Since 1909, six generations of the Hanson family have raised cattle in Alberta. Today, Wayne Hanson and his family continue the business, branding their cattle with the same Bell L their ancestors did.
The Hanson family now owns close to 3,000 acres of land in southern Alberta, most of which is used to graze their 200 head of commercial cattle. In 1975, they purchased land north of Airdrie off of Township Road 274 and Range Road 13.
Wayne and his wife Rhonda call this beautiful land home and it’s where they raised their family. It’s also where the cattle are born and where the steers are corralled once they get close to their market weight of 1,300 pounds. As of April 2017, this land has also become home to their new business venture, Your Local Ranch, a physical and online store through which they sell their beef directly to Airdrie and Calgary consumers.
“We used to sell purebred cattle that we sold primarily to the U.S.,” explains Wayne. “Over time, we found that we wanted to have better control of the beef we were raising and better control of the final product.”
Inspired by his son Wyatt’s university thesis on the vertical integration of the beef industry, Your Local Ranch was created.
Vertical integration occurs when one company controls two or more stages of production that would normally be done by two separate companies. In the case of beef for example, a producer would typically raise a calf. It would then be sold to a feedlot which would then sell it to an abattoir. Alternatively, a beef wholesaler would receive boxes of beef parts and prepare the beef for resale without having bred or raised the animal itself.
Thanks to Your Local Ranch, Wayne, Rhonda and the entire Hanson family can control all stages of their beef production.
“We breed, raise and fatten our cattle,” explains Wayne. “Then when it has reached the ideal weight, we drive it to the abattoir. Four days later, it is picked up and delivered to our butcher where it dry-ages for 21 days. Then, we go back to the butcher and we help him cut the meat, grind the ground beef and package the cuts. After that, we either deliver the beef directly to a restaurant such as Hayloft or the Damit Amit food truck, or we bring it to our store or the farmers market where clients come and pick it up.”
An advantage to Hanson’s vertically integrated beef production model? Traceability.
On every package of beef at Your Local Ranch, there is a bar code. That bar code is associated with a unique livestock number.
“When the client buys a steak, I know exactly which steer that steak came from, what cow and sire he came from, his health history and how much he weighed when he went to market,” explains Wayne.
“Some folks in the industry think that this level of detail isn’t necessary. I believe that if I can give the consumer confidence in the food they have chosen to put in their bodies, it’s worthwhile.”
Traceability doesn’t stop there. Your Local Ranch guarantees that their ground beef contains the meat of only one animal. Ground beef purchased at a supermarket contains much more than that. A few years ago, a leading fast food chain indicated that batches of their minced beef can be made up from the beef of more than 100 cattle.
Of course, there’s more to Your Local Ranch than just traceability. Flavour of the beef keeps customers coming back for more.
“Our cattle are pasture-fed for most of their lives,” says Wayne. “We feed and move them on horses to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the stress on the cattle. Our cattle are handled with respect and dignity throughout their lives. They are quiet from start to finish.”
Your Local Ranch also dry-ages its meat for 21 days. During the “dry-aging” process, beef is hung in a cooler allowing the muscle fibres to decontract, excess moisture to evaporate and the enzymes in the beef to break down muscle tissue. The result is a tender, flavourful cut of beef that will make your mouth water.
By raising cattle and selling beef directly to consumers, Your Local Ranch is providing a tasty local product that consumers can have confidence buying. But more than this, Your Local Ranch’s physical store allows consumers to learn about where their food comes from. A visit to their farm to pick up beef allows the consumer to meet the people and animals behind the steak on their plate.
It’s not every day that consumers can be reminded of the labour and passion that goes into the food that we eat. A trip to Your Local Ranch to pick up your beef can do just that.