By Marilou Shea
Just south of the Tri-Cities in Stanfield, Oregon, a hard-working couple raise calves to satisfy their customers’ insatiable taste for beef. Pat and Tammy Mallon own Pat-n-Tam’s Beef, a boutique beef processing company.
Pat Mallon has been raising calves and selling them since he was in high school. Around 2003, a Mexican grocer wanted the Mallons to supply sides of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected beef. At that point, they found the first of several processors they use. Since their beef is now being inspected, it allowed them to explore selling individual cuts, primal cuts and sides of beef to restaurants and others.
The company uses different breeds that will produce well and offer nice-sized cuts with great flavor and tenderness. They run angus simmental base and soon will use shorthorn bulls.
They’ve carved out a good market with butcher shops and restaurants that prefer moderate-sized carcasses. Because of their size, Pat-n-Tam’s find it’s better to do business on a more intimate scale than use a distributor, though they might need to in the future. as their private label products are gaining popularity.
They sell their meat to retail outlets and smaller co-operatives and families, as well restaurants and food trucks or carts in Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Pat figures the operation needs to produce 150,000 pounds annually to meet the demand.
Restaurants and food trucks will account for 75 percent to 80 percent of their business over the next year due to the growth of the food truck industry and an exclusive contract with a casino in Nevada. Not bad for a husband-and-wife team who also work full-time jobs.
To meet the demand, the Mallons calve year-round and buy from a close network that raises calves with the same TLC philosophy. This enables them to sell roasts, kielbasa, bratwurst and bone products for stock-making in the fall and winter, and steaks, burgers and sausages during the warm weather grilling season.
Their nurturing philosophy is based on a Washington State University study that found the best, most flavorful beef starts at the gestational period and continues right through to daily calf care. In other words, calves can’t have a bad day. Period.
Being a rancher is capital intensive. Land is expensive, and a lot of it is required to raise cattle. Equipment and breeding stock also are expensive. The Mallons invest in equipment that allows them to do most of the work themselves, and they outsource the butchering. It’s a balancing act, and the profit cycle has a long tail. It takes three years to get paid for the beef from breeding one cow. Most ranchers hold full-time jobs and most put all of the profits from the business back into sustaining it.
Pat-n-Tam’s sells flash frozen beef and Pat firmly believes it’s superior to fresh. The approach is winning over skeptics. Why? The Mallons dry-age their beef, which takes about three to four weeks. Their beef has enough fat cover that they can use freezing to their advantage by aging the beef longer to intensify the flavor and tenderness.
Today, the outlook for beef is more positive than it has been in years. That’s because consumers are more conscious about where their food comes from and many are veering away from sugar and carbs. The popularity of diets like Paleo steers them to nutrient-dense organ meats, which in turn has spiked interest in unique cuts of meat, bones and novel cooking techniques. Ten years ago, the Mallons couldn’t give away organ meats or bones, and now it’s hard to keep them in stock.
Consumers love Pat-N-Tam’s sausage, burgers, pepper sticks and jerky products, which often include locally sourced ingredients. The honey-sweetened ginger sausage is infused with blackberry wildflower honey from Molalla, Oregon. There’s also a sugar-free sausage boasting fresh rosemary—just the ingredient to make it a tasty breakfast sausage. Orders for their roasted garlic peppercorn burgers are on the rise.
Their sea salt-cured jerky has become a bestseller. They recently changed the recipe by adding a special sea-salt cure on the jerky, removing the sodium nitrate, applying a celery-salt cure and using new resealable packaging. The products are on track to increase 50 percent year over year.
Pat thinks they have the best customers. His customers think they have the best beef. It’s been a winning combination.
[panel title="About Marilou Shea:" style="info"]
Food Love columnist Marilou Shea is the creator of Food Truck Fridays and adjunct faculty at Columbia Basin College’s Food Truck Academy.
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