How Can Cattle Save Endangered Species? Ask Nick Etcheverry.

Posted Posted in Panorama Stories

What do cattle ranching, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and Burning Man have in common? That would be Nick Etcheverry of Eureka Livestock, LLC, one of Panorama’s network of organic, grass-fed ranchers. 

Etcheverry is a third-generation rancher in Maricopa, CA, just outside of Bakersfield. With his father Jim, he raises cattle over a patchwork of leased land spread from Southern and Central California through Nevada and Idaho. Some of the land is federal, leased from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, some of it is private ranch land, and some is on a private wildlife refuge and preserve. The Etcheverrys have worked hard to build bridges with the landowners because they all have a common interest: land preservation for the benefit of endangered species.

Jim and Nick Etcheverry

“Essentially all of our land has endangered species on it,” says Etcheverry. “Down here [in Maricopa] we have California kit fox, there’s the giant kangaroo rat, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and then there’s the California condor. We also have a ranch in Eureka, NV, and there, it’s all about the greater sage grouse.”

You might wonder how grazing cattle can save endangered species, but Etcheverry explains that it’s about good management and allowing the cattle to eat just the right amount of grass. Too little grazing means the grasses form thatch that smothers the soil below, preventing the growth of native plants and destroying habitat for the grass-dwelling rodents, birds, and reptiles that make their home there. Lack of grazing also allows for the spread of invasive plant species like foxtail and cheatgrass that dries out and burns easily, feeding wildfires, of special concern during the prolonged drought currently hammering much of the West. Etcheverry talks about a time that a massive wall of tumbleweeds, an extremely invasive and non-native noxious weed, blew from a neighboring parcel of ungrazed land and knocked over a quarter mile of new fence he had just installed.

The action of grazing cattle mimics the action of large herds of elk, bison, and other ungulates that have largely disappeared from the landscape due to over-hunting (in the case of bison) and loss of habitat to development. Etcheverry says on parcels of land that they graze, native species thrive, but on ungrazed land nearby, the same isn’t true. “They’ve trapped kangaroo rats behind the cows after we leave a pasture,” he says. “There’s a lot of good science behind our grazing.” 

Eureka Livestock wasn’t always an organic company, so why did Etcheverry decide to switch? 

“My father and I decided about eight or nine years ago because we were fortunate enough to be on the preserve, which has thousands of acres and more feed. That allowed us the ability to keep cattle longer,” he says, “and then we really liked the idea of Panorama Meats. We were fortunate to be able to create an organic herd on the preserve, and then it kind of trickled over to the other two ranches.”

And then there was his experience at Burning Man, the giant festival in the Nevada desert, where he met plenty of urban dwellers who didn’t understand even the basics about where meat comes from. “Going to Burning Man and really listening to the people there about how important organic is to them opened up my mind,” he says. “It is important, and I decided I should do my best to create less of a carbon footprint and graze for the habitat of endangered species. The tool is cattle, and the byproduct is beef. To me, it’s like a whole circle of life.”

It’s not often that environmentalists and ranchers see eye-to-eye, especially in the Western U.S. The Great Basin, with its extreme topography—both the lowest point in the country and the highest are found here—sprawls from Mexico to Idaho and runs through parts of California, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. The tension between those who want to leave the land untouched and those who want to manage it is acute. But the two sides have more in common than they might think, and it is possible for the factions to work together.

“We’re really just trying to raise the best product that we can,” says Etcheverry. “We care about what people eat and we care about our cattle. And we do care about the future of the planet. I mean, I look at my two little boys and I sure want them to have the same opportunity that I had, to be on the same ranch and breathing the same clean air that that I get to breathe, not just for them, but for their kids or their grandkids that I won’t even know.”

Top Sirloin Steaks With Coffee Cocoa Spice Rub

Posted Posted in Recipes

The slightly bitter, slightly sweet notes of this rub nicely complement the smoky char of a well-grilled steak. Here we do sirloins, but it would also be delicious on a rib eye or New York strip. If you make two steaks, you’ll have plenty of rub left over, but it keeps for up to six months in a tightly-sealed jar. One thing to remember about grilling grass-fed steaks – they cook faster than other steaks, so be sure to watch them closely and use a thermometer. These will cook in just a few minutes. Medium rare is perfect.

Serves 2, with extra rub left over

  • 2 Panorama grass-fed top sirloins, 6 ounces each
  • 6 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator, unwrap, and dry with a paper towel. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Heat the grill to high.

