Some Frequently Asked Questions About Wingham Farms Products – and Some Answers
Q: What’s special about your products? (i.e. Why is everything so expensive?)
A: We are creating a nutritionally different product; we’re not competing with meat, milk and eggs raised in warehouses on concentrates. Our farm products are artisanal – animals raised on a small scale in the way they are meant to live, with choices that are gentle on the environment, humane to the animals, respectful of the true cost of the work of the humans, and resulting in healthy and delicious meat, milk, and eggs. All our animals eat what they are born to eat – the different meats don’t taste the same because what each animal gets to eat is different. In short: the process and product both are better quality. Access to information and to the farm itself is also part of what we give to you, beyond the specific products. We take the time to inform our customers about our practices and their food, welcome them on the farm with their families so they can see for themselves how the animals are treated, and educate children about where food comes from (such as through school group or summer camp visits). You can’t get free-range quality, with personal connection, within 20 miles of Portland, with the same prices as meat raised in feed-lots in Brazil or Australia. You do get what you pay for!
Q: Yes, but this much more expensive?! At Costco I can get a rotisserie chicken for $4.99 and a pork tenderloin for 99 cents/lb on sale.
Answer #1: Have you thought about all the hidden costs of that rotisserie chicken or tenderloin? Costco’s advertising budget absorbs the “lost leader” expenses of those meats ($30-$40 million/year!) which are sold below the price of the raw chicken. Those are advertising expenses that consumers pay back in the overpriced beer and potato chips and ice cream they also pick up in the store on their way through. Your taxes pay the government agricultural subsidies for big farmers (that we don’t receive) and the costs of coping with the environmental degradation of factory farming. What are the costs to the animals and workers when they aren’t treated respectfully or paid appropriately? What are the potential health consequences of eating food that may be dangerous (containing growth-manipulating hormones, antibiotics, additives, salmonella, e-coli….)? The danger of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” is just one example of a hidden cost that we are all paying for already. Consumers need to choose what they want to pay for – recognizing that it isn’t choice between expensive v. cheap, but a choice between explicit and hidden costs.
Answer #2: If price is an important driver for you, ask us about the cuts of meat that are good value for the money (ex: short ribs, pot roast, liver), and some recommended recipes to cook those cuts. Ask if we have some “scruffy eggs” – which you’ll have to do a bit of scrubbing to get clean and so are $2/carton cheaper. We can do milk herd shares as small as a quart/week, which costs only a $5.40/week agistment. If you qualify for SNAP benefits, make sure you are taking advantage of the match provided at many farmer’s markets to make the bottom line better. We are on a budget too – we get it!
Q: Where is your farm? Are you actually local?
A: Our farm is in the hamlet of Manning, west of Portland, Oregon, just off Hwy 26 at milepost marker 47. So if you live in Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Banks, Helvetia, Beaverton, Vernonia or Portland, we are your neighbors, and we raise all our food on our 140 acres of land. Without even asking our permission or coming on the property, you can see for yourself how our cows and goats live by walking along the Banks-Vernonia linear trail just NW of the Manning Trailhead (Manning to Buxton segment) – it goes right through the middle of our farm!
Q: Is your farm organic?
A: We don’t have an organic designation, but we choose to operate in most of the ways that organic farmers do: we don’t use hormones, pesticides, herbicides, or dangerous chemicals. We avoid GMO feed and antibiotics. We work to support pollinators and other important creatures in the food chain (beavers, gophers, coyotes…), and rotate the use of our pastures to avoid damaging the soil. We are also collaborating with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Tualatin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, renting them 31 acres of our farm creek beds for native tree and brush planting, endeavoring to reduce soil erosion and increase the shade over the creeks, thus lowering water temperatures and hopefully encouraging fish stocks. Our farm’s project “represents the largest streamside buffer project on privately owned land in Washington County” (“Tualatin River Watershed” – see links #2 and 3)
Q: Why don’t you become organic?
A: Gaining the “organic” designation takes a lot of time and effort, and involves accepting certain complicated limitations that interfere with other values we have. For example, we would have to use organic bedding for all of our animals, although the only reliable supplies would have to be shipped from far away – causing more pollution from trucking. We prefer to acquire local sawdust and straw. Another example: organic farmers cannot use any chemical fertilizers (even ones that are merely the chemical version of something available in nature, like nitrate), but they CAN use “natural” materials like chicken-feather meal, even though it is created from the feathers of chickens from conventional farms! Organic farmers are allowed to use “natural’ pesticides, like pyrethrum (pyrethrin – a chrysanthemum plant extract), even though those pesticides can kill beneficial insects too, like honey bees, mason bees and braconid wasps – not a choice for us. Since “organic” is a complicated label anyway, we prefer to stay free of excess regulation and maintain our own power of choice. We welcome our customers to visit the farm, ask their questions, and learn for themselves what our practices are, to decide if they approve of them.
