Happy 2016! The Beef to School team spent some time at two different cow/calf operations in Wilsall as 2015 came to an end. We would like to share some highlights and lessons learned with you from these visits to Muddy Creek Ranch and the Lazy SR Ranch. Please be in touch with your stories and questions regarding beef to school as we continue to meet with ranchers, schools, and processors across the state! Email firstname.lastname@example.org, check out our Facebook page, or our Twitter account.
Muddy Creek Ranch
Muddy Creek, a Wilsall beef operation, sells grass fed and finished beef. They have the distinction of offering Lowline Angus cattle; a breed not very common in Montana. Muddy Creek sells many of their calves each fall and also keeps some of their steer calves for an extra year. The remaining steer calves are marketed to local and regional customers, including restaurants, hotels and individuals. Their mission is “to produce quality seedstock, productive commercial cows and predictable carcasses for a growing demand for grass fed beef.” Muddy Creek is certified by the Western Sustainability Exchange, which means there is a focus on no hormones or antibiotics, low stress livestock handling practices, and sustainable stewardship practices.
The owners of Muddy Creek Ranch also own a bar and cafe in Wilsall and serve some of their beef there. The ranch was proud to have previously partnered with local schools, but it is not currently marketing their beef to schools. While the ranch initially sold some of their product to the school in Wilsall, they stopped because they were selling the beef at a loss. The ranch found that they have enough other customers for their hamburger, which is often the product that schools purchase for their lunch programs.
Lazy SR Ranch
The Lazy SR has been raising Angus cattle in the Shields Valley for decades, and the ranch takes pride in producing and supplying beef in the local area. In addition to raising and selling Angus calves each fall, they keep a portion of their calves on the ranch until they reach market weight. After processing, individual cuts of the meat are then sold in a several county area to individuals, grocery stores, restaurants and foodservice companies with the assistance of a distributor. Lazy SR raises hogs and chickens as well, and the ranch does their own poultry processing.
Lazy SR raises about 900 calves every year. Their beef is processed at Ranchland Packing in Butte. The owners like to process their meat in a federally-inspected plant to allow for some sales over state lines. Because Lazy SR finishes their animals on grain, they have the ability to slaughter year-round and could increase their supply to meet growing demand for local beef, whether from schools or other markets. Right now the beef to school is just a small piece of their market and they are selling to the Livingston School District. (See our last blog post for more about Livingston school district’s commitment to beef to school.) Lazy SR has also worked with schools in another capacity by donating beef to schools for such events as the FFA spring banquet.