Over the past few months, we’ve looked at the many benefits of purchasing locally sourced beef directly from the ranch or local processor when possible. Perhaps you’ve been convinced, and now you’re looking for a reliable source for local beef, but you have no idea where to start. Here are some guiding questions to help you in your discussions with ranchers.
How frequently are the animals moved to a new pasture or paddock?
For the health of the cattle as well as the land, the cattle should be moved from pasture to pasture fairly regularly. This process, sometimes called “rotational grazing,” benefits the cattle by giving them fresh and unique strains of grass to feed on, and simultaneously prevents overgrazing of the land and promotes a faster regrowth, allowing the same land to be grazed multiple times in a growing season.
Does their feed include corn or other grains?
If you are looking for purely grass-fed beef, this is an important question to ask. Cattle who are fed entirely on grass will have the maximum health benefits, such as the highest levels of CLA fatty acids. But there are also plenty of reasons why you might want grain-finished beef. Some ranches, such as Central Florida’s own Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, offer multiple finishing options to pinpoint a customer’s preferred balance of marbling, flavor, and health factors.
How do you care for the animals, especially in winter?
Most ranchers will have no problems showing you around their operation if you ask. In fact, many will be quite eager to show off their setup. These are the ranches with nothing to hide. If you ask to see the animals onsite for yourself and the operators are hesitant, that could be a red flag indicating they have something to hide. And although our winters here in Florida are less severe than in other cattle states, we do have the occasional cold snap. Knowing that the rancher has a plan in place for ensuring the animals’ comfort and shelter in more extreme circumstances shows that they are invested in the well-being of their cattle.
Using these better practices in ranching is not only better for the animals, but also for the rancher and the consumer as well. Rest assured that all of these practices are in place at Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, so you as a customer know you are receiving a quality product.