Episode #10 – Rancher Bobby Thoman from Lost Wells Cattle Company is committed to providing you with a premium beef product and says “finishing cattle on grass pastures is the way God intended it.”
On today’s episode of Agrihood Radio, we’re having a visit with grass-fed Cattle Rancher Bobby Thoman in Riverton, Wyoming.
Bobby shares his family’s history of how Lost Wells Cattle Company began and how him and his brother Brendan have continued the tradition of raising quality beef in a world where there’s so much compromisation of business principles.
Lost Wells Cattle Company is built on the foundation of high standards with an emphasis on the humane and ethical treatment of animals. This philosophy ensures the highest quality of grass-fed beef for the end consumer, erasing any doubt of drugs and/or harmful chemicals in their beef.
Bobby says his biggest concern is for the rolls of hamburger found in stores where there could be a thousand different animals in that one roll. He says there’s no traceability and there’s no knowing what’s exactly in that roll of beef.
He also discusses the pink slime scare and how it’s as way to process down slaughter equipment to wash the bone meal off. And then how it’s added back into the hamburger to supposedly to reduce cost.
In our interview Bobby sheds some light on how some large organic producers are using a marketing ploy by trying to game the system and sometime organic isn’t any different than non-organic foods.
That’s why he encourages people to support local farmers and health food stores. We need to support those who are practicing biodynamics, getting the minerals back into the soil.
If we can get our soil healthy then the meat is healthy and then of course that creates healthier results all around.
Enjoy today’s talk with Bobby Thoman from Lost Wells Cattle Company!
Intro: You’re listening to the live well radio podcast show a wealth of information for a life of inspiration and here’s your host Brett Coleman.
Brett: Alright so you guys today we have Bobby Thoman right Bobby T-H-O-M-A-N ?
Brett: From Lost Wells Cattle Company out there in Wyoming. What’s going on in Wyoming what’s the weather like man?
Bobby: It’s not too bad today we had snow for about a month and a half now but today it’s sunny and a little bit of snow on the ground probably about 40 degrees out.
Brett: It’s a beautiful part of the country we’ve been there several times through Wyoming my wife’s, actually her family is all in Colorado so we’ve been up that way near Cheyenne. Where are you in relation to Cheyenne?
Bobby: We’re about four hours west were in the west central part of the state.
Brett: Is that going towards the Tetons.
Bobby: Exactly we’re about two hours, two and a half hours from Jackson Wyoming in the Tetons.
Brett: Beautiful that’s God’s country right there man.
Bobby: Oh it’s beautiful yeah and Wyoming gets a pretty bad reputation for the I-80 corridor which is high desert plateau and lots of wind and we’re down about 5,000 feet and a lot more mild climate here.
Brett: So right now we’re gonna get you going here with what you’re doing out there, you’re doing things the right way. We come across a lot of different podcasts and we want to keep it consistent and we’ve had a lot of different podcasts where people come on the show and they share how they’re doing things the right way. The whole premise of this show is adding value to people’s lives offering information for inspiration. I’m not here to turn any meat-eaters into vegans and I don’t want to convert any vegans into meat eats that’s not my business. It’s not my place, you know how and what someone eats is completely their prerogative. However I am completely on board with ethical treatment of animals and also a proponent of incorporating a high amount of vegetables with, you know a nice round complete diet. So what I like about what you’re doing is that if people listen carefully they’re gonna see a big difference in how you’re raising and processing cattle compared to the, I guess would you call it a conventional way Bobby?
Bobby: Conventional yea.
Brett: Okay so let’s talk about this, how did it at all get started because you’re not the first generation doing this is it been passed down hasn’t it?
Bobby: Correct yeah actually my brother and I started, we’re the fourth generation. Our great-great grandparents were immigrants. But my parents grew up on a ranch typical ranch raising cattle you know the conventional way like you said which is basically raising cows and selling calves in the fall and you’d sell them out of state to feed lots in Nebraska, Iowa or wherever. And feeding hay until winter and my parents actually tried to expand their operation on a really high market year and bought a bunch of yearlings and the market went out the next year and they were forced to sell everything and that was about the mid-90s.
