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Working Ranch - November/December 2017

With nearly fi ve million tourists annually funnelling through Jackson, Chase Lockhart and the cows don’t give the traffi c a second thought. Chase relates, “I can’t tell you how many people drive in here, saying, ‘You got a cow out there having a calf!’ Like, ‘Good, that’s what they’re supposed to do’.” MELISSA HEMKEN MELISSA HEMKEN was Lockhart’s fi rst customer, and Lockhart talked up chefs and meat counter clerks across Jackson. “We tried to get beef into people’s mouths,” he says of beginning marketing, “and that meant giving it away or breaking even on it. I did a lot of things I didn’t want to do, like host ranch tours and go to the farmers’ markets in the rain.” The big break for Lockhart’s new business model came from Signal Mountain Lodge, a concessionaire on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, signing a ground beef contract with Lockhart Cattle Company. “They sell an absurd amount of hamburgers,” Lockhart says. “They buy 12,000 pounds of one-third pound patties a year. I’m like, ‘36,000 patties, coming up!’ It showed we could sell beef locally, and it makes sense to grass-fi nish as we don’t grow, or have a way to store and feed, grain.” With the valley fi lled with dormant ranches, Lockhart easily fi nds grazing. “I can tie up grass relatively cheaply from guys who have gotten out of the ranching business,” Lockhart says. “I have six different private leases. Some only support 30 pairs and the largest piece can hold 200 head.” Lockhart cautions when working lands are carved up for ranchettes, many of the small acreages are left without enough irrigation, or with no access or corrals for livestock. “But it’s amazing what I came up with,” he continues. “I stash some cattle on a dude ranch. Guests pen the cattle once a week, and I get free grass.” In the spring Lockhart feeds three generations of one cow: a calf that’s on its mom, one born last year, and the 2015 model almost ready for slaughter. A key component to selling beef weekly is easy access to a meat processing facility, which Jackson did not have. Lockhart needed a meat processor with fl exibility to do cuts and process according to client request. He connected with the neighboring Hog Island Meats wild game plant, located seven miles south down Highway 89, which the owners wanted to grow into a state-inspected locker. Lockhart Cattle Company fi nanced the plant upgrade in exchange for part ownership and management input, and gained a close-by, custom meat processor. “The plant still does wild game in the fall,” Lockhart explains, “and that’s a challenge. We have to shut down beef processing for several months, as the facility isn’t state-inspected when it processes wild game. But every stage of the business has challenges. After slaughter is packaging, inventory, pricing model, and distribution. Ranching is the easy part.” NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017 I WORKING RANCH I 83


Working Ranch - November/December 2017
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