HONEY ROCK DAWN

Sid. And So Much More.

I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, writing this on the blank back page of the phone book. I have a calf in my kitchen, and I’ve spent the majority of the weekend on the kitchen floor, myself. I’ve lost count of how many calves I’ve rescued or bottle fed or warmed back to life with towels and a warm fire, but each time, it feels like the most special responsibility.

sidsue

This calf was born Saturday morning, a twin, and his mother only accepted one calf (which is normal). Mike delivered the calf to me, saying “I know you’re so busy but can you take care of this?” And I was like, “Forget work! Forget email! Forget my Kickstarter! Give me that baby!” And I spent the weekend on the kitchen floor, first drying off the baby with towels, then warming some of my frozen stash of Daisy’s colostrum to bottle-feed him every few hours, then brushing him with a horse brush, then…. I don’t even know. It’s easy to just be with a baby.

I put Chloe on babysitting duty when I managed to tear myself away and retreat to my office. Chloe is slightly smaller than the calf and absolutely in love with him. She licks his face when he is awake and sleeps beside him when he sleeps. I feel it’s important he’s not left completely alone the first few days. This week, he’ll move into the front yard, and later he’ll join the rest of the cows – but I will keep bottle-feeding him.

Yesterday, Mike and were talking about how we wish he could be a kitchen calf forever, and possible names, and he mentioned Sid. Which I loooove. This is Sid. His eyes are iridescent gray.

sidsue2

Totally and completely related: Animal Cruelty Is The Price We Pay For Cheap Meat. If you eat meat, please read this. If you’re vegan and don’t understand why I started Star Brand Beef, please read this. My animals are deeply loved and I care for them with devotion. My mission in life is to give them a stress-free life. To make sure they are able to roam free on pasture and stay healthy on their natural diet of grass and hay. Star Brand Beef is the antithesis of factory-farmed meat. Pay a little bit more, eat a little bit less, and make a HUGE difference in the lives of the animals and the industry at large. Customers create change.

Mike was at the brewery and ran into a man who runs a feedlot in a neighboring town. This man was furious about the “all natural grass fat” trend. He said it was affecting his business. When Mike told me this I jumped for joy. Because I am no longer the only one around here doing what I’m doing. There are now a number of other local ranchers building their own niche businesses and keeping their cattle from going to feedlots. The fact that this kind of change is happening in my rural Wyoming county, to the extent that the local (albeit small) feedlot is feeling the effect? This is THRILLING.

HERE is my Star Brand Beef delivery route. Get yourself a chest freezer. Order the best, in bulk. Trust me, you’ll never go back to grocery store meat.

My Kickstarter ends Friday! If you would like any of the rewards – the postcard pack, the silk cowboy scarf, the Wyoming care package, a hand-painted skull – BACK THE KICKSTARTER! I will not, repeat, will not have these items in my Shop after the Kickstarter! Or, if you’d like to adopt a cow, you can do that through my Kickstarter, too. Sid is a perfect example. He will never be Star Brand Beef because milk replacer (baby formula for calves) is not organic. He will never be sold into The System because I just can’t do that. He will be among our Special Project cattle. As I state in my Kickstarter: They each take on valuable roles within the herd. This isn’t a “cost efficient” way to run a ranch (because it’s part animal sanctuary), but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Collected Thoughts

Star Brand Beef

Last night, I set up the blog page on my Star Brand Beef website and copied over some relevant posts regarding my philosophy behind Star Brand Beef.

I enjoyed re-reading these posts, some dating back to 2012, and thought you might, too. This one is my favorite – and even though it’s four years old, I vividly remember writing it, and it still holds true.

My Star Brand Beef Kickstarter!

STAR BRAND BEEF KICKSTARTER

I lauched a Kickstarter! Click HERE to check it out!

What is a Kickstarter? Some use it for fundraising, some use it for pre-orders. I am using it for both! My goal is to get a reefer trailer for Star Brand Beef deliveries. I am offering some great rewards – special edition products I have never had in my shop before and will likely not have again. The Kickstarter lasts for one month. Then, poof!

I put my heart and soul into this. I really hope you enjoy the video and will help me spread the word. I don’t consider this Kickstarter to be just about me and Star Brand Beef – I hope it will help spread the message and mission of humanely-raised meat and continue to “kickstart” that conversation. Har har. I launched the Kickstarter yesterday to the Star Brand Beef mailing list, and we’ve already met my goal! And we made it to the “What’s Popular” food page on the Kickstarter site! This is really thrilling. Anything and everything the Kickstarter brings, above and beyond the goal amount, will go straight into improving and expanding Star Brand Beef.

I apologize in advance for the Kickstarter pimping I’ll be doing for the next month – as I said, I put my heart and soul into this and I want to see it fly. If you’re not on the Star Brand Beef delivery route, or if you don’t eat meat but want to help change the status quo of the industry, please consider checking out my Kickstarter, backing it if you see something you like, and sharing the link. I’m hoping the the Kickstarter will be a catalyst for discussion and contribute to the expanding awareness of the conventional meat industry, of feedlots, of the treatment of the animals that produce and become our food, and how all of that needs to change. I want people – consumers and ranchers alike – to see that there are other options, really great options that support the autonomy of ranchers and the welfare of animals and the environment.

And just in case I haven’t offered enough links, click HERE to visit my Kickstarter!

If you’re interested in ordering Star Brand Beef and missed the email blast yesterday, here’s the latest and greatest:

★ 2016 DELIVERY ROUTES ★
The 2016 delivery routes are posted HERE. Chicago, I’m coming back! Phoenix, I’m coming back! California, I’ll always love you! With a successful Kickstarter, I hope to be able to do SO MUCH MORE in coming years, including more routes and smaller FedEx orders.

★ BUTCHERY APPRENTICESHIP ★
This winter, I spent a few weeks apprenticing with my butcher. What an education. I learned so much! I’ve made some changes to the standard mini and quarter order cut lists based on my new knowledge. You can see the cut lists for mini and quarter orders HERE. As always, half and whole beef orders may be fully customized by the customer, and I am happy to answer any questions or give suggestions if needed/desired.

★ 2016 ORDERING ★
My early bird beef specials on the Kickstarter sold out almost instantaneously – but my exceptional, humanely-raised beef and lamb is still available through my Star Brand Beef website and Shop. If you gather a few “partners in dine” and split a whole or half together, you will get the same discounted pricing as the early bird specials!

Pricing on smaller orders went up this year. It had to happen; I’ve been staving it off as long as I could. I really like the pricing situation I came up with: larger orders come with larger savings. You can still get my original, heavily discounted pricing when ordering a whole beef, and darn close to it when ordering a half.

If you are on a budget: Gather everyone you know and go in on a whole or half together!  It’s so do-able. Cooperation is my new obsession and motto – it makes the impossible possible! I am happy to cut whole beef orders the same way I cut minis to make it super easy to split up amongst a big group once you get it. Eight people at $690 each = the same amount of beef as a mini, per person, at a huge discount. With a half beef, you only need three other people.

And lamb is back for the second year! And it is already almost sold out…. so, please act quickly if you’d like lamb.

Thank you all, so much – none of this would be possible without your support and enthusiasm and encouragement and your trust in me.

THE KICKSTARTER

THE STAR BRAND BEEF WEBSITE

THE STAR BRAND BEEF SHOP

Star Brand Beef 2015

It’s that time of year again! I’m thrilled to announce that Star Brand Beef is back, and ordering has opened for August delivery. The 2015 delivery route will be: Bozeman, Seattle, Poulsbo, Portland, Sacramento, Alameda, San Jose, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, with quick stops on I-5 in Olympia, Eugene, Redding, and Paso Robles. I’m also working on a possible mid-August delivery to Southern WY and Denver. All details, including delivery dates and ordering info, can be found on the Star Brand Beef website, HERE.

Also coming ’round this time of year are comments from those who are confused by the seeming contradiction of how much I love cows and how I provide beef for those who choose to eat it. And I would like to continue to explain why this is actually not a contradiction, and how one informs the other. (Previous posts on this topic can be found here, here, here, and here.)

I did not set out to be a rancher. But when I moved to Wyoming, which is cattle country, I saw thousands of calves being shipped off to feedlots every year when they were about nine months old. I heard the bawling of the calves and their mothers when they were separated – the sound travels for miles. And I knew feedlots to be cow concentration camps – the truth about feedlots should be common knowledge by now. Why, oh why, if I loved cows, would I stand by and do nothing? How, being that I was in a position to keep some of those calves from going to feedlots, could I not act, not do something?

When I buy calves from Mike, I keep those calves from entering The System: from going to feedlots, from being contained in pens filled with their own waste, from feed that is unnatural and makes them sick, from alleged abuse from workers, from an existence that is unequivocally and undeniably horrendous.

I do not keep them from transitioning to food. I don’t have the land, the money, nor the arrogance to do this – I believe that people who choose to eat meat deserve an option that is healthy and humane. I eat meat, about one meal a week, but I would continue to do this work even if I were 100% vegetarian. As long as I am able, and as long as people and/or their pets eat meat, I will humanely raise free-ranging, grass-finished beef.

