Reprinted with permission from the Waconia Patriot
By Al Lohman
“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.”
That was the advertising campaign slogan for the Beef Industry Council in 1993, and beef was on the plate of a few dozen Waconia High School students last Wednesday when they toured Revier Cattle Company near Olivia, Minn.
“Where’s the beef?” is another advertising jingle introduced even farther back in 1984 by a national hamburger chain to distinguish their meat.
Revier Cattle is where Mackenthun’s Fine Foods has been getting its beef for the past year under an exclusive arrangement with the Minnesota provider some 60-70 miles away. Both are fifth-generation operations and the food partners arranged the tour for WHS teacher Mike Jensen’s environmental studies class, which includes a component in food/meat science.
“That section of the course looks at where the food we eat comes from and the environmental impacts of how it’s produced, Jensen said.
Eating habits and the food industry have changed considerably since the beef slogans aired, and both Mackenthun’s and Revier have adapted with the changes.
Mackenthun’s newly updated store is focused on more fresh items for customers and its sourcing is all about local. The local grocer was recently named the Minnesota Grown program’s Twin Cities area 2019 Retailer of the Year.
Meanwhile, Revier, its beef supplier, positions itself as the most sustainable cattle company and beef company, “producing the highest quality and best tasting beef in the world.”
“I’ve heard that before from lots of suppliers, but I have to admit that Revier is the finest beef I have ever tasted,” said store owner Kim Mackenthun.
Revier beef is on the menu at fine restaurants from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and is now sold retail exclusively at Mackenthun’s. Ninety percent of Revier cattle grade at USDA choice or higher in quality.
“Our mission is to be the most trusted supplier of the highest quality beef, committed to economic, environmental and socially responsible operations,” family farm partner Tom Revier told Waconia students on the farm tour.
From its beginnings in 1867, the Revier family of farmers continuously found ways to raise better beef, preserve and protect the land and water, he said. Today, brothers Tom and Dave Revier continue the tradition with Revier Cattle Company and Revier Farms.
Both are graduates of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and work together with family members and some 20 employees, plus seasonal help, to balance and support the complex operations and economics of a successful farm, while building a sustainable future in agriculture.
The Revier farm is about 200 acres in size, but its reach extends well beyond its borders. Revier contracts with some 50 surrounding farms for hand-picked beef cattle and farms hundreds of surrounding acres for feed to beef up, or “finish off” cattle before they are sent for slaughter to a facility in South Dakota.
“Minnesota is a very clean state in terms of its regulations,” Revier said. “Beyond that, for us finding ways to do things better and more sustainably is almost like an addiction. It’s an approach we’ve employed for 20 years and try to perfect every year.”
Revier promotes that it handles its cattle with TLC. In this case TLC means “Total Livestock Care,” and its facilities are unlike any others in the world, Revier says. Its cattle are healthier than the national average due to a unique mix of animal housing, special feed, handling and waste management.
Healthy, stress-free cows mean better beef, Revier said, and great care is taken to provide the right feed mixture and the right conditions.
Feed for Revier cattle includes locally grown, high protein feed, some of which is produced by Revier Farms. Other important feed ingredients are purchased from area producers, minimizing long distance delivery. That philosophy lowers fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and reduces Revier’s carbon footprint. Cattle feed is blended and fed fresh daily for the highest nutritional value to the animal.
Facilities for Revier cattle range from open-air yards to partial confinement pens to totally enclosed, patented barns. Feedlots have a concrete base beneath bedding so cattle aren’t sinking in mud. Cattle are assessed daily by employees who walk among them so they become familiar with humans and are not alarmed by their presence.
Meanwhile, utilizing manure as fertilizer reduces the need for mined and manufactured sources. Revier’s facilities incorporate anaerobic digester technology to capture and treat animal waste. The solids and liquids are separated to provide flexibility in application. Future plans are to capture additional energy from animal waste and convert it in to compressed natural gas fuel for company trucks and equipment – and even deliver natural gas via pipeline.
The fence lines and pastures necessary for livestock production add diversity to the environment by protecting soil and providing a habitat for wildlife. Crops like soybeans, sweet corn, peas, wheat, sugar beets and hay are raised and rotated along with corn to protect soil resources.
As a social, economic and environmental performance indicator, Revier Cattle Company utilizes its own sustainability scorecard system that addresses factors like water, waste and air emissions.
“Most of us usually don’t think a lot about where our food comes from,” said one WHS student on the tour. “But Mackenthun’s is local and a lot of families shop there, so it’s kind of neat that they get their food locally and responsibly.”