March 26, 2020 0 Comments
To Our Customers and Business Partners,
Our world has changed significantly within the past week. The disruption of our daily lives and our businesses has been swift, furious and unprecedented. This is a certainly a challenging time for all of us, both from a human health and an economic perspective.
One of our foremost concerns is the health and well-being of our employees and customers. Our other concern is the economic health of our customers. We hope that all of you will navigate successfully through this crisis, and that you will be able to return to normal business levels as soon as it is safe to do so.
With the $2 trillion virus rescue bill just passed by the Senate and pending in the House, we are hopeful that aid in the form of loans and assistance will be made available quickly to businesses affected by the virus.
Information can be found on the SBA website here: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
We at Joyce Farms want you to know that we appreciate your past support of the unique meat and poultry programs we have developed over the years. We remain open to supply you during these trying times, and especially appreciate those of you who continue to place orders with us.
Your support enables us to feed our animals, keep our small farmers in business, and keep a portion of our team employed. Besides, where else would you find meat and poultry with which to make memorable meals? And yes, take-out meals can also be memorable!
From our family to yours, we hope this pandemic will soon be over, that our lives will soon return to normal, and that we will get back to the business as usual. Stay safe.
Joyce Farms President & CEO
January 02, 2020 0 Comments
Choosing a New Year's resolution can be challenging, and many of us tend to repeat the same ones each year, hoping for the best. In fact, research indicates roughly 60% of us commit to resolutions, but only about 8% stick to our goals after the ball drops.
Many of the tried and true resolutions we choose are to better our own lives, and without much repercussion, if we fall back to our old ways. This year, we ask that you consider a different kind of resolution, one that will not only improve your own life, but that can impact the future for entire generations.
As we close 2019, food production and environmental well-being have never been more threatened. Centuries of industrial agricultural practices have left us on the brink of environmental disaster, with eroded and unhealthy farmland, contaminated water sources, increasingly severe weather events from an unbalanced ecosystem, and significantly lower food quality. In our attempts to fight these problems, we ended up with more chemical use, more bare and tilled soil left exposed to the elements, and unhealthy modern animal breeds raised to grow extremely fast in confined and inhumane environments.
If industrial, and even sustainable farming practices continue, the United Nations estimates that we would only have about 60 years of farmable topsoil left. With 95% of our food coming from topsoil, it’s clear that change is needed, and that change is regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative Agriculture is a farming method that applies sound ecological principles and biomimicry to regenerate living and life-giving soil. Regenerative agriculture relies on nature, not harsh chemicals or disruptive practices like tilling.
If we restore the health of our soil ecosystem, we restore our own health, the health of our farms, our communities, and our planet. When a farmer is practicing true regenerative agriculture, we like to say, “You know it when you see it.”
What do we see? The return of beneficial insects and pollinators, like bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and butterflies. The return of birds such as ground-nesting birds, song birds, migratory birds, and waterfowl. The return of wildlife such as deer, raptors, turkey, and many other furry creatures. The return of soil that actually infiltrates water and restores and recharges our underground aquifers, natural springs, and waterways. The return of a diverse plant species population.
Regenerative agriculture offers a multitude of benefits for our farms, our environments, and our food, including (but not limited to):
So, in 2020, make a resolution to support the Regenerative Agriculture movement.
Here are four simple ways you can do that:
One thing you can do to pursue your resolution is to learn more about regenerative agriculture, the basic principles and terms, and how it differs from industrial and sustainable methods. By arming yourself with knowledge, you will be in a much better position to support regenerative farming in other ways.
Here are several resources to start with:
Maybe it’s unrealistic to say you will only eat or serve regeneratively raised products. Depending on your resources, it could be done, but why not start with something more achievable?
Challenge yourself to use regeneratively raised products a couple of times a week. Chances are, once you start, you won’t want to go back to industrially or even sustainably raised products that lack natural flavor and nutrients.
If you’re a chef, start by adding a couple of regenerative products to your menu, or as a special feature. Make sure you let your customers know what makes it so special!
Once you’ve made the choice to support regenerative, the question becomes, how do I find regenerative products?
Our advice is not to rely on claims, but to engage with farmers and producers directly. Regenerative farming is a complex system, and there’s no “set and repeat” formula that is right for all farms, so it’s important to get to know the farms that produce the food you purchase. Find out what they mean when they say regenerative. Are they just composting on overgrazed land, or have they embraced all of the principles, like livestock integration, and adaptive multi-paddock grazing? Ask about their regenerative practices, or to see them in action if possible. Most farms and organizations that are truly embracing regenerative agriculture will be eager to share with you and welcome you to their farm(s)!
You may be thinking… if regenerative agriculture is as good as we say it is, why isn’t everyone using it? One of the biggest reasons is because people don’t know about it. A second major reason for farmers not transitioning to regenerative agriculture is simply fear. Fear of peer pressure from neighbors, friends, family, and suppliers if they decide to farm differently. Fear of the mountain of debt most farmers carry. Fear of doing something very different than what they have traditionally done. This fear is real and prevents farmers from doing what they should.