Q: Are you Animal Welfare Approved (AWA)?
A: Our farm also used to be AWA certified, but we let our designation lapse a few years ago, because we discovered that the certification is designed for large-scale operations and doesn’t really take into account how small farms work or offer us sensible flexibility. For example, we weren’t allowed to buy cows or calves from an (organic) dairy operation and sell the meat or milk as AWA, because the farm of origin wasn’t AWA. That was the rule even if we brought in a day-old calf and sold it after two years of being on our farm! When we had egg-layers, we were being required to provide the amount of space in our chicken houses that fully-indoor birds need, even though all our chickens were doing in their houses is sleeping and laying eggs – they were free-roaming outside all day. So because of the regulatory demands and limits like these, we gave up AWA. But we value the broader goals of the organization and hope that someday it will develop standards that work better for farms like ours. We learned a lot from going through the initial certification process and try to keep those understandings and principles in the forefront as we care for our animals (for example our medication “withdrawal” policy – see below).
Q: Are your products hormone and antibiotic free?
A: Yes! We strongly oppose the routine use of hormones or antibiotics in animals just to raise the volume of meat production and allow farmers to continue with inhumane practices. The safety of hormone use in beef cattle still hasn’t been adequately researched, especially in its impact on children, elderly people, or those who are immune-compromised. Overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is a key cause of a growing and dangerous problem: superbugs that are resistant to most antibiotics. We rarely use antibiotics – only occasionally to treat a serious illness in a cow or goat – but in cases like that we do not sell the milk or the meat until double the days that a vet estimates that the antibiotic is out of the animal’s system (an AWA standard).
Q: Are your animals vaccinated? Isn’t that risky for humans who consume the milk or meat?
A: First of all, it’s important to say: your Wingham Farms milk and meat is vaccine free. AND also to say: yes, all our young cows, goats and sheep are vaccinated for a number of diseases (clostridium variants including perfringes and haemolyticum; diphtheria; tetanus) and for brucellosis if they will be a lactating animal. Our young pigs are vaccinated for mycoplasma, erysipelas, and circo-virus. That’s our obligation to the animals’ well-being – we don’t want animals wasting away with a gut ailment, or getting uncomfortable rashes and high fevers, or losing their pregnancies to miscarriage. These vaccines also prevent diseases being transmitted to other animals in the herd or farm (potentially decimating a herd and our livelihood!) or passed on to wild animals or to other farms – that’s our responsibility to our neighbors. Animal vaccines in some cases help prevent diseases jumping to humans (such as brucellosis, which can cause miscarriages in humans too) – that’s our responsibility to our customers.
But we can confidently say that the food products from our animals are vaccine free because whenever our animals get a vaccination (and on the rare occasion that any receive an antibiotic or other medicine), we always learn from the vet what is the required “withdrawal time” – the period of time when we need to be careful, in case that product might be expressed in the milk or stored in the animal’s body. We then follow the Animal Welfare Approved standard and double the vet’s recommended withdrawal time, during which we discard all milk from that animal and don’t send the animal for butchering. We want customers to feel comfortable that there’s no medicine in their food.
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/NVAP-Reference-Guide/Control-and-Eradication/Brucellosis – what is brucellosis and why is it such a risk to animals and humans?
https://exploreanimalhealth.org/dig-deeper/vaccines/ – the health and food supply benefits of animal vaccines
https://www.foodunfolded.com/article/animal-vaccination-meat-safety – more on how and why are animals vaccinated
Q: But wait – if animals get vaccines, can’t we get that mRNA particle in our bodies when we consume animal products? And I heard that the government is forcing cattle farmers to give their cows the Covid-19 vaccine, which will put mRNA and the Covid spike protein into our bodies without us even knowing!
A: No need to worry: it’s a false story that’s gone around social media claiming that farmers are required by law to vaccinate cows for Covid-19 with an mRNA vaccine. There’s no mandate to vaccinate cows for Covid, and no such vaccine even if farmers wanted to do it. Covid-19 isn’t spreading among cows anyway, and there’s no evidence cows can give Covid to humans (although there aren’t many studies yet). There are a very few animal vaccines that currently use mRNA-based technology (none of the ones we use are made that way), although the technology is in research as a future possibility.
