Savour food – my list of Grass-finished beef ranchers in Alberta

Grass fed and FINISHED beef in Alberta - ready for their close-up photo - Karen Anderson

Grass fed and FINISHED beef in Alberta – ready for their close-up
photo – Karen Anderson

The nutritional benefits of pasture-raised and finished animals are outlined here.

Great cooking tips can be found here.

Grass fed and FINISHED beef producers in Alberta include the following ranchers:

T K Ranch is 10,000 acres owned by Dylan and Colleen Biggs in Alberta’s Special Areas near Hanna. They deliver monthly to Calgary and Edmonton and their meat is available at several organic grocery outlets.

Bite Beef is owned by Nicole Lamb and Carli Baum with John and Kim Lamb ranching the cattle on 22,000 acres near Balzac. Available online, at Bearspaw Farmer’s Market and Community Natural in Calgary.

Top of the Mountain Beef is owned by the Manning family of SP Ranch near Elkwater in South Eastern Alberta’s Cypress Hills region. It is available year round at Crossroads Market in Calgary, and by freezer pick up or delivery in Edmonton or Calgary. It can also be shipped.

Trail’s End Beef is owned by Linda Loree and her daughter and son-in-law Rachel and Tyler Herbert. It is located in the Porcupine Hills south of Nanton and was founded in the late 1800’s by Fred Ings the founder of the famous OH ranch and a contemporary of AE Cross and his famous A7 Ranch. The families are now in their fifth generation on the land and still work together as you’ll learn if you check out this website. Trail’s End Beef is available by bulk order with butchering happening between July and October each year. Here’s a video from Shaw TV’s Farm Fresh series featuring Trail’s End and the Herberts.

A 7 Ranch is the oldest ranch in Canada still in the same family. A.E. Cross founded it in 1886 and John Cross ranches it now. It’s 13,000 acres in the Porcupine Hills west of Nanton. The Cross family are famous for their dedication to nature conservancy. Their land has not been sprayed with chemicals for over 13 years. Grass finishing cattle makes sense for this family because of the low-carbon footprint – grasses sequester more carbon than the equivalent sized forest – and they move the cattle in a pattern to mimic bison’s feeding patterns on the land. All A7 Grass finished beef is sold in bulk orders via their neighbours Rachel and Tyler Hebert. See above website.

If you’d like a real treat and insight into why ranching is a beloved way of life for so many Alberta’s take a look at A7’s photo gallery and listen to the song Church of the Long Grass by John Wort Hannam.

Flying Heart Homestyle Beef is owned by Beth and Rod Vegouwen in Strathmore. They offer 100 day grain finished or completely grass-finished beef by order, no prices on website, pickup at ranch only.

Spirit View Ranch is in Peace River Country. It is owned by Erika and Christoph Weder. They are part of the heritage Angus Beef marketing group. In a telephone interview today (July 3, 2013) I learned that they will soon land a major contract to convert huge numbers of the group’s cattle to grass finished. They themselves have always eaten grass-finished and are thrilled the demand in the marketplace is catching up with their belief system. All of their meats are butchered at the Pine Haven Meat Shop in Wetaskiwin. To obtain grass-finished beef from this source contact that meat shop. Here is a video about Spirit View Ranch and their award for environmental stewardship presented by the Alberta Beef Producers Association.

Chinook Ranch Ltd. is owned by the 3rd generation of the Hughes family and sits on 5000 acres near Longview. Part of their ranch land has been given over to the Bow Natural Area of Alberta in cooperation with Nature Conservancy Canada and is leased back to the family. They raise grass-finished beef and slaughter late summer and fall for approximately $2.10/lb for half a beef. Fill out the form on the contact us page to place an order.

The Double N Ranch is owned and operated by Gerald and Shelley Ingeveld. Shelley is also the manager of the Bergen Market. The Ranch lies along the southern bank of the Red Deer River, which marks the northern boundary of the community of Bergen. Originally begun as a horse ranch in 1905 by Gerald’s grandfather, the ranch grew under his father’s guidance to become a producer of purebred cattle, and commercial seed stock. More recently, Gerald and Shelley have developed a direct marketing program, offering grass fed and finished beef, free of hormones and antibiotics, under the “Bergen Traditional” label. They deliver to Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary and sell at the Bergen Market summer weekends.

Sunrise Farm in Killam is owned by Don and Marie Ruzicka. They are the third generation to farm this 800 acre spread. Farmgate sales only.

Eat Food for Life – Terra Caritatis Patris Farm is north of Vermillion near Clandonald in the Lakeland region and run by Maighread and Tim Axe. Grass-finished beef is sold via subscriptions with monthly deliveries around Alberta.