Regenerative agriculture is just beginning to seep into the mainstream conversation. The more educated advocates are out there, the faster we can make progress.
Talk about regenerative agriculture with your friends, your family (it makes a great holiday table topic!), the restaurants you frequent, and your social media connections. If you’re a chef using regenerative products, brag about it on your menu! It’s our responsibility to keep the dialogue going about regenerative, what it can do for all of us, and offer support to those farmers moving to regenerative or seeking a transition.
As part of our efforts at Joyce Farms, we introduced educational farm tour events and presentations to help grow awareness, but it could be as simple as a conversation or reposting content on social media!
If you don’t have experience farming or working with soil, now is a great time to start! Take up gardening in your own yard or community garden, or, look into opportunities to volunteer at a local farm. Getting some first-hand experience with the land will give you more context and understanding as you learn about soil health and other regenerative concepts.
Happy New Year from all of us at Joyce Farms!
October 31, 2019 0 Comments
Americans buy more and more grass-fed beef every day. The growing trend stems from increased demand, among chefs and consumers alike, for foods with improved nutritional value, better flavor, and raised with respect toward animal welfare and positive environmental impact.
Unfortunately, in the race to satisfy the burgeoning demand, some grass-fed beef producers and processors have resorted to tricks and shortcuts. As a result, the industry has fragmented into a variety of grass-fed beef production methods – and not all are created equal.
When you buy a product labeled as "grass-fed beef produced in the USA," you probably assume the cattle were raised exclusively on pasture in America, eating a diet of actively growing forages and forage supplements, using environmentally responsible farming methods.
The truth, however, is not always so picturesque.
By learning about the different types of grass-fed beef producers, and the shortcuts some of them take, you will be in a much better position to choose grass-fed products that not only offer the flavor and health benefits you expect, but that you can feel good about buying and consuming.
Grass-fed beef production models in America now fall into three categories: Imported, Low Integrity Domestic, and High Integrity Domestic.
Imported grass-fed beef generally comes from South America or Australia/New Zealand. The main benefit of imported grass-fed beef for producers and processors is that it is inexpensive.
It may seem counterintuitive that a perishable product can be shipped on ocean freight across the globe and still be lower in cost than a domestic product. In order to understand this, you must acknowledge that in other countries, grass-fed production is the commodity production method. That simply means there’s nothing special about the beef!
Imported grass-fed beef producers take whatever cattle they can find, graze them in massive herds, and process the beef in an area with fewer regulations and lower labor costs. It is actually cheaper (per pound of beef) to ship containers of imported beef by ocean freight than to ship from state to state in the U.S.
Importers know that you don't want imported grass-fed products, so they hide behind loopholes in the labeling regulations. They will import the beef in bulk, and once it reaches America, they further process and re-pack the beef in a USDA- inspected plant. Voilà – you have a package of grass-fed beef that can legally be labeled “Product of USA.” Tricky, isn’t it?
Our second category includes domestic producers of low integrity. The integrity referenced here is not that of dishonest business practices, but dishonest farming practices.
When raising high-quality, truly grass-fed beef, it's critical to use cattle that are genetically built for a 100% grass-fed diet. Low-integrity domestic producers ignore that, using whatever source of cattle they can find. These could be mature animals that are too old to be of value to a feedlot producer, or they could be cull cows coming from a dairy operation or a beef cow-calf herd.
Cull cows are a byproduct of breeding and/or milking operations. They may technically be grass-fed (they may never have been fed grains), but they were never intentionally raised for superior eating quality, flavor, or positive environmental impact. The taste, texture, and tenderness are sub-par, but producers attempt to hide those downfalls by offering the product as ground beef.
Low integrity producers may also buy cattle at auction, which will always be a risk because the seller knows there is a premium to be gained by selling the animals as "grass-fed." There are sellers who are even willing to fraudulently sign documents claiming the animals were grass-fed, even when it cannot be verified or substantiated. The low integrity producer is willing to accept that documentation at face value and has no desire to learn if the purchased livestock were legitimately grass-fed or not.
Low integrity producers also include feeding companies, or "feeders," as they are known in the industry.
Feeders operate large feedlot operations, in which livestock are placed into dirt pens of various sizes. The animals cannot graze, simply because there is nothing to graze in a dirt pen! Instead, formulated rations (called TMRs) are mixed at the feedlot and distributed in a trough at each pen.
The cattle are not grazing growing plants. Furthermore, the rations barely resemble a plant. There are no leaves, stalks, or flowers, but instead a pellet or mash of plant-based materials. This pellet may be an “everything but the corn” blend that includes grain silage, sugars, palatants (flavorings that make the feed more desirable to the animal), minerals, and pharmaceuticals. It could also include Dried Distillers’ Grains (DDGs), a byproduct of ethanol production, where the grain is distilled for ethanol, dried, and sold as a livestock feed. When DDG’s are used, the grass-fed beef is not truly grass-fed at all; the cattle are consuming a grain byproduct.
The treat of the grass-fed production world!
