Why Grain Finish?
Simple; it tastes better, its more tender, and it helps support our neighboring farmers. Our goal is beef that Quality grades in the upper two thirds of Choice, or Prime. When you bite into one of our steaks we want it melting in your mouth, and dripping off your chin. As bad as we want you to eat it every day, Beef, in most peoples diet, is special, and therefore should be treated as such. If diet food is what you are looking for, you are in the wrong place!
Grain Fed vs. Grass Fed
To dispel the myth…all beef is grass fed. Its far too expensive to feed them grain from birth all the way to slaughter weight. Most commercial cattle will stay in the pasture, on grass, for the vast majority of their life. Only the last 100 to 120 days are they sent to a feedlot for finishing. Cattle with superior genetics excel and grade higher while lesser cattle grade lower, and thus the difference in fast food and 5 star restaurants. At Wood River Ranch we like Five Star Beef!
As for health benefits…research has shown grass fed beef to be higher in omega three fatty acids; that’s found in the fat. The industry has shown it to be a leaner alterative…leaner means less fat. So the fat may be marginally better for you but if the whole idea is that there is little to no fat…then who cares. If you want to eat healthy omega threes, go buy some fish and leave my steak alone!
In our region, we have a lot more pasture than we do farmland. What farmland we have is typically dedicated to more cash producing crops other than feed grade corn. As a result, cattle are shipped to the Midwest where they grow the corn. Cattle are then slaughtered, boxed and shipped back to grocery stores. Sound a little ridiculous? We thought so too.
Our yearlings come from Park and Fremont county, our corn comes from Park county, and they are butchered in Park county. Finally they end up in your freezer to be eaten in Park county. The savings is passed on to you as our bulk prices mirror retail hamburger prices. In essence, you pay the same for tenderloin as you do hamburger and you get to help shrink our carbon footprint!
Grazing is absolutely crucial to our entire operation at Wood River Ranch. Essentially we are just grass farmers and our cattle and wildlife harvest it. The cattle are used throughout the summer to keep our grass growing while the Elk are on the mountain. Just like in your yard, if you mow it, it keeps growing. If you don’t, the plant reaches maturity, seeds out, becomes coarse and rank and looses its color, it’s natural lifecycle. Nothing wants to eat that!
The Elk and Deer prefer the tender, young, growing shoots as they are more palatable, and more nutritious. Year after year they learn that the good grazing, in an elks mind, is at Wood River Ranch. This helps to increase our wildlife population density which in turn helps our Outfitting business.
Our steers are sourced early in the Spring around the end of March. We work with Cow/Calf producers utilizing the best Angus genetics we can find. The steers are then fed hay in a pasture, until grass comes green in June. We then implement a rotational grazing program that benefits our wildlife as well. Cattle are rotated through several different pastures throughout the course of the summer.
In the fall, we gather our yearlings and ship them to market. We then save back a handful to finish for ourselves, and a lucky few of you. Several tons of whole ear corn is purchased from a Burlington, WY farmer and we have it ground, husk, cob, and all. The cattle are kept in a smaller pen for a few short days until they figure out how yummy and delicious the corn is. Then they are turned out into one of our hayfields for the remaining 120 days or so to graze and come to the grain as they like. What they like, is to have their grain in the morning, a long nap, and then its off for a drink and graze the rest of the day.
Finally, we have them butchered using local processors who cut and wrap based on your specifications. We encourage anyone interested to come out and see our fat steers first hand as they are usually visible from the county road in the fall.