But even if those are developed, it’s not something to worry about for humans. There’s no way that messenger RNA (the molecule used to carry the Covid-19 spike protein in the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines) could pass through milk or meat to humans, so the imagined government control project wouldn’t even work! Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a fragile structure that breaks down quickly inside the body and wouldn’t have the life-span to hang out in milk or meat. It’s not even stable at room temperature and outside of a buffered solution. Remember how the Covid-19 vaccines for humans has to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, and any remaining vaccine in the vials is discarded at the end of the day? A short time in the 101-degree F body of a cow or goat or pig, and that mRNA is denatured! Moreover, cooking would destroy mRNA in meat, if it ever could arrive there.
And by the way, RNA (including messenger RNA) is produced naturally in all living things, including our own bodies and other food products like vegetables or fruits or beans or grains. You produce RNA yourself; you technically eat RNA every day! The RNA and DNA from meat and plant foods just doesn’t transfer to your own body, because your stomach and intestines cannot absorb it.
And – since we are on the subject: If you are worried that spike proteins from a Covid-19 vaccine given to a human will cause the build-up of spike proteins in body cells and do some damage, you need to understand that the spike protein in a vaccine is incomplete – it’s not a full virus. Once the body has been inspired by the spike proteins to engineer an immune response, it is easily able to destroy them (especially since they aren’t real viruses) and flush their components out of the body. Spike proteins from a vaccine only last in the body for a few days (for most people) to about 3 weeks (for some people who have strong physical reactions). Your cells don’t get infected or keep making the vaccine spike proteins once your body has learned to recognize them as an enemy and defeat them. And if the real Covid virus shows up, the body now knows what to do! If you are worried about damage from spike proteins, work to not catch Covid, which CAN give you a big and long-lasting viral load in a range of organs in your body – there’s the real source of danger.
Feel free to reach out to Daniel if you want to know more about when and how we employ specific vaccines and other health care for our animals. And let’s all continue to remember that the internet is rife with stories, many of them untrustworthy. Please use a fact checker to follow up on information that isn’t cited in multiple, reliable sources before you believe what you read on social media or hear from a friend. Please talk to your doctor or clinic nurse about your human vaccine questions. Don’t worry unnecessarily!
https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2021/12/articles/animals/other-animals/covid-in-animals-review-updated-part-7-cattle/ – this is a blog of the University of Guelf center for Public Health and Zoonoses
https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-mrna-vaccine-livestock-mandate-covid-564035224253 – a quick overview of why the mRNA-in-cows myth is unfounded
https://www.factcheck.org/2021/07/scicheck-meme-spreads-falsehood-about-vaccine-transfer/ – more about the myth and what it’s claiming, and from whence it is spreading
https://www.dairyherd.com/news/business/mrna-conspiracy-theories-ranch-group-offers-fearmongering-and-misinformation – a longer piece that does item-by-item debunking of the recent false claims.
https://www.drovers.com/news/education/livestock-and-mrna-vaccines-what-you-need-know – and more on the science, offered in clear layman’s terms.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565969/ – if you are thinking about cases where a human mother passed on Covid-19 protection to her nursing infant after the mother was vaccinated, remember the method: it’s the antibodies and T-cells that the mother’s own body produces in response to the vaccine that can be transferred to a child via breast milk, not the components of the vaccine itself.
https://www.nebraskamed.com/COVID/where-mrna-vaccines-and-spike-proteins-go – and on the human vaccine/spike protein question.
Q: (Why) Are you promoting the Paleo/Keto diet?
A: Although we sell meat and help customers access local eggs, we aren’t particularly interested in promoting the Paleo diet (at least as it is popularly treated), because it isn’t really a close parallel of what ancient people ate (and we’re not sure if ancient people were healthier!). Most Paleolithic humans actually didn’t eat much meat (bugs now, yes!); they typically gathered plant food. Paleo people occasionally snagged a deer, but that meat was nothing like grocery store ground beef, because that deer ate everything on the forest floor it could find and its meat would have been rich in so many subtle nutrients. Our goat meat and duck meat are about the closest thing we can offer that’s like the meat of the ancient world, because both browse heavily, eating all kinds of plant foods. But even then, if you want to be authentic in Paleolithic eating, you need to commit to eating every part of the goat and duck – all the organs, bones, fat…. We actually encourage people to get a vegetable share or two (like we get from our friends at Stoneboat Farms – although we recognize that prehistoric veggies were pretty different too), buy some nuts and seasonal fruits in the market, and cook plenty of legumes and whole grains too. We would like our animal proteins to be supplements to a diverse diet, not its heart.
Q: Do people really play cricket on your farm?
