There’s so much about Arizona’s beef industry to talk about! And we talked “up a storm” this last Saturday on KTAR’s Rosie on the House Show during the Farm Fresh hour with ranchers Andy and Stefanie Smallhouse. From local markets to meat quality and the environmental footprint of cattle, the central focus was hearing from a generational ranch family in business for nearly 140 years. (The entire broadcast is embedded in this article below.)
The recent pandemic inspired local beef adherents. Anecdotally, the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fill Your Plate listing of local beef producers doubled from 25 before the 2020 pandemic to more than 50 Arizona ranchers on the listing by the end of that year. But demand outpaced availability due to a limited number of beef processing facilities.
Ranch families, like the Smallhouses of Carlink Ranch, have opened another revenue stream by offering to sell their beef directly to consumers. The challenge is having enough regional beef processing plants to keep up with demand (an issue discussed in detail on the radio show).
According to the Arizona Beef Council, beef is a complete, high-quality protein, supplying all the essential amino acids or building blocks of protein, the body needs to build, maintain and repair body tissue. In fact, to get the same amount of protein found in a 3 oz. serving of lean beef at 150 calories, you would need to eat 1 ¼ cups (236 calories) of raw soy tofu cubes, 1 ½ cups (374 calories) of black beans, or 7 tablespoons (670 calories) of peanut butter.
From beef, you even get your zinc requirements, something especially appreciated as we waded through the COVID-19 pandemic and learned that Vitamin B and zinc were essential to fighting off the virus.
Andy Smallhouse contends that for the consumer purchasing directly from the rancher, it’s a “craft beef,” think of a craft beer, where the rancher’s unique set of inputs and craftmanship is going into the quality of the beef product the ranch family puts out.
The conservation and environmental topic related to beef production deserves attention. Cattle feed on vegetation humans cannot consume converting the feed to a protein that’s healthy for us. In fact, cattle out west are grazing on lands not suitable for farming or any other use and helping manage our rangelands. Plus, the infrastructure ranch families invest in including livestock watering systems support wildlife.
Not uncommon among western ranchers, the Smallhouse family has instituted a variety of conservation practices on their ranch. Their efforts have earned them national awards and recognition. No question their innovations in conservation and more have allowed this generational ranch family to stay in business for nearly 140 years.