High-Integrity Grass-Fed Beef producers are those that use honest and ethical farming practices, with the utmost respect for the land, the animal, and the quality of the final product.
Joyce Farms Heritage Aberdeen Angus Grass-Fed Beef, USDA Prime
High integrity production is authentic grass-fed. It is the product that you picture in your mind when you think of grass-fed beef - it's what you expect to receive when you pay a premium, grass-fed beef price. The animals are always on pasture, they eat grass/forage and forage supplements exclusively, and they are never confined to feedlot dirt pens.
Joyce Farms Heritage Aberdeen Angus cattle on pasture in North Carolina.
There are no tricks or shortcuts when it comes to high integrity grass-fed beef production. In fact, it is a series of building blocks. Attention must be given to not only what the cattle eat, but their genetic makeup, the mix of plants they consume, stock density, and grazing patterns. The devil is in the details!
The first building block is superior livestock genetics. High integrity production resulting in a high-quality eating experience must start with superior cattle genetics.
In the past several decades, commercial cattle genetics have been bred specifically for feedlot production; but even the best commercial genetics simply cannot produce high-quality beef on a 100% grass-fed operation. The animals are too large and are not good grazers.
Instead, high integrity grass-fed beef producers use more moderately framed cattle, bred specifically for grass-fed production. These calves are not as numerous and can be more costly to purchase.
The second building block is the forage. High integrity producers will never graze cattle on a monoculture forage. Instead, they will graze livestock on diverse pastures offering many different species of grasses, legumes, and forbs. This variety is of paramount importance for the palatability and nutritional value of the finished beef, and for the health of the cattle.
The third building block is the grazing plan. Many grass-fed beef producers will throw around buzz words like “mob grazing” and “Serengeti method," but the truth is that most grazers don’t actually follow through with any grazing plan. Proper grazing management must be adaptive in nature and practice.
Nature and biology are never static, and grazing can't be either. Adaptive grazing involves frequently moving cattle from one pasture to the next, monitoring the available forage in each pasture, and using keen observation to anticipate and prepare for changes in weather, season, and the size of the herd. Many techniques must be implemented to be an effective grazer, but a written plan is only as good as its execution.
The fourth building block is the most important of all - without it, nothing else matters. That building block is soil health.
To produce grass-fed beef, you need grass, and you can't have grass without healthy soil. Healthy soil is vibrantly alive with billions of microbes per gram of soil, thriving with insects, and resilient to nature’s challenges.
The soil in our nation’s farmland has been damaged by generations of misguided farming practices. The rampant use of tillage, chemical and pharmaceutical problem-solvers, and ineffective synthetic fertilizers have taken abundantly fertile land and transformed it into a man-made desert.
Thankfully, the damage is repairable...with the right farming practices. The solution to fixing soil health and protecting our food system for future generations is Regenerative Agriculture.
Regenerative Agriculture is a surprisingly simple method of farming that cooperates and collaborates with nature, rather than trying to “tame” or fight it. Regenerative practices repair, restore, rebuild, and regenerate the soil, rather than degrading it (like industrial agriculture) or even maintaining its degraded state (like sustainable, organic farming). The truth is, we can never be sustainable, and with so much already-degraded land in our nation, why would we want to?
Regenerative Agriculture is a journey, not a destination, but there are six principles that can be implemented universally. You can learn about them here.
By using labeling tricks and legal loopholes, Imported Grass-Fed Beef Producers and Low Integrity Domestic Grass-Fed Beef Producers put the entire grass-fed beef industry at risk of rattling public confidence.
There may be a need for more than one kind of grass-fed production system, but if that's the case, they should all be honest and transparent to the end user.
Next time you are searching for a grass-fed beef product, don't just rely on labels and claims. Get to know the farmers and producers - ask questions about their animals and their practices. If they are ethical in their production, they won't have any reason to hide.
It is up to us, the high integrity producers, to continue to produce a premium product that lives up to the grass-fed expectation -- one that offers the taste, texture, tenderness, and health benefits that our customers expect, with no tricks.
Now that you know more, which kind of grass-fed beef producers will you choose to support?
September 27, 2019 0 Comments
At Joyce Farms we pride ourselves in paying attention to the little things. Even the REALLY little things, like microbes in the soil. The world beneath the soil surface is full of life and incredibly complex, far more so than life above the soil surface. Without their action in the soil, we suffer. When they are present in large numbers and highly active, we benefit.
A single spoonful of healthy soil contains more life than there are humans on Earth.
When it comes to healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy people, the little things do matter --- a lot. That is why our focus on producing flavorful and nutrient-dense food starts with the soil, and not just the soil itself, but those tiny microbes residing in it.
The soil’s population of microbes is diverse, made up of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, and others. For now, we want to focus on one -- mycorrhizal fungi.
Mycorrhizal fungi are microscopic thread-like organisms that play an incredibly important role in healthy soil, and therefore, in the production of truly healthy, nutritious food. We are now discovering how critical that role is, and what happens when they are not present in the soil in large numbers.
The activities of mycorrhizal fungi beneath the soil surface are just as sophisticated and purposeful as anything we can point to above ground.
