(Re)inventing quality at Elkhead Creek Ranch
If you’ve ever tried Wagyu beef, you know it’s special. Known for its incredible marbling and rich flavor, tenderness and creamy texture, it’s hard to forget the uniqueness of this beef.
Wagyu is a Japanese cattle breed with taller, narrower frames. Their beautifully marbled muscle isn’t just prized for its flavor and tenderness; The Wagyu were originally bred for agricultural work because the fat from their flesh provided them with the energy to work longer and harder than other cattle breeds.
Wagyu beef is rare in the United States, with only 30,000 original Wagyu cattle here, compared to 95 million traditional cattle. Nonetheless, the breed gained popularity for its prized meat in the early 2000s. Yet it was only a few years ago that the Yampa Valley was blessed with a grass-fed Wagyu product and finished.
Tim and Laine O’Neal founded Elkhead Creek Ranch after tasting their first Wagyu steak. Thanks to Tim’s connections as a feed broker, they were able to buy their first Wagyu steers and start feeding the community.
Their ranch is just below Elkhead Reservoir and on the border of Routt and Moffat counties. They have a perfect view of Bears Ears Peak and abundant flora and fauna. The O’Neals enjoy countless ways to enjoy their land. They thoroughly enjoy fishing, paddle boarding and camping along the banks of Elkhead Creek.
And they take their stewardship role seriously. They are currently participating in a 10-year river restoration project led by the National Resource Conservation Service, Trout Unlimited and the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable.
Together, they work to reduce bank erosion, protect riparian habitat and improve river productivity. In addition to the river project, they have implemented sustainable grazing methods. Their steers are often turned, giving the grasses and soil time to rest and regenerate. Sustainability, longevity and stewardship are at the forefront of Elkhead Creek Ranch.
Elkhead Creek Ranch is unique for many reasons beyond its practices. Laine is a creative and spirited breeder with a gift for reorientation. While renovating their home, she rescued countless items, including old windows that became the structure for the chicken coop and greenhouse, and rebar that later became the banister for her stairs.
Tim is a dedicated breeder and broker with a generous and fun spirit. He has a passion for learning and growing. A recent trip to the O’Neal Ranch was unforgettable. We were even able to canoe through the creek where the steers were eagerly waiting.
You too can hang out with Tim and Laine at Elkhead Creek Ranch this summer at one of the Community Agriculture Alliance’s farm-to-table dinners. You’ll have the opportunity to fish in the river, learn about how they work, and connect over a delicious meal.
More information and tickets for the event will be announced soon via CAA. Elkhead Creek Ranch can be found on Facebook and more information on their website. Interested in trying Yampa Valley Wagyu? Shop at the CAA Market for a large selection of cuts or contact them directly to reserve a quarter, half or whole beef.
Katie Stanhope is the Market Coordinator for the Community Agriculture Alliance.