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The Omnivore's Dilemma

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Grass Fed

Chapter 10 "Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture" is one of my favorites. In part, that's because it refers to one of my favorite poems, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens. (http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88v/stevens-13ways.html) Even more important, the practice of rotational grazing has a strong appeal for me. Last fall, Kate and I took our freshman seminar class on The Omnivore's Dilemma to Cedar Summit Farm. I hope you know their milk. It's non-homogenized and is sold in glass bottles ... and it tastes great. Dave and Florence Minar practice rotational grazing on Cedar Summit Farm. We had a chance to spend a half hour out in a pasture with their cows. It was a transcendent experience.

One of the interesting things about rotational grazing is that it lets the cows do the work. In that sense, it moves livestock production back closer to nature. That works for the cows and it works for Dave and Florence. On the other had, rotational grazing is a remarkably intensive management practice that requires diligent record keeping, close attention to the condition of the pasture and the cows, and lots of experience and knowledge. In Chapter 10 we also learn about Joel Salatin's notion of "... layering one farm enterprise over another on the same base of land." (p. 215) So while rotational grazing mimics relationships found in nature, it does that in a complex and very consciously human way.

We had buffalo steaks for dinner one night back in early July. They came from Wild Idea Buffalo, a South Dakota Company owned and operated by Dan O'Brien. He's the author of Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hill Ranch, and his Broken Heart Ranch happens to share a fence with the ranch that raised the steer, whose life Michael Pollan traces in Chapter 4. (See mention of O'Brien and his book in the "Sources" section for Chapter 4 on p. 422. The book is terrific ... and so is the buffalo meat.) Buffalo ranching is a big step closer to nature than rotational grazing with cattle. O'Brien was here in Minnesota earlier this month for a buffalo release in Afton. His account of that visit makes good reading. You can find it at http://www.wildideabuffalo.com/newsletter-archives-07-08.html.

2 Comments

Robert,

This is very interesting. I'm going to forward this to my girlfriend, because when we eat meat, we're always looking for the grass-fed variety, because of the sustainabilty angle (or its perception), and the quality that you can taste.

I'm not sure what farm Bryant-Lake Bowl uses, but I had a great grass-fed hamburger there a while ago.

Hey, I wish I'd heard about this while it was still happening! I've read Pollan's books and I think I've finally found religion. We're vastly changing our family's diet, I think we'll be much healthier for it.
Many thanks!