Local ranchers follow holistic approach

Regenerative practices, lack of antibiotics reflect owners’ philosophy

Geraldine Smith
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 5/20/19

Lisa and Lance Wheeler have operated the family-run Rafter W Ranch north of Simla since 2014. Rafter W Ranch utilizes holistic ranching methods that regenerate the soil, providing the animals with …

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Local ranchers follow holistic approach

Regenerative practices, lack of antibiotics reflect owners’ philosophy

Posted

Lisa and Lance Wheeler have operated the family-run Rafter W Ranch north of Simla since 2014.

Rafter W Ranch utilizes holistic ranching methods that regenerate the soil, providing the animals with nutrient-dense food, thus producing nutrient-rich meat.

Employing a holistic approach to ranching, they became true stewards of the land, practicing regenerative ranching and Audubon conservation ranching, the latter a certification that guarantees the Wheelers’ commitment to responsible land management.

Land management is only one brush stroke on the Rafter W Ranch canvas. Active advocates for humane treatment of ranch animals from birth to slaughter, their portrait is replete with certifications, and examples of true concern for their animals.

This concern never wanes. Monitoring the animal’s care to the end, they chose a processing plant after careful review of the environment and handling the animals receive up to the end.

Humane treatment of the animals is manifest in the distinct flavor of the Rafter W Ranch meat, which includes chicken, sheep, lamb, and Angus and Dexter cattle.

The Wheelers feel a responsibility to the animals as well as their customers and know both benefit from grass feeding and grass finishing practices.

When animals are healthy, content and calm throughout their lives. the outcome is quality, tender meat with a noticeable distinction reinforced by 30-day temperature-controlled dry aging.

Lisa and Lance Wheeler recently explained their certifications and ranching practices:

What is regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative ranching is a holistic approach to ranching, realizing all parts contribute to the whole.

The idea is to go one step beyond sustainability and do no harm while restoring the land with regenerative technology. Mob-grazing on our land does just that.

The term refers to short-duration, high-intensity grazing of many cattle on a small area of pasture, moved several times a day to new forage. We move our cows to a new grazing paddock several times a day, giving the grass time to recover.

Allowing the grass to recover, the growing plants receive carbon from the air and return it to the soil, replenishing lost carbon which is the basis of soil fertility. Carbon is vital to growing nutrient-dense food for the animals, and carbon-rich soil holds more water.

What does Audubon certification involve?

Audubon certification confirms that grassland birds’ habitats are preserved by controlling where the ranch animals graze and for how long. Audubon certification guarantees all animals are ethically raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and grassland habitats are protected.

Why is grass feeding, grass finishing and 30-day dry aging important to the meat’s quality?

Grass-fed animals are given no antibiotics, extra hormones or GMO. Our animals are grass finished, meaning they feed on grass their entire life and are never given grain. Grass finishing takes a little longer but the effect shows in quality of our meat. The 30-day dry aging (aging with controlled temperatures) tenderizes the meat while oxidation and enzyme breakdown improves the flavor.

Can a consumer verify the animals are 100% grass-fed?

The AGA American Grassfed Association certification label is on the meat package. Requirements for certification are stringent and include: Animals were fed a lifetime diet of 100% forage; animals are raised on pasture and not in confinement; animals were never treated with added hormones or antibiotics and verified annually by a third-party inspector.

What is your approach and philosophy to treating your animals humanely?

We see all of our animals as deserving a certain quality of life as living beings. They are not confined and enjoy pasture life while being fed high-quality grass for their health and development. We never view them as merely a means to an economic end. For this reason, we employ low-stress handling practices and utilize a processing facility which utilizes Temple Grandin’s design components. Temple Grandin’s design components include curved corrals developed to reduce stress, panic and injury in animals being sent to slaughter.

How can the slaughterhouse practices affect the quality of the meat?

If the animals are agitated during transport and unloading, their bodies produce adrenaline that may make meat tough. If they are kept calm and handled gently, they are not aware of what is happening, and it promotes humane treatment as well as tender meat. It is important they are not crowded in pens and water is readily available.

How can consumers find your meat?

Our meat is available at Isabel’s Coffee Shop in Elizabeth, can be delivered to specific pick-up locations (found on our website) or shipped to your doorstep. We also have pastured eggs when available.

For more information and where to buy: https://rafterwranch.net/taste-the-difference/

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