Mycorrhizal fungi can create an incredibly powerful, interconnected exchange network between plants... much like the world wide web of soil. When given the chance, and not disturbed by degenerative farming practices, mycorrhizal fungi spread their feathery tendrils throughout entire fields, attaching to plant roots, connecting every plant in a web of constant communication and mutually beneficial trades.
Plants need nutrients from the soil, but most of those nutrients are 1) out of reach of the plant roots, and 2) bound in the soil and must be dissolved before the plants can absorb them. Mycorrhizal fungi can help. They can greatly extend the reach of the plant roots, and also produce powerful enzymes that break down nutrients and transfer them to the plant… but only for a price.
The mycorrhizal fungi want to eat too, and they prefer the sugars and fats that plants exude from their roots. So, in exchange for nutrients, mycorrhizae receive plant root exudates that are loaded with carbon (produced from CO2 pulled from the atmosphere during photosynthesis).
Mycorrhizal fungi and plants are able to make sophisticated, spur of the moment decisions about their trades, always negotiating the best “deal” they can. It is the world’s oldest bartering system.
In this delicate dance between plants and mycorrhizal fungi, plants can reward high performing fungi with more sugars and punish poor-performing fungi with less sugars. Fungi can also give more nutrients to plants that “feed” them more sugars.
Mycorrhizal fungi can "feed" more nutrients to a plant when it is “paying” them well, or they can store or "hoard" nutrients and wait for a better offer (either from that plant or other plants) before they release the nutrients.
For example, in one experiment, carrot roots and fungi were grown together in a petri dish divided into three equal compartments. Interestingly, in one compartment the carrot roots provided the fungi with more sugars than in the other compartments. The carrot that was willing to trade more sugar with the fungi received more nutrients in return.
These fungi can also move nutrients back and forth from “rich” regions in the rhizosphere to “poor” regions. In the poor regions, where nutrients are scarce, the plants are willing to pay more carbon-rich sugars to get them from the mycorrhizal fungi. Through this feedback system, soils that are lacking nutrients can quickly increase their nutrient availability through this mycorrhizal pathway. Nutrients flow both ways, too. Research shows nutrients oscillate back and forth through the mycorrhizal network every five minutes at precise timing.
As mycorrhizal fungi are forming their network, they use a sticky biotic glue called glomalin to attach to plant roots. Not only does this connect plants together over the fungal “exchange network,” it also binds tiny soil particles together into larger clumps of soil called aggregates.
When the soil is aggregated, it allows for increased oxygen and water infiltration. Without aggregates, rain pools on the soil surface, then runs off, eroding the soil and carrying tremendous amounts of topsoil, nitrates, phosphates, and harmful agricultural chemicals with it.
Mycorrhizal fungi also protect plants from drought by storing an “emergency fund” of water, for not-so-rainy days. Since mycorrhizal fungi can actually penetrate plant roots, they are able to directly place water molecules inside the plant roots for use in periods of dry and drought conditions.
However, like many other functions performed by mycorrhizal fungi, there is a selfish motive involved. They want to be fed during periods of drought, too. So, by placing the water molecules inside plant roots, they assure themselves that the plants have adequate survival to continue to supply them with steady meals of carbon-rich root exudates.
Different plant species produce varying arrays of what are called plant secondary and tertiary nutrient compounds, which are medicinal in nature and promote disease resistance and pest resistance in other plants. They also provide medicinal benefits to animals and humans.
These compounds are transferred from plant to plant via the mycorrhizal highway. Without this occurring, plants are far more susceptible to fungal diseases and to pest insects. In fact, mycorrhizal fungi are the principal immune system for plants against fungal root diseases.
In the past several decades, the use of fungicides by farmers has increased significantly, because typical agricultural practices (like tillage) destroy mycorrhizal fungi populations. In addition, the fungicides used to combat plant fungal diseases are not organism-specific, so they kill not only the target disease-causing organisms, but also the mycorrhizal fungi. This leads to continued disease, and continued use of fungicides, which becomes a vicious cycle.
That is why we practice Regenerative Agriculture at Joyce Farms.
By eliminating tillage, we stop the destruction of the mycorrhizal fungi. By implementing practices such as diverse cover crops instead of perpetual monocultures, and adaptive livestock grazing that stimulates mycorrhizal populations, we not only reduce, but eliminate the need for fungicides. We escape the vicious cycle and turn things back over to Mother Nature.
Soil microbes truly are the foundation of all health, both below the soil surface and above. More than 80% of all plants existing in the world today have developed relationships with fungi. Still others have relationships with bacteria in the soil. If we were to purge the soil of microbes, we would also purge the soil of plants, and purge our world of the ability to produce food.
Implementing agricultural practices that damage or destroy these soil microbes is only doing harm to ourselves and all life around us. Conversely, implementing true regenerative practices that foster, facilitate, encourage, and stimulate these soil microbes provides immense benefits -- our soil is healthy, our crops are healthy, our livestock are healthy, we are healthy, our ecosystems are healthy, and our climate is healthy.
