with Todd Churchill
We caught up with Todd Churchill, the owner
of Thousand Hills Cattle Co, and exclusive beef supplier
to Fresh & Natural,
recently, and had a chance to ask him some questions.
F&N: What motivated you to get into the grass-fed beef business?
TC: Well, I grew up on a
farm in Illinois, and my family has been in the cattle business
for years. I moved to Minnesota
ago to attend St. Olaf College, and liked it here, got married
and bought a small farm near Cannon Falls. I’ve always
loved eating beef, but over the past three or four years, I
virtually stopped eating beef, because it was usually tough,
bland or poor
tasting, and generally upset my digestion.
I could not understand
why beef now was so different than the beef I remembered
eating as a kid. It wasn’t until I read an article
in the New York Times magazine by Michael Pollan, titled
Life, that I began to understand what had happened to the
cattle industry, and why I no longer liked eating it. (Ed. Note – find
the article at: www.nehbc.org/pollan1.html.)
F&N: What makes 100%
grass fed beef so different from other beef?
TC: Just about everything!
First of all, cattle are designed to eat grass. They have a
stomach, actually three stomachs—called
a rumen, designed especially to convert plant tissue (leaves,
stems) into energy that gets stored as muscle and fat.
When cattle are
fed corn, it greatly disturbs the rumen and digestive tract.
This upsetting of their digestive tract can make cattle
sick, and can
easily kill them if not treated quickly with antibiotics.
Because of this, most cattle are fed antibiotics mixed in with
mouthful of corn, to keep them healthy enough to keep eating.
This is why
most of the antibiotics made in America end up in animal
feed, creating the anti-biotic resistant strains of viruses
we are reading so much about these days.
It stands to reason
that if you want beef that is healthful, you must get it from
healthy cattle. And corn-fed cattle,
are not healthy cattle. This has been proven over and
over again in clinically controlled scientific studies, comparing
differences in beef from corn fed vs. 100% grass-fed
F&N: Nutritionally speaking, what are the
TC: Well, Mark Norman, your on-staff licensed
clinical nutritionist, could probably explain this more precisely,
but I’ll try.
A growing body of research is showing that a diet high
in Omega 3 fatty acids and low in Omega 6 fatty acids
reduces the risk of
diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. An ideal
diet has a ratio of 4 times as much Omega 6 as Omega
3. The problem is that
the average American has a ratio of more than 20:1,
way too much Omega 6, and too little Omega 3. F&N:
How does the beef we eat affect these ratios?
fed cattle, even those fed certified organic corn,
have a ratio of 20 times as much Omega 6 as Omega
as our imbalanced American diet. On the other hand,
grass-fed cattle have a ratio of 2 times Omega 6 to
Omega 3. This
ratio is far healthier,
and is similar to wild game.
F&N: Are there other
heath benefits in 100% grass fed beef?
In addition to having more truly beneficial fat, 100% grass-fed
beef also has lower cholesterol,
lower total fat,
and lower calories than grain-fed beef, whether conventional,
natural or organic.
This research is so compelling
that Dr. Chris Foley, M.D., a natural medicine physician and
University of Minnesota
School of Pharmacy and Medical School "prescribes" 100%
grass-fed beef to all his patients, because of
its health benefits.
F&N: I’ve seen other
beef advertised as “grass-fed” and
just fed corn right before slaughter. How does
this compare to your 100% grass-fed beef?
cattle are fed grass for part of their lives. It’s
what they are fed the 2 – 6 months before
slaughter that determines the health of the meat.
Many beef companies are aware
that “grass-fed beef” is growing in
popularity, so they market their corn-fed beef
as grass-fed. However, the health
benefits present in 100% grass-fed beef begin to
disappear after only 2-4 weeks on corn. Make sure
that you are eating 100% grass-fed.
grass-fed beef tough?
TC: Not when the right cattle
are raised the right way, and the meat is not overcooked. 100%
beef, so it takes less cooking time and lower
temperatures to get to the recommended safe internal temperatures
(and complete cooking).
F&N: What do you mean,
the right cattle, raised the right way?
right cattle are small to moderate in size, old-fashioned British
breed cattle. Most
or Black Angus, but
some are Galloway, Devon, Murray Grey. Less
than 1% of the cattle
in the USA meet Thousand Hills Cattle Co strict
quality standards for tenderness and taste.
inspect every animal
for health, welfare, and tenderness.
F&N: And the right way?
TC: The right way is the old-fashioned
way: NO Antibiotics, NO added growth hormones, NO
used on our
pastures, and NO
corn or grain fed. Just locally-raised, free-range
cattle, fed grass and alfalfa hay or silage
in the winter.
Q: Where are the
A: Thousand Hills Cattle
Co. works with small, family-owned farms
and ranches in the Upper
Minnesota and Iowa.
Q: Where are the cattle
slaughtered and processed?
A: All Thousand Hills
Cattle Co. cattle are slaughtered and processed
in Cannon Falls,
in a state-of-the-art spotlessly
clean USDA inspected processing plant.
Q: Why is 100% grass-fed beef more expensive
that conventional or natural meat?
A: The main reason is
that the farmer/rancher gets paid a significant
premium for raising
bottom line is
that high-quality food costs more in the
short run. But, there is growing
consideration of evidence that it could
cost significantly less in the long run
factor for health
benefits such as reductions
in medical expenses and lost work.
isn’t Thousand Hills Cattle
Co. beef certified organic?
A: Certified organic is
a great standard for produce. However,
from our perspective,
health and environmental
benefits come with the grass diet and grazing—and
raising the cattle and pasture without
the toxicities and energy requirements
that come with using grains in a feedlot.
The truth is that almost all certified
organic cattle are fed organic corn in
And, feeding organic grain or corn does
not guarantee any reduction in pollution,
reduce energy requirements related to feed
and distribution, provide the nutritional
and disease preventing qualities of 100%
grass-fed meat, nor significantly improve
health or quality of life of the animals.
Q: How is 100% grass-fed beef good for
A: Cattle are designed
to be natural solar energy collectors.
They convert solar energy
in grass to protein
usable by humans.
Conventionally raised cattle require as
much as 250 gallons of crude oil during
lifetime. Gas for
and harvest the corn. Gas for the trucks
to haul the corn to the cattle in the feedlot.
and herbicides applied to the cornfields.
farms store large amounts of carbon in
the soil (which slows
spread manure evenly on the land instead
of in feedlots—reducing
or eliminating run-off and water pollution,
and protect soil from wind and water erosion.
Q: Is 100% grass-fed beef safer? I’m
worried about E coli and BSE (Mad Cow disease).
A: Yes. Grass-fed cattle have been found
to have up to 300 times less E coli O:157
grain –fed cattle. Their rumen, because
of the chemistry of their grass diet, simply aren’t
very friendly to E coli bacteria.
According to the USDA, feeding animal by-products
spreads BSE. This practice, until recent
regulation, was common
raised cattle. It has never been a part
of grass-fed agriculture, and Thousand
Cattle Co. only
selects cattle that
have never been fed animal by-products.
Q: Is Thousand Hills Cattle Co. 100% grass-fed beef source
A: Yes, we know where all our cattle are
raised, and what they are fed throughout