Raising Your Own Beef for Food

Raising your own beef for food requires a small plot of grass, some fencing and the know-how provided within this article.

| April/May 2002

Brad and Ann with their backyard beef on their Wyandot Country, Ohio, farm.

Brad and Ann with their backyard beef on their Wyandot Country, Ohio, farm.


Learn the advantage of raising your own beef for food.

You don't need a ranch when raising your own beef for food. Just a little patch of grass and some fencing will do the trick just fine.

In the tiny village of Vanlue, Ohio, Pat and Sheila Kinley operate Sunny Side Meats, a sort of mom-and-pop butchering business that serves small-scale farmers, gardeners and homesteaders who raise a calf, lamb or pig for their own meat. Although there's not much public hoopla about this kind of meat production, the number of people involved is surprisingly large and growing. Sunny Side is overwhelmed with work.

"We have to turn people away," says Pat, as if he barely believes it himself. Sunny Side, like thousands of similar shops, is regularly inspected and is as clean as any commercial meat processing plant. But its meat can't be sold commercially. Each package of meat must be stamped a "not for sale," a mysterious turn of the bureaucratic mind, which seems explainable only as a form of protection for big meat packers who don't like people providing for themselves.

Sunny Side butchers for people who raise their own meat, mostly pasture enthusiasts who avoid antibiotics and hormones. I understand the attraction. As a producer of homegrown meat raised on pasture grasses, I believe mine is healthier than the commercial stuff—and I know it tastes better. As Brad Billock, whose trailer I use to haul my beef to Sunny Side and who raises two steers every year says: "When we first raised our own meat, I could hardly believe how much better it tasted compared to what we were buying in the grocery stores."

And all you really need is a little grass.

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