Should I be concerned about bird flu in cows?

In a word, no. But let’s explain a bit.

Bird flu – or the H5N1 strain of avian influenza – has been a devastating disease for poultry producers in the US for the past several years, and recently has infected some dairy cattle in six states (including South Dakota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but not in Wisconsin). Despite a single infection in one dairy farm employee, the risks to human health is very, very low, and the risk that pasture-based beef cattle will be infected is also extremely low.


Bird flu spreads easily among birds – from wild bird species to domesticated poultry – especially in the confined, crowded, high-stress environments most meat chicken and egg laying hens are kept. In fact, our friends at Alden Hills Organic Farm (who happen to be members of our cooperative) aren’t as worried about bird flu as most poultry producers are, for the same reasons we aren’t worried, and don’t think you should be, either: healthy pastures and outdoor living promote healthy, stress-free animals with healthy immune systems. Plus, it is MUCH more difficult for bird flu to infect or be transmitted among cows than it is for chickens and other poultry breeds. 

Conventional dairy herds are often kept in the same kinds of confined, high-stress, indoor buildings as conventional chickens, and are therefore much more prone to getting sick, and then spreading that sickness. Our beef cattle and hogs – and Alden Hills chickens – are raised in a way that couldn’t be more different than those conventional operations (factories, in essence), outside on healthy, diverse pasture with plenty of room to roam about and live their best lives. Those practices create healthy animals with robust immune systems.

I think our friend Levi at Alden Hills said it very well in terms of how he thinks about preventing bird flu from infecting his flocks. The same reasoning applies to us, and our grassfed beef cattle and pasture-raised hogs. Know and trust that our farmers do everything in their power to prevent illness by utilizing what nature gave us!

Read Levi’s Story (A member of Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative):

The Best Defense for Avian Flu by Levi & Emily Powers owners of Alden Hills Organic Farms

The farm has dried out nicely after the mud bath we dealt with last week. It is always amazing to me how quickly conditions can improve with a little sunshine and wind… right now it looks like we could be grazing as soon as next week. First grazing of the year is always a tricky thing because you want to make sure the grass has enough growth to sustain the cattle buuuut you also just want to have them off hay and grazing pasture!

We also got our first batch of 2,400 chicks in the brooder last week! Jordan (our poultry manager) has been busy keeping them comfortable for their first few days here. Our chicks will spend the first 3 weeks of their life in the brooder while they grow their feathers and mature enough to handle life on pasture.

The big concern again this year is avian flu and what that means for us. There is a far bit of misinformation out there about avian flu but in my experience it is a real concern. The biggest risk is that it’s extremely unpredictable because it’s passed from migrating birds… and since we raise all of our birds on pasture we have very little control over their exposure to wild birds. Avian flu can be devastating to a flock of poultry because it will infect nearly every bird within a day or two.

Now, this is where more of my personal opinions come in so be warned! Even with raising chickens out on pasture we still carry the risk of avian flu. I’ve had conversations with other farmers that think healthier birds (IE pasture-raised) can actually handle exposure to avian flu much better than industrially raised chickens that are raised in barns. I do know that avian flu found inside a chicken barn, where all those chickens are kept in such close proximity, is particularly deadly. I have to believe that chickens with healthy immune systems that are being raised with sunshine and fresh grass HAVE to have a better chance than barn birds.

The other aspect that I believe works for us is also our soil microbiology. Our farm actually has an abnormally high population of wild birds and animals on it… this is due to the biodiversity that is found in the pastures and forests here. Unlike a lot of American farms, we aren’t plowing up fields every year so native habitats are encouraged to grow and mature. So how does our soil work for us when we should be at a higher risk in theory? We have noticed that our soils have become healthy to the point where they can break down manure very quickly. We see that with our cattle and chicken manure every day… you can see manure disappearing into the ground very quickly on our farm… usually within 4-7 days. To me, this is a natural protective layer against Avian flu… droppings from wild birds that may be a threat will be broken down into the soil within days by our soil. I know that we can’t farm without risk of an outbreak, but I also know that we can encourage behaviors and practices that reduce our risks by farming with nature and not against it.

Why do beef prices keep rising?

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the total US beef cattle inventory is at its smallest level since 1961 (figure 1).

