It’s a cold morning in early December. The Ungrocery team pulls up to a deserted gas station that sits at a T intersection of two time-worn county roads. Logan is there waiting and greets us with a grin. Today is a special day for us – we get to see a rancher with his cattle.
Back in the truck, we follow his pickup down one county road after another and start winding our way through the classic mesquite and oak groves of central Texas. We pass over several low water crossings before we see Logan’s truck begin to slow. We’ve reached his ranch.
Logan is the 6th generation to ranch the family land. Most of the ones that came before him ranched for survival. On one hand, Logan was born into it; on the other, he’s pursued it with everything he’s got. In fact, working with grassfed and finished beef is how he met his wife Johnna.
Standing in front of their ranch house, the crisp air turning our breath into clouds, we ask them how they met. Logan said, “I came home from the farmer’s market one day, walk in, and there she was sitting on my couch.” The backstory: Johnna had been researching grass-fed beef because of her father’s health. She determined it was much healthier and wanted to start raising cattle completely on grass. Her father went to highschool with Logan’s dad, and even though it had been years since they’d spoken, he’d heard that they were raising grass-fed beef. So he arranged for them to visit Logan’s dad to learn more.
Logan continued, “I met her and she didn’t even acknowledge me. I spoke to her and her dad for about an hour or so and when they left, she didn’t even say bye.”
As he told us the story, Johnna smiled, adding “I maybe ignored him, but that’s because I thought he was so cute.”
Logan blushes a bit then resumes the story. Apparently they began messaging on Facebook soon thereafter (though who messaged first is still a point of contention). A year and a half later, head over heels, they’re married.
With our interview over, now it’s time to see the land and get into the details of their ranching operation. Three things immediately stood out: space, time, and taste.
Grass finished beef takes a lot more space than grain, as in, exponentially more space. Logan requires 20 acres for every single cow. He has 25 momma cows, meaning he needs 500 acres just for them. Let’s help you visualize 500 acres.
Here’s a picture of the Vatican:
The Vatican is 0.44 square kilometers, or 108 acres. Logan would need 5 Vaticans just for his momma cows to graze. And they only make up a portion of his herd.
Just like humans, cows gain weight based on what they eat. Some ranchers claim “grass fed” beef and then feed grain to fatten the animal up in the months before butcher. They can sell this as “grass fed beef” and it was for part of its life – just not the crucial last few months. The extra weight and size from grain allows the rancher to butcher the cow around 16 months old.
Logan does not do this. He believes grass-fed and finished is a healthier way to raise cattle and healthier for you, the one consuming it. So he has created a system to make sure his cows finish their lives on the best grass he can get them, which comes in spring. Grass doesn’t add weight and size like grain, meaning Logan must allow his cow to mature, taking 2-2.5 years for them to reach their full size potential.
It’s easy to taste the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef. But here’s the fun part – grass finished beef is going to taste like what it ate. Sounds simple, right? Logan took us a step further by saying, “Not just that it eats grass, but the type of grass it’s finished on will change the flavor of the steak.” It’s reminiscent of whisky being finished in oak casks vs sherry casks — the various grass types cause the taste to develop differently.
The day has gotten late and the sun will soon set. We ask Johnna where her favorite spot is on the ranch and hop in the truck to head where she says – the highest point on the ranch. The cows come trotting up when they hear Logan arriving, they follow him wherever he goes.
We’ve spent the day talking about sustainability, stewarding the land, and every other topic imaginable. As we’re packing up our camera equipment, I look up and see Logan embracing Johnna. They’re standing at the top of the rock outcropping as the sun gets ready to dip below the horizon. The cows stand watching, their shadows cutting long shapes into the grass. At that moment, something Logan said earlier comes to mind:
“I never thought I’d find anyone that would want to live out in the middle of nowhere and would have a love for cattle like I do. But like I said, there she was sitting on my couch one day.”
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