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Longhorn – it’s what’s for dinner

Texas Longhorn Breeders to Start Marketing Co-op

By Marilyn Bay Wentz

A group of Rocky Mountain area Texas Longhorn breeders are readying to change the image of Longhorn beef by forming a feeding and marketing cooperative.

“Recent feeding tests by Texas A&M University have shown that when Longhorns are fed a grain ration for 180 days prior to slaughter, the meat is tender and flavorful,” said John Guldemann, president of Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Beef Cooperative. “In addition, research shows that compared with retail beef, Texas Longhorn Beef is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol.”

This is good news for the Longhorn producers who are often closed out of the traditional beef market due to the poor image of the meat quality. They receive below-market prices for their cattle.

The Texas Longhorn cattle were the first breed of cattle to inhabit the Americas. The cattle first were brought to the New World by the Spanish conquistadors in 1494. According to producers, the Longhorn is naturally disease resistant and has survived in the United States for five hundred years with minimum human interference.

Tender, flavorful, and low in fat, cholesterol and calories, raised in an environmentally free manner with no antibiotics or hormones. . . . . Sounds like a product today’s consumer wants!

“That’s exactly right,” says Guldemann, who has been working for months now with other cooperative members to locate the best feeding and slaughter facilities. He and his wife, Keri, raise Longhorn cattle at their ranch near Animas, N.M.

The cooperative has brokered a deal with an existing slaughter facility to process the cattle, provide complete carcass data to co-op members, and to assist in marketing some of the cuts. Therefore, co-op member dollars will be used to invest in marketing, rather than in purchasing processing facilities.

“Not having to invest in processing facilities gives co-op members a lot more to invest in expanding their market and in product research for use of secondary cuts such as the chuck,” said Rocky Mountain Center for Cooperative Development Director Robert Mailander.

The center has provided contacts to the co-op and also assisted in securing funds for a feasibility study. The study, which determines whether or not an idea is likely to work, is necessary before a co-op can launch a membership drive. Co-op members plan to launch their equity drive this month. They hope to be putting product on the market by July.

Co-op members can join for as a little as a $1200 investment, which affords them the opportunity to market 20 animals through the co-op annually. Organizers of the co-op believe there are a lot of smaller producers who can benefit from the program.

Part of the feasibility study included taste trials in a number of restaurants throughout Texas and New Mexico. Consumer acceptance can be summarized as “exuberant.” Hoffbrau Steak Restaurants has committed to purchase all the steaks the cooperative can supply. The demand is estimated at more than 1.5 million pounds to the Hoffbrau and Texas Land & Cattle Company chains, which currently number 25 restaurants.

Members will be required to retain ownership of their cattle all the way to the rail, even though the cattle will be fed out in facilities with which the co-op has contracted. In addition, producers must certify that the animals have not been fed additives, hormones or antibiotics. After all these requirements have been met, cattle still must meet carcass criteria for weight, yield and quality grades. Producers whose cattle meet all criteria will be awarded a premium.

“The goal is to produce a 500-750 pound carcass that grades Choice or Prime but still has only one-third inch of back fat or less,” Guldemann said.

For more information on the cooperative, contact John Guldemann at 1-877-655-3458.