Meet Your Ranchers: The Layton Family (Rokelle Reeve)

Ranchers: Layton Cattle Company: Steve and LaRene Layton and family: Kolter Layton & Rokelle Reeve (me) (& family).

Located: Beaver Dam, AZ /Arizona Strip (northwestern corner of Arizona).

Segment of beef community: We have a ranch which houses a herd of cows who produce calves each year. We keep our calves each year for a short period of time after they are weaned to give them an opportunity to grow some more before we sell them.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and about your ranch:

Rokelle: My great-grandpa purchased our family’s ranch in 1948 and we have raised cattle on it ever since. My two kids are the 5th generation to raise cattle here, which shows our dedication to the land and to the cattle. Our cow herd grazes on the Arizona Strip, which is north of the Grand Canyon, and the land we lease is all made up of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. We have a hay farm and feedlot in Beaver Dam, AZ which is where I grew up. Every year, we bring our calves that we raise on the ranch into the feedlot and feed them over the winter which is called backgrounding. This allows them time to learn about life in a feedlot, meaning they will feel less stressed when they move to a feedlot later in their lives, and it gives them some extra time to grow. Then our calves are sold in the spring at an auction where they will most likely go to a feedlot and continue in the traditional beef lifecycle.

Has the technology you use on the ranch changed since 1948?

Rokelle: We have so much technology at our fingertips! Probably the biggest one we use now is building water catchments (which is a large heavy-duty sheet of plastic that catches the rain/snow and funnels the water into a large storage tank which holds about 100,000 gallons). The range where we place these catchments would not be accessible to cattle because there is no other source of water. Because the water is better distributed, our cattle can more efficiently utilize rangeland and we can rest and rotate our pastures. Resting the grass and other plants cattle use for feed gives them time to reseed and regrow after they have been grazed. With this knowledge we have now about the science of range management, we are able to manage grazing for the benefit of our environment. By cattle utilizing renewable resources like rangeland, we produce beef!

This photo shows an example of a water catchment as described in above.

What are some common misconceptions that you think people may have about the way your raise your beef on your ranch?

Rokelle: I think a common misconception is that livestock are not treated humanely. At our ranch, we are very focused on the well-being of our cattle and how they are handled. If animals are not handled properly, it causes them stress and can put us, ranchers, as well as our cattle, in danger. We have found that by working cattle slowly and quietly and working with their natural instincts, things get done a lot safer and easier for everyone, our cattle included.

An example of calm cattle handling by Kolter Layton and Steve Layton.

What is the most important thing that you do on your ranch every day to make sure you are raising safe beef for the consumer?

Rokelle: The most important thing we do to raise safe beef for the consumer is make sure we are raising healthy cattle. This is done by following a good vaccination program to prevent disease, ensuring animals receive proper nutrition, and reducing stress that may be caused by improper handling.

Cattle at Layton Cattle Co. spend time in a feed yard setting called backgrounding after they are weaned.

What is the most important piece of information that you want people to know about you and the work you do on you ranch every day?

Rokelle: I think the most important thing I would want people to know about me and my role as a rancher is how much I care for the animals I raise. We as ranchers have a responsibility to keep our animals healthy and well-cared for as well as taking care of our land. I take this very seriously and know other ranchers do to. These animals are not only our livelihood; they are a part of our family. It is also important to ensure the land we raise our cattle on is cared for properly. This rangeland environment is critical for our cattle to survive in. We pay particular attention to the land’s conditions through various monitoring methods such as collecting plant frequency data over time to track the trend of the plants, photo monitoring to watch how things change over time, and we also keep track of the levels of utilization of the plants cattle like to graze on.

If you could describe in one word the life of a rancher, what would it be?

Rokelle: Enjoyable! It is a labor of love for the land and animals!

Lastly and of course most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef and how do you like to prepare it?

Rokelle: You can’t beat any cut of beef, but I love a good chuck roast in the Instant Pot!

