The Lexicon of Sustainability: "Grass Fed" features Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm

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What does it mean to eat grass fed beef? What are the larger implications of producing and eating grass fed beef on animals, the environment and ourselves? In this new video, "Grass Fed" from The Lexicon of Sustainability project, filmmaker Douglas Gayeton explores grass farming, rotational grazing, industrial feed lots or Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs), carbon sequestration and other concepts. The video features Virginia-based farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm (you may recognize him from the documentary Food, Inc.)

5 Quotes from Farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, Virginia (Excerpted from a conversation with Douglas Gayeton)

Role models: "Well, number one was my Dad. My Dad was an early adherent to organic gardening and farming. And his Dad, my grandfather, was a charter subscriber to Rodale’s Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine when it first came out in 1947, '48. My awareness and lineage, I would say , we don't have a conversion express. We were born lunatics so it goes deep. It's way, way back there."

Farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms
Farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms

Consumers and convenience: "There's no question, farmers, the food system will bend to whatever consumers demand. One of the biggest misnomers in the whole food system right now are consumers who demand me to have my product at Walmart. That's one of the biggest, I don't know what, fallacies or whatever. Not only do I not want to be at Walmart, I don't even think there should be a Walmart...I think that is perhaps one of the single biggest consumer issues...because all of us, me included, all of us like convenience. We like it to be easy. We like to think that we can fundamentally change everything without changing very much about our lives or about our awareness or about our eating habits or lifestyle. The fact is we are so far off where we need to be that it's going to take all of us fundamentally changing some pretty basic things and not just making it a 10% deviation from what we're doing now."

On not being certified organic: "I've always said that organic is not a codified thing. It's a movement, it's a system of thought...We have a 24/7, 365 open-door policy that anyone can come from anywhere in the world, at any time to see anything unannounced. That's our commitment to transparency on open sourcing. Show me the organic farm that will do that and you're onto something."

Screenshot from "Grass Fed video"
Screenshot from "Grass Fed video"

Grass fed vs corn fed: "Grass fed is much superior, much superior nutritionally...It's ecologically healing, instead of ecologically destroying. It’s fundamentally different and superior by every measure you can measure. It's even more productive per acre. You actually produce more for acre as well."


On locally produced being the accepted standard of the future: "I went to this restaurant...that was like a farm-to-table type. There’s a chalkboard and they listed out all of the foods that they were serving. They had Polyface chicken there, and I said to the waitress, 'I’m actually going to be on that farm tomorrow. I think I'm obviously going to have that chicken because I'm going to be there tomorrow and it would be nice to have that.'"

"The chef sat down with me at the counter because it was at the end of the night. And we just had we struck up a conversation and I said, 'It must be nice to you to be able to many agricultural resources nearby. You can actually have that chalkboard there.'"

"And he said, 'I hate that chalkboard. I think it's pathetic.' And I asked him, 'Why?' He said, 'I hate the fact that...I have to tell you that all of these vegetables and all of this food that I'm serving is local. Wouldn't it be great if you just knew wherever you went that it was local to that place and that everything would have a little bit different personality because of it?'"

grassfed vs. cornfed

All images, artwork and video by Douglas Gayeton