Some needy county residents soon will enjoy the gift of locally raised beef, thanks to a donation of more than 3,000 pounds of top-quality meat from cattle raised exclusively on grass on two Hearst Corp. ranches.
On Friday, Jan. 8, officials of Hearst Ranch Beef presented 330 cases of shish-kabob-style cubes of beef to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County. Each case contained two 5-pound packages of beef gleaned from premium strips of steak (such as filet/tenderloin, New York and rib eye).
Brian Kenny, Hearst Ranch Beef’s division manager, said the meat is valued at about $6 a pound.
Carl Hansen, Food Bank’s executive director, said Friday the nonprofit organization’s dream, as much as possible, is to “provide healthier food for people, especially that which is locally grown.”
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Donations of “good-quality beef are always difficult to get, and pricey,” Hansen said. “To have a donation of the best beef you can buy, grass fed and lean, is wonderful. There’s something very affirming about having our low-income people getting top-quality food in their distributions.”
The Food Bank appreciates every donation, no matter how large or small, he said. “Food really is a symbol of a community that cares. It’s one thing to have community members give things they don’t want. It’s another when they donate some-
thing they’d value on their own table.”
Hansen met Saturday with Hearst Corp. officials, including Stephen “Steve” Hearst, vice president of the Hearst Corp. and great grandson of media magnate William Randolph Hearst, at the 80,000-acre Hearst Ranch in San Simeon.
Hearst said a large order for the top-quality beef cubes fell through after the meat had been processed. Rather than trying to sell it to another customer — or making a giant pot of beef stroganoff — Hearst decided to donate it to people here who really need it.
Hearst Ranch Beef runs about 2,300 head on the 80,000-acre Hearst Ranch and on the 73,000-acre Jack Ranch in Cholame, about 62 miles apart as the crow flies.
The cattle live the SLO life
in more ways than one — Hearst teases Ranch Manager Cliff Garrison because he babies all the handpicked animals on the ranch. He uses dogs and cowboys on horseback to move herds often, but slowly. It takes longer and costs more, but Garrison’s focus always is to put less stress on the cattle.
The business of selling the beef is high speed and high tech, however, done mostly on the Internet at www.hearstranch.com,with tricks of the cyber trade that help bump Hearst Ranch Beef to the top of a Google search for grass-fed beef, for instance.
In fact, business last month (December 2009) tripled what it had been the month before, and nearly quadrupled the total from a year earlier, according to Kenney.
“We shipped 1,534 orders in December” 2009, Kenny said, “and 850 packages on Dec. 22 alone.” The firm sold 428 orders in December 2008.
The donation also is the first time “we’ve ever donated 3,000 pounds worth” of the firm’s premium products, Hearst said.
The firm started in 2006 by selling hot dogs made with grass-fed beef. Soon thereafter, it branched out into premium cuts of beef, then into olive oils, sauces, ranch wear and other items.
Most of the firm’s meat is cut, wrapped and flash frozen at Kaney Foods in San Luis Obispo, then sold on the Internet through www.HearstRanch.com.
Local shoppers can buy fresh Hearst beef at Soto’s Market in Cambria or New Frontiers in San Luis Obispo. They can also purchase it frozen at the Hearst Beef kiosk at Hearst Castle in San Simeon or from the Web site.
Area restaurants also serve various cuts of the beef, including Linn’s in Cambria, Sebastian’s General Store in San Simeon, Artisan in Paso Robles, Café Roma in San Luis Obispo and Windows on the Water in Morro Bay. Schooner’s in Cayucos, Crooked Kilt in Paso Robles and Mother’s Tavern in San Luis Obispo serve Hearst beef burgers.