Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains
USDA: Economic Research Report Number 99, June 2010
Do you know where your meat is from? Is local always better? Not necessarily in terms of transportation fuel. Thousand Hills Cattle Co., a regional purveyor that sells to retailers, restaurants and natural food co-ops provided the lowest ratio of gallons per pounds of meat.
View the entire report.
Thousand Hills Cattle Co. Provides Realistic Tour of Livestock Farming.
Angelique Chao, Minneapolis
Opportunities to escape the concrete jungle and get a taste of small-farm life abound in the Minnesota summertime. Whether you?d like to do a basic farm tour, enjoy dinner served up right on the pastures where the food was raised, or even help out with farm chores for a day as part of a "crop mob," you can find an option that gets your city-slicker self out in the fields for at least a few hours.
One fine Friday a couple of weeks ago, about 40 of us curious folk took advantage of one such opportunity to join a monthly tour run by Thousand Hills Cattle Company, a beef producer based in Cannon Falls specializing in 100 percent grass-fed, primarily local, meat. And we got more than a stroll through the pastures, which is what makes this tour stand out among others that I've taken. In addition to guiding us through his ranch, Todd Churchill, the founder of Thousand Hills, gave mini-lessons in nutrition (human and cattle) and land management to explain the purported health and sustainability benefits of pasture-based farming. Plus, we ate a delicious free lunch featuring Thousand Hills burgers and beef franks. Finally, we went where his cattle go after a lifetime of grazing has come to a conclusion -- Lorentz Meats, the slaughter and processing plant that Thousand Hills uses.
Usually farm tours stick to the fun and photogenic parts of farming: the rolling hills, the pumpkin patch, maybe even the baby-animal barn, if you're lucky. This tour refused to allow you to ignore the grimmer side of raising livestock for food, and there's a lot to be said for that. As we all piled into the Lorentz Meats lunchroom, which ironically houses the viewing deck that overlooks the slaughterhouse's kill floor, people immediately gravitated to the window to see the action. A couple of parents brought their young children along, clearly intending for them to learn the whole story of where their food comes from. The mood was sober and respectful, but stopped short of being either sad or sentimental. In fact, most of the tour-goers were impressed with Lorentz's dedication to both humane animal treatment and clean, safe food, and told our tour leader so as they left the room.
That's not to say that no one was shaken at the sight of cows being led systematically to their deaths. One sometime-vegetarian I met was visibly disturbed, but said she felt better after seeing the cow herd at Churchill's ranch (which we visited after Lorentz Meats). The cows milling in the shade of huge old trees looked, she said, like they had a good life. Another visitor concurred, saying "They seem like happy cows to me!" And indeed, they were calm and collected as could be, even with a crowd of people gaping at them. The lush grass clearly trumped our presence as an object of interest.
If you are interested in exploring the lives of grass-fed cattle from beginning to end, Thousand Hills Cattle is offering two more tours this summer, on August 9 and September 10. Visit its open house page for details.
Angelique Chao is a freelance writer in Minneapolis who spends her time noodling about the ethical implications of what we choose to eat. She's a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty and is author of a post that continues to attracts comments from meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
Good food? It's academic.
Sarah Moran, StarTribune
At St. Olaf and Carleton colleges, in Northfield, MN, learning
about the benefits of local, sustainably raised food comes from
students growing and eating it as much as does from their academic
studies. At these and other Minnesota colleges, students' interest
in where their food comes from – and the health benefits
of sustainable farming practices – is increasingly causing
school menus to change while it's providing a real-world connection
with how food choices are related to economics, sustainability
And, the inclusion of generally more expensive organic and pasture-raised
foods is being proven cost-effective. By making the most of what's
available locally, they are reducing the miles food travels.
And, by bringing ingenuity to their portioning and menu planning,
the schools are offering the highest quality nutrition and flavor
available at roughly standard cost. Nearby Thousand Hills Cattle
Company in Cannon Falls, MN, provides 100% grass-fed beef to
both schools, as well as St. Paul's Macalester College.
by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Minnesota Monthly
A thorough, pleasurable and sometimes passionate appreciation
of grass-fed beef – especially when it is lovingly and
artfully prepared by St. Paul's Strip Club founder and chef J.D.