Figure 1: January 1 U.S. Beef Cow Inventory (1940 to 2024) [1,000 head][1]

This decline is primarily attributed to a combination of factors, most importantly drought and high input costs. Beef prices throughout the supply chain have gone up dramatically since summer of 2020. Prices paid to beef producers for the animals they raise are up by 80% for steers & heifers (so-called “finished beef cattle”) and by over 100% for calves over that time period (figure 2), and are expected to continue to rise in the latter half of 2024 and even into 2025.

Figure 2. Prices Received for Beef Cattle by Month, US [Dollars per hundred weight][2]

At the retail level, as we are all too familiar with, prices for beef have also gone up (figure 3).

Figure 3. Average price per pound, all uncooked beef steaks (2014-2024)[3]

Which brings us to our prices. The Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative was founded over a decade ago on the principle that our members deserve a premium price for the premium product they produce. Regenerative pasture management practices and the highest animal husbandry standards take added time and cost more to implement. We are proud that we have been able to offer our members a price for their finished beef cattle that is roughly 20% above conventional prices on average over the lifetime of our cooperative. Right now, however, with prices for conventional beef cattle (both calves and  finished steers and heifers) at record highs, we have frankly struggled to keep up. Over the past 24 months, despite having raised the prices we pay our producers by over 20%, we have failed to maintain that premium. Our members would prefer not to sell their cattle through conventional channels, but they also can’t be expected to suffer a financial penalty for selling their cattle through our cooperative.

In a nutshell, that’s why we are raising our prices. For every additional 10¢/lb we pay our member producers for their finished cattle, our finished beef products become something like 17¢/lb more expensive.[4] So, every time we raise the price we pay our producers by 10¢/lb we should raise the prices we charge our customers by at least 17¢/lb to avoid losing money risking the long-term health of the cooperative.

The next increase in pay price to our member producers will make the price we pay them 60¢/lb higher than it was in early 2022, which makes the cost of our beef closer to $1/lb more expensive on average. Of course, that figure only accounts for the increased costs associated with paying our members more for their cattle. During that same period, almost every cost associated with producing Wisconsin Meadows grassfed beef products has gone up: processing (mostly due to increasing labor costs), packaging, transportation, etc.

As strange as it might seem, we do not like raising our prices. We believe our wholesome, natural, Wisconsin-made products should be available and affordable for every family to purchase and enjoy. We simply cannot avoid it – both for the sake of our member-owners, and for the long-term health and viability of our cooperative.

We look forward to being able to lower our prices sometime in the future, and until that time, we appreciate your support for the member-owners of Wisconsin Meadows and the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative!

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative

[1] Burdine, K. “U.S. Beef Cow Inventory Continues to Decline.” Economic and Policy Update (24):2, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, February 2, 2024.  

[2] Source: USDA-NASS 2/29/2024

[3] Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index Average Price Data

[4] This is due to the fact that only around 60-65% of a typical beef carcass becomes edible beef products after butchering.

Wisconsin Meadows Products to be Shipped using 100% Curbside Recyclable Boxes

We at the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative/Wisconsin Meadows are proud to announce that we will now be using EcoMax® Cool insulated liners for shipping our frozen meat to your door!

EcoMax® Cool insulated liners are a fully sustainable solution for our shipping boxes, that are made of recycled materials, are 100% curbside recyclable, and provide superior insulation properties, compared with our current extruded polystyrene (aka styrofoam) cooler inserts. We are thrilled to start using these new EcoMax® Cool liners immediately, and we know that you share our excitement. 

Our cooperative has been searching for an environmentally friendly packaging solution for some time and finally located a product that is both cost efficient and, more importantly, has a positive environmental impact. Just like our members care about being stewards of their land, we also care about making sure that stewardship ethic continues all the way to your door, protecting the land and resources for generations to come. Switching to this eco-friendly packaging is just one more step toward fulfilling that goal.

EcoMax® Cool inserts are a superior product that provide the highest-performing cold chain insulation for refrigerated and frozen shipments. They are paper-based cold-chain packaging that are inserted into a corrugated cardboard box. EcoMax® Cool inserts are made of recycled materials and are 100% curbside recyclable. They sustain temperatures longer than Styrofoam (EPS), starch, and cotton as compared to shipping in the same conditions. The high-quality liners block-out heat and lock-in cold, making it a perfect solution for shipping our 100% Grass-fed Beef and Pastured Pork products across the Midwest anytime of the year right to our customers’ doorsteps.

