Tom Steyer may have made billions of dollars for his investors before retiring this year, but he would have lost money betting against his wife, Kat Taylor and Leftcoast Grassfed, the brand name of the Steyer-Taylor beef.
While Ms. Taylor says, modestly, that it is hard to know how profitable the business is, her husband said it had outperformed his expectations. “We could sell 10 times the amount we raise, in 10 minutes,” he said.
The couple did not set out to raise prime grass-fed beef at TomKat Ranch, which sprawls across some 1,800 acres in this rural community near the ocean off Highway 1. The plan was to create a model conservation project, demonstrating ways to improve soil health, use solar energy and conserve water. “This wasn’t about cows,” Ms. Taylor said.
But once cows became part of the plan to restore the land, it was not too long before TomKat also became an agricultural project, one that the couple hope will help develop sustainable farming practices that can be put to use far beyond Pescadero.
“Think of the ranch as a huge science experiment,” Mr. Steyer said. “Can you raise animals sustainably? Can the land become the carbon sink that it once was? Can you demonstrate a way of doing agriculture, raising food, that doesn’t damage the environment..?
In a book, “Grass-Fed Cattle: How to Produce and Market Natural Beef,” the author Julius Ruechel theorized that soil was enriched as a result of the migration of giant herds of ruminants and other animals across the world’s great plains.
According to his book, large herds of heavy, hoofed animals help force dead plant materials back into the ground, where they are broken down by microorganisms in the soil. Herd migration also churns up the earth, allowing rain to penetrate it further and slowing runoff, and natural “fertilizers” containing additional microbes are left in the herd’s wake.
All of that produces more and better grass, which then feeds the herds the next time they migrate across the land…
TomKat is aiming to mimic the migratory patterns that developed the world’s great plains on a small scale by rotating cows, birds and pigs around the ranch in a deliberate dance.
There are lots of details in the original if you’re not frustrated by the TIMES unpredictable paywall.
I’m kind of taken aback by the author’s surprise over the popularity of grass-fed beef. Any accomplished foodie often prefers grass-fed beef over the feed lot corn-crammed variety fed most Americans. Additionally, unless things have changed, areas with significant French heritage like Louisiana support a historic preference for grass-fed beef. Both of the nature-oriented markets we shop for our groceries carry – and advocate – grass-fed beef. Neither of which is an expensive organics-only source.
I spent some time with folks active in managing New Mexico park and forest areas and sat in on experiments 20 years ago on managing test herds of beef cattle so their grazing patterns imitated the bison that originally roamed the range hereabouts. Results were positive and adopted by a small number of progressive ranchers in the northeastern part of the state.