Part two of his interview with Ayako Hiyoshi from Sweden, TruBeef Founder, Ken Power talks about the following important topics:
- Sustainable and Regenerative Farming.
- Carbon Footprint and Carbon Neutral Certification.
- Importance of Animal Welfare and Animal Welfare Certification.
- Antibiotics in Beef.
- 100% Grass-fed and Grass-finished Beef.
- Gluten Free and Non-GMO Beef.
- Consumer awareness of sustainable farming
- Increase of food quality from farms.
"high quality standards from clean farming methods that works in unison with Mother Nature"
Ayako: Speaking of carbon, TruBeef is Carbon Neutral Certified. What did you implement in your farming practice to make this possible?
Ken: So, to become Carbon Neutral Certified by the N0Co2 Institute was a formal 2 step auditing process much like two legs on a pair of pants.
Step 1 is auditing all On-Farm Practices and
Step 2 Auditing all the downstream activities beyond the farm, for example, transport, abattoir, shipping, butchering, packaging, and final delivery of orders to our customers.
We recognized from the very start that to do our part for climate control, we must look at our entire carbon footprint in a fully rounded and holistic manner, quite literally from 'Farm to Fork' and not just on the farms, then simply ignore the carbon footprint left by all other activities.
To paraphrase the audit finding of Step 1 (On-Farm) and Step 2 (Downstream Activities):
Step 1: All our farms were shown to be carbon negative through regenerative agriculture, carbon sequestration in soil, low use of farm vehicles, on-farm solar power use, water conservation, and pasture rotational grazing management. An average acre of land sequesters 3.5 tons of Carbon. The natural removal of carbon from the atmosphere and sequestered as soil carbon is accelerated in healthy thriving organic soils full of microflora and fauna.
Image: Sustainable, Rotational Grazing, TruBeef
Step 2: The second leg (slaughter, packaging, shipping, cold storage, delivery to customers) was audited as Carbon Positive which is unsurprising although we make every effort to use recyclable packaging, eco-friendly shipping materials, recyclable insulation. We also aim to keep the waste of our precious meat to an absolute minimum and are committed to nose-to-tail meat butchering where we endeavour to utilize the full animal with as little waste as possible.
Taking the Carbon Footprint of Step 1 and Step 2, our auditors were able to calculate our overall Carbon Footprint. To bring our entire operation back to Carbon Net Neutral, we offset the difference by generating clean wind power to mitigate our overall footprint.
We are certified and audited by the N0CO2 Institute using practices set out by the Kyoto Protocol and are proud to say our overall business is Carbon Footprint is Net-Zero.
We could have stopped at Step 1 for farm activity only, however, this would only be a snapshot and not be taking full responsibility for our overall carbon footprint. We view our carbon neutral certification as our duty plus it is a means to help raise awareness of climate change amongst consumers.
Ayako: TruBeef is also Animal Welfare Certified. What does it take to get this certification?
Ken: Yes, all our farms, facilities, and supply chain are inspected and certified by the Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.)
GAP as it is known in the US is a globally recognized NGO charged with upholding the highest possible animal welfare standards in the world.
The failure rate for GAP certification is high at about 97% due to the high standards, hence why so few operations hold the GAP Welfare standard. This is something we are most proud of for the benefit of our Livestock and our customers.
It is a very detailed process where every element of the farming and downstream supply chain is inspected by an independently appointed inspector on-site. On the farm inspection and verification is what sets GAP apart from other Animal Welfare bodies.
With GAP, every farm is inspected where other well-known Animal Welfare bodies will only inspect a small sample of farms in the region of 10%. After the initial inspection (with GAP), further inspections are carried out at maximum intervals of 15 months and in different seasons.
The Welfare inspector will arrive at short notice and spend a lot of time accessing the animals, their living conditions, their health, feeding regime, inspect all veterinary records, and interviewing the farm manager.
There are several hundred criteria that must be met and demonstrated to the independent inspector before GAP will certify an operation to the level, we have achieved and here are just 10 criteria:
- The animals are inspected and verified to be on pasture and have continual access to clean water.
- No hormones or antibiotic use is permitted.
- No feedlots are permitted.
- Weaning must be done within 6 months.
- Genetically modified or cloned animals are prohibited.
- All cattle must have an overall body condition score (BCS) of 4 or higher.
- Individual cattle must not be separated from the herd unless for medical reasons.
- The use of electric prods is prohibited. When the herd is moved, it must be done in a quiet and stress-free manner.
- Each animal must be traceable since birth on its database.
