Daisy Got A Book Deal

 

OK, I got a book deal. And Daisy stars in it!

The book came to me while I was driving last August, I started the book proposal in September, freaked out and ignored it in October, finished it in November, and sent it to my agent the week after Thanksgiving. She loved it and wanted to wait until after the holidays to send it to editors, so that happened the first week of January, an imprint of Penguin RandomHouse won the rights in a sealed-bid auction the first week of February, and we signed the contract last week, which means I finally get to share the news…. insert one-footed cartwheel here!

The working title (which means it could change) is MEDITATIONS WITH COWS and it will be out Fall 2020. Here’s the blurb:

MEDITATIONS WITH COWS traverses Stockton’s deeply intimate relationships with cattle via raw and visceral stories of the work and wonder of ranch life in modern America. MEDITATIONS WITH COWS is an immersive journey into understanding and honoring these strong, intuitive, and generous animals. Throughout the book, Stockton critiques the inhumane and environmentally destructive factory farm and feedlot system, and shares sustainable alternatives for ethical omnivores that prioritize the humane treatment of animals and responsible stewardship of the Earth. Stockton is the author of the bestselling The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming along with two popular blogs.

This book is the culmination of the last ten years of my life and all I’ve learned from Daisy, et al.; all the beloved bovines with whom I’ve shared my life. I pray (on an hourly, tear-stained, stress-hunched basis while clutching Bird by Bird like a bible) that I will do them justice with this book.

If you want to be sure to get updates on the new book, you can sign up for THIS mailing list. You’ll get very few emails from me over the course of this year, but I have some special secret stuff planned as we get closer to publication. Might as well sign up now so you don’t have to remember to do it later! Just click HERE.

Food Bank Cooperation Donation: Philosophy & Mission

 

We all need healthy, nourishing food and we all deserve it. Organic, sustainably-raised food is generally more expensive, and I abhor the fact that ones socioeconomic status determines the quality of food available.

I am disturbed by the widening chasm of income inequality. I consider this a heartbreaking crisis and I feel powerless in many ways. But I am in a position to donate the finest, healthiest, most delicious beef to food banks, and I do this with a rebel’s spirit.

Cooperation is a revolutionary act, I believe this with my soul. Please, join us!

How this works:
Donations are collected and pooled to buy humanely-raised, organically-raised, grass-finished beef from Star Brand Beef at wholesale (more beef for your buck). That beef is donated to The Food Bank of The Rockies in YOUR names. I will provide The Food Bank of The Rockies with a spreadsheet of donations received (which will include your names and addresses) and The Food Bank of The Rockies will then send YOU your own, personalized 501(c)3 charitable donation paperwork in the amount of your donation for the current tax year.

With this donation, you:
• help individuals and families receive nourishing, healthy food
• know your donation dollars go exclusively to food raised with organic, sustainable practices
• support my work in ethical agriculture and the humane treatment of animals
• get a tax write-off for your kindness and generosity!

I donate beef every year, personally, but together, we can donate even more to those in need, and keep even more animals from entering CAFOs. Thank you for joining me in this venture!

Supporting food banks was extremely important to my grandmother, the late, great Svensto. I am honored to continue her legacy.

Donate Now!

Privacy policy: Your name and contact information will be shared with (and only with) The Food Bank of The Rockies so that they may send you your charitable donation paperwork for the current tax year.

Questions? Ashley is my coordinator at The Food Bank of the Rockies. You may also email me with questions – if I can’t answer them I shall forward them on to her.

 

Sustainable Choices And Conversations

originally posted on Honey Rock Dawn

This time of year, I inevitably receive comments from those who are confused by the seeming contradiction of how much I love cows and how I provide beef for those who choose to eat it. And I would like to continue to explain why this is actually not a contradiction, and how one informs the other.

I did not set out to be a rancher. But when I moved to Wyoming, which is cattle country, I saw thousands of calves being shipped off to feedlots every year when they were about nine months old. I heard the bawling of the calves and their mothers when they were separated – the sound travels for miles. And I knew feedlots to be cow concentration camps – the truth about feedlots should be common knowledge by now. Why, oh why, if I loved cows, would I stand by and do nothing? How, being that I was in a position to keep some of those calves from going to feedlots, could I not act, not do something?