A: Yep! We rent a pasture to a local cricket team, and other teams in the area come to play almost every weekend in the cricket season (April-October). You can watch them from the Banks-Vernonia Trail. Here’s a story and video about the team done by OPB – you’ll see some of our steers in the background in a few shots!
Q: Why can’t I just buy a bottle of your milk today?
A: Because the laws about raw milk in Oregon are very strict. If we sold by the bottle, we’d only be able to have a handful of customers and everyone would have to come to the farm to pick up their milk themselves. Our solution to serve more consumers has been to construct a herd-share system, where our customers own a share of the herd, contribute monthly to its upkeep, and get to have a portion of the milk the herd produces. The price of our monthly agistment (the boarding fee for our care of your animal) is comparable with the price of buying raw milk over the counter in Washington or California.
Q: Does raw milk make good cheese? Yogurt?
A: it makes excellent cheese of all lots of different kinds – mozzarella, cream cheese, halloumi, cheddar, and camembert, for example. Ask us for our recommended recipes if you’ve never made raw milk cheese – it’s different in the details (and delicious!) It can make lovely yogurt also, but the process is a bit tricky (especially to make it thick enough) because of all the beneficial bacteria that are already present, so make sure you consult some recipes before you start. Kefir is also really easy to make with our milk; Julie might be able to provide you with some kefir grains (for free) if you are interested and a milk customer.
Q: Is the cow’s milk A2 – I’ve heard that A2 milk is more healthy or digestible.
A: The odds are likely that our herd is A2, because our cows are pure-bread, old-line Jerseys, and the A2 beta casein protein predominates in Jerseys, especially old-line ones. However, we can’t say for sure, because we’ve never had the herd tested. Testing doesn’t seem worth our effort and money at this point, since the there isn’t (yet?) sufficient scientific research supporting the theory of A2 milk’s benefits; the main small-sample research that appears to show a link was sponsored by a New Zealand milk company that owns the patent for the genetic test, so it is not independent research. There are some interesting, suggestive studies recently, but not enough to confirm any of the theories. Daniel has a PhD in chemistry and is happy to explain more about his concerns with the A2 fad if you are curious, but start with reading the articles linked below:
Q: Is your cows’ milk 100% grass fed? Is it healthier?
A: Our cows are fully pastured, because there is evidence that pastured cows give healthier milk. Our cows go outdoors every day, 365 days/year. In contrast, organic milk standards only require 120 days on pasture, and even that can be waived in special circumstances, as it was in the California drought. We don’t say “100% grass fed” because our cows are pastured, rather than just “grass fed”, as they have access to a range of plants; they love to eat things like tree leaves, apples, and blackberry bush sprouts. In the coldest part of the winter and the driest part of the summer they are fed alfalfa and orchard grass/timothy hay. When they come in for milking they get a treat of alfalfa pellets, because we want them to like being in the stanchion (important for vet care, as well as milking). But we never feed them corn or soybeans.
Q; What about the goats’ milk – is it grass fed too?
A: It doesn’t really make sense to describe goats’ milk as “grass fed” because goats are browsers and like to eat lots of things they can reach above the ground level – tree leaves, flower heads, thistle tops, blackberry leaves, the tops of grass stems, seed pods…. Our goats are pastured and eat whatever they want in their pasture. They are fed hay in the seasons when the pastures aren’t growing, and receive a small serving of a legume/whole grain mix as a reward and supplement when they come in for milking. They are not fed corn or soybeans.
Q: Is raw milk healthier? Will it cure X condition/illness? Can I drink it even if I’m allergic to grocery-story milk?
A: The evidence for the health benefits of raw milk are inconclusive – scientists need to do more research! We aren’t doctors or naturopaths, so we can’t suggest what is healthy for you. Our customers have a wide range of interesting experiences and stories about why they choose raw milk and how they feel as consumers of it, but again – people differ. This is a decision you have to make for yourself and your family, based on your own research and medical consultations. But we will say that it is important to assess the cleanliness of a raw-milk dairy farm’s practices. We welcome potential herd-share customers asking us about how we handle our milking, milk storage, testing and the health of our cows; we recommend that you come for a farm tour and conversation before you decide to become a herd-share partner.
Here are examples of the range of perspectives on raw milk:
Q: Is raw milk full of probiotics?
A: Undoubtedly, because it is unpasteurized. But research hasn’t clarified if our bodies benefit from eating probiotic-rich food. Health-conscious people definitely should keep reading the evolving research on probiotics. The more we learn about our gut health, the more we learn that we need beneficial bacteria, lots of fiber (including the fiber in milk, interestingly!), and challenges to our immune system – by NOT being so clean! Some studies suggest that children who live on farms have fewer allergies. We joke that some of our customers become herd-share partners just so that they can bring their kids to the farm to pet and kiss the animals every now and then!
