Cattle and beef production represent the largest single segment of American agriculture. In fact the USDA says more farms (35 percent) are classified as beef cattle operations than any other type of farm. In 2006, there were 97.1 million cattle in the U.S.; 33.7 million were harvested (that’s 648,000 every week!), and 26 billion pounds of beef were produced.
In Colorado, there are more than 13,000 beef producers and 2.6 million head of cattle. It’s an important industry; nearly one-third of Colorado’s counties are classified as either economically dependent on the cattle industry, or having the cattle industry serve an important role in their economies.
The vast majority of beef produced today (about 85 percent) is raised conventionally; that is, calves are born and started on pasture, but once the cattle reach 12 to 18 months of age, they are taken to a feedlot or concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). There, they typically are given growth hormones, and they spend the next four to six months getting fat on a questionable mixture of corn and “other stuff.” (See my previous post: The Great Corn vs. Grass Debate.) They are also often given vitamin supplements, vaccinations, antibiotics and parasite treatments to protect their health. Once they reach a weight of 1,100 – 1,250 pounds, they are transported to meat packing plants to be slaughtered. The top five beef companies (Tyson, Excel, Swift, Farmland, and Smithfield) control 89 percent of steer and heifer slaughter. 
Fortunately, there are more and more local, artisan producers, who raise their cattle on pasture, treat them humanely, eschew growth hormones and antibiotics, and feed and finish them on grass. According to the American Grassfed Associations, grass-fed beef now accounts for only about three percent of the U.S. market, but that figure is expected to reach 10 percent over the next decade.
As I understand it, local ranchers who raise their beef on grass can have their meat processed in two ways:
- Custom/State Exempt – These are local butchers/processing facilities that must comply with basic sanitation rules. There is no USDA inspector on-site; however, plants are inspected via periodic, unannounced visits from the USDA. The meat from the animal being processed can only be consumed by the "owner". It cannot be re-sold or used in a retail environment. If you sign up with a local rancher for part-ownership in a cow, you can get custom-processed grass-fed beef from these facilities. This allows producers/owners to get the cuts they want and also allow for appropriate aging of beef – which contributes to the taste and tenderness of grass-fed meats.
- Federal Inspected Facilities – These facilities have a USDA inspector onsite at all times. They range from small, local processors -- owned by individual meat companies that process their own beef (and do it for others as well) -- to huge industrial-scale facilities that can process up to 400 head of cattle an hour. The meat processed in these facilities can be sold locally, interstate and internationally.
Most of the cuts of grass-fed beef you buy at chain groceries and big box stores are processed in large meat processing plants, and could be imported from almost anywhere (barring a ban related to concerns of mad cow disease or other potential pathogens). Note: there may be some exceptions; beef from The Lasater Ranch comes to mind. If you want grass-fed beef from Colorado, you should check out the following producers. Depending on how and where their meat is processed, they provide beef whole, in halves, quarters or one-eighths, specialty packs, or individual cuts. Those that sell whole or split animals generally take orders throughout the year and process the meat in the spring and/or fall. Frozen cuts may be available online (or in ranch stores) year-round.
This is not an exhaustive list, and I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the information, so feel free to add information in the comments section. For the sake of convenience, I have also included producers of grass-fed elk, lamb, goats, pastured chickens and free range eggs (as I ran across them).
Here you go – have fun and bon apetite!
Co-ops and Buying Clubs
Eastern Plains Natural Foods Co-op, Bennett
The Eastern Plains Natural Food Cooperative is a collaboration of private individuals interested in purchasing all natural meat and poultry, and local area farms raising livestock under pasture-based, non-intensive, chemical free conditions. 2008 memberships available now!
Fresh & Wyld, North Fork Valley 970-527-4389
Sources products from local ranchers. Offers grass-finished beef, buffalo, elk, lamb and farm fresh eggs. Order online.