When I buy calves from Mike, I keep those calves from entering The System: from going to feedlots, from being contained in pens filled with their own waste, from feed that is unnatural and makes them sick, from alleged abuse from workers, from an existence that is unequivocally and undeniably horrendous.

I do not keep them from transitioning to food. I don’t have the land, the money, nor the arrogance to do this – I believe that people who choose to eat meat deserve an option that is healthy and humane. I eat meat, about one meal a week, but I would continue to do this work even if I were 100% vegetarian. As long as I am able, and as long as people and/or their pets eat meat, I will humanely raise free-ranging, grass-finished beef.

Since they do transition to food, the lives of my beef cattle are short, this is true. But those lives are so completely free – free from stress, free from worry, free from hardship of any kind. For the entire course of their lives, they remain in a family unit, a family herd. They are given hundred- to thousand-acre pastures to roam and graze (land, I might add, that can’t raise other crops due to location and lack of irrigation). They drink water that is cleaner and purer than what most people have access to. They never go hungry, they never have to search for food. And they are treated gently and respectfully.

Mike and I prioritize calm and gentle behavior with our animals. We practice low-stress weaning, separating the cows from their calves but keeping them adjacent, separated by only a fence, so that they may smell, see, and hear one another while the calves transition to grass and hay and the cows dry off. There is no bawling, and the calves do not get sick from stress. When we sort or trail our cattle, we work with them on their time frame, not ours. We allow them to sniff the horse trailer or the squeeze chute and make the decision to enter on their own, rather than hitting them or using a hot shot to force them forward. Mike and I do not use, or even own, hot shots. Hot shots are cattle prods, like a taser for cows, and you would be shocked (no pun intended) by how often they are used.

This is why it’s so important to establish relationships with the people who raise the food you eat – whenever and wherever it’s possible – whether it’s eggs, dairy, or meat. It’s important to go deeper than the label, and find producers who practice a philosophy that aligns with yours. Buying grass-finished meat at Whole Foods is a great start. It is so much better for you, for the animals, and for the environment than conventional feedlot meat. But if the humane treatment of animals is important to you, it takes more work, more diligence. A lot of ranchers love and respect their stock. But not all of them do. Humane treatment is not a given, not yet.

Not everyone can drive down the road and chat with the person who raises the chickens that lay the eggs they eat, but there are other steps that can be taken. Just talking about the humane treatment of animals is a huge and essential step! Change begins with a conversation. And as consumers change their habits, markets change in response.

These market shifts are happening already. In the last five years, there has been an increase in calf buyers who are taking calves to giant grass pastures, and not straight into feedlots, because they see consumers choosing pastured beef. The more conversations we have, and the more choices we make that honor the humane treatment of the animals that become our food, the more change we can inspire industry-wide. We have a long way to go, but we are making strides with every choice we make about what we eat, what we buy, how we buy, and how we think and talk about food.

More information & resources:
@Defending Beef twitter feed
: The case for sustainable meat, a great link and info round-up
Consumer Guide for Boycotting Factory Farms
: via Organic Consumers Association
Feedlot/Grass-based beef comparison & terms
: via The Cornucopia Institute
Star Brand Beef
: Humanely-raised grass-finished beef

In Defense Of The Family Rancher

originally posted on Honey Rock Dawn

In my last post, I got this comment: I do not understand how someone who has such love and respect for cattle can advocate their slaughter. I’ve received versions of this comment/question many times since I launched Star Brand Beef and, to be completely honest, I’ve never really understood the question. I started Star Brand Beef because I love and respect cows.

I eat meat – here is my post about why I’m not vegan or vegetarian. I don’t feel guilt about eating meat (I feel respect and gratitude) but I would feel guilt, and feel like a hypocrite, if I didn’t do everything in my power to keep cattle from going to feedlots. The fact that I can offer other people healthy, humanely-raised, affordable, antibiotic-free, GMO-free meat is a bonus.

Even if I became vegan tomorrow, I would still do this work, because other people still eat meat. And, any vegan who has a dog or a cat is buying animal products in the form of dog or cat food – and it’s not karma-exempt just because it’s for your pet. Unless it is explicitly labeled grass-finished and pasture-raised, the beef on the market (or at the taco stand or in the dog food can) comes from cattle that spent time – in most cases half their lives – on a feedlot. Feedlots are cow concentration camps. Commercially raised pigs and chickens have their own versions of this, too. Anyone who has not seen a commercial feedlot, please google, or watch Food Inc.

