November meetings have become the month where we both give gratitude for the abundant opportunities and connections within our real food community around the dinner table and the month where we recap memories of the annual Wise Traditions Conference. This year, we had an added bonus of a return visit from Primal Pastures & Pasturebird co-founder Paul Grieve.
Paul first spoke to our chapter in 2013 when Primal Pastures was only a year old with their property in Temecula. Since then, the farm has expanded in the animals they raise and moved to a larger farm in Murrieta. Paul, along with his farm manager Dan Coady, focused this time on what so many of these meat product labels really mean. As more people want to know where their food comes from, we are seeing more options for sustainable meats and poultry. Or so we believe. Paul explained that not all natural products are created equally.
Paul stressed the importance of not just looking at what the label says, but actually going to visit the farm to see if it’s as humane and sustainable as the companies makes themselves out to be. As we vote with our wallet, we need to make sure we know the meaning behind what the products say.
Paul brought up the common labels we see and what the requirements are for these labels. Free range simply means the chickens have access to the outdoors. That could be an open window. They may however stay in cramped conditions indoors and never see the light of day outside. Antibiotic free animals can actual be given antibiotics every day as long as they test below the needed inspection level. To be labeled grass fed, an animal only needs to eat grass one day of its life. It by no ways means that beef was raised 100% on grass during its life.
So with all of the confusion in labels, it’s important to know your farmers. Paul explained that the Primal Pastures chickens don’t receive any antibiotics or hormones. He also explained the importance of not only raising his animals on pastures, but rotating where the animals are grazing. It’s important to prevent overgrazing by systematically moving the animals to different areas of the farm in order to effectively replenish the grasslands.
Making the grass on the farm fertile again was another important part of Paul’s regenerative mission. Paul talked about how his farm began and how the previous tenants of the farm were growing monocultures of potatoes. The potatoes had depleted the soil. Paul shared before and after photos of his property. When they first arrived at the property, the grass was brown and dying. The after photos showed that once holistic farm practices were put in place, the grass began looking green, lush, and healthy.
People in attendance were very engaged in Paul’s talk and responded with thoughtful questions and discussion of the points he brought up. As Paul reiterated the importance of knowing your farmer, he let all those at the potluck know they were welcome to visit Primal Pastures and take the tour.
Between our meal and Paul’s presentation, we showed photos from the most recents Wise Traditions conference in Baltimore, MD. Chapter leaders Karen Voelkening-Behegan, Joy de los Santos Farrar, and Aaron Zober along with Rolf Halstrup and his daughter Lillemor Ross from North Carolina were able to attend. The slide show consisted of the attendees from all over the world, the speakers, the exhibitors, the tour of Sally Fallon’s farm, and of course the wonderful nutrient dense food served there.
Additional contribution to the article by Joy de los Santos Farrar.