These tiniest of creatures hold the key to solving the primary issues we face today that seem so daunting. If we simply provide for them, they will provide for us. That is why regenerative agriculture and soil health is so important to us at Joyce Farms, and why it should be important to you, too!
July 25, 2019 0 Comments
We are all familiar with erosion and the soil’s ability to wear away, but few people associate soil with growing upward. The truth is, just like we can use poor farming methods to cause erosion of topsoil, we can use regenerative farming methods to literally grow new topsoil!
Regenerative farming depends on an active and balanced carbon cycle, through which plants, soil, and grazing animals create a circle of life that is powered by sunshine. When the carbon cycle is active and balanced, there is a continuous flow of new, carbon-rich organic matter to the soil.
Plants capture energy from the sun and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Next, they use water and minerals from the soil to produce sugars. Some of those sugars are shared with soil microbes in exchange for mineral nutrients. Those root exudates add carbon-rich organic matter to the soil. Grazing animals keep the cycle going (more on that in a minute).
The question is - when all that new, carbon-rich organic matter is added to the soil, where does it go?
Soil is porous. You may naturally assume that any added organic matter would fill the existing pores or holes in the soil, making it more and more solid. If this were true, and you continued to add organic matter, at some point you would essentially be trying to farm on a slab of rock-hard granite.
The good news is, that’s not how it works.
In reality, soil rich in organic matter is more like a sponge than a slab of rock. It's more porous and holds more water. Carbon-rich soil is not rock-hard, but soft under your feet and easier to penetrate with a shovel. That’s because the soil volume has expanded upward, with the help of Mother Nature.
Here's how it happens:
Through regenerative farming practices, animals graze and naturally fertilize an area of land, trampling plants and other organic matter on the surface as they do.
Worms and dung beetles feed on the trampled matter and the manure. They “churn” what’s on the ground and what’s underneath, creating displacement of soil material from below the ground to above it.
Essentially, they excavate the soil from below the ground and put it on top. In the process, new void spaces, or pores, open up in the soil. This new porosity means the soil can hold more water and give access to flowing nutrients.
This is also why you may find a latent seed bank waking up and starting to grow in your soil, long after you thought the topsoil was eroded. This “churning” can carry seeds up near the soil surface, where they can germinate and grow.
The activity of the grazing animals also stimulates the soil microbial population, especially mycorrhizal fungi.
Mycorrhizal fungi produce biotic glues that bind the tiny soil particles together to create much larger particles, opening up significant pore space for water and oxygen infiltration and movement.
So if both organic matter and porosity are being added, and the soil can’t grow down or sideways without compacting, it can only be doing one thing - growing up!
Many experts and even textbooks will tell you that it takes 1000+ years to grow an inch of topsoil, but now we know we can do it much more quickly with regenerative agriculture. Farmers and grazers can add between 0.5% - 1.0% organic matter in a single year.
One of our farmers, Adam Grady, added 3 inches of new topsoil on his farm, in just 2 years!
The photo below was taken on his farm, where our Heritage GOS pigs and some of our Heritage Aberdeen Angus cattle are raised. That line of color separation you see is called the carbon line. The darker soil at the surface is new topsoil that has been grown from increased soil organic matter!
June 11, 2019 0 Comments
On May 31- June 1, 2019, the Starkville Civitan Club hosted their annual Steak Dinner Fundraiser to benefit developmentally disabled children. The event is now in its fifth year, and the steak dinners have become a huge draw for members of the greater Starkville, MS community.
Joyce Farms CRO Dr. Allen Williams is a long-time member and officer of the Starkville Civitan Club. He took on a very important role during the event - manning the grill!
Over the course of the 2-day event, Allen cooked hundreds of steaks to order. His greatest delights were hearing the multitude of satisfied donors rave about the steaks, and knowing that 100% of their financial contributions would support programs and facilities for special needs kids.
The Steak Dinner Fundraiser has become so popular that many in the city of Starkville mark the dates on their calendars and purchase steak dinners not just once over the weekend, but multiple times.
According to Allen, the secret to their satisfaction is the Joyce Farms grass fed beef. He said:
"People always ask just how the Civitan Steaks taste so much better than anything else they can get, even at the best restaurants in the region. I just smile and tell them the secret is in the breed and how the cattle were raised. Regenerative practices on our farms do make that much of a difference!"
Joyce Farms is honored to be a part of this event, and to provide flavorful, nutritious meals to all of the generous donors.
The Starkville Civitan Club is a member of Civitan International, an international volunteer service organization dedicated to helping people in the local community. For more information, visit Civitan.org.
June 05, 2019 0 Comments
Joyce Farms products were prominently featured at the most recent Soil Health Academy, hosted by BDA Farm in Uniontown, Alabama.
Attendees included farmers and ranchers from 17 different U.S. states, Canada, and even Columbia, South America.
While learning the ins and outs of soil health, adaptive grazing, and regenerative agriculture from nationally and internationally recognized experts Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, Kent Solberg, and Allen Williams (Joyce Farms Chief Ranching Officer), the attendees also enjoyed three hearty meals a day.