Backing up: How and why do cattle end up on feedlots? Family ranches make up the majority of the source of all beef sold in the US.* These ranchers run the breeding stock – the cows and the bulls – and every year, they sell the calves to feedlots. So, the cows stay on the ranch, and the rancher’s income comes from selling calves each year. This system has succeeded because ranchers spend 14-hour days working the land and tending the animals – they don’t have the time (and, often, the inclination) to be salesmen and women on top of that. And pre-internet, selling beef directly to the consumer would have been virtually impossible for most ranchers. So, the ranchers have a simple, dependable manner in which to sell their calves: to the feedlots and packers (though it is not without disadvantages, which I will get to later).  Calves enter the feedlot system at around six months old to 1.5 years old and are fed corn and soy and heaven knows what else, and are injected with Zilmax and antibiotics and heaven knows what else, and then become beef for the consumer market at around two years old. The animals are big enough, by then, but there’s another reason – they will die from liver failure after two years in a feedlot, because what they are fed is so contrary to their physiology.

Mike’s oldest cow, fed only grass, is 21 years old. Cattle fed in a feedlot will die within two years. There’s something terribly, terribly wrong with this picture. Combine that with the horrific physical conditions of a feedlot – no area to move or run, no shade from the sun, nothing but layers of their own shit to stand in – and one can see why there is rampant use of antibiotics on cattle in feedlots. (More than half of all antibiotics and antacids used in this country are given to cattle on feedlots.) And then the people and cats and dogs who eat this meat are eating extremely unhealthy meat – they’re eating meat that was sick, and that is filled with antibiotics and other drugs, and this in turn contributes to the health problems we see today in our society (red meat is not inherently unhealthy; corn-fed red meat that is pumped with antibiotics and other drugs, is).

Mark Bittman did this TED talk that discusses the enormous amount of beef consumed in America today. It’s a great talk, though not without flaws: the cattle industry statistics at the beginning are in relation to feedlots – no one is blaming global warming on elk or reindeer (bad Santa!). And his solution is personal choice – changing our collective eating habits to “knock down” industrial ag.
This is important, yes. But it’s not the most viable solution. Because, first and foremost, ranchers (under the current system) will sell their calves to feedlots and feedlots will market all that beef. The statistics in the second half of Bittman’s talk confirm that.

I see another possible solution. Right now, most ranchers run “carrying capacity” with breeding stock, as mentioned before, and sell calves when they are weaned (or yearlings). However, if ranchers transitioned from cow/calf operations to cow/calf/grass-finished beef operations and were able to sell this grass-finished beef directly (realistically, through a cooperative) without going through the feedlots, some very remarkable things would happen.

The land can only run so many cattle. There is a finite amount of grass and hay. So, if a rancher switched from selling calves to raising these calves for grass-finished beef, they would have to restructure their herd, and run less breeding cows because they would also be feeding the beef-to-be. This would cut a rancher’s workload by about 25%, because some of the hardest work in ranching is calving, tending and working calves, and trailing cow/calf pairs. My little beef herd is extremely low maintenance compared to cow/calf pairs. I trailed them down the mountain on foot, they’re that easy. There still remains the ranch work of trailing and irrigating and putting up hay and tending to the (smaller) cow/calf herd, but overall, the workload is decreased by about 25%.

If these ranchers were able to sell their grass-finished beef directly to the consumer (or restaurant or school or cooperative owned-and-operated meat market), even after subtracting a commission to a manager/admin/organizer (someone who coordinates sales as I have done with Star Brand Beef), they would earn about 25% more selling finished beef than they currently do selling a higher number of calves. For those of you with office jobs, imagine being offered a four day work week along with a 25% raise. The rancher would also be in greater control of the market, rather than being at the mercy of the feeders and packers who drastically fluctuate beef and calf prices, over which the family rancher has no control. And feedlots would die.

OK, feedlots wouldn’t necessarily die, at least not immediately. This is because corporations, which make up only 4% of all cattle operations in the US, account for 35% of sales.* I’m guessing they would try to keep the feedlot system alive.  But if feedlots lose more than half their inventory, they’re going to feel the hurt. No business can run in the same manner with less than half the inventory – just ask the newspaper and magazine companies. McDonald’s hamburgers would cost $15. Two birds with one stone.

