James Ranch, Durango CO

james ranch market durango

Last Friday we were driving from Durango to Silverton and Ouray (on an incredibly scenic road–if you are in the area, do it), and just north of Durango we saw a sign for James Ranch Market: Open Saturday. It being mid-April, farmers market-type places are in short supply, so we happily returned the next day to check out the James Ranch offerings. It’s a gorgeous property, with rolling green fields dotted with cows, a mobile chicken coop, picnic tables, and a little burger hut serving their own beef and cheese, in addition to the shop selling the farm’s products. We were disappointed that we’d already had breakfast so didn’t get to try a burger, but we did buy some ground beef, flank steak, and eggs, and strolled the grounds hoping to spot some baby animals.

james ranch food cart durango james ranch durango cheese james ranch durango meat cooler

James Ranch raises beef cows on a 100% grass diet with no chemicals or hormones. The beeves (a new word to me since spending time out West and I love it) spend their entire lives with the family herd in a stress-free atmosphere. The dairy cows and goats also live on grass, or rather leaves, bark, and shrubs for the goats. Pigs are new to the farm, living in herds on pasture, able to root and wallow like pigs do. Chickens are pastured too, happily eating fly larvae from cow pies to keep the fly population in check–and they have a guard donkey to protect them from predators!

james ranch durango picnic area james ranch durango pasturesjames ranch durango pastures james ranch durango

The James family practices sustainable agriculture in preserving soil and water quality, and believes in transparency in farming: they encourage consumers to visit the farm to see where the meat, eggs, and milk come from and how the animals are treated, and if you have questions about the animals or the meat, they are happy to answer them. It’s how a farm should be!

james ranch durango james ranch durango grass fed beef

Temple Grandin on Cows

About nine months ago I started reading Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin. I finally finished it (I have a bad habit of reading several books at once and getting sidetracked) and would like to share some of her points here. She discusses what different types of animals need to be happy, and how to improve the living conditions of pets, livestock, zoo animals, and wildlife. Below are some of her thoughts on cows.


  • The single most important factor determining whether a new thing is more interesting than scary if whether the animal has control over whether to approach the object… So you want to have no novel stimuli inside a meatpacking plant. (p. 147)
  • There have been so many studies showing that good stockmanship improves milk production, weight gain, and reproduction. (p. 156)
  • Sudden weaning is completely unnecessary, and people need to be encouraged to switch over to low-stress weaning. Abruptly weaned calves have reduced weight gain for a week and higher stress levels. (p. 159)
  • …the Holstein calf is not fully mobile for two days. Breeders have overselected so much for milk production that they’ve created a weak, fragile animal that’s so frail it’s starting to be hard to breed them. Holstein cows can carry a pregnancy to term but it’s hard to get a pregnancy started. (p. 164)
  • Another obstacle is that to be a good stockperson you have to recognize that an animal is a conscious being that has feelings, and some people don’t want to think of animals that way. This is true of researchers and veterinarians as well as stockpeople. (p. 166)
  • The good news is that conditions in the plants are much better today than they were in the early ’90s. The animal welfare audits required by McDonald’s, Whole Foods, and other companies have forced plant management to monitor, measure, and improve employee behavior. Plants are maintaining their equipment better and reassigning or firing employees who abuse animals. Some plants have installed video systems on the plant floor, which solves the problem of people behaving properly when they are being watched and reverting to old rough ways when nobody is around. (p. 172)

Buy the book from Amazon:


Over the holidays, the HP family spent time in West Virginia, and ate dinner at the lovely Panorama at the Peak. The view was gorgeous, the restaurant was homey, the menu emphasized local food, and the dishes were tasty. I recommend a visit if you are in Berkeley Springs. Mr HP and I were discussing the menu when the manager (I believe) passed and overheard “veal”; apparently she could tell how we feel about veal, because she offered up this nugget of reality:

If you want milk you have to have babies, and some of them are gonna be boys.


In Appreciation of Happy Cow Beef

Guest post from Mr HP!

While visiting Tucson a few weeks ago, my brother took me to St. Philip’s Plaza Farmers Market where I ran into one of the proprietors of San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef.

San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef

Upon seeing his sign, I decided to make some small talk.

“You mean you don’t torture your cows?”

“No, we treat all of our cattle humanely.”

“But, don’t tortured cows taste better?”

He took the joke and we spoke about their ranch a little bit. They keep around 200 head of cattle on about 7,000 acres of land in Patagonia, Tucson, a beautiful (and temperate, thanks to the elevation) part of Arizona about a 75 minute drive south of Tucson. (Incidentally, Patagonia is a short drive from Sonoita, home to outstanding vineyards producing some fairly drinkable wine; all in all, well worth a visit.)