Q: What does goat milk taste like?
A: It tastes sweet and rich, with a lighter mouth feel than cow milk, because the fat is finer in goats’ milk than in cow’s milk – and naturally homogenized. It should not smell or taste distinctly “goaty” – that happens only with poor handling of the milk. The goat milk from the grocery store won’t give you any sense of what our goat milk tastes like. Goats’ milk also looks different than Jersey cow milk, because goats can process beta-carotene, unlike Jerseys, so their milk (and cheese) is white, not cream colored.
Q: Isn’t all that cream bad for my arteries and cholesterol?
A: Jersey cows are known for the richness of their milk, and we only milk once a day, so the fat content of our milk is higher than grocery story milk – as much as twice the fat (we estimate 6-8%) vs. “whole” milk sold in a grocery story (which has been centrifuged and reconstituted to be precisely 3.5% fat). Is dairy fat bad for you? Should you feel guilty? Probably not – the studies that historically led to negative interpretations of dairy fat are recently under challenge. New studies suggest that dairy fat isn’t dangerous and may even have benefits. For example, bit of fat in our diets also helps us to feel full and resist empty calories like sugar, and grass-fed fat seems to be particularly effective for weight-loss and maintenance. There are also some studies suggesting that moderate intake of dairy fats, particularly grass-fed dairy, may actually support heart health.
Q: Aren’t cows bad for the environment?
A: It depends on the kind of environment they are raised in – pastured (“grass-fed”) animals are not necessarily bad for the environment. There’s more in the beef cow section to read as well.
Q: Can we get both goat and cow milk?
A: Yes! You will have to complete two dairy contracts but that’s the only hassle. We deliver both milks to all our markets and pick-up sites.
Q: Why do you call your beef “pastured”? Is it “grass fed”? “grass finished”?
A: We call our Jersey beef cattle “pastured” because they live on a pasture where they have access to a wide range of browse: dandelions, wild carrots, blackberry leaves, wild cucumbers, morning glories, clover, vetch, alder and maple leaves, and more….not just grass. Our cows live outside on pasture 365 days/year for about 2.5 years before they are butchered. They are fed supplemental local hay in the coldest part of winter and the driest part of summer, but NO corn, soy, or other grains. They are taken straight to the butcher from the pasture right at the end of the peak pasture season in fall and spring, so they are fully finished on pasture. “Grass fed” labeling in the grocery store does not mean “grass finished”, and six weeks in a conventional feedlot before butchering will destroy all the benefits of being previously on grass or pasture. “Grass-fed” grocery store labels also may not mean that a cow has even seen a pasture, as cows that live in a feedlot overseas and get fed cut grass that is shipped to them (or hay, or silage) year round can be labeled grass-fed, while the meat can even be labeled “Product of USA” through various loopholes. Read your labels and learn about the conditions in the region where the meat was raised. For example, a steer raised in the drought in Argentina in 2018 wasn’t getting much “grass”, even if it was technically out on the range. Obviously that’s quite a different living situation than our cows experience! Even a steer raised on pasture in eastern Oregon is different from one in western Oregon.
Q: Is pastured beef healthier?
A: There’s decent evidence that pastured beef is healthier for both the animal and the humans, but also some challenges to that evidence. One problem with the research is labeling (see the question above) – the results depend on what kind of beef is actually being tested. The beef that seems healthiest closely matches our animals’ profile – actually finished fully on pasture, not using hormones, and at little risk of e-coli infection because the cows are never in a concentrated feed-lot (CAFO).
Q: Don’t you feel guilty selling beef, which releases methane into the environment and is wasteful of resources?
A: We all should eat meat more sparingly, especially beef, and eat more vegetables, legumes, and grains directly. Beef cows do contribute significant amounts of methane especially through their burps (and via flatulence and manure). But there’s a big difference between the environmental consequences of cows raised on corn and soy, and in concentrated feeding (CAFO) facilities (with their large slurry pits), and those of a cow raised in a small herd on pasture. We aren’t trucking in conventionally raised grain for feed – the two biggest consumers of fossil fuel in raising beef. On abundant perennial pasture, the cow manure and methane also don’t accumulate like they do in a feedlot, and the growing grass uses that manure and helps sequester carbon much like trees do. High water-use calculations you may have read have big questions around them, because many were done through calculating all the rainfall on the whole farm during the life of a steer, not what the steer actually consumes as fluid or for producing its specific diet’s volume of grass! And our cows aren’t taking grains from human consumption, because they eat what humans cannot: grass. Our land is largely low, clay-soil creek valley that isn’t suitable for cereal crop growing anyway, so the cows, goats, pigs, and poultry together fill a niche on the grassland. We recognize that beef isn’t an especially efficient food crop, and encourage our customers to eat smaller amounts of beef less frequently, while choosing the most environmental and healthy beef they can find. We also strongly encourage customers to eat all parts of the animal, not just the well-known cuts, reducing the environmental footprint of producing the meat. We can offer recipes for eating anything we sell!
Q: I tried pastured beef once and it was tough – is your beef going to be tough?
Answer #1: Pastured beef can more easily be improperly cooked because it is quite lean – fat is an insulator. Most of us have more experience cooking feed-lot beef that was raised on corn and soy (and from cows that didn’t move around much) – in order words beef that has more rind fat, more fat marbling, and a mushy (not really tender) texture – it’s more tolerant of abuse, but also less flavorful. It’s important to find the right recipes for cooking with pastured meat, so you don’t overcook steaks or undercook tougher cuts. We provide recipes on request with most beef cuts we sell, and send a personally tested little cookbook of pastured-beef recipes home with our customers who buy a ¼ or ½ steer. Or if you search “pastured” or “grassfed” and the name of your cut online, you’ll be abundantly rewarded with many recipes and good advice.
Answer #2: We really want to challenge our customers to change their perspective – not trying to fit our meat into their familiar recipes for commercial meat, but learning new and healthier recipes to connect with the different profile of this meat. We want to respect the earth and the animal by eating all parts possible, while discovering the health advantages of eating elements like collagens, for example. To take proper advantage of all our meat’s qualities, you will need to learn slow cooking of cuts with more texture, with connective tissue and bone. Get out the slow cooker and the instant pot, try out a sous vide! Turn down your oven and your grill; learn how to braise. Try all the different cuts, not just the familiar ones – learn what is more and less common on a cow (ex: little flank and skirt steak, more short ribs and sirloin tip). Ask us for some recipe suggestions, look up “pastured” or “grass fed” recipes for each cut, but most of all – expect that this meat will be different in its distinct texture and taste. Let that be something to embrace and enjoy, not to reject because it isn’t what you are used to. Slow down and have fun learning new, healthier ways to cook!
Q: What kind of beef is it, and why do you raise that kind and not Angus or Hereford?
A: We raise Jersey, a traditional European dairy breed that has long been recognized for producing flavorful and nicely textured meat, but which has been ignored by most modern producers because the steers have a lower finish weight than breeds like Angus and Hereford and grow more slowly. We have free Jersey calves as a bi-product of our dairy operation. Although Jerseys grow slowly, they are a sound and sustainable choice; they are excellent foragers and some of the most efficient cows as converters of feed to food, while their lighter weight makes them less damaging to soil and watersheds, a valuable quality on our land, much of which is in the valley of two creeks.
Q: Don’t beef cattle need to be finished on grain so they will have a proper fat structure? Isn’t that more natural because the ancient cows would eat the ripened grain in the fall before people hunted them?. Will a pastured cow be lacking nutrients? Will I be lacking nutrients because I eat pastured beef?
A: Cows are ruminants. They eat whatever grows naturally in pastures, and yes, that isn’t just grass: there are also leaves, grass seed heads, flowers, and ripening wild legumes, but not conventional agricultural grains. Evolving in the Middle East and Europe, cows historically would have run across wild grains for a very short time in the fall, but only for a week or two – not long enough to develop fat structure. They never would have encountered corn (maize) or soy, which evolved in radically different parts of the world (the Americas and East Asia, respectively). Cows don’t need grain to be healthy, and eating too much of it is actually bad for their bodies, because they aren’t built to digest it. If you want the nutrients in corn, soy, and grains, you can eat those directly. But you can’t eat grass, so that’s a gift grass-fed cows give you: converting the energy of grass to food, with the help of lots of gut bacteria!
Q: Isn’t fat in grain-fed beef essential for flavor?
A: Not really. Fat-marbled, grain-fed beef actually doesn’t tend to win taste tests; the fat mostly helps the meat not dry out. The fat you add yourself to a meat recipe – butter, olive oil, bacon fat…. is going to produce the most flavor, while protecting the meat. There’s also an inverse relationship between tenderness and flavor – so tenderloins and other cuts that come from the parts of the animal that don’t move much will be tender, but actually less flavorful than the active (and more chewy) muscle. Meat from older cows is more flavorful, but also less tender. If you really want flavor, you may want to let go of eating steak (so much), and turn to slow cooking of active muscle like chuck or cheek.