Tallgrass Beef, Sedan, Kansas
Offers various cuts of grass-fed beef, some sourced from Colorado ranchers. Also offers free-range chickens. Order online.
Ancient Harvest Ranch, Mancos
Offers grass-fed beef, cut, wrapped and frozen. Halves, splits and 20# packages. Order by phone or email.
Ante Grande Elk Ranch, Del Norte
19612 West Hwy 160
719-657-0942, or 1-888-338-4581
Provides elk meat derived from grass-fed animals with never a hint of steroids or animal by-products. Offers whole, half or split-quarter elk and a variety of frozen cuts. Order online.
Arriola Sunshine Farms, Delores
We raise grass-fed beef, heritage turkey, hay, free-range chicken eggs, ducks, Navajo Churro Sheep and organically grown vegetables for the Cortez Farmers Market, local restaurants and groceries.
Back Country Beef, Cotopaxi
Oswald Cattle Company
Offers grass-fed beef in halves, splits and variety packs; order online.
B Bar S Ranch, Nederland
282 Twin Sisters Road
Offers grass-fed beef, whole cows, halves and splits. Order form available online. Cows are delivered mid-to-late September.
Black Forest Bison Company, Colorado Springs
1234 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 120
We offer 100% grass fed, pasture raised, no antibiotics, no hormones, no steroids Bison. They never go to a fed lot and are never fed grain, so they are from start and finish on grass. We offer frozen cuts of our bison, in our store in Colorado Spring or by mail order. We have all the cuts you would expect to find, from steaks to roasts to ribs and or ground. We also make, in our shop award winning all natural bison jerky, sausage and bratwurst. All our meat comes from our own ranch, located on highway 83 just north of Colorado Springs. We are open 7 days a week, M-Sat 9 - 6, Sun 11 - 4. Our store is located at 1234 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 120, between I-25 and Academy. Our phone number is (719) 488-3898, also check out or website www.blackforestbison.com for prices, recipes and online ordering of our jerky. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to send me another email or call. Thanks for thinking of us!
Blue Mountain Bison, Lyons
Offers whole, halves and quarters of bison. For more information contact our Business Manager, Katherine Jonjak at email@example.com, or call 303-823-0640.
Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado Springs
Raises grass-fed beef sold through The Lasater Ranch (see below). Contact the ranch for more information or place an order online at www.lasatergrasslandsbeef.com.
Closer to Heaven Farms, Hotchkiss
12130 Payune Siding Rd.
Dairy goats and goat milk shares; goats are primarily grass-fed (grain supplemented only when being milked.) Also offer farm fresh eggs and roasting hens (grain-fed).
Crazy Horse Bison Ranch, Briggsdale
Grass-fed bison available from the ranch, various cuts available. Call for information and to order.
Offers frozen grass-fed lamb, no hormones, no antibiotics; order online
Cure Organic Farm, Boulder
Produces grass-fed lamb and pork as well as pastured, free-range hens and eggs. Products are sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. 2008 CSA season runs for 20 weeks from June 4th to October 15th; Fruit Shares still available.
Desert Weyr, Paonia
"We are now able to offer our Black Welsh MountainTM brand meat products by the piece. We have packages of frozen mutton chops, steaks, whole leg and shoulder roasts, shanks, ground meat and stew available for pickup at the farm or delivery in Paonia. Whole sheep and all lamb cuts must be special ordered. Sorry, we do not ship meat. We welcome your visits; we are open whenever our Delta County Farm Tour flag is up or by appointment."
Diamond F. Brand Beef/McNeil Ranch, Monte Vista
Members can order frozen grass-fed beef products online. Unless otherwise requested, all orders are shipped by UPS Ground at no charge.
Edmunson Ranch, Walsenburg
Offers whole grass-fed beef, free of growth hormones, steroids, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, grains and animal by-product feeds. Beef is available seasonally; cows can be reserved year-round and tagged for your family, but butchering time, unless otherwise specified, will be in October.
