Santa Rita cattle spend their summers grazing high mountain meadows, browsing forbs and grasses untouched by cultivation.
In the spring and fall, Santa Rita cattle work the bottomlands of the lower Animas River Valley, moving north in the spring as days warm and vegetation grows, then south in the fall.
Texas Longhorns are natural environmentalists. Because of their horns, they seek feed high in minerals, thus they choose forbs and weeds before grass. They aerate soil with their cloven hooves but don’t compress it because of their light weight and tendency to range. We depend on the Longhorns to fertilize pastureland with manure. No other fertilizer is used where Santa Rita Longhorns graze.
Santa Rita Longhorns are invited to graze summer pastures by landowners because they improve soil and growing conditions. Over the years, Santa Rita Longhorns have turned acreage choked with weeds into beautiful grass pastures.
Market steers are segregated from the cow herd in the summer and graze improved pastures for faster growth, then fed homegrown hay and brewer’s barley mash from Steamworks Brewing Company for one-hundred eighty days to bring them to slaughter weight.
Finishing market steers on brewer’s grain contributes to the marbling of the steak cuts that produces tenderness and a subtle nutty flavor that cannot be found in grass finished beef.
No antibiotics, growth-promoting hormones or animal byproduct feeds are ever administered to the Santa Rita Longhorns. The Santa Rita Longhorns have never been injected with anything, not even the disease preventative vaccines universally administered to all calves. We have never had a veterinarian treat any animal in our herd; they don’t get sick.
Santa Rita Ranch beef is processed at two years of age in a local USDA inspected packing plant, Sunnyside Meats. Sunnyside Meats is within view of the ranch, so market steers are hauled less than five miles and our animals are processed immediately upon arrival, reducing stress.
Market animals are slaughtered quickly and humanely, overseen by us at every step. Santa Rita beef is ‘’one owner beef,’’ having never left La Plata County or our ownership and handling from birth to beef.
Santa Rita beef is dry aged the old fashioned way for twenty-one days. This is a slow process that cannot be accommodated by commodity beef growers and few custom processors. Dry aging promotes enzymatic tenderizing and contributes to the luscious taste we achieve. Dry aging is also costly, decreasing the water content of the beef and reducing the total weight of the carcass through dehydration and the waste of the covering. Texas Longhorns have no ‘’back fat,’’ (most other breeds have as much as three inches of fat covering the entire carcass), so we must trim the outer layer of red meat before Sunnyside butchers cut steaks, roasts and hamburger meat.
After the dry-aging process, the carcass is brought into the cutting room where it is broken down into portion cuts by skilled butchers. We supervise the cutting of every animal to assure the desired thickness of every steak, the size of each roast, and the fat content of our ground beef. Cuts are then fast frozen to forty degrees below zero, sealing in all the freshness and quality. Cuts should be thawed in the refrigerator, then brought to room temperature before cooking. There is no difference in taste between unfrozen and frozen/slow thawed beef.
Santa Rita Texas Longhorn beef takes less time to cook than other, more saturated-fat beef. Our beef can look too rare for your taste one moment, then be too well done in the time it takes to refill you wine glass. For first-time customers, we suggest that your ask us for recipes and plan on not leaving our beef from the time you begin to cook until the beef is done to your taste. We work hard to produce the best beef you will ever taste, and you can ruin it in less than a minute.
The Texas Longhorns of the Santa Rita Ranch range free in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado from sprint to fall, calve unattended, and defend themselves and their calves from a host of predators without losing a single calf (unheard of in other breeds).
In the fall of each year when the snow drives them out of the mountains, the Santa Rita herd works their way back to the home ranch where they graze on bottomland pastures of the lower Animas River Valley. During the winter months they eat homegrown hay and rest while the cows are gestating their next crop of calves. They have plenty of room to roam and shelter from the unpredictable winter weather.
The cowboys who move the Santa Rita herd do it the old fashioned way on horseback. They’re trained to work in ‘’cow time,’’ never rushing, crowding, demanding or whooping and hollering. Texas Longhorns are smart and willing. Many of the mother cows in the Santa Rita herd are seasoned and savvy leaders, and they know that any movement we initiate always improves their feed supply. They trust us and we respect them. It’s simple, but being lost in modern times as so called cowboys are now using ATVs and electric prods.
Animal welfare comes before human comfort on the Santa Rita Ranch. the condition of our herd and the quality of our beef exhibits this philosophy. You are welcome to visit the ranch to see for yourself, anytime.