You know of course my brother and I went to college thought you couldn’t make a living on a ranch and a few years gone by, you know that stuff’s in your blood, you can’t just leave it and we wanted to figure out how to ranch economically, profitably and sustainably. I think that’s kind of where we got started in in the grass-fed business you know we don’t have corn out here, corn is hard to get. We couldn’t finish beef out here but we’d always sold a few beef then to our neighbors. And so we sat down and kind of came up with a business plan on how to get more of the market share out of our livestock instead of selling to feedlot you know and middleman who sells to another middleman who sells to a slaughter plant who sells to a customer. You know we were trying to kind of take all those steps out and you know and absorb those into our own operation and maybe keep a little of that capital to ourselves to add some profit back into ranching. So that’s how we got started.
Brett: Right on and today how many heads of cattle on the farm right now?
Bobby: Well it varies because it depends if you count all your classes you know some people count cows, calves and everything else you know. If you do that we’re we’re probably around 200 head. But just mother cows, it’s about a hundred head and you know we run a feed stock operation too and use our grass-fed beef business to kind of pull off all the things that won’t make it in the feed stock operation. So it’s been very beneficial to our cattle operation.
Brett: Nice, so I’m gonna dive right into the differences because I’m not that familiar, I just know there are different varieties of beef. I guess like we go back to saying the conventional way is this kind of just the mass-produced beef and a lot of fast food restaurants are using that. I should ask you is there a difference between grain, grass fed and feedlot, if so what are the biggest differences starting with grain and then go into the grass-fed, completely grass-fed and then feedlot?
Bobby: Yeah of course definitely and that’s how we choose to differentiate ourselves and I think that’s one of our marketing things too that really helps people to see and educate them. Because honestly I can’t compete with the packers on price for my beef because if anybody knows these big packers, they don’t make money on the meat, meat is a byproduct they make their money on the oftings. On fertilizer on you know things like that so to them meat’s a byproduct and that’s not how it is with smaller operations like we’re running. But I like to break it down into I think maybe four different categories based on levels of importance to people.
And I think for me like a first level benefit of grass-fed beef is the health benefits. We’re not feeding cattle grain, grain really causes acidosis and cattle it’s high acidic levels in their stomachs and that’s why you can get ecoli problems from conventional feedlot fed beef. That stuff just doesn’t exist on a grass-fed ranch because that we don’t have the proper environment for it to survive. That be one, the nutrition is definitely the biggest one there’s higher levels of most all your vitamins and minerals. You know people talk about omega-3s and omega-6s our omega-3s are a lot higher. No toxins, no hormones, no antibiotics, no GMOs a very clean product and then that’s a lot of these people looking for its direct benefits. Secondly we can kind of break it into maybe some of the indirect benefits or indirect impacts and that would be things like air pollution and you know toxic chemicals.
Most grass farmers they don’t call it by that term but they’re really big in the carbon sequestration because you want all that carbon back in the ground that’s where your nutrition comes from is putting all that carbon back in the ground. So even though it’s kind of a byproduct of what we do it’s very important. Third level for us would be like impacts of conscience and this is getting and I understand this and it’s getting to be a bigger and bigger deal you know a lot of people I’ve had people who were vegan saying you know I’ve chose to avoid meats because I don’t like the process. And I can respect that you know I don’t have a problem with that. So our this impact of conscious would be like an ethical and moral issues you know humane treatment of animals. We say letting a cow be a cow you know, cows weren’t meant to be locked up in pens we put them out on pasture they roam free you know they get to pick the grasses they want to eat and we rotate them through you know. That’s a big deal. I think in the industry there’s a saying that says our cows have a great life and one bad day and I don’t think you could ask for much more than that in this industry. And then the last one would be a fourth level I kind of consider be preference you know there’s things we can do that slaughterhouses can’t do. We can dry age your beef that’s where you get the flavor and the tenderness we can get organ meats which our grandparents used to eat you know these aren’t very popular anymore.
