Q. What are grass-fed beef and yak?

Grass-fed beef and yak come from animals that have been fed a forage (grass) based diet for most or all of their lives. The grass is often supplemented by hay or silage in the winter months or times of slow grass growth. The meat is leaner and contains higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. The animals enjoy a natural diet in an open space. Producing grass-fed beef is better for the environment, people,  and animals than conventional grain-fed beef and yak.

Sometimes people will say their livestock was grass-fed, but then feed them grain the last few weeks. Our animals are fed grass/forage throughout their entire life. They are grass-finished. Be sure to ask farmers if the animals are grass-fed and grass-finished or grain-finished.

Q. How are grass-fed beef and yak different from grain-fed beef and yak?

It is important to understand that grass-fed differs from the traditional grain-finished beef found in the store. Our grass-fed animals have been finished on a forage diet – primarily grass and sometimes supplemented with hay or silage in the non-growing season. Grain-finished animals are fed large quantities of grain products and are often housed in confinement or feedlots. Some producers advertise that their animals are fed “natural grains”. Grain is still grain and not grass! Consuming large amounts of grain will make them grow and put on fat, but it can be harmful to the cattle. It is not a natural diet for them. The environmental factors are also of concern. When managed properly, an animal grazing in a field will help the environment while a feedlot may create a myriad of environmental problems.

 Grass-fed animals are not as fat compared to grain-finished. This is great for the consumer from a health standpoint, but less fat also means less tenderness. Therefore, grass-fed beef will need to hang (age) longer. It has a slightly different (but delicious) flavor and should be prepared in a way to maximize tenderness. Grass-fed beef and yak are also juicier. When you empty the frying pan, you will see water, not grease.  Once you’ve eaten properly prepared grass-fed beef, you may have trouble going back to the traditional fatty kind.

Q. What is the yield of meat versus the hanging weight?

The hanging weight is the weight of the beef carcass after harvest and cooling.  Although it is cooled, there will still be a small amount of shrinkage from moisture loss while it is aging.  In addition, when the beef is cut, there will be bone and fat discarded. The amount of fat in a grass-fed animal is very minimal. However, depending upon what cuts you get and if they are boneless or not will determine the actual yield of meat. A typical yield with a mix of bone-in and boneless cuts is 60-65%. Most often I see the beef about 62.5%. The yak may yield a little higher. There will also be some variation with body type of the animal and the amount of natural muscle. If you are ever concerned about how much beef you got back, please let us know and we can see if it is reasonable or not.

But aren’t I paying more per pound if I get only 60-65% yield? Yes, that is true, but keep in mind you are paying the same as a hamburger price at the store (grain fed in a feedlot and who knows where it came from!!) but getting steaks, roasts, and everything for that hamburger price and it’s a leaner and healthier product for you.  

Q. What is a Yak?

A yak is a bovine that originated in the Himalayan Mountain range. They were domesticated from the wild mountain yaks and acclimated to lower elevations over time. Yaks traditionally have been used for milk, meat, fiber, riding, and packing. They are the perfect pack animals to move supplies to Everest and other base camps. The animals have long horns, horselike tails, long hair, and wool.

We use them for breeding stock and meat but hope to develop the fiber enterprise later. Yaks are smaller than the usual beef and more gentle on the land. They grow slower but live much longer. Yaks are playful, run fast, love to climb, and tend to be more protective of their newborns. They are like having several animals all in one! They do not like dogs, so please leave your pets in your vehicle.

The meat is most similar to beef, but is leaner and tends to be lower in cholesterol and higher in protein. It tastes mild, not gamey. Some say it almost has a sweeter taste. It is hard to describe the difference but the meat is delicious and feels light when you eat it.

Q. What is Holistic Management?

Holistic Management is a decision-making framework based on a single comprehensive “context”. It may be used in any aspect of life or business. The process is especially helpful when dealing with the complexities of the environment. Creating a “holistic context” helps keep social, economic, and environmental balance.

It involves planning, testing decisions, monitoring results, and re-planning as needed. The decision to produce grass-fed beef and yak came from this process.

Q. How does holistic grazing differ from conventional grazing?

Holistic planned grazing takes into account many complex variables such as grass growth rate, plant recovery time, natural cycles, human factors, and the life stage of the animals. The animals are moved to new grass often – usually every day or two – and therefore maintain a high level of nutrition throughout the growing season. A large number of animals graze on a small pasture for a short time before moving to the next pasture eating the forage uniformly and naturally fertilizing the ground. They do not return until the plants have had a chance to recover. The results are more healthy plants and animals, better nutrition, greater production, and improved ecosystem processes, more biological activity in the soil.