Oregon’s Willamette Valley is praised by farmers and ranchers alike as an agricultural paradise. Its fertile land was created by rich volcanic soils deposited by floods thousands of years ago. Plentiful rainfall and a temperate climate nurture grapes for the region’s distinctive Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines, along with hazelnuts, raspberries and blackberries.
The valley’s climate also gives it abundant grasslands, making it the perfect environment for grazing cattle on the open range. Mike Stevenson, his mother, Lois, and his wife Alvina Butti operate Knee Deep Cattle Company in the mid-Willamette Valley near the towns of Coburg and Eugene. Mike comes from a traditional ranching family, and the Stevensons’ “home ranch” has been in the family for 60 years.
About five years ago, he and Alvina decided to start raising free-range beef, which they define as cattle that are raised strictly on the open-range on a diet of fresh grasses, clovers and natural mineral supplements. Knee Deep’s original herd was 18 head of cattle. Now, they raise about 300 cattle each year for retail and restaurant customers in Oregon and Northern California.
Their cattle are primarily Black Angus breed, and all the animals are raised on their ranches, which enables Knee Deep to maintain a history of each animal.
“We treat our animals in a very gentle and humane manner. We believe that minimal stress on the animals means a more pleasant eating experience for the consumer,” says Alvina.
The Stevensons decided to apply for Certified Humane status after hearing about the program from one of their retail customers. Alvina reports that their certification has led some small health food markets that had never before carried meat to start ordering Knee Deep’s beef.
In addition to grazing cattle at their home ranch, Knee Deep runs cattle on large expanses of river-bottom ground from the southern coastal town of Florence to Mapleton at the head of the Siuslaw River.
In addition to Alvina, Mike and Lois, Mike’s brother, and a ranch manager and his wife handle most of the work on the ranch, which includes raising the animals, processing them and getting their meat to market. Friends pitch in when things get especially busy.
Knee Deep Cattle Co.’s beef is sold direct from its farm to neighboring families and is distributed to stores and restaurants, including Prather Ranch Meat Company in San Francisco; Long’s Meat Market, Red Barn Natural Grocery, KoHo Bistro and Shadow Hills Country Club in Eugene, OR.; and RiverPlace Hotel in Portland, OR.
To learn more, visit their website at: Knee Deep Cattle Company
For information on where to find other Certified Humane® products in your area, visit the “Shop” page of HFAC’s website.