Therese and Hani Gasser raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep…
Fred Ings established Trail’s End Ranch near Nanton, Alberta, in the early 1900s. Over 100 years later, Fred’s great granddaughter, Rachel Herbert, and her husband, Tyler, are raising Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW), Certified Grassfed by AGW beef, very much like Fred did four generations ago.
Rachel, Tyler and Rachel’s mother, Linda Loree, initially established a conventional cow-calf operation after Linda inherited her portion of Trail’s End in 2000. While Tyler had been raised farming and ranching, Linda and Rachel were both vegetarians when Rachel met him and after just one year, they began searching for a different way to raise cattle. Linda disliked the stress placed on their cattle during the traditional weaning process, when calves are taken from mama cows at an early age, and this led her to investigate grassfed production and low-stress handling. In 2003, they began finishing their cattle at Trail’s End where they could ensure high-welfare for their animals from birth through slaughter.
Today, Trail’s End Beef, which began with just four cattle, raises between 150-200 head a year on 900 acres of pasture. The cattle are born, raised and finished on grass in a system that benefits both the land and animals. The Herberts’ cattle are carefully managed using low-stress livestock handling techniques, a method of working with cattle that recognizes their innate instincts. Doing things slowly, from working their Black and Red Angus cattle on horseback, to slaughtering their beef cattle at 27-29 months, ensures their animals are healthy and relaxed.
After being introduced to the environmental and welfare benefits of grassfed beef, Linda, Rachel and Tyler learned about the nutritional benefits of raising cattle on grass, too. “Eating grass keeps cattle in optimum health and makes their meat healthier for us, too,” Rachel says. “The diverse plants they eat give their meat an optimal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 and other healthy fats like conjugated linoleic acids or CLAs, as well as high levels of essential minerals and vitamins. Grazing is good for the cattle, the land and, in turn, for you!” Now, as the parents of two children, Rachel and Tyler see their ability to raise nutritious food right in their backyard, and in turn, sell it to their customers, as hugely gratifying.
Becoming Certified Grassfed by AGW has meant that Trail’s End Beef’s high-welfare, pasture-based management is verified by an independent third-party. Certified Grassfed by AGW the first—and only—food label in North America that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range. “At this stage in our business, we have a really established customer base—they know us and trust us,” says Rachel. “But we still like to have that third-party voice behind us. It acknowledges our work and, for new customers, it adds authenticity.”
The decision to pursue a third-party certification is just another step in the Herberts’ efforts to communicate their production methods to their customers. The family has an open ranch policy and encourages customers to stop by and see what it takes to raise their beef. “Everything has come together to allow us to raise beef in a way that is consistent with our sense of ethics,” explains Rachel. “And what allows us to ranch the way we do is our connection to our customers.” Through farm tours, often led by Rachel and Tyler’s kids, and an active social media presence, Trail’s End Beef remains connected to the people that buy their beef.
As demand for Trail’s End Beef has outgrown the ranch’s slowly expanding herd, Rachel and Tyler have partnered with neighboring ranches who share their values and practices, and are also family-run ranches, raising grass-finished beef in the same hills as Trail’s End. Beef from the partner ranches is sold direct to consumers under the Trail’s End Beef label. Beef is harvested from July through October when cattle are finished on green grass; the meat is sold in wholes, halves and quarters. Beef sells out months in advance, so make your reservation early! For more information, visit trailsendbeef.com, or contact Tyler and Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org and 403-601-5467.