Removal / tipping of horns is prohibited.
Ayako: You also don´t use antibiotics for your livestock. How is that possible?
Ken: Great question and an important one. Under the rules of our Animal Welfare Certification, if a market animal must be treated with antibiotics, it must be purely for recorded medical reasons and done so by a veterinarian and that specific animal must be identified and removed from the program and not go to market.
It is important to note that antibiotic administration to beef cattle in the US is widespread. The reason for this dependence on antibiotics is large-scale industrial feedlot farming leads to very high levels of lung and gut infections in cattle who are living in highly cramped unsanitary conditions.
These industrial feedlot operations have to resort to heavy antibiotic use to counter these problems and antibiotics administered regularly on a non-therapeutic basis whether the animal has an infection or not.
So why is it possible for us not to have or need antibiotics in our beef cattle? Our cattle are raised in conditions that are the direct opposite of industrial feedlots. Our cattle have space and eat a natural diet on large untainted wide-open pastures.
With such wide-open space and natural diet, we are mimicking Mother Nature and in turn, the incidence of infection is almost non-existent plus the cattle have an optimum immune system.
We are also highly mindful of potential for crossover of antibiotic resistance from animal meats to humans through long term ingestion. More research needs to be done but what research that does exist is worrying for its ultimate effects on human antibiotic resistance and damage to human microbiome.
Most antibiotics use on Beef cattle is nontherapeutic use and therefore most of this is excreted by the cattle and the antibiotics in turn enter the soil and water table.
Soil Microbes are like the microbiome of Mother Nature and antibiotic waste is hurting this balance in our soils also.
Ayako: So your meat is 100% grass-fed and finished. How is that possible?
Ken: With our farms located in Queensland, Australia; the farms are blessed with two unique and key features that make 100% grass-fed framing possible i.e.
- Moderate temperatures that allow cattle to be raised outdoors day and night all year round just as nature intended.
- An abundance of natural wild grasses gives an endless supply of grasses for our cattle to eat. I say ‘grasses,’ plural, as Queensland has over a dozen wild grass species which provides a broad-based diet with diverse fiber densities and nutrients for the cattle to thrive on. This in turn leads to a healthy gut, a healthy well-fed animal which ultimately translates to a clean and natural beef.
Cattle are ruminants, meaning they are genetically predisposed to eating grass. All we do is let Mother Nature do her job and allow the cattle access to grass all day, every day which is what cattle are meant to feed on.
In contrast, if our farms were based in colder Northern Europe or North America for example, the cattle would need to be brought indoors for several months each year as it is just too cold, and generally need to be fed supplementary commercial feeds and grains, as grass stops growing in the late autumn and winter months.
We are lucky that we do not need to do either, hence our cattle are 100% Grass-fed and Grass-finished. Our Animal Welfare body (Global Animal Partnership) also verify that our animals live outdoors on pasture as part of their inspection process which adds an extra layer of assurance to our customers.
Ayako: Your beef is also gluten-free. This may sound strange to some, but please explain why and how you can do this.
Ken: Yes, this will probably sound strange to a European, Australian, or New Zealander. However, in the USA market, meats including beef can be sold in a highly processed pre-packed form. Such highly processed meats can even come in the form of individually packaged steaks or large cuts like corned beef. Such products regularly contain gluten, water, preservatives, and nitrates.
We butcher and pack a clean 100% Grass-fed and Grass-finished product devoid of any of this processing, and with gluten intolerance so widespread in the US, we make it a point to highlight our Organic, Grass-fed and Grass-finished beef is gluten-free.
TruBeef is also Non-GMO Project Verified which is the global gold standard for Non-GMO testing and certifications. Part of their ongoing mandate before they certify and recertify each year is to test for GMOs, grains, and grain allergens.
A lot of our customers have serious allergies such as Crohn's disease and Celiac disease to name a few, so for this reason, we feel morally obligated to reassure our customers that our beef contains no gluten or was ever fed on grains of any description (Non-GMO or otherwise).
Ayako: Is there anything more you´d like to add regarding farming, health, and sustainability?
Ken: It is so heartening to see more consumers becoming aware of the importance and benefits of sustainable, regenerative farming, farm animal welfare, and clean food just as our great-grandparents farmed and ate.
The key driver for ultimate change lies in the hands of consumers, as their awareness and education on these important subjects grow, this will, in turn, put pressure on producers to provide food of high quality standards from clean farming methods that works in unison with Mother Nature. I see social media playing a key role in this consumer education.