There is a rejuvenated interest in our food, and that is exciting. As a society we are beginning to ask more questions about how our food is prepared and how it was raised on the way from a farm to our table.
We have all heard the term “Farm to Plate” but few people might understand it as well as Pat and Alli.
Pat is a cattle rancher and his wife Alli is a well-known chef. At first glance I viewed their professions as existing at opposite ends of the food supply chain with Pat growing food and Alli preparing it for the table. But as our conversation continued and I learned more about this Kansas couple, I began to realize they aren’t opposites; they work in harmony along the supply chain to ensure a delicious and healthy product reaches the table of their family, friends, and home cooks everywhere. That is to say, ranchers and chefs are joined together with a common bond of giving an incredible culinary experience.
While chefs like Ramsey or the Pioneer woman get their fair share of media attention these days, one common theme you hear is that great food starts with a great product. That begins with Pat. He says “I take ownership of the food I produce which means raising a good quality calf that will grow up to be a good quality product in the meat case, or good heifers that produce strong calves for other ranchers."
As he saddles up each day, Pat says “I enjoy the opportunity to ride through each herd, quietly observing the cows and their calves, checking the interaction between mamma and calf, as well as looking to be sure there are no injuries or illnesses.”
Now I have to make a quick confession. I’m a little addicted to the show “Master Chef.” It’s our family’s guilty pleasure. I also hope Steven, the quirky Southern Californian, wins this season. But one thing I hear the panel of celebrity judges tell each contestant is to “cook with your heart.”
Ranch with your heart could also be true.
If you can tell if a chef cooks with his or her heart, I am sure you can tell when a rancher uses his heart to care for their cattle. Just as every chef knows about every ingredient in their plating, Pat knows everything about his cattle and says, "I enjoy making sure our cattle are well-cared for. From checking to see that they have plenty of [vitamins and] minerals to good feed and hay in the winter months when they are home. I enjoy taking care of them and because I want them to produce good quality livestock, I give them quality care. "
And a huge part of his heart for raising livestock is producing safe food that both professional and home chefs can elevate to the next level. Speaking of food safety, Pat stated “The food we produce is what we feed our family. We know what our animals are fed and how they are treated. We do not mass medicate, but instead administer meds only to animals at the time of an illness to get them back in step with a healthy lifestyle.”
After all, the beef he sends off to the market is the very beef that ends up in Alli’s hands as she prepares meals for their family or her clients.
Alli is passionate about cooking and knowing your ingredients. One of those ingredients is quality beef, personally prepared, produced, and raised by a Kansas cattleman who ranches with his heart.
Scott Stebner is an agricultural photographer who specializes in farm and ranch photography.