First Nature Farms is owned by Jerry and Sam Kitt and is in Goodfare, Peace River Country just a few miles from B.C. Their product is sold at the Old Strathcona Market in Edmonton and Community Natural Foods in Calgary. The Kitt’s farm has been certified organic since 1990, is operated as an ecological reserve and is part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Pine Terra Farm is run by David and Louise Phillips and Nadine Waddell in Onoway. The ranch has been in the Phillips family since 1937 and has never had any chemicals used on its soil since inception. You can order online and they will deliver. It is also available at Community Natural Foods.

Premium Organic Farms is owned by Paul and Sheila Schneider in Indus and is available on-line and at the farmgate.

Pura Vida Farms is south of Lethbridge and owned by the Winkkerink family. You can order online.

Sunworks Farm is owned by Ron and Sheila Hamilton in Armena. They have been certified organic since 1997 and grass finish their Galloway beef. It is sold widely by the piece at Organic Markets. Check their website for the store closest to you.

Coyowl Ranch has been ranched naturally by Dave and Darlene Hergott for 27 years near Millarville, Alberta. You can place an order on their website and they will deliver to the Calgary area.

Big Coulee Farms is owned by the Bellamy family in Athabasca. They raise a diverse group of animals on their farm and follow the principles of farming success set out by Joel Salatin. You can preorder large quantities by March 31 each year of make smaller orders by phone. They deliver to the Edmonton area.

Top Grass Cattle Company is owned by Calvin Raessler and is a consortium of ranches near Drumheller with strict guidelines and specifications for slow-growing of grass finished beef.

Viking Farm, according to CSA Alberta, is a bio-intensive operation that grows organic fruits & vegetables and ethically raised, grass-fed Dexter beef. It is located 1 km north of Viking on Hwy 36. Contacts are Brian Rozmahel at 780-385-5570 or Diane Hanson at 780-385-0994 or Diane.Hanson@viking.ca

Surprised
Wow! I surprised myself. I thought I would find a few (meaning 2 – 3 or maybe 5 to 6 tops) ranchers opting out of the conventional cattle system and I guess finding 20 out of 20,000 ranches is a few but here’s the thing, all these ranchers seem to be doing very well. In fact, they seem to be thriving with their commitment to stewardship of the land. They demonstrate humaneness in their animal husbandry with calves being born on, fed on and finished on the same grasslands their whole lives which are 30% longer than conventionally-raised cattle. They are proud to be contributing to the health of their animals, the people who eat them and the health of the planet. They seem to have very loyal followings. They are making a living and getting paid a direct and fair price for their work. I have a hunch that scaling down, developing direct markets and opting out of the commodity beef industry might just be a way to grow back the health of Alberta family farms while growing our Alberta economy from within – one farm at a time.

The conventional method of raising cattle starts out just as nicely as grass-finished operations. All ranchers can say their animals are grass-fed naturally because in the beginning months they are – all cattle in Alberta are raised on pasture. But that is where the similarity ends. Grass-finished cattle stay on the grasslands they were born on for their entire life until the day they are taken to one of the 15 small independently owned abattoirs in the province to be killed humanely and packaged precisely for the custom order communicated directly to the rancher by the consumer. There is total transparency.

The conventional saga of a calf
Remember that conventional cattle? Those calves are hard weaned from their cow mothers in their first year. They are sold at auction or to a feedlot directly. Then for 6 months they’ll likely receive implants of growth hormone. They’ll get antibiotics upon arrival from their farm to the feedlot and ionophores in their feed to help prevent the acidosis that will be caused from when their rumens can’t handle grains they are being fed – because they were never supposed to eat grain in the first place. They’ll stand in fecal matter, be at risk for developing e. coli, become nicely marbled for an appearance consumers look for. In becoming so fat so quickly they will lose all the healthy fats they had from eating grasses rich in Omega 3 to 6 ratio and linoleic acids. Then they’ll be shipped by train or truck likely to either Cargill in High River or JBS Lakeside Packers in Brooks where along with two million other cattle per year they will be slaughtered in an assembly line. That line can contain beef imported from the United States and it is allowed to enter Alberta not tagged for trace-ability because it came directly to Alberta for slaughter. These conventional cattle will end up in boxes ready to be shipped within Alberta, Canada, North America, Europe and the World and no one will ever know which ranch they started out on. People won’t know how they got mixed with other beef but can still be called Alberta beef because even though some came from outside of Alberta it all underwent more than a 70% change here and our Canadian Food Inspection Association standards say that is okay.

Discussion
Is that okay by you? It’s not okay by me. I’ve been getting my beef directly from a friend’s ranch for a few years now. It never leaves his sight. He’s a good honest Alberta rancher who treats his cattle and his land gently. I get a quarter beef and it sees my family of three through the year. It works out to about $4.00/lb with a great variety of cuts included in the 200 – 210 pounds I end up receiving. Buying in bulk saves me money. Buying from my rancher friend saves me trips to grocery stores. I’m not sure, after the depth and breadth of the last recall from the former XL plant in Brooks that I could buy beef from a supermarket that they supplied.