Fox Fire Farms, Ignacio
Offers frozen organic grass-fed lamb, goat, beef, and organic free-range eggs. Order online.
GrassRoots Meats, Pagosa Springs
Offers all natural grass-finished beef and lamb, raised without added hormones or antibiotics. USDA inspected. Available year-round online in a variety of retail cuts and packages, as well as wholes, halves, and quarters. Wholesale also available to restaurants, health food stores and food co-ops.
GreenPlace Ranch, Olathe
The ’08 harvest currently has available 5 – 2 year olds for order. Expected time of harvest is from the end of March through 'til the end of April. Orders will be taken until mid-April. Call or e-mail to make arrangements for your order. Other animals come to maturity throughout the season. We are also pleased to announce that we will now take orders for our USDA label quantity retail Beef Paks (an assortment of steaks, roasts and hamburger) in the $250 to $500 range + shipping. Give us a call to reserve your order. Plan on a pick-up date for the halves or wholes after two weeks of aging.Also, we are constructing the first of 6 large greenhouses for the purpose of growing untainted produce and we are also going to be raising turkeys and providing eggs and chickens this year.
High Wire Ranch, Hotchkiss
We raise 100% grass fed bison and elk, never any grain. Our pastures are herbicide and pesticide free and our animals are not given hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. All our meat is USDA inspected, professionally processed, and vacuum packaged with no added nitrates. We have steaks, roasts, ground, sausages, organ meat, dog food and jerky. We ship frozen meat in a foam lined box with dry ice via 2nd day FedEx on Tuesdays. Colorado orders are shipped FedEx ground. To place an order call us at 970.835.7600. In the summer we are at the following farmers' markets: Aspen, Boulder, Carbondale, Ridgway, and Telluride. For a current list of the health food stores and restaurants carrying our meat please go to our web site. We will be hosting a Wine and Buffalo Feast on May 17, 2008 at the ranch. Dinner will feature locally raised foods prepared by Chef Yvon Gros of the Leroux Creek Inn. Attendance will be limited to a 100. Tickets are $45 each and will only be sold in advance. Wines from Leroux Creek Winery will be available at a cash bar. Contact Sue Whittlesey at 835-7600 to purchase your ticket.
Hi Ho Sheep Farm, Fort Collins
Offers pasture-raised, grain supplemented lamb. Now taking orders for 2008 lambs. Until the 2008 lambs are ready to harvest, we have a very limited supply of individual cuts that include riblets, snack sticks, and boneless loin chops. Meat orders of $50 or more are delivered at no charge to the Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, and Windsor areas. Orders can be placed via phone 970.215.3449
Hines Ranch Beef, Kit Carson
Hines Ranch Beef comes from animals raised exclusively on grass and forages such as alfalfa, sorghum, cornstalks, and wheat pasture. The animals are not treated with synthetic hormones, chemical fly spray, or feed antibiotics. The beef is dry-aged for 12–14 days to improve tenderness and flavor. Quarters, halves, and whole carcasses are available. Contact the ranch to order.
Hollingsworth Land and Cattle, Indian Hills
Offers grass-fed beef without added hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics of any kind, no animal byproducts, no farmed or synthetic feeds, and no salts or water added. Our meat is hand trimmed and flash frozen in portion controlled cuts that are vacuum cryovac packaged and delivered straight to you from the ranch. Contact the ranch for information.
Homestead Market, Paonia
Grass-fed animals are available mid-august thru September. Call or visit the website for additional information.
Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery, Norwood
Offers grass-fed pastured poultry, layer hens, hogs, turkeys, beef cattle, lamb and goats. The farm markets its products via direct sales to customers in Norwood, Telluride and the surrounding region, and through farmer’s markets. The farm is also offering 25-35 CSA memberships this season.
James Ranch, Durango
33800 Hwy. 550
Offers grass-finished beef, whey-good pork and artisan cheeses. Available at their road side stand (hours vary; call first) or by special order (form available on-line.)
