For most people, summer means no school, lots of swimming, and time to grill. For us at Living Dirt Ranch, it means time to process beef. I want to explain that process to you and show you why it is so unique at our ranch.
Processing beef is the culmination of 2-3 years of patient, hard work! Most of the beef available in grocery stores are from calves born in February. (This is called “spring” calving, but I think it is more aptly called “winter” calving- especially in the Midwest!) We prefer our calves to be born in the fall, most of them born in the month of September. This means our calves have a good 3-4 months to nurse and grow before they have to deal with February’s cold.
Our calves spend their entire lives right here on our ranch in the exact same fields where they were born. They never have to leave their mamas- we don’t even wean them! The mamas are much more effective at weaning their calves once a new calf comes along the following year, so why mess with a good thing? We have often observed that the “families” hang out together- mama, yearling calf, and newborn calf.
Our cows get moved to fresh pasture every day during the warmer months, so they always have fresh grass and never have to stand around in old feces as cows do in feeding lots. This pasture rotation helps keep our herd healthy, so there is no need for antibiotics. We never give our cows hormones to make them put on weight at an unnatural pace; instead, we give them the time they need to grow.
Rather than butchering our calves at around 18 months of age, our calves are butchered anywhere from 22 months of age and up- most just before they are 3 years old. When the time comes to transport them to the processing facility, we do it as we do everything with our cows - in a very low stress manner. The day before they are to be transported, we put the stock trailer in the pasture with them so they can climb in and out of it and become familiar with it before taking a ride. Our processing facility, Paradise Meat Locker, is only 6 miles from our ranch making it an easy transport for our cows.
When you buy hamburger from us, you know it comes from only one cow. This is unlike most hamburger in grocery stores, which could be a combination from several cows, increasing your risk of exposure if any one of those cows were sick. We think the extra time and effort we put into our meat is worth it and we hope our customers agree!