Roggen family now producing natural beef, taking business online
In a world in which food demands and technology are constantly changing, Brent and Tonya Huwa decided 2012 was the year to do the same with their family ranching operation in southern Weld County.
Founded in 2001, the Huwas this year began producing all-natural beef — raising cattle free of hormones, steroids, non-vegetarian feed and antibiotics at a time when more consumers are increasingly concerned with how food is produced and also looking for high-quality product.
And in just the past couple weeks, Huwa Cattle Co., and its Huwa Reserve Natural Beef started doing business online, at HuwaRerserve.com., taking sales directly to consumers while also delivering to their doors. It’s a model used rarely in the beef industry, according to the Huwas and industry experts.
“There’s been a lot of changes here recently,” said Brent Huwa, a fourth-generation farmer from the Roggen area, who entered the beef business with his wife, a fifth-generation rancher from Longmont, Colo., after they married. “We’re excited.”
While most cattle raised in the U.S. are sent to feedlots where they’re fattened and finished on a diet of corn and other grains, the Huwas said their Black Angus herd — which now has over 500 head — is started on grass and finished with a 100 percent vegetarian grain formula, which produces tender and highly marbled beef.
The Huwas must know a thing to two about raising good livestock, considering that cattle from the Huwa Cattle Co. have won numerous awards, including their son, Cody, taking grand-champion steer honors at the Colorado State Fair in 2011 and 2012.
Although naturally-raised beef still represents a small percentage of the beef consumed in the U.S. — only about 3 percent — advocates, consumers and producers predict the number will keep rising.
Some studies put demand growth at 20 percent a year, although neither the USDA nor beef trade groups track production or sales of grass-fed beef, choosing not to distinguish grass-fed production from conventional production.
As far as taking their business online, the Huwas said they’re doing it as a way to make purchasing beef easier for their existing customers and with hopes of attracting new buyers, with millions of Internet users on the web each day.
Stephen Koontz, Colorado State University agriculture professor and economist, said surprisingly few beef producers have gone to this online model of selling their product.
“It certainly has its benefits,” Koontz said, specifically noting the ability to sell bulk product at a cheaper price, having “taken out the middle men” in selling the product. “But it’s something that only works if you’re a business that already has a very reliable customer base.”
The Huwas say that’s certainly been the case during the past decade.
“We’ve been so fortunate to grow like we have,” Tonya said. “Once someone buys our product, they generally come back. ❖