By Carol Mowdy Bond
Early this year, in the Yukon area of Canadian County, Cheek Ranch introduced their Curated Beef Boxes containing their Black Label Premium Beef, and people are eating it up in homes and restaurants. The better-than-restaurant quality beef is frozen, and available in boxes for pick up or delivery, or through the mail.
Owner Earl Cheek, an Oklahoma City CPA, and his son Scott Cheek, the Cheek Ranch media and marketing Director, said they are using their own cattle herd that they ethically raise on pasture, to provide the highest quality flavor and nutritional value for their new Curated Beef Boxes. Each box contains beef, literally from the cattle in their fields to your front door. They offer assorted freezer boxes. And they avoid pesticides in their pastures.
The Cheek Ranch Black Label Premium Beef club members receive an entire year’s worth of monthly beef deliveries of tailor-made boxes, with each containing over 18 pounds of meat. They raise their delicious beef here in Yukon on their family-owned ranch.
Scott said, “The idea is customers sign up with us, and they get a certain number of boxes of beef. We curate the box so we are using the entire cow as much as possible. Customers get different cuts of beef each time they receive a box. They’ll get a couple of roasts, five to six steaks, preseasoned meatballs, meat loaves, meat for fajitas, and more. They get a box every two weeks or every eight weeks. If they go out of town, we can work around their schedule. We can ship to 28 states. We ship every Tuesday. The frozen beef in the box fits in an insulated shipping container/tote.”
Earl said, “We were trying to sell more of our beef to the public in the last two years. We were selling the normal whole, half, or quarter of a cow. But not everyone has a freezer to hold that much beef. For our product, you don’t need a large freezer. Our box will fit in a home freezer.”
Scott said, “You can no longer raise cattle and support the ranch. Every family farm is supported by another endeavor on the farm, or someone in the family who works in town. This is our answer to that problem. These curated boxes will support our ranch.”
“It’s going well,” said Scott, who has a master’s degree in film directing from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “We’ve gotten really good feedback from all of our customers. People like that we’re a family business, and they know where their beef is coming from.”
“We’ve designed this to be able to have a wide audience to other states,” Scott said. “But if customers pick up the box from us, there’s a pick up discount.”
Earl said, “Scott did all the design work on the boxes, and he designed our web site. The gray containers are the insulated totes. The totes don’t use Styrofoam, which is not biodegradable. The boxes of frozen beef fit inside the totes. When we ship, we have an arrangement with FedEx. FedEx will deliver the tote, then pick up the tote from the customer, and ship it back to us. So far we’ve shipped to customers in Texas and Oklahoma, and as far as Augusta, Georgia.”
“We’re about to start shipping to restaurants in Chicago and Colorado,” Earl said. “These will be larger quantities that will probably ship in freezer trucks.”
The Cheeks have gone through the United States Department of Agriculture to get their label approved. And they use a USDA processor in southern Kansas for slaughter purposes. They keep all the beef here in a freezer facility that stores the beef at zero degrees.
“We were selling at the Oklahoma City Stockyards auction,” Earl said “We had sold part of our herd in January and the prices weren’t great. But by March, prices were half. That’s when we decided to move this direction.”
Earl said, “Restaurants get their beef from all over the world. The USDA is what gave us the push to get going. They said they were not going to enforce labeling beef with its country of origin because of the pandemic. So, the consumers and beef producers lost out when that happened.”
“This is not a feed lot operation,” Earl said. The Cheeks, who are big on stewarding their land, are managing their pastures, fields, and water with future generations in mind.
Sustainability is the Cheek management philosophy. They foster a diversity of plant and insect life in their pastures and fields. They plant approximately 12 varieties of grasses for grazing and forage year round. They bale 1300 bales annually for their herds, which live in pastures their entire lives. And they don’t sell crops. Their cows are grass fed. But during the finishing process, they have a grain based feed that gives the beef marbling, and makes it more tender and adds a lot of flavor. They call it grass fed and grain finished.
DALE ROBERTSON’S HAYMAKER RANCH
The Cheek Ranch lands, owned by Earl and his siblings, collectively encompass about 1,250 acres. The ranch includes Western Hollywood and television actor Dale Robertson’s Haymaker Ranch lands. Robertson died in 2013. Earl said, “Dale was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. I met him about a half dozen times.”
Earl’s grandfather and dad first bought part of their current family ranch lands in the 1940s. Through the years, the family has purchased more adjoining land, including Robertson’s Haymaker Ranch. “My dad supported this ranch with other income he made,” Earl said. “With last year’s floods, our fields were under 5 feet of water. We lost our entire spring hay crop. We moved our cows to high ground we had purchased for that reason.”
DON’T JUST SHOW UP
“We give prearranged tours of what we own,” said Earl. “But people must contact us to arrange the day and time of the tour. This is a working ranch. It’s a dangerous place for people to be without supervision. People can’t just show up. Buffalo and bulls are dangerous and they even kill each other. Cows with their calves are also dangerous.”
Connect with Cheek Ranch for tours, or the Curated Beef Boxes, by going to their web site CheekRanch.com. Their phone number is on the site. The box sales are available on line.