Drew Lewis of Brothers Ridge Farm in upstate New York is a fourth-generation farmer that’s growing pasture-raised lamb without antibiotics, with a focus on sustainable and regenerative farming practices. Read more to learn about the shift in our program, and how we’re continuing to bring you the best-tasting lamb you’ve ever had.
Drew Lewis is not your typical farmer. After leaving careers in engineering and academia, and armed with a master’s degree in agronomy from Cornell University, he returned to the former family dairy farm where he grew up and worked to make it viable again. Drew has focused his attention on increasing the biomass, soil quality, and fertility of the land, which not only helps the environment, but helps the animals raised there to be healthier and happier. Drew believes in making every day a good one for his flock, saying he works to make sure his animals don’t have a bad day.
We partnered with Drew back in 2013 to create a program that raised 100% grass-fed lamb exclusively for FreshDirect customers. We believed that 100% grass-fed was what was best for the environment, and best for the animals. For the past five years, Drew has worked tirelessly to deliver that 100% grass-fed claim. Drew became an expert at grass species and rotational grazing, but even with responsible and regenerative farming practices, the lambs weren’t always getting the consistent energy they needed from the amount of available grass. With only 90 days of full sun a year in Newark Valley, the possibility of energy conversion into the grass, and thus into the lambs, is more of a challenge than anyone anticipated. Instead of leaning on approved supplements and straying from our stringent definition of 100% grass-fed, we decided to supplement the grass with locally sourced, non-GMO whole grain barley. While the lambs are still mostly eating grass, the removal of the 100% grass-fed claim allows us to give the sheep the energy they need when the weather conditions are less than favorable.
Other than this small change, the lamb is exactly the same: raised on the same farm, in the same humane way, by the same farmer, exclusively for FreshDirect. And at about 8 lambs per acre, they are still given lots of room to romp in the hills. What we expect to gain from this change is an overall better eating experience: more consistent sizing, more availability, but with the same mild taste. While it’s not what we expected going into this project, this grain supplementation is more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. Hitting this triple bottom line means we will be able to keep offering our customers the absolute best-tasting lamb while supporting local farmers.