Mix the paprika, salt, cocoa powder, espresso powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, and black pepper together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. Rub a thick layer over the steaks on all sides.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook to desired temperature (about 125 F for medium rare), turning once. Remove to a plate and cover. Allow to rest for five minutes. 

Why Does Grass-fed Matter? Mother Earth Has The Answers

Posted Posted in Panorama Stories

You wouldn’t necessarily think that eating a steak or a fat, juicy burger has much to do with saving ecosystems, but when you eat organic, grass-fed beef from one of Panorama’s 34 American family ranches, you truly are making a difference. Cattle raised on organic pastures and fed nothing but grass and other forage from weaning until harvest provide not only human health benefits, but environmental ones, as well.

Regenerative agriculture has been the buzzword in the food world for several years, but the definition is somewhat murky. Most people take it to mean rebuilding soil on farmland, but Panorama takes a more holistic view. It’s not just about soil. Regenerative agriculture is a means of rebuilding and restoring ecosystems, including everything from soil to water to plant and animal biodiversity. For Panorama’s ranchers, it’s a philosophy that drives everything they do.

America’s grassland ecosystems once stretched over 550 million acres from Canada to Mexico, but today, they’ve shrunk by 60 percent. The two biggest culprits in their demise have been development and farming. Millions of acres of virgin prairie have been plowed under to plant monoculture row crops, like corn, soy, and grains, many of which are cultivated with a cocktail of chemicals to keep them fertilized and pest-free. Much of the corn and soy grown on those plowed-under prairies is turned into ethanol, high-fructose corn syrup, and feed for commodity livestock who spend a big chunk of their lives in confined feeding operations to become the inexpensive proteins you find in the grocery store. But that’s not the case when you buy Panorama’s organic, grass-fed beef.

Panorama’s cattle live stress-free lives, moving from pasture to pasture, eating to their hearts’ content.

Panorama’s pasturelands are never treated with herbicides, pesticides, or non-organic fertilizers. And because the animals spend their whole lives on pasture eating only what nature intended for them to consume, they’re never given grain, hormones, antibiotics or other drugs to promote growth. They live stress-free lives, moving from pasture to pasture, eating to their hearts’ content.

What does a healthy grassland ecosystem look like? You’ll find native perennial grasses, of course, along with a wide variety of forbs and other flowering plants. Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and other insects are abundant. Waterways and wetlands are clean and flowing,  providing habitat for birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. The soil is rich, fertile, and alive. Most important, you’ll find grazing animals like elk, deer—and cattle.

Since its beginning 20 years ago, Panorama has been committed to conserving and restoring rangeland—it’s one of the four pillars in the Panorama 360-Degree Promise®. Grazing cattle on well-managed pastures mimics the action of the original inhabitants of the grassland ecosystem – the bison, elk, and other large ungulates that trampled, fertilized, and fed on a diverse set of perennial plants. Those plants and their long roots work in a cycle with the complex soil biome, the fungi and bacteria that form a sink for carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gasses. Some recent studies have shown that grass-fed cattle can actually neutralize more greenhouse gasses than they emit, making them not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative.

Their trampling and fertilizing break up the soil, keeping it from being compacted, and it also stimulates root growth, allowing for broad diversity of healthy native plants and preventing the spread of invasive interlopers, like cheatgrass, which chokes out native plants and contributes to the ferocity of wildfires. In fact, as drought has intensified throughout the West, fires have become a new normal, but a recent paper from UC Davis says that grazing animals can reduce the fuel load in ecosystems, thus reducing the impact of devastating fires that destroy habitat and soil.

In addition to sequestering carbon, healthy soils filter water and recharge aquifers by allowing rainfall to soak into the ground, rather than running off and polluting surface water with mud and other debris, a bonus especially in the drought-prone West where every drop of water is critical for life. 

Of course, keeping  grasslands healthy requires a good management plan so that cattle are a productive part of the ecosystem. Panorama’s ranchers use various methods of moving their herds around their pastures to benefit not only the cattle, but the rangeland as well. Whether it’s mob grazing, adaptive pasture management, or other forms of herd handling, the goal is always to raise healthy cattle and maintain thriving pastures. 

Rolling grasslands are an easy target for development of large subdivisions or even the dreaded McMansions that have been springing up all over the West. 

Another way Panorama is devoted to preserving grasslands is through open space conservation. As the pandemic has demonstrated that work doesn’t necessarily need to be done in an office, urban-dwellers have been flocking to rural communities, putting pressure on housing and services. Rolling grasslands are an easy target for development of large subdivisions or even the dreaded McMansions that have been springing up all over the West. 

