It feels like a bit like travelling back in time
to head out to the ranch with the Aufdengartens, but in actuality, it’s a step into the future where you can know exactly who raised your food. Mitch and Gerry Aufdengarten are sixth generation ranchers that raise Angus cattle on the outskirts of Marfa, TX. Angus are well adapted to conditions in the high-desert. Even so, water is always the biggest concern in this climate and they spend about half of their time making sure all water lines and tanks are working properly.
Their operation calves two times per year, giving their heifers and cows that didn't breed up in the spring another chance in the fall. The cattle they raise for Marfa Meats will stay on pasture 18 miles from Marfa until they are a year to a year and a half old. Then they'll be transported to the Aufdengarten feeding operation, where around ten beef cattle are fed a ration of locally-sourced cotton seed, corn, and wheat hay. It's less than a mile trip to Marfa Meats. The next stop is your plate.
If you want to know who's raising your grain-finished beef - it's these guys.
HILLTOP LIVESTOCK OF ALPINE
Shooting the bull with Gene
means you’ll laugh a lot, which is no surprise, I guess, since I met Gene through Ellery. Gene will tell you that the heat lights “saved the bacon” during the last storm and that his hogs are “hard to put on a diet”. Gene Nowell made his way to Alpine in 1983 as a ranch hand; 38 years later he and his wife Kay, also a poet, run both a ranch and a feeding operation. Gene has a herd of Texas Longhorn cattle that are used in the movies and an amazing arrowhead collection. He'll also supply hogs to Marfa Meats. He raises a few breeds - some Yorkshire/Berkshire cross, full breeds of both and Duroc.
He raises around 20 hogs at a time across seven different pens. Since the hogs often "make pigs of themselves", Gene tries to keep the greedy ones away from the less assertive eaters to ensure everyone gets their fair share of high-protein feed, but also give them some company since pigs are social animals and like to cuddle up together.
If you want to know who's raising your pork
- it's this guy.