Javernick Family Farms, Canon City
545 S. Lincoln Ave.
Free-range chicken eggs, grass-finished beef and pastured lamb.
Johnson Ranch, Hesperus
Produces grass-fed beef, with no antibiotics, growth hormones, vaccinations, animal by-products, or confined feeding. Beef is available by advance order in whole, half, split half, and eighth. USDA inspected lean ground beef is available on demand.
Jupille Ranch, Montrose
Offers beef shares, pig shares and lamb shares, with 1 beef share = 1/8 beef, 1 pig share = 1/4 pig and 1 lamb share = 1/2 lamb. Now taking orders for May grass-finished beef and May special reserve.
Kinikin Heights Natural Foods, Montrose
Offers grass-fed beef, lamb, and grass-fed grain finished chickens and turkeys. Our meats are available by the pound, quarter or halves. All meat is USDA inspected and flash frozen unless otherwise requested.
Kinnett Ranch, Maybell
Offers goats for butcher and lamb and beef. All are raised on pasture & hay—no grain, no excessive chemicals, no hormones. Contact the ranch directly for information.
KW Farms, Alamosa
Note: I couldn’t reach these guys to get their details. Call them directly for information.
Landmark Harvest, Buena Vista
Grass-fed beef, no growth hormones, no antibiotics, no chemical pesticides, not confined. Offers split quarters, which may be reserved at any time of the year with a deposit. Please call for the next availability of beef, current pricing, and other details.
Larga Vista Ranch, Boone
Offers grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork in whole beef/hog, half beef/hog, special 40-pound mixed boxes, or individual supermarket-style cuts. Contact the ranch for more detailed pricing, processing, and delivery information on the larger quantities of meat.
Lasater's Grasslands Beef, Matheson
100 percent grass-fed beef, no hormones, no antibiotics, no pesticide use. Beef is dry aged 14 to 21 days. Multiple cuts and packages available; order online
Lazy P Ranch, Pierce
Offers grass-fed beef; working toward organic certification. You can order whole or half animals, generally ready in six months. Call the ranch for detailed information.
Lazy R/Z Ranch, Delores
15509 Hwy 145
All natural grass -ed beef available for sale by the pound. All beef is individually packaged, frozen and priced accordingly. Cuts vary from our premium ground beef, a variety of roasts, and most steak cuts. All our beef is processed and inspected in a USDA approved facility without harmful chemical baths commonly used by larger operations. Our beef is available for sale at our home office at the ranch between Cortez and Dolores. Due to the nature of our line of work we do not have business hours, so calling ahead is recommended. We also sell at the farmers markets in Cortez and Dolores during the summer months.
Maytag Mountain Ranch, Hillside www.maytagmountainranch.com
Offers whole, halves and quarter splits of grass-fed beef, no hormones, no antibiotics, no chemical fertilizers offered in halves and quarter splits. Beef is usually available starting in June and running through October. Call the ranch for additional information.
Milagro Ranch, Carbondale
Offer grass-fed beef in halves, quarters and eighths, individual prime cuts may be available. Contact the ranch directly to order.
New Moon Farms, Boulder
Free range chickens and eggs
Northern Colorado Poultry LLC, Grover
Observatory Rock Bison Ranch, Jefferson
Our animals are pasture raised on lush & native grasses. We never use grains, antibiotics, growth hormones or pesticides of any kind. Available in one quarter or one-eighth packages. For information, call or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Prairie Gold Natural Beef, Simla
303-513-7700, or 719-541-2185
Grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture raised beef; whole animals offered. Contact the ranch for details.
Princess Beef, Hotchkiss
Offers grass-fed beef, no antibiotics and no hormones. Offering whole, half and split quarters, as well as a standard package. Beef is limited with most of the supply ready October – November. Order form available on their website.
Quintana Farms, San Pablo
Offers grass-fed beef and lamb in a variety of cuts. USDA inspected. Call ranch for information.
