Beef farmer Lawrence Hollings is at the forefront of what he said is a major shift in the way North Americans think about their food.
Speaking to The Independent this week, Hollings said he’s noticing a growing trend that’s happening here as well as in the U.S., as more Canadians take an interest in how their food is grown and produced.
“People are more food aware, and it’s gradually drifting in-land,” said Hollings, who operates Rainbow’s End Hay and Cattle, located between Donalda and Red Willow.
Earlier this month, Hollings’ farm became the fifth in Alberta to receive the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) Grass-fed certification, recognizing his efforts in sustainable farming methods.
The certification recognizes his cattle as grass-fed, indicating that his animals were raised outdoors and fed a diet comprised entirely of grass or forage for their entire lives.
The logo, placed on beef products from Hollings’ farm, also indicates that the cattle were “raised in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S. and Canada,” according to a press release issued Dec. 9.
Rainbow’s End is one of five farms supplying grass-fed beef cattle to TK Ranch, a certified AWA producer based in Hanna.
Hollings was raised on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia and had farmed using conventional methods before moving to Alberta and establishing his farm near Donalda in 1996. Altogether he has farmed for about 25 years.
Here, he raises around 50 cows each season with calving taking place during late spring and early summer. Hollings raises his calves for about 18 months before they are sold to TK Ranch.
Hollings explained that he had to become AWA-approved before he could sell his cattle to TK Ranch, whose operators, Colleen and Dylan Biggs, asked him to become certified.
“You have to have a balanced diet,” he said, explaining that just like humans, it isn’t healthy for cattle to eat a diet dominated by grains.
The certification is based not only on the diet the cattle are fed, but on how they are handled and raised.
Hollings said he raises his cattle without the use of growth hormones, and added that he is working to improve the soil of his 1,240-acre farm using organic methods.
“You can’t have healthy food if you don’t have healthy soil,” he said. “I understand the connection between your health and what you eat.”
Hollings also said there’s a growing demand for beef and other products that have been sustainably raised and produced, as more consumers consider the benefits to the environment and their health.
“People are becoming more aware of what they eat,” he said. “Their diets will change and they’ll be more aware of what they’re eating and how it’s produced.”
In a press release, AWA program director Andrew Gunther was quoted touting the “accountability and integrity” of certified farmers, adding, “We’re glad to have Rainbow’s End Hay and Cattle in the AWA family.”