This weeks blog is a dialogue I had with Heidi, from Wauwatosa, WI who buys our meats at her localOutpost store, who reached out and asked some fantastic questions. I want to share it with you as I figured you would enjoy the Q & A session as well. Here we go...
- Do you also use humane slaughter with the other animals?
- Are they all your animals, or do you contract with other farms?
- Is the prairie all non-GMO or essentially organic?
- Do you take any steps to help maintain an open and healthier ecosystem of non-farm animals?
- I guess I am beating around the bush, but I am a wolf lover. I know most ranchers do not appreciate them, but to me, they are part of the land and ecosystem that I cherish.
All fantastic questions! My response below...
Thank you so much for reaching out. We truly appreciate the highly discriminating, skeptical customer, it indicates your awareness in today's world of food and conservation.
Our heartbeat is in tune with nature's, basing our management decisions upon it's synchronization with the way nature was designed to work. We're extremely conscious of nature's balance, in fact, that is my personal passion; conservation at large through ranching. Large grazing ungulates are a massive missing link in our modern ecosystem that only ranchers can realistically manage well.
Heidi: 1: Do you also use humane slaughter with the other animals?
We deeply respect life and strive to preserve dignity, always. It is difficult to wrap our minds (as consumers) around the concept of raising an animal with dignity and respect and then killing it for food. For us, we are fully aware of this quandary but believe this is the rightful process of humanity. Our Zero-Stress Field Harvest is only used for our bison and elk as it is not legal for the other species due to how the USDA views each species as presented for inspection prior to harvest. We do everything in our power, within the confines of regulation, to maintain a low stress harvest, utmost dignity, and deep respect for each species we raise and slaughter. Our hope is that one day, through the influence of the bison harvests, that field harvest would be an accepted practice for other more domesticated species as well. We have many new food safety inspectors in training that are brought in by the state to experience our bison harvest as it is extremely unique, peaceful and respectful.
Heidi: 2: Are they all your animals, or do you contract with other farms?
No, we raise most of our bison for meat and contract most of the other species. We always want to make sure that whatever to put our hands to, we do it as well as possible. Raising all of our own species isn’t a wise move and, as part of our Diversity Commitment, we realize there are folks out there that want to raise animals the same as we do but don’t have a market for their product. If they pass the test, they become a Northstar approved supplier and we work together to bring those products to market. All of our producer relationships are evaluated and scrutinized, not only on their ability to produce high quality grass fed animals in a stress-free, regenerative environment, but who they are as an individual. Basically, are they committed to our values by their own admission and for other reasons than money? All Northstar producers are required to sign our producer affidavit annually which is verified and maintained on file with the state. Our network is small and we regularly run short of product due to our stringent filter for who we choose to work with. These are some of the most professional, passionate farmers and ranchers. They are like-minded individuals and we host grazing meetings and conferences at which we powwow to progressively discuss our practices vs how nature intends our ecosystems to function and see what we can learn from one another. We're a nerdy bunch. ;) We are actually in the beginning stages of working with (Ted) Turner Ranches to help switch some of their bison ranches over to begin finishing their bison on grass and become a proud supplier of Northstar. That's a huge milestone we're honored and incredibly proud to be a part of.
Heidi: 3: Is the prairie all non-GMO or essentially organic?
Yes, 100% of pasture lands are non-GMO and MUST be devoid of any pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides for a minimum of 1 year prior to any animals being introduced. Our climate receives high rainfall (44” annually) so we are being extra cautious providing that amount of time for soil cleansing (because glyphosate is water soluble). It takes 3-5 years however to become a vibrantly producing soil once again without artificial inputs. We typically recommend the soil be planted in naturally nutrient-infusing cover crops and rested the first year, then gently impacted (grazed) by animals or cut for hay the 2nd year, and then grazed exclusively by the 3rd. It is a long, slow, steady healing process but the wait is well worth it! The results are incredibly beautiful.
(**Note, this is a rare opportunity to get to convert farmed crop land (certainly not every year) but when we do, this is the practice we use. Land changing hands is rare and the conversion is very expensive and intensive. We can only handle so much land conversion at a time without putting too much strain on cash flow and our team.)
Heidi: 4: Do you take any steps to help maintain an open and healthier ecosystem of non-farm animals?
Yes we do! :) Our management style is wrapped in tightly with its effect on wildlife, from the tiniest microbe to rodents to birds to predators to fish in the streams up to more visible wildlife like deer and elk.
Heidi: 5: I guess I am beating around the bush, but I am a wolf lover. I know most ranchers do not appreciate them, but to me, they are part of the land and ecosystem that I cherish.
If you haven't read Ted Turner's latest book, The Last Stand, I would highly recommend it. Turner is fond of wolves and other apex predators due to their vital role within the ecosystem of which some folks assume man can replace. While management of herd numbers is something man does have the capacity to manage solely in our modern age, there are so many additional factors that wolves influence that man cannot replicate. Everything in nature has a purpose, without one ingredient, nature is incomplete and not as healthy or fully functioning as it can be. Wolves are largely unpopular in the ranching world because they cost ranchers money but they exist, in balance, for a purpose. Accepting that can be difficult when the bills are due however. Bison can defend themselves though so we don't need to worry about losing calves to the wolves.
I have a personal passion for protecting wild places and our public lands. I am a conservationist hunter and hunting guide and am extremely passionate about spending time in the wild, participating in nature. In fact, I am in southwestern Kansas pursuing whitetailed deer as I write this. :) To lose this way of life and connection to the land would be a travesty.
I hope I've helped give you a glimpse into who we are, what we stand on and what we're fighting for in this world. Let me know if you have any further questions or feedback with more thoughts. Thank you again for taking the time to ask these pointed, thoughtful questions. We appreciate you, Heidi! Hope you're having a great day.
We truly cherish these opportunities to have deep, thoughtful discussion. Educated questions indicate concern and consideration for the potential consequences of our decisions. They allow us to articulate our heartbeat and also encourage us in our mission knowing we’re not alone and others truly care beyond our own simple, self-serving satisfaction of eating experience. Thanks Heidi for being willing to let me share our conversation openly.
Live well this week,
Sean and the Northstar Tribe