A chat with Joe Carey about Green Meadows Beef and superior animal welfare on the farm
Green Meadows Beef is proud of their uncompromising high standards of animal welfare. Joe is a fourth generation Carey to protect and nurture the family farm, helping put into practice 120 years of knowledge and experience. Using this to provide the best standard of care for the Angus Steers raised and finished here, whilst ensuring the land remains in a pure and pristine condition for future generations to enjoy.
We asked Joe a few questions to help us understand exactly how good the Angus Steers have it at Green Meadows Beef and how this contributes to the superior flavour and nutrition in all Green Meadows Beef products:
How many Angus Steers are there on the farm at any one time?
"Depending on the season, a minimum of 400 and a maximum of 500. In winter there are less and in late spring/early summer there are generally more."
How do you ensure the land stays healthy with good quality grass for them to eat?
"That is the accumulated knowledge of farming; the exact time to commence feeding grass supplements (silage and hay), the exact day to conserve excess pasture, or at which time to restrict an area, are all skills that are learned.
New Zealand also has an immense background of science backed demonstration type trials that we gain valuable information from and use to improve the way we manage our farm and retain land quality."
Why have you continued to exclusively feed grass?
"Grass is the natural food of Bovines. Cattle have 4 stomachs perfectly evolved to digest grass. When feeding grass (or grass silage or hay), there is no need to supplement the animals with anything else. Unlike grain feeding, grass is a perfectly balanced food and cattle will not get sick from over eating grass. There are times of the year when grass is higher in protein, higher in sugars, or higher in carbohydrates. For example, when the grass goes to seed the cattle will lay down fat quicker, or in early spring grass has more protein, so cattle will lay down more muscle. These are the vagaries of the natural farming cycle.
Also, grass-fed beef is know to yield a better nutritional quality (higher in vitamins A & E, healthier omega 3:6 ratio and lower in fat than grain fed beef) for us humans, so is quickly becoming the preferred option for consumers across the world. "
How clean is the water provided to the steers
"Green Meadows steers are very fortunate indeed. Some 30 years ago all farmers in our district contributed to a water scheme, where water from within the boundary of Mount Taranaki National Park (near where the Green Meadows farm is located), is to be pipe treated to a potable human drinking standard. The water is transferred solely by gravity and piped around the farms to concrete water troughs. The flow of water is controlled by a system very similar to a toilet cistern. The steers on our farm are never more than 80m from a trough of refreshing, fresh drinking water."
Being directly under beautiful Mount Taranaki it can get quite cool, how does Green Meadows ensure the steers are comfortable especially when the weather gets extreme?
"In a straight line we are 16 km from the base of the mountain, but the reality is the land rises so quickly from the coast to the national park, that the climate varies immensely.
The Angus Steers start growing a winter coat in April/May and by late June,our first month of winter, they have very wooly coats, similar in design to a thatched roof, perfect for repelling rain and wind. Very seldom does the temperature get below 5c or above 25c.
Come late September the steers start shedding their winter coats for a slick new summer look something akin to seals coat. Coastal Taranaki is seldom without a breeze, so although the temperature might get to 26c on rare occasions, the breeze will more than likely make the day feel like 22c meaning the steers stay comfortable."
How do you shift animals when you have no dogs on the farm?
"There is only one thing on their mind. Food. They very quickly learn to associate us with food. Even if they have been shifted to a new paddock, and have gorged themselves for 3hrs solid, if we turn up on our 4 wheel quad bikes with the promise of another change to a fresh paddock, they will come when called and follow us to another pasture."
Why does Green Meadows Beef have such a full bodied flavor.
In my unscientific opinion, it is three things:
1 Taranaki, but even more so, Opunake, where the farm is located, is exposed to the vagaries of the winds coming in off the Tasman Sea. These winds lace the farm on an almost daily basis with salt courtesy of mother nature.
2 Mount Taranaki is a dormant volcano. Not extinct, dormant. It has erupted numerous times. The rich soils of the area owe their fertility to these eruptions and I believe it also plays a part in the unique flavours of our beef.
3 The water. When the animals have access to human drinking standard water, unlimited supply of top quality grass and an unfearful life, it impacts the quality of the final product.
What do you love most about the Green Meadows farm?
"My passion is always to fully feed cattle on the best quality grass that I can supply, to ensure the animals can grow to the maximum that their genetic ability allows. Watching animals display their natural behavior all the while knowing this is the best that they could experience is important to me.
The next passion is being able to supply that product to consumers via our own brand, standing proudly behind our product all the way. Remember we have no genetically engineered organisms in New Zealand. We do not have growth hormones administered to cattle. These animals are never kept indoors."