Why You Should Eat Seasonally
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
The fresh butter on the left was made during the spring season where the cows had fresh grass to munch on daily. The butter on the right was made in January while the cows munched on hay that was harvested in June.
Clearly you can see the color difference, but what you can’t see is the drastic difference in nutritional value. Beta-carotene is a plant pigment that is found in the grass cows eat. the Beta-carotene belongs to a group of colored pigments called carotenoids. It's converted to vitamin A (beta-carotene is considered the precursor vitamin A) in the body (thanks to the cow, we don't have to convert it) which is essential for normal vision, the immune system, reproduction, and growth and development. Vitamin A also helps your heart, lungs, and other organs work properly. Grass-fed butter has more vitamin A per tablespoon than regular butter from grain-fed cows. True vitamin A, also known as retinol, is only found in large quantities in animal products like grass-fed dairy, organ meat, and free range egg yolks.
Traditionally, milk (and all its byproducts) are a seasonal food, meaning they aren’t abundantly available in the winter months. This is because fresh grass (and lots of sun!) aids the cow in optimal production for both output and nutrition content.
We live in a world where food from all over the world is at our finger tips, year round. Is this the way it should be? Is this good for our health? Is this good for our environment? I’ll let you decide that. I personally would rather have the beautiful golden butter in my kitchen, simply based on appearance alone. Forget nutrition (just kidding, never do that), it just looks more appetizing. When you read a food label, you usually see a list for nutrients x,y,z. Sometimes the company is even so bold as to broadcast the nutritional benefits on the front of the package. But by who's measurements are these "nutrients" calculated? Even if the said nutrients are indeed intact, who says that your specific, individualistic body will absorb them as such? These aren't things often talked about when speaking to a traditional nutritionist or doctor on food nutrition; in most cases they aren't even considered. So, how do you know if what is advertised is what you're actually eating? In world where billions of dollars are lobbied over food regulations, and a total of ten companies own the food supply, its not easy. Here is what is easy (and if you ask me, far easier than having to read food label, after food label to check origins and ingredients): eat locally and seasonally as much as you possibly can.
I understand it's not realistic (at this point in time) for the general population to eat 100% local and seasonal 100% of the time. We are a population totally reliant on specific farming practices and imports to meet a lot of our needs. Can this change? Absolutely, but it must start small. We are already seeing these changes being demanded by an educated group of consumers that are advocating both for their health and the health of the environment, both of which greatly benefit when the Earth is in its natural rotation.
So how do you begin moving towards seasonal foods? First, by growing and preserving what you can! If that's not realistic for you, find a local farmer (or a few!). Stock up on all of the foods you can during peak season and do your best to preserve them (most things will do quite well by simply freezing). The more money you spend on the food grown in your area, not only aids your local economy (which directly impacts YOU), but you are also supporting your local food supply (something that will directly impact you should our global supply chain totally break). Conversely, by giving your money to these things, you stop giving your money to the organizations, companies, and people that continue to poison our bodies and our environment in the name of their bottom line.
Eating seasonally is a must for your health, your local economy, and the greater Earth. Stay tuned for a future post on optimizing nutrient absorption and the role seasonal foods play!
A Note on how Red Bell Farms Operates
While we believe in seasonal food, we have found for our particular location, our Guernsey girls do best with fall calves rather than following the natural cycle of spring calves. Why? The dairy cow does not do well in the heat. No matter where the cow is in her lactation cycle, there are always production losses during heat, even when grass is optimal. This is due to the heat causing stress on their bodies. For this reason, we tend to turn most of our herd dry in late July- August. This gives them time to rest and relax (as best they can) during the stressful (hot) months of summer. We start fall calving in September when the weather has cooled, yet the grass (most years) is still growing. Our peak production then lines up to be around October.
So is milk still worth it without the fresh grass? Absolutely. Humans have been consuming dairy year round for centuries - yes even fresh milk. As long as a cow has been producing, you can bet that we drank their milk, and no, breeding timelines have not always been so clear, after all, they are one of the first animals humans domesticated. Personally, we make butter (and now cheese) during the peak grass season and freeze enough to make it through winter. Then, during the winter months we mostly drink the fresh milk and use it for cooking (think gravies and sauces).