Yes, Old Salt sells meat from livestock that are both raised and processed in Montana. Still, there are exceptions.
For example, nearly all ranches that raise poultry on pasture will buy chicks from hatcheries outside of the state before raising them to finish weight on their Montana lands. Also, when not in drought, ranches occasionally will replenish their herds with juveniles sourced from another ranch outside the state (whether replacement breeding stock, calves, yearlings, etc.). All such animals may end up as part of the Old Salt meat program.
Old Salt meat is processed at our meat cutting facility at 2840 Bozeman Avenue in Helena, MT. There is one nuance. We are currently working to establish a slaughter facility in Jefferson county near Helena (expected to be ready in May 2023). In the meantime, we have sent some animals for our initial program to be slaughtered at a reputable USDA facility in Sheridan, WY. These carcasses are then brought back via reefer truck to our facility in Helena for aging, cutting, and packaging.
Yes. Old Salt uses a program called Vista Trac to follow the meat from carcasses sourced from a given ranch as they make their way through the facility. Each package you receive indicates the ranch of origin on the back.
No. Just as steroid use by a body builder might harm that person’s health and well being, we believe the same is probably true for using steroids to increase muscle size in livestock.
No. It is conventional practice, especially in high confinement industrial feedlots that continuously bring in different animals carrying germs from disparate parts of the country, to manage risk by administering “sub-therapeutic” antibiotics to all animals, regardless of whether they have ever been sick. We believe that this “broad spectrum” use of antibiotics, which is necessary in an industrial feedlot setting, contributes to antibiotic resistance. Therefore, no meat in the Old Salt program will have come from animals treated with antibiotics sub-therapeutically.
We believe regular access to open space and exercise is fundamental to animal health. Still, there are many instances when confinement is necessary for a limited time, including processing animals in corrals for sorting, vaccinating, pregnancy testing, shelter in inclement weather, or resting pastures in drought. In all instances we ensure that animals have clean water and access to plenty of open space.
The goal is to be agriculturally productive while improving the fertility of land (i.e. capacity for soil to capture water, hosting of robust microbial, vegetative and wildlife communities). Each Old Salt ranch works with 3rd party monitors to measure changes in key indicators for each of these objectives, working to discern the degree to which management is responsible and to improve management over time. The idea is to learn from and work with nature rather than fighting it. Generally, this means minimizing or eliminating the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that can damage the microbial, vegetative and wildlife communities.
We believe fish and wildlife have an important place on the landscape, even those that pose particular challenges to ranch operations like coyotes, grizzlies and wolves. Therefore, Old Salt ranches develop ranch management plans, tools and practices intended to minimize conflicts with wildlife and to benefit their habitats. We are currently in the process of adopting a policy whereby each ranch commits to working with at least one wildlife non-profit organization or agency (most already do), such as World Wildlife Fund, The Audubon Society, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Fish Wildlife & Parks to implement and adapt management plans that benefit wildlife in their landscape.
The holy grail for a society is to have an agriculture that is productive while improving the fertility of land over time (i.e. capacity for water capture, hosting of robust microbial, vegetative and wildlife communities). To track our own progress toward this goal, Old Salt ranches monitor changes in key indicators for these objectives, working to discern the degree to which management is responsible and to improve that management over time. The idea is to learn from and work with nature rather than fighting it.
For years, each ranch has been a participant in voluntary collaborative groups like the Blackfoot Challenge, Devil’s Kitchen Management Team, and Centennial Valley Association to name just a few. Many of the ranches have also worked with land trusts such as the Montana Land Reliance, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Fish Wildlife & Parks to use conservation easements to restrict industrial uses such as mining or housing development that fragment open landscapes and wildlife habitat.
First, animal byproducts are strictly prohibited. Second, diversity in the diet is important. One-size-fits-all feedlot rations developed for the “average” animal miss the fact that animals are individuals and need the freedom to balance their nutritional needs.
Hogs and chickens have one stomach like humans, which means that they have limited ability to make use of plant material. Plants are an important component for nutrients and some protein, but hogs can’t make use of cellulose for energy and therefore need a measure of grain. By contrast, ruminants like cattle and sheep have multiple chambers in their stomachs that make them uniquely able to utilize cellulose from grass and forbs for energy.
Currently, no Old Salt ruminants receive any grain in their lifetime. However, we are leaving open the possibility of using a measure of grain, grain byproducts or sprouted grains (e.g. brewers grain waste products from breweries, wheat screenings, or protein lick tubs) for winter supplementation, since these could improve the eating experience while using resources that would otherwise be part of the waste stream. As long as these are kept below 1% of body weight, there is no negative effect on the balance of microbes in the rumen that otherwise can cause acidosis in conventional feedlot animals.
This kind of flexibility is important in a program that aspires to help rebuild Montana’s meat industry and therefore needs to think about how to finish livestock at more scale locally at a fair price rather than sending them to the midwest.
Insofar as hay, licktubs, grain or grain byproducts or other feed are being purchased from outside the ranch, we will continue to strive to source these from farms that are prioritizing soil health by integrating livestock, minimizing inputs like artificial fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, tillage and fossil fuels.
Minimizing diesel and gas is an important reason for finishing and processing livestock much closer to home. Doing the same on ranches and farms with other fossil fuel-based inputs like pesticides, herbicides and Haber-Bosch fertilizer not only decreases emissions but it preserves the soil. Add in proper grazing management, and you have a system that can sequester more GHGs than it emits. All of this, Old Salt ranches aspire to do.
It is true that livestock emit methane, a greenhouse gas. Yet, it is also true that there are no more net ruminants on earth today than were present two hundred years ago, pre-industrialization. Those historical ruminants also produced methane, which breaks down in the atmosphere after 10 years, converting back to carbon dioxide to be once again taken up by plants. Therefore, livestock are not the source of the net new GHG contribution that continues to drive global warming, which comes from the use of fossil fuels.
Ultimately, livestock are the central tool in responsible agriculture. Ruminants convert grass forage into nourishing and useful products, mimicking the grazing impacts of native ruminants with which these ecosystems evolved. Livestock can also make valuable use of grain byproducts (e.g. hulls, screenings, brewers grain, etc) unfit for human consumption while fertilizing soil and terminating crops in place of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides that damage land.
We have deep respect for animals. Old Salt espouses husbandry that relies on handling skills and techniques to work primarily with an animal’s mind rather than by force. Injecting growth hormones into animals unnecessarily risks detracting from overall well-being in the same way steroids would in humans. Consistent access to open space and adequate shelter is important for quality of life. Furthermore, sub-therapeutics (i.e. antibiotics used for disease prevention instead of treatment) are avoided to prevent antibiotic resistance.
Meat has everything your body needs and nothing it doesn’t. It is packed with complete protein and healthy fats, zinc, heme iron, essential b-vitamins. As found in animals, those nutrients are in a form that is more bioavailable to the human body than similar nutrients from plant sources. The long time teaching that saturated fat causes heart disease and diabetes has been thoroughly debunked (see, for just one excellent example of addressing this topic, Nina Teicholz’s Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet).
The Fertile Feast, Dr. Robert Kiltz, M.D.
The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz
Sacred Cow, Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf
The Righteous Porkchop, Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman
The Unsettling of the West, The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry
The Paleo Solution, Wired to Eat, Robb Wolf
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A Price
Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher
1491, Charles C. Mann
Working Wilderness, The Politics of Scale, Nathan Sayre
Holistic Management, A Commonsense Revolution to Restore our Environment, Allan Savory
Nourishment, Fred Provenza