Farm Blog

The Bacon Dilemma

Most of you know that we don’t have bacon in stock a lot of the time. We currently raise 25 pigs a year to keep most cuts of pork in stock at all times and sell some sides to people who like to buy in bulk. On a pig there are several areas and where the bacon comes from is called the belly. It is then smoked and sliced into bacon. We also started getting bacon made out of the shoulder and loin (back bacon) which is very tasty but it’s just not the same as belly bacon. A belly on our pigs is about 20 pounds and the entire carcass of a pig for us is typically 160 pounds.

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Since bacon is a super popular cut for us we only seem to have it in stock for a few months of the year because when we get it back from our butcher it just flys out of display case at the market. Every time we get bacon back it seems to be sold out faster and faster because most of you have realized this and like to stock up. It is also popular with people that attend the market occasionally but aren’t regulars. They see the bacon as they are walking by and decide to get it as a treat. As thankful as I am to be able to sell bacon very fast it can also be very frustrating. When I am sold out of something and then get asked for it I feel bad. I don’t like to disappoint my customers because your support means a lot to me. When I explain to people that pigs are only abut 12% bacon and that I need to sell the rest of the pig too I usually get a laugh from people and then they walk away. I need everyone’s support if they want more bacon to be available because the more pork I sell the more pigs I can raise and more bacon for everyone!

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I know many farmers and anyone else who sells meat has problems with supply and demand of certain products. Part of why I sell my meat is because I like educating people about where their food comes from. Not many people realize that you can only do so many things with each part of a carcass and that you have to eat the whole thing so that nothing goes to waste. So this week at the farmers market I encourage you to try something you’ve never had before while picking up your favorite cuts. I cook everything I sell except organs so if you want cooking tips just ask!

Written by Susan Hamilton, Owner/Operator

Who is Wild Pasture Farm?

Wild Pasture Farm is me, Susan Hamilton, and my husband Fabian Hamilton. We operate on Fabian's parents dairy and sheep farm in Lower Onslow, NS. Wild Pasture farm was a dream started by me when I moved to Fabian's family's farm in June 2014. I was farming at home in the valley selling my grass fed beef, and free run pork and eggs before I moved to Lower Onslow but more about why I started grass fed farming in anther blog.

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Me with my first grass fed beef!

This business is my full time job. I do all the daily chores, selling in our store and at the Truro farmers market, butcher runs, feed runs, social media, pasture moves, etc. Fabian works full time with his parents but does my maintenance, book keeping, and is always ready with advice if I ask him for it. Farming with your spouse can be pretty tough at times but he's leanred to stay out of my way and we will get along just fine haha!

 Me and Fabian

Me and Fabian

Since we operate on Fabian's parents farm they are always there to offer advice and help when we need it. Fabian's dad is excellent at helping us build our portable animal structures and his mom is great at helping us with business stuff such as banking. We are very fortunate to be able to use their land and equipent in exchnage for meat.

 Our hen's pasture coop which Fabian's dad built for us.

Our hen's pasture coop which Fabian's dad built for us.

Wild Pasture farm would also not exist without my family in the valley because right now my beef cattle are still at home. Until we have space for them in Truro, my family takes care of my cattle for me and I am always eager to go visit at home every once in awhile. We buy weaned piglets and meat chicks from them as well.

 Me visitng my cattle at my family's farm in Grand Pre, NS.

Me visitng my cattle at my family's farm in Grand Pre, NS.

So next time you see me at the farmers market please don't just think I am there selling someones meat which what a lot of people like to assume. People also like to say "oh, that's the Hamilton's" (kind of but not really). Wild Pasture Farm is owned and operated by me and yes, I have lots of help but I want my customers to know that the woman selling you you're meat is the one who's in charge and doing the work!

Written by Susan Hamilton

What does grass fed, pasture raised, organic, etc. all mean???

There are so many different terms used for food today and it can be quite confusing for consumers. Some terms can be backed up by certification such as organic and some are up to the farmers to do what they are actually promoting such as grass fed. Today I'm going to break down some of these terms for you.

Grass fed: This term can only be used for ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats. Those animals stomachs are deigned to eat grass and get all the nutrition they need and to grow off of. Grass fed means no grain what so ever at any point in their life. There is also the term grass finished which means the animals were cut off grain towards the end of their life depending on what the farmer likes to say their finishing period is but that is not the same as grass fed. All cattle eat grass or hay/silage but some farmers supplement with grain to help finish them quicker which is refereed to as just regular beef or grain fed beef.

 Finising beef cattle on pasture.

Finising beef cattle on pasture.

Pasture raised- This term is used for pork and poultry that are on pasture and get moved to fresh grass daily or as often as they need to (weekly, twice weekly). Pork and poultry are simple stomached animals like us and do require grain to grow since they can only get about 30% maximum of what they need nutritionally from grass just like how we couldn't survive eating just lettuce.

 Meat chickens in a "chicken tractor" which gets moved daily.

Meat chickens in a "chicken tractor" which gets moved daily.

Free range- This term is used for pork or poultry that are outside in an area but they stay there all season long. To me free range is not as good as pasture raised because the area the animals are in quickly gets dirty and there will be little to no grass for the animals to consume making the meat not as nutritious as when animals always have access to some greenery.  The manure build up is harmful to the environment and can make the animals sick as well.

Free run- This is a term for animals housed in a barn but are loosely housed as in not in cages.

 In the winter our hens are free run.

In the winter our hens are free run.

Certified Organic- In order to use the term organic you must be certified (in NS anyway) which means you pay a certifying body to come out and inspect your farm in order to get the certification. Just because your animals are certified organic does not mean they are out roaming in nice pastures all the time either. Large poultry farms can be certified organic just because they feed organic feed and have an area their birds can go out into.

Natural- This term means absolutely nothing and is up to the farmer using this term to define what they mean by it. It always bothers me when I see the term natural used to describe beef that aren't grass fed because there is nothing natural about feeding grain to cattle.

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion around food. The only way to really know what you are eating is to know your farmer, maybe visit the farm and then follow them on social media if they have an account. Any farmer who is telling the truth should be proud to talk about their farm and show you lots of pictures.

Written by Susan Hamilton

 

Our Winter Hen Set Up

I often get asked at the farmers market for free range eggs in the winter and I always say "no, my hens are in the barn from November to April". Why do I not let my hens outside in the winter? There are many reasons but my first answer is that they wouldn't lay much. Since I have hens to make the farm money I need them to lay eggs regularly. Hens need at 14-16 hours of light or their body thinks that means the weather is not suitable for hatching chicks which wouldn’t survive so their body tells their hormones not to lay eggs.

 Hens in the barn for the winter

Hens in the barn for the winter

Another reason why I keep my hens inside in the winter is that they don't do as well in the cold. Hens need to stay warm or all of their energy would go into making body heat instead of using it for producing eggs. Plus they eat more feed in the winter to produce that extra body heat. They could also get frostbite on their combs and wattles which is poor animal welfare.

Lastly, it would be bad for the environment. In the summer we rotate our hens on pasture using portable electric fencing and once the ground is frozen we wouldn't be able to put the fence posts in the ground. If they stayed in one spot it would eventually turn to muck and there would be too much manure in one area. The birds would also get sick from always being exposed to too much manure. On a backyard scale this would work but we have 90 hens so they always have to keep moving from paddock to paddock.

 The hens on pasture in May

The hens on pasture in May

I hope you enjoyed our first blog,

Susan