Sonoita Arizona wine country

Sonoita, Arizona Wine Country

In addition to enjoying beautiful scenery, San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef’s Angus-Hereford cattle are on a diet of 100% grass, and are spared hormones, feed lots, big corn, antibiotics and pesticides.

San Rafael Valley Grass-Fed Beef

Unfortunately, it was my last day in Tucson so I didn’t get to taste any of the beef, but I agree from past experience that grass-fed, humanely raised cows taste better. It’s good for soul. And possibly the brain, heart, immune system, etc.

Singaporean cow art

I saw this lovely sculpture in Fort Canning Park’s sculpture garden:

Isn’t it a wonderful reminder that cows are animals, not just food machines? Cows should be respected. [Even though I don’t eat them, I am not against it–as long as beef eaters are careful to eat cows that were treated well and slaughtered humanely.]

Meet Yer Eats farm tour: Forrest Green Farm

Second stop on the farm tour: Forrest Green Farm in Louisa County, home to cows, chickens, horses, herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Oh, and did I mention the MINIATURE COWS:

I actually expected a flock of tiny cows, but these guys were almost full-sized. They’re beef cows, and Forrest Green also sells them as breeding stock. Apparently the Miniature Hereford’s numbers are on the decline; maybe dear friend Cheenius will get a herd for her yard and help support the breed.

Under the tent, all sorts of goodies were for sale: sheep and alpaca wool yarn, herbal products, and quail eggs.

The eggs are beautiful–they look like Easter candy. They were from Breeze Hill Farm‘s covey of quail, and the Quail Eggs flyer they gave us advertised benefits of regular consumption of quail eggs such as: they have more protein, vitamins, and minerals than chicken eggs; they have no LDL (bad) cholesterol and are rich in HDL (good) cholesterol; they help keep diseases and disorders (listing many examples) at bay; they increase sexual potency in men; they’re good for your brain, immune system, skin, and hair. Oh, and they improve metabolism and increase energy. Wow! How could we not buy a dozen?

quail eggs

With our quail eggs in hand, we headed to the car for our final farm visit of the day. Last stop: Brightwood Vineyard and Farm, in Madison, VA.

Meet Yer Eats farm tour: Ted’s Last Stand

Finally, the (gray, drizzly) day has arrived for the Meet Yer Eats farm tour!

First stop: Ted’s Last Stand farm and garden in Louisa, VA, home to flowers, veggies, bees, mushrooms, chickens, llamas, donkeys, dogs, and cats. We roamed the grounds, seeing a rooster wrangling, learning about mushroom farming, and petting donkeys.

Ted's Last Stand tent

Dear friend Cheenius, a bee expert, compared notes with a fellow beekeeper.

Farmer Michael Levatino demonstrated rooster wrangling and showed us the rooster’s spurs, which are used to subdue the hens for mating. They are serious weapons–the poor hens! The hens may have been molting, but the flock looked very henpecked, with raw backs.

Ted's Last Stand rooster wrangling

Dear friend Cheenius was VERY excited about the mushroom growing workshops coming up this fall! These oak logs had been inoculated with Shiitake mushrooms and sealed up with wax. The mushrooms should start popping out in a few weeks.

Ted's Last Stand mushroom growing workshop

The llamas were antisocial and kept their distance, but the donkeys were very friendly manure generators.

Ted's Last Stand donkey

Next we were off to the nearby Forrest Green Farm to see, among other sights, MINIATURE COWS! (spoiler alert: they weren’t really so tiny.)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma QotD

From The Ethics of Eating Animals, p. 326-7

To give up eating animals is to give up on these places as human habitat, unless of course we are willing to make complete our dependence on a highly industrialized national food chain. That food chain would be in turn even more dependent than it already is on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizer, since food would need to travel even farther and fertility–in the form of manures–would be in short supply. Indeed, it is doubtful you can build a genuinely sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients and support local food production. If our concern is for the health of nature–rather than, say, the internal consistency of our moral code or the condition of our souls–then eating animals may sometimes be the most ethical thing to do.

Since the utilitarian is concerned exclusively with the sum of happiness and suffering, and the slaughter of an animal with no comprehension of death need not entail suffering, the Good Farm adds to the total of animal happiness, provided you replace the slaughtered animal with a new one. However, this line of thinking does not obviate the wrongness of killing an animal that “has a sense of its own existence over time, and can have preferences about its own future.” In other words, it might be okay to eat the chicken or the cow, but perhaps not the (more intelligent) pig.