After spending years sending their calves to auction for a sometimes-disappointing return, Bill and Michelle Park, owners of Blackview Farm, began raising their cattle on pasture, hoping to save some money and sell their meat directly to consumers. Without realizing it, this decision would be a turning point in the taste and quality of the meat they were producing. We recently sat down with Bill and Michelle, to talk about their journey into raising animals on pasture. Blackview Farm is one of NIKU Farms’ partner farms, bringing you amazing grass fed beef, and pasture raised chicken and pork. [Check out our podcast below to hear the full interview!]
Bill says that the decision to go grass-fed and grass-finished initially came from a desire to save money. As he began this venture, he attended a seminar about beef and came across a lecture by Mark Schatzker, author of Steak. After speaking with Schatzker, Bill sent him a few steaks to try and discovered that while one was great, the others left something to be desired. This would be the beginning of Bill and Michelle’s journey to discover what goes into a great tasting pasture-raised steak. “There’s so much [to the process] that’s not as simple as we think,” says Bill. He has kept in contact with Schatzker and is always eager to learn as much as possible from the author and other farmers he has networked with.
Animals Raised the Right Way
At NIKU Farms, we often talk about the benefits of pasture-raised meat. The taste is better, the quality is higher, and of course, you can feel good that you’re supporting a farm that treats its animals with care and respect. At Blackview Farm, animals are eating grass and hay from day one and calves nurse from their mothers and are weaned after one year. The cows are also raised to 30 months of age, far older than their conventional counterparts. While it certainly takes more time, ageing cows longer creates a better flavour and adds marbling to the beef. Because they are allowed to graze and age, Bill says there are three generations on pasture at one time.
Pigs and poultry are also raised on pasture at Blackview. Bill explained to us that unlike cows, whose four stomachs are designed to help them break down grass and use every part of it, other animals cannot be 100% grass-fed since they need extra protein and energy from other sources. At Blackview, their animals are fed non-GMO grain to complement the grass they eat. Bill tells us that instead of corn and soy, he prefers lighter grains, like organic spelt, barley, and oats, as well as flaxseed. “We need variety in our diets and so do our animals,” he says. The pasture grasses are varied, as well.
Organic Farming and Humane Principles
We talked about organic farming with Bill, and why his farm isn’t “certified organic”. “Organic can mean your chickens are pastured and running around outside, but it can also mean they’re raised in a barn,” he says. Bill acknowledges the importance and place of organic farming but says that his style, while based on organic principles, is entirely his own. He saw where there were ways to improve upon organic farming, and uses them to produce the best quality, most ethically raised meat possible.
Blackview Farm’s philosophy follows three principles: flavour, nutrition, and humane treatment. These principles are all closely tied; one cannot exist without the other two. These principles are the foundation upon which Bill and Michelle raise their animals, and are also the reason that meat from Blackview Farm tastes exceptional.
Flavour is Everything
Bill has grown into cooking over the years and now that he has access to amazing pasture-raised meat and home-grown food, he’s expanded his skills even further. Always looking to learn, he has spent time speaking to many different sources about cooking and choosing the right ingredients, learning about cooking methods for different cuts of meat and how to balance flavours in a dish. He has spoken to butchers at Stock-In-Trade (who Bill credits as being huge believers and supporters of Blackview’s principles), as well as several restaurants, like the Chase Hospitality Group, Actinolite, Patois, and Edulis, who have all bought meat from Blackview Farm. Bill says that the chefs all agree on one thing in particular: a great dish can only be cooked with great ingredients.
Get to Know Your Farmer
At NIKU Farms, we believe in buying local. If you have access to a local farm or butcher, and you can get to know them and their practices, we fully support that. Our goal at NIKU Farms is to connect people who don’t have this amazing option easily available to them. Bill agrees. He says that while buying local is important, it’s equally important to get to know the people and places you are buying from, how they treat their animals, what they feed them, and their guiding principles for their farm. “Learn about the farm, get to know the farmer, and ask about their farming practices. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
If you’re interested in trying Blackview Farm’s deliciously pasture-raised meat out for yourself, all you have to do is subscribe to regular deliveries from NIKU Farms, and select Blackview Farm. Once your subscribed, you’ll be able to build your first box and have it delivered right to your door!
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