I’m surprised so many people can do so. Maybe its time to stop following the herd of humans that’s looking for what “seems to be” cheap meat.

Eighteen people contracting e. coli and having life-threatening illnesses in Canada, having meat recalled from all over the world and having 2200 temporary foreign workers out of work for months is not really all that cheap is it? Having the world’s largest protein supplying company – JBS Canada (actually Brazilian owned and operated) – move in to employ 2200 temporary foreign workers process one million of our (mostly but not all!) Alberta beef doesn’t exactly add up to the kind of transparency I’m looking for.

Spending most of this week preparing for my CBC column on Friday where I will talk about Grass-finished beef has been highly educational. On the CBC I’ll talk about the potential cow-tipping grass-finished beef trend that I’ve discovered, I’ll talk about the health benefits and cooking methods and I’ll give out a recipe or two. In the 4 – 6 minutes I’m allotted there won’t be time to get into more detail.

Fortunately, I’ve had the time this week to do a lot of background reading. My beefy blinders about the commodity cattle industry have been removed. I look forward to a day where more of the old ways – ways cattle were raised 100 years ago in Alberta – become new again. It wasn’t until after WW2 that cattle became widgets in the industrialized machine that is food production today. I’d like to see a return of health to our land, cattle and humans with ranchers, consumers and butchers all enjoying a deep connection once again.

I can see a lot more clearly the choices I’ll be making for me and my family. They will involve grass-finished beef in the future because learning about its benefits for the land, for cattle and for humans will definitely help me savour my food.

I’ll be on the CBC Radio One – Alberta at Noon on Friday, July 5th, the first day of the 101st Calgary Stampede between noon and 1pm. I’ll post the podcast and my recipes for grass-finished beef at that time. You can catch me presenting at the Calgary Stampede Calgary Coop Stampede Showcase Kitchen on Wednesday, July 10 at 12:30 p.m. Spoiler Alert: I’m going to cook grass-finished beef and bring along Rachel and Tyler Herbert from Trail’s End Ranch. Come on down and say Howdy. We’ll help you savour a little food while we savour our Western heritage and life.

NOTE: No matter how much research you do as a writer, it is easy to miss something. Did I get my facts straight? If you know of an Alberta ranch that should be added to my list please add their name and information in the comments section and I’ll be happy to add them to this posting. Thank you.

10 Comments

Filed under Alberta at Noon, Savour food

10 responses to “Savour food – my list of Grass-finished beef ranchers in Alberta

  1. Pingback: Savour food Savour life – How cattle can rejuvenate grasslands and also decrease global warming |

  2. I’m pretty sure Hoven Farms beef is also grass finished, and sold at Kingsland Farmers Market.

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    • As noted above, Hoven Farms is ALMOST completely grass-finished but Tim Hoven does feed his cattle grain in the winter to avoid weight loss they might incur otherwise during the cold months. He brings the feed to the cattle in his fields on his ranch and overall takes tremendously good care of his animals.

      Your comment does bring up a good point. There are several humane and organic cattle ranchers that are not on my list because they are feeding organic grains to their cattle at some point in their life.

      The point of this post was to focus on ranchers that are purely grass-FINISHING their beef. It is a special effort, it requires them to go the distance and care for an animal on average a whole year longer and that was the focus of this piece.

      I respect ranchers like Tim Hoven very much. He is an astute businessman and a caring human being.

      Perhaps we’ll see a grass-FINISHED beef association where the specialized knowledge it takes to raise animals in this way can be shared and standards can be agreed upon.

      I am not a rancher. I am just learning about this as a writer and a consumer.

      I welcome any corrections and comments to I may continue my learning.

      Thanks,

      Karen

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  3. coldprairie

    I’m pretty sure Hoven Farms beef is also grass finished, and sold at Kingsland Farmers Market.

    Like

    • Hoven Farms is ALMOST completely grass-finished but Tim Hoven does feed his cattle grain in the winter to avoid weight loss they might incur otherwise during the cold months. He brings the feed to the cattle in his fields on his ranch and overall takes tremendously good care of his animals.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Savour Food – Recipes for Grass-finished beef and my @AlbertatNoon podcast |

  5. Pingback: Savour food – more about grass-finished beef w @OGC_AB |

  6. Pingback: Eating the Mediterranean way – NEJM article shows it will help you live -to Savour It All – longer | Savour It All

  7. Nature’s Way Farm, Grimshaw AB
    Peter & Mary Lundgard & family

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