Antibiotics to Fatten Livestock? Not on Gary Marchi’s Pescadero ranch!
by Gwen O’Neill
Could your supermarket beef be a source of dangerous bacteria?
Most commercial livestock operations use antibiotics to increase animals’ weight. This use of antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, which can be passed on to humans when that livestock becomes the food we buy at the store. If we become sick from the bacteria, and the old antibiotics no longer work, the consequences may be serious.
If you still like to eat meat, what’s the solution to this increasing problem? One answer could be the beef from Moon Meadow Ranch.
Pescadero rancher Gary Marchi, who operates Moon Meadow, has been raising and studying cattle since his 4H years in high school. “I took animals to the San Mateo County Fair as well as the Cow Palace when I was in 4H,” he said.
Marchi describes himself as the renegade of the family because he went into livestock rather than continuing the family tradition of agriculture. He said: “It’s a lot more labor intensive, especially when the cows are calving. You can’t go away for two weeks then! You have to be there because you never know when you’re going to have to pull the calf and help the cow along.”
Marchi says his friend Diane Morgan from Oregon pushed him into his “beginning to end” business, where he follows the process through from raising the cattle to selling the packaged meat. “It produces a better product than just raising the herd and selling it off and not knowing how it gets processed,” he said.
He has created a magical place where “nature does in her own time what she designed the grazing animal to do ... forage and grow into a healthy source of nourishment,” Marchi said.
I asked him to describe what natural beef really means. He said: “There are no hormones, no preservatives, no animal by products in the feed, no steroids and no implants in their ears. It’s common to take a calf from the mother and put this implant in the ear that acts like a steroid.” When calves are treated that way, he said, “they gain more weight because they eat more.”
Marchi’s 100 head herd is made up of at least 50 percent certified shorthorn cattle. The breed is known for its good milk production as well as the quality of its beef. Marchi said that shorthorn cows “make better mothers because they produce more milk and the calves get a better start. They are less apt to abandon the calf.”
The standards of Moon Meadow include rotational grazing in fresh meadows and spacious paddocks for the animals. Marchi’s lifelong experience in agriculture and a long term breeding program is a winning combination for buyers of the end product.
Marchi’s cattle are slaughtered in a USDA plant in Los Banos; the carcasses are hung for 14 days instead of the usual two or three. Marchi then picks up the packaged beef to distribute to his customers. He said, “It’s a higher
price than supermarket meat, but it’s not supermarket meat.”
And customers are happy to have the alternative. Susan Lydon of Pescadero said: “We love Gary’s beef! It is very tasty. And since it is grass fed, we feel it has a lot of health benefits that grain fed beef does not have.”
Moon Meadow has won numerous awards. In 1997 it won most of the heifer classes at the Cow Palace. Marchi has had a junior bull calf champion, a senior bull calf champion, and a winning “produce of dam” --two females calved from the same mother.