The cattle-first culture at Beef Northwest means that they start each day focusing on their team of people and their herd of cattle. You're invited to learn more about how this family-owned feedyard functions on a daily basis and remains focused on the goal of excellence every step of the way.
"The cattle-first attitude and culture really is starting the day making sure that people are in the places that they need to be and people are taken care of too." -Pete Szasz, feedyard manager
Despite the moniker, a conversation with the Beef Northwest team doesn't start with a steak sales pitch. To have them show and tell it, success as a family owned, sixth generation cattle ranching and feeding business with operations in Oregon and Washington actually relies on two areas of focus: human resources, and natural resources. Managing these to the highest degree possible results in well cared for cattle, and ultimately the end goal of high quality beef to market.
"The quality of the beef we raise is a direct reflection and a window into the quality of the people who work here." - Pete Szasz, BNW Feeders Manager
From the seat of a feed truck to a saddle to an office desk, Beef Northwest makes a point to fill their company with a team of people all focused on the same thing: excellence at every step.
Lupe has been feeding cattle at Beef Northwest for years. He checks the moisture and nutrient levels of the fresh feed ration before it's loaded into the trucks that will deliver it to pens of cattle like clockwork each day. Cattle thrive on consistency, and the feeding team knows their key role and responsibility to their care.
The feeding team also monitors the cattle and the feed bunks for any anomalies to the routine. They communicate back to the animal health team if cattle habits aren't in sync with the norm. That could be a sign of animal health issues, Lupe and his team can head that off by staying heads up for the cattle in their care.
A cattle feedyard isn't just a workplace. It's a calling and career for employees who come from different backgrounds, but hold a key common trait - the love and desire to work with cattle. Every job and every person working at the yard is essential.
Liz grew up near the Quincy feedyard. She is a new graduate of University of Idaho who has worked part time and interned at the yard over the years. Now graduated, she is focused on the Beef Northwest employee training program.
Sam is a large Animal Science graduate of Oregon State University. For Sam, working on horseback, leading people, and managing logistics at a busy feedyard is a great fit and the kind of daily challenge this goal-getter prefers. Northwest feedyards actively recruit young, driven team members to keep advancing and improving practices.
Beef Northwest employs the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training program to ensure everyone on the team is on the same page with cattle care. This voluntary program is based on research and best practices for raising cattle and producing beef. The adoption of BQA goes back to Pete's point about people being in the right places so they can take care of cattle. In this case, knowledgeably and philosophically.
BQA is a voluntary certification created to help all beef farmers and ranchers do the best job possible raising healthy, wholesome beef. While the size of farms and ranches, the weather, the breeds of cattle raised and other factors can vary widely across the U.S., BQA is the one universal tool available to all beef producers to understand and adopt the right way to care for cattle. Approximately 80% of the beef available in the U.S. is raised under BQA guidelines, with more farmers and ranchers adopting the program each year.
Did you know? Only about seven percent of the cattle diet is corn. After calves are raised with their mothers on grass for the majority of their life, cattle spend the last 60-180 days at the feedyard where they are fed a balanced feed ration that results in the tender, well marbled Prime and Choice grade beef desired by chefs and home cooks alike.
But did you know? That high quality beef results from a process at the feedyard that makes our entire food system more sustainable. How's that? That's because the feed rations include the leftovers, or byproducts of for example, french fries made within a short radius (from potatoes grown in the same county, no less) of the feedyard.
Think potato peelings and trimmings. Over and under cooked spuds. An over-run of an under-desired fry or tot shape. There is potential waste or byproducts involved in the processing of any vegetable, but cattle and their feeders prevent it from becoming landfill waste, in the most delicious way possible. A Phd cattle nutritionist designs a ration including the byproduct and other feed sources cattle need for a balanced diet. Then cattle and their ruminant digestive system do the rest, ultimately upcycling it all into high quality, protein rich beef. While steaks and roasts and burgers are often the star of our plate, fed cattle are the unsung heroes of sustainable food.
This is just the bark on the brisket of environmental stewardship in the modern beef production cycle. To dive deeper, composted manure from feedyards becomes natural fertilizer for the local crop fields. It's a sustainable cycle that exists due to cattle. Cattle don't take. They give and give. The BNW crew gets it, and gives back with their "cattle first" culture.
At Beef Northwest, they wouldn't have it any other way. "It's all cyclical and a system. If you are treating the environment in the way it should be treated, then the bottom line is going to improve along with it," sums up Zach Wilson, the sixth generation of the Wilson family to ranch and raise beef cattle in the northwest.
Follow @beefnorthwest on Instagram to see Pete, Ben, Liz, Lupe, Zach and more of the team in action, behind the scenes of raising beef.