I will never forget the one night I called Rachel and she had to rush off as she was choosing sperm to do a possible impregnation. She said “Tina, this is a part of ranching that is truly new to me.” She is just so fun! Well this article on becoming a grass fed rancher is sure to be revealing to us all. There’s so much to this whole arena and I sure am fascinated with it.
Some people are just meant to be your friends. You know what I mean? Well, Rachel of 5280Beef and 5280Pork is one of those gals and I am so fortunate to have met her in my Paleo adventures. I read some of her posts and comments on the internet and there was just something so appealing about her. She was genuine and I could tell. Soon after she and I had one of those chats on the phone that felt like we were sitting together in the same room over a hot cup of tea and scones with our feet up on the other empty chairs. She is that lady I knew I’d adore.
After getting to know Rachel as a current grass-fed and grass-finished rancher I was surprised to learn about the “city life” she had led previously and recently; and how ranching has touched her life, broadened her views and enriched her family. I really could only imagine! She taught me that a heifer cow is a cow that has not yet had a baby. Once she has her first calf, she will no longer be a heifer, but will be called a cow. Jeez, who would have known this? Not her – it was all new and fun to her too!
Before we hung up I realized there was so much to learn and so much that the general public does not know about grass fed, grass finished, aging beef, pork not being grass fed and why this is better for them etc. The list goes on! We gals drummed up a series of fun and informative interviews with the sole purpose of enlightening and educating others on these very topics and more.
Please enjoy Part 1 of the beginning of an eye opening experience and learning about one of the hottest topics to date.
1. Your husband, Ty, is a 6th generation rancher, but new to the business. Impressive! Now you are the Secretary and Treasurer for 5280 Land & Cattle Co. yet you also have a hand in the day-to-day care of the animals. Before marrying Ty, did you have any experience in ranching?
Not at all lol! I had zero experience! It is amazing how quickly I fell in love with it once we moved to Meeker. Animals are amazing. They each have their own personalities and they’re a lot of fun!
2. Ty previously worked in finance for a time before returning to his roots as a rancher. Were the two of you married when he decided to make that transition?
Yes, he was working for a home builder when I met him, so he was already living in Denver at that time. We got married in Meeker in 2005 and then moved here in 2012.
3. I’d love to hear a little about you. You grew up in Denver and majored in Communications. How has your background helped you in what you do now?
At the time when I chose my major, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do! Today, reflecting back on college, I realize how much the writing/marketing projects I did in college helped me with the writing I do today—whether it’s for a guest blog post, write up for the website or just emails in general, the knowledge I learned helps me every day.
4. I imagine there was a shift in lifestyle when you decided to adopt the ranching life. What was it like making the change to ranch life from city life?
It wasn’t as hard for me as a lot of people may have thought! I was at a point in my life where I was ready for a change and I think that helped a lot with the transition. Meeker is a fabulous place to raise a family. In our small town, kids all play together and everyone watches out for others. I really love it and wouldn’t move back to Denver if you paid me lol! When you do what you love, it would be impossible to do anything different!
5. You have two beautiful young boys. Were they born in the city and then transitioned to ranch life? If so, how is that for them and what is it like to raise children on the ranch versus the city? What changes do you see in them as a mom?
Thank you!! Both boys were born in Denver. Nicholas was 2 when we moved here so for him, this life is all he knows. Spencer was 6 when we moved, so we saw more changes with him than Nick. At first he missed his friends, but he adjusted quickly. Here, kids just play without too much worry. In town, they are riding bikes, hanging out at the rec center, and playing in the street. On the ranch, the boys have lots of room to play, build forts, play baseball etc. and learn how to work. They have chores and they get in with the animals too. We believe they also gain a different perspective on life and death and where their food comes from. It’s very real and our job as parents is to make sure they respect the process and that something did die in order for you to have that hamburger or hot dog. You have to respect that and we think they do!