Bobby: Yep liver, heart you know all those things do when I was a kid we ate brains and eggs. I’m not saying it was the best meat I’ve had. But every once in a while slaughter day you can’t do that anymore now because of mad cow disease.
Brett: Where’d you have them sorry you broke up?
Bobby: Brains and egg.
Brett: Oh gotcha, wow really?
Bobby: Yeah no not very often but we did I whenever we slaughtered cows on the ranch as a kid and you know and things like soup bones marrow bones and things like that so.
Brett: And broth is huge I mean you know I even Costco is now carrying the chicken broth and now I’ve seen it with the beef broth with the turmeric included with it and I just got a bottle that myself at Costco. We were in Colorado visiting Lena’s family and I stopped by the Costco and I picked up a couple bottles of the beef broth Oh what’s advantageous about that, that’s gonna be some good health benefits.
Bobby: It’s huge they say you can raise the dead with good beef broth or bone broth it doesn’t have to be beef you can do a chicken or you know any animal. But it’s the collagen in it and it’s loaded with trace minerals and you can survive on that alone you know a lot of these broth diets to lose weight whatever to get healthier again and it’s incredible and you can make it yourself it’s not hard to make and you just have to find a few soup bones and it’s pretty simple to make.
Brett: Is it a variation of different types of soup bones from the cow?
Bobby: Yeah exactly so you can use things like knuckle bones marrow bones even ribs, there’s quite a few things you can throw in there. The old timers recipe calls for like a calf’s hoof, I kind of omit that one. But there’s a lot of things that people put in oxtail and the oxtail soup was an old recipe can put oxtail in it anything we can get collagen out of. I need those knuckle joints or marrow bones or anything like that you know works great.
Brett: Gotcha what I want to ask you is that you had said something earlier and I wrote it down. So the cattle is being mass produced by these farmers the packers is that what you called them?
Bobby: Packers correct.
Brett: Yeah so they’re not really in it for the meat they’re in it for the you said fertilizer now explain that to me because I’m not aware how that works.
Bobby: Not just fertilizer but byproducts things like hides they come oftings. Yeah they use the entrails for fertilizer and that’s a huge business. So the hides that is their main source of income for most of those places.
Brett: We’ve driven across the country numerous times you know in our travels for work, pleasure so on and so forth hundreds of thousands of miles and we’ve seen some of the biggest, what looks to me like to be dairy..I’ve never seen I guess there’s different types of cow these are black the black and white cow is that the dairy cow?
Bobby: Correct Holstein.
Brett: Okay I’ve seen farms across the highways across the country with it seems like it’s going on for acres and acres if not miles of these black and white cows. Now true or false those cows can only be milked for so long correct?
Bobby: In the conventional model correct because they really push those cows hard on feed and then their feet give out their legs give out because they’re on concrete all the time it’s just not a very good process. Five, six years old is old for a dairy cow.
Brett: Right so I guess my next question is, I’ve heard true or false, that after they’re done milking them do they go to the use for beef production, meat production.
Bobby: Oftentimes yes that’s where a lot of your hamburger comes from is dairy.
Brett: Dairy cow, to be quite blunt and honest that’s not the highest quality of beef correct?
Bobby: It’s not but I don’t think that, that wouldn’t be my biggest concern. My biggest concern would be that you get a say a roll of hamburger from any, you know store a five-pound roll. There could be a thousand different animals in that one roll there’s no traceability and there’s no knowing what’s exactly in that. That’d be more my and then of course the pink slime scare and all that that’s been the industry for years people are starting to see it.
Brett: What did you call it?
Bobby: Pink slime.
Brett: Pink slime.
Bobby: Yeah that came out of all few years ago.
Brett: What exactly is pink slime?
Bobby: Well I’m not getting into technical terms but it’s a way to process down like your slaughter equipment to wash the bone meal off. And to add that back into the hamburger and supposedly to reduce the cost.
Brett: I got you hey speaking of that’s kind of stuff you know, unless you’re living underneath a rock you probably have seen hundreds of these commercials on TV talking about..if you’ve been affected by Roundup right? Yeah so is that getting into the animals bodies through some type of ingestion of something?