In the coming weeks, when you order Wisconsin Meadows products, be happy when you receive our new packaging which protects our products to keep them safe and frozen throughout the shipping process. And the best part? You can fully recycle all the shipping packaging…insulation and all!

From all of us at the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative, please look forward to our new packaging with your next order, and thank you for continuing to choose local, family-owned Wisconsin Meadows products!

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative

New Product Alert: Ground Dog Food Blend

Announcing Wisconsin Meadows new dog food blend!

We are very excited to offer our pet-loving customers the first chance to purchase our new 100% grassfed ground dog food blend, before it makes it into stores! This isn’t your typical dog food! We begin with only the highest quality ingredients — in fact, it is the same exact 100% grassfed beef trim and beef organs that we sell for human consumption — and blend it together for a mix your dog will love!

Feed it to your dog raw or cooked, by itself or mixed with your favorite dry kibble. Any way you choose, your dog will love it! Why not show your pet how much you care about their health and well-being and give them Wisconsin Meadows 100% grassfed ground beef blend?

I’ve been feeding my own dog a combination of raw beef trim, organs, and meat-free dry kibble (for fiber and trace vitamins and minerals) since getting him as a puppy and he loves it! He’s a happy, healthy, strong 5 year old now and I feel wonderful about the food I give him! 

Ingredients: Beef Trimmings [50% by weight]; Beef Organs (Beef Heart, Beef Liver, Beef Kidneys) [50% by weight]

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative

Wisconsin Meadows Farmers are Small Business Engines for Rural Wisconsin

Our 100% grass-fed beef and pastured pork come from the over 240 members of the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative – representing over three-quarters of Wisconsin’s 72 counties – each of which is a small, family-owned business that is an integral part of their rural Wisconsin community.

These family-owned businesses play a crucial role in contributing to the economic health of rural communities in many ways:

  • Employment Opportunities: Family members, as well as additional hired labor, contribute to the workforce, helping to reduce unemployment rates in rural areas.
  • Income Generation: Small farms provide a source of income for the families involved. This income not only sustains the farm operations but also circulates within the local economy as these families spend money on goods and services in the community.
  • Local Markets and Businesses: Small farms generally sell their products directly (or indirectly, through cooperatives like Wisconsin Meadows) to local consumers, farmers’ markets, local grocery stores, fostering a strong connection between farm and community. This, in turn, supports other local businesses (like our processing partners) and contributes to the overall economic diversity of the area.
  • Community Engagement: Family-run farms are often deeply rooted in the communities where they are located. Actively engaging with local residents and participating in community events contributes to the social fabric of the area and helps to build strong social bonds and a supportive social and economic network.
  • Preservation of Rural Culture: Small farms contribute to the preservation of rural traditions and cultural practices, playing a role in maintaining the agricultural heritage of the region, often passing down farming knowledge from generation to generation.
  • Diversification of Income Sources: Many small farms engage in diversified agricultural activities. Many of our members, in addition to raising livestock, also raise crops and even incorporate activities like agri-tourism into their farm businesses. This diversification helps stabilize income sources, making the farm – and by extension the community – more resilient to economic fluctuations.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Small family farms are more likely to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices, given the fact that they literally live and raise their own families right on the farm. Our members take care of their pastures in ways that have positive effects on the local ecosystem, promoting biodiversity and preserving natural resources, which, in turn, contributes to the long-term sustainability of the rural community.
  • Local Food Security: Small farms contribute to local food security by producing fresh, locally sourced food. This is especially important in times of global disruptions or uncertainties in the food supply chain. The shorter the link between you and where your food comes from, the stronger and more resilient that connection is.

Wisconsin Meadows grass-fed beef and pastured pork come from members of the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative – family businesses that are integral to the economic, social, cultural and environmental health of Wisconsin’s rural communities, collectively strengthening the fabric of rural life here in Wisconsin!

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative

You Are What You Eat

Do you know what you are eating? Think back to what you had for breakfast this morning or dinner last night. Do you know where your food came from? One of the main reasons the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative was started was to provide a natural beef product for people who are looking for a pure and clean product from local farms they know and trust. And when we say “pure and clean” product, we mean no genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But before we get into what you are eating, let’s look at what a GMO really is.

