(Re)inventing quality at Elkhead Creek Ranch
Community Agriculture Alliance
If you’ve ever tried Wagyu beef, you know it’s special. Known for its incredible marbling and rich flavor, its tenderness and butter-like texture, it’s difficult to forget the uniqueness of this beef.
Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cattle with taller, narrower frames. Their beautifully marbled muscle isn’t just valued for its flavor and tenderness; Wagyu were originally bred for agricultural labor because the fat in their flesh provided them the energy to work longer and harder than other cattle breeds.
Wagyu beef is rare in the United States, with only 30,000 cattle of Wagyu descent here compared to 95 million traditional cattle. Nonetheless, the breed rose in popularity for its prized meat in the early 2000s. Yet it wasn’t until a few years ago that the Yampa Valley was graced with a grass-fed and finished Wagyu product.
Tim and Laine O’Neal started Elkhead Creek Ranch after they experienced their first Wagyu steak. Through Tim’s connections as a food broker, they were able to purchase their first Wagyu steers and begin the journey of feeding the community.
Their ranch sits just below Elkhead Reservoir and on the borders of Routt and Moffat counties. They have a perfect view of Bears Ears Peak and abundant flora and fauna. The O’Neal’s take advantage of the countless ways to enjoy their land. They take full advantage of the fishing, paddle boarding and camping along the banks of Elkhead Creek.
And they take their stewardship role seriously. They are currently participating in a 10-year river restoration project led by the National Resources Conservation Service, Trout Unlimited and the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable.
Together they are working to reduce bank erosion, protect riparian habitat and enhance river productivity. In addition to the river project, they have implemented sustainable grazing methods. Their steers are rotated often, giving the grasses and soil time to rest and regenerate. Sustainability, longevity, and stewardship are at the forefront of Elkhead Creek Ranch.
Elkhead Creek Ranch is unique for many reasons beyond its practices. Laine is a creative and spirited rancher with a gift for repurposing. During the remodel of their home, she saved countless items, including old windows that became the structure of the chicken coop and greenhouse and rebar that later became the railing of her stairs.
Tim is a dedicated rancher and broker with a generous and fun spirit. He has passion for learning and growth. A recent trip to the O’Neal’s ranch was unforgettable. We even got to canoe across the creek where the steers awaited hungrily.
You too can spend time with Tim and Laine at Elkhead Creek Ranch this summer at one of the Community Agriculture Alliance’s farm-to-table dinners. You’ll have the opportunity to fish the river, learn more about their operation and connect over a delicious meal.
More information and tickets to the event will be announced soon via CAA. Elkhead Creek Ranch can be found on Facebook and more information is on their website. Interested in trying Yampa Valley’s Wagyu? Shop the CAA Market for a great selection of cuts or contact them directly to reserve a quarter, half or whole steer.
Katie Stanhope is the market coordinator for the Community Agriculture Alliance.
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