SunFed Organic Beef: Tasting the Cowboy Tradition

SunFed cowboys Chris Donati and Matt Byrne checking up on cattle and pasture in Modoc County

A month or so ago, two striking cowboys walked into Bi-Rite and captivated the staff’s attention.  Who are these guys with their ten-gallon cowboy hats, silvery belt buckles, and blue jeans?  Not the designer or skinny jeans we’re used to seeing in the Mission.  Authentic, well-worn Wranglers. Chili was looking for an organic option for pasture-raised beef and he introduced us to Matt Byrne and Chris Donati, two cattle ranchers each of whose families has more than 100 years experience raising and breeding predominately Angus cattle in Northern California.

Over a beer one evening more than a year ago, Chris, Matt, and Mike and Michelle LaGrande decided to combine resources between their three ranches in Butte, Modoc and Colusa counties, and bring to market an organic, pasture-raised and finished beef.  In the summertime, the cows graze on meadows of clover and legumes, then follow the grasses to the Central Valley, where winter rains nurture California’s oak woodlands and native grasses. By moving their cattle from small pasture to small pasture, they ensure the grass has time to produce mature seeds to provide a high quality diet for the cattle even as the seasons change.

Another good day to be SunFed cattle on the LaGrande Ranch in Colusa County

I've been talking about this salad ever since making it!

Conventional cattle that are fed a diet of corn are finished out 16-18 months after they are born.  Since these are pasture-raised cattle, it takes more than two years to mature to 1,300 pounds.   Their cattle never eat corn or any other grain. All SunFed cattle and ranches are certified organic by CCOF, meaning there are no pesticides or fertilizers on their farms and their cattle are never, ever treated with antibiotics or growth enhancing hormones. Every drop of milk, every bite of grass and vitamin the cattle receive meets the stringent requirements of the National Organic Program.

Being a country girl, I understand it takes a little longer and is more costly to raise cattle this way, but you should taste it.  After a yoga class on Saturday, I went home to make lunch.  Little gems from the Bi-Rite garden in Sonoma, blanched haricot verts, and squash blossoms dressed with a Banyuls vinaigrette. The ultimate garnish?? Seared SunFed bavette, sliced and topped with a crispy fried egg!

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