Bobby: Of course yeah glyphosate it’s the active ingredient in Roundup and that’s, it’s very toxic. There’s test now where you can actually test yourself to see how much Roundup is in your body. But yeah any type, you know the new GMO crops require a lot more applications of Roundup than ever before. And they’re even using it on non GMO crops and of course that goes into the feed that goes into your breakfast cereal. You know things like that any kind of wheat you know which if you’re not paying attention to and I’m not going to put all the blame on Roundup because I think that’s it’s a hodgepodge of a bunch of different things. But it’s the slow building of toxicity I think in in everything around us that it’s adding up to a lot of, look at the rates of cancer. You know these days it’s ridiculous it’s crazy you know for a country that’s so technically advanced as we are nobody’s asking the question or nobody’s has any long-term studies on you know these chemicals that are being used in the food system.
Brett: What you’re saying is just spot on because I’m a big reverse engineer guy. So if you look at the tail-end if you look at the result right, start with the result and work backwards to see what’s producing that result you’re dead on, on the money, straight on point by saying cancer’s at an all-time high. You have diseases like Alzheimer’s in this country. I mean the list goes on diabetes, blood pressure I mean you have to, yeah you have to start thinking yourself okay there’s something in my opinion of course that’s got to be a link between what we’re putting in our bodies that’s producing these type of diseases.
Bobby: Correct, correct yeah it doesn’t, I mean you can start eliminating things and you know I’m pretty soon it’s pretty obvious that hey you know it’s got to be something I’m putting in my body you know it’s usually food.
Brett: Because we’re doing that on a regular basis correct. And putting different types of chemicals in our bodies you would obviously think is gonna sooner or later have an effect and you said something, I think we’re on the phone when I first invited you on this podcast and caught up with you a couple days ago you said something pretty smart, you can either pay now or pay later.
Bobby: Yeah it’s that’s what a lot of these guys say, you can pay now with higher food costs everybody says well it’s too expensive I can’t eat organic. Well you know can you afford doctor bills you know when you’re retired or even later but you know the hard thing with preventative, it’s difficult to quantify, you know how do you say well I didn’t have to go to the doctor today so I’m doing okay or I didn’t have to get chemo treatment today because I don’t have cancer today. And you know how do you quantify that? That’s what’s difficult people see you know the big-box stores and the prices and that’s what they look at because that’s easy to quantify. You know I can save money today but we don’t realize what we’re doing to our bodies in the long term.
Brett: An awareness, helping people raise their awareness specially kids I have a four-year-old boy he’s been if I’ve been to fast-food restaurants twice and once was to use the bathroom. I mean on a road trip, it’s a whole other topic man. But now that I’m a father four-year-old boy my conscious level, my awareness is this off the charts through the roof. You know you have to have some type of guidance for these innocent little beings coming into the world that are being bombarded with these commercials on TV for fast food and get a little toy in your meal box and stuff like that. You got to be responsible. I take the stance of being responsible for my not only myself and my wife because we’re all in this together. So you’re doing things the right way and you’re father, yes?
Bobby: Yeah I’ve got four kids.
Brett: Four kids let’s talk about, what are those kids eating right now? Not meaning like as we speak, but what’s a typical meal, a day look like in your household for your family?
Bobby: Well this morning we had bacon, eggs and toast from some organic bread. A lot of times I’ll make, I’ve got one son that’s borderline celiac. So we have to do the gluten-free so we do a lot of gluten-free options but we’re a very much meat and potatoes kind of family. We eat a lot of meals with hamburger my wife’s a pretty good cook we’ll eat steak every once in a while and I try at least once a month to do some kind of organ meats. I’ll Traeger a heart, I’ll tell you what my kids think it’s steak they don’t even know the difference they love it to death and liver’s kind of a harder sell in our house. But my dad’s got a good recipe fries it up in bacon grease and you can just about eat anything fried in bacon grease.
Brett: You’re right so now are vegetables foreign food in your house?