Leaning Towards Leaner

It is not a surprise to hear that dietary preferences are changing towards leaner meats. With more and more information available regarding health and nutrition, consumers have become more concerned with their health and what they consume. While it is easy to recognize changes in product development with labels shouting “fat free,” “zero-sugar added,” and “low calorie food,” we do not usually think about how farming and ranching techniques have changed over time to meet demands for “healthier” options. How are ranchers and growers keeping up with the demand?

Leaning Out

The 1980’s saw a shift in focus towards nutrition and diet in America. In 1977, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs recommended a reduction in consumption of high fat foods and animal fat. In 1980, the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans was published, sparking many changes in the consumer marketplace. The National Consumer Retail Beef Study was funded by members of the beef community in 1986 to address consumer issues with beef. The study established that the change in consumer preference towards leaner cuts was driven by dietary recommendations and increased nutritional knowledge.

In 1988, the Beef Checkoff Program was created. This program collects $1 per head on the sale of live cattle, then the Beef Checkoff funds research and education. The first major research design funded by the National Beef Checkoff Program was the National Beef Market Basket Survey. This study brought industry leaders to the realization that most animal fat was being removed at the processing level, due to consumer demand. For this reason, efforts were made to reduce fat produced to reduce overall waste while maintaining high quality, taste and tenderness. The Value-Based Marketing Task Force then initiated a “War on Fat” campaign to reduce excess fat produced.

Production Changes

To reduce the production of fat while maintaining high quality beef, farmers and ranchers worked to produce leaner animals. Leaner beef results primarily from a change in breeding and feeding practices. Cattle are bred to enhance desirable traits, such as leaner animals. Feeding practices have improved due to research on ration and nutrition to optimize cattle health. While much of lean beef relies on specific genetics and raising of cattle, farmers and ranchers commit to and care for their land, stewardship practices that ensure sustainability for the land, and their cattle.

Photo by Roxanne Knight

Leaner beef results primarily from a change in breeding and feeding practices.

Lean Beef Options

A 3.5 ounce serving of beef qualifies as “lean” by the USDA, if it contains:

  • 4.5 grams of less of saturated fat
  • 10 grams or less of total fat
  • less than 95 mg of cholesterol

There are many cuts of beef that qualify as lean, including 17 of the 25 most popular cuts of beef, like Top Sirloin, Skirt Steak, and the Tenderloin.

Many lean cuts of beef are the most popular like the Top Sirloin, Skirt Steak, and the Tenderloin.

Naturally nutrient-rich, beef is an optimal choice for protein because it contains all nine essential amino-acids. Because the human body cannot make these building blocks, they must be obtained from another source: protein. Registered Dietitian Caitlin Mondellli says, “Beef is a healthy protein source that can fit into an everyday diet. We tend to think of beef in a high calorie context, but more than 60% of retail cuts are considered lean.” Cailtin adds cuts of beef into her diet weekly. Suggesting that consumers balance their plates with grains and vegetables, “I select leaner cuts, so I can add cheese or other fat sources to my plate. All cuts of meat can fit, you just have to create that balance.” With so many lean beef options, consumers do not have to sacrifice delicious to live a leaner life.


This post was written by Celia Dubauskas. Celia is an undergraduate student at Arizona State University, studying Nutrition Communication. This spring, she has been an intern for Arizona Beef Council, creating written and social content for our platforms. Celia is an experienced fitness professional and is certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Her passion for fitness has fueled her interest in nutrition and learning more about health and diet culture. Keep on eye out for upcoming posts!

Professional to Professional: Culinary Instructors Meet Beef Cattle Farmers and Ranchers

In June, sixteen culinary experts from across the country got a taste of the beef industry during the Pasture to Plate Beef Tour, sponsored by beef councils in California, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas. Invited to the checkoff-funded event were the culinary chairs responsible for the 28 International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes across the country. The non-profit Art Institutes operate the largest system of culinary schools in the United States.

