Nebraska’s Crow Butte Ranch captures better premiums, some of which goes to feed hungry children
The genetics of the cattle on Nebraska’s Crow Butte Ranch near Lincoln, yield enough carcasses that grade prime that Megan Kvols and her dad, Steve Erwin, knew there had to be a better marketing strategy to capture better premiums. In a sea of private label beef, Crow Butte Beef has set themselves apart not just by only selling USDA Prime beef but realizing it’s a prime time to step up and battle childhood hunger and food instability.
“We handpick these carcasses and we grade them there at Mike’s Meats in Sterling, Colo.,” she said. “The last batch, we had 70 percent of our carcasses grade prime.”
Even more impressive, the carcasses are all natural and yield very little backfat. Commercial cattle from the ranch are in the Global Animal Partnership program and are marketed to Whole Foods while the handpicked beef is marketed directly to consumers all over the country.
Prime beef sells quickly, especially ribeye steaks, and Kvols has recently found an outlet for the ground beef, a perennial challenge for those in the private label beef business, with a few restaurants in Lincoln.
The GAP program, a verification program that audits care and handling of cattle raised with no implants or antibiotics, among other requirements, is intensive in record-keeping, which makes finding GAP-compliant feedyards more challenging. Kvols works with Heidi Tribbett at Mike’s Meat Market to identify feedyards that are both GAP compliant and close to the processing plant in northeastern Colorado. Cattle are finished in Alliance, Imperial, and Merino, Colo.
“We’ll never let a calf go sick,” she said. “If it needs an antibiotic, we’ll give it one but then that calf is bumped out of the GAP program and put in the (Non-Hormone Treated Cattle) NHTC program, which is an all-natural program.”
BANKING AND RANCHING
Erwin grew up a farm boy in Nebraska and never thought he would be a banker in the city, but she said that’s exactly what happened to her dad, a former US Bank President.
Before he was with US Bank, she said he was with a small bank in Chadron, Neb., where he formed a partnership and began buying cattle. The operation grew but when the bank was sold, the cattle operation was not yet large enough to support the family, prompting the move to Lincoln.
“He climbed the ranks with US Bank and grew the ranch out west,” she said. “When he retired, he started ranching and the beef company full-time.”
Kvols too, spent time off the ranch both as a teacher and an agricultural literacy director at Nebraska Farm Bureau. It was during that time, she said her eyes were opened to the problem of childhood hunger, a problem that knows no geographical bounds.
“Part of my job at Nebraska Farm Bureau was to educate children about where their food comes from,” she said. “That’s important but there are so many children who don’t even get fed. It’s important to teach kids where their food comes from, but we have to feed them first.”
This quarter’s donations, which are 5 percent of their proceeds, benefit childhood hunger programs in Cheyenne, Wyo., North Dakota, Lincoln and western Nebraska. Each dollar donated by Crow Butte Beef, produces up to four meals for hungry kids. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.