Published August 2005

Cascade Range Grass Fed
Beef Co. launched
in Snohomish County

By Kimberly Hilden
SCBJ Assistant Editor

Two years ago, members of Snohomish County’s cattle-ranching community began brainstorming ways to sell their beef in a way that would deliver a living wage, maintain agriculture acreage and meet consumer demand for all-natural, locally produced food.

The end result of those brainstorming sessions today can be found at some of the Puget Sound’s finest restaurants. By October, it could end up in grocery stores across the region: Cascade Range Grass Fed Beef.

The brand, administered by the Cascade Range Grass Fed Beef Co., was developed by Anacortes-based consultant Mindgarden Group with the help of a U.S. Department of Agriculture value-added grant, said Linda Neunzig, general manager Cascade Range.

Other entities that offered input included the Snohomish County Cattlemen’s Association, county agriculture officials and Washington State University Extension, she said.

“What we decided on, after many meetings, was to form a corporation as a marketing entity. We don’t own cattle, and we don’t own land. Producers adhere to strict guidelines and protocol to put animals through the program,” Neunzig said.

The program requires humane treatment of the animals as well as environmentally sound farming practices, she said. Under the guidelines, antibiotics and hormones are banned, and “the animals never see grain.”

“A big part of that is to take advantage of the beautiful, lush grassland that we have here,” Neunzig said.

By following the program, producers raising grass-fed beef that pass inspection are paid a guaranteed price by Cascade Range instead of having to deal with the uncertainty of a cattle auction, she said, since the beef is a premium commodity.

One advantage is that it has larger amounts of many nutrients than grain-fed beef. Research by the University of California Cooperative Extension and California State University, Chico, found grass-fed beef has 60 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than beef from grain-fed cattle, and almost twice as much betacarotene.

Grass-fed beef is typically not as tender as grain-fed beef, but it tends to be more flavorful, Neunzig said.

“Once people have been exposed to that, they often don’t want to go back,” she said. Still in its infancy, Cascade Range has attracted producers from across Western Washington, from Mason County to Whatcom County, Neunzig said.

The company, which uses a USDA-approved slaughter facility in east King County and a certified organic processor in Seattle, expects to handle 200 head of cattle this year and hopes to increase production to 800 or more animals next year, she said.

“We want to go a bit slow this year to ensure the quality of beef and the consistency of quality,” Neunzig said. “It’s also going to take a lot of consumer education because of the fact that we’ve been raised on being fed the grain-fed animals — think about it as going from white bread to wheat bread.”

Cascade Range, whose beef has been served at such eateries as Restaurant Zoe and Dandelion in Seattle, aims to make a major push into retail this fall, she said, giving consumers the option of buying directly from Cascade Range via its Web site (now under construction), at, or purchasing the grass-fed beef at area grocery stores. “We’re doing our best to set it up on a year-round basis,” Neunzig said.

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© 2005 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA