Bastrop Cattle Company

  (Bastrop, Texas)
Bastrop Cattle Company
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Too Big NOT to Fail

On Sunday morning a good friend and fellow farmers market vendor sent me an alert to a front page article in the New York Times.  The article is entitles, "Trail of E.Coli Shows Flaws in Inspection of Ground Beef".  The link is 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=2&ref=todayspaper

If there was ever an arguement for local and sustainable processing of meat, this is it.  I strongly recommend that we as producers show this to all our friends, relatives and neighbors -- especially those who are on the fence about where they source their food.

I think that this is especially important because the government answer to this problem is more inspection and more testing.  Bastrop Cattle Company has every single one of our calves inspected before, during and after all steps of processing.  I don't have any problem with testing.

However, more inspection and testing won't take care of this problem.  These slaughterhouses are just too big.  They are processing too many animals.  AND there is no way that these guys will ever let the government put more inspectors in (and the USDA or FDA doesn't want to pay for the real number of inspectors it would take to really police these places).

We need to get people back to buying local and sustainable where we can re-develop the local community processing plants that use to exist.

 
 

Promoting Grass Fed Beef in the Current Market

I play this little game with myself - every Monday, I tally the sales for the past week to see how we've done.  I have a specific goal - posted in red on my side board - for weekly sales.  Monday is my day to see if I met my goal.  Every month, I add more to the figure for what I need to bring in per week.

The good news is that every month since we started selling our sales have gone up.  And my accountant tells me that our growth is impressive.  However, my little demons are telling me its not enough, and that I have to "sell more beef!!".  So says my banker, and all those loans I have out!

 I think I'm doing all the right things.  Farmers Market twice a week (though the market has been really down over the last couple of months), website to promote our product with a shopping cart for people to buy direct (we just made it possible for people to use their credit cards), direct mailings every month to regular customers, enewsletter to regular customers, and advertising strategically placed to reach the customers most likely to buy our meat (believe me I've done my research).

I've also lined up wholesalers (groceries, restaurants, etc.) in our main market, Austin.  And every Monday I'm on the phone - not waiting for them to order, but asking if they need anything and when do they want delivery.

So, here's my question to y'all out there.  Am I doing everything I should?  Am I missing anything?

I follow up on leads.  I take samples to potential new wholesalers.  I call in networking connections to see if they know anybody else I can talk to.

Still, I've noticed shifts in the market.  For one, the Farmers Market sales have fallen off.  I figure this is for two reasons; we sell out in Bastrop and I'm sure that people have been hit by the downturn out here faster than say in Austin.  I'm committed to this Farmers Market.  We're really trying to grow it.  However, I'm being told to shift to Austin and go to those Farmers Markets instead.

They are certainly bigger markets, but there is also additional costs and paperwork required if we do that.

Also, what do y'all think about promotionals?  Any ideas.

What about partnerships with other producers - like chicken or pork or veggies?

I'd appreciate any ideas!!

Thanks




 
 

Reducing the Carbon Footprint by Buying Local

Between throwing hay to the cows and delivering meat in Austin, I try to keep up with the food trends in the country.  This past week I listened to Mark Bitman being interviewed on NPR.  He was promoting his new book, Food Matters, which maintains that all of us can have a positive impact on the environment just by altering our eating habits.  Now since part of his suggestion was that we all eat less meat, I was a bit "vexed" to say the least!  So this weekend, I surfed on over to the NPR website and looked up some more on the interview.  I wanted to see if Mr. Bitman had differentiated the carbon footprints between grass fed meat and feedlot or industrial meat.  I also wanted to see if he talked at all about local, and sustaninable agriculture as part of the solution to reducing carbon dioxide.

No, he hadn't; at least not in the interview.  Maybe he does in his book.  I can hope!

Obviously, I have a self-interest in promoting grass fed beef.  And I do think that the grass fed movement for meat - be it chicken, beef or pork - does have a very important place in reducing our individual and collective carbon footprint.

 On my website blog, I talk about all the difference in how grass fed meat is raised versus industrial meat, and how that substantially reduces the carbon footprint of both the producer and the consumer.

However, what I think is of concern to all of us producers here on Local Harvest is getting the word out about how local, sustainable agriculture and local purchase of the produce, meats and products coming from local farms, ranches and artisans substantially reduces the carbon footprint of all of us -- as a nation.

Mr. Bitman talks a lot about reducing the intake of animal products and increasing the intake of veggies and fruits as a primary way of reducing each person's carbon footprint.  Now, I think (even though I raise and sell grass fed beef) that everyone would be better health wise to eat smaller portions of meat and substantially increase their vegetable and fruit intake.

However, here is my question; if you are giving up meat but sourcing your vegetables from across the country or out of the country, just how much have you really reduced your carbon footprint?

I think it is important that the word get out -- if people really care about the environment, then buy local, sustainable produce and meats. 

As the bumper sticker goes "Eat Local, its Thousands of Miles Better".

 
 

So where do we go from here?

I've received several comments and emails about my last post.  Thank you!  One comment was about how do we get farmers and ranchers back on the land when real estate is so high in price that no one who wants to farm or ranch can afford to buy in?

Well, that comes down to our whole society making a radical shift!

I saw a funny comment in the paper.  A Frenchmen said "It's (the US) the country where people are the best informed about food and enjoy it the least."

Maybe if we enjoyed our food more, we would value it more and be prepared to pay more so that people who produce it could make a living on the land.

I listened to NPR this morning and there was this segment on a family farmer in Illinois that was selling his herd of cattle because it was just no longer financially feasible to keep them.  He was trying not to cry.

I do hold out some hope.  I think the whole food system is changing -- just like Michael Pollan suggested.  I do think that there is a growing group of people who do enjoy food and are learning how to cook again - and they tend to buy local. 

But here's the problem -- at least as far is beef is concerned -- the price of cattle on the hoof is falling faster than oil!  Summer of 2007, you could sell a steer and manage $1.42/lb.  Now its down to .84/lb.  and my neighbor just came by to tell me she had heard it had dropped to .60/lb.  Of course everyone is selling because of the drought.  People are getting rid of whole herds.

We're hanging on, but all I seem to get is wind and no rain.

So if anyone has some suggestions . . . .

 
 

Grass-fed, free-range beef in a drought

I haven't heard from many people and decided that I probably needed to be more proactive.

If you live in Central Texas, you know that we are now in a two-year drought.   For those of you outside of the area, we are!  What does this mean to a rancher?  Well, not anything good.  I'm looking outside my window at a lawn that is all sand, and I can hear my well going off again as the herd comes in to drink from the concrete trough that we now keep full 24 hours a day.  So far, the cows are looking pretty good considering.

With some foresight last spring, we had our back pasture treated with compost tea and it stood the grass well.  Everything is brown now, but at least we still have grass on most of the pastures -- abate with only limited protein.  We make that up with natureal mineral suppliments.  So far, the weather has been warm and with as much cover (native and coastal) as we have, we've avoided having to put out hay.  If it turns really cold, though, that will change.

Still, it can be tough on the cows.  All the cows on the place are young, and expecting their first calf.  While they look good, they are still undergoing some stress -- cows don't like dust either.  I see a lot of runny noses out there.  We're keeping a close eye on everyone to make sure its nothing more than sinus irritation!

I just wish it would rain.


 
 

Information about us.

This is just a short blog to let everyone know that I am always happy to answer any questions about our beef, how we raise the animals, how we handle the meat and how we sell it.  I appreciate any serious questions, comments and suggestions.  Thank you.
 
 
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