Podcast > Episodes

episode #264

Got Beef? Here’s the 411 on grass-fed vs grain-fed, Debunking the Vegan Narrative, and Animal Proteins with Natalie Kovarik and Tara Vander Dussen Play Episode Share Episode

June 26, 2023 in Podcast


This week I interviewed Tara Vander Dussen who is a 5th generation dairy farmer and Natalie Kovarik who owns and operates Kovarik Cattle Co, a cow calf operation with a growing registered herd.

They are also co-hosts of the popular podcast, Discover Ag!

In this episode, we discuss how important cattle are to our environment, along with:

  •  the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef
  •  debunking the vegan narrative
  •  the value in consuming animal proteins
and their one tip to get your body back to what it once was!

Brian (1s):

Coming up on the GETLEAN E Clean podcast,

Natalie (4s):

Go outside, get movement. I think we in society have created this idea that like when we are working out or moving our body, it needs to be high intensity, which again, I love like lifting weights and I'm all for, you know, some high intensity workouts, but just going for a simple walk, I, my mood is always elevated. you know, I've been spending my evenings out and gardening like the last half an hour before I go inside for the evening to retire, you know, completely. And just even doing that, like moving my hands out in the dirt and just being outside if you can, I know it's not feasible for everyone where they live and stuff, but just if you can get outside and get that fresh air, that movement, you know, connecting with nature, I think is, is much more powerful. I really think we have put so much emphasis on diet and exercise when it comes to our health as humans for the last couple decades, which are obviously important.

Natalie (52s):

But I think we have really lost track of some of the other really, really important things, which is like, you know, again connecting with nature and just doing some of those more simple things that I think at our core as humans, we crave and need

Brian (1m 5s):

Hello. and welcome to the Get Lean Eat Clean podcast. I'm m Brian Gryn and I here to give you actionable tips to get your body back to what it once was, five, 10, even 15 years ago. Each week. I'll give you an in depth interview with a health expert from around the world to cut through the fluff and get you long term sustainable results. This week I interviewed Tara and Natalie Tara's a fifth generation dairy farmer and Natalie owns an operates Kevo Cattle company. It's a cow calf operation with a growing registered herd. They're also co-hosts of the popular podcast, Discover Ag. We discussed the importance of how Cattle are to our environment, along with the difference between grass fed and grain fed beef Debunking, the Vegan Narrative, the value in consuming animal proteins and their one tip to get your body back to what it once was.

Brian (1m 55s):

Really enjoyed my interview with Tara Natalie. I know you will too. Thanks so much for listening and enjoy the show, All. right. Welcome to the GETLEAN E Clean podcast. My name is Brian Gryn and I Tara and Natalie on the show. Welcome to the show.

Tara (2m 9s):

Hi. Thanks for having us on.

Natalie (2m 11s):

Yeah, we're excited to be here.

Brian (2m 12s):

Thanks for coming on and excited. You guys are podcast hosts, ranchers dairy farmers, is that correct? Yes,

Tara (2m 22s):

Yes. I'm the dairy farmer and Natalie is the Cattle Rancher.

Natalie (2m 26s):

Yeah, we wear a couple different hats there I guess you could say.

Brian (2m 29s):

And how did you guys connect?

Tara (2m 32s):

Classic, you know, millennials, we met online. Natalie is in Nebraska and I'm in New Mexico, so obviously some, you know, thousands of miles between us. But we connected online. We were both, you know, women in Ag sharing about agriculture, opening up our GAR farms and ranches to the internet and it was several years back. And so it was a pretty small group of people doing that. And So, we connected just sharing, you know, our journeys, what it was like sharing online and then our friendship and then ultimately our business kind of grew out of that.

Brian (3m 6s):

Excellent. And the name of your podcast is?

Natalie (3m 10s):

It's Discover Ag. It's a once weekly, we're on Thursdays. Okay. And yeah, we have a lot of fun over there.

Brian (3m 17s):

Discover, Ag and Excellent. And so I'm happy to, I'm, I'm glad to have you on. I mean I haven't had any ranchers on the show yet. And so maybe perhaps give a little bit of background on how you got into ranching and dairy farming and what sort of brought you in into this health, health space.

Tara (3m 37s):

Yeah, so I'll start. I am a fifth generation dairy farmer, so I actually grew up on my family's dairy in New Mexico and I got my degree though in environmental science and while I was getting my degree, ended up meeting and marrying my husband who was also a fifth generation dairy farmer. And so after getting married I came back to his family dairy and have spent the last 10 years working as an environmental consultant in the dairy farming space. So essentially helping dairy farmers with, you know, sustainability projects, the newer management, soil health, kind of like the back end of the dairy as I like to joke. Water conservation is another one. And then as I said, I started sharing online and just opening up, you know, with people about dairy farming, there's a lot of misconceptions out there about, you know, Cattle and dairy and their impact on the environment.

Tara (4m 24s):

And so just wanted to be able to share my perspective. And then along the way met Natalie and then obviously we started our podcast Discover Ag

Brian (4m 34s):

And Natalie. Is ranching something like a full-time thing?

Natalie (4m 40s):

Yeah, more or less I guess. So like Tara, I grew up in agriculture. I actually grew up in southwest Montana, a very, very pretty part of the state auto Cattle ranch there as well. So Cattle ranching has been in my, you know, blood, my family for a very, very long time. Like Tara. I ended up getting my degree in something I guess outside of agriculture a little bit. I went to school for pharmacy and so I was practicing pharmacy full-time. I was working at a bigger hospital slash clinic in Montana and I honestly thought that would kind of be what I did. you know, I was, I lived close proximity to our family ranch and I spent a lot of time there, but I never really envisioned like marrying a rancher. I didn't envision living on the ranch. I didn't envision ranching being what it is to me now.

Natalie (5m 22s):

And so that obviously changed when I met and married my husband who was a Nebraska boy and he was ranching here. And so when we married I relocated and that's kind of why I kind of ended up down here in central Nebraska, you know, full circle of ranching again, up until about two years ago I was working part-time off the ranch. We live pretty rural Nebraska, but the town we're outside of did have a critical access hospital that I worked part-time at. And like Tara said, I too kind of started sharing online and I got to this kind of pivotal point where I couldn't balance, you know, raising our family, being a wife, a mother, working at the pharmacy, working on the ranch, and then also doing everything I was doing on social media. So I ended up stepping away from pharmacy.