6. What is a typical “Rachel-day” in your life on your ranch from the time you wake to the time you sleep? Are weekends different?
Lol! This is a complex question! My days are crazy, but good crazy. Super busy. Each day is different to some degree and obviously in different seasons there are different chores to do etc. but I would say that from 7:30 am to 11:00 pm I am working. My first job is a mom—so getting the boys ready for school or off to sports takes up the morning. If Ty is not working he is here helping with chores, if he is working or has come off a night shift, I will make sure everyone is fed and watered. I manage all the social media outlets, orders, website, drop shipments, customer emails, working with the processor and shipping. Mondays and Tuesdays are super busy packing and shipping. There are a lot of details when you ship perishables. You worry about pickup, transit times, deliveries, will the customers be happy, and how are we going to get orders for next week. Things like that. I am also a real estate agent! I know I must be crazy, right?! But the Meeker market is slower, which enables me to do both, but to say that sometimes I am not overwhelmed would be a lie ahha I am. I try to keep everything straight and sometimes that is hard, but I love it. I have adapted to this constant gogogo and I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if I had a day off. Probably be more stressful than just working! What we do is 365/24/7 commitment. There is no such thing as relax and take a break. Animals will always need to be fed and watered. Social media and emails will always be coming in. You have to manage it every day because getting behind only creates more problems and that’s when things slip through the crack and we can’t have that!
7. Do you ever get a break running a ranch? Do you have many employees helping in the fields?
No sometimes if we have to be away for a night, we have amazing neighbors that will help us feed the animals, but we are never gone for more than 24 hours. When we make deliveries to Denver, we are back the same day. It’s a long trip, but it’s part of the job and doesn’t happen very often. Shipping has made it much easier to get product to Denver customers. Also, living rural you are used to driving distances for things. The closest large grocery stores are 45 miles away. Whole Foods? Two hours. Natural Grocers? 1.5 hours away. So we are used to driving!
8. What type of animals do you raise or have on your ranch? How many of each?
We have pigs, steers (steer: castrated bull calves), a dairy heifer, chickens, horses, barn cats and 4 dogs here. The steer numbers will fluctuate as we process. We lease land, so right now we have 10 steers but will be buying more in the fall. Pigs, we have 30 now, but again the numbers fluctuate as we process. We have one dairy heifer, Lily, and about 40 chickens. We do not process chickens; they are just for egg production.
A dairy heifer is a dairy cow that has not yet had a baby. Like any other breed of heifers, once she has her first calf, she will be a dairy cow. Dairy cow breeds include: Jersey (the cows we have), Holstein (black & white and what most people think milk cows look like), Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Guernsey & Milking Shorthorn.
9. I love that 5280 Beef and 5280 Pork are 100% grass-fed! What made you decide to choose to raise livestock grass-fed over grain-fed?
Our pork is not grass-fed. Only our beef. Our pigs do eat grass, but they also eat roots, bugs and plant material. We have two different pork lines—a traditional: fed corn and soy ration non-GMO, soy free: fed non GMO corn and linseed. Our reason for raising our beef 100% grass-fed revolves around the health aspect, not only for human consumption but for the animal as well. A cow’s digestive system is built to process grass, not grain.
Cattle are herbivores. Their digestive systems are designed to eat plant material, such as grass. They only have 32 permanent bottom teeth and zero teeth on the top of their mouths. On the top of their mouth’s they have something called a dental pad. A dental pad and a rough tongue make it easier for cows to grasp blades of grass and pinch grass off between their tongues and the dental pad. They do not “bite” grass.
Pigs on the other hand are omnivores, like humans. Their digestive system is actually very similar to humans. They can digest various types of foods – plants, meats, grains, etc. The grasses that they are eating and rooting up here are various native grasses, including Timothy Brome, which is what our steers eat. The corn and soy feed is a pre-mixed ration of grain and protein that looks like malt-o-meal. That is what we put in their feeders.
