“When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom put food on the table, a dad pay a mortgage or a student pay for college.”-Unknown
If you are a small livestock producer you are probably in the same boat as our family on the Backwoods Buffalo Ranch. You have most likely been consistently asked “why are your meats more costly than the supermarket?” If you are a consumer looking to purchase farm raised products and are wanting to support someone local, you have probably been the one asking the question AND that’s great! As small producers we LOVE when the question arises and have been receiving it more often as individuals are starting to become more and more aware of our current food system. We believe in building transparency around the way we, and other small farmers raise our animals and want people to know exactly what they are putting on their plate.
At the Backwoods Buffalo Ranch we believe in the motto “know your farmer, know your food.” It is the first and foremost advantage that you receive when purchasing meat from a local farmer. You, as a consumer get to directly converse and meet the individuals who are raising your food. You can directly ask questions regarding how the animal was raised, how it lived or died, what living conditions it spent its life in and the most common question we get…”Was the animal happy?”
It is important for producers such as we to be able to answer these questions with confidence and build trust around the products that we present. This is OUR business, we want to make sure that our consumers have a great experience, tell all of their friends about it and optimally come back to purchase more.
When you purchase products from small farms…knowing from experience, I can guarantee you that as soon as that product goes from our hands to yours we have some anxiety and hope that you appreciate the hard work and love that went into that animal just as much as we did to consume our time and effort into producing it for your family.
As producers we are seeing a food crisis in regards to the majority of consumers having limited information as to where their food comes from, flash sales and highly mass produced products; the majority of it being “food like substances.” We believe that everyone should have access to good quality whole foods and the knowledge to make decisions regarding purchasing and consuming said foods. Navigating this world definitely has it’s challenges on all fronts.
When purchasing meat from the supermarket for instance you may be able to buy lower quantities and on a weekly special. You may think that you are saving money and getting a “bang for your buck.” And I guarantee you, I have felt the same. In years past I have filled our freezers with supermarket meats at low-costs but not without sacrifice of quality, color, taste and flavour. It was when we started raising our own food and becoming a community resource that I really began creating my own consumer mindset in regards to food, “Would I eat this? Do I enjoy this?” As producers and consumers purchasing and raising these products we need to revert back to the questions of the educated consumer and ask ourselves where our money is going and how nutritionally dense these products really are? Where did this animal come from? What were they fed? How were they transported? Did they ever see the light of day? Growth Hormones? Antibiotics? Etc.
Buying meat from supermarket chains likely but not in all circumstances means that the animals were mass produced in a factory farm setting, under government subsidies; where they can ultimately produce as much meat as possible. You do not have the opportunity to ask the meat department manager any questions directly regarding how that animal was raised, because they do not know…(they are hired to cut the primals or large cuts of meat into smaller pieces for direct sale and consumption from us, the consumer.) There is nothing wrong with this method, as a society who is consistently expanding we need farms like this to continue to feed the world; after all “farms feed families” regardless of the size and that’s just how the world goes round.
However if you are an individual who prefers to “put their money, where their mouth is” quite literally, buying from a small farm may be more up your “range road.” It may initially cost you a higher buck, as small producers typically raise smaller amounts of animals, in the most humane ways possible and therefore typically have higher introductory, managment and feed costs and ultimately longer turnover rates. We typically tell our consumers that buying a quarter, half or whole animal is an investment. You need to be equipped with freezer capacity and meal turnover to make it substantial for your family but in the long run, it can actually save you money and the most exceptional element is; time. For many consumers buying a share of an animal isn’t an option but many farmers such as we, also offer individual cuts at a higher but more convenient price which is still so valuable dollar wise and substantial nutrient wise.
As small producers these are a few things that we can guarantee your dollar buys you:
-you are supporting your local economy.
-you have the opportunity to experience the environment in which your animal is raised. (With exception to farms with high biosecurity.)
-you are guaranteed quality control, as in if you’re happy: the farmers are ecstatic.
-you can evaluate how the animal was raised, how it died, how it was initially harvested, how it was transported, how it gets wrapped and ultimately makes its way to your freezer and to your plate. (meaning: you can enlighten yourself in regards to; if that animal lived a happy life, with only one bad day.)
-you can shop around and find farms that support your wishes regarding feed regimens and practices.
-you can guarantee that the product is fresh.
-you can guarantee the integrity of the animal.
-you can put a face to the person whom had an emotional or financial attachment to that animal and guarantee that at the end of the day, they want YOU to be happy, or it’s their business, livelihood and family that suffers.
Basically, the moral of the story is: put your money where your mouth is, literally. Get to know your farmer and get to know your food.
With utmost love and respect to farmers and ranchers everywhere. And equally as much to our consumers, we hope that you continue to research what is making it’s way onto your plate and ultimately hope to be YOUR farmer.
For more information and Pricing on our Locally Raised, Happy Alberta Grass Fed and Finished Bison, Outdoor Raised Pork and Free- Range Eggs, feel free to follow our Family Ranch on Facebook: @Backwoodsbuffaloranch
Ps. It is illegal to put meats into our food system that have recently been treated with antibiotics… and inhumane for farmers not to treat animals that require said antibiotics but that is a whole different conversation.