Henk and Klaas, who doesn’t know them? If you have both been a well-known name in the organic sector for decades, have been at the forefront of the development of the organic market in the Netherlands, and if your vision of agriculture matches perfectly, then it is time to join forces. “Together, we want to better inform the customer about the context of our food. About the cow’s role in the cycle and added value to the chain. As a starting point, we will soon ensure that all beef products from St. Hendrick come from the van Klaas cows,” says Henk van Oers.
Klaas de Lange and Henk van Oers
The story starts with nature
Klaas de Lange: “I took over the farm from my parents in the 1980s. Here in the Weerribben-Wieden National Park, the cows have an important function: They keep the grass short in the nature reserve. As long as the cows haven’t done that, they still reached the age we let them graze here without our grazers, the nature reserve would grow.
Another important function of our dairy farm is that we contribute to the conservation of farmland birds. The name says it all: These are birds that need agricultural land to survive. Worms can be found in the marshy meadows, and when the grass is tall in summer, the young find a hiding place. In addition, the herbaceous grassland provides enough insects that the young badly need to survive. Without farmland, no farmland birds. But we have taken many more measures to increase biodiversity. For example, we’ve also adapted the scenery for the rare firefly and the squeaker because they’re here.
In addition, the cows provide nutritious manure, which the field sector badly needs. Our fertilizer is popular on organic farms because we use organic straw, no preventive antibiotics and grow our own feed. So no pesticides are introduced into the chain. The farmer I deliver the manure to supplies me with organic straw. This is also felt in earthly life. Because we work organically, there is a lot of life in the soil. And the farm birds are very grateful to us for that.”
When a cow is too old to give milk (one cow lasts 7 years, the other 17), it is slaughtered. Henk: “There is simply no retirement home for cows. In 1981 I started to valorize those cows. You can no longer get a tender steak from a dairy cow, but you can still make very tasty meat products and sausages with it. this is how we’re upgrading a leftover product into a protein-rich product for human consumption. You could now use that as a good example of food waste, but in 1981 food waste was actually my motivation for doing it this way.”
The valorization of residual products has always been Henk’s mission. For example, all St. Hendricks chicken products from laying hens and hatching roosters. There are no broilers involved. And also for the cattle products, Henk has always used emissions from dairy cows. Henk and Klaas would like to tell that story even better. After all, the origin of food is becoming increasingly important to consumers. Henk: “By collaborating with Klaas, the origin of our meat is now given a face. We will inform the consumer about this on our packaging, website and social media. Yes, even Henk is on social media.”
The gentlemen have already thought about the next steps. To produce milk, a cow must give birth to a calf each year. Half of these calves are bull calves. Klaas would like to keep it on his farm, but then there must be demand for organic meat. This collaboration provides opportunities for that, but they are not there yet. That they have found each other in this vision is a good starting point.
Klaas de Lange can be found with Weerribben Zuivel at Biobeurs on stand 74. And Henk van Oers can be found with St.Hendrick (Deli Harmony) on stand 75.