Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sprout Fed Meat and Markets coming up

Markets are coming up this weekend in Yeppoon and Rockhampton - 30th June and 1st July respectively. 

Next weekend, instead of going to the Shalom Markets and delivering to Gladstone, I will be heading to Brisbane to do a course in salami and small goods with Tammi Jones. I'll post more on that after I attend it. My main purpose for this Blog today is because I'm concerned about the possible confusion regarding barley grass fed cattle. Barley grass is sprouted barley, but other grains can also be used and sprouted for feeding to cattle.

There appears to be a new “thing” around lately. Sprout-fed beef. I’ve been watching it with interest, mainly because I thought it might be something we could use to feed our pigs, especially if/when we go organic with the pigs. It’s actually not that new either, the idea has been around a long time, but never really took off. I think now that there is starting to be a reluctance to eat grain fed meat, then sprouts are moving into the grass fed arena. Basically sprouted grain is no longer a grain and is a “grass”. 

I think that in principle, sprouts (usually barley) sprouts are probably a good thing when compared to feeding cattle grain. We know from our own experience that sprouting grains for human consumption makes the grain far easier to digest and makes the nutrients more available. This is a good thing.

So how is grain sprouted? The grain is soaked for a period of time, drained and then put into trays. These trays are placed inside a container (modified shipping container) and with artificial light, are grown over about 5 days into a matted grass.

Insert picture of sprouts

Basically it’s a hydroponic system - no soil and no natural light. I am under the understanding that no chemicals are used to fertilise the grain, just water. The nutrition for the grass comes from the grain kernel.

I’m personally uncomfortable about the idea of no sunlight. The sun provides energy for the plant to grow - what is missing by using artificial light instead of sunlight?

Hydroponics are not a healthy way to grow food, but that’s mostly because of the chemicals that are used to artificially feed the plant. Plants grown in soil are a different product. The roots, bacteria, fungi and minerals all work together to feed the plant the nutrition that is needed for the seed to grow into a healthy plant. An interesting side note, is that hydroponically grown vegetables can not be certified organic, as the soil is an important part in the healthy growth of a plant.

The other BIG question is how the animals are managed while they are fed this sprouted grain? Are they in paddocks and under a rotation to ensure that the soil and pasture are maintained to provide protection from sediment run off and thus preventing soil erosion. Are the animals even kept in paddocks or are they in a feed lot situation? I know some sprouted grainfed cattle businesses that do feed grain at certain stages of development as well as having the cattle in feedlots, just feeding them sprouts rather than grain. 

This topic is a case of Buyer Beware. If you are buying meat that is advertised as being fed a sprouted grain. Then it’s probably a good idea to do some research - either google the business or ask the proprietor if it’s a market stall - how do they manage their cattle and their land. So please ask the question or do the research, do not assume that sprout fed meat is the same as grass fed/grass finished and not lot fed (Confined animal feeding). Then you can make an informed decision. 

I personally, and I think most of our customers, are looking for a grass fed, grass finished beef product. Our cattle are raised on grass until the calves are weaned. Then we move them into our leauceana paddocks where they remain until they are processed. Leauceana is a fodder tree and is planted in rows, with grass growing in between the leaceana rows. At no time are our cattle fed a grain ration.

We move our cattle around the paddocks in a manner that maintains ground cover to prevent soil run off and erosion. It also means that we move the cattle before they take the grass plant down too short. When grass is managed correctly the root mass remains large and this ensures that carbon is being sucked from the atmosphere into the soil through the photosynthesis of the plant.  To do this the plant needs sunlight, rain and soil. This keeps the plant in a healthy nutritious state. The animal then eats the grass and ingests that nutrition. This sort of farming is called regenerative farming/grazing and is one way to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and keep it in a safe place in the ground.

You can read more about sprouted grain here, but please google the brand of meat that may want to purchase to see what their farming ethics are.