Son Ben Taggart (center) joins Jon and Wendy Taggart in their highly successful Burgundy Pasture Beef.
Photography by Teresa Rafidi
“A lot of people want to know where their food comes from,” says Wendy Taggart who, with business partner Jon Taggart, owns Burgundy Pasture Beef and helped pioneer the grass-fed beef movement in North Texas.
They want to know that the cattle (and other animals they eat) were humanely and sustainably raised. Locally, if possible. They want to know that the hamburgers they cook on their grill or order in a restaurant come from one or two cows, not 500. And that the cows were free to eat and roam on natural pasture grasses. That the animals got to be happy cattle before they…weren’t.
Sometimes, they want to be able to look the rancher in the eye.
“They want to meet the person who can guarantee the product,” says Kenneth Braddock, manager of two Rosewood Ranches, which emphasize large-scale conservation.
For years, farmers markets offered a way to do this—still do. But the selection of cuts is more limited—and must be frozen, due to health regulations. Shopping also is limited to the market’s hours.
Now comes a new era of brick-and-mortar butcher shops specializing in pristine, local beef you can trace back to the fields where the cattle roamed. Four of these are taking it to the next level—offering fresh beef as well as premium varieties, such as Texas-raised Wagyu and Akaushi, plus other meats, including pastured chicken and heritage pork, as well as specialty products like house-made sausage and smoked meats.
All but one of these shops largely controls where and how the beef is raised (the ranches), where it’s processed (the butchering facility) as well as where it’s sold, meat counter or restaurant, direct to consumers. The fancy business term for this is vertical integration. For consumers it means a chain of responsibility that extends from the animals’ birth to the steak or brisket on the plate.
BURGUNDY PASTURE BEEF
Grandview, Fort Worth, Dallas
“When we started out, people in the cattle industry laughed at us,” Wendy Taggart says. That was 19 years ago, when she and Jon, who are divorced, decided to raise and sell grass-finished beef from the ranch they lease near Grandview.
No one’s laughing now. Back then, customers willingly bought large, mixed-cut boxes that were delivered to their homes. Today they can shop for as little or as much as they like in one of three Burgundy stores across North Texas—and son Ben has joined the growing business.
The Taggarts’ beef was always the draw, nurtured on meticulously maintained pastures. “We have an 11-month growing season,” Wendy says, “(with) warm-season and cool-season grasses.” And making the ranch work? “That’s Jon’s forte.” They used to raise the cattle birth to harvest, but ran out of room and began getting weaned calves from nearby ranches that met their strict protocol.
In 2006, they opened their own butchering facility with a meat market in Grandview. “There was no small-scale infrastructure for processing animals,” she says. It wasn’t just a matter of cutting up beef, but understanding how to package it for retail. Besides providing a place to process their own animals, the Burgundy Boucherie catered to other small producers, such as JuHa Ranch in Barry.
But Grandview is a long way out in the country south of Fort Worth. “Our customer is an urban dweller,” Wendy says, “and it was always our dream to make it more convenient to the customers. The way to do that was to be in their neighborhood.”
They first realized that dream in 2014, opening Burgundy’s Local in Fort Worth, where customers can find frozen and fresh cases full of pre-cut-and-packaged beef from the Taggarts’ ranch as well as chicken, pork, lamb and more from like-minded producers, plus a grill. A Dallas store followed in 2016.
There was no guidebook for their unique approach and expansion strategy. “We had to self-grow,” Wendy says. “We did not have a lot to capitalize it.” Word-of-mouth and delicious beef did the rest.
Butcher Keith Browning (left) loves working with beef raised by Rosewood’s Kenneth Braddock.
THE MEAT SHOP
The point of the Meat Shop, which opened last year on Lovers Lane in Dallas, was to provide a retail outlet for Rosewood Ranches beef, says butcher Keith Browning, who’s excited to be working at the store and has loads of ideas for the holidays. He’s even working on a sous-vide program for customers. The store has limited dining in.
The Hunt family owns Rosewood Ranches, and the store owners who dreamed up the store include two of Caroline Rose Hunt’s grandsons, Lowell and Storm Sands, as well as J.J. Barto and Passo Ziebart.
