A couple of Sundays ago, we were honored to get an invite to the Lasater Ranch, where our gracious host, Alex Lasater (above) treated us to an outstanding day on the prairie. Lasater Ranch is located on 30,000 acres of wide-open range. (Cue 'Don't Fence Me In' music here.) The property actually circumvents the tiny township of Matheson, CO and is home to a small herd of about 200 head of cattle.
I first discovered Lasater's grass-fed beef at Whole Foods, where I was happy to see a locally raised and produced grass-fed product. Alex himself was there to educate consumers about the benefits of his beef (vs. the usual factory-farmed version, which is prohibitively pumped full of antibiotics and grain-fed).
The beef-raising tradition on the Argentine pampa dictates grass-fed; it's the difference that gives the beef served in the iconic steakhouses of Buenos Aires its world-renowned reputation and puts a smile on the face of the porteño. I'm delighted to see that tradition being followed here, and Alex Lasater, himself something of a renegade, has a "take it or leave it" attitude about what he does.
Like a fish swimming against the current, Lasater cattle aren't treated with pesticides or antibiotics, grain-fed, or in beauty contests at the Stock Show. (Lasater cattle do not compete in the end-of-show auctions in which steer go for upwards of $100,000 or more each).
The 'gals', as they are affectionately known on the ranch, are raised from birth to be used to humans, gentle enough to be fed by hand (which we spent plenty of time doing, as seen below, much to the delight of Esteban and Nora, who thought it was great fun.) Alex called the herd to us with a soft "Hooooooo!" and they came right to us.
The ranch is also part wildlife preserve. Looming cottonwood trees are the nap spot of porcupines, who nestle into the crooks to doze during the day while sneaking close to the house to rob the russian olive trees by night. Nestled near the roots of the trees are a small herd of white-tail deer rest and graze, while in the savannah-like open air of the prairie, a herd of antelope race at breakneck speed until out of sight over a knoll.
Wind-blown, we returned back to the ranch house, a sprawling southwestern-style hacienda built by Lasater's grandparents. There, in the gentile elegance of a dynasty of ranchers, we dined on burgers and beef brats, sipped red wine, and relaxed amongst the books, artwork and family photos in the sun-drenched living room. Alex Lasater's thoughtful and purposeful manner defies the stereotype of the rancher: educated, cultured and well-traveled, he is determined in the value of what he does and in sharing that philosophy with others.
As the day came to a close, we said our goodbyes, and part of me was sad to leave what Alex calls his "perch on the prairie". Idyllic for a visitor, I was nevertheless reminded of the tough work that is ranching, something few have the stamina for or are cut out to do. But am I glad Lasater does--and that we have his quality, grass-fed beef within easy reach. Finally, I can feel good about what I've got on my table, and we're closer than ever to getting the flavors of Argentina at home. (For more photos of our day and the ranch, please visit our Facebook page!)