No Cookie Cutters in Ranching

One of the beauties of ranching is that it takes all kinds of kinds to raise beef and to care for the land. Some folks are born and raised on a ranch and stay there their whole lives. Others take a different path to this way of life. Regardless, the passion and dedication is the same. Meet Pamela Griffin, Arizona cattlewoman and current Arizona State Cowbelle President.Pamela Griffin

You never know when you may find yourself in the beef industry and I’m living proof. I was born in Anaheim, California surrounded by orange groves and strawberry fields. We moved to Arizona in 1974.  We had sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, horses, a steer, my pheasant named “Peeps” and a few dogs. I left Arizona twice, but returned and was never able to shake this beautiful state. I spent most of my working life managing large scale communities with multimillion dollar budgets in the infrastructure and construction phase of those communities through transitions. You wouldn’t think that would easily translate into becoming a beef rancher, but it in fact does. I rearranged my tool box and used my tools in a different way.

As I fast forward to today, I’ve found myself as an Arizona cattlewoman. Not in a tremendous scale, but a rancher nonetheless. I met my husband about a decade ago, and he convinced me he was the one, and his family’s historic ranch was the place. The family business has been in operation for over 100 years, passed down through generations. He and I began our own smaller venture raising beef in hopes to provide some additional benefits for our combined children in the future and to subsidize our income.

John Griffin, Pam’s husband. Photo by Chris Couture.

Having some livestock growing up and being on a full-time beef ranch are two different worlds. There is never one day that’s like the other and each day provides opportunity to meet new challenges and situations head on. There must always be a plan “B”.  Personal plans sometimes cannot be kept due to a change in circumstances at a moment’s notice and vacations are sometimes few and far between. I do learn something new every single day on the care of the cattle, the wildlife, the land and its resources. My husband is a great teacher and a wonderful resource.

My participation in becoming a rancher came with some added responsibilities and some passions. It was important for me to participate in organizations that work hard to provide scientific and proven strategies for management of the cattle, the wildlife and the land. An additional responsibility is sharing information as often as possible on our practices, how we run our ranch and how we care for everything living on the land. We are providing a product for customers who in many cases 3-4 generations from the farm or ranch. We cannot expect that they know or understand what we do or how we care for our product and its resources, or what our days are like unless we share that with them.

6-24-2016_Pam's flowers
Pam has quite the green thumb and grows beautiful flowers in her garden.

When you love what you do, the sacrifices you make to live remotely, not having some of the modern conveniences, to be flexible in plans, work long days, get up before the sun, and to bed well after it’s down, are priceless things. I love my life. There is beauty everywhere. You learn to turn work moments into an adventure and it’s always a treat. A late afternoon of checking waters can become a lovely nighttime drive home. I do get in some gardening, some canning and a little quilting. It is definitely a choice you must love and I wouldn’t change a thing…except for more fishing, I could always do some more fishing, in Alaska!

Fresh Cut Friday: The Flat Iron Steak

Basically, me (Tiffany) when I talk about the Flat Iron.

If you follow us on Facebook, you know we love a catchy phrase, so this week we are implementing another one. Fresh Cut Friday won’t be every week, but when something fresh and fun pops up, we’ll talk about it. This week’s feature is one of my all-time favorites. By favorites, I mean talk-about-it-as-often-as-possible-with-whoever-will-listen-long-enough-to-hear-about-it favorite.

The Flat Iron. A cut which is shrouded in mystery and misnomers and might be met with blank stares when you ask for it at your local butcher counter, but one which should not be missed. This cut of beef, which is from the chuck, is an oxymoron. If you know anything about beef and the cuts that come from the beef animal, you know cuts from the chuck are known for their lack of tenderness. But then you have the Flat Iron. It’s not tough, in fact, it is the second most tender cut of beef in the
ENTIRE animal. Yup, that’s right. Right after the tenderloin, the known ruler of beef, sits our lowly, straight from the chuck, Flat Iron.

That blank stare I previously mentioned.

This cut was first introduced in 2002 and didn’t gain much notoriety until 2008. Even still, it’s a cut which is often impersonated (meaning it’s not cut the proper way) or simply isn’t even known but things are looking up! The Flat Iron, also known as the Top Blade steak, is cut from deep inside the shoulder muscle (aka the chuck), and was used as roasts or ground beef. If you’re a beef nerd, similar to myself, and want to know how to cut this thing at home, check out this video.

This area of the animal is flavorful and juicy, but it had a flaw. A big ol’ piece of connective tissue running straight through the middle. By realizing the simple removal of the connective tissues created two pieces of beef which encompassed the great attributes offered in this area of the animal which offering an easier eating experience, we ended up with another delicious cut of beef which can be afforded by an average family.

ojitoHow do you cook this thing? One of my most favorite recipes is the Cowboy Coffee Rub . First of all, it’s easy. And quick. Bonus, you get a slight caffeine rush, depending on what sort of coffee you use, after eating so you are ready to do those dishes! Often times, I will have leftovers so I save it for lunch and put it on a bed of greens for lunch the next day.

There are MANY ways to cook this delicious piece of beef so be sure to check out more recipes on Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. Trust me, once you try this cut, it’ll be hard for you to cook anything else!

Teaching the Teacher

Every summer, the Arizona Beef Council along with agriculture groups and the University of Arizona plan and execute the Summer Agriculture Institute (SAI) program, a five-day tour designed to teach K-12 teachers about food and fiber production and help them incorporate that knowledge into their classroom curriculum. SAI combines hands-on learning about agriculture with practical curriculum development. In fact, today marks the final day for the 2016 program and although survey results aren’t in yet, we think it was another successful year.

