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Let them eat grass: grass-fed cows raised in View Royal
David Pollack knows exactly where his beef comes from, his family farm.
“I like having cattle on my farm, they are a very interesting animal. Some people say they are stupid, I wouldn’t go that far, but they certainly aren’t the sharpest animal,” Pollack said.
The View Royal farmer prides himself when a meal on his table is compiled of ingredients grown fewer than 100 metres away. A homegrown meal may include grass-fed steaks with potatoes, carrots and raspberries for dessert.
When it comes time to slaughter a cow, it’s often done on site at the Atkins Road farm.
With B.C. regulations, Pollack can only share is farm-raised beef with family members.
“I would sell a live cow to someone and then whatever happens to that cow when it leaves the farm is none of my business,” Pollack said.
Pollack’s family has farmed the property since 1922, cattle is important to balance the farm, the meat is just a by-product.
A decade ago the farm didn’t have cows for two years due to Pollack’s aging father’s health concerns.
“The farm was unbalanced, we didn’t have enough manure and I had to buy some and then I had unsold hay,” he said.
To sell the meat to the public Pollack would need to have it slaughtered in an inspected facility. The closest abattoir that processes cows is in Cowichan Bay, a trip that would cost $150 per cow. That extra money would be reflected the price of the meat.
“There needs to be a local abattoir,” Pollack said.
Once a year Langford business Glenwood Meats sells a small amount of grass-fed beef to the public. It’s ordered from a farm in Cobble Hill. The November order of 18 sides sold out quickly, said business owner Rick Fisher.
“It could have been timing it was right after the XL beef (recall),” said Fisher. XL Food Inc. recalled thousands of pounds of beef were recalled after E. coli was detected at an Alberta facility, Sept. 4, 2012. The plant was able to resume at the end of October 2012.
While the demand and interest in grass-fed beef is increasing, Fisher said the only way to get more grass-fed beef to the public would be to increase the amount of slaughter facilities available.
Mike Windle operates an abattoir in Metchosin that processes lamb and he sells grass-fed beef at his other business, The Oak Bay Butcher.
In Windle’s butcher shop, grass-fed beef is the only option.
“If they are on grass they have very high levels of omega fatty acids. The saturated fat contains the good cholesterol not the bad,” said the butcher, adding the beef has a higher nutritional level because cows bodies function better when they eat grass as opposed to grain.
A small portion of Windle’s beef is produced locally and his main supplier is in Dawson Creek.
The grain-fed cattle has more fat inside the muscle which creates marbling that many people look for in their meat.
The Metchosin abattoir operates twice a week for lamb, and as much as Windle would like to see the supply and demand of grass-fed beef rise, he said there is still not enough demand in the Capital Regional District for a cattle slaughterhouse.
“For me I would need a whole new building, my ceiling is not high enough for cows,” Windle said. “It’s been slow to catch on. It’s going to be an uphill battle for people to sell something that costs more money.”