When the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, grocery stores were raided, causing fear in people who thought they might go hungry. But Emily Richard of Belfield assures everyone that there is plenty of beef to go around, and it’s better than what people are buying from the stores.
From individual steaks, briskets, hamburger packages, EAT.BETTER.BEEF. is a retail meat business that features high quality black angus beef of Richard Angus Ranch. Richard butchers every month and keeps about 11 cows stocked in her mobile trailer for customers to purchase from.
With the 2020 calf crop, Richard will weed through the herd and keep a “draft of the nicest steers” from 18 to 20 months old, along with open yearling heifers — ones that couldn’t get bred and pregnant — and those will go into the “butcher tank,” she said.
“I do kind of the prime of my herd which is what it should be. I want people to get the best and if you get those icky cows or older cows, they’re not as good and I don’t want people to get that impression. I want them to have the best, the most flavor(ful), the most marbling and all that,” Richard said, adding, “So we try to keep the best of what we have and younger (cattle). I try not to butcher anything over two years old because it can get kind of tough.”
Richard will closely survey the crop. She will wean and feed the crop, background them and once they reach “grass-cattle time,” they will go into the pasture and eat grass for 100 days, depending on how they finish. The cattle will also have access to feed, but are not force-fed feed. The typical finishing weight is 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. Richard has appointments at 701 Meats in South Heart and works with an inspected U.S. Department of Agriculture butcher shop in Williston to process her beef selections.
“I monitor it from conception to harvest. I know exactly what every animal is, what they get fed. We grow all the food we feed the butchers; they’re not just the old cancer-eyed cows, these are actually the cream of our crop,” she said.
The idea for EAT.BETTER.BEEF. originated from when the Richard Angus Ranch were one of the producers on the North Dakota Farm to Table Facebook page earlier this year to help feed families. Richard, 34, is a full-time employee at Richard Angus Ranch and decided to help out when the pandemic hit. In May, Richard obtained her North Dakota meat license and has been selling to local customers to South Dakotans.
Unless someone grows up on a ranch or farm and understands the process of it, Richard said it is a learning curve for those who have no background information on agriculture.
“Anybody can call and be like, ‘Hey, I need 5 pounds of hamburger or I need two steaks.’ Essentially, I’m a mobile grocery store,” she said. “... You try to find a silver lining amongst the COVID, and to take the opportunity to be good stewards for agriculture and really capitalize on the consumer wanting to be closer to the producer. And we love taking the opportunity to educate people about where their food actually comes from.”
Since July, Richard’s retail business has sold 25 to 30 full butcher beefs.
Before Richard was a full-time rancher and mom of three children, she was a RN for seven years at Sanford Health. But getting married to her husband Brandon was when she realized she wanted to get back to her roots.
“We’re kind of diverse. We do seed stock; we do commercial calf-cow pairs; we have a yearling operation; we do bred heifers and most recently, retail beef. Agriculture is changing every minute of every day — if you don’t change with it, you kind of get left in the dust. So you kind of have to,” Richard said. “It’s really a world of diversity and it’s so dependent on the weather, the markets and things that are really out of our control. So being diverse, you really try to be as resilient to those things we can’t control as we can be. It’s not really a job, it’s a lifestyle. If you don’t love this and want to be 100%, 365 days a year, holidays, weekends/nights, etc., it can be exhausting.”
Richard works with a nutritionist to measure out the distillers, silage and hay so each steer or open yearling heifer is served a proper amount of nutrition. This process is also another attractive quality for customers because they know exactly where their meat is coming from and how their cattle lived, she noted.
Moving forward, Richard hopes her retail business will venture into the restaurant business, where business owners will want to sell local Richard Angus Ranch beef.
To order fresh beef from EAT.BETTER.BEEF. or for more information, visit richardangusranch.com.