The tour featured a visit to a cow-calf ranch, feedlot and the JBS beef processing facility in northern Colorado, along with presentations from beef experts that helped the culinary leaders understand beef’s role in a sustainable food system, and ideas for incorporating sensory and beef umami exercises into their classrooms. Attendees also had an opportunity to participate in a beef cooking competition that demonstrated their culinary talents.chefs on wagonThe spark for development of this tour was generated last fall during the California Beef Council’s Beef Leadership Summit, according to the CBC’s Christie Van Egmond, director of retail and foodservice marketing, who helped organize the tour. At that time Dave Hendricksen, the national culinary director for the Art Institutes, expressed interest in giving the Institutes’ culinary leaders more backgrounding in the beef industry.

“This is a great way to connect the next generation of chefs with those who produce the food,” Hendricksen said. He said it was “critical” that information this type of event provides gets carried down from the participating culinary leaders to the students in culinary schools studying to be chefs or operation managers.chefs in kitchenStanding out to those attending the tour was the well-being of animals throughout the process, Hendricksen said. “The constant theme of this event was animal welfare and the care for the environment,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Arizona is home to the Arts Institute of Phoenix that includes a large culinary program. The Arizona Beef Council sponsored Chef Noel Ridsdale, culinary program chair, to attend the national tour. Here is Chef Noel’s feedback about his experience.

Chef Noel:

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Arizona Beef Council for sponsorship of my attendance at the beef checkoff-funded Pasture to Plate Beef Tour for the Art Institutes (AI). This experience was very educational and collaborative in the ways that we were able to connect with the beef council professionals, as well as with each of the AI national directors individually.Noel in kitchenThe tour started on a high note with a tour of a Colorado ranch, with some great knowledge shared by the breeders on how the cattle are treated, the process for the birthing and production management. The aspects of feed analysis and herd health were very interesting. We had dinner on the ranch, and the chef turned out to be an alum of AI, and his selection of items and ways to use beef was very good.

The trip to the packing plant was very interesting. I have been in Certified Angus Beef processing facilities before but never in a mainline producer. This was one of the highlights of the tour for me. I was very interested in the sanitation, inspection process and the zero waste production aspects of the tour. I cut meat myself, but my skills do not match the speed and accuracy of the cutters on the floor there. Watching the entire process enlightened me to the accuracy and technical aspects of production but at the same time still marveled at the human element that is still involved in the process.chefs in Culinary CenterThe science of the feedlot was interesting, and it was great to see that the industry is using green technology by utilizing byproducts of other industries, such as the beer industry. This use of their byproducts as opposed to just corn would add more flavor to the beef.

The presentations on the science of beef and the practical cooking aspects were very good, and our recipes will be featured on www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com soon. Overall, experiencing these aspects of beef production gave me additional knowledge that I am able to utilize in my classrooms.

Thank you very much for the opportunity!

Noel G. Ridsdale, MBA, CEC, CCA, AAC

Program Chair – AI Phoenix


Editor’s Note: The Art Institute of Phoenix is closing December 28, 2018 due to unfortunate circumstances. The Arizona Beef Council is glad to have met Chef Noel and we look forward to working with him in his next ventures.

You Can Always Come Back

Amber Morin was raised on her family’s cattle ranch in Southeastern, AZ. This experience sparked her interest and career path in natural resource management, agricultural policy, and agriculture communications. She has worked with the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, Arizona’s Natural Resource Conservation Districts, and continues to promote agriculture through her current position at the Arizona Farm Bureau. Whenever time permits, she is back at the ranch helping her family run their beef business, running trails in preparation for “fun runs,” or writing.

Here are her thoughts on the urban agriculture divide and why we are all more alike than different.  

Agriculture has been taking place for the last 10,000 years, and yet, ranchers and farmers are now the minority? What the heck happened?