Natalie (6m 2s):

I do fill in part-time or as needed, so I still like maintain my credentials and my license. But no, I am, I'm on the ranch full-time, but at the same time, I say more or less because I don't, I'm not like an employee of our ranch, like a specific job isn't on me every day to fulfill. I have that flexibility to really be with my husband and have our kids out with us as needed as we want, which is a really beautiful gift that I have. But, so I spend my time on the ranch, but it is not like my job job I guess.

Brian (6m 34s):

Got it. Okay. And what have you learned from, I guess through the years from like getting into ranching and, and, and obviously dairy, you know, fifth generation dairy farmer, you've been around, you know, your family's been around for a while. What, what things have you learned and like, have you guys had had any like sort of like health journeys on your yourself that has have come through all this?

Tara (6m 56s):

Oh, a really good question. I feel like I have been on a health journey the last few years just thinking, I think, you know, the more you learn, the more you just take in information and, and want to like better yourself. And actually I feel like it started with kind of like mindset work originally and then turned to like health and what I was like putting in my body. And one of the things that I have found over the last couple of years, which shouldn't come as a surprise I guess, but it seems like I am a healthier like whole person when I am consuming animal Proteins primarily. And whenever I can just eat, I guess both Natalie and I believe in a really like whole foods approach to eating, like whether that be a steak or a potato or you know, just those really like whole foods at their core.

Tara (7m 47s):

And I, I'm not perfect at it, but it has been something I've been working on, like I said over the last few years.

Brian (7m 56s):

What about you Natalie? Any, any health journey or like things that you've learned through the years just being, you know, that close?

Natalie (8m 5s):

Yeah, so I've always been really active. I played sports growing up, you know, through high school elementary when I was younger. And then I kind of maintained that like workout mentality really through my twenties I would say I worked out pretty heavily. I've always been into like weightlifting and running and so I think that side of the spectrum has always been in place for me and that I recognized it's, you know, important and healthy for me. I think what I have actually learned most about being reconnected to like ranching and farming and this way of life essentially is how important being outside is for me for my mental health. And I'm starting to notice that in a trend kind of in society right now. It's funny, I'll scroll social media and I'll, I'll see things that are like get outside and ground for 20 minutes or you know, like expose your eyes to natural light in the morning and like all of these like tips and tricks and I mean, it sounds like harsh to say it, but I kind of chuckle cause I'm like, that is just so built in and ingrained into the lifestyle that we naturally live when we're ranchers and farmers that it's funny to think that there are people out there that have to like schedule that into their life.

Natalie (9m 10s):

You know, like be intentional about it. Like I just couldn't imagine not waking up and going out first thing to check all Cattle or you know, spending, I read a quote the other day that like 90 per people spend 90% of their time inside. I'm like, I think I spend 90% of my time outside. And so just thinking about when I was back in that full-time pharmacy where I was, I worked four tens and so, you know, 40 hours a week, Monday through Thursday I was inside indoors in front of a computer screen, you know, under the fluorescent lighting. And I really do think that I am a much healthier person now because of that time spent outdoors versus that time I used to spend indoors.

Brian (9m 45s):

Yeah, I, I mean I can feel a difference, you know, I'm in Chicago and just getting outside for a little bit. I mean, I, I take my, I have two dogs and we're on walks all the time. So we getting out. But yeah, a lot of people, if you don't nowadays if you're live, especially if you live in a city, like if you're not consciously trying to schedule these times to go outside, it doesn't really happen a lot of times. And you talk about grounding, I mean, I don't know, sometimes people have to like find places to put their feet if they're in the city, you know, they don't have what you guys have being on a ranch. Let's talk a little bit about, you know, I'm curious, there's a rhetoric out there regarding like that veganism and vegetarians, it's, it's sort of better for the environment and I'm just curious as you guys are right on, right in, in the mix of it, like explain sort of, I know you're doing a whole Debunking series on your podcast, the, I'm curious that for you guys to debunk the fact that, you know, like there's this, that rhetoric that and then also the fact that, you know, cows are bad for the environment per se.

Brian (10m 50s):

Yeah. I'm just curious to know your thoughts about that.

Tara (10m 53s):

There is so much to dive into here. There's, I dunno, like my brain is like trying to figure out where, where to start, but I think that really animal agriculture, specifically Cattle ruminate animals place such an important role in our food system that people don't realize. Like, it's not as simple as like, oh let's remove Cattle and it will reduce emissions. There's actually a really great study that said showed if we removed all animal protein, we would actually only reduce our carbon footprint by about 2.6%, which is not nothing, but that's also not, I don't think the drop that people expect when they, you know, see kind of these mainstream media things talking about, you know, Cattle and their impact on the environment.

Tara (11m 35s):

And really there would be so many long-term like repercussions. So I'll talk on the kinda the dairy side and then Natalie will definitely, I would assume get into the soil health side and cattle's role there. But on the dairy side, one of the really great things about dairy cows is they consume a ton of what's called byproducts. And I kind of hate that word because I feel like it makes it sound like bad or, or not good, but all, there's a bunch of different byproducts from other, you know, whether it be producing clothing like cotton or producing ethanol, we end up with byproducts and Cattle are able to consume those products and upcycle them into meat and milk. And if we didn't, you know, ultimately those products would probably end up in a landfill and it would have a much higher impact greenhouse gas emissions if we let it end up in a landfill, you know.

Tara (12m 25s):

And then there's the manure side of things, which is obviously kind of my area of expertise, but we actually compost all of the manure from our farms. We collect it in the pens and the corrals the cows are in and then that composted manure goes out to other farms to fertilize their fields. So it's, it's just like when you incorporate Cattle and ruminate animals, it's an entire system that really goes into play that that there's a lot of nuanced and conversation that has to go into that that people don't always think about or realize when they have that conversation around like Cattle impact on the environment.