R Patch O Heaven, Eaton
Offers shares in raw cow and goat milk available from the farm or thru other share holders in Loveland and Erie Co.
Rainbow Run Bison, Fort Lupton
Note: I couldn’t reach these guys to get their details. Call them directly for information.
Reverse K Bar Ranch LP, Collbran
14523 57 Rd.
Offers grass-fed beef by the cut or whole/half animal. To order, view product pricing online and e-mail email@example.com.
Salazar Natural Meats, Manassa
719-843-5264 or 719-580-5264
Pasture-raised, in open meadows and other hay pastures, no hormones, no antibiotics, no animal by-products in feed, non-confined. Offers whole steers, beef packaged in one-eighth, one-quarter, one-half or whole beef packs under the Salazar Natural Beef Label, as well as steak or ground beef under the Salazar Natural Beef Label. Call the ranch directly to order.
Scenic Mesa Ranch, Hotchkiss
Offers grass-finished buffalo, no hormones. Various cuts available through their online store at http://buysomebsion.com
Shady Springs Ranch, Franktown
Pasture-raised, grain supplemented turkeys; order online
Stillroven Farm, Berthoud
Offers grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and pheasants -- available at the farm on Wednesdays and Fridays during the spring and summer, and on weekends during the winter. Call for times.
Sun Prairie Natural Beef, Denver
We sell 25lb or 50lb box of frozen, varied grass-fed beef cuts from cattle raised primarily on 1300 acres of native prairie grass 15 miles south of Yuma. Our product is seasonal. We offer a Denver Metro delivery in May and in October/November. We are targeting May 3rd for our Spring delivery. Check back in mid-March to place your order.
Sustainable Settings, Carbondale
6107 Highway 133
Offers 100 percent grass-fed beef, lamb and yak; available at the Sustainable Settings Ranch Store; please call for hours/availability.
Triple M. Bar, Co., Manzanola
Note: I couldn’t reach these guys to get their details. Call them directly for information.
Western Spirit Ranch, Parker
Offers humanely raised, completely natural, antibiotic-growth-hormone-GMO-free, grass and range fed livestock, including Colorado lamb, Bershire pork and Heritage poultry. We take orders all year long for our fall Colorado Lamb harvest and periodic availability of Pure Berkshire Pork. We encourage buyers to place their orders as early in the year as possible. For 2008, we will again deliver free to customers along Colorado’s Front Range. All other shipments will be via overnight express [Colorado] or express delivery service for out-of-state. Call or visit the website for detailed information.
West's Best Beef, LLC , Jarosos
Offers grass-fed beef in various cuts, USDA inspected. Call the ranch for information.
Windkist Ranch, Hartsel
2400 Fourmile Creek Rd.
All natural grass-fed, grass-finished yak, goat and lamb. Available cuts listed on website; order by phone or email.
Windsor Dairy, Windsor
6427 WCR 68.5
A certified organic dairy farm that offers raw milk (via cow shares), farmstead cheese, organic grass-fed beef, organic grass-fed pork, pastured chicken and eggs raised on the farm and USDA inspected. Open 1-5PM on Fridays and Saturdays.
 Fact Sheet: The Cattle Industry, Who We Are, from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Associations, Updated 10/2006
 Beef Market At A Glance, from the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association, www.beef.org
 Colorado Cattle, Colorado Beef Production, http://www.cobeef.com/coloradocattle.aspx as accessed 2/1/2008
 Conventional Beef, produced by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
 Pasture-to-Plate, Stages in beef Production, http://beeffrompasturetoplate.org/stagesinbeefproductionprocess.aspx, as accessed 2/2/2008
 SIC 2011 Meat Packing Plants, from the Encyclopedia of American industries, http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/Industries/Food-Kindred-Products/Meat-Packing-Plants.html as accessed 2/13/2008
 Olson, Karen, The Shame of Meatpacking, August 29, 2002 as published in The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20020916/olsson/3 as accessed 2/13/2008