Category Archives: free range

Let’s Kick Off the Summer with Grass-fed, Organic Meats!

 It’s Good For You, Good for the Animals and Good for the Planet!

While many people are choosing to go vegan or vegetarian, many others enjoy eating meat.  And if that includes you, how do you know the best meats for you, the animals, and the planet?  
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If you are confused by the many terms associated with this topic, you’re not alone.  Here is a short explanation, but for more details, see this Mayo Clinic article.
 
These are USDA terms, and they mean something–
  • Antibiotic Free–must provide documentation, but be careful with this one.  Animals can have antibiotics in their lifetime, but just must have a period of time before slaughter so that there isn’t evidence of the antibiotic in their meat.  Make sure the label says that the animal has never been administered antibiotics.
  • Cage Free–Laying hens are not confined in cages, but typically are in barns or another enclosed area.
  • Chemical Free–this label is not allowed on meats, so beware when you see it.
  • Free Range or Free Roaming–This term is a USDA term (which means poultry are allowed to roam outdoors) but is not a standard term for other meats.  
  • Grain-Fed–The USDA regulates what grains are included in the diet of the animals labeled “Grain Fed.”
  • Grass-Fed–means grass and forage are the feed source for the animals for their lifespan after weaning.
  • Natural–This means the meat has no artificial flavorings, colorings, or preservatives, as well as no synthetic or artificial ingredients.  They must be minimally processed, and the label must outline what is meant by “Natural.”
  • Pasture Raised–This is part of the National Organic Program, and is an assurance that any meat so labeled comes from an animal that has had access to the outdoors year round.
These are Voluntary or Unregulated Terms–
  • Certified Humane–This term is a voluntary label administered by Humane Farm Animal Care.  They have a list of humane practices, including no antibiotics or hormones, and allowing the animals to engage in natural behaviors.
  • Hormone Free–this term is not allowed on meat products, but beef can be labeled with “No Hormones Administered.”
  • Naturally Raised–this term is one that the label must explain what is meant by the term.
  • Vegetarian Fed–Generally used to suggest that the animal is provided with a healthier diet, including no animal by-products.
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How are the Animals Raised?

Animals, including domesticated animals, have been living on pasture grasses for thousands of years.  Their physiology has a wonderful system to turn those grasses into protein, which humans can consume  and digest (we have a hard time digesting those same grasses!)  In order to eat enough grasses to grow and thrive, the animals have to be free to roam a large range.
 
But in the last several decades, big production farms have changed the order of meat production.  Typically today, the cattle, lambs, pigs and poultry are confined into small cages, and fed corn and other grains, and do not have the freedom to roam the fields.  Often the beaks of chickens are clipped.
 

These animals, raised in confined spaces, produce high saturated-fat meat.  They also are prone to diseases, since they are close to each other and get little if any fresh air or exercise.  They are stuck living in filthy conditions, unlike this calf we saw at Burroughs Family Farm.

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So Why Should We Eat Grass-fed, Free-Range Meats?

Number One–Better For You:

There is mouting evidence that grass-fed beef is much safer and better for your health than grain-fed beef.  Grass-fed animals are much less likely to have diseases or e-coli than those in confined cages or lots.  Grass-fed beef has less saturated fat, but more healthy Omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient that is generally lacking in our western diet.  CLA is associated with heart health and lowered cancer risk.  Grass-fed, Free Range meats are also leaner.  Meat produced on Factory Farms are generally full of antibiotics–they are used at an alarming rate.  There is a great discussion on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook, which you can listen to here.  Of course, we all know that over-use of antibiotics renders these amazing drugs much less effective, and encourages antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria to thrive.
 
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These piglets enjoy rooting around at Highwood Farm

Number Two–Better for the Animals:

Organic, Grass-fed, Free Range animals are allowed (even required!) to be outdoors, foraging for their food, engaging in natural behaviors like spreading their wings (for poultry) and rooting (for pigs) and walking over a large range (beef and lamb).  Factory Farmed animals are packed into small cages or lots, often up to their knees in manure.  Free Range animals are healthier, live longer and are less likely to need medical intervention (sounds like a great benefit for being a “free-range” human!)  When we visited Burroughs Family Farm they told us that their milk cows had a productive life of ten years, where the industry average was only 2 1/2 years!  
 
Also, animals that are fed diets that their bodies are not designed to eat struggle with much less fiber and much more starch.  Because of their unatural diet they are susceptible to parasites and diseases, as well as e-coli.  And this of course, makes their meat healthier for us. 
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Number Three–Better for the Planet:

The land and the soil is much healthier with grass-fed, free-range productions.  Factory Farms produce mountains of waste, methane, pollution, and greenhouse-gas emissions.  This article goes so far as to say that eating Free Range, Grass Fed meat can save the planet.  It has some very interesting points, such as small farm, organic, free-range production is beneficial to the grasses and soils (fertilizing and eating a range of plants, which makes the soil healthier and eliminates weeds), and discourages pests and predators.  
 
