Thoroughbred horse farm now grazes grass-fed beef herd

More than 300 head of beef cattle at Burning Daylight Farm in Albemarle County spend their days lazily grazing. But on a hill overlooking the farm a magnificent stone barn remains from the farm’s previous focus, Thoroughbred racehorses.

newspaper“We had the barn built, and the horses were moved here,” said farm business manager Pat Uhlig. “However, when Kentucky changed the rules for foaling racing horses, it made sense to keep our mares and foals in Kentucky, so the owner decided to raise more cattle.” Burning Daylight began raising grass-fed beef five years ago.

Grass-fed beef has seen increased demand among consumers and at farmers’ markets and meat markets. It typically has less fat than traditional grain-fed beef and has a more pronounced taste. It is produced from animals that have never eaten anything other than their mothers’ milk and grass their entire lives.

“The meat tastes a little different, but the demand is there. We are hoping to market to more restaurants that have grass-fed beef on their menu,” Uhlig said.

Despite consumer interest, the market for grass-fed beef is still relatively small; it accounts for less than 3 percent of all U.S. beef sales. But the number of U.S. grass-fed beef producers is growing—from 50 in 2002 to more than 2,000 in 2011.

At Burning Daylight Farm, the only time the cattle don’t eat grass is in winter, when they eat hay. The farm sells beef directly to consumers through a meat processor in Lexington.

“It means a lot to take advantage and buy local,” Uhlig said. “And to know who your farmer is, (that) you are getting a quality product and helping our Virginia industry.”

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