For years Dan O’Brien raised cattle on his ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota. After enduring beef’s punishing boom and bust cycle and experiencing first-hand the environmental toll that cattle took on his land, O’Brien made a dramatic change. He started raising North American Bison*, the great icon of the Great Prairie, instead. Read more
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Update: The 6-state lawsuit mentioned in this piece has since been thrown out by a U.S. District judge.
Ed Olivera is making a sizable investment in his San Jose, California-based egg operation this year. And just in time. He and other egg producers in the state now have less than four months to meet new, more humane standards for laying hens set to go into effect on January 1, 2015.
Olivera is “taking out partitions,” between the battery cages many of his laying hens live in, making the remaining cages larger. He’s also putting in a brand new building filled with an “enriched colony system,” or enriched cages, which will house 200,000 hens. The standard battery cage is only 67 square inches (see the photo to the right), and has a footprint smaller than a letter-sized piece of paper, but the new cages hold more birds and allow around twice as much space (116 square inches) per bird. Now the legal standard for all laying hens in Europe, enriched cages are still a new concept in the U.S. (See an example from the EU below.) Read more
Although it has been in the works for months, the merger of Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands went public the week before Labor Day, when the U.S. Justice Department approved the deal. The merger brings together the largest meat processing company in the U.S. (Tyson) and the 11th largest (Hillshire), for $7.7 billion. And even if you buy mainly sustainable and grassfed meat, this merger is worth watching. Read more
Hanna Ranch spans across thousands of acres of prairie just south of Colorado Springs, nestled between Fountain Creek and Interstate 25 as both wind their way south. Listen closely and you might hear a meadowlark whistle over the roar of the crowd at the nearby racetrack as the wind whips through the buffalo grass dotting the plains.
The ranch, like most of rural Colorado’s agriculture industry, lies at a crossroads between the man-made and the natural. Hanna Ranch, a documentary produced by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and which debuted earlier this year, chronicles one family’s struggle to preserve their namesake ranch under the strain of a rapidly expanding suburbia. Read more
While many conscientious eaters go out of their way to purchase pasture-raised eggs laid by happy chickens, it’s a little-known fact that almost all eggs have a hidden cost: millions of baby male chicks are killed each year at the hatcheries that raise egg-laying hens. Even humane, organic egg producers are reliant on these large hatcheries. Read more
In recent years, there has been a local meat renaissance going on in Wisconsin. At the center of the movement was a business called Black Earth Meats. The operation, owned by Bartlett Durand, or the Zen Butcher, included a retail space, a buyers club and a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service, as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouse. Read more
At 7:15 on a Friday morning in a large, culinary classroom at Bend High School, 25 energetic students dressed in crisp, white chef coats begin breaking down two half hogs. Over the next two hours, working in teams, the students will separate the animals into primal cuts — shoulder, loin, belly, and leg — and then into smaller cuts. “The kids can now visualize where their meat comes from,” says Molly Ziegler, the culinary teacher at Bend High School, “and they are learning how to utilize lesser known cuts, or cuts that would often get tossed.” Read more
There are over 200 men and women in The Butcher’s Guild. They are the cutters and slingers who buy whole animals straight from the farm. They insist that their meat is never doped with antibiotics nor hormones. And, in a defiant stance against industrial meatpacking plants that slice through as many as 34,000 pigs a day, these butchers offer customers a conscientious product prepared with skill. Read more
If farmers are known for their independent streak, four women in Yolo County, California are challenging the assumption that going at it alone is always better. Starting this summer they will join forces to offer customers premium pastured meats through the new Capay Valley Meat Co-op.
The women, who all farm about a mile from one another with their husbands, will use the co-op to buy supplies in bulk and carpool their animals to the slaughterhouse. Alexis Robertson from Skyelark Ranch, Rachel de Rosa from Casa Rosa Farm, Lisa Leonard from Windancer Ranch and Katy Vigil from Creekside Ranch will take turns selling at markets so that they can spend more time on their farms with their families. It’s a model that if successful could have major benefits for other small-scale livestock growers. Read more