Factory Farms are environmentally very harmful.  Pollution, run-off, groundwater contamination–those are just a few of the problems with raising thousands of animals in small spaces.  This Time Magazine article (from 2010) exposes many of those problems.
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How Hard is it to Change to Meat that is Better for Me, the Animals, and the Planet?

Not hard at all.  Lassen’s carries a wide selection of all kinds of meats that are organic, grass-fed, free range, humanely treated meats.  We always have something on sale, and you’ll find that the meat is so delicious and tender.  If you have any questions about the meats that we carry, our friendly meat department can help you.  
 
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If you haven’t tried our delicious meats, the first barbecue of the summer would be a good time to give them a try!  We have everything from ground beef to turkey sausages.  
 
This article has more details on why eating grass-fed meat is beneficial.
 
Have a great summer, and enjoy all of the healthy foods and products that we carry!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
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Fish is Fish, Right?

Actually, No.  

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When we go to the store to buy fish, we think we are making a healthy choice.  And eating fish does have a lot of great benefits.  See this article from the Mayo Clinic for more information on how eating fish can help keep our hearts healthy. Fish, along with other healthy foods, can provide us with healthy Omega 3s. This article From Health Ambition will open your eyes to the Omega 3 possibilities!

Wild vs Farmed

But there is a big issue we face when we pick up that package of salmon.  We have two choices–Farmed Raised fish (sometimes called Ocean Raised, but just the name is different, the process is the same), or Wild-Caught Fish.  (“Natural” on the label doesn’t mean anything either.) 

 

This is a fish farm.  Thousands of salmon are raised in these pens, fed “salmon chow,” which is concentrated mixture of ground up fish and fish oil, which is high is fat.  The fish are also fed antibiotics to try to cut down on diseases, and colorings to make their flesh a brighter red color.  They are packed tightly into the pens, never swimming in the open ocean, unable to swim freely.  Weak or sick fish just stay in the pools, infecting the rest of the fish with their illnesses (and spreading the bacteria or viruses to the surrounding waters and the fish that may swim by.)

Look at these beautiful and wild Sockeye Salmon, heading upstream to spawn!

Wild fish are, well, wild.  After they hatch in rivers and streams, they head out to sea where they live for 1-8 years at sea, eating and growning and avoiding predators.  Wild fish have a highly diversified diet as they swim freely and over a large range.  They eventually make their way back to the rivers and streams where they hatched, often jumping rapids and waterfalls to reach their spawning grounds.

 

Why Should we Choose Wild Salmon?  

Wild salmon spend all of their time swimming (duh!) and that muscle development means great Omega-3 growth in their bodies.  They eat a variety of foods, which help them to maintain strength and health.
 
Wild Salmon also swim in dangerous waters–seals, whales, and other predators provide a natural culling process to weed out any weak or sick fish.  
 
 
And of course the bears!  Only the healthy and strong fish are able to make it back to the spawning grounds, where the salmon are caught for market.  
 
So when we make a choice to buy only Wild Caught Salmon at the market, we are voting with our dollars–our consumer power–and sending a message that wild salmon is what we want in our markets, our restaurants, and on our dinner plates.  
 
This study  from the University of Albany exposes some worrying concerns about eating farmed salmon.  And this documentary about Canadian policies is an eye-opener that made me determined to avoid farmed fish.

 

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So when you make this delicious salmon recipe, make sure you choose Wild Caught Salmon! 

love,
 
Lassen’s
 
 
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Now, This is a Family Enterprise!

Burroughs Family Farm

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It All Started in 1971

Although the family had been farming for at least 70 years, the Burroughs Family Farming formally began in 1971 with Ward and Rosie Burroughs, and Ward’s brother.  They farmed, and raised their children, and in 2004 Ward and Rosie dissolved the partnership with Ward’s brother.  They then formed partnerships with their children in various farming enterprises.  They like to say that they produce an ABC of products:  Almonds, Beef, Cheese, Dairy, and Eggs.

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A few weeks ago we visited the Burroughs Family Farm in Denair, California, just north of Fresno.  We were able to see the dairy operation (they partner with Organic Valley), the free-range egg production, and the almond and olive groves.  We carry their eggs, and have just brought in their Benina Crema Gouda cheese.  

 

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Rosie

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 Rosie Burroughs in the matriarch of a family committed to organic, sustainable farming.  We were very impressed with their farming philosophy.  We learned about how seriously they take the health of the soil, the pasture grasses, the trees, and the animals. 

 

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 The cows and chickens are moved to new pasture regularly (the chickens are moved every day, and the cows after each milking, twice per day.) Their pasture grasses have species diversity to naturally balance the nutrients for the animals, as well as to assure the health of the soil and pasture.  This makes their eggs and dairy products have a natural blance of Omega-3s and Omega-6s.