Meals were prepared using fresh garden vegetables from BDA Farm and Joyce Farms proteins, including Aberdeen Angus grass-fed beef, Poulet Rouge Fermier® pastured chicken, and Gloucestershire Old Spot pastured pork.
Attendees were highly complimentary of the meals!
Comments ranged from, “best food ever” to “This is the best chicken I have ever had. I did not realize that chicken could be so wonderfully flavorful.”
Some claimed, “I’ll never eat store-bought pork chops again,” and that the beef was “absolutely the most incredible steak I have ever experienced.”
And remember - these were all farmers and ranchers!
The Soil Health Academy (SHA) course covers a significant amount of material over 3 days - in the classroom and through in-field lessons. Much of the event's success depends on keeping the crowd well fed and fueled for learning.
SHA organizers also make sure that all proteins served are raised according to the regenerative practices they teach (which is a great demonstration of the quality that can be achieved!).
We take great pride in having our products included on the Soil Health Academy menu for this session and others, including one hosted last year by farmer Adam Grady. He raises our Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs and some of our Aberdeen Angus cattle in Kenansville, North Carolina. A few photos from that session:
The Soil Health Academy is a training program that teaches farmers and ranchers how to farm regeneratively in order to "increase profitability, build resiliency into the land, decrease input costs and improve the nutrient density of food and agricultural products."
Some achievements of SHA graduates include:
Learn more about the Soil Health Academy on their website: https://soilhealthacademy.org/
May 28, 2019 0 Comments
Written By Dr. Allen Williams, Ph.D.
A champion of the grass-fed beef industry and an expert in regenerative agriculture and animal genetics, Allen helps restore natural soil water retention and reduce runoff, increase land productivity, enhance plant and wildlife biodiversity, and produce healthier food. He also serves as Joyce Farms' CRO (Chief Ranching Officer). Learn more about Allen
Another Memorial Day weekend has come to an end, and many of you probably enjoyed spending time with your families - grilling out, water skiing at the lake, attending reunions, or other family-oriented activities. That is a great thing and a worthy endeavor. However, Memorial Day is about more than that. Far more. It is a time to remember those who placed themselves in harm’s way and may have even lost their lives, so that we can enjoy our time with family, free from fear and oppression.
Each Memorial Day, I think about those in my own family and circle of friends who have served our country admirably. I often wonder what they went through and how they managed to even stay alive in the horrors of war.
My own father, who passed away in 1990, fought in the Korean War that lasted from June 25, 1950, until July 27, 1953. He served in the U.S. Army Infantry, and even though he would never talk about what happened in Korea, we did know that the bitter cold he endured left him with permanent damage to his fingers and toes. For the rest of his life, he lost feeling in the tips of his fingers and toes when it got cold. He never complained but kept on working through those cold winters on the farm. He was an incredibly hard worker and instilled the work ethic that I carry to this day.
My maternal grandmother’s brothers, my great uncles, all were U.S Marines in World War II. They fought in the island-hopping campaign that took them across Guam and Saipan to Peleliu to Iwo Jima to Okinawa. My uncles, like my father, would never talk about what they suffered and endured across those islands. I only know what I have been able to read.
When they landed on Peleliu on September 15, 1944, they initially encountered little resistance. However, as they pushed further ashore, they found that the 11,000 Japanese defenders were heavily dug in using a system of interconnecting bunkers, tunnels, and caves. Two months of brutal fighting claimed the lives of 2,336 American and 10,695 Japanese soldiers.
Iwo Jima proved even tougher. On February 19, 1945, U.S. ships started battering the island with shelling that lasted more than 12 hours. Then the 3 rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions came ashore. As with Peleliu, the initial resistance was light, but the next several days were hell on earth as the Marines pushed inland and encountered fierce resistance that included extremely heavy machine gun fire and artillery. Whenever the Marines thought they had an area secured, the Japanese would pop up behind them, having traveled through their series of underground tunnels completely undetected. The intense fighting lasted more than a month before Iwo Jima was finally secured. In the end, 6,821 American soldiers were killed along with 20,703 Japanese soldiers. There were 21,000 Japanese soldiers altogether before the fighting began.
Okinawa was the largest land battle of the Pacific Theater with fighting raging on for almost three months. In the end, this battle cost the lives of 12,513 American soldiers and 66,000 Japanese soldiers.
Our freedom is not free. It comes at an enormous cost. When I look at pictures of my father in his Army uniform and the pictures of my uncles in their Marine uniforms, I realize they were all just kids fighting in these horrific wars. They looked far too young to be fighting a war on foreign soil. I look at my own 19-year-old son (our youngest) and my teenage grandsons, and I cannot fathom them going off to war. They look so young and innocent. Yet, in a different time, they may have been called upon to serve their country and to provide the ultimate sacrifice. How could 18, 19, and 20-year-olds have fought so fiercely and so courageously? Because they loved their country and their families.
We owe a deep debt of gratitude to each and every one who has ever served our country in the Armed Forces or who is serving now. Because of them, we have our freedom. Because of them, we have our hope. Do not forget them.
