Nevada County Free Range Beef for fresh, local flavor

THE GRASS-FED BEEF MARKET IS BOOMiING, thanks to studies that show it is better for consumers and the environment than its grain-fed counterpart.

Though it still amounts to about 1 percent of the nation’s annual supply—or about $1 billion—grass-fed beef has grown to 1,200 U.S. ranchers from less than 50 originally, according to grazing experts.

Nevada County Free Range Beef in the Sierra Foothills is one of them. Founded five years ago by longtime ranger Jim Gates, the business now has grown to 120 Shorthorn, Red Angus and White Park mother cows, up from 12 when he started.

They roam on more than 30 separate parcels of land comprising 2,230 acres in the county near Rough and Ready—a fitting location for Jim, who is a modern-day cowboy.

“Cows are essentially recycled grass,” says Gates. The cows range freely over the green pastures, about ten acres per cow or calf pair.

Grass is all they eat—no hormones or antibiotics. Their grass is pesticide free, and they are not confined, except for the fencing at the perimeter of the ranch land. “The Highway Patrol takes a dim view of cows on a country road,” Gates jokes.

Gates’ family came to Nevada County by wagon train in 1871. Jim has been ranching all his life.
He’s also well educated, with an agriculture degree from UC Davis. The practical experience, coupled with his education, helps Gates manage the cows and pastureland—AKA, herbivory and horticulture.

Grass-fed beef typically is leaner, healthier and more flavorful than its grain-fed counterpart, Gates says. Free-range grazing also is better for the soil and native wildlife habitat. And it more humane to cattle, according to proponents.

Nevada County Free Range Beef is available to customers as “freezer beef,” by the quarter, half or whole. A quarter is about 70 to 90 pounds, filling roughly seven cubic feet of freezer space.

The cost per pound is $6 for quarter, half and whole animal orders. The cuts—ranging from hamburger to roasts and steaks—are wrapped and labeled in convenient sizes, vacuum packed and flash frozen.

The beef is available from April to November. Orders typically would be placed in the winter, at least two months in advance.

Gates’ beef is available year-round at organic grocery stores such as the BriarPatch Market in Grass
Valley. It also is available in the frozen meat department at SPD Markets in Grass Valley and Nevada City, NaturalSelection in Grass Valley and Mother Truckers in Nevada City.

For holiday gifts and through the winter, Nevada County Free Range Beef will sell grass-fed filets. Each filet weighs in at about 3/4 to 1 pound. They are available frozen and two to a package. “I never get tired of them,” as Jim says.

For information about Nevada County Free Range Beef, call 530-273-1025
or email

Grass-fed Beef Cooking Tips:

• Bring grass-fed beef to room temperature before cooking, by thawing in the refrigerator or placing in
water. Don’t microwave to thaw.
• Use tongs, not a fork to turn the beef, so you don’t lose the yummy juices.
• Grass-fed beef cooks 30 percent faster than grain-fed beef, so keep an eye on your steaks, or use a thermometer.
If you want well-done beef, grill more slowly, a bit farther from the flames. Otherwise try it rare to medium. You’ll like the taste.

Source: NCFRB

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