Brian (12m 60s):

Thank you. Yeah. And Natalie, what, what are, what is your experience with that?

Natalie (13m 4s):

Yeah, so our ranch is in an area known in Nebraska's, the Nebraska Sandhills. I'm not sure if anyone listening has ever heard of it, but it is a pretty large territory of our state and it's one of the world's largest intact ecosystem still. It's a beautiful grasslands, a very beautiful country. I always love showing people on my Instagram it because I think there is a, you know, stereotype idea of what, you know, the Nebraska looks like and it is corn, corn fields and flat and that is not what, you know, my part of the state is. But the really cool thing about, excuse me, is The really cool thing about the Nebraska Sandhills is that it is an excellent case study of how amazing ruminant animals can be out grazing and maintaining grasslands for us.

Natalie (13m 47s):

you know, the grasslands are are, you know, and the Nebraska Sandhills is, you know, again a niche example are preserved through ruminant grazing. Yes you can overgraze, but really that animal is so integral to being out there and maintaining soil health and maintaining the grasslands. There's actually five principles for soil health and a, a grazing animal is the fifth principle. It's like, it's one of the things, as Tara said, it is like an integral part of maintaining these ecosystems. you know, a grazing animal is gonna do really good things for biodiversity, it's gonna do really good, good things with its hooves, it's gonna do really good things with its fertilization. I mean there are so many different parts of the animal that basically work in concert worth nature that again, I don't think people realize what, there's just so much focus I guess on the negatives, the methane essentially all the focus is on methane and carbon and none of the focus is on the really good things that animals do that would honestly, we'd have a really hard time replacing them if we took them out.

Brian (14m 46s):

Yeah, I mean you're seeing like these fake meats I'm sure, I'm sure. Sure. You talked, you had Vinny on your podcast Vinnie Toric, right? Yes. And I'm sure he had much to say about that. What did you learn from interviewing Vinny and, and you know, his sort of Debunking of the Vegan Narrative?

Tara (15m 4s):

Yeah, I feel like we brought him on to go over his documentary Beyond Impeccable and that's such a great documentary when he really comes out like swinging within the first, you know, 10 minutes of the movie even really Debunking a lot of the things. And I think one of the things that he points out that I loved and really appreciated is, you know, I think a lot of times people have this idea of like being Vegan as like, you know, whole vegetables and like small farms like local vegetables and that's not the case. Like if you are, you know, buying like an impossible burger, you know, the number one ingredient is, you know, if you look at the ingredient list, there's obviously soy and like large huge AgriFood systems companies behind this.

Tara (15m 45s):

And so it's just not as it seems, you know, like people I think like to put Cattle as like, oh that's, you know, factory farming or industrial farming when in reality like a lot of Ag is very industrialized, whether you're getting plants like if you've ever seen potatoes harvested or lettuce is harvested, you know, there's a lot of mechanisms that go into place And so I do really love that he kind of gets into that and kind of gets into like the business, the backend, the money side of food production for a lot of these plant-based quote unquote companies.

Brian (16m 19s):

Yeah, for a while I used to, this was years ago, probably seven, eight years ago, I was like a pescatarian and I remember like trying to find a good veggie burger and it was like tough to find like, cuz like you said, I, I don't think a lot of people look at the labels and if you just sort of guess use common sense and look at a, a label like the, the Beyond meat labels and like the f one of the, I think one of the first ingredients are like seed oils I wanna say, and then compare that to just like meat where there's one ingredient. Yeah, right. Like it was like when I got my dogs, I think I went to the vet and they're like, you should try this, whatever it was kibble.

Brian (17m 0s):

And I look at the ingredients and like the first ingredient I gotta say was like corn or, you know, something that I'm just like, I don't think animals, dogs are really meant to eat that. Like, and so I, a lot of it I think is just like using sort of common sense. But again, I think people, you know, and I I I'm a big animal lover and I think it comes from people avoiding meat because they love animals. But does that really serve a, I don't know, does that really like serve a purpose? I mean the, these, you know, these animals are sort of meant for us to be eaten, I would say. And it's sort of part of the life cycle and especially if it's done in a humane manner. What are your thoughts on that?

Natalie (17m 42s):

Yeah, I have a couple things on that. I do understand where people are coming from, from a, you know, wanting to care for animals viewpoint, I guess that emotional, I guess connection of choosing to to not eat, eat meat, right? Tar and I have talked about this a lot on Discover Ag. I do truly believe that animal welfare has never been better in the ranching and pharmacy industry Right now I am not naive to say enough, you know, to go out there and say that like there are no bad apples. But I think every industry has that. And so I think it's just really important, and I wish people listening would take from us that if you do see something, you know, negative when it comes to animal care in the ranching or pharmacy industry, it is going to be the minority by far.

Natalie (18m 29s):

It is not, you know, the average standard over 90% of agriculture is rancho farming is family owned and operated.

Brian (18m 38s):

I bet. I didn't know.

Natalie (18m 39s):

Yeah, it is, it's, it's, it's pretty, I think dairy is even higher.

Tara (18m 43s):

Dairy is 97% of all dairy in the United States is family owned and operated. And I think Cattle Ranch is like 94. I mean you're talking wow, really high numbers as far as family owned and operated.

Natalie (18m 54s):

And I can use our ranch as a specific example. The average Beef herd size in the US is only 43. So it's very small. It's, I think it's a much smaller than what people would imagine. And our ranch is much larger than that. you know, we're into, well into the hundreds of animals and it is just my husband and I and a couple employees and people all the time when they're following along on my social media channel say, you know, how can we support families like yours or how do we, you know, I would, I would love if I knew the whole Beef industry was like yours. And my answer is, it is, you know, the Beef industry is really, really segmented. It's something really different and unique about it than if you're looking at chicken or pork, which I feel like all animal protein kind of gets lumped together with how it's raised and that's just not true.

