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At Rafter 25 Ranch, we run a closed herd. No breeding animals have been bought in the last ten years. However, we are considering freshening the line by buying all new bulls in the next few years, then closing the herd again.
Our cattle are winter fed hay for an average of 60 to 90 days; the remainder of their time is spent grazing residual forage from the previous year, then lush, irrigated pastures and approximately 160,000 hectares of range land, which we lease from the crown. All of our animals are free of any kind of pharmaceuticals like antibiotics, growth promoting implants, parasite controlling chemicals and vaccinations. It is clean water and forage, with sea salt being the only supplement.
From two years of age on, the steers and cull heifers are being harvested. The reminder of the heifers are replacement breeding stock. On the Chilcotin Plateau, it takes a minimum of 24 months to grass finish a beef animal. This is a long time, however it is worth it: The finished product is well marbled, shows a good amount of cover fat and it is delicious – and what is even more important: It is good for you!
The sheep graze into the winter and, when snow conditions demand, they are fed hay. They do not leave deeded land and are protected by our four guardian dogs. What wonderful animals they are! The sheep will also be fed fodder, (sprouted, certified organic grains), as soon as the fodder station is finished, which we expect to happen before Christmas, 2015.
Try either p2p lamb, or mutton, or both; it is delicious and it is good for you! My favourite: Rub good quality sea salt into a leg-o-mutton, place it in a cast iron pot, pour some red wine into it and roast on low heat for 9 hours. Be careful when lifting it out or the meat will fall off the bone. This is food for the Gods; Odysseus would second me on this!
Our pigs are weaned at six to eight weeks and they begin to graze and dig for roots on expansive pastures. Their diet is supplemented with certified organic grains, the fodder to come (please see under grass finished Lamb and Mutton) and produce from our organic market garden.
Until now, the sows have been wintered and sheltered on, and in, hay. During this summer and fall, Oliver Tritten, of OT Timberframes, built us a big timber frame barn where the sows will be able to winter farrow on deep litter and the feeder pigs and boars will enjoy a winter in pleasant temperatures, all on deep litter, with out of doors access to sunshine and hay. (Our new barn also includes an egg grading station, two bays on deep litter for raising chicks and a shelter for machinery and equipment and it will also house the already talked about fodder station). Jasmin named the new barn “SOWSALITO”. Once finished, the website will be updated with photos.
The above-mentioned diet and environment result in pork that is unrivalled in tenderness, juiciness and flavour. Our pigs also have optimal marbling and a heavy cover of fat, making our pork perfectly suited for both slow cooking and high temperature cooking. The fat is pure white, almost crunchy and, as Helmut, a 52 year old Austrian Master butcher, judged: “I have never in my life worked with such beautiful pork.” Again it is clean, a pleasure to eat and it is good for you!
Hatched from eggs that have not been vaccinated or medicated, our chickens are sheltered during the early stages of development. They are fed BC certified organic grains, fresh spring water and sea salt.
Once our poultry have developed enough feather growth, they are moved onto irrigated pasture where they can seek shelter under portable coops and gorge themselves on lush forage, insects and grains. The electrified chicken netting is moved weekly, ensuring that there are fresh pickings at all times. We provide feed and fresh water and they in turn enrich our soils with their potent manure.
After nine to eleven weeks, they are plump and ready for harvest. Chilcotin Harvest is close by, so none of the Pasture to Plate animals are exposed to lengthy transport. A plump p2p chicken provides 5 meals for Jasmin and myself, with the last one being rich and delicious bone broth with a beaten egg in it… These birds are so good and so good for you. Their fatty, crisp skin makes me wish for more of it every time, the meat is firm and juicy and the resulting gravy a delight on mashed potatoes. If you haven’t yet, try one and you’ll be back for more!
The turkeys are raised very much like the chickens. They become very friendly and follow the handler all through the paddocks where they are being grazed, sheltered, fed and watered. Next year’s birds will be harvested at a lighter weight to accommodate demand. Jasmin brought a cooked Thanksgiving p2p turkey dinner home from Kinikinik this year and we enjoyed the meal with much gusto. It makes one feel good when you know deep down that it just cannot get any better…
We made the decision to not feed processed rations, even when organic, to any of our animals anymore. The decision was not an easy one, however we all feel it is important to actually know that the grains which grow our animals are certified organic grains, grown in Western Canada and grown predominantly in BC.
Staying away from processed feed will grow the birds much slower than when they are being fed imported, high protein mixed feeds and thus the cost to produce them is substantially higher.
But we firmly believe that you will enjoy a special event organic turkey feast even more when knowing that the bird on your table was fed the cleanest, locally grown grains, certified organic pasture and clean, untreated water.
We sure do!