Here are some of the frequently asked questions we receive both on Facebook and at the Farmers’ Market. We hope this will help you learn more about our farm. We encourage questions, so if you have one, let us know!
What makes Gauker Farms meat so special?
Everything! (Just kidding!) Lee is the 9th generation to farm his family’s Fleetwood, Berks County farm. Jodi somehow got roped in and married Lee, so she’s here and helps Lee out when she can (and “deals with people” because Lee doesn’t like to do that!). We sell our beef (and pork from our friends – maybe someday we’ll have our own) by the whole, half, quarter, or cut. We are licensed by the PA Department of Agriculture and the Chester County Health Department (because we go to a Chester County farmers’ market). Our steers are butchered in a USDA inspected shop in Lancaster County that does an excellent job with our livestock. They are Animal Welfare Approved! The beef is dry aged for at least 2 weeks which really helps the flavors within the beef concentrate, giving it that “not from a grocery store” taste. We raise all of our own grain and hay – and the straw bedding! – on our 260 acre farm. (We do buy some grain in – more on that later!) The entire Gauker Family is involved – Lee’s dad does most of the feeding and helps Lee with some of the field work, Lee’s mom can sometimes be found in the tractor baling straw or helping with a market, and Lee’s sister helps out from time to time, too. Even Lee’s uncles and cousins help us bale and put away straw in the very hot barn in July, which we truly appreciate!
Is Gauker Farms grass-fed?
Our steers are out on pasture from about July through November (they are in the barn for the winter) – and some of our older steers stay in the barn when they are close to “finish,” but they have ample room and access to a straw-bedded barnyard. Our steers are all fed grain twice each day though. We produce the grain right here on our farm. So, are they grass-fed? No. There are very specific criteria for that – i.e. no grain ever – and that’s not how we raise our steers.
Is Gauker Farms organic?
No. We use judicial use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on our farm to produce quality crops.
Does Gauker Farms raise and feed genetically modified (GM) crops?
Yes, we do. We plant lots of different varieties of corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay on our farm, and while our hay and wheat is not genetically modified, and our pastures do not have genetically modified seed, we do plant (and our steers consume!) genetically modified corn and soybeans. We agree with the FDA in their opinion that GM crops have been tested and have not proven to be harmful to humans. We also find that we are able to use less pesticides (read: less spraying, less fuel to go over the fields, etc.) because we use GM technology. If you are uncomfortable with this, we are HAPPY to recommend another farm to you that does not feed genetically modified crops. We support your right to know and choose!
Are Gauker Farms cows happy cows?
Our dairy farming friends would want you to know we raise steers – castrated male calves – and not cows that give milk. 🙂 Our steers are happy though! Sad steers don’t eat. Sad steers get sick. We VERY rarely have either of those cases on our farm. We have happy, hungry steers.
Do you feed hormones or antibiotics?
We want you to know hormones are not fed. They are a small capsule that is placed in the ear of a steer that releases estrogen that helps the steer better convert feed to muscle. Now that you know this, you should know that we do NOT implant with hormones. It’s just not part of our management plan. If we did, a serving of beef from a steer that did have an implant would still have much less estrogen in it than a spinach salad. However, we still don’t do it.
We do treat sick animals. We give sick animals antibiotics under the direction of our veterinarian. Typically, we may have sick calves when they are young. It’s kind of like sending a child to pre-school – they need to pass along all of those germs from one to another until everyone’s immune system develops. However, once that happens, everyone is healthy again. We typically do not have sick adult steers. In the seven years we’ve raised steers since Jodi has lived on the farm, she can count on one hand the sick adult steers. It’s typically when the weather changes. (Do you get sinus infections when the weather changes? I sure do! They stink, but it happens, even if you try your best to avoid it.) They are given antibiotics. Sometimes they don’t pull through and they pass away. Sometimes they do pull through and are healthy again. When we give antibiotics to sick animals, there is a withdrawal time on the bottle that means that the steer cannot go to market until time is up, when the antibiotic should be out of the steer’s system. Butcher shops test for this, and it would be a VERY expensive mistake if we were to send a steer before the antibiotic was out of its system. We don’t have that kind of pocket change, nor do we want antibiotics in the food system. Therefore, that waiting time is very important. We’ve never had a time when the animal even came close to going to market close to the withdrawal time. Guess we’ve just been lucky!
We do add rumensin to our feed mix for the steers. Rumensin is not an antibiotic although it kind of acts like one; Rumensin is an Ionophore. Rumensin is really like probiotics in your yogurt – they stimulate the good bacteria in your stomach to help you better digest your food. Rumensin does the same thing in our steers.
Don’t agree with this? That’s OK! Let us know, and we can refer you to another farmer who better meets your needs. No problem!
Do you have a favorite recipe you use for your beef or pork?
We have lots. Jodi cooks (and Lee eats) ALL the time. Just ask!
Can you make hot sticks that do not have MSG in them?
Unfortunately we don’t produce our own sticks and jerky – our butcher produces that for us with their USDA approved recipe. We can’t change that recipe – it is what it is. Our sweet sticks and jerky do not have MSG in them, so if you are not able to consume MSG, you may try one of those instead! Please note that our hot dogs and cheese dogs also contain MSG.
Do your beef sticks and jerky have sugar in it?
Yes. It is very difficult to take beef and make it shelf stable and taste good without adding a sugar derivative. There are some on the market without sugar. We’ve tried them, and quite frankly, don’t like them. And, our butcher doesn’t make a recipe without it.
Out of skirt steak and flank steak already? How does it go so fast?
There are only 2 flank steaks, 2 skirt steaks, 2 petite tenders, 8 flat irons and 1 hanger steak with each steer we get back. If you’re very specific in the steaks you like to enjoy, our best recommendation is to order early!
Why in the world would I buy a live steer? I don’t want the hooves and stuff!
When you buy a steer from us to take to your own butcher, you are buying the steer “live.” That doesn’t mean you have to take home the “hooves and stuff.” You can tell the butcher what kind of cuts you want, and that’s what you’ll take home. Don’t worry – you won’t have feet in your freezer if you don’t want them there!
Can I purchase a steer and butcher it on your farm?
You may absolutely purchase a steer, but we absolutely prohibit the slaughter of livestock on our farm. We do not have the facilities necessary to facilitate harvesting a steer on a farm. We do not know other farms that allow this, and cannot offer recommendations at this time.
Can I just buy beef at the farm?
YES! But the “farm store” at our farm is only open during the hours posted on our facebook events page, or by appointment. Lee and Jodi both have full-time off-farm jobs. Therefore, at this time, you must make an appointment.
Do you offer farm tours?
YES! We don’t do wagon rides or anything like that, but we’re happy to show you, your family, or your group around the farm. We can offer a visit to our calves, our steers, show you what they eat, show you the crops we raise, talk briefly about family history, and do a demonstration on beef cuts.
We also open the farm once per year for our annual “Fun on the Farm” in August. There is a free lunch, yard games, educational displays, and more. This is the only day we open the farm to the general public each year.
Have a question that we haven’t answered? Please send it to us! We’re happy to answer your questions! 🙂