A genetically modified organism is a plant, animal, or microorganism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. It used laboratory techniques to create combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and/or virus genes that do not naturally occur, and more importantly could never occur without the use of those lab techniques. As an example, the Monsanto corporation inserted genes that confer resistance to their herbicide RoundUp (glyphosate) and their insecticide derived from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis into corn, making it possible for farmers who purchase both the seed and chemicals from Monsanto to spray their growing corn plants with herbicides and insecticides without harming the corn plants. These crops are then mainly used to feed livestock but also to make ingredients such as cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil or granulated sugar.[1]   

Some types of genetic engineering – the process to make GMOs – can have direct benefits to human health. For example, insulin used to treat diabetes is manufactured in labs by yeast and bacterial cells into which the human gene for insulin has been inserted. Other GMOs are limited to crops that are not meant for human consumption, like cotton. The question is whether it is appropriate for GMOs to be consumed in the form of food?

GMOs can have a harmful effect on the human body. According to a scientific review of the safety, risks, and public concerns of GM foods, the authors conclude that the “biggest threat caused by GM foods is that they can have harmful effects on the human body… [by causing] the development of diseases which are immune to antibiotics.” There is not much known about the long-term effects on humans who consume GMOs. Therefore, many people prefer to stay away from these types of foods and choose to consume natural ingredients.[2]

Our 100% grassfed beef and pastured pork products come from livestock raised on family farms all across Wisconsin that are humanely treated, naturally-raised. Our products – anything bearing the Wisconsin Meadows label – not only contain no GMOs, but are also made without the use of GMOs. Our producers are required to follow strict protocols which ban GM feed and pasturing animals on fields that contain GM crops such as corn or soybeans. Therefore, you can enjoy eating Wisconsin Meadows products everyday knowing they are a clean, pure, healthy source of protein free from GMOs. Know that when you choose Wisconsin Meadows products, you are getting a natural product that was grazed on green grass, surrounded by blue skies and the crystal-clear waters of Wisconsin. As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat!”  

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative



Feeding Grass…All Year Long

A question we get a lot as producers of 100% Grass-fed Beef….is how and what do we feed our livestock during the cold, snowy Wisconsin winter when there are limited pastures? Especially this time of year, when snow is on the radar and heading our way? 

The answer…easy! Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Producers work all summer long stockpiling high quality forages and hay. Enough to make it through all winter and spring until new pasture growth is ready for natural mowing by our livestock. Therefore producing some of the best natural, 100% grass-fed and finished cattle!

This photo is directly from one of our member’s farms that shows hay feeders placed throughout the pasture which are kept replenished and moved throughout the field to allow for natural fertilization and decomposition of animal waste. Thus promoting natural stewardship from the land that all our farms within our cooperative strive to maintain!  

It takes long hours and planning…but producers succeed at stocking up on high-energy and protein filled grasses to feed livestock during these winter months and beyond while looking forward to spring and new pasture growth! 

The Most Important Component of Wisconsin Meadows: YOU!

As 2023 comes to a close, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight one of the most important components of Wisconsin Meadows and the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative: YOU!

Without our amazing customers, we would not have been able to pay our member-producers nearly $1.5 million for their 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Every time you make a purchase on our website, those dollars flow right back into the pockets of the families who raise the grass-fed beef or pastured pork. When you buy Wisconsin Meadows products, you’re buying with very little going to overhead or processing costs.

Interesting fact…did you know that in 2022, an average of just 7.9¢ of each dollar US consumers spent on food went to the farmer who grew the crops or raised the meat that went into making that food item?[1] When you buy from Wisconsin Meadows, that “farm production value” is much, much higher – probably over 50% – since comparatively little of our prices go to pay for “overhead,” and we return all our “profits” back to the cooperative in the form of investments and patronage bonuses.

We appreciate you! For valuing our products, and by sharing our values for healthy pastures, clean water, happy and healthy animals, and for the Wisconsin family farm economy!

Happy holidays from all of us at Wisconsin Meadows and Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative!

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative


Wisconsin Farmers Join Together to Make Farms Sustainable

Have you ever looked up the definition of “Cooperative”? It is defined as “a farm, business, or other organization which is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.” That’s exactly the reason the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative was formed over fifteen years ago.  A group of regenerative livestock producers pooled their resources together to market to consumers with their nutritious and healthy beef and pork products.

