Lostine Cattle Company is founded on the same principles as all of the Figgins Family Wine Estate brands: Growing, producing and marketing wine and food of world class quality, sustainability and pedigree. To that end, the goal of Lostine Cattle Company is to take our sustainable, estate winegrowing philosophies and apply them to growing beef and offer it directly to customers. Just as in growing a vineyard and in winemaking, all things must be carefully considered. We are still constantly amazed at how terroir, appropriate grape varietals, farming parameters, and winemaking techniques uniquely parallel the production of high quality grass-fed beef.
The Lostine River runs through the Wallowa Valley in Oregon’s NE corner. This exquisite, pristine valley is one of the gems of the Northwest. Home to the Eagle Cap Wilderness, from which flows the clear waters of the Lostine River, its history is rich with culture, including that of the Nez Perce Indians who made this their home. Their primary winter camp was less than a mile from our ranch at the confluence of the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers. My father would take me fishing and hiking in these rivers and mountains as a boy and I have been enchanted with their purity and wildness all my life. I cannot imagine a more perfect place to raise beef from a terroir standpoint. As fate would have it, the grass here is so good, that it is the very foundation for why the Nez Perce Indians became some of the finest horsemen in the west as they bred their Appaloosa breed in this very valley.
100% Scottish Highland
As we searched for the finest genetics for grass- fed beef in the world, the Scottish Highland breed quickly became the most obvious choice for our ranch. It is perfect in so many regards. First and foremost, the breed has proven to produce the highest quality beef without supplemental harmful grain feed/finishing. Its natural propensity is to primarily feed well on grass though they also enjoy “browsing ” on other woody shrubs and their shoots, which provides a variety to their natural diet. Highland have long hair which makes them suitable for withstanding the harsh Wallowa Valley winters, as well as horns to protect themselves from predators common to the area (cougars and wolves). Additionally, the breed calves easily, is slow maturing like a fine wine, has a gentle disposition that makes handling stress free, and frankly, are very beautiful animals.
Lostine Cattle Company practices are the antithesis of modern-day beef production. Our beef is raised only on the superb grass mixture of the Wallowa Valley, where they are allowed to graze freely across biologically farmed pasture for their entire life. They are never fed hormones or antibiotics, and sometimes as a final treat, the cattle enjoy some Pommace (pressed out grape skins) from our Estate wineries. Just like fine wines, world class beef production cannot be artificially rushed or the quality suffers, and thus we harvest at a natural maturity age of 28-36 months, which intensify flavor and quality. Our Highland cattle are humanely harvested in a stress free manner to ensure tenderness.
Dry aging is critical to producing exceptional beef. Much like a barrel cellar, both temperature and humidity must be carefully controlled to ensure the best results. Because of the costs and time involved, conventional beef producers use wet aging techniques, which preserves weight of the animal and accelerates the process, but does nothing for concentration of flavors and tenderness. We dry age our beef 28 days prior to cutting resulting in a 15% loss of weight but a critical set when it comes to “aging” in the flavor. When beef is aged, moisture evaporates from it slowly. This increases the flavor concentration and during this process enzymes within the beef naturally tenderize the meat so that the end product has a soft mouth feel unlike that of most modern-day beef products. The meat is then cryovac packaged and immediately frozen to maintain freshness.