Fratzke. Under his watchful and inventive eye – described
here in mouthwatering detail and a with wine-lover's vocabulary – a
grass-fed ball-tip steak is bound to be as tender, delectable
and flavorfully nuanced as any top dollar grain-finished steak,
The article describes with cinematic sweep, historical color
and loving detail—from pasture to plate—what makes
Thousand Hills' and other grass-fed beef what it is. According
to the author, it's beef the way it's supposed to be raised,
honoring the animals and the land; the way it's supposed to be
fresh food provided by people we know close-by; the way it's
supposed to enhance our well-being; the way it's supposed to
be cooked to evoke flavors we'll long savor. The article concludes
with Fratzke's basic secrets of preparing grass-fed beef, and
intimate memories of experiences that shaped Fratzke's local,
A New, Healthy Food Trend (WCCO-TV)
Read the transcript or watch the video of WCCO TV's June 23rd
Special Report about the increasing awareness and sales of
grass fed beef in the Twin Cities area. Including brief interviews
with farmer Dan Coughlin, Thousand Hills CEO Todd Churchill
and the Strip Club's chef JD Fratzke, it's a quick but well-rounded
introduction to why the grass fed approach is preferred by
the cattle, the people who buy grass fed beef and the stores
and restaurants that sell it.
Read the transcript or view
the article with video of the report.
Hear it here! WCCO's
Don Shelby and Chicago TV journalist Bill Curtis discuss
the joys of grass fed beef.
(.mp3, 6.9Mb, click to listen, right click
As" to download)
From health factors to marbling to flavor to preparation to where
to find it — they
touch on it all in the first 7:20 minutes of this warm-hearted interview between
two long-time journalist friends. Curtis, a nationally-known former Chicago TV
anchor, A&E producer, rancher and conservationist has now donned the hat
of a committed grass fed beef producer (and eloquent advocate) with his Tall
Grass Beef operation, which supplies selected outlets in the Chicago market.
He includes gracious praise for Thousand Hills Cattle Company's beef, though
mentions only that our beef can be found in numerous Twin Cities restaurants.
It can also be found in Twin Cities Food Co-ops, Kowalski's Supermarkets and
Fresh & Natural Stores. And, you can order it direct from us or through SimonDelivers.com.
We think highly of Bill and Tall Grass. They're doing a great job helping build
a healthy food system for us all. And we thank him for his kind words. (The remainder
of their 15 minute interview is made up mostly of reflections on their careers
in tv and radio journalism.)
Read the article
that inspired the creation of Thousand Hills Cattle Company
you herd? A recent StarTribune "taste" section
feature article telling the Thousand Hills story as well
as it's been told. Page
1 (PDF), Page
2 (PDF) (Star Tribune,
March 15, 2006)
Fresh & Natural
local interview with Todd Churchill Shoreview
early adopter health food store Fresh & Natural asks the
questions their customers want answered about grass fed beef,
Cardiovascular Disease Resulting
From Our Diet and Lifestyle At Odds With Our Paleolithic
Genome A fascinating and in-depth comparison
of the diet human beings are designed to eat vs. what we
eat today. Contrary to prevalent beliefs, in our hunter-gatherer
ancestors a diet of lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables
afforded them many health advantages that have diminished
where cereal and grain-rich diets have become predominant.
Hunter-gatherers enjoyed greater adult height, lower infant
mortality, longer lifespan and a lower incidence of chronic
diseases such as osteoporosis, rickets, obesity, type 2
diabetes and atherosclerosis. The article includes notes
ideal human diet.
Written by James H. O'Keefe, MD, and Loren Cordain, PhD, published
in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed medical journal
sponsored by Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
A Fresh Start.
A guide to shopping organic, fresh and local -- primarily
in the Twin Cities, with
mentions of Rochester and Stillwater. See the brief highlight
of Thousand Hills on page 2 in the "Shopping cart" section
about Minnesota grown foods. Page
1 (PDF), Page 2 (PDF)
(Star Tribune, August 11, 2005)
Report 2006 - Ingredients, Food & Wine,