Loading the Larder

I’ll cut to the chase here but hope you’ll continue reading beyond: Chicken, pork and sausages are back in stock, and there’s more to come. (Click here to order.)

We have always tried to align our protein availability with the main farmers market and CSA Farm Share seasons to be sure you have access to wholesome, organic meats from Elmwood Stock Farm all year. When the pandemic lockdown hit, customers from far and wide pretty well cleaned us out of beef, pork and chicken, so it has taken us a few months to get stocked up again. Each meat species has unique growth characteristics that must be taken into consideration and cannot be rushed, even in a pandemic.

When the panic purchasing began and our meat inventory decreased, not knowing where this thing was going, we booked additional harvest dates with our abattoir, purely on speculation of increased demand. We added some deliveries of chicks to the farm so we could produce more chicken, and we directed more of our farm-raised calves into our grass-fed finishing program. Homesteaders and survivalists came out of nowhere to get animals put in their freezers. When our meat processor told us their appointments were booking up for the rest of the year, we added a few more beef and poultry dates to our calendar. Currently, we have secured harvest dates through 2021. 

We are fortunate to have USDA-inspected, certified organic meat processors in Kentucky, and we could use several more to secure our local food system. It was seen as a somewhat risky business model until the global pandemic re-directed entrepreneurial thinking.

Organic, Pasture-Raised Chicken

Pasture-based broiler production is seasonal in Kentucky, since we only have green pastures for part of the year and young birds do not do well in cold conditions. We get day-old chicks shipped to us via the post office starting in mid to late March, when it has warmed enough to keep our makeshift brooding facility at 95 degrees. (Yes, these birds have to live in 95-degree temps for the first two weeks!) Plus, it needs to be decently warm—especially not severely cold at night—before the broilers are safe in their pasture pens. It’s just not fair to the birds to risk their well-being by starting any earlier than we do. 

All that’s to say our pastured-poultry production starts in March and finishes in October with numerous batches of 300 chicks at a time—the maximum number our processor can effectively handle in one day. We picked up our first full set of birds from the processor this week, so we are back in the chicken business, with more to come every few weeks until fall.

Organic, Grass-Fed Beef

The grass-fed beef business is seasonal, as well, although more flexible than keeping pasture-raised chickens. With the rotational-grazing program required to hit the USDA Choice grade feeding forages alone, we try to stock up the freezer going into winter, when the quality of the forages fades. The finishers can get big and gain weight on hay and some picking at what’s left in pastures through winter, but they really need good, green grass to bloom. 

We were able to take in some steers back in May to get our beef inventory up for the start of Summer CSA, and we will pick up four more beef next week, to make these products more widely available. (Hint: Check the online store next week and the week after!) There are beeves booked every month of 2020—and 2021, for that matter. Balancing our ground beef and sausage supply will be tricky this year, but if we run out of something, it won’t be for long.

Organic, Pasture-Raised Pork

The pigs at Elmwood Stock Farm are hearty and live outside all year. Still, because we have only a few sows, our pork inventory tends to run in batches. Each sow will have a litter of 10 to 12 piglets after a gestation period of three months, three weeks and three days. Piglets are weaned a few weeks later, then rotated as a group through the pastures with some grain to supplement their diet of grass/clover/bugs/grubs/vegetable scraps and most anything else they can find. 

We took two pigs to the abattoir back in May to have pork for CSA Farm Shares and then picked up eight more this week. We’ll bring in another set in July, and 20-something more growing pigs are scampering about until late this fall.

We have had to ratchet up our inventory supply management to work with the new-to-us electronic-distribution platforms. In order to sell each package, no matter the size, we post what is available as we receive each batch from the butcher and often update the online inventory several times daily (so check back!).

No matter what happens with global supply chains, as we move deeper into the pandemic era, we have a steady supply of beef, chicken and pork out on pasture to meet your expectations for this year, and part of next. Thanks to the work of some dedicated—not to mention undervalued—folks at the processor, you can rely on us to keep you well-fed with responsibly raised meats. 

Thanks for your loyalty to Elmwood Stock Farm as your family farmers. —Mac Stone

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