Each year the program focuses on a certain part of the state with this year’s focus being central and northern Arizona with many stops scheduled to cover all aspects of Arizona agriculture. We are excited to note many stages in the beef lifecycle were covered this year, giving teachers a better understanding of how cattle are raised in Arizona.

The picturesque setting of Groseta Ranches was amplified by Andy and Mary Beth Groseta’s passion for the land, their cattle, and the consumers who purchase their beef. Andy shared many amazing facts with the teachers such as Arizona ranchers raise enough beef to feed every person in our state. Arizona has a population of 6.8 million.

Groseta Ranches, a beautiful ranch in Cottonwood, Arizona working on its fifth generation of ranchers, was the first cattle stop of the week. The teachers heard from Andy Groseta about how the ranch works (For more info on cow-calf ranches, click here) and then covered the many issues they face. A delicious Fiesta Beef Salad lunch along with many yummy desserts was also provided by the Yavapai Cowbelles and Andy’s wife, Mary Beth.

Paul Heiden took teachers around his family’s feedlot showing all aspects including the steam chest which flakes corn and other ingredients which are used in the mixture fed to his cattle.

The next stage in the beef lifecycle was demonstrated at Heiden Land and Cattle, a family farm which has been operated by the Heiden’s for 60 plus years, led by Paul Heiden. This is the stage after cattle have reached a certain weight and arrive at the feed yard to put on weight while maintaining their health. Many steps go into ensuring the safety and health of the cattle at the feed yard including the utilization of veterinarians to advise on proper health care along with a cattle nutritionist who studies the feed products available and determines which combination will be the healthiest for the animals. This stage of the beef cattle lifecycle is important to the marbling and quality of the beef at your grocery store.

The final stage of the lifecycle was shown at Perkinsville Meat Processing. This segment is where cattle are turned into beef. A slaughterhouse can cause some a sense of apprehension and anxiety. However, Lori Aquilone, a teacher on this year’s tour,  approached us today at the wrap-up lunch, stating she didn’t eat meat before this tour because of concerns including safety, cleanliness, and humane treatment. She was excited to announce her fears were put to rest and she now felt safe and comfortable consuming beef and other meat products after visiting and learning the process. If you are interested in seeing the actual process from start to finish, check out Temple Grandin’s Glass Walls Project. Please be warned, this video could be considered graphic to some.

This week-long journey is exhausting for both teachers and volunteers but one which is important in our society which is so far removed from the farm. Currently, the average citizen is 3 generations removed from any sort of agriculture work so it’s understandable how some might not understand how things work. The teachers who participate in this tour are able to see many aspects of agriculture, first-hand, and take that important information back to their students. We are grateful they take a week out of their schedule to spend time with us!


Why God Made a Rancher?

Meet Jolyn, the wisdom behind the insightful posts on Arizona Ranch Reflections.

This week, we are excited to reuse an insightful and wisdom-packed post from one of our personal favorite Facebook pages, Jolyn Smith at Arizona Ranch Reflections. If you don’t already follow this page, we highly recommend you start because she posts some of the most beautiful photos from southern Arizona and then adds incredible knowledge and insight. Learn more about Jolyn below and then enjoy her post!

Jolyn Smith is a fourth-generation Arizona rancher who along with her husband Shane have a cow-calf operation raising Brangus cattle in the Dragoon area. Ranching for her has been the best way to raise up a family, and she feels blessed beyond measure to have been able to teach her children how to be stewards of the land, to appreciate the beautiful things that God has created all around them, and how to be cattlemen. She is proud to be able to enlist the help of her “top hands” when needed and loves it, even more, when the 6.5 grandchildren tag along learning that when you do something you love, it doesn’t work.

Originally posted March 6th, Arizona Ranch Reflections

Found this little guy out in the pasture last week. He is extra tiny, I thought possibly a little premature or a twin judging by the hair on his hide. He was barely able to walk, and he was really weak and dehydrated. We brought him home and have been nursing him night and day.

We went out and found his mother the same day we found him, she wanted her baby but she is pretty tall, and he just couldn’t reach her bag, he’s seriously that tiny. I also confirmed my suspicions that he might be premature because the momma barely had a bag at all. I don’t think he was a twin. This momma has been a good cow and has had four healthy, perfectly normal calves before, so she’ll get another chance.

Don’t you just love the look of “What do you mean it’s not normal for me to be in the kitchen wearing a shirt!?”

He has overcome his dehydration and his bowel issues, he is much stronger now, and he sorta chases me around the yard wanting more milk, he’s still very slow, but it seems like he might make it!

Of course, we have all loved him since we found him, problems and all. Two of my littlest Grandgirls are excited for him to go live with them, hopefully, this week. Poor guy, I can’t even imagine what his name will be! The littles went to the Zoo with their parents, and the older of the two got a giraffe stuffed animal and named it “monkey,” so it really is hard to say what his name will end up being!

It has been a challenge to help him overcome his weaknesses and the things he has struggled with in his short little life, had we not found him, he never would have lived out in the “wild.” Some would say it’s silly to spend the time and effort, but I guess that’s why God made a rancher. It’s just what we do.

I couldn’t help but think that this is how our Heavenly Father is with us. We each have weaknesses, problems, and bad habits. He’s not waiting to love us until after we have overcome these things, like us loving this little calf; He loves us right now, today, with a full understanding and knowledge of our struggles. He is here to help us along, day or night; we can’t survive out in this “wild” without Him.

And why yes, it’s all good that he sleeps in my kitchen at night wearing one of my shirts!

Have a blessed day and remember you are loved… just the way you are!