hear. If a producer has a certification, they will tell you about it within minutes of approaching their table…I know we do!
6. How are your animals processed?
- This I find to be a very important question. How the animal is handling prior to processing will not only affect the taste but it affects the animal. Yes, I understand how this sounds; I eat meat I always have always will but I want what I eat to be treated well. When the animal is handled poorly it releases stress hormones that will be present when you purchase the meat at the market. If those hormones are released not only does will it affect you but also your loved ones.
- Does the processor have a Humane or Organic Certification? How do they handle the animals prior to processing? What does the holding area look like? In order to maintain a Animal Welfare Approved/Certified Humanely Raised and Handled/USDA Organic certifications, the animal has to be not only raised in a humane manner but also processed in a humane manner. That means bringing them 24 hours prior to processing so they can relax from their ride, that they have cool water every time and fans on a hot day.
7. How do you recommend I prepare this?
- You may not realize it but farmers are closet foodies! They love to talk about their products and the delicious meals you can make. There is nothing more gratifying than recommending a recipe and the customer came back to us and say it was the best thing they ever ate! It’s definitely a passion held amongst all of the farmer’s we know!
8. What is a Feeder?
- When buying pork, beef or lamb at the market, everyone should ask if the producer breeds, farrows and raises their animals or if they use feeder hogs or cows. Because of what we do, I will use hogs as an example. Feeder hogs traditionally come from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), which essentially is a large facility that hold about 7,000 3 week old hogs until they are about 75lbs each. When they reach 75lbs, some of the pigs are sold off as “feeder hogs” to other farmers. The other half stay at the CAFO facility until they reach processing weight. Depending on the farmer, the processing weight will vary with how large they would like their cuts.
- In a CAFO, the pigs are on concrete slabs that are covered with wooden slates. This means that hog manure and urine sits under these wooden slates on the concrete until it is flushed out . While researching for this blog, I read that some CAFO facilities do not flush down the concrete for days at a time and when they do spray it down the runoff goes into a “hog lagoon”. The ammonia levels from the fumes can become so concentrated in a CAFO, that if the ventilation system went down, the hogs would die from breathing their own waste.
9. At what age do you wean your hogs?
- We wean our piglets between 6-8 weeks. Until that point they are with the sow, getting breast milk, grubs and nuts and grasses from the land. We do not wean before that because their stomach cannot handle a supplemented vegetarian diet of a soy and corn mix feed.
- In a CAFO, because they wean at 3 weeks, the producer has to feed them “creep feed”. Creep feed is a milk supplement that is given to piglets until they are 8 weeks old because of their immature digestive systems.
10. What is your Source of your Feeder Hog?
- This goes along with weaning and CAFO facilities. Due to do the fact that most feeder hogs tend to come from a CAFO, you should know that most large source facilities inoculate (administer antibiotics) and give synthetic hormones to their pigs. Over all in the hog business, if where you are getting your pork is not certified humane or organic and get their hogs from a CAFO, they most likely have been given antibiotics, hormones or both. I am not saying that all farmers give their hogs hormones or antibiotics, but it is good to know that if they did or not because you and your family will be receiving unwanted and unneeded antibiotics.
You can find Circle B Ranch LLC at our website and our Facebook page. We are in multiple grocery stores in the Springfield, St.Louis and Kansas City, MO areas. See website for all locations. Try Circle B Ranch pork – and taste the difference for yourself!