Natalie (19m 34s):

Those two systems are vertically integrated and the Beef system is not. And so I want people to feel really, really good about, you know, choosing red meat and, and getting those animal Proteins in their diet because it really is family farms that own it up until, basically I would say that the packaging, the harvesting, you know, your big four Cargill, like for sure, if you wanna call that factory farming in the Beef industry, I, I can get behind that, but you know, all the steps before that are gonna be family owned. And so

Brian (20m 3s):

How does it work? Does it, I'm sorry, does the smaller farms like yourself work with the, the, you said the big like Cargill, the bigger names, meaning they supply them with, with the, you know, the sort of the, the cows at the, towards the end of their lives and or, or No. Okay,

Natalie (20m 18s):

So when I say vertical integrated for like chicken and protein or chicken and pork, sorry, that would be where like a Tyson owns from beginning to end. Okay. And that is not how it is in the Beef industry. So the Beef industry would be, it starts out on a ranch like ours, it's called a cow calf. And a family will raise the, the, basically we call it a pair, it's the mom and the baby together and we'll raise them out at pasture until a certain age. Weight, usually it's weight, which then a another family would buy it it from us. And so it changes ownership, it changes hands there and they are gonna raise it again to another weight. And then typically a feedlot would step in and buy it then again, so it is bought, ownership has changed again, then the animal would spend a a typically, I'd say maybe like six months would be a good average number.

Natalie (21m 4s):

It can obviously vary, but that's how long it would spend in a feedlot, which then a big four would then come and buy it from the feedlot. So it's actually, ownership is never maintained in the Beef industry. It's very, like I said, segmented, it changes hands, it changes ownerships. And I don't think people realize that. I think two thirds is the number put out there of how much it, whether the animal's grass finished or grain finished. The animal spends about two thirds of its life on pasture cuz it really is those few last months that it is finished in a feedlot before it goes to packing

Brian (21m 40s):

Interest. So would you say, you talk about grass fed, you got grass fed, grass finished, right? And you have grass fed grain finished. Yeah. Yeah. And then you have just so is, would you say that like majority of cows start out grass fed for the, for a decent amount of their lives and then so like if, if you go like Whole Foods and it says grass fed compared to just traditional, what, what's the difference then if they're both, you know?

Natalie (22m 9s):

Yep. So you're kind of getting into food labels, which is something we love to talk about on Discover Ag.

Brian (22m 14s):

Well cuz I'm curious my own for my own good too, but

Natalie (22m 16s):

Yes, yes. And food labels we always joke like we can't live with them and we can't live without 'em. Like food labels I think started with really good intentions and they have just kind of lost their way I think and really become like a marketing ploy than, you know, an actual tool for consumers to make an informed decision. Grass fed, if you see that on the label, I'm actually pretty sure that could still be grain finished because it, they could refer to that the animal is still getting just grass in its diet. If you truly want like an animal that has only had grass for, for its diet, you need to look for the grass finished label. That's the important part of it. And yes, whether it is grass finished or grain finished, like I said, that calf, that animal starts out on pasture with its mama and it's getting milk and grass for two thirds its life until it's sold off to, you know, that next phase where then it's getting introduced other, you know, if you're going conventional grain finish, it's gonna get other grains added to its diet.

Natalie (23m 9s):

And one thing I, I guess we can dive into it like a layer even deeper here. I think people assume that that's all the animal is getting. It's just getting like, you know, a boatload of corn and it looks like corn in the cobs and it's just this like, you know, nasty not something that an animal should be getting, right? Like not a normal part of their diet, but even when they're a grain finished animal, they're still getting grass and forged and other things, they're just getting grain introduced into it. Usually a nutritionist is gonna take over that and they're working with very detailed amounts of you know, the different forages and the different amounts they want. And typically like what we would feed here for corn, it isn't straight corn, it's actually corn silage.

Natalie (23m 49s):

And so it's the whole corn stock ground up. And I've showed pictures of it before and Tara always describes it kind of like, like a southwestern salad. Like you have the stock, you have the leaves, so it's a lot of green and then corn kernels mixed in. So that is one thing too, that even if you're getting a grain finished, you know, animal, that's what you're buying at the store. It's not like that's all they ever consumed. They got grass out of pasture with mama's milk for two thirds and then they got, you know, other forages in addition to the corn at the end of their life.

Brian (24m 21s):

Got it. And then so, so really, and I've heard this maybe discuss the differences between like the digestive systems of like a cow versus like a chicken and pork and how, how that can play a role in, in, in, you know, how they, you know, digest their foods and, and what comes from what sort of the byproduct of that.

Tara (24m 42s):

No, you just touched on one of Natalie's favorite topics. The ruminate animal. Go ahead. Natalie.

Natalie (24m 48s):

Well this is one I wish I could like phone a friend and have my husband's seat because he actually got his master's in animal ruminate nutrition and so he is kind of like, you know, knows it all when it comes to the anatomy of a cow. And I, I definitely do not, I, I could work on the human anatomy side much more better than I can on the animal side. But yeah, one of the unique things about ruminants or which, you know, Cattle are same thing as deer. you know, elk, sheep, those are all gonna be goats, those are all ruminant animals. They are, they have four compartments and so verse, you know, chicken, pork, those are monogastric and so those only have one. So there is a complete different process when it comes to Cattle and how they consume food.

Natalie (25m 32s):

It's why they can what we call upcycle, it's why they can take, you know, cellulose and grass and all these inedible things that we cannot consume as humans and they can take them and then upcycle them and turn them into that protein. That's gonna be very different again than like what a pig and a pig or a chicken can do just because of the way they're a monogastric system set up. So I can't get into like the science and layer deeper than that, but it is two very different systems and that's why, you know, cows, again going back to this, you know, promotion of you know, getting rid of animals, it's like there's a lot of things. I think there's a statistic out there that says that 86% of an animal's or a a cows diet is in edible by humans.

Natalie (26m 13s):

So they're doing a lot when it comes to consuming things that we would not be able to, you know, they're really adding to the food chain I like to say because they're taking things that we would never be able to eat and then turning into something that we can't eat.

Tara (26m 26s):

Yeah, and fun fact about the ruminant animal that's really cool is that ruminant animals can take 60 grams of incomplete protein and up cycle it into a hundred grams of complete protein because of the bacteria in their gut, in their, you know, the ruminant cycle in in their stomachs. And so it's really cool they like are actually making protein, which is unique to only the ruminate animals. There's not any other species or plant or anything on the planet that takes incomplete protein and turns it into complete protein.

