Niman Ranch: El Gaucho Partner

By Kathleen Finn

Our mission is simply to find the best for our patrons and guests to enjoy – no excuses and no compromise. The relationships we have built with our suppliers enable us to bring you the best products in the world. We are proud to highlight our valued partners, and to share their passion and commitment in producing the highest quality products available.

There’s a science to producing a high-quality steak. Start with a strong genetic Angus cattle profile, and add stringent record-keeping, specific nutritional inputs, exacting cleanliness standards, and many more detailed protocols. There’s also an art to producing a high quality steak. That’s what sets a great steak apart from the sublime.

At Niman Ranch, John Tarpoff, Director of Beef Operations, employs both art and science to create all-natural, impeccably pedigreed beef that El Gaucho proudly serves its customers. It’s this attention to detail and unstinting search for perfection that makes Niman Ranch a trusted El Gaucho partner.

“There is no other program like this,” says Chad Mackay, President and COO at El Gaucho. They have a laser focus on quality.”

Tarpoff has labored to fine-tune the operations at Niman Ranch, where he oversees 115 family ranches that produce feeder and finish cattle. He and his staff watch, advise and work closely with ranchers who adhere to an 18-page animal care protocol that helps yield the country’s tastiest steaks.

Niman Ranch began in the early 70s on a humble 11-acre tract of land north of San Francisco. Ranch owners Bill and Nicolette Niman committed to raising cattle using traditional humane husbandry methods and feeding them wholesome, all-natural feeds. More than 40 years later, Niman Ranch [under new ownership] is a leader in sustainable farming practices. Their 11-acre spread now encompasses a network of 700 family farms that produce an array of all-natural, high quality beef, lamb, and pork products.

When Tarpoff arrived at Niman Ranch nearly a decade ago, he was given carte blanche to make changes to the beef program in order to perfect the end product. “I had the genetics and nutrition down,” he says. “But there was still something missing.” A closer look at animal husbandry was called for, and this is where the art entered the equation. Tarpoff was convinced that a peaceful and low-stress lifestyle for cattle was the key to better beef.

Temple Grandin Weighs In

As Tarpoff began digging deeper into husbandry practices and teasing out what would best serve the animals, the world-renowned Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science, approached him and offered her expertise. Together, they refined his already high-quality care by working to create a healthy, low-stress and clean environment for the cattle.

It turns out that making the animals comfortable and their daily life relatively peaceful, translates to more tender meat. His collaboration with Grandin inspired Tarpoff to rewrite the Niman Ranch protocols, which now consist of 18-pages of detailed instructions on how to feed, house, and care for their cattle.

Broad care requirements for Niman Ranch cattle include open space for roaming outdoors, dining on seasonal grasses and all-vegetarian feed, and having access to fresh, clean water. No antibiotics, steroids or hormones are used on the animals. Protocols drill down further to encompass providing safe haven from bad weather, monitoring the amount of ‘mud’ caked on a cow’s leg and closely accounting for nutritional requirements for a calving cow.

Tarpoff’s years of hard work and his uncanny ability to pick the right cattle and care for them in a way that yields the best meat in the country has earned him the moniker ‘the cattle whisperer.’ The holistic approach of addressing qualitative and quantitative properties means that each steak that El Gaucho serves up to its loyal customers, is as superlative as the steak before it.

For Mackay, this means his number one goal is met: source and serve the best products in the world. “We source local products as much as possible,” he says, “and search out natural and organic suppliers. Yet these are secondary to quality. They have to be the best products available.”


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