Who, what, where does Farmer Girl meat come from? Who, what, where is this family farm so often referred to? Well, friends, the purpose of this post is to get you better acquainted with my family’s farm and some of the people who raise Farmer Girl meats.
I grew up on a small family farm, located in rural Kansas, just a hop and a skip from the Missouri border. Indeed, I grew up where the buffalo once roamed and the deer and the antelope once played. We are blessed with rolling hills of native grassland prairie, which happens to be perfect for raising grassfed beef and pasture raised meats. And it makes sense, right? Literally, back in the day buffalo travelled across our prairie in large herds, grazing the lush grassland as they went. In fact, the prairie supported an entire ecosystem of animals that lived off grass and native forage alone: Buffalo, deer, antelope, wild horses, boars, wild game, and the list goes on. If there is any place in the world where grassfed beef was meant to be raised, it is on our prairie farm. Growing up, our farm was home to a plethora of animals and a plethora of farming experiments.
At one time there were a few turkeys, but they were jumping on my sister’s back, so they went bye-bye. There was also the Pig Motel…a venture my dad and I had consisting of (1) four pigs, and (2) a handmade sign in the pig yard that read ‘Pig Motel’. Then there was the rooster aptly named Little Jerry Seinfeld. In a nutshell, we’ve raised everything, and we’ve always had cattle. Raising beautiful cattle is my parents’, Al and Roxanne Mettenburg, passion. And when I say beautiful, I mean that literally. They have been refining their small herd for 40 years. Al and Roxanne do not have a desire to raise a lot of cattle; they have a desire to raise the best, highest quality cattle possible. Quantity is never valued over quality, and these days sticking to those guns means they are more artisans than farmer. Today, we pasture-raise very small herds of cattle, pigs, sheep, and chickens. These four animals work in harmony to keep the soil and the prairie in tip-top shape: The cattle eat the grass, the sheep eat the weeds, the pigs root up the topsoil, and roving chickens fertilize the whole shebang. And Rupert & Sweetie Pie, our valiant watch dogs, keep watch over everything. This is the natural ecosystem of a small working farm, and it allows Al and Roxanne to produce meat that is yuck-free and healthy.
Now don’t kid yourself, it is a lot more work than “normal” farming. Using organic principles is inherently more laborious, because one just can’t spray away one’s problems with a bit of pesticide. And it takes longer to raise our animals, because they aren’t packing on the pounds due to growth hormones and a corn diet. But that’s OK, because the benefits of producing meat naturally outweigh the costs, big time. Our meat is clean, it’s healthy due to that grass diet, and it actually has flavor that will vary with the season.
We raise a Bavarian breed of cattle called Fleckvieh Simmental, which originally hail from Switzerland. Fleckvieh Simmental is pretty cool, because they are considered a dual-purpose bovine. Dual-purpose cows can produce milk and beef. Usually you get one or the other – a cow that produces dairy, or a cow that produces beef animals. We don’t milk our cows…but we might! As of late, we’ve begun crossing our Fleckvieh Simmental with good old Angus, with spectacular grassfed beef results. It takes approximately 18 to 28 months to raise our beef, two times longer than it takes to raise mass-produced feedlot beef. Our cattle are raised on their momma’s milk, and then 100% grass fed and pasture raised. That means they only consume grass and roughage, and they are never confined to a feedlot.
We’ve been out of the hog-raising world for a while, but thanks to Jake Roberts and his heritage pigs, we decided to raise a few of these beauties just for fun. We are currently experimenting with Big Black/Berkshire crosses, and Hampshire’s. These breeds are officially known as heritage breeds, meaning they are old-school breeds that lost favor with the rise of industrialized farming. Why? Because heritage breeds are smaller, they can be fattier, and they haven’t been bred to withstand the rigors of industrialized hog farming…i.e. they don’t thrive living in a crate. Go figure. The benefit of raising heritage pigs is that the meat is out-of-this-world flavorful. My hubs and son would live off Farmer Girl pork if I let them.
Katahdin is a breed of domestic sheep that is known for shedding its winter coat, and thus does not need to be sheared. Roxanne ventured into the sheep world just a few years ago, in pursuit of multi-species layering as a means of natural soil management. The ewes, in no particular order, are known as Eula, Eunice, Elayna, Edith, Elle, Eleanor, Esmeralda, Elvira, Effie, Evelyn, Elspie, Ethel, and Evita.