Family ranchers may be land-rich, but I don’t know any who are rich-rich. Some decide this life is too hard for too little pay and sell their ranch to multi-millionaires, or are forced out because of financial reasons. This has happened here. One such multimillionaire who bought out a family ranch has put in a private airstrip, a tennis court, a fake climbing wall, has built – among other things – a multi-thousand-square-foot hunting lodge in the middle of elk habitat (and then wonders why the elk no longer congregate in that area), and is planning a subdivision. Now we’re no longer talking about cattle but the diminishing habitat of other animals – rabbit, coyote, bobcat, fox, elk, deer, antelope, beaver, hawk, eagle, magpie, on and on.

When I spent the summer of 2011 camping on our mountain pasture lease, I noticed a sad phenomenon. Our pasture lease is 1000 +/- acres of private land owned by the rancher we lease from, and which is surrounded on all sides by other 1000-acre tracts of private land owned by other ranchers. But to get there, you must drive through the National Forest. I saw hardly any wildlife during my trips through the National Forest. I did see everyone and their mother zooming around on 4-wheelers. (Hint: there’s a correlation.) Once I crossed through a few gates and was deep into private land, I saw wildlife everywhere. Deer, coyote families, sign of bear, dozens upon dozens of birds. The US Forest Service biologists have noted compromised wildlife habitat in public land, even in areas with leave-no-trace / hike-in-only access. One could argue that private ranch land is one of the last refuges of wildlife. (Because a ranching family checking cows on horseback, or even me camping in the mountain pasture all summer, has far less impact on wildlife than the influx of thousands of hikers or campers entering wildlife habitat in public wilderness areas over the course of each season.)

Right now, 85% of the consumer beef market is controlled by four corporations, and they are making the decisions for ranchers and consumers. And this is through the feedlot system, which is downright horrible for the animals, for the earth, and for anyone who eats that beef. Change has to start somewhere, and it is starting, all over the country with small ranchers raising grass-finished beef. I have two ranchers on board with me after just one year of Star Brand Beef sales, and a number of others who are intrigued. Is this easy? No! None of this is easy. I’m not doing it for “easy.” But I’m good with cattle, and I think the current system is awful, and I think I would be a worse person if I didn’t work to change it. And I think it’s better for those who eat meat, to eat meat that was loved.

* data from the USDA Census of Agriculture

The End, The Beginning

originally posted on Honey Rock Dawn

This morning I stood in a meat locker surrounded by my hanging sides of beef. Talk about intimacy. I have wanted to write about the last days, and have, for myself ~ but haven’t published any of it here because I have learned that sometimes, while emotions and thoughts might seem crystal clear to me, I don’t always express them clearly enough for The Internet and this topic is too potent and too dear to risk misunderstanding. But it’s time to try.

Two weeks before my little herd was slated for processing, Mike and I trailered them from their huge spring pasture to a lush smaller pasture just a quarter mile from home where it would be easier to sort them off when the time came. Over the course of their lives, I have trailed them half the time and trailered them half the time ~ from the beginning, I knew their last day would entail a trailer ride to the processor and I didn’t want that to be a new and stressful experience for them. Trailering them to various grazing land is always a long, hard day for Mike and me, because it takes so many trips, but it’s quick and easy for the animals, and they walk right into the trailer in small groups and think nothing of it. This means so much to me.

When the time came, we took them to the processor in small batches over the course of a week. I chose the processor I did because they are incredibly good at what they do and they care deeply about their work ~ and the animals. It’s just two women and three men, small and personal, and stereotypes do not fit here ~ they are patient and gentle. On the first morning, one of the men looked right into my eyes and said, “I can see these animals are loved,” and that comment reaffirmed my confidence that I was leaving them in the right hands (I did not stay for the slaughter).

That day, I cried several times but it was not for the reason most people assumed, that my animals were being killed. I see it more as a transition than death ~ they were transitioning to beef, to food for people who need it and will respect it and deeply appreciate it, just as I do when I eat meat. No, I cried because of the sheer intensity of being this closely involved in the process. The reality of the process. Stores make it so easy to disconnect from the process ~ whether it’s a grocery store or a clothing store or whatever store ~ because in that context, we ARE disconnected. But the process is potent. It demands acknowledgement and responsibility. It leaves no doubt that waste is disrespectful.

