For most of human history, our relationship with cattle has been about the foods they produce: milk, meat and cheese. Today, a new bovine "product" has captured our interest and may indeed affect the future production of the others. This new product is gas. Cow burps are the most recent in the list of accused contributors to global warming from the livestock sector. However, a simple measurement of methane production does not tell the whole story. A new report by the Soil Association reevaluates greenhouse gas production in agriculture, taking into account the grazing system - not just the "end product." This controversy erupted in recent years as figures emerged about agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. As we discussed in our November 16, 2009 blog, "Beware of Bad Science," grassfed cattle actually produce fewer emissions than those finished in feedlots, simply because of the carbon sequestration in their pasture-based systems. The new Soil Association report confirms this and adds new data to support the position.
Alex and Kelsey Karol raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW), Certified Grassfed by AGW sheep at Outlaw Valley Ranch in Templeton, California. Alex and Kelsey are both first generation farmers who gained years of experience working on farms and ranches in preparation for managing their own operation. “Neither one of us grew up farming or ranching, but we both had a passion for the land and working with our hands,” says Alex. “Unhappy with industrial agriculture and the environmental devastation we knew it was causing, we wanted to be more connected to our food.”
Outlaw Valley Ranch, located 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County, consists of grasslands dotted with oak trees—perfect rangeland for their flock of Navajo-Churro sheep. “The Navajo-churro breed is well-adapted to our dry climate,” says Kelsey. “They are incredibly hardy and possess great parasite and disease resistance. They handle the heat and cold very well, and they are excellent mothers. Their hardiness and ability to survive and thrive on a variety of forages makes them ideal for our program. At the end of the day, however, what we love most about them is their beautiful multi-colored wool and delicious meat!”
For Alex and Kelsey, some of the most foundational aspects of their management practices is the great care they put toward animal and land management. “We are grass farmers first. If the soil is healthy, the grass is healthy, the sheep are healthy, the birds are healthy, and so are we who eat their meat.” The sheep are rotationally managed, grazing one section of land before being moved to fresh grazing and ranging land. This type of management allows forage to recover before sheep return to graze again; it also keeps the soil properly fertilized and minimizes the build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments.
In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the flock of sheep at Outlaw Valley Ranch is Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and Certified Grassfed by AGW lamb from Outlaw Valley Ranch is available at the Atascadero Farmers Market in the Sunken Gardens as well as the Cambria Farmers Market. Half and whole lamb along with specialty products such as lamb sausages are available for online order with shipping to Western states. Sheepskins and wool from the ranch’s AGW-certified sheep are also available for order online with delivery across the United States. Visit AGW’s online directory for more details. For more information about Outlaw Valley Ranch, visit outlawvalleyranch.com, follow the flock on Facebook and Instagram or contact Alex and Kelsey Karol at email@example.com and (617) 947-3561.