May 10, 2019 0 Comments
We can talk about our products, our heritage animals, and our regenerative practices all day, but nothing makes the impact of customers seeing and tasting for themselves on a farm tour.
Transparency is paramount for us at Joyce Farms, so we’re always happy to take customers out to the farms whenever we can. But last year we began hosting larger 2-day farm tour events that not only show the farms and animals, but really educate about why we do what we do, how we do it, and how our practices impact the bigger picture of human, animal, and environmental well-being.
Last week, we had our first Farm Tour event of the year. The 2-day event began with dinner, drinks, and a short introductory presentation at Ashley Christensen’s Bridge Club in downtown Raleigh.
There’s a reason Ashley was the James Beard Foundation’s pick for Outstanding Chef this year! The custom menu featured many of our Heritage products. It was a delicious way to kick things off!
Bright and early the next morning, we headed to the farms. Our first stop was in Kenansville, NC where we visited farm partner Adam Grady. Our guests were able to learn first-hand about his transition from sustainable to Regenerative Agriculture, and the incredible changes he has seen in only a few years.
We partnered with Adam a little over 2 years ago to begin raising animals for our Heritage Pork program. At that time, he was running a sustainable operation. Adam was willing to transition to Regenerative Agriculture, something we require for all of our Heritage farms, but it was not without a little healthy skepticism. After all, industrial practices are still the mainstream method that his neighbors and most farmers practice; they’re even still taught in agricultural school.
In a calculated leap of faith, Adam agreed to transition 30 acres to regenerative management- enough for us to begin our pork program. He worked closely with Dr. Allen Williams, our Chief Ranching Officer, to put regenerative practices in place.
Here’s what happened in less than one year:
After that first season, he said, “I wish I had just done it all!” The results were so incredible that now, he’s farming 100% of his land (over 1200 acres) regeneratively.
During our visit in Kenansville, our guests saw our livestock, but also examples of regenerative methods.
They saw our rotational grazing methods in action. We showed how we divide larger pastures into temporary smaller paddocks using poly wire, rotating livestock between those paddocks daily, sometimes multiple times a day. In fact, we moved some cattle while we were there, just to show quickly and easily this can be done.
We took a close look at the pastures themselves, as Dr. Allen Williams explained the 5 principles of soil health and how Adam implements each of them:
We talked about forbs (aka “weeds”) and Allen explained how they are actually a GOOD thing. They offer medicinal and anti-parasitic benefits to livestock when they eat just a few bites a day (which saves farmers money). They are also excellent microbe attractors because they are deeply and extensively rooted. Those roots send out root exudates or sugars that attract a wide variety of soil microbes, which are critical for soil health.
Adam showed some of his regenerative farming equipment, including the roller crimper he uses to turn live, grazed cover crop into a bed of organic matter that protects the soil. He uses a no-till planter to plant cash crops into that rolled bed of plant matter, for tremendously efficient growth and yield.
As the trolley ride continued, we talked about heritage breeds and how we are working to bring back some of these now-rare genetics that fell out of favor with the rise of industrial agriculture. First we visited the Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs that we raise for our Heritage Pork.
Then, we saw some of the Aberdeen Angus cattle used for our Heritage Beef.
On our last trolley stop, we saw the always impressive rainfall simulator and slake test demonstrations, to further display how land management practices impact the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water.
Our lunch pig pickin' was outstanding thanks to the folks at Original Grills who cooked a Joyce Farms whole hog for the occasion!
After lunch we hit the road for one of our Heritage Poulet Rouge® Chicken farms in Siler City, NC, managed by our farm partner Larry Lemons. Our guests were able to hear more about the steps we take to raise these birds, including bringing in breeder eggs from France and hatching them in our hatchery. They were also able to see multiple flocks of birds at different stages of growth, and get a first-hand look at the amount of space they have to run around and just be chickens!
We are so thankful to our guests who took the time to come out for a 2-day, information packed Farm Tour! All of us at Joyce Farms are incredibly proud of not only the products we produce, but how we produce them, and we are happy to have the opportunity to share more about that with our customers.
See more photos from the tour on our Facebook page!
April 19, 2019 0 Comments
Each year, Earth Day brings millions of people together to take action against threats to our planet, like climate change, desertification, and endangerment of native animal and plant species.
There are plenty of ways we all can give back to the planet: clean up trash, plant a tree, or volunteer for a conservationist effort, just to name a few.
As chefs and restauranteurs, you have another powerful opportunity to give back to the planet every day by using products from regenerative farms on your menu.
By serving products raised using regenerative agriculture (also known as carbon farming), you support a way of farming that fights threats to our planet and contributes to its rehabilitation from decades of industrial farming practices.
When you serve products grown regeneratively, you give back to the Earth by:
Regenerative agriculture can stop and even reverse climate change, which is the result of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Farming regeneratively builds soil health, and when soil is healthy and full of microbial life, it is able to draw down excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere where it can be used to grow plant life.
