For this cattle farmer, responsibly raised beef starts from the ground up
You’ve probably seen or heard the term “responsibly raised” on a label in the meat case or as part of a conversation about how animals are raised on farms today. This term can mean a lot of different things, but on our farm “responsibly raised” starts from the ground up – literally.
Hillstown Farms is at the very beginning of the breeding process for beef cattle. For more than 10 years we’ve focused on selling our cattle directly to other farmers to improve their own herds. Early on, we wanted to provide ample farmland for our 300-cow herd. The land that was available was rough – with some being land that had been strip mined. If you’re not familiar, strip mine land is pretty barren. The soil and some rock are removed for mining purposes. After that process, the land is at risk for erosion and often isn’t productive for growing much of anything, including crops and grass for pasture.
But our family could see the potential, and wanted to improve our farm for this generation and future ones who will hopefully farm here. With a conservation mindset driving us, we set to work. We seeded the land with pasture mixes of orchard, fescue, red clover and alfalfa, creating very attractive (and palatable) pastures for our cattle in an area once considered wasteland. This has three important sustainability benefits:
- Cattle are often able to graze in areas where it’s impossible to grow crops. So what was an area deemed unusable for feeding people is now used to create high-quality protein.
- Cattle are unique in that their stomach structure allows them to eat and digest what humans can’t, putting these grasses to good use.
- By pasturing cattle on this type of land, additional organic matter and nutrients are added back into the soil through their manure, improving overall soil health.
Over time we’ve built numerous grassy waterways to control water movement, added rocks for erosion control and strategically placed cattle watering stations – many of which are energy free – across our 400 acres to support the wellness of our herd. As an added bonus, Hillstown Farms is now a refuge for ducks, geese and deer – wildlife species that live right alongside our responsibly raised cattle.
Even though you won’t see my family farm’s name on any food labels, we feel a strong commitment to our role in providing your family with a sustainable, nutrient-rich protein. We believe that starts with providing the best environment for our animals to thrive. It’s our definition of responsibly raised.