Q: Which of your steaks is the best for grilling?
A: You can grill our NY Strip, Bone-in Rib Steaks, T-bones, and Tenderloins. With care for marinating and heat, you can even grill a Top Sirloin. But please remember that fully pastured beef – from grass-fed/grass-finished/cows that walk and run around outside all the time – is quite lean and has more texture than grain-fed, feedlot beef. Our steaks are just going have a different taste and texture, and you likely will need to change your grilling style to avoid turning the meat into shoe leather – including marinating more carefully and aiming at a lower internal temperature. Ask us for our grilling recipes. Or, there are lots of helpful on-line resources if you search for “grassfed beef” – these are just a few examples:
Q: Do you have anything thawed, that we could grill for dinner? (Why don’t you sell fresh meat?)
A: No, but some will thaw quickly enough. A tenderloin or a NY strip is small and will thaw in time; it is also our most expensive cut. The ground beef – our most economical cut – also thaws quickly enough in water that you could make some burgers later today. But because we are a small-scale farm, our meat is sold frozen, which we recognize doesn’t allow for impulsive dinner purchases (although af you like medium-rare meat, you can broil a NY Strip or a small boneless rib steak from frozen (see the recipe below)). We hope you’ll buy some meat anyway, and plan to use it in a few days or grill it next weekend! Frozen meat has been the victim of prejudice: it isn’t actually inferior in quality if rapidly-frozen in a deep freezer, especially if dry-aged first and vacuum packed, as our meat is by our USDA butcher. Freezing also has the advantage of preserving the meat at its nutritional peak, butchered right off grass. On another note: if your goal is to become a more healthy eater, you’ll find that breaking away from impulsive shopping to plan your meals (around slower cooking, around nutritious and in-season ingredients) will serve you better anyway – let us be part of building that good habit!
Q: Do you sell nitrate-free bacon or ham?
A: Actually, nobody sells nitrate-free bacon or ham. “Nitrate-free” is an illusion. Our bacon and ham are traditionally cured and contain nitrates – and so do ones that say “no added nitrates” or “naturally cured”. People cure pork with nitrates because the botulism that grows in pork is very dangerous, so cured meats need a preservative that really works to prevent botulism’s growth. There isn’t actually such a thing as nitrate-free bacon and ham; there are only meats cured with celery or beet concentrates, which are naturally occurring source of high quantities of nitrates. That may sound better than chemical nitrates, but the difficulty is that while added nitrates can be measured precisely, the quantity found in celery varies tremendously and can’t easily be measured by the processors. So “natural” hotdogs and bacon may have much more – often double, and in one study up to 10 times as much nitrate as the standard commercial recipe. Salt and cooking methods (like grill or pan charring) also contribute to negative health consequences of processed foods, not just the nitrates. An excess of nitrates or salt is not a good thing for people, we agree, but celery-cured meats are not a rescue from the issue. A better solution is to eat cured meats in moderation. Or learn to eat uncured pork and just season it interestingly to give yourself something of the umami of cured meats.
Q: Do you sell fresh goat meat?
A: In the week that our goats are butchered, we will have some fresh goat meat for those who sign up in advance to receive it and are willing to buy 1/2 a goat (contact Daniel to learn more). Otherwise our meat is frozen. We don’t have a big enough market to keep a regular supply of fresh goat (or any) meat, and our butcher does all the freezing for us in his commercial walk-in freezers, which is safer. “Fresh” meat also isn’t necessarily nutritionally better or better tasting – there are so many variables affecting meat quality, including aging, travel distance, nutrition, texture, and environmental impacts. If you can’t get environmentally and ethically sound fresh meat, frozen is a great alternative.
Q: Why is your goat so expensive? I can buy goat for $6/lb. Do you give discounts?
A: $6 a pound is cheap – dubiously so, unless it’s your friend or relative selling you their own farm meat below cost. You should be asking yourself what that $6/lb goat was eating, and how it was treated. By the time we pay the butcher fees and factor in our expenses, we don’t actually make any money on goat meat – even at the price we are selling it (roughly double that price/lb – depending on the cut). But there’s not much else to do with boy goats, and they are tasty! So sorry, we do stick to our prices, because we are selling at cost. But we are happy to show you how our goats live and feed. Visit the farm and you’ll see that our goats enjoy healthy, humane lives out on pasture; we hope you’ll appreciate that having certainty about quality is worth the price tag. Next time you see $6/lb goat, insist, before you buy it, on gaining evidence of how it lived and what it ate. Because in our experience that’s not a sustainable price point – either the sellers are cheating themselves of even the cost of doing business, or the goat was not being humanely treated.