Many of Panorama’s ranchers, led by founder Darrell Wood, have become active in the land trust movement, which provides for the preservation of open space in perpetuity. Not only does land conservancy save rangeland, but it supports recreational opportunities like hiking, camping, and hunting, and of course, provides a place for the human species to interact with nature, something that’s become even more critical during the past year of isolation and worry.

So if you want to keep birds singing, streams flowing, and climate change at bay, buy grass-fed beef whenever you’re hungry for a steak. And make it an organic, grass-fed steak from Panorama.

Book Review: Barry Estabrook’s Just Eat

Posted Posted in Books

Many Americans have a fraught relationship with food. Some fear it, some love it, some think of it as medicine while others believe much of it is toxic, there’s the judgmental “good food versus bad food” camp, and myriad variations on all of the above. That’s one reason the weight loss industry is a 70+ billion dollar one—we all want someone to tell us when to eat, what to eat, and how to eat it for optimum health and wellness. And we want it to be easy and painless.

Investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook has delved into the issue of nutrition, diet, and weight loss in his new book Just Eat: One Reporter’s Quest for a Weight-Loss Regimen That Works. When his doctor told him he had to lose a significant amount of weight or face grim consequences, Estabrook embarked on a journey to find a way to eat that would help him lose weight, get his elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure under control, and, he hoped, prevent him from becoming yet another male in his family to succumb to cardiovascular disease at a young-ish age.

Over the course of four years, he explored highly-marketed and wildly popular diets like Whole 30, South Beach, and Weight Watchers, as well as lifestyle eating like the French Paradox and the Mediterranean Diet. Through it all, he experienced what any dieter will recognize—the yo-yo of dramatic weight loss followed by a gain of everything lost and then some.

Estabrook digs into the science and history behind dieting, and unlike many books written by doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus, he presents well-researched information in a highly readable and sometimes humorous way. He’s not shy about presenting his own experiences with self-deprecating wit: going out to dinner with colleagues who are chowing down on oodles of delicious regional specialties while he sips sparkling water and nibbles at a salad; the battles with intestinal upsets, irritability, grumpiness, and sleeplessness; and the boredom and tediousness of eating a restricted diet and keeping track of it. Anyone who’s ever been on the diet treadmill will relate.

Never a dieter in his life, Estabrook comes to the conclusion that he’s still not one. Yet, he’s managed to lose weight, get off the pharmaceuticals for his blood pressure and cholesterol, and become a thinner, fitter version of himself. He did it by taking information and pieces of wisdom from every plan he tried and every expert with whom he conversed. He incorporated what he learned into a way of eating and drinking that fits with his lifestyle and allows him to experience the joy of eating well. His method may not work for everyone—nor does he intend that to be the point of the book—but he saves the reader the time, expense, and frustration of trying so many diets that, by their very nature, doom most people to failure.

Estabrook says he still enjoys a good grassfed steak once in a while as part of his quest to eat the highest quality food he can find and to consume less of it. He’s eliminated the so-called bad actors – food that he recognized contributed to his weight gain, whether a loaf of home-baked whole wheat bread or a bag of potato chips. He’s changed his relationship with alcohol and takes the time to focus on food when he’s eating, rather than on the work on his desk. And he’s added an hour of physical activity to his daily routine. 

For anyone who’s been frustrated with the pounds-off, pounds-on rollercoaster of trying to lose weight, Just Eat is an entertaining revelation. You don’t have to “diet” to be healthy. You just have to find what works for you. And stick with it.

A Journey Through Whole 30: GM Kay Cornelius Talks About Her Experience

Posted Posted in Panorama Stories

Kay Cornelius is Panorama’s General Manager, and last fall, she decided to try the Whole 30 eating plan. Panorama’s organic, grass-fed meats are all Whole 30 Approved, so it seemed a natural fit when she was looking for something to try to overcome some minor health issues she and her husband were experiencing. This is her story.

Kay Cornelius

Why were you interested in trying Whole 30?

I was having joint issues and my husband had severe headaches. I’ve also always wanted to lose a little weight. I’m sure my husband does, too. I was really worried about him because he had debilitating headaches last summer where he just couldn’t function for several days. And I remember reading about Whole 30. Whole 30 isn’t a weight loss diet; you actually remove everything for 30 days and let your body eat real foods on a regular schedule, and then slowly introduce foods back and figure out what your triggers are. So I told him I was going to do it and he should join me because that’s how we’re going to cook. I did it actually to see if it would help my husband more so than me. He didn’t know that, but that’s what I did. 

When did you start the Whole 30 program?