Brian (26m 56s):

Would you say that, you know, we talked about labels and going to the store, I get a lot of my meat from force in nature and if you're familiar with force in nature, yeah I just do a good job and, and then us wellness meats, maybe I'll start buying from you guys. I don't know if you, you're selling meat but is there, you're paying a premium for grass fed, grass finished versus just so let's just say traditional meat that you would just buy at the store, you'd go to Juul Osco or whatever. I dunno if you probably know have Juul ASCOs in your area, but what do you have? What whatever.

Tara (27m 33s):

We have Albertson's and Walmart in our neck of the woods.

Brian (27m 36s):

Oh, okay. Yeah. So let's just say you go buy conventional meat at Walmart versus, you know, paying a premium and getting grass fed, grass finished at force of nature. Do you think it's worth it?

Tara (27m 48s):

Personally, I do not choose to buy it, but I think before we get into that, even one thing that Natalie and I believe in strongly is food choice and people choosing whichever food meets like what they want. Like if being grass fed, grass finished is important to you and you want to pay that premium and you wanna, you know, work directly with a a rancher, I think that's an amazing option and you should absolutely like, you know, pursue that, find a rancher to work with to buy from. That for me is not like crucial. I, we actually harvest our own dairy cow so I, I'm not even getting Beef cow, I'm getting a dairy cow meat and I, I love it. I think it tastes great.

Tara (28m 29s):

I love the cuts I'm getting and it's conventional finished grain finished there on the dairy. So that is the choice that I make. And if I was buying in the grocery store I would buy regular Beef as well. I think that there are, you know, really there are some differences like nutritionally, but it is very minimal. you know, overall the quality of protein you're getting from a steak is gonna be, you know, superior to almost any other protein that is out there. Whether it's conventional or organic or grass fed or grass finished and all of those other labels. And so again, I think it comes down to what, what's important to you and what you're looking for out of that, you know, piece of steak.

Natalie (29m 12s):

I'll add some thoughts to this cause I have quite a few so if I ramble, I'm sorry listeners, I really think it comes down to your values and that's obviously gonna vary where you live, your income, things that are important to you, you know, all of those things. Are you prioritizing certain things in your life, money, health, you know, all of those playing a choice into what you are gonna choose whether it's grocery store or direct to consumer. I think the big difference is for me when it comes to buying at the grocery store versus buying, you know, direct to consumer, one is gonna be, if you feel really strongly about supporting American farmers and ranchers, it's probably best to buy direct to consumer. Right now we have some weird stuff going on with labeling in the US that, you know, product of the US on your meat label does not necessarily mean it was a US animal.

Natalie (29m 59s):

So unfortunately for consumers it can get kind of confusing. So if you feel strongly about, you know, eating local meat or meat that was born in the usa, it's gonna be best go direct to consumer. Especially when you say direct,

Brian (30m 9s):

I'm sorry, when you say direct consumer meaning companies like us wellness feeds or forced nature or just Exactly. Yeah or just your market. Local market

Natalie (30m 18s):

Ex yep. Farmer's market. Yeah, exactly. Farmer market. So sorry. Yep. Direct to consumers. Kind of that broad term for all of those companies that are kind of like shipping directly to your wor ordering, you know, from the rancher and kind of bypassing the grocery store. Hmm. I also add that that's really important if you are a person that's choosing the grass finished because it over is itar, over 90% of grass fed products in the US are imported, right?

Tara (30m 41s):

Yeah. A majority of our grass finished Beef is imported typically from New Zealand.

Natalie (30m 46s):

So again, if you're choosing, you know you want that grass finished product and you don't want to have one of those imported animals, it's gonna be best choice to try and source that locally from a direct to consumer. Another big difference, again depending on where your concerns lie, values, choices are the ground products. So when you are buying direct to consumer, you are getting a whole animal always. So the ground Beef is from one animal, the roast, the stakes, all of that is one animal, one animal alone. When it comes to the grocery store, the coal cuts are gonna be one animal too. Like you would never meld the steak or meld the roast, but the ground Beef is melded. So it's a combination of animals, multiple animals and oftentimes again imported cuz we import a lot of our Lean meats to get that, that lower ratio that people want for their hamburger in the, in the grocery store.

Natalie (31m 36s):

So if you don't like the idea of a melded animal, you want a whole animal, again best to go direct to consumer, obviously you're paying an increased price and Tara kind of pointed out that, you know, meat right now is meat. you know, if you are looking just for a healthy whole animal protein to put in your diet, I believe that you are gonna get the same nutritional value from the steak you order at Walmart versus the steak you order direct to consumer again, especially cuz we have the graded system, right? So a prime is prime choice is choice, select a select So, they are graded, it's probably gonna be the same. So I just really think it depends where you wanna spend your dollar. I think, you know, if you are living in maybe urban, you know, a very urban setting and you are a single mom with you know, not a lot of expendable income for your, your food, then I would recommend getting whatever you can when it comes to, to your meat, you know, wherever you can get it.

Natalie (32m 34s):

If you want to feel good about supporting, you know, a brancher in your state or a rancher within your area and you have the means to go direct to consumer, I think that's really great. It makes a big difference to ranchers, to ranches that are doing that. So I always applaud people who choose to go direct to consumer.

Brian (32m 51s):


Tara (32m 52s):

I think one thing with the conversation, just tacking onto what Natalie said is if you, if it is in your income or your budget that you have to go and buy what's at the grocery store, I want people to know they can still feel really good about that product. Like it is held to high safety standards re again, a lot of like Natalie's Beef goes into the conventional Beef supply system. So it's families like Natalie that end up at the grocery store and so, you know, you get to feel good about no matter what you choose, but it's based on what, what values you have as Natalie said.