It soothed my soul to know that in addition to the meat, every organ and bone of every beef was spoken for. That every lower leg with the hoof, usually thrown away, was going to someone’s dog. To know that even an ear and an eyeball were going to fuel a child’s imagination (one customer emailed me to say her daughter was in the midst of the Harry Potter books and had asked for an ear and an eyeball with which to make spells). The transition of my herd was not in vain.

When I began this venture in 2010, everyone in town who knew about it thought it would fail. Even Mike. Mike and certain friends were wholly supportive, but skeptical nonetheless. I’m so grateful to all of you who have allowed me, over the past several years, to get to know you ~ for even though I don’t know what any of you look like, I knew that our vision and values aligned. I knew, deep down, that this was not a great risk or outrageous fantasy, but simply a step in the right direction that we are taking together.

On a lighter note ~ the beef looks fantastic. The processors were amazed by the sheer size of each beef and by the quality of the meat. It is perfectly marbled ~ the holy grail of beef ~ yet lean overall, without the thick layer of outer fat that they usually have to hack off with conventional grain-fed beef. I’m really pleased, and think that everyone who ordered will be, too.

Why I’m Not Vegetarian Or Vegan

originally posted on Honey Rock Dawn

It’s certainly not for lack of caring about animals. But before I get into details ~ I have noticed, over the years, that conversations about food and diet often veer into a similar realm as those about politics or religion. I don’t want that to happen here. I’m often asked how I can care so deeply for the cows and calves we raise and still eat meat ~ in answering that here, I am simply sharing my choices and what works for me; I’m not trying to “convert” anybody. I think every body has different needs and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diet.

Onward! I was really naive about food until I turned 26. I didn’t particularly care about food ~ it was not a priority in my life and I just ate whatever. I thought food was food, that all food was pretty much fine, because why would they have commercials on TV for Big Macs if they were bad for you? Naive.

Then I became devastatingly ill, to the point where I had to sit on the bathroom floor to brush my teeth because I didn’t have the energy to stand at the sink, and was battling an unyielding depression. It took me six months to discover the root was gluten intolerance and when I cut gluten out of my diet, all the horrible symptoms and effects disappeared. That period of illness was the worst six months of my life and it was the best thing that happened to me. Because everything changed. I realized that what I put into my body affected how I feel and how I function. I started paying attention to my body and I started paying attention to food.

I went vegan for a bit, but soon realized my body functions best with animal protein. It’s just the way it is with me. Some people thrive on a vegan diet and I didn’t. And so I began incorporating raw organic milk and cheese and grass-finished pasture-raised beef back into my diet, all of which I could buy in stores as I was living in San Francisco at the time.

These choices regarding animal products, however, were not rooted in altruism; they were totally self-centered. Since I had discovered that food = health and health = power, I wanted the animal protein I was eating to be as pure and natural as possible ~ when you eat meat, eggs, or dairy, you consume what the animal consumed, and factory-raised products are filled with antibiotics, hormones, and unhealthy fats because of the conditions in which the animals are raised.

Yet in my research surrounding this, I began learning about the absolute horrors of commercial farming and that is when I became passionate about the animals. I vowed that if I was going to eat an animal, I would make sure that animal never spent time in a feedlot or factory farm; that the animal’s life was as happy and peaceful as possible before that life was surrendered for mine.

I don’t ignore the fact that an animal dies so that I may eat meat. I don’t take it lightly. But to reconcile that fact, I have to know the animal had the most peaceful, stress-free life possible and the quickest, most stress-free death possible. I eat elk that Mike hunts, because he hunts with a rifle and is so skilled that the animals he takes are dead before they fall. I also eat the beef that we raise, because I know the animal’s life was good, that it was loved and free, and I am with it till the end. There’s no feedlot, no slaughterhouse, just a trip down the dirt road to a small USDA-certified processor run by a woman who is smart and kind.