Think of how often you hear about reducing carbon emissions to stop climate change - probably every day. But reducing emissions does nothing for what is already there.
The fact is, even if we all stopped driving cars tomorrow, it would do nothing to fix the excess carbon dioxide already in our atmosphere. We need to put that carbon back into the soil, where it can be used. Regenerative agriculture does that and more.
This video from Kiss the Ground gives a quick primer on how the soil can help reverse climate change:
To produce healthy food for generations to come, we need healthy soil. Sadly, degenerative practices like tilling, chemical use, and overgrazing have left most of our soil degraded and barren.
Regenerative farms do not use chemicals or tilling, and use a variety of year-round cover crops to protect the soil from extreme temperatures.
Livestock graze, while naturally fertilizing the land and trampling organic matter into the soil.
Using adaptive grazing methods, the animals are moved to new areas of pasture regularly, allowing plant life to recover and preventing the effects of overgrazing. With a variety of plants, soil life and fertility thrive.
Regenerative farming requires integration of livestock, but that is only successful with animal breeds that fare well in pasture-centered conditions. Old-world heritage breeds are perfect for the pastured life, because they have hearty immune systems (eliminating the need for antibiotics) and flourish on what has always been their natural diet.
Before the rise of industrial agriculture, these historic breeds were preferred for meat production. Unfortunately, most fell out of favor as high yields became the priority in agriculture. Animals were selectively bred to grow bigger and faster in the name of efficiency and price. As a result, many heritage breeds are now threatened or endangered.
When you use heritage breed products, you help protect these breeds and our planet's biodiversity. For example, our Heritage Old Spot pigs are on the Livestock Conservancy’s list of endangered breeds. As we grow our Heritage Pork program, we continue to breed and grow our herd. In doing so, we are helping to preserve these historic genetics for future generations.
Since regenerative farming does not involve chemicals or pesticides, it does not add harmful toxins to the soil, which also prevents those toxins from running off and contaminating our rivers, streams, and other waterways. As the soil draws in carbon and becomes healthier, overall runoff is reduced because the soil is able to absorb water much more efficiently.
By choosing products from regenerative farms for your menu, like the meat, poultry and game products from Joyce Farms, you can take pride in serving memorable meals that are not only more flavorful and nutritious, but that help save the planet. Now that’s something worth bragging about in your menu notes!
March 01, 2019 0 Comments
Last Saturday, we joined over 350 chefs, butchers, and guests at White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge for Chef John Folse’s 4th Annual Fête Des Bouchers, a traditional Louisiana boucherie.
The tradition of the boucherie, or communal butchering of pigs, has deep roots in Louisiana culture. Before the days of grocery stores, refrigeration, and the onset of industrial farming, families or small communities would come together to share in the work of harvesting and breaking down the animal for food. It would be an all-day event, with everyone sharing in the yield from their labor, and none of the animal going to waste. Not only did this instill a greater sense of community, but also an appreciation of the food and the life of the animal.
Boucheries would often take place in the winter months, to provide fresh meat and also smoked and salted meats for longer term use. So many of the Cajun delicacies we love - boudin, cracklins, hog head cheese (to name a few) - were born from this tradition.
Chef Folse is doing his part to keep the boucherie tradition alive. His event proved to be a true celebration of culinary arts, Cajun cuisine, the animals that feed us, and the age-old craft of the butcher.
To begin, the hog for the day’s meal was carried to Persimmon Hill in a silent procession, followed by a Butcher’s Prayer by Bishop Michael Duca.
While meat from the pig was prepared, there were educational sessions. Chef Folse and other experts shed light on a slew of culinary topics. There were Charcuterie 101 sessions, a demonstration of how to make sugar-cured ham, and a lesson on the importance of the butcher and pig in our society and economy, to name a few.
Then... there was the Spoils of the Boucherie lunch buffet, which included 10 mouth-watering stations:
And of course, there was crawfish! If you’re in Louisiana and you didn’t eat crawfish, did you really even go?
It’s hard to imagine a better location for the boucherie than White Oak Plantation, and we were thrilled to get a tour of the grounds while we were there. You can see that this place is steeped with history.
We saw several antique tractors at White Oak, but you might not know how old they were at a glance. For 60+ year-old tractors, these look as good as new!
We assumed they were showpieces, not for actual use, but John quickly corrected us. They use the tractors regularly, even as recently as that weekend. After each use, they are thoroughly cleaned and any scuffs repainted to keep them looking as good as new.
The Fete des Bouchers reminded us of an old culinary mantra, “Every animal deserves a good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good chef.” While we aren’t certain of its original origin, it rings true for us every day in our business. Meat has been part of the human diet since the ice age, but only recently have we seen the emergence of “bad meat” - meat raised industrially, in excess, without care or respect for the animal, the environment, or the health of the people consuming it.
Chef Folse visited us for a farm tour last fall, and it was great to return the visit and “talk shop” on his stomping grounds. It’s clear he has a true passion for traditions and old-world methods in all he does, much like we do for old-world breeds and farming methods. Thank you for an unforgettable weekend, Chef!