Brian (33m 25s):

Yeah, I mean we're getting obviously a little bit nitpicky and, and yeah if you're going buying conventional meat, I think that's a good step towards getting, having optimal health. Right? Just because of like you mentioned the, the complete protein, you know, a lot of the, the B vitamins and iron and things like that that you're getting from, from meat. What would you say about chicken and pork and then we'll get off this topic because that, that's a little bit different. They have a different digestive system, right? And so they're eating corn and soy I'm assuming for the most part. And then so like for example, you are seeing companies like force in nature where you can get this sort of chicken and pork from them and where it's, you know, it's these animals are sort of allowed to roam in their own environment as opposed to just being fed chicken, I mean fed corn and soy.

Tara (34m 17s):

Yeah, so Natalie and I are not in the pork and chicken business so I feel like we can't speak to this really well. We're obviously, you know, kind of Cattle at our core, but it is a different system. It is, you know, Natalie mentioned like the Tyson, like it is different how the entire business structure is set up and then how you know they're fed and how they're able to consume those products within their monogastric system. And so one of the, you know, each I feel like, well I'm trying to decide which direction I wanna go with this. Sorry my brain's going everywhere. But no, I don't know that I can speak really well though to the Monogastric system. It's just worth noting that it's different.

Natalie (35m 1s):

I will say I, we buy our chicken from good ranchers, they're direct to consumer and lots of times, this is why I struggle answering some of these questions about where people should buy because I feel very privileged, right? So as Tara mentioned, we also stock our own freezer with Beef that we raise, you know, so I don't have to decide if I want to spend the money to seek out a local rancher or order online for that or just go to the grocery store. you know, I'm lucky enough that we get to pull an animal that I raised. I know, you know, and, and that's what we get to feed our family and we actually do the same thing with our pork. We, you know, there's someone locally that we buy our pork from and we just harvest a whole animal and that gets thrown in our freezer too. And then I do buy my chicken from good ranchers.

Natalie (35m 41s):

They are a direct to consumer that is a hundred percent, you know, US farms and ranches, they do do conventional, they do grain finish So, they're not completely grass finished. So I'll add that because again, I just struggle telling people where to shop when I feel pretty fortunate that I get to just pluck from my own backyard often.

Brian (36m 1s):

Yeah that is a nice thing to, a nice thing to have. Why don't we touch and Tara maybe Tara, I'm sorry Tara, maybe this is more your topic, raw dairy.

Tara (36m 14s):

Oh, such a good question.

Brian (36m 17s):

I have before, yeah, before you go I have a, there's a farm like 45 minutes west of where I live in Illinois that I've, I go to, haven't been there that recently, but I used to go there every few weeks and get some raw milk and and consume it. Yeah, just thoughts on that.

Tara (36m 34s):

Yeah, so I'll back up a little and share a little bit about our farm and then I'll jump into the raw milk. We're a conventional dairy farm and kind of similar to na, what Natalie said about the Beef sector, the average herd size for dairies is I think about 300 cows. So a lot smaller than people think. Our farm is significantly larger than that kind of sim, similar to what Natalie said, but it's still like family owned and operated. My backyard is like our closeup pen and then all of our milk goes into the conventional side of things. I actually was with the, the plant manager who processes our milk and it gets turned into cheese and it is like your basic grocery store cheese, like Walmart brand cheese is subway cheeses.

Tara (37m 15s):

So that is where our milk goes as far as the raw milk side of things. So I actually grew up drinking raw milk until I was about 25. And then when I was pregnant with my first child, I just started deciding it was like time to really research this dive into this raw milk conversation. I have ultimately decided to switch to conventional milk. I just buy regular whole milk at the grocery store, just whatever is on the shelf because I did not think that the health benefits of raw milk outweighed just the benefits of milk overall. I like am not the lever that like there like raw milk is like the cure-all. I think milk in general in your diet is amazing.

Tara (37m 55s):

At the same time, again, I'm gonna Lean on the food choice that I think people should get to choose what they want. I will caveat that with though that when you choose raw milk, you know there are some increased risk. You want to make sure you know that you are working with a farmer, you know that your bottles are sterilized, that you're consuming the milk, you know, within a certain amount of timeframe. Like it's not gonna have the shelf life that conventional pasteurized milk is going to have. And so you need to like take all of those things into count when deciding whether like raw milk is, you know, right for you or not. I know a lot of people like the raw milk because of the perceived health benefits, but there's been some really great studies out there that kind of debunk some of those that it, it's more than just drinking raw milk that a lot of that is, it's like correlation, not causation.

Tara (38m 43s):

That a lot of the benefits that people see with drinking raw milk is actually, because a lot of times those people are living on farms, they're outdoor lifestyle goes back to the same thing Natalie was talking about at the beginning. They're grounding, they're in the dirt. There's, there's a lot of other things that usually go with people who consume raw milk, but I again believe if you're drinking milk, I'm obviously a dairy farmer so I'm happy about that. Whether it be raw milk or conventional

Natalie (39m 9s):

Tara brings up kind of an interesting point, which you talked about on Discover Ag and we specifically talked about it in our last two Debunking, kind of both with Vinny and then the episode before him we debunked game changers and we talked about it then we brought on our registered dietician. And one of the really, really hard things that comes to food studies is that it is often causation or correlation, not causation. It's really hard to specify out that, you know, raw milk did this or meat did this or you know, this one item. And oftentimes they are kind of comparing skewed examples, right? So for example, in game Changers we talked about how they were taking Olympic Olympic, you know, Vegan diets and comparing that to like almost the standard American diet, which we know the standard American diet is not like the epitome of health, right?

Natalie (39m 58s):

And so it's kind of unfair from that standpoint. And then again they're not, you're not factoring in like the supplements, the yoga, the overall lifestyle and just all those other compounding things that are really, really hard to remove when you do diet and food studies. And so it's kind of hard, I think to Lean on these food studies essentially, whether you're going pro or con on either side just because it, it really is hard to get like a true scientific food study.

Brian (40m 27s):

Yeah, that's a good point. It's so nuanced and depending on the individual's lifestyle there's a lot of other factors that, that go into it rather than just, you know, one, one thing or the other. What, what would you say some of the biggest advantages of, you know, animal Proteins first, you know, let's just say vegetable Proteins and things like that. Like for, you know, the nutrition and the sustainability of it.