Bobby: No of course it’s hard in in winter climates like we so in the winter time you kind of slow down on the vegetables because you can’t get them fresh anymore. So we’re more into the soups you know one of the bone broth type based soups in the winter time. But we still do as much as we can. Summer time during farmers market you know we have our own garden we grow a lot of stuff. You know kids love fresh bell peppers you know, carrots anything like that is an easy sell fresh tomatoes, get them involved in the garden they love it to death so.
Brett: That’s awesome you know I think I’ve shared this with you the other day we’re looking now to move from our current house into a community these are called Agrihoods, A-G-R-I H-O-O-D-S, Agrihoods. And they’re farm-to-table communities around the world. But we’ve been looking at a few of them in the country actually seen 13 now around the country and exactly what you’re saying it’s the whole lifestyle, taking your children to a farm with other children building a sense of community. Fostering friendships, get an appreciation for food, healthy food from an organic garden and how it’s grown. Bringing the food back to your house and cooking, it’s a whole, whole cool life experience that we’ve been introduced to and I first saw the special on CBS Sunday morning about three years ago just after my boy Cash was born and I told my wife about it and we started looking into this concept and it’s huge this is the fastest growing residential developments around the country right now and even around the world. So you guys are doing it, I mean you have everything you need right there at your house fresh farm-to-table at the house.
Bobby: Yeah it’s super rewarding too I mean especially for kids teaching kids how to milk the cow. I mean we have a milk cow and on the ranch and we have milk cows they get up to 14 years old and still produce enough milk for the family. You know things like that, just are you know, to pick a couple current berries on your way down to do chores or pick a few raspberries you know when you’re out checking the cows. You know things like that just I think are rewarding and it kind of helps connect people to the land. I think the problem with a lot of things in society today is that we’re so disconnected from the land we think everything comes from the grocery store and we need to get back to our roots to see you know where this stuff comes from, the work that is entailed. You know and I think too, you know for kids there’s not a better lifestyle their outside and they’re busy and they’re enjoying it and they’re not camped in front of a TV or a phone.
Brett: Or a computer, no, I’m 100% on board my wife and I had a sit-down a discussion and we talked about this as a matter of fact we said okay we’re gonna check into this whole Agrihood concept. We spent five months traveling about 7,000 miles and we hit about 13 different Agrihoods in 10 different states and we’re learning about the concept in every single one we’ve hit has got something pretty cool and it’s called the concept of a healthy lifestyle and that’s what it’s all about and that’s what you guys are doing there at the Lost Wells Cattle Company. How can people find you? The website give me the contact information you guys use.
Bobby: Sure yeah we’ve got a lot of information on our website it’s LostWellsCattle.com and we also have a Facebook page which I’m not very good at updating but it’s, at Lost Wells cattle at Lost Wells cattle.
Brett: Lost Wells Cattle L-O-S-T-W-E-L-L-S-C-A-T-T-L-E.
Brett: Yeah and before I let you go let’s talk about this for a second because I think I might be lactose intolerant. Now I know when I drink skim milk it doesn’t bode well with me it’s not a good thing but when I noticed I drink whole milk my stomach is okay with it do you know the difference while have you on the phone.
Bobby: Yeah we grew up drinking raw milk and I think people who are lactose intolerant aren’t necessary intolerant lactose they might be intolerant to the pasteurization or the homogenization of milk you can either try raw milk or you can do something like kefir because kefir actually kefir eats all the lactose out of the milk. So you can do something like that too.
Brett: Right so no you hit a good point so what does, what do you mean raw milk?
Bobby: Raw direct from the cow it doesn’t get processed it doesn’t get pasteurized or homogenized you skim your own cream off the top and that’s right from the cow.
Brett: You know do you think that like a natural food store would carry raw milk?
Bobby: Well you got to be careful there’s a lot of laws against raw milk and yeah go figure but a lot of places sell shares they’re in these little farms.
In Wyoming now we had a new bill called the Food Freedom Act which basically eliminated oversight on anything directly sold from a farm or ranch to the consumer. Amazing a lot of these states should look to this. But in your own state you got to be careful you got to make sure you go through the proper hoops so you’re not doing something illegal.