In our opinion, pigs need more substance and protein than just grass. Also, pigs are likely to taste much better on a corn feed. I can’t say I have ever had a grass fed pork chop, but if you’ve ever had wild boar, which are mostly eating plants, bugs, roots and berries, they are extremely tough and not a meat that you typically cut up into steaks and roasts. Most hunters we know have their entire boar ground into sausage. I am not saying that grass-fed pork isn’t great or available in some places or even that I disagree with the concept, it’s just not the way that we choose to raise our pigs.
We have two pork lines:
Traditional Pork: these pigs eat varying rations of corn and soy that are pre-mixed into a feed.
Non-GMO, Soy-Free: these pigs eat varying rations of Non-GMO corn and Linseed (also known as flax) that is pre-mixed together into feed.
We buy our feed in 1-2 ton totes. I attached a picture (below left) of what a one-ton tote of non-GMO feed looks like as well as what 4,000 pounds of pig feed looks like loaded on a flat bed (below right).
** Also—fun fact: the cattle in the Rocky Mountains are bred for high-altitude. The cows at sea level have different genetics than the cows that are living over a mile high. I did not know that until just recently!
10. I really admire your contribution to this fantastic movement toward healthier commerce. We need more like you out there! What was it like to transition from the history of a family ranching grain-fed to grass-fed?
It’s hard to explain what we do to traditional ranching. Ty’s dad did sell a few 100% grass-fed beef to a few different families, but they have moved their ranching business to bred heifers and they sold all their cows. People think we are crazy, but that’s ok! We think people in our town are beginning to understand more about what we are doing and why, but it’s certainly not motivating enough for them to change their practices, plus it’s much more expensive to raise all grass fed beef and ranchers simply do not have the pasture or feed or the operating capital to run hundreds of cattle this way. Our business is very capital intensive. All the money is up front—animal, feed, shelter etc. and sometimes you won’t see a return on all that for upwards to 2 years if you buy calves. This is an expensive business to run!
11. Do any of Ty’s family’s other ranches raise grass fed too? How do they feel about this topic?
As of now, no. His dad used to sell about 8 grass-fed and finished beef annually, but since he sold all his cows, he no longer does this. I think they understand. I think they’re more curious about the business aspect of it.
12. What do you feel are the main differences in grass fed to grain fed as far as flavor and texture?
Personally, and honestly, I don’t pay attention to textures lol! So I cannot say for sure if there isn a difference. There is less marbling on a grass finished cut than a grain finished cut. Our beef is much leaner, therefore it dry ages for 14 days versus 21, cooks faster and is healthier for you.
Dry aging is the process where after the animal is processed and cleaned, it’s carcass is hung either in whole or half in a climate controlled environment for a certain period of time and allows the meat’s natural enzymes to break down and actually tenderize the meat and increase the concentration of flavor. In the first phase of dry aging, water/moisture will evaporate from the muscle and in the second part the meat’s own natural enzymes will break down the connective tissue in the meat, causing it to become more tender. Our beef hangs for 14 days because it’s pretty lean, but some grain-finished beef can be dry aged upwards of a month.
13. How is grass fed meat cooked different, say compared to a typical grain fed cut of meat? Do you supply cooking instructions to those who order, who may be new to cooking grass fed in general?
Our beef cooks much faster and so does our pork. Our pork is not as fatty as other pork. I feel like you get more meat with our pork products. We do not supply cooking instructions, but for those customers that ask, we convey this information and then send links to some of our favorite bloggers/authors to try their recipes. It’s sometimes hard to tell customers how we cook our meat or how much time because we are at 6500 ft in altitude, which is going to affect our cooking times. Someone at sea level could have a totally different experience.
14. You are active on some of the social sites with 5280Beef. Which social site is your favorite and why?
Instagram hands down no contest. We have met so many incredible people via Instagram. For me, it’s less spammy and you can connect with people so much more than Twitter or Pinterest and even Facebook. Since our Facebook account is set up as a business account, we cannot like or friend anyone. It really limits your connection to people. Instagram is king. Love it.
