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A whole lot of heart and a whole lot of beef

M. Purviance for Progressive Cattle Published on 23 October 2020
The HeartBrand team

According to Live Science, the heart pumps blood while supplying oxygen and nutrients to a person’s tissue and removes wastes. Basically, without a heart, we simply wouldn’t live.

It’s essential to every human, and there are many things human beings cannot live without other than a healthy heart.

At HeartBrand Beef in South Central Texas, a healthy heart is incredibly crucial, specifically relating to high-quality beef.

“Quite a bit has changed since HeartBrand picked up back in 2009, but one thing remains the same: We still want to bring the American beef industry exceptionally delicious and healthy Akaushi beef,” HeartBrand vice president and head of all live cattle operations, JoJo Carrales, said.

HeartBrand Beef was bought by Ronald Beeman in 2006; JoJo and his wife joined the HeartBrand crew in 2009 after he met Jordan Beeman, HeartBrand president. Since then, the HeartBrand crew has grown their cattle herd significantly and built the entire Akaushi breed of cattle in the U.S. from the ground up.

“Before 2009, HeartBrand cattle were not sold, they were not distributed. There was no semen sales, embryos or bull sales – it was all internal,” Carrales explained. “The general purpose of any breed association for any species is to help breeders buy and sell cattle with some sort of reliability. Mr. Beeman had the foresight to realize that even though Akaushi cattle had not been for sale, they were about to be sold, traded and distributed. So he started the American Akaushi Association, and HeartBrand was the very first member.”

From there, the breed has grown significantly, spanning across 37 states. However, Carrales said this benefit was also one of the breed’s biggest challenges.

“Successfully getting into the cattle industry is a slow process,” Carrales said. “If I got you to commit today to purchase heifers to be bred in December for fall calving, you are three years away from harvesting those cattle and seeing their benefits on the rail.”

JoJo Carrales move Akaushi calves

Carrales added that finding the money to start your own cattle business from the ground up without seeing a real return for a few years is another major challenge the entire cattle industry faces.

Why Akaushi beef?

Possibly the most unique aspect of HeartBrand actually lies within its name. HeartBrand beef, like other Akaushi beef, focuses upon heart health.

According to the HeartBrand website, these health benefits stem from two features, the first being a higher concentration of monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat. The American Heart Association notes this can lead to lower cholesterol, the prevention of coronary heart disease and weight loss.

A second health benefit is that HeartBrand beef is a natural source of oleic acid, which is a compound found in olive oil that the USDA touts as “good for the heart.”

HeartBrand beef is also beneficial to producers. From marbling and temperament, to calving ease and reliability, HeartBