An In-depth Q&A with your rancher, Anna from Beauty and The Beef
Perhaps you’re experiencing the blossoming desire to grow your own food and to know exactly what goes into the food you nourish your body with.
It’s an innate calling within each of us to be connected to our food source, just as our ancestors were.
While there’s been a wild uptick in backyard gardens and kitchen window herb pots (an easy entry to the world of growing your own food), being able to raise your own meat is a whole other world to try to enter.
While it’s not possible for many people today to raise their own meat, knowing the importance of having high-quality red meat, like beef, in our daily diets leaves you searching for the next best thing - finding a rancher you can trust.
You might have found a few ranchers near you, or even ranchers online, but you don’t know where to start in making sure their values align with yours.
As a rancher, I want to give you a conversation guide to get you started in finding the perfect rancher for you. As the owner and operator of Beauty and the Beef, I’d like to share all of my own answers to these questions. If you feel like we align in values, I would be honored to be your very own rancher!
Tell me about your ranch and your ranching practices
1- How long has your ranch been in the family and what generation are you on the ranch?
My grandparents started our ranch in Helmville, Montana in 1976. I am the third generation on the ranch, ranching alongside my parents.
2- Is your ranch family run or do you have additional ranch employees?
We are a small family ranch, with that, it is only myself, my husband, and my parents that work on the ranch.
3- Do you raise anything other than cattle?
We currently are only raising cattle. I do partner with our cousins who raise hogs and offer a pork harvest once a year to our Beauty and the Beef customers.
4- What area of ranching are you most passionate about?
I am in love with it all! Ranching is wildly diverse work, with the daily ranch tasks ever changing, but I love being out in nature and surrounded by our animals.
My favorite part is definitely centered around the animals – anything cow or horse related, count me in! I also get in on the equipment related things (feeding, haying, building fence, mechanic-ing, etc) but that side of the ranching operation isn’t my passion.
5- Would you consider yourself a regenerative rancher? If so, can you tell me about some of the regenerative practices you’ve implemented on your ranch?
I’m of the mindset that if we are good to the land, the land will be good to us. To me, that means being one with the land. Trying to reduce our footprint as much as possible, finding harmony with the land and the wildlife around us to build a thriving ecosystem for all of us to thrive in together. I think back to what this landscape was like before us Americans came into the picture and try to find ways to mimic the early days.
We focus on building our soil health naturally, with no added chemical fertilizers or weed sprays. One of the ways we are actively improving our soil health is through high density grazing, where we have a high density of cattle on a particular piece of ground for a short period of time and then rest that piece of ground for a longer window of time before bringing the cattle back to it – think back to the buffalo naturally roaming and grazing the plains.
We also work with partners to restore the creek stream beds running through our ranch to prevent erosion and build better fish habitat, knowing that not only are the fish a part of our ecosystem, but they also bring in other wildlife that enhance our ecosystem as a whole. Being of the mindset of co-existing with the wildlife around us, we have also recently built an electric fence around our calving lots to reduce predator issues, namely with bears.
We want to find ways to prevent any predator issues so we can all co-exist on this land together in harmony. We are continually working towards new and improved regenerative practices on our ranch and this list is ever growing.
6- As you are building your ranching legacy, if you had to pick just one contribution to the ranch to be remembered for, what would it be?
I love this question and think about it often! My grandpa’s primary contribution to the ranch was building our cattle herd (we still have the same genetics in our herd that he started so long ago!) and my Dad’s primary contribution has been a complete overhaul and upgrade to our equipment – no small feat!
For me, I want my primary contribution to be based around regeneration. I want to rebuild the aspen groves on different parts of the ranch, continually improve our soil health through diversity and better practices, and to always be striving to raise the best possible end product of beef.
About The Herd
7- What breed of cattle do you have?
We raise both black and red angus cattle.
8- Are your cattle born and raised on their ranch?
Yes! The bulk of our herd is born right here on the ranch. In fact, I love calving season and see almost every calf be born! We will at times buy cattle to increase our herd numbers, from trusted ranchers with like-minded values, when customer demand calls for it.
9- Can you share about your herd health protocols?
We do believe in keeping our herd healthy and thriving and we prefer to do that as naturally as possible with a “less is more” mindset. Our mother cows receive a shot of minerals before breeding season each Spring along with an 8-way vaccine. Our calves get that same mineral shot at birth along with an 8-way vaccine, with the 8-way being repeated at about 8 weeks old.
10- What can you share in regards to their cattle handling practices?
I’m a big believer that happy cows make the best meat. With that, I don’t ever want our cattle to be stressed out. I want them to be happy, healthy, playful, and thriving. As you can see in the above question, we have a very low input approach when it comes to vaccines, and that means our cattle are only “worked” once or twice a year. We have safe/low stress handling practices along with safe coral systems that keep the cattle happy.
