In addition to traditional beef which is raised on forages plus home-grown grain, our farm raises grass fed beef too.
Grass fed beef comes from cattle fed on a diet of only grass and legume forage. It’s prized for higher levels of omega-3s and other good fats – just like you’ll find in cold water ocean fish. Lab studies prove that the benefits of 100% grass-fed beef are real, but Pure Island beef also has something that most other grass-fed beef doesn’t. Our beef has enough fat for full flavour and dry aging. This is rare in the grass-fed world, and it makes a big difference. Click to see what full dry aging is all about.
Although the people use the term “grass fed”, we actually prefer “grass finished”. This refers to the feeding that happens as our cattle are getting ready to be processed. Our unique approach to raising cattle means our 100% grass-finished beef is capable of being aged 30 days, and this delivers better flavour and tenderness. But it takes more than just feeding cattle any old kind of grass to make this happen.
Dry hay is a mainstay of winter feeding in beef cattle farming. But typical dry hay is simply not nutritious enough to pack on the required pounds and the right amount of marbling and fat cover to allow the dry aging that creates our signature taste and tenderness. That’s why we raise our grass finished beef differently.
Consistent and nutritious feeding year-round is key to the tenderness, marbling and terrific taste of our premium 100% grass-finished beef. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. Great pasture provides outstanding nutrition during the summer, but winter presents a challenge. Ordinary hay will maintain cattle during cold weather, but it won’t grow the kind of beef we stake our reputation on. That’s why we’ve developed a grass feeding program that delivers optimal nutrition to our cattle year-round, not just during the grazing season when the grass is green. Here’s how we graze and winter-feed:
Proper grazing is gentle on the land, it uses no fossil fuels, it’s good for the farm and it’s good for the cattle. That’s why we make full use of rotational grazing on Manitoulin pastures from May to late fall. Great pastures really are the best food for cattle when it’s available. We pasture hundreds of acres of land and we make full use of this option whenever we can. Some of our pasture has shallow, mineral-rich soil, but lack of depth means it can’t be used for any other kind of food production. Cattle turn this land into high quality protein.
While cattle are grazing, we’re busy making dry hay plus a special winter feed called “haylage”. We make it by harvesting our best hay stands early in the summer season when it is most nutrient dense, then packing the forage in an oxygen-free environment while it’s still partly moist. Haylage is the next best thing to summer grazing, and it’s our secret for producing a year-round supply of 100% grass-finished beef with enough fat and marbling for weeks of dry aging. That’s what makes Pure Island grass finished beef simply the best there is, and we do it without grains.
Dry aging is to beef what careful cellaring is to fine wine. It’s the process of letting sides of our grass finished beef hang undisturbed in a refrigerated space for weeks on end, allowing the natural enzymes to relax meat fibres while also enhancing beef flavour.
Does dry aging really matter? Absolutely! It makes an enormous difference in the eating experience, but not all beef is capably of being dry aged. Only meat with marbling and sufficient fat cover, or ‘finish’, can be dry aged in the first place. And even then it takes skill and patience to make it happen properly. Learn more about our dry aging process here.
Yes, we tenderness test our Pure Island beef! Some animals are genetically predisposed to have more tender meat than others, and we look for this trait with DNA sampling. We then use the cattle with these genetics in our herd.
And because our family also loves eating both our traditional and grass fed beef ourselves, we consider ourselves the best "quality control"!