Because I am so adamantly against the industries of terror and abuse that are conventional farming, I haven’t eaten chicken in ten years, and I only eat eggs from Mike’s chickens (when they stop laying I go without) and dairy from Daisy (when she dries off for two months before each calf I go without). I feel really lucky to be so “close to the source” via my life in Wyoming. But it’s an ongoing process ~ just the other day I realized my favorite gluten-free bread which I buy upon occasion is made with eggs, and these are very likely factory-farmed eggs. So I switched to a different brand of bread that is vegan and gluten free.

Going back to the original question, how can I invest so much care in a orphan calf, or keep a hypothermic calf in my house, when I know it’s going to die anyway? Because I love each calf. Because I have so much respect for these animals and am so grateful for them. I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me. And in the meantime, I want their lives to be filled with respect and freedom and peace.

CUTTING & PACKAGING FOR HALF & WHOLE BEEF

 

Customers who order a whole beef or a half beef have complete control over how their beef is cut and packaged.

If you have never ordered custom beef before, or are unfamiliar with any terms below, feel free to email me with questions – I am happy to walk you through it.

Your Name:

Pickup Location:

Size Preference (Small, Medium, or Large):

Size preference is in regards to the final hanging weight of your beef order.
Half = Small: 420 – 438 lbs / Medium: 438 – 456 lbs / Large: 456 – 475 lbs
Whole = Small: 850 – 870 lbs / Medium: 870 – 885 / Large: 885 – 900 lbs

 

Steaks: _____ thickness (1”, 1.25”, 1.5”, etc)

Steaks: _____ # per package

Roasts: _____ pound roasts

Ground Beef: _____ pound packages

Half: Choose ONE from each set below (ie, rib steaks OR rib eye steaks OR prime rib).

Whole: You may choose one or two from each set. If you choose two, you will receive equal portions of each.

NOTE TO ALL: Anything not checked will go to burger.

_____ Prime Rib
_____ Rib Steaks (Bone In)
_____ Rib Eye Steaks     _____ Back Ribs available with Rib Eye Steaks

_____ New York Steaks + Tenderloin    (Choose ____ Tenderloin Steaks or ____ Whole Tenderloin)
_____ T-Bone + Porterhouse

_____ Top Round Steaks
_____ Top Round Roasts

_____ Bottom Round Steaks
_____ Bottom Round Roasts

_____ Eye of Round Steaks
_____ Eye of Round Roast

_____ Sirloin Tip Steaks
_____ Sirloin Tip Roast

_____ Chuck Steaks
_____ Chuck Roasts

Mark each item you would like to receive (anything not checked will go to burger):
_____ Stew Meat
_____ Short Ribs
_____ Brisket
_____ Sirloin Steak
_____ Flank Steak
_____ Skirt Steak
_____ Hanger Steak
_____ Shoulder Roast
_____ Arm Roast
_____ Rump Roast
_____ Heel of Round Roast
_____ Oxtail
_____ Soup Bones
_____ Shank Bones
_____ Leaf fat for tallow
_____ Tendons

Organ Meat:
_____ tongue
_____ kidneys
_____ heart
_____ liver
_____ sweetbreads

 

  • 2016 DELIVERY ROUTES

    WEST:
  • SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Wednesday, August 3
  • RENO, NV
    Thursday, August 4
  • SACRAMENTO, CA
    Thursday, August 4
  • ALAMEDA, CA
    Saturday, August 6
  • SAN JOSE, CA
    Saturday, August 6
  • PASO ROBLES, CA
    Saturday, August 6
  • SANTA BARBARA, CA
    Saturday, August 6
  • LOS ANGELES, CA
    Sunday, August 7
  • PHOENIX, AZ
    Sunday, August 7
  • EAST:
  • RAPID CITY, SD
    Thursday, August 18
  • MINNEAPOLIS, MN
    Friday, August 19
  • DULUTH, MN
    Friday, August 19
  • MILWAUKEE, WI
    Saturday, August 20
  • CHICAGO, IL
    Saturday, August 20
  • DES MOINES, IA
    Sunday, August 21
  • LINCOLN, NE
    Sunday, August 21
  • DENVER, CO
    Monday, August 22
  • Star Brand Beef is a small ranch, run with love and care. I have a limited supply of beef and always sell out before the ordering window closes each summer.
  • Ordering for 2016 closes in June, or when I sell out - whichever is first. If you would like to order, please act quickly!