When I sat down at Maxwell & Dunne’s to interview executive chef Chris Palmer about steaks, all he wanted to talk about was his recent trip to a cattle ranch in Montana. Located in the Blackfoot Valley of western Montana, the Meyer Ranch sits on 43,000 acres of western beauty, and was where the company’s start in raising Angus cattle began. The protocol owner Robert Meyer started—and continues today, with more than 200 cattle ranchers—is now the standard for raising all-natural beef. After eating a porterhouse of Meyer’s Angus with chef Chris at Maxwell & Dunne’s, I had to find out why this meat made for some of the tastiest steak I have ever had. I called Meyer’s to ask some questions and encountered Del Holzer, upon his return from the ranch:
Del, why are your steaks better than the rest?
We originally set out to consistently provide the best-tasting beef. A simple statement that is complicated by the word “consistently.” Many beef programs produced in a traditional commodity beef environment search for high-quality beef and therefore it is a byproduct of the process and not the driving direction. They will, on occasion, provide a very good eating experience. In the foodservice business, “occasionally” is not preferred. Chefs have been asking for years, “Why can’t I get the same steak every time and why can’t it be a great eating experience?” We heard the chef and have been working to address that need.
What do you do differently on the ranch, then?
We use a much different approach than our huge contemporaries use to provide high quality beef. We do not hope to find quality in the beef plant. We bring the quality in the door. We are convinced that the only way to consistently deliver incredible beef is to invest and manage before the processing plant. We must control what happens to the animal from birth to plate to be certain the quality and consistency the chef demands will always be there. That is clearly the only way to do it.
What kind of cattle do you raise?
Only Angus cattle—real Angus cattle. Our competitors determine Angus simply if the animal’s hide is 51% black. We must have documentation of the Angus breed. This is a huge difference!
What should the canvas reader look for when they go steak shopping?
No hormones, no antibiotics at anytime. The added water weight (which runs out when cooked) and scientifically documented impact on tenderness (all suppliers of the products clearly state that tougher beef will be a result of using growth stimulants) are clearly not going to provide a better eating experience and, quite frankly, are not needed. They should also look for cattle fed on a vegetarian diet. That means no animal-based feeds are allowed at any time. It just makes sense.
What about labeling? How can you tell the animals are treated conscientiously?
You want meat that is Certified Humane. We are the only natural angus company you will find that has the commitment to be involved with a 3rd party to provide transparency to our process (unheard of), guidelines to follow, and ongoing audits to our execution of the plan. We have already proven since being Certified Humane since 2002 that our commitment to humane treatment of the animals has a big impact on consistency and overall quality. It just makes good business sense and is good ol’ common sense at the same time.
- Learn more about the humane process at certifiedhumane.org
- Learn more about Meyers at meyernaturalangus.com
- Eat their steaks at Maxwell & Dunne’s, mdsteakhouse.com