Baby

With agriculture, humans traded the harsh uncertainty of nomadic life for the somewhat more predictable and controllable agrarian lifestyle. An improvement, for sure. In exchange for their time and dedication to caring for plants and animals, humans were afforded more abundant food supplies, health, wealth, leisure, and the ability to trade for goods that could not be grown in their home climates. In short, agricultural abundance improved lives. It still does.

All of this happened because humans are smart, they experiment, they adapt, and find answers to questions, sometimes out of curiosity and most of the time out of necessity. Agriculture changed the way humans live and it wasn’t long before humans all over the world were adapting to agriculture methods on some level. This took place for 10,000 years, and yet, in a mere two centuries, the same curiosity and/or necessity also brought about another rapid change, the movement away from agrarian lifestyles to industrial lifestyles, and now to what pessimists call virtual lifestyles and optimists call entrepreneurial lifestyles.

 

To break the rapid change down for the readers who love numbers, in 1790, about 90% of the American workforce was related to agriculture. In 1890, that number had dropped to about 43%. In 1990 about 2.6% of the population’s workforce was related to agriculture. Now that number has dropped to about 2%. As people moved out of rural America to pursue an improved lifestyle in urban areas, agricultural advancements have made it possible for 2% of the population to feed the masses.

Why is this important? While about 2% of the population clothes and feeds us, we can do other things with our lives and pursue other careers, and not worry about where our next meal is going to come from. If it were not for ranchers and farmers, most of us would be struggling like the unfortunate souls on the show Naked and Afraid! Although I must admit, there are some very tough people that participate! But, would anyone really want to live that way? Or, go hungry because their backyard garden failed due to a pest infestation? I know what my answer is: an emphatic, no!

Thanks to the ingenuity of agriculturalists, technological advancements and improvements in the industry, and the dedication and care that agriculturalists have for their businesses, we live great lives without a lot of worries. The few feed the many. And, it takes an insurmountable amount of dedication to thrive in the agricultural industry when things like global markets, local markets, weather, genetics, natural resources, financial constraints, and the unpredictability of caring for crops and livestock are just a few of the challenges. Being an agriculturalist requires a high degree of intelligence, resilience, and faith in oneself, in the future, and in the process.

Building Corrals
Mr. Morin showing off some serious dedication which is required for success in the agriculture field.

My own dad knew this when he said to both my sister and me, “You can always come back, but you can’t always leave.” This was a gentle but very blatant way of telling us, this path takes grit and serious dedication, so go and experience life before you make the commitment to come back and manage the ranch. And, when you come back, bring what you have learned to make it better. Like all parents, ours wanted the best for my sister and me. They encouraged us to grow, learn, and improve.

So, when I asked the question, what the heck happened? How did Americans get so far removed from agriculture? It’s simple and it’s practical. Like the nomadic lifestyle, the agrarian lifestyle was not easy. It is still not easy, so Americans changed, and the industrial revolution which made promises of wealth and lifestyle improvements spurred that change. It was the anticipation of an improved future that moved most people out of rural America and into urban centers. At the end of the day, no one can be blamed for trying to improve one’s life or that of their loved ones.

Today’s “entrepreneurial revolution” coined by Seth Godin promises an even better future for Americans, as the ability to market goods, build wealth, and have more control of our lives is at our fingertips via smartphones.

Family
The Morin Family – Working for a better future!

This same optimism has spurred the technological advancements and environmental improvements in agriculture. We want to improve, be more precise, waste less and have more controlled data-driven outcomes. In the case of food production, doing our best is a necessity because we are not just feeding our families, and yours, with less labor and inputs, we are also feeding the world. Doing less than our best, with so many people who trust us for a safe and reliable food supply, is simply not an option.

Just as the public has always been looking to improve, agriculturalists have too!

The reality is, we are all working toward the same goal – to do our best!

– Amber MorinMorning Sun Selfie (002)