Tara (40m 51s):

Yeah, I mean I think on the animal protein side, I mean animal protein is just like a powerhouse protein and, and it's beyond pure protein. We all love to talk about protein but there's so many micronutrients and other things. I was doing a study reading some studies this morning actually about milk consumption like in children. And so just using kids as an example, like if you can get them to, you know, drink a glass of milk or eat a pretty small piece of steak, you are getting a lot of nutrients into that kid versus, you know, maybe a vegetable they're not crazy about and that they have to consume large quantities of is not always like realistic. And so I, I personally love, you know, animal protein because of the convenience and ease. Like when we had the registered dietician on our podcast and we were Debunking game changers, that was one thing she said it's, you can get everything from a Vegan diet diet, but you have to be much more conscientious about what you're eating, making sure you're eating a variety of foods that you're making sure you're getting your supplements.

Tara (41m 43s):

Whereas animal protein can really like check a lot of boxes very easily and also be giving you like optimal bioavailable protein. And so those are some of the things I love about, you know, choosing animal Proteins

Brian (41m 56s):


Natalie (41m 58s):

Yeah. And they just taste really good too. Yeah.

Tara (42m 1s):

Yeah. Who doesn't love a steak?

Brian (42m 3s):

I will say this, I, when I went from pescatarian and then I started introducing meat I into my diet more like my body changed. Like I got like I, cause I've always been active and I lifted, but like I just started to grow like in good, you know, good growth. Yeah. And noticed a difference and yeah, that was, that was years ago. But

Natalie (42m 26s):

Yeah, it'd be interesting. I've, you know, obviously growing up on a ranch, I feel like for my entire life I have built my plate around the protein for the, you know, the meal, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's usually an animal protein on my plate and then everything else kind of fills in around it. So I don't have that, I guess change in what my body is like or how I feel without animal Proteins and I'm sure it would be really drastic essentially for how long I have consumed animal Proteins and yeah, I just, I can't imagine not having them. I feel like they're the easiest thing to go to. you know, you throw a steak on the grill, you throw a burger on the grill, you know, I mean it's just, for me it's just a really easy, like Tara said, it's a really easy way to get all the macro and micronutrients that you need.

Brian (43m 11s):

Yeah. And it's interesting because I think there's a little bit, at least from where I'm there I'm at where like women are like, that meat is more like for men thing, you know? And it's, it's ironic that I'm having you two on and that I have other two women coming on down the road here that sort of have the same viewpoint around meat. you know, like I even try to get my sister to eat more meat and I think it's like this thing that at least in, in the area where I'm at where like women eat like chicken and fish, they're like something about a steak. I'm like, I don't, I don't really get why, but it's just, there's

Natalie (43m 49s):

It. I do think it is really interesting there's that Narrative and it even came up, well I can't remember now if it was Vinny's film Beyond Impossible or the Game Changers one, but you know, they, they have as a society and people who want that Narrative of, you know, whether it's removed animal Proteins or less animal Proteins. I do think they've painted the picture of caveman barbaric meat, right? Men, you know, like bloody, like it's very been depicted throughout society that, you know, the animal Proteins are a little bit more gory, you know, dirty, that kind of being, whereas like vegetables are pure and whole and goodness and clean and Lean and like those things that women want and yeah, it's definitely, I think like a lie, a facade and just kind of been painted and unfortunately we've through, you know, several decades have fallen kind of victim to that Narrative and yeah, it's really unfortunate

Brian (44m 39s):

And it, and it, it also just on then I was just thinking about like the sourcing of, and it's good to hear from you guys that would 90 whatever percent are starting off in like a smaller family owned farm and being, you know, at least raised on grass for some of their lives for the Cattle. It's like good to hear that cuz that's something I did not know. And I think what's happening in like, just to pose that what's happening in like the fish market with the way fish are being farm raised, that's a whole nother podcast episode. Natalie, were you gonna say something? you know?

Natalie (45m 13s):

Yeah. Cause it's really interesting you bring this up because this month we're doing Cowspiracy, we're Debunking it and then we're paint highlighting Sacred Cow with Diana Rogers as kind of like the opposite to it. But in August we're gonna be doing Cspi and I am very, very far removed from, you know, the fish industry, how it is harvested, raised, grown, any of it. Okay. And so I'm very curious because I do have some preconceived notions and I also watch that film and there are some things in there that, you know, as a viewer who is removed from that industry, like you yourself and a lot of people are removed from animal agriculture, it's easy to see some of those things and think, oh wow, gosh, is that really true?

Natalie (45m 55s):

I know that the producers of Cipi are the same producers of Cowspiracy and I know the inaccuracies they did to depict, you know, the Cattle and Beef and the animal agriculture industry. And so I'm very curious, we're bringing on a, you know, guest expert in, you know, sustainable seafood. I'm very, very curious to pick her brain and I feel like I'm the perfect, you know, example and the perfect case study almost for this Debunking because I think I need to hear from the expert because I think it's really easy to twist things, portray things when you're removed you, you, you don't know what you don't know, right? So if you see something and you take it for face value, which is what we do a lot in society right now, it's easy to fall victim to a lot of things.

Natalie (46m 35s):

And so I'm really, really excited for the Sea Spirit City Debunking because I think I have some things that need to get corrected up for my own Narrative around seafood as well.

Brian (46m 43s):

Now. Did Yeah. I've not watched it. So you obviously both have watched it. Yeah, I

Natalie (46m 47s):

Watched it. I just watched it. I watched

Tara (46m 48s):

Oh, ok. I've watched it twice. I watched it before and then I've been watching it again for this Debunking and actually it's interesting coming back to it and already kinda like knowing where Thenar Narrative is gonna head, but no, it, it's gonna be a fun one to debunk cuz there is a lot of good information. Actually, university of Washington came out with like a whole page dedicated to Debunking Conspiracy and it was really great to see like a university putting a lot of facts, a lot of research, you know, highlighting studies and different things. But I am excited to, like Natalie said, ring on an actual expert because just like you, like one of the most common things we hear is we didn't know that Cattle typically Beef Cattle are raised out on pasture. And so it, it, I just wonder how many pre preconceived notions I have about seafood that I'm gonna get corrected on.