15. At the time of this interview you are selling many cuts of meats on your website as well as on Overstock.com. Can you share the benefits to a customer of purchasing on one versus the other?
Yes, we are selling on both our website and Overstock.com. The benefit of our website is that there are no bundles, it’s all select cuts (unless you’re ordering a whole/half/quarter steer or whole/half pig, that’s a different sale altogether). We offer the prime cuts and more limited cuts on our website versus Overstock and that is due to our contract with them and how fast we have to replenish out-of-stock items. We wanted to offer bundles on Overstock where the cuts are more plentiful than say a Tenderloin Steak. Cuts like burgers, bacon, ham steaks, rib steaks, sirloins, etc. Overstock has amazing shipping rates, which is a huge benefit of ordering through them. Our meats ship free (ground shipping) on Overstock and if you sign up for their emails, you receive coupons that more often than not will apply to our meats. There are just more additional savings there.
16. Do you sell the same cuts and quality on Overstock.com as you do through your site? If so, or if not, please explain.
Same quality—yes. The cuts vary. You can only get prime steak cuts like Tenderloin, T-bones, Rib Eye & NY Strip on our website. Also, cuts like brisket and organ meats are only available on our website. There are definitely cuts that we sell on both, but just not bundled like they are on Overstock.
Here are a few bullet points on Overstock:
- Shipping is included in the price.
- You can sign up to receive OMail, which is their list that distributes online coupons and promotional material. All coupons or discounts, unless otherwise mentioned, can be applied to purchasing our products.
- Products range from small to larger bundles.
Benefits of our online store at 5280meat.com:
- Use 5280FIRST in the redemption code at checkout to receive 10% off your first order with us.
- Individual cuts.
- We offer prime and specialty cuts like Brisket; these are not offered at Overstock.com.
- We offer our merchandise.
- We have more direct interaction with the customer. We have their email and phone if there are any questions or changes that they would like to make to their order.
All the orders are shipped and packed in the same place.
17. Do you have ranch tours, or can people visit your ranch? If so, how is this arranged?
We invite anyone to come visit us that would like; we do not have set dates for tours. If customers or individuals are interested, they can call or email us to set up a time to visit that works in their schedule; we are here pretty much all the time.
18. One final question I always love to ask: Rachel, is there anything else you’d like to say or add?
Hmmm…I know I am leaving out small details but what we do is so technical that some of the little things are just overwhelming for people to understand or absorb. Mainly, the biggest thing that I would want people to take away from reading this would be that we truly love what we do. We are passionate and we give it 110% every day. Our animals are loved, respected and taken care of. If we didn’t absolutely love what we do, there is no way that we could dedicate the hours we do. I am getting really good at wearing a lot of hats! I can go from wife to business woman to mom to rancher to real estate agent to accountant to customer service rep to ship and pack all within the same moment, because I am all those things! I know I might be a little crazy and I embrace that! I know that I am particular and I want things that are not perfect to be perfect and I am still working on not stressing about that ahh. Maybe I am type A, but I like to believe it is that desire to build and be successful with this business that drives me to work as hard as I do. Both Ty and I are this way and that is why we can work together! We always are striving to be better, do better and learn more. I think that’s an important part of our methodology. Never settle for less than anything that you want and dream of in life and always follow your heart. Never let your fear decide your fate.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Do feel free to try out some of my favorite beef recipes like my Paleo Beef Ribs and delicious Paleo Baked Beef Brisket. And hop on over to my Giveaway page for a chance to win great gifts. Have fun!
Also check out Part 2 and Part 3 of my interviews with Rachel of 5280meat! Topics of grass fed vs. grain fed meat, grass finishing, and aging. Stay tuned for much more information on these fascinating subjects! You can buy all their current products online at 5280meat.com.