For our grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, duck and pork, nutritional integrity comes from grazing rotationally on diverse, fresh pasture including vitamin- and protein-rich forages, seeds and insects. Research shows that pasture-raised meat and eggs tend to be lower in overall and saturated fat and cholesterol while containing more OMEGA-3s and more vitamins like A, E, and beta-carotene.
For our pasture-raised chickens, ducks and pigs, nutritional integrity also comes from a diverse mix of clean, unmedicated grain and seed, which we ferment to increase digestibility. Most is certified organic or organically grown and locally grown and milled in southwest Ontario, and all is non-GMO and contains no chemical residues. Research shows that diverse feed has healthier (lower) OMEGA6:3 ratios.
Pasture-raised animals exercise their muscles so the meat tends to be richly flavoured and better retains moisture while cooking. And you can enjoy the scrumptious pasture-raised fat knowing it is chocked-full of healthful fats and vitamins. Because pasture-raised meat is not overly fatty or injected with solutions like conventional meat, it cooks differently. Read our cooking tips for pasture-raised meat, recipe ideas and kitchen primers to help you get full value and enjoyment out of pasture-raised meat.
Three Ridges is an agroecosystem with integrated livestock such that the humane nature of our husbandry and ecological integrity of our management are intimately tied to the animals’ role on the land: animals live outside on pasture in a way that they can express their natural behaviours under stress-free conditions. The best way we have to describe this integration is by describing the animals’ lives, which we write about below.
Our laying hens live full lives on pasture as precocious foragers. They roost in a mobile coop that moves around pasture and lay beautiful light brown eggs with deep orange yolks – a sure sign of the green they eat!
We raise two chicken breeds for meat: the standard White Rock (Cornish Cross) and Heritage line aka Nova Free Ranger, a cross derived from European heritage breeds that is better adapted to living on pasture. Once they are feathered out, White Rocks live on pasture in mobile enclosures that are moved daily; Heritage line chickens live within electric fencing that is moved after they graze a paddock. Meat birds live relatively short but meaningful lives, providing fertility to the pastures. In both breeds, you can see the difference pasture living provides in the collagen-set of stock and health of the organs.
Laying ducks are Muscovy and heritage breeds Buff Orpington and Welsh Harlequin (photo), who live on pasture with shelter for roosting and laying, and small pools for preening. They are full of personality and produce rich pastured eggs that are great for quiches and baking.
We also raise Muscovy for meat. Muscovy are either reared on pasture by brooding hens or brought to the farm as day-old ducklings. Ducks live within electric fencing and are moved to fresh grass after they graze down a paddock. Pasture-raised duck meat is simply perfection: rich and flavourful but not too fatty.
We raise Tamworth (“Irish Grazer”) pigs, a heritage breed known as a “bacon pig” because of its low fat to body mass ratio. We raise pigs outdoors farrow-to-finish where pasture meets woodland’s edge, which is why we call our pastured pork Savannah. A diverse mix of high quality grain supplemented with local nuts, fruit and squash results in sweet pork with complex flavours. We select pigs that like to graze but also use them strategically as “rototillers”, working up stubborn patches of opportunistic plants or compacted soil.
We have a small herd of grass-fed cattle that help regenerate our pastures through rotational grazing. Grazing signals plants to slough off roots and excrete root sugars, which soil microbes use to build soil organic matter. Manure returns fertility to the soil and the two Jerseys provide us with milk. We breed the Jerseys (Butterfly and Buttercup, her first calf, see photo) to Red Angus for beef, which are grass-fed and grass finished. They are generous, smart but humbling souls.