 

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Mobile Chicken Coop

These coops are on wheels, and are moved to a new pasture daily.  The chickens can come into and out  of the coop as they please.  Burroughs has about 2000 laying chickens, and 1500 chicks.  The chickens lay for about 18 months.

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The chicken get about 30% of their nutrients from the pasture, and about 70% from organic feed, which is available in the white troughs shown above and below.  I didn’t see any chickens going to the feed, so they clearly like to peck at the ground!

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The chickens come into the coop to lay their eggs. 

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There are laying boxes on both sides of the large coop.

 

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A chicken just laid this egg, which gently rolled down into the trough. 

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Several eggs were laid while we were there.

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Peter shows off a newly laid egg! 

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Every day the eggs are collected and then refrigerated.

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These are definitely free-range chickens, not just cage-free!  They are pasture fed as much as they want, and then supplemented with what they can’t get from the pasture.

 
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Sometimes they just want to take a little nap on the roosts.   

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This little hen was clearly not sure about getting her photograph taken!

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Other Enterprises

The Burroughs family also has 865 acres of organic or transitional almond groves.  (Transitional means that they are treated as organic trees, but will not get the organic certification for three years.)  

 

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You’ll notice that there is grass between the trees.  That is because the Burroughs family does not kill the grasses with herbicides.  They use a drip irrigation system to keep the grasses down as much as possible.

 

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The young almonds look like young peaches here!

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The young almonds can be cut open like a cucumber.  Here you can see the edible part has been taken out of the half on the left.  

 The Burroughs Family has been growing olives as well, and last year pressed their first bottles of oil.  

 

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I couldn’t resist adding the photo of their Dairy Milking facility. It is open air and very clean.  The Burroughs Family takes such good care of their cows that they will produce milk for 10+ years.  The industry average in only 2.6 years!  I’d say that Burroughs Family has happy cows!

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The Burroughs Family even gave us a delicious lunch after our farm tour.  We had a wonderful day, and hope that you try their delicious eggs.  You can really taste the difference! 

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Love,

Lassen’s

Focus on Local–Highwood Eggs

Don’t they look like Easter?

 
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Lassen’s is so excited to feature a new local producer–we have just started carrying Highwood Farm’s beautiful blue and brown eggs in our Ventura and Thousand Oaks locations!

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Last week we went to Somis to meet Devon and Patrick and tour their farm.  Despite my trepidation about being near chickens (my shins have scars from the vicious rooster pecks I got when I was a little girl!) I was ready to face my fears.  We learned so much about chickens and eggs, too!

Devon had 6 or 7 chickens when she was growning up in Santa Monica, and now she and Patrick have taken that childhood hobby into a budding business.  Patrick also grew up in the LA area, but visited relatives who farmed soybeans and corn in Minnesota and became interested in farming and in animals.

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The farm is 200 acres, and there are about 300 chickens, and growing.  They started about 2 years ago with a few chickens who roosted in their laundry room!

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These have got to be the nicest coops I’ve ever seen!
 
Now the chickens roam around all day long and then gather to their coops each night to roost.
 
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Highwood Farms has three varieties of chickens–two lay brown eggs ( Rhode Island Reds and Australorps) and one that lays blue eggs (Araucanas).  They scratch around, free-range, on fields of hay and grass.

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Here is a Rhode Island Red–isn’t her color gorgeous?

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Australorp Chicken–they are also sometimes white

Everything that the chickens eat is organic, and they are never confined in cages. Patrick moves the coops to a different part of the fields about once per month so that the chickens always have a good food source.
 
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Here is a Araucana chicken–she lays blue eggs
 
The chickens come into the coops to lay their eggs (although they do sometimes sneak into other places, like buckets or under bushes to lay, and Devon and Patrick have to go hunting!)
 
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These laying sections are on the sides of the coops
 
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Most of the laying is done by about 4:00 each day, and Patrick and Devon gather all of the eggs, mark them with the date and then refrigerate them.
  
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They make sure the chickens have water and extra feed, and clean the coops so there is a nice clean place for the chickens to lay their eggs.
 
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A rooster watches over the brood
 
Highwood Farms has a few roosters and are starting to hatch some of their own chickens.  They also grow some hay, wheat, and barley to use for feed for their own animals and also to sell to their neighbors and some to the feed store.  And speaking of their own animals…
 
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Here are some of the piglets that are at Highwood Farms.  They have had three litters of piglets in the last five months!
 
They also have a horse and two miniature donkeys, who were very friendly!
 
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The donkeys coming over for a look at us!
 
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Bethany, our Marketing Director enjoys petting the soft nuzzle of their horse!
 

We have noticed that these eggs are not only beautiful on the outside, but firm and full-colored on the inside (not that pale, drab yellow of commercially produced eggs), as well as delicious.  We have enjoyed them at home for about a week, and think you’ll love them too!

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Thanks, Patrick and Devon!  We had a great time!
And I got over my anxiety about chickens!  (but I didn’t approach the rooster, either!)
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Look for Highwood Farms in our Ventura and Thousand Oaks locations!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s