Cattle Feed & Environment
11- Are your cattle pasture-raised their entire life or do they spend a portion of their life in a feedlot?
All of our cattle are pasture raised their entire life, just as they were intended to be!
12- Are they grass finished animals?
We do offer 100% grass finished beef! These cattle eat 100% native grasses and forage. Whether that is grazing in the pastures during the growing season or eating hay during the winter months. We raise our own hay here at the ranch. Both our hay ground and our grazing ground is 100% chemical free – no added fertilizers or weed sprays
13- Do you feed any grain to your cattle?
We do also offer a light grain finish, which is where the cattle remain out on pasture and are supplemented with a light grain ration. Their primary forage is still the native grasses, they also get up to about 7 lbs of grain a day added into their diets. Sourcing grain is difficult in our area, but we always strive to use GMO and Soy free grain.
14- Tell me about what area your cattle are raised in.
I think one of the greatest advantages for us having the highest quality beef is our location! We are in an un-touched part of Montana. There are no near-by cities, factories, or refineries.
All of our water sources come directly out of the mountains with no potential pollutants between the water source and the ranch. No railroads over the waterways for potential train car spills, no busy interstates for trucker spills into waterways, no factory run-off into our water systems.
I realize how rare that is and how lucky we are for our location in Montana.
15- How old are the cattle that you are butchering?
Our light grain finished cattle are typically somewhere between 18-24 months old at harvest while our grass finished cattle are usually about 22-30 months old. We do also harvest older mother cows that are terming out of our herd and are great candidates for ground beef.
My grandpa was a butcher and he always said that these older mother cows make the best burger – I definitely agree!
16- What indications are you looking for to determine the animal is ready for harvest?
For me, I personally don’t prefer a gobby fat steak and I therefore don’t prefer a gobby fat animal.
I’d rather have a nice, but modest, fat layer. When I’m looking at the live animal, I like to see a matured/filled out rump, shoulder, and brisket. A light fat covering over the tail top is another indication for me. I like them to be in their natural prime, or their bloom.
I don’t like to push cattle quickly to fatten before they naturally would and that is why I stay away from the feedlot/high grain ration style of finishing cattle.
I like to honor my cattle by letting them mature naturally and in tune with Mother Nature. Some need more time than others, and that is why the age of cattle has a range.
17- Do you harvest seasonally or regularly throughout the year?
To me, cattle are in their natural prime in either the Summer or Fall months here in Montana, and this is when I like to harvest them. If they aren’t ready in the Summer, they might make my Fall Harvest. Otherwise, they will likely stay through the Winter and be harvested the following Summer.
18- Will my meat bundle come from one single cow or from multiple cows?
Your meat will all be from one cow! This is one of the perks in buying direct from your own rancher, you can rest assured that all of your meat is coming from one single animal.
19- How long have you been selling beef directly to consumers?
My grandpa was both a rancher and butcher, so my family has been raising cattle for harvest for almost 50 years. I started Beauty and the Beef in 2022, selling meat directly to consumers across the nation. We have now shipped our beef to over 35 states and over 200 families, which feels incredible for our little ranch!
20- What kind of feedback have you received on the quality of your beef?
OMG – I have received such tremendous feedback from our customers! Many say this is the BEST beef they have EVER eaten and that my beef is the only beef they will eat going forward, truly such an honor!
I’ve been incredibly touched by the stories of many customers who were previously vegetarians and have come back to eating meat, but will only buy their meat from me based on how much I love our cows and how well cared for they are – this really warms my heart and speaks to my soul!
I was also incredibly touched when a gal from my butcher crew chose my beef (out of 100s of animals that she sees) to feed to her family – such an honor! When I asked her why she chose me, she replied with “based on the structure of your meat and your animal husbandry. You’re also one of our nicest customers and probably the only one that stays for the slaughter”. This sure brought a tear to my eye!
21- Do you personally eat your own beef?
I don’t buy any other beef, I can tell you that! We harvest our own family beef every year here on the ranch and cut it up in my Grandpa’s old meat shop that is in the basement of our house! I know I am biased, but this truly is the best beef I’ve ever eaten and it’s absolutely what I choose to eat myself and to feed my family!
Beef Slaughter and Harvest
22- Where are your animals harvested?
All of our customer beef is harvested and processed at a USDA inspected butcher facility.
23- How are they transported to harvest?
I either drive them in my own truck/trailer to the butcher or, if I have a larger group of cattle, I hire a truck driver with a bigger truck/trailer to haul them to the butcher.
24- Do they arrive the day of harvest or the day before harvest?
