|Photo by Lucius Fontenot|
|A happy cow at Gonsoulin Land & Cattle|
Local grass-fed beef is gaining popularity nationally and Acadiana is following suit. Locally pastured beef producers Brookshire Farm, Gonsoulin Land & Cattle and Rolling R Ranch are seeing an increase in pastured beef sales because of the many benefits to our health, economy and environment. And consumers are beginning to take interest in the treatment of the cattle they are consuming and who is raising it as well.
“I feel like our family benefits in so many ways from buying local meat,” says Megan Romer, a mother and local foods consumer. “The meat we buy locally comes from animals who have been raised and slaughtered humanely, fed the correct food for their species — chickens eat grubs, cows eat grass, and so on. Local meat is the healthier choice, and it aligns better with our morals.”
Stores are also beginning to notice an increased consumer demand for local pastured beef. Recently, Rouses Supermarkets began selling Gonsoulin Land & Cattle beef at 18 of their stores. Traditionally these products have only been available from farmer’s markets or through direct order from the farmer. “The availability of our beef in a supermarket will make it easier for consumers to purchase healthy, local products,” says Shannon Gonsoulin, a veterinarian and owner of Gonsoulin Land & Cattle.
Brookshire Farm, Gonsoulin Land & Cattle and Rolling R Ranch are all raising their beef hormone- and antibiotic-free. Grass-fed cows are less stressed because their bodies digest grasses better than grains. Grains alter the pH of the cow’s manure causing a breeding ground for E. Coli, which is commonly linked to food-borne illnesses and outbreaks because manure is a popular soil fertilizer for the fruits and vegetables we eat.
For Brookshire Farm co-owner Anne Blanchet, raising cattle is a science. She plants her pastures with native grass species and carefully selects refined forages, which help to enhance the taste of the meat. “Pastured beef’s distinctive flavor comes from healthy soil, nutritious plants, clean water and the weather seasons,” says Blanchet. “The flavor of [our] beef is enhanced by our management practices. Our animals are selected to be able to fatten on grass.”
In addition to consumer health, the local economy and environment are shown to benefit from beef raised and purchased locally because money is being kept within parish and state boundaries and going back into the pockets of Acadiana residents. And meats raised within Acadiana are not trucked long distances, decreasing the carbon footprint of the operations.
“We know every cow in our pasture and many of the consumers who purchase our beef,” says Gonsoulin. “It is a very rewarding process to know that the beef and associated revenue will stay in our region and benefit our community members’ health and the economy.”
Tyler F. Thigpen is a wetland ecologist and president of Acadiana Food Circle (www.AcadianaFoodCircle.org), a community-based nonprofit that connects local food producers to consumers.