Salmon Creek Ranch
Sonoma County, California
100% Grass-Fed Beef, Dry Aged

Cows with LesleyOverview
Advantages of Grass-Fed Beef
Advantages of Dry Aging
Advantages of Local Coastal Sonoma County Climate
Grass-Fed vs Natural Vs Organic vs ???
Our Farming Practices

USDA Processing and Packaging
How to Cook
Prices and Availability


Overview:


Our dry aged, 100% grass-fed beef is raised the natural way right here in Sonoma County on our organic-certified pasture. No corn, no hormones or antibiotics. The result is lean beef full of health-giving Omega 3 fatty acids, CLAs, etc -- giving many of the benefits of eating fish but with the succulent taste of beef!!  We use the ancient dry aging process to make the meat just as tender as factory beef but with better taste and infinitely more health benefits!

(Note that most so-called "grass fed", "all-natural" or "organic" beef sold in the US, including that produced by the most famous brands, is finished on grain, so consumers need to educate themselves carefully about what they are buying. "Natural" and "organic" though grain can be in itself, it is toxic to cattle and led to modern beef's bad  name.  If in doubt, ask to visit the producer's farm. Our organic/natural farming terminology pages  delve into these issues in more detail).

We are proud that many customers including chefs have told us ours is the best beef they have ever tasted.  We raise the premier beef breeds (Angus and Scottish Highlander) in our cool, local, Sonoma County coastal climate and brushy, hilly terrain that closely resembles their original Scottish habitat, instead of stressing them in the extremes of inland temperatures like most US cattle operations. 
Our ranch is in a far more wild and natural state than most, with more varied plant species for the cattle to choose from. We never try to carry the maximum number of cattle per acre, so they have plenty of food year round. Oour cattle also get plenty of natural exercise foraging around our hills, generating more muscle and leaner meat.

We cut no corners --
all our beef carcasses are "dry aged" to perfection (three weeks) at extra expense before butchering. All our cuts are USDA-inspected, labeled and use premium quality vacuum packaging for maximum long-term freshness rather than the common low-cost paper wrapping commonly found on beef that questionably circumvents USDA inspection or tries to reduce costs at the expense of quality. 

See our Beef price list page for current pricing. Raising and finishing cattle in this traditional, natural way requires low stocking densities and way more land than the corn-finished feedlot methods used for 97% of US beef production, but the far healthier result is well worth the modest additional cost.


Advantages of Grass-Fed Beef:

Grass-fed beef has many health-giving attributes, and differs widely from the 97% of
US beef that comes from steers finished for several months on corn for maximum weight gain in the minimum time. Corn is not a natural food for cows, so to aid digestion and combat infection risk in insanitary feedlot conditions, hormones and antibiotics have to be fed as well. The resulting product has given "red meat" a bad name in modern dietary science.

Our 100% grass-fed beef, on the other hand, comes from cattle that roam freely, selecting their natural diet of grass and forage at will. The resulting meat is much leaner, and is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, the type of fat that is considered good for you!   It is also high in cancer-preventing conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs ) and has 4 times as much vitamin E. Aside from these and other nutritional advantages, it tastes far better than factory finished beef!  (Interestingly, research has shown that it cannot even support the deadly type of E-coli bacteria that corn-fed beef is famously prone to).  In short, it is the type of food our bodies were originally designed for! 

Advantages of Dry Aging

Dry Aging is the old fashioned way of treating beef after slaughter by hanging the carcass in a cool place for about three weeks, significantly improving flavor and tenderness. It allows natural enzymes to break down the hard connective tissue in meat, and facilitates evaporation of excess water to concentrate the flavor. The technique is still occasionally utilized by high end restaurants such as Harris Ranch in San Francisco, where you can see primal cuts of beef being aged in the window. However it has largely fallen into disuse due to its cost and the fact that modern feedlot beef is designed to be more tender via its higher fat content. Even imost gras-fed beef producers do not bother with this additional process, as it adds significant cost at the processing stage. Indeed some processors refuse to do it at all due to the carcass taking up space in their plants, Also, the natural shrinkage of the  meat reduces profits. Some grass-fed beef producers even use descriptors such as "fresh" to distinguish their regular product from their more expensive dry aged cuts.

Here at Salmon Creek Ranch, we believe in doing things the old fashoned way and all our beef is dry aged for at least three weeks before cutting and packaging.  The better taste and tenderness is well worth the moderate extra cost.

Advantages of our Local Coastal Sonoma County Climate

Our local Sonoma County coastal conditions
with hilly terrain, brush, high annual rainfall and frequent fog closely replicate the natural environment of the Scottish breeds (Aberdeen Angus and Scottish Highlander) traditionally used for top quality beef production. Roaming the hills of these "highlands" stimulates low fat muscle production, while the high rainfall and year-round fog helps keep the wide variety of natural forages constantly available. Most California and US cattle ranches are much further inland with the corresponding extremes of temperature that are totally unnatural and uncomfortable for the premier beef-producing breeds.

Overall, our cattle live a low-stress life in conditions that replicate as closely as possible the natural conditions of their origin. The result is beef that fully lives up to the quality standards set by the centuries-old heritage of Scottish beef cattle breeding.  