I started September 14, which was also my first day at Panorama. In retrospect, I think “Whoa, could I have possibly done that?” But it worked out well. I really enjoyed being on that diet because it’s just what I like to eat. And my husband stuck with me. He was almost as religious as I was about following it to the letter. 

What did you like about Whole 30? 

I found the day-by-day planner they give you really helpful for motivation. Every morning I would read the little chapter about the day and I’d be like, yeah, that’s what I experienced yesterday, or, you know, this is what I think I will experience today. And it was pretty spot on. And gosh, by probably day 10, I was feeling great. And my husband was feeling great. He actually was losing a lot of weight, dropping a pound a day. 

I really enjoyed eating that way and eating pure meat and pure vegetables and cooking them together. And there’s no better time than September when gardens are at their absolute peak for vegetables, right before the first frost when everything is ripening. You always have a bountiful basket of vegetables. And it’s especially nice that Whole 30 recommends Panorama grass-fed meat. 

What kind of effect did Whole 30 have on you?

I had more energy. I felt more vibrant. After I got through the first few days, I felt like I could tackle the world. I don’t know if it was the diet or the words in the book, but for me, it was really great. In fact, when I reached my day 30 I really didn’t want to go off it, other than I wanted to have a cocktail. I felt like I achieved something I needed to. I was invited to a little kid’s birthday party where they had coconut cream cake and I didn’t even take a taste. When I got through that birthday party, I knew I could do it. 

So I felt better as a result. We’ve slowly introduced things back and we found things that we were fine with living without, like milk in my coffee. I used to be religious about that—I couldn’t drink coffee without milk, but I drink it black now. I realized that I can cook burgers and grill steaks and cook roasts and I don’t need to add those seasonings that have sugar in them. But I do like having my cocktail now. 

I lost 12 pounds, which made me feel good. I’ve gained about six of it back now, but I don’t feel bad about it. I’m not a body conscious person. But I feel good. I feel really good. 

What about your husband? Did his headaches go away?

They did while we were on Whole 30. And they did as we were introducing things back and then they stayed away for a while. Now, he still gets them, but he hasn’t had them as frequently, so I don’t know what it is that triggers them.

Did Whole 30 actually change your way of eating and looking at food?

It did. I like to eat mayonnaise on a burger, and mayonnaise has sugar in it. One day early on I went to a grocery store to look for no-sugar mayonnaise because Whole Foods said they had it. They have a whole wall of mayonnaise, and at the very bottom by my feet were the ones without sugar. I was turning over jars to look for sugar on the label. Eventually I learned I could just look for the Whole 30 symbol. It was the same thing with bacon and sausage. At the meat counter, I just quit looking at labels and bought the stuff that said Whole 30. It was very handy to see that, and now I see the value of having that Whole 30 on the front of Panorama’s products. It just makes shopping so much easier. 

I thought I would miss pasta, but I didn’t. I really got to learn to love spaghetti squash. In fact, I overheard my husband telling his buddies the other day that he prefers spaghetti squash to real spaghetti.

What was the hardest part for you? 

Particularly working at home during COVID, I would snack all the time. Whole 30 is not only about eating clean, but also about just eating three meals a day—a breakfast that satisfies you and then not eating until lunch. You eat something at lunch that satisfies you, and then you don’t eat again until dinner. So it took discipline to not snack or graze throughout the day. 

The other thing about Whole 30 is that there’s a certain satisfaction in having something that’s crunchy. It’s not a vegetable; it’s more like the crunchy crust of a good bread or a tortilla chip. Celery doesn’t quite do it. I couldn’t seem to find a recipe that could deliver that. So the two things I missed most were an occasional cocktail and the crunch.

Do you still read labels and try to eliminate sugar?

I actually do. The sugar and the massive amount of bread and pasta we used to eat are triggers for me. I’m not a big sweets eater, but we’ll eat carbs. I realized they made me feel sluggish and a little foggy. If I eliminate those even for a week now, I notice my thinking is clearer and my overall well-being is just better. 

What other things will you carry forward from Whole 30?

I like to eat meat, I really do, so I try to fill up my plate with protein and vegetables and very little starch or sugar. I try to avoid snacking and I eat whole foods rather than processed foods. I watch my labels. 

What would you tell others who might be considering Whole 30?

I just think that each person is unique, and so is what works for them. This happened to work for me. 

I’m super proud of the fact that Panorama can be part of these eating plans like Whole 30 and paleo that are good for the mind and good for your well-being. Everything we do in product development is with an eye towards being Whole 30 approved because as a Whole 30 person, I appreciate that on the label.