Timberline Lodge & Ski Area’s proprietary beef program marks its first anniversary next month and it has plenty to celebrate. Last year, Timberline partnered with rancher Keith Nantz of Deschutes River Beef in Maupin by purchasing 52 cattle, one for each week of the year.
What makes these cows special? Pretty much everything, given that they are raised specifically for Timberline.While the cows are treated humanely and without the use of growth hormones, what really sets Keith's operation apart goes to the very root of his business. Literally. Rancher Keith has been exploring the relationship between soil vitality and cows’ rumen health for almost 10 years, and he’s found that healthier soil makes for healthier cows. He believes that it’s best to nurture the land first, so that everything that goes into a cow’s stomach is healthy and natural.
Timberline’s cows and Keith’s land have a symbiotic relationship. There are 15 different annuals planted on the ranch pasture that encourage healthy soil microbes. The cows eat these same plants, which encourages good stomach health and helps eliminate the need for animal antibiotics. The cows then fertilize the pasture, which reduces the need for chemicals and fertilizers on the ranch. Plus, the cows are finished on locally-grown barley, which promotes better flavors and meat marbling.
Timberline also butchers everything in-house, which is a big undertaking, but they have proven up to the challenge. After dry aging the meat for 21 days, lodge meat cutters handcraft a variety of thick cut steaks and slow cooked roasts from each 750+lb cow. No part of the animal goes to waste; bones, trim, off-cuts, and organ meats are used for stock, sausage, charcuterie and stews. Even the fat is reduced down and used in baked goods. It’s about as sustainable as it gets.
This year, Deschutes River Beef plans to take their goal of traceability one step further by tagging each cow with an electronic ID number that provides a catalog of the animal’s life from gate to plate. Portlandia fans, we’re so close to the “Is this chicken local?” episode in the best way possible.