Since they do transition to food, the lives of my beef cattle are short, this is true. But those lives are so completely free – free from stress, free from worry, free from hardship of any kind. For the entire course of their lives, they remain in a family unit, a family herd. They are given hundred- to thousand-acre pastures to roam and graze (land, I might add, that can’t raise other crops due to location and lack of irrigation). They drink water that is cleaner and purer than what most people have access to. They never go hungry, they never have to search for food. And they are treated gently and respectfully.

Mike and I prioritize calm and gentle behavior with our animals. We practice low-stress weaning, separating the cows from their calves but keeping them adjacent, separated by only a fence, so that they may smell, see, and hear one another while the calves transition to grass and hay and the cows dry off. There is no bawling, and the calves do not get sick from stress. When we sort or trail our cattle, we work with them on their time frame, not ours. We allow them to sniff the horse trailer or the squeeze chute and make the decision to enter on their own, rather than hitting them or using a hot shot to force them forward. Mike and I do not use, or even own, hot shots. Hot shots are cattle prods, like a taser for cows, and you would be shocked (no pun intended) by how often they are used.

This is why it’s so important to establish relationships with the people who raise the food you eat – whenever and wherever it’s possible – whether it’s eggs, dairy, or meat. It’s important to go deeper than the label, and find producers who practice a philosophy that aligns with yours. Buying grass-finished meat at Whole Foods is a great start. It is so much better for you, for the animals, and for the environment than conventional feedlot meat. But if the humane treatment of animals is important to you, it takes more work, more diligence. A lot of ranchers love and respect their stock. But not all of them do. Humane treatment is not a given, not yet.

Not everyone can drive down the road and chat with the person who raises the chickens that lay the eggs they eat, but there are other steps that can be taken. Just talking about the humane treatment of animals is a huge and essential step! Change begins with a conversation. And as consumers change their habits, markets change in response.

These market shifts are happening already. In the last five years, there has been an increase in calf buyers who are taking calves to giant grass pastures, and not straight into feedlots, because they see consumers choosing pastured beef. The more conversations we have, and the more choices we make that honor the humane treatment of the animals that become our food, the more change we can inspire industry-wide. We have a long way to go, but we are making strides with every choice we make about what we eat, what we buy, how we buy, and how we think and talk about food.

More information & resources:
@Defending Beef twitter feed
: The case for sustainable meat – the manifesto of an environmental lawyer & vegetarian turned cattle rancher, a great link and info round-up
Consumer Guide for Boycotting Factory Farms
: via Organic Consumers Association
Feedlot/Grass-based beef comparison & terms
: via The Cornucopia Institute
Star Brand Beef
: Humanely-raised grass-finished beef

Star Brand Beef Expands

Star Brand Beef is back for a third year, and exciting things are happening! This summer, I will be delivering both West and East, and I have another rancher on board supplying beef. This is a big leap forward.

Honestly, after losing Frisco, it was really hard for me to get back into “work mode.” I spent most of February and March living at the barn caring for him, and much of April in bed mourning him. I didn’t feel I had the drive to organize and coordinate sales and delivery of not only my beef, but an enthusiastic neighboring rancher’s as well. But thinking about the current meat industry (you know I despise it) and my desire to keep these steers away from feedlots and commercial packers ignited some inner reserve. And you did, too: your support of Star Brand Beef for the past two years and your desire for healthy, humanely-raised beef gave me the mental push I needed.

MINI BEEF: I have another local rancher on board. I’ve know him for years; I taught his daughter in my classes when I subbed at the school, and Mike and I buy hay from him each year. He primarily raises sheep, but has a small herd of cows – quite literally! They are mini black Angus, and are about half the size of my steers. This makes it easier for him to raise among his sheep (they eat less grass and hay than my full-sized steers) and is a boon for you, as customers: a quarter mini-beef is just over half the size of a quarter of my beef. Perfect for individuals who eat meat less frequently or those with less freezer space.

Over the past two years, I have shared with him the standards and practices that both you and I expect: no GMO feed, humane treatment, and open pasture for his cattle. He has the means and the temperament to comply with these terms. What excites me, about bringing him on board and offering his beef to you, is that this is the next essential step in shifting the industry. He saw the success I’ve had in bucking the traditional system, and already held the belief that this new method is better for the animals, the environment, the rancher, and the customer. As others in our community see him making this shift (a local! a man born into the Wyoming ranching life!), I know they will begin to consider their place on this road, as well. You, out there, have paved the way for us out here, through your support of individual farmers and ranchers over the industrial model of Big Ag and your respect for the lives of these animals. And I thank you.

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