Bently Ranch's Butcher Shop

When you go over the Eastern Sierra Mountains and first see the Carson Valley, you can't help but think of the settlers coming across the valley in wagon trains and seeing the mountains that towered in front of them that they would need to climb. The Carson Valley itself is wide and impressive when looked down upon from 7,000 feet. For over a century it has been the home of many cattle ranches and generations of families. 

Much of the valley was owned by the Dangberg family in the early 1900s, but over the decades pieces of it were sold off. In 1997, the main ranch was bought by the Bently family. The Bentlys have also been in the valley for over 100 years and have a tight bond to the region.

The Bently's have done great things with the ranch and for the area. In my prior piece on Wild Horses, I noted how they have limited fencing to allow the horses onto their land. As for the ranch itself, they are creating a sustainable, green, environmentally friendly ranch that helps not only the area around them, but their neighbors as well. That's for another, future post. 

This month the Bently's opened up their own modern butchering facility in Gardnerville. What makes it particularly special is that they will have a USDA Inspector on site. They are the only ranch on the west coast that can say that. All other ranches must send their beef to be processed at USDA certified processing centers. Some of that beef will end up at Sacramento's new Echo & Rig steakhouse. 

But let's talk a little beef first.

Most people have no idea how the meat on that styrofoam plate ends up in the store. Many have no idea of the way animals are raised, what they are fed or given in the way of antibiotics or treatments, the process that goes to getting them to slaughter, or the butchering process. They just pick up that package of meat, cook it, and eat it.

The ideal is to have an animal that is raised humanely, with plenty of room to roam and live a happy life outside of pens.

Bently Ranch does just that. Their cattle are all completely grass fed. There are many ranches that start their cattle off grass fed, but finish them on grains to fatten them up during the last stage of their lives before slaughter. Not the Bentlys. "Grass fed beef is naturally lower in calories and offers significantly higher values of many nutrients than conventional beef. Our cattle eat only natural grasses and hay grown on our farm. They never eat grains or silage in order to promote fattening."

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Bently Ranch has been certified as Global Animal Partnership Step Level 4 by IMI Global. You've probably seen that when you go to Whole Foods and they have the signs over the meat section. Step 4 pertains to being Pasture Raised. 
When it finally is time to slaughter, they are lucky enough to not be too far from Reno. The less travel time, the less stress on the animal. The cows are harvested in a small scale, local processing facility called Wolf Pack Meats. It is part of the University of Nevada, Reno. The facility is USDA inspected, and follows all guidelines for humane animal slaughter.  The beef is then returned to the Bentlys for processing at their new butchering facility. 

The beef is aged for three weeks minimum before being shipped off. Aging is an important process to the flavoring and tenderizing of meat, so it is a valuable step for quality meat. Bently Ranch is testing different aging times to see which is the best for their meat and the tastebuds of their customers. 

The butcher shop is the first to be LEED certified since it, like the ranch, meets green, sustainable goals for use of energy and reduction of waste.

Nathan Thomas is their Head Butcher. They knew they had found the right guy when he asked them more questions then they asked him. His butchery interest started in 2003 and he has held Head Butcher positions in several specialty shops in Seattle and Nevada. After being offered the job, he was told he could order whatever he wanted for equipping the cutting room, so he's in butcher heaven.

The meat is sold to restaurants, online, and to the locals. The Bentlys felt that their neighbors in the valley should be able to enjoy their local beef, and so the shop sells everything at a price point that makes sense for their community. I picked up some of their delicious beef, marrow bones, and bone broth. I make bone broth all this time, but theirs pops out of the container like a giant jello cube because it has so much healthy collagen. 

As Echo & Rig opens this month, the Bentlys will be looking for others who might be interested in serving their beef.