We arrive the day before harvest. I prefer this style as it gives the cattle a chance to settle in after the trailer ride to the butcher, to make sure they come back to a place of calm and peace after having their feet back on the ground like they are used to.
25- Do the animals receive food and water after arriving at the butcher?
I always have the cattle on feed before they leave the ranch. So, they load the trailers with full bellies and I like to time it so we arrive at the butcher in the late afternoon/evening. Once they get to the butcher, they receive water but typically no more feed. They are typically harvested the morning after delivery to the butcher.
If for any reason, that timing doesn’t happen, I do make sure the cattle are fed. It’s important to me that they aren’t held for a long period of time without feeding as they will begin to get stressed and unsettled.
So, I’m that girl that hangs around and makes sure that my cattle are well cared for up until it is their turn to be harvested.
26- Can you tell me about the holding pens the cattle are in prior to harvest?
The pens are modeled after Temple Grandin humane handling pens to help keep the cattle calm right up to the very end.
27- Are the staff handling the animals well trained cattlemen?
I always ask this question and like to see it with my own eyes!I want to ensure anyone around my cattle in this delicate final stage of life is well prepared to be there.
It gives me a lot of comfort at my butcher that most of the crew were previously ranchers themselves, so they are well versed in handling cattle calmly and safely. I also stay myself until the end, and I am often the one in the pens with them and bringing them up the alley and to the chute for their final moment.
28- Would you say the animals are handled humanely, calmly, and peacefully prior to death?
Yes, absolutely. This is a must for me. I simply won’t got to the butcher unless I’m confident that my cattle are in good hands, safe pens, and that we are setting the stage for their final moments to be calm and peaceful.
29- What is the means of dispatching – bolt gun, shotgun, etc?
My slaughterman uses a shotgun. Which actually surprised me at first, thinking that it was a bit overkill. But, honestly, I’m really happy that he uses the shotgun as it ensures immediate, instantaneous death. The shotgun allows wiggle room, if the cow moves their head slightly at dispatch, there will still be instant death. And that to me, makes me appreciate the use of a shotgun.
30- How would you describe the energy or vibe of the slaughterman and of the kill floor staff?
This one is really important to me. I think that the animals can feel our energy and our vibes. I want the final moments to be full of respect, dignity, calm, gratitude…..and they also need to be swift, confident, and accurate.
Slaughterman are almost always men – and I’ve been around some that are arrogant or cavalier, not taking what is happening to heart (I won’t send my cattle if I get that vibe from the slaughterman).
I am so, incredibly appreciative of my slaughterman, Josh, for the work he does. He is kind and compassionate. I often catch him talking to the animals and we’ve talked openly about the toll that his job takes on him. He's told me that he can only do his job day in and day out by telling himself what he is doing is feeding people.
He doesn’t take “joy in the kill” or anything like that, which means so much to me.
31- Have you toured the butcher facility and spent time on the kill floor before sending your cattle there?
Oh yes, I am OCD about this part of the process.
Before I work with a processor, I call and chat with them. If it feels like we have similar values and we will work well together, I tour the facility before sending any cattle there. When I tour, I like to see the whole operation. I will be sure to go on a kill day so I can experience the kill floor with them.
I love my cattle endlessly and it is so important to me that they are handled with care, respect, dignity, peace, and calm through to the end. I’m with my cattle every other day of their lives, so I’m committed to being fully comfortable with whatever happens in the end process and being there by their side through to the end.
On my tour I familiarize myself with their facility, handling pens, how the chute works that the cattle will be harvested in, how their staff is, every piece of the kill floor, and observing their cutting/wrapping floor. I go in with a curious and kind eye, I’m not being all super weird and judgy through this, but it is certainly telling to me if someone doesn’t want to welcome me behind closed doors and I won’t send my cattle there unless I’ve seen everything first hand.
32- Are you present on the kill floor when your cattle are harvested?
Yes, I travel to the butcher with them and stay until the end with them. I feel called to do that. It feels like the right thing to do, to me.
Coming from a long line of butchers, it’s really important to me that this part is done well. That we honor my cattle by giving them a good death. I need to see it with my own eyes to rest easy that I’ve given them what they deserve. I always joke that folks would expect me to be an animal sanctuary type of lady, not a lady selling beef.
It pains me tremendously to say goodbye to my animals. All the same, I feel it is my duty, and my calling, to be with them through to the end. If we are going to do this, if we are going to eat meat, let’s do it right.
Let’s know the story of the animal that becomes our meat. Let’s honor them in each step of their life. Let’s honor them by implementing nose-to-tail eating. Let’s honor them by using every part we possibly can.
Let’s do it together. If these things speak to you, I’d be honored to be your rancher.