Where does your meat come from?

 

The quick answer is everywhere. Many years ago Europe transported livestock to all areas of the world. For beef, these were referred to as ‘English Breeds’ such as Black Angus and Herford that became very well recognized early on. In today’s world, in my view anyway, the first question shouldn’t be ‘where does your meat come from,’ but rather how is the livestock cared for and processed.

When I was 14-years old my dad taught me how to clean the saws, tables and floors where he worked. He had a passion for cutting, grinding and talking to customers. He was always whistling while he worked. I think he only had one song, but he whistled it over and over. At least this is what my mom said with a smile. I do have memories of this as it echoed off the walls in the cutting room. I don’t know why this memory came to me, but I think it was prompted when I often get the question ‘where do you get your meat?’

In 1972 when my father started this business there was a quota for beef purchases. Dad didn’t have a quota because that was his first year in business. Fast forward to today and we have another high-demand and low supply for proteins because of the current COVID- 19 world crisis we find ourselves. That same question was asked in 1972 {Where do you get your meat?}, but for different reasons. Back then there were many inconsistencies in regards to eating different types of quality meats. I remember Dad’s customers shopped at Angus Meats because he truly had the best meats in town. It wasn’t only about where he purchased his proteins, but more about how much pride he had in what he offered in his shop. My dad was the one who coined the phrase we still use today: “There is no substitute for Quality.” He had passion and the knowledge and it showed. He built long-term relationships with his suppliers and his customers, as we do today.

To further my education in the ‘meat world,’ I traveled on a two-day bus tour throughout the State of Washington to find out what actually happens from farm to table, and exactly how our industry works in our surrounding area. As I walked the pastures with these farmers learning about how the food chain evolves, I was so impressed by how many ranchers and growers work together alongside with their families who all participate in the process. I saw the same thing in them that I saw in my dad growing up; hard work and pride in their achievements.

The tour included ranchers, grazing lands, feed lots and harvest facilities. I will always remember this tour not because of the cattle, but because of those extraordinary hard working people. I learned how each part of the food chain is so vital, and how much passion they have in their part of the process; Way more than any one can imagine who has not been fortunate to witness the amazing working process of our industry. 

After a quick meeting in Ellensburg, we boarded the buses at 7:00am for a hosted lunch in one of the barns in Central Washington.  In total, there were two full Greyhound buses of attendees. We were a mix of Restaurant Owners, Suppliers, College Food Science Professors, as well as healthcare professionals. We enjoyed real country cooking from all the area farmers. We visited, learned, and asked questions at each stop along the way. Being a part of this amazing experience, I realized that our entire industry relies on these families from all over the world; it all begins with them. I derived a new found respect for those Ranchers and Farmers. They are some of the finest.

We ended up for a night stay in Kennewick, and that morning we got to sleep in; didn’t have to get up until 6:00 am! {The farmers and ranchers usually start their day at 4:00 amJ} We ended that day at the harvest facility, which concluded our adventure and education. That trip showed me many things that I never really understood before. Up to that point in my life, I only read or heard about the process. Being hands on and seeing how cattle move throughout their lives, I learned is not a simple daily process. For example, the cattle may have been born in the green valleys of Montana, grazed in the wonderful state of Idaho, and fed and harvested in Washington State. Regardless of ‘where do the cattle come from,’ I saw the care and pride of each of these families for their part of the food chain, which is their livelihood as well.

Growing up in this business I learned about quality first from my Dad, and then second trying to find almost anything someone was looking for. We all have special requests that fit our lifestyles. These requests are special to each one of us. The evolution will never change: Quality, Uniqueness, Consistency, Safety, Pricing, etc. Those elements are at the forefront of our goals and objectives because our customer’s come first.

One thing I can assure you is, as relevant as it is, this is not the most important question: “Where do you get your meat? Where does it come from?” But rather, in my opinion, it’s in the quality, passion, and care that goes into the process all along the way – From Farm to Table. The reasoning for my viewpoint is this: How do you answer where the meat comes from? This general question is way too broad to give a simple answer. Would the answer be originally from Europe? Or a few days grazed in Montana, fed in Colorado and harvested in Nebraska or Washington? It can be confusing, but sometimes the same herd can come from many states and countries all over the world.

To continue with some additional thoughts, there are wonderful rancher/farmer families not only across the United States, but our friends across our boarders in Canada and Mexico and around the world having the same passion and commitment. It’s their livelihood and they are proud of it. Hawaii has some of the highest quality cattle available. New Zealand, for instance, has the most beautiful green valleys and mountains as anyone and perfect for livestock. Many of these lands across the world are untouched by large cities and the perfect environment for grazing. This was recognized many years ago and became a large industry for them providing these family ranchers and growers the same as we do here in Washington State. Some may think this is not glamorous getting up at 4:00 am and dealing with the elements that change daily, but those that do love what they do in a hard day’s work and a job well done.

So today we keep sharing and getting more and more knowledge each year about quality, Food Safety, Nutrition and the best practices for all these families throughout the world taking care of this very essential and necessary part of the many facets of the protein industry.

Organics, All Natural, and grass-fed and finished options are only part of the process that consumers are looking for to meet their family’s needs. Not all protein can be easily produced from one area, for example, if a customer requires meat to be certified organic – raised wholly organic, from start to finish; these livestock must be raised on certified farms, where the grasses and surrounding areas are free from GMOS, pesticides, and herbicides. The cost and quantities demanded by the organic market is not attainable (or sustainable) within the U.S., not to mention, there are climates which are far better suited for the job.

One could even enter into this conversation the fact that many breeds of cattle and various breeds of livestock we have today came from Europe. These cattle came across the oceans on ships to different areas of the world. So when someone asks ‘where do your cattle come from’ what is the correct answer?

We do know several things for certain. There are many sources of protein products available, which is necessary for a healthy diet. However, regardless of where the livestock is born, raised, and harvested, certain things will always be part of the process: Passion, hard work, and the love of food that we all contribute in the many different steps that exist from farm to table. Understanding and knowledge will always continue to evolve, while we continue to meet or exceed each customer’s needs the best we can.


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