But these aren’t just hobby ranches of the rich and famous. “Conservation is a huge thing for us,” says ranch manager Kenneth Braddock, who for 30 years has been expanding the ranches’ legacy of sustainability. “We restored wetlands. We’re in a rotation grazing system. We look at the entire ranch, not just the cattle operation. It’s all about how you conserve it and what you leave behind.”
The beef is grass-fed Texas Wagyu, raised from birth on the ranch near Ennis (or another nearby), a premier conservation project that’s been recognized for its stewardship by groups such as the Environmental Law Institute (National Wetlands Award), Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Audubon Society. The Wagyu is humanely grain-finished just before processing, Lowell Sands says.
Home Grown Market in Ennis, where Braddock’s daughter, Lucy Braddock, is chef, is the only other retail/restaurant outlet— opened after people clamored for it. They had tasted the beef at community events and wanted a store of their own.
“It costs a little more, but people are willing to pay for it,” Braddock says. “They want to know where it’s coming from, where it was raised, and was it treated right.”
Deep Cuts owners (from left) Deena Chavoya-Ellis, Nathan Abeyta and Wendy Wolff are reviving a tradition
DEEP CUTS DALLAS CUSTOM BUTCHER SHOP
An odd confluence of circumstances—including that neighborhood butchers were vanishing—brought Nathan Abeyta, Deena Chavoya-Ellis and Wendy Wolff together to create Deep Cuts in 2016.
First, “we share that passion for good, wholesome food,” says Abeyta, the butcher. “The premise is wholesome food, that what you put in your body matters.”
That meant sourcing the best local beef—out of an abiding belief that happy, healthy cows raised humanely mean healthier eating. Focusing locally gave them the ability to walk the pastures and see the cows for themselves. They turned to HeartBrand Beef, which raises Akaushi cattle in Flatonia, and 44Farms in Milam County, which prides itself on its Black Angus genetics and RightWay animal welfare program.
Abeyta has worked both with a small, independent butcher and in a large grocery store setting. The small butcher is part of a dying breed, he says, butchers who are aging out of the profession.
“The next generation isn’t out there,” he says, adding that the guys in the big stores aren’t the answer. “Store meat cutters can’t break down cattle.” He feels like Deep Cuts helps fill that gap.
People also have forgotten how to cook beef, he says. “It’s all about teaching people to eat beef correctly”—from understanding portion size to getting the best out of each cut. And ultimately, using the whole animal. “Nothing should be thrown away,” he says. “We have to help people understand how to cook, understand food again. Braising oxtail, eating bones (with marrow) is okay.”
LOCAL YOCAL FARM TO MARKET
LOCAL YOCAL BBQ AND GRILL
Matt Hamilton (above) “got serious” about grass-fed beef back in 2009 as a rancher. Not long after, he became frustrated with the lack of processing facilities and decided to create his own, opening Local Yocal Farm to Market in 2010 in a refurbished butcher shop just off the McKinney square. It was a boon to other small producers looking for a pristine place to process their beef.
Since then, Hamilton’s been like a whirlwind, whipping through various phases and challenges (like the 2011 drought) to arrive at a point where he’s just opened a restaurant, his Local Yocal BBQ and Grill east across State Highway 5.
Why a restaurant? Once upon a time, he supplied his Texas grassfed beef and his Wagyu beef to nearly 40 restaurants. But he got disgruntled, he said, when establishments would keep his name on the menu but switch suppliers. Now it’s all Matt Hamilton all the time.
“I wanted a restaurant where my name was on the menu,” he says, “and it was me in the kitchen.”
Next year, his butcher shop and meat market will relocate to the same space.
Already the new restaurant has a meat counter, which Hamilton stocks with various, changing cuts not on the menu—say, a 30-day dry-aged tomahawk. “And when those cuts are gone, they’re gone.”
These days, he says, he does less ranching and more work with local and regional “grower partners,” such as Nitschke Natural Beef in Oklahoma (the owners are former Oak Cliff residents) and 44Farms in Milam County, as well as Field Cattle Co. in Weston. He sometimes goes out of state for his Wagyu, as part of the Imperial Wagyu program.
One thing that won’t change: his popular Steak 101 classes. At the new restaurant, they go indoors and uptown with monitors for better viewing. “We’ve got a room for it—with screens.”