"Grass-Fed" versus "Natural" versus "Organic" versus???

When shopping for beef, it can be confusing sorting out the distinctions between products that use very similar wording in their descriptions. For example, beef described as "organic" or "natural" mostly still comes from cattle that were supplemented with corn.  Indeed, much of the most famous "All Natural" beef is finished on corn. The producers are not trying to mislead anyone, but they have different ideas and approaches. After all, corn in itself is a "natural" plant and can easily be certified as "organic", even though it is not the natural food of choice for cows and is in fact toxic to them if continued for very long.
(For more information on the distinctions between terms such as "Organic", "100% Natural". Naturally Raised", etc see our organic/natural farming terminology page.)

We do not condemn traditional beef production methods, and believe consumers should have choices and be able to buy products that suit their personal tastes and budgets. However to try and avoid the common confusion in nomenclature, we use the term "100% grass-fed" to indicate that no corn or similar supplements have been fed. Another term used by some producers is "grass-finished "or "pasture-finished" to make it clear that the beef is not from corn-finished cattle. 
If in doubt, ask to visit the farm where the meat comes from!

Our Farming Practices: Why Our Beef is the Best!

At Salmon Creek Ranch we try to give our cattle as rich and natural a life as possible., in an environment and climate avery close to that where they originated.  Rather than trying to achieve the highest possible stocking density (through extensive hay supplementation, grain finishing, etc), we deliberately limit numbers to well below what most would consider the econonomic capacity of our land.
We do not follow the common practices of reseeding with monoculture annual grasses that are "more productive", preferring to keep the land in a semi-wild, natural state and believing that the animals need variety in their diet. Indeed, our ranch is pretty much like it was before the white man came. The cattle can pick and choose what their bodies need from among the many different native grasses, shrubs, trees and "weeds" that flourish during the different seasons. We believe this approach more closely matches the natural conditions their ancestors were bred for. Our land and foggy coastal climate  closely matches the Scottish Highlands where the premier beef breeds, Highland and Angus, originated.

Numerous customers, includsing many chefs, have told us that ours is the best beef they have ever tasted,
and we feel this has a lot to do with the understocked conditions, natural habitat with its more varied diet, our coastal climate that closely approximates that where the premier beef breeds originated (Scotland) and very unstressed living the cattle experience in the carefully preserved environment of our ranch. The addition of the traditional dry aging process to these other old-fashioned production concepts further helps ensure that all our beef meets the highest possible standards of quality, tenderness and flavor.  

Modern methods of beef production are, not surprisingly, optimized for maximum output and minimum cost, and we do not begrudge the consumer the choice of being able to buy conventional beef at low cost in the supermarket. Our more primitive and traditional production methods require a lot more land per cow (think mortgage payments!) so may not be as economically efficient, but we believe the resulting beef quality and healthfulness makes it well worth the modest premium in cost.

USDA Processing and Packaging:

We purposely avoid the legally questionable practice of most direct-marketing meat producers who sell you what is theoretically a quarter, half or other fraction of the live animal
in an effort to circumvent USDA - inspected processing.  USDA inspection is not just a random sampling process -- USDA staff are on site at all times, and inspect every part of every carcass relentlessly, rejecting anything that is suspect. Bypassing this process will save you very little money -- the base price per lb quoted by USDA-quality-avoidance producers may seem cheap, but is usually based on "live weight" which is at least 2 1/2 times the weight of the meat you end up with. After adding the processing and butchering fees not included in the price, you save very little, while having to buy at least a quarter of beef at a time (around 120 lbs -- hope you have a large freezer!!) To cap it all, your meat is not inspected for possible problems so you are not really sure it is safe.

We use exclusively USDA-certified processing plants and butchers,
where inspectors check every part of every carcass, so every cut carries the USDA label.  Our state-of-the-art vacuum packaging means the oxygen that supports spoiling bacteria is virtually eliminated, and the meat can be preserved almost indefinitely in the freezer. (Contrast this with the brown paper packaging used by the cheaper non-USDA butchers). Our attractive vacuum packaging actually allows you to see the meat you are buying, and there is no minimum purchase -- instead of spending hundreds of dollars at a time you can buy individual cuts for as little as $5 at a time as you please,

How to Cook Grass-Fed Beef

Dry aged grass-fed beef is just as tender, but tastier and more delicious than factory beef. However, due to its far lower fat content, it should be cooked more slowly at lower temperatures. See our Grass-Fed Beef Cooking Tips & Recipes Page for more detailed cooking tips and easy, delicious recipes!

Prices and Availability:

Price Lists: See the Beef Price List page for detailed pricing of individual cuts.


On-Farm Store: Our beef and other ranch products are available directly from our
on-farm store. Just call us at (707)876-1808 or email info@salmoncreekranch.com to schedule a visit.

Local Farmers Markets: We maintain a booth at the Santa Rosa Original Farmer's Market every Saturday, where we are honored to be the only local Sonoma County beef producer. Our schedule for other local Farmers Markets is detailed on our Farmers Markets page.

Mail Order:
We ship meat and eggs nationwide. Call us at (707)876-1808 or email info@salmoncreekranch.com to have an order shipped or delivered,