Minneapolis Public Schools will serve 100 percent grass­fed ground beef from Grass Run Farms in 24,000 lunches for pre­kindergartners through 12th graders Thursday, Feb. 5, as part of the “Minnesota Thursdays” farm­to­school food initiative.

Grass Run Farms is a grass­fed beef company with operations in southeastern Minnesota, including a farm near Spring Grove where the grass-fed beef in the Thursday lunches is produced. The farm raises and sells wholesale grass­fed beef to grocery stores, institutions and restaurants year­round.

The Minnesota Thursdays initiative, launched in September and held the first Thursday each month, sources seasonal Minnesota­grown products to “highlight local farmers, ranchers, and companies while providing fresh, delicious options for our students,” according to farm-to-school coordinator Andrea Northup.

“This is the first time we've sourced grass-fed beef, and we're thrilled,” Northup says. “Students, staff, families, and partners have latched on to the Minnesota Thursdays concept. It's not only a source of pride but a way to comprehend the concept of buying local to support our local food economy and provide fresh options to students.”

Representing Grass Run Farms’ farm operations in southeastern Minnesota is Christian Myrah, who raises grass­fed beef, as well as lamb and laying hens, on his certified organic farm near Spring Grove.

“We are proud to join the Minnesota Thursdays line-up and help our schools succeed in meeting state and federal requirements for healthful, whole foods,” says Grass Run Farms founder Kristine Jepsen. “It’s not easy to change eating habits and buying patterns, especially by school systems, and the Minneapolis districts are doing a fantastic job.”

Grass­fed beef offers both nutritional and environmental benefits:

Compared with conventional grain­finished beef, grass­fed ground beef is lower in total calories and saturated fats, and contains higher levels of protein and iron.

Grazing-based farming operations, like those represented by Grass Run Farms, keep farmland in permanent pasture, reducing erosion and runoff while increasing water and carbon sequestration.

The complete menu for the Feb. 5 Minnesota Thursdays meal includes:

Grass­fed beef tacos from Grass Run Farms in Spring Grove.

Flour tortillas from Catalia in Eagan.

Corn and bean salsa, corn from Sno­Pac in Caledonia.

Piñata apple from Pepin Heights in Lake City.

Grass Run Farms is a collaboration of family-run farms in the Upper Midwest producing and marketing grass-fed beef. Grass Run Farms products are 100 percent grass­fed — never grain-fed — as well as antibiotic­ and hormone-free. Cattle receive all­vegetarian feed (no animal by­products), are treated humanely in raising and in harvest, and have access to grazing and pasture whenever possible. Grass Run Farms products are sold primarily through wholesale distribution, as well as on grassrunfarms.com.