By joining together, producers of our cooperative benefit from shared resources, risk reduction, and improved market presence, and can access markets that are either difficult or impossible to access as an individual farm. Plus, producers own and operate the cooperative which means profits go directly back to the farmers who produce the food we eat every time you choose to buy Wisconsin Meadows branded products. 

Our cooperative – like all member-owned cooperatives – operates according to the seven core “Cooperative Principles” benefitting our members/owners in many ways:

  • Our member-owners pool their resources, such as advertising budgets, sales efforts, and distribution networks, to promote and sell their products or services more efficiently and effectively.
  • By working together, our members can often achieve economies of scale, which can lead to cost savings in production, marketing, and distribution.
  • When negotiating with suppliers or buyers, our cooperative’s larger membership base can have greater bargaining power, potentially securing better terms and prices.
  • Our cooperative can help spread risks among members, by diversifying their markets.
  • Our cooperative distributes the profits we generate among our members based on their level of participation, which encourages collaboration and shared success.
  • As a democratically-controlled organization, our members have a say in the cooperative’s decision-making processes and share ownership in the organization.
  • By joining our cooperative, our members can focus on taking care of their pastures and animals, rather than spending their time on marketing and sales. 

Which is where you – our customer – come in. When you purchase Wisconsin Meadows products, you directly contribute to the health and viability of the member-owners of the Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative. Your purchases support their efforts to raise 100% grass-fed beef and pastured-pork on regeneratively-managed pastures here in Wisconsin!

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative

Health Benefits of Eating Grass-fed Beef

Wait – what?! Did you say, health benefits of eating red meat? But haven’t we been told that “a diet high in red meat and saturated fat… blah blah blah.”

Here are the facts concerning grass-fed beef consumption being associated with health benefits (backed up by the scientific studies, if you’re interested):

Grass-fed beef tends to have a higher nutritional profile compared to conventionally raised beef, containing higher levels of:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – which are beneficial for heart health and play a crucial role in reducing inflammation;
  • Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): a type of fatty acid associated with various health benefits, including anti-cancer properties and improved body composition;
  • Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, C, and E, and antioxidants, compared to grain-fed beef;
  • Lower total fat content than grain-fed beef.

What’s more, it is becoming increasingly clear that the link between saturated fat intake (the kind of fat found in all beef) and increased risk of heart disease is not supported by scientific evidence. According to Teicholz (2023) (emphasis added):

“The idea that saturated fats cause heart disease, called the diet-heart hypothesis, was introduced in the 1950s, based on weak, associational evidence. Subsequent clinical trials attempting to substantiate this hypothesis could never establish a causal link… [but] were largely ignored for decades… Subsequent reexaminations of this evidence by nutrition experts… have largely concluded that saturated fats have no effect on cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular mortality or total mortality…The global re-evaluation of saturated fats that has occurred over the past decade implies that caps on these fats are not warranted and should no longer be part of national dietary guidelines. Conflicts of interest and longstanding biases stand in the way of updating dietary policy to reflect the current evidence.”

So there you have it! Don’t worry too much about your saturated fat intake, and when you do choose to eat foods that contain saturated fat, look for options – like our Wisconsin Meadows 100% grass-fed beef – that have lots of other health benefits to boot. Not to mention the fact that your purchase supports family farmers right here in Wisconsin, and that the beef you eat comes from some of the happiest, healthiest cattle anywhere in the world!

By: Josh Miner, Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Cooperative


Daley, C.A., Abbott, A., Doyle, P.S., Nader, G.A., and Larson, S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9(10). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10.

French, P., Stanton, C., Lawless, F., O’Riordan, E.G., Monahan, F.J., and Caffrey, P.J. (2000). Fatty acid composition, including conjugated linoleic acid, of intramuscular fat from steers offered grazed grass, grass silage, or concentrate-based diets. Journal of Animal Science, 78(11), 2849-2855. doi:10.2527/2000.78112849x.

Dhiman, T.R., Anand, G.R., Satter, L.D., and Pariza, M.W. (1999). Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. Journal of Dairy Science, 82(10), 2146-2156. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(99)75458-5.

Leheska, J.M., Thompson, L.D., Howe, J.C., Hentges, E., Boyce, J., Brooks, J.C., … & Smith, S.B. (2008). Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef. Journal of Animal Science, 86(12), 3575-3585. doi:10.2527/jas.2007-0561.

Teicholz, N (2023). A short history of saturated fat: the making and unmaking of a scientific consensus. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, 30(1): 65–71. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000791.