As consumers began demanding healthier, more organic, locally grown and sustainable food options, Missouri State University’s William H. Darr School of Agriculture began adapting its program to satisfy this new hunger. According to Dr. Anson Elliott, head of the school, Missouri State is unique in its ability to deliver the full scope of production for farm to table grass-fed beef.
“The United States Department of Agriculture began this concept (farm to table) to really show the consumer where their food is coming from,” said Elliott.
From the acquisition of the Journagan Ranch (a 3,300 acre working cattle ranch located 10 miles from Mountain Grove and its herd of Hereford cattle) and the Shealy farm (a 250-acre Fair Grove farm, which includes farmland, livestock, a conference center and other structures), students in the agriculture program have numerous opportunities to get hands-on experience with every step of the beef production process.
“We have students involved from the very beginning all the way through the marketing of the end product,” said Christine Sudbrock, instructor of agriculture.
As the cattle grow, they are fed high quality forage without the addition of hormones. In the last couple of months before sale, grains are introduced to their diet.
This primarily grass-based diet offers both health and economic benefits, Elliott noted.
- More fatty acids are present when the animal is eating more grass and less grain, which is a noticeable difference when selecting meats.
- The grains add the flavor to the beef that customers are accustomed to purchasing, but adding them into the diet later in the cattle’s life cycle works to prevent a loss of the health benefits gained from having a grass-based diet.
- Maximizing the use of high quality forages and reducing the purchasing of more expensive grains allows for greater profitability for the producer.
“We’re talking about finishing a product that’s adding marbling, which is intramuscular fat to the meat. So instead of having that big piece of gristle along your rib eye, you’re looking for the fat content within the meat,” said Sudbrock.
In addition to beef production, the farm to table concept is in action in the School of Agriculture’s grape breeding to wine retail operation.
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About the Darr School of Agriculture
The William H. Darr School of Agriculture integrates excellence in teaching, service and research into each of the nine undergraduate and three graduate programs. Within the school, there are four units: general agriculture; agribusiness, agricultural education and communications; animal science; and environmental plant science and natural resources. Each program has unique research facilities that allow for hands-on research.
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