Safe Meat–A 24/7 job that gets no bad weather break

Preparing dinner using meat that is safe to eat, like our lamb chops, starts with us and ends with you!  First, we need to have sheep flock and beef herd management practices in place that keep our animals as healthy as possible, minimizing the need for medication.  This is a 24/7 all year round effort.  We don’t take breaks for extreme weather conditions.  In fact, when it is super cold or extremely hot, we have to really plan for our animals well being.  These are some of the things we plan for in the winter months:

  • Do our cattle and sheep have access to clean water that is a temperature they’re willing to drink?  If it is too cold, they can drink less and become dehyrdated.  Also cold water discourages their digestive system from working efficiently, reducing the benefits of eating high quality forage.
  • Is there adequate shelter from the wind, snow or ice?  Wind, wet snow or an icy rain are the hardest on our livestock. Our animals’ winter coats adequately protect them from most of the elements, but cold piercing wind and heavy wet snow can comprise this ability.  Shelter can be found in a grove of cedar trees, a protected valley in the field or a man-made shed or barn.  Large round hay bales are excellent protection left standing as a wind block and unrolled so that livestock can burrow into the hay and preserve body heat.
  • Is high quality forage available and accessible for our cattle and sheep to graze on?  We have a forage-based feeding system in place, so we’re constantly monitoring accessibility to grass–is the ice on the grass melting off or can our sheep and cattle push the snow aside with their noses and get to the grass below?
  • Will the ice or snow affect the charge on the electric fence?  We don’t want our sheep or cattle wandering where they’re not supposed to be or a predator gaining access to the sheep flock because the fence is down.  Below are two pictures of our winter sheep pasture.  First, is the ice on the electric fence that had to be beat off with a plastic pipe so that the electric charge was maintained.  Then the second picture is of our sheep flock grazing through the ice-covered pasture.  After the initial icing in December, we had to feed the sheep hay for a day.  After the temperature starting rising and the sun came out, the ice softened and the sheep wanted to graze again.

All of this effort reduces the stress on our livestock.  Livestock that isn’t stressed is less likely to get sick and need care or medication.  One of the main concerns customers have is the use of antibiotics.  The misuse of antibiotics was highlighted in the current February issue of Consumer Reports in the cover article, “The High Cost of Cheap Chicken”.  The article states that “80% of all the antibiotics sold in the U.S. each year are used in animal production.” We believe that there is a way to raise livestock with minimal use of antibiotics.  At Harrison Valley Farms we work really hard all year round to keep our animals healthy. Proper pasture and livestock management reduces all kinds of stress that can lead to a sick animal.  Do our animals get sick?  Yes, occassionally they do.  Do we comprise their health and not medicate them?  No.  But, we consult a veterinarian AND we take this animal out of the food chain.  We are dedicated not to contribute to the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  We take the same approach to parasite management–we travel many miles, attending many conferences listening to a lot of experts sharing their ideas on holistic herd management.  We incorporate the best practices we can to provide you with the safest meat possible to eat.

Preparing meat that is safe for your family to eat is your responsibility.  After you purchase our meat online, at the farmers’ market or from one of the stores that stocks our meat, keep it frozen until you are ready to use it within 24 hours.  Thaw the meat in the refrigerature completedly before you cook with it.  Please do not thaw it in the microwave (that makes the meat tough) or on the counter (that is plain unsafe!). Wash your hands and the utensils you use to handle the meat.  Do not use a sponge to clean the meat handling utensils or counter–sponges harbor bacteria very easily.  Cook the meat thoroughly to your desired doneness, keeping in mind the less done (rare) your meat is the greater the chance for not killing bacteria that the meat may have picked up during processing and preparing to cook.  Then enjoy that perfect lamb chop, beef pot roast or rib eye steak!

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