Brett: Yeah we don’t have a cow in our backyard so if I go to Whole Foods Market or Sprouts or a natural market the next best thing to raw milk would be what?
Bobby: I don’t know I would try your farmers markets too and see if you can find some milk there I’m not sure you can do organic. But we haven’t talked much about organic versus you know biodynamic but organic is any more it’s just getting to be these big companies they’re starting to figure out the hoops to jump through. You can eat organic products aren’t any better than the conventional. Because you need something that’s more biodynamic they’re really focusing on putting the nutrition back in the product whether that’s a steak or your milk or your vegetables, your garden you know anything like that. And you really need to focus on the biodynamic.
Brett: Touch on that in a minute.
Bobby: Sure it’s just a lot of these organic producers are using the marketing ploy and you know and all the publicity that organic is brought and not that it’s bad but what they’re doing is are trying to game the system. You know and that’s why buy an organic from you know your big-box stores it may not be that great I’d encourage people to hit your farmers market up find your little health food stores you know the local ones and support them but biodynamic just means like kind of like I said that you know these farmers that are focused on getting the minerals back into the soil. So that they can get into the plant and for us you know we’re really not beef farmers were grass farmers we have to work really hard to balance our soils to put the nutrients back in the ground because that’s what makes the plants grow and that’s what the cows eat you know. So if we can get our soil healthy you know then the meats healthy and then of course we’re healthy as well.
Brett: Good way to put it man it’s a whole cycle.
Bobby: Exactly it’s kind of like chemistry class all over again but it’s kind of fun.
Brett: Yeah it is what’s your next step and what do you see for your farm and what’s three to five years and what do you want to leave behind and your kids gonna be taking over so what’s some long-term goals, short-term goals you have for Lost Wells Cattle Company?
Bobby: Kind of continue going it’s kind of funny because it’s always the new generation trying to convert the older generation you know, my dad’s up around retirement age but I don’t think he has any plans of retiring. But just helping them get away from things you know get into things like cover cropping. We have reduced all our pesticides and herbicides you know on that’s been quite a while ago but maybe using more natural type fertilizers using cows to put your fertility back in your soil things like that it’s always a constant process because you know nature is different every year. So it’s kind of fun to see how things work what worked in the past couple of these guys say if I don’t fail us something I’m not trying hard enough. So you got to push that envelope a little bit you know see well maybe I can plant some turnips this year on a cover crop on a field in Wyoming. Yeah go figure, but it works so keep trying a few of those things and see what works and what doesn’t and try it out for yourself.
Brett: That’s awesome and looking back in your life you’re sitting on that rocking chair and the big front porch staring at the Tetons somewhere in Wyoming and you look back and say you know what I’m glad I did what? I’m glad I left this what would that be finish that sentence for us?
Bobby: I’m glad I taught my kids you know what it means to take care of the land you know because if you take care of the land the land will take care of you. And I taught my kids how to work I taught my kids that things aren’t easy they don’t come free that there’s a little bit of sweat equity that has to go into you know if anything’s worthwhile.
Brett: That’s awesome you’re a great father, your wife says your stand-up husband, I’m sure she would say that right? (laughter) You’re stand-up guy. You can speak for her she’s not on this podcast go ahead say whatever you want right? (laughter)
Bobby: Oh she might find it she might find it out.
Brett: We appreciate your time and again they can catch up with you and Lost Wells Cattle Company or just lost Wells cattle you said right?
Bobby: Just lost Wells cattle yep.
Brett: You wanna leave a phone number?
Bobby: It’s on the website.
Brett: Is it okay yeah all right best contact is that and you guys have a great weekend it’s awesome catching up with you Bobby. If there’s anything you want or decide you want to share later on you’re always more than welcome to be invited back on the show and share some insight and some inspiration. And again congratulations for you and your family for doing things the right way and that’s what this show is all about information for inspiration. So thanks again buddy we appreciate you and God Bless.
Bobby: Yea thanks for having me on I enjoyed it.
Brett: Alright buddy, take care now.
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