By Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
Here in the Central Valley agriculture is a big part of who we are. For many it is what we do for work, what we see on our drives, what gets in our nose and what shapes our days. Unfortunately, that does not always mean it is what sits on our dinner plates. Most of the food products that are grown or raised here in the valley are shipped nationwide and globally and can be difficult to find in our local grocery stores.
This is especially true for beef, but that does not mean that local sources of beef are not out there. Small Central Valley producers who raise cattle independently may not be found in our grocery stores, but the beef they produce from the surrounding mountain ranges is available! However, finding these sources can be difficult if you do not know where to look, and because grocery stores are a one-stop-shop, moving out of the comfort they provide can be just as difficult. But, if given the chance, the reward of world class beef raised around the corner is unforgettable. To help bring some attention to locally sourced beef, here are some options:
Rankin Ranch Beef is a family owned, 156-year-old cattle ranch located in Northeastern Kern in a little valley at the end of California’s southern Sierras. Its founder, Walker Rankin, started the family legacy on the same ranch in 1863, and he is credited with bringing the first purebred Herefords to the area. Today, the ranch is run by 4th, 5th, and 6th generation Rankins and still produces exclusively Hereford beef and even uses some of the ranch’s original barns! Amanda Rankin Barrett, a 5th generation Rankin, was raised on the ranch and is proud to help manage her family’s business. She took on the responsibility of developing the Rankin Beef branch of the business to start selling their own beef in 2014. Her time as a National Beef Ambassador in 2007 contributed to her interest in selling her family’s beef directly to the local market. Today she works closely with the Guest Ranch, where they allow overnight stays and have activities such as trail rides around the ranch. She has worked through all aspects of cattle ranching since she was a child and knows it is a “labor of love.”
All Rankin Ranch cattle is raised on the ranch in northeastern Kern where they spend their days grazing the native grasses. After a little over a year, the cattle are finished on grain at a feedlot in Bakersfield. This is to increase marbling and tenderness of the beef. Feeding grain also changes the flavor of the beef to something many consider more desirable than grass fed. From there, the cattle are harvested and processed at Creston Valley Meats, located off the 58 outside Santa Margarita. The Rankin Family then sell the individual cuts of beef at farmers markets and makes home deliveries in communities throughout Kern County. They also offer shipping throughout the state of California. To find out more information about home delivery orders and farmers market schedule, visit the Rankin Ranch Beef website at rankinbeef.com.
For local grass-fed options there’s Redhouse Beef. Founded and run by Debbie Wise, Redhouse Beef raises cattle on their pastures off Enos Lane in Bakersfield. Mrs. Wise’s story with Redhouse started in the grocery store. She wanted beef with transparency and was looking for a local grass-fed beef product and found a gap in product availability. With her children’s health at the forefront of her mind, she set out to mend that gap and created Redhouse, a beef company that would focus on transparency and feeding our community quality grass-fed beef before exporting nationally. Mrs. Wise states that “I get to see the faces of my customers, develop friendships and relationships, and they trust me enough to raise something that they are willing to feed their families,” and is proud to be able to “nourish our community.”
Redhouse cattle graze throughout the eastern mountains of the Central Valley in Springville, eventually moving down onto their pastures on the valley floor where they stay for roughly 10 months and are rotated to new pastures every 1-2 days. After finishing on their specialized pastures, the cattle are sent to be harvested and processed at a processing facility in Paso Robles. From there, the packaged cuts are sent to home deliveries, farmers markets and back to the ranch to be sold. To find more information, and to purchase online, visit their website redhousebeef.com. Redhouse also encourages customers to come visit the ranch for farm pick-ups, especially to check out their eggs, and their section of “Friends of the Farm” products like olive oil and nut butters that are also made locally.
But Rankin Ranch Beef and Redhouse Beef are not the only options for finding local beef! Bud’s Cuts is another great company that works to bring Central California-raised cattle to Central California’s dinner plates. It is run by four best friends from Shafter, specialized in harvesting family raised, grass-fed cattle in Woody, CA. To find out more and for purchasing, follow their Instagram @budscuts or visit budscuts.com.
Purchasing beef directly from the people who raise and process cattle may take a little more time and energy, but the quality and reliability is worth the effort. Following social media pages and shopping farmers markets are great ways to start understanding what options are available. By supporting local cattle ranchers, questions about our food and where it comes from are answered by the ranchers themselves. Best of all, the dedication they have for their work will shine through with its quality.