Tara (47m 33s):

It'll be, it'll be great to like have it be on us where we are the people who don't know anything and we're coming in and learning about it.

Brian (47m 41s):

Yeah, I'll have to watch that. I had a, oh, don't, don't watch it So they

Natalie (47m 45s):

Don't watch it. Maybe don't

Tara (47m 46s):

Watch, maybe don't Waste Your Time.

Natalie (47m 49s):

I had never watched any of our na I've never watched Game Changers, I'd never watched Conspiracy and I never watched Cspi. I just kind of had known that they, you know, weren't accurate films and weren't positively portray, you know, obviously in industry that I am passionate about and love. And so I had never watched any of our negative documentaries. So I was coming into them like very clean for the first time through this Debunking series.

Brian (48m 11s):

Okay. I had an individual on who, and he might not be a bad guy to have on during this whole series. He owns a company called Seat Topia and they do farm raised fish. Oh, cool. But they do farm raise fish and they feed the fish, the species appropriate food. Yeah. So, and, and it's like sushi grade. It's unbelievable fish. Yeah. And he, I, I think, yeah, so anyways, I, his name is, I'm drawing a blank on, but I'll

Natalie (48m 42s):

Have to scroll back and look on your

Brian (48m 43s):

Podcast. Yeah. Take a look and lemme know.

Tara (48m 44s):

Yeah, we'll have to listen.

Brian (48m 46s):

Yeah. All, right. Well this was great guys. Is there anything else that we missed? And so typically I like to ask my guests like, what one tip would you give individuals who are maybe looking to get their health or their bodies back to what it once was 5, 10, 15 years ago? What, what one tip would you give those individuals?

Tara (49m 6s):

Oh, I mentioned I've been kind of on my own health journey and my goal that I have set is to get 30 grams of protein at each meal. So three times a day. And I will say when I hit that goal, I feel full, I feel great, I feel energy like level. And so that has been my tip as far as my health journey that I have just found a ton of value in And. you know, it's fairly easy to do with animal protein. This morning I had a core power, so a milk-based protein beverage and then at lunch I'll have, I think some ground Beef and then probably a steak for dinner. But that has really been a game changer for me.

Natalie (49m 42s):

Mine is gonna be what I said at the beginning, but go outside, get movement. I think we in society have created this idea that like when we are working out or moving our body, it needs to be high intensity. Which again, I love like lifting weights and I am all for, you know, some high intensity workouts, but just going for a simple walk, I, my mood is always elevated. you know, I've been spending my evenings out and gardening like the last half an hour before I go inside for the evening to retire. you know, completely. And just even doing that, like moving my hands out in the dirt and just being outside if you can. I know it's not feasible for everyone where they live and stuff, but just if you can get outside and get that fresh air, that movement, you know, connecting with nature, I think is, is much more powerful.

Natalie (50m 25s):

I really think we have put so much emphasis on diet and exercise when it comes to our health as humans for the last couple decades, which are obviously important. But I think we have really lost track of some of the other really, really important things, which is like, you know, again connecting with nature and just doing some of those more simple things that I think at our core as humans we crave and need.

Brian (50m 45s):

Yeah, love that. Yeah, I mean yesterday we've had such nice weather here. I did like an outside workout and it's like nice to do that because half the time I'm in a cold gym, you know, in the winter. Yeah. So like, you know, get outside and do, do some type of workout. Just have to, you know, like he said, it could just be going for a walk, but helps with sleep too. you know, you talk about a foundational thing with, you know, with with health. Well this was great. So Best Place Discover. Ag is your, is your podcast. I'm definitely gonna start listening to it cause I like how you guys are doing these Debunkings and where else can we find you. I'll also leave Links in the show notes too, but Instagram, you guys are both on Instagram.

Tara (51m 27s):

Yep. You can find us both on Instagram, just our name, so at Tara Vander Dussen for me and at Natalie. Covar for Natalie. And then, yeah, if you are listening to this and you like Podcasts, obviously Discover Ag, we cover, you know, trending, top trending news pieces in the Ag and food space. So if you see, you know, a headline or a news article that's about food or Ag, we actually collect a lot of articles from our listeners. They'll send them into us, So, we can kind of see what topics people want us to cover and then we kind of deep dive them and go back and forth. We bring on experts if we need to, as we talked about with registered dietician and Vinny and others and So. we have some really great fun conversations over there.

Brian (52m 6s):

Excellent. Na and your website, do you have a website for both of you guys?

Natalie (52m 12s):

Yeah, but I think our socials probably the best. Just head to our socials.

Brian (52m 15s):

Go to the socials. Okay. Yeah,

Natalie (52m 16s):

Podcasts are the socials. I feel like that's kind of where we spend most of our time.

Brian (52m 19s):

Right. Yeah. Awesome. Well thank you so much for coming on. I appreciate dropping all the knowledge and yeah, we, we will check you out. I'll leave show Links in the show notes and I appreciate you guys coming on. Awesome.

Tara (52m 32s):

Thanks so much.

Natalie (52m 32s):

It's a lot of

Tara (52m 33s):

Fun. Thanks for having us.

Brian (52m 36s):

Thanks for listening to the GETLEAN E Clean podcast. I understand there are millions of other Podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to mine and I appreciate that. Check out the show notes at Brian Gryn dot com for everything that was mentioned In, this episode. Feel free to subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend or family member that's looking to get their body back to what it once was. Thanks again and have a great day.

Natalie Kovarik and Tara Vander Dussen

Natalie Kovarik and Tara Vander Dussen are the two co hosts of Discover Ag the docuseries & Discover Ag the podcast. Collectively they have been sharing online & building a community around agriculture for over 10 years.

Natalie is a 4th generation rancher from central Nebraska who alongside her husband, owns and operates Kovarik Cattle Co., a cow calf operation with a growing registered herd. Tara is a 5th generation dairy farmer and an environmental scientist who along with her husband, owns and operates their family dairy farm in New Mexico.

As female farmers - Natalie and Tara bring a unique perspective to the ag & food space. They meld their fun personalities with their knowledgeable background to connect to their rural & urban counterparts in a relatable & engaging way.


wanna talk to brian?

Schedule a free 15 min consultation