BY GREGORY ENNS
FORT PIERCE, Feb. 9, 2016 — While Adams Ranch has always been known for its world-class cattle, Treasure Coast residents have rarely been able to sample its beef.
That’s because as a cow-calf operation, cattle are bred at one of the family ranches, with calves sold and eventually shipped to feedlots in western states and then sent on to processing at nearby packinghouses.
But now the Adams Ranch beef is as close as your neighborhood store. In January, Best Choice Meats and Pelican Seafood, both in Fort Pierce, and the Hale Groves retail store in Wabasso began selling cuts of USDA-inspected Adams Ranch Natural Beef.
And, in about two months, Adams Ranch Natural Beef will be offered at select Whole Foods stores in Florida, said LeeAnn Adams Simmons, who is in charge of the ranch’s natural beef program.
“We were seeing a demand for a local product,’’ said Simmons, who represents the fourth generation of the Adams family in the ranching business.
“We have historically sent our calves to Texas or Kansas to be fed and processed because that is where the majority of the feed and processors were at,’’ said Adams Ranch president Mike Adams, whose grandfather, Alto Lee Adams Sr., founded the ranch in 1937. “Now there are more farmers growing corn here in Florida and we have a processor to make the whole process work.’’
The cattle raised through the Adams Ranch natural beef program meet natural certifications from U.S. Department of Agriculture and do not receive growth hormones, antibiotics or steroids. They are pasture-raised and do not receive animal byproducts in their feed.
Adams said the calves in the program are raised at one of the Adams Ranch properties in St. Lucie or Osceola counties until 6 to 9 months of age and then transported to Quincey Cattle Co. in Chiefland, Fla., where they are fattened on feed before processing and packaging at FM Meat Products of Fort McCoy, Fla.
Even while in Chiefland, the cattle are raised in pastures instead of the typical feedlot, Adams said. The 1,200 cattle in the natural beef program represent only a small part of the Adams Ranch cow-calf operation.
Adams Ranch, with 40,000 acres in St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Osceola and Madison counties, is the 15th-largest cow-calf operation in the country.
Natural beef certification requires that the cattle sold under that label are segregated from cattle that are raised conventionally. “The biggest change is going through the USDA natural certifications,’’ Adams said.
Adams said the cattle in the natural beef program are ABEEF composite cattle, which are half Braford, a breed developed by his father, family patriarch Alto Lee “Bud’’ Adams Jr., and part Angus and Gelbvieh. The Adams family touts the beef’s superior qualities in marbling, tenderness and taste.
The cuts offered at markets under the Adams Natural Beef label are New York strip, ribeye and filet mignon. Simmons said the beef also qualifies as a Florida Department of Agriculture Fresh From Florida brand since the beef is raised and processed in the state. She said the price of the beef is in line with all-natural beef products sold at stores such as Publix.
Eric Paul, owner of Pelican Seafood, said the Adams Ranch beef has been so popular since he began offering it that it has been difficult to keep in stock.
“The customer reaction has been really positive,’’ he said. “Mostly people like to support their neighbors and small businesses. The health-conscious [customers] like to know where their meat is coming from and you know that there’s no type of mistreatment or chemicals. People can believe it with the Adams Ranch.’’
As for taste? “It has a real earthy flavor to it,’’ Paul said. “You can just tell it’s naturally fed.’’