Range Life: A Look at 44 Farms

This past month I arranged a visit to 44 Farms, our primary beef provider, to take a first hand look at where our beef is sourced. Nestled in the sleepy Texas town of Cameron, 44 Farms operates like a sanctuary — for man and bovine alike. The land and farm belong to Bob McClarren, who carries on a tradition of cattle farming that has existed in his family since 1909.  

But while the farm is old, the business itself is relatively new.  During the 20th century the farm was split up and sold in pieces, and it wasn’t until the 90’s, nearly 80 years later, that Bob and his sister started to buy and reintegrate previously sold land. In 2003, the 44 Farms brand had its official beginning, with just 60 registered Angus cows. It has since grown to be the largest Angus operation in Texas. Which is no small feat, and one that was achieved with a careful integration of modern and old farming techniques. 


My tour guides on the farm were Bryan Carroll, the Genetics & Research Manager, and Amanda Overfield, Sales Representative and Social Media Manager. The two of which are perfect examples of how the Farm has successfully adopted contemporary business techniques to help them advance. As Bryan told me, “Customer service and marketing are two of the things we hang our hat on. But our bulls have the genetics to make any cowherd produce quality beef.” He was quick to note the equal importance of managing the cattle and keeping them happy and healthy, which is not something that can be bred.

On the farm you witness an efficient, and often times beautiful, merger of old ways and the new. Looking at a cowboy herding on the property, “you know, he’s out there being more old school and I spend a lot of my time on the computer.” The resultant scene is this: genetically exceptional cattle spending their happy days tended on a vast, plentiful land by cowboys who practice an ancient and established method. It’s a pretty picture. One that probably had no small influence in pulling so many people from across the country to work in the small town of Cameron.

“All the people on the ranch live in Cameron, but only two were born there. Bob pulled only the best people from across the country,” Bryan told me. This includes James, their general manager, who lacked a farming background, yet was imported to Cameron because of his tremendous managerial experience and his long held desire to manage a ranch.

Despite the Farm’s modest beginnings on just 250 acres, it’s not hard to see why Bob was able to persuade so many talented people to join his operation. Both the work and the environment are honest and imbued with a purpose which feels quintessentially american. In the brief time I was a guest on the farm, I felt a little bit of the pull, the urge to find a way to spend more time there. 44 Farms has assembled a dream team of employees to manage the land by offering a dream job in exchange. 

44 Farms follows the idea that dependance on the land also demands a care for the land. That’s a hell of a belief. And what’s even better, is the sense that this tenant will stand even as the farm grows more successful. I’m more than proud to be associated with the farm. 

The Price is Right On, Man!

We think a lot about prices at the Co-op. We’re constantly making sure we offer quality products at reasonable prices, and of course, making sure we cover the costs of doing business. The Workers’ Assembly uses a pricing model that generates adequate income to be a successful business while also staying competitive within the market. So, as more and more craft beer bars open around Austin, you’ve watched our prices change to remain in-step with the competition. And while our prices increased, the standing Tuesday discount for member-owners has remained the same. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that starting today, Tuesday July 7th, the new discount for member-owner pint night is $2 off house pints. That’s right, just one more reason to stop in and make your membership work for you.

Co-ops exist to meet the needs of their member-owners and subscribe to an internationally recognized set of principles and values. Our Ends Policies express our community’s values and act as the guide for our daily operation’s ability to meet the needs of our member-owners. We showcase local and sustainable businesses and co-ops by offering their products, we support a living wage and democratic self-management, we support our community through sponsorships and donations to local organizations, and we educate our customers on how great it is to be a co-op. In the kitchen, we express our community’s values by offering high quality, locally-sourced, often sustainable, always ethical and humane food choices at extremely competitive prices.

I’m sure you can tell that we offer great products at a great price. In fact, we did a little price comparison on one of our most popular menu items – the Black Star Burger. We looked around and compared burgers of a similar quality — natural, hormone-free, anti-biotic free, and ground fresh in-house daily — and found that we, do indeed, offer an incredible value for our food. Check it out:

We feel that it is important maintain an accessible price point for our patrons and member-owners, that way we can all enjoy our Co-op. We hope you appreciate your membership experience, and continue to see the value of Black Star Co-op!