Utah locally sourced beef, chicken, pork keeps cash flowing to area farmers
Cattle are sorted before being moved off of Joel Ferry's farm on Thursday, May 19, 2016, in Corrine. Ferry was taking around 600 animals to Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area for grazing. The grazing provides the beef cattle with feed and helps control the invasive wetland weed phragmites.
BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner

For Utah food production, meat matters

The backbone of local food production in Utah is meat.

Ranchers raise cattle on more than 6,000 farms throughout the state, bringing in nearly $361 million in 2013 and making them Utah’s top agricultural product, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Utah’s livestock industry makes up around 70 percent of the cash flowing to farms. Turns out, beef, pork and poultry purchases are a great way to support local food production.

More and more, however, shoppers are paying attention to how their meat is raised. Nearly 60 percent of consumers report looking for labels like “free-range,” “cage-free” or “humanely raised” when they shop for meat, according to market research group Packaged Facts. Research has also found that pasture-raised meat may have added health benefits, like lower levels of saturated fats and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Buying meat at the grocery store, however, can muddle the product’s origins.

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Cattle graze around Grouse Creek on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, in far northwest corner of Utah.

“On the national market you have large corporate meat packers that basically have a monopoly on the entire meat market … they determine price, the quality, everything,” said Bjorn Carlson, rancher and owner of Blue Tree Farms. “They say when you go to grocery store and purchase a steak, from the time that beef was born until it was processed and put on that grocery store shelf, it’s changed owners eight to ten times.”

By the time a product’s moved from the farm, to feedlot, to slaughterhouse, to butcher, to grading, to packaging, to distributor and finally, to the store, it’s tough to know which farmer you’re supporting and just how much.

One of the best ways to understand meat’s source, however, is to get to know a local rancher. It’s also one of the best ways to directly support local food production.

“I like to know my customers, I like to be able to take care of my customers and determine the quality and price, rather than go through the national market,” Carlson said.

Carlson Blue Tree Farms nearly 10 years ago with his wife Shanna. The ranch got its start in West Haven, but it quickly expanded so they moved their operation to the Uinta Basin.

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Alex Davis, right, gives a calf an injection of the antibiotic LA-200 while moving cattle up Logan Canyon on Thursday, August, 8, 2013. Around 350-400 head were moved up to higher, late-season grazing areas.
BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner

The Carlsons still deliver beef, pork and lamb up and down the Wasatch Front and also sell at it farmers markets. Their animals are free-range and grass-fed. They don’t use feedlots and they don’t give their animals antibiotics.

Those practices might take a little more time and investment, but Carlson said it gives him peace of mind.

“I wanted to deliver a product I was comfortable feeding my own family,” he said. “I’m not comfortable feeding them grocery store meat. I want to know what’s in my beef.”

And while humanely-raised, grass-fed local meat might cost a little more, Carlson said it should give customers peace of mind, too.

“(The animals) have free choice of what they eat and when they eat. It provides a more healthy product,” he said.

And although cattle raising is king for Utah food production, Carlson said meat consumers might be surprised to learn how much land it takes to support a single pasture-raised animal in the dry Beehive State.

At Blue Tree Farms, it takes around two acres for each cow, Carlson said. But that extra land and effort keep his customers happy, and, he suspects, his animals, too.

“It couldn’t be better, in my opinion,” Carlson said. “If I were a cow, I’d want to live on my ranch.”

Here are some suggestions for local, sustainable meat producers in Northern Utah:

BlueTree Cattle Co.

Raising hormone-free, grass-fed beef, pork and lamb.

Location: Bluebell

Where to buy: Ogden Farmers Market, Kaysville Farmers Market or place an order for delivery online or by calling 435-733-0633.

Website: bluetreefarms.com

Henson Heritage Farm

A farm that takes ethical and sustainable animal raising seriously. Provides 100 percent grass-fed beef, heritage pork, chicken eggs and duck eggs.

Location: Logan

Where to buy: Pick-up locations in Logan, Brigham City, Ogden and Layton. Place orders online or call 435-414-0477.

Website: intermountainfamilyfarms.com

Canyon Meadows Ranch

Third-generation ranchers selling grass-fed beef directly to the public.

Location: Altamont

Where to buy: Beef orders can be picked up at the Duschesne County-based ranch. Larger orders can be delivered to the Wasatch Front.

Website: www.cmrbeef.com

44 Magnum Beef

Humanely treated, grass-fed cattle raised at the base of the Uinta Mountains.

Location: Kamas

Where to buy: Order online. The ranch provides free delivery on the Wasatch Front.

Website: 44magnumbeef.com

Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiaoutside or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen