With the increasing demands of American meat consumption, it is hard to picture small scale ranching as a reality. Nevertheless, John de Bruin of DeyDey’s Best Beef Ever has created a pastoral wonderland in the Santa Rita Hills. Set upon 220 acres of land, de Bruin is changing the game, rethinking the industrial system in favor of natural, grass-fed cattle.
As a young boy, de Bruin spent two summers on a dairy farm in Holland, discovering his passion for farming and cattle. Attaining a master’s degree in physics from the University of Wyoming, he spent the majority of his early years as an aerospace engineer. But he never forgot his first passion.
“I really enjoyed the whole farming aspect, it was magical. It was something that stayed with me. I never quite got how to merge physics and farming, though believe me I tried! But finally, I am able to live out my dream” said de Bruin.
“You get a pretty uniform product out of the industrial food system. Everybody puts their cows in the feedlots, feeding them hormones, antibiotics, and grains. You can go to Vons, Costco, Lucky’s – it pretty much tastes the same. That’s not true for grass-fed beef,” said de Bruin.
As a former scientist, de Bruin was determined to discover the factors that would ensure great tasting beef. Implementing a quality control program, his eight-step program promises a
consistent product, regardless of external influences (time of year, size of cow, etc). From growing the right grasses to feeding the cattle quality supplements and ensuring humane transportation, the consumer can be certain that they Dey Dey’s beef never uses hormones, antibiotics, or animal by- products in their program.
Another important factor is intermuscular fat determination, critical to achieving great tasting beef and high standards on the USDA Quality Scale.“We very much believe in fat – fat we think is good. There is healthy fat and there is unhealthy fat. Fat from grass-fed beef has many beneficial nutrients. Fat is an important component for us,” said de Bruin.
Many critics of meat production have cited its adverse effects on global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and the industry’s overall carbon footprint. And rightly so. In order to raise cattle industrially, farmers usually grow corn and soybeans as a feed source, which is often genetically modified. Planted in huge acreages, great amounts of fossil fuel are used simply via the planting process. Fertilizers are then added, energy intensive in themselves, increasingly contributing to the overall carbon footprint. Then there’s the water costs, and in other countries, the major problem of deforestation. The consequences to the environment can be great.
“We are not really paying the bill for the food we eat. Who is cleaning up the environment from the feedlots? Where is the money for that? We aren’t renewing anything, these are all non-renewable sources of energy,” said de Bruin.
DeyDey’s farming operation offers a complete paradox. The experience touring the farm displayed cattle in
their most natural state, munching on fresh grass, and depositing treasures of natural fertilizer. A unique addition to the mixture is organic sea kelp from the waters near Iceland, containing 95 minerals for a healthy diet, and thus, fertilizer. Adding chickens to the family for extra fertilizer, grass-farming actuallys help keep carbon dioxide in the ground. Producing energy from the sun, grass-farming creates a closed system – nature at its finest.
Grass-fed beef is healthier than grain-feed beef. Lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3s, DeyDey’s beef is also rich in good fat (“conjugaged linoleic acid”) and has higher levels of beta-carotene and Vitamin E. With the typical American spending about 10% on food costs, industrial technology has made food cheap. But while our food costs remain low, our medical costs continue to rise, with industrial meat a leading culprit.
“We are paying the price for cheap food. Autism, schizophrenia, auto-immune diseases – these are all diet related diseases. What we are saving in food costs, we are now paying for in other areas. We aren’t gaining anything, we are just transferring money around. We need to re-teach people how to eat” said de Bruin.
An example close to home is Charles Turcich, lead ranch hand on De Bruin’s farm and close friend. Suffering from
ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-immune disease causing chronic inflammation of the spine, Turcich tried everything. While the disease is diet related, many Western doctors had prescribed medicine for years but to no avail. The drugs all eventually stopped working, until he found a holistic doctor who introduced him to DeyDey’s meat (bone broth, in fact). Subscribing to the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), he was able to discover natural digestive healing.
“You can cure just about anything with food. Most disease starts from some deficiency, via nutritional or mineral or energetic. You don’t need drugs…listen to your body, become one with your food, and simply feel it. When you make the right choice, your body will thank you,” said Turcich.
A gracious host, De Bruin and his wife Nadine invited me to sample the end result of this beautiful life cycle. The sample came in the form of a medium-rare London broil, the muscular rump of a cow. A self-proclaimed vegetarian, it was an ethereal moment. Connecting the land to the farm, I finally began to unravel the omnivore’s dilemma, rediscovering our co-evolutionary relationship with the animal species. From the source to the final meal, it was clear what we should have for dinner. DeyDey’s Best Beef Ever.
“The best part for me is receiving letters that I’ve changed someone’s life. That people at the market love my product and they feel so good eating it. It’s so rewarding, it makes everything worthwhile,” said de Bruin.
DeyDey’s beef can be found locally at Isla Vista Co-Op, Plow to Porch Organics, and currently at the Sunday Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market in the Camino Real Marketplace. Those interested can also sign-up for home delivery. To find out more, click here.
Featured Recipe: Grass Fed Spiced Tongue
3 lbs. beef tongue
2 quarts water
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
2 tsp salt
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup vinegar
Combine everything in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours. Remove from pot, drain. Cool slightly. Remove skin with sharp knife and slice.
Story and photos by Rachel Hommel, LoaTree Food Writer and Researcher