Answer 2: If you want a whole goat (to cut up yourself or to roast for a party), we probably have a better price point for you – contact us!
Q: Do you sell fresh chicken? In quarters or pieces. Why not?! I really want to buy your chicken, but I never use frozen meat and I don’t know how to cut up a chicken.
A: We don’t sell fresh chicken anymore. It takes too long to butcher just one or a few chickens (set up, take down, clean up), especially cut up in pieces, for us to want to do them on demand (particularly as the demand tends to hit around weekend market days when we are short on time). We sell frozen whole roasting and stewing birds that we hire a local small-scale poultry processor to butcher for us several times a year [although we currently are taking a break from raising poultry at all, and we don’t know if/when we will go back – there’s no profit in chickens; we raise them mostly so we can eat some, and we sell the surplus from our flocks]. Our chickens are popular and we sell out, so we have little temptation to make an exception – sorry. If you slow cook a whole bird in the crock pot, or in a Dutch oven on low oven heat, it is easy to strip the meat off the bones and add into a recipe, and then you also have bones to make soup with.
Eggs: Note: We no longer raise eggs on our farm, but we do help our customers access local eggs, such as those of our friends at Crooked Roost (who bought our chickens from us and who raise them on pasture like we did). But since we had already created this FAQ, and it has some valuable information about what ethics- and health-minded consumers should be looking for in eggs, we thought we’d leave it here for you:
Q: Why are your eggs sitting out on the counter and not in a cooler? Why are they dirty? Do I need to refrigerate them?!
A: Our eggs are unwashed, which is actually the way eggs are sold in most of the world. Chickens put a protective coating on eggs as they lay them (to preserve them for nesting – it takes a few weeks to lay enough eggs for a clutch big enough to brood), so eggs keep fine unrefrigerated. Americans just don’t know that fact because commercial eggs have to be washed, by law, and washed eggs have lost that coating and so need refrigerating. Our Wingham Farms chicken and duck eggs do not need to be refrigerated as long as they remain unwashed, but should be kept in a cool, dark place (below 75 degrees F, preferably; some sources say below 70 degrees F). If you prefer to refrigerate your eggs, that is fine, but don’t leave them out of the refrigerator once you’ve begun refrigerating them – the moisture they encounter in the fridge starts to degrade the protective coating.
Q: Why are some eggs blue and green? Is that a different kind of chicken? Is that a duck egg? What’s that huge egg?!
A: Yep! We raise approximately 12 different types of chickens, and the Ameraucanas and “Easter Eggers” lay blue and green eggs. Our Copper Marans and Welsummers lay deep brown eggs and some of our Australorps lay pinkish-colored ones. The eggs aren’t different in quality except for the shell color. We don’t have any ducks that lay green eggs, but we do sell large, white Muscovy duck eggs during their laying season. And for a very short season we even have some goose eggs!
Q: Why are your eggs so expensive?
Answer #1: Our price is actually comparable with the closest equivalent product – which is fully pastured, regionally raised eggs – where chickens roam outdoors on extensive pasture, eat a varied diet including grass, leaves and bugs, and are never given hormones or antibiotics. And because the farm is in the region, those eggs arrive faster to the market and are fresher. Studies suggest that local and pastured eggs are more nutritious than factory-farmed eggs. They definitely taste better!! We usually sell out of eggs in the summer market, so our eggs are rarely more than a week old; grocery store eggs likely are several weeks old when you get them – and as much as two months old at their “expiration” date. By buying our local eggs you are also supporting your neighbors in their livelihood.
Answer #2: The question you really should be asking is: “Why are grocery store eggs so cheap?” Someone or something has to pay for the cost of raising chickens, gathering their highly fragile and perishable eggs, and getting them safely into your hands. If you aren’t paying a lot in dollars, there’s still a price to be paid: the chickens probably don’t get to move around much or ever get outdoors and act like chickens; they may have their beaks cut off, be suffering from ill health, be eating monotonous concentrates, live in an environment polluted by their waste, and treated routinely with hormones, antibiotics, and insecticides. The people working with the chickens may not be treated well or paid a living wage. Take time to learn more about factory-farmed eggs and see if you still want to make your consumer decisions only on price!https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/the-human-victims-of-factory-farming/
Answer #3: Sometimes a customer of ours is lucky and has a friend or neighbor raising chickens humanely and selling eggs well below actual expenses. If you have such a friend, consider yourself lucky; enjoy those fantastic bargain eggs and appreciate the owners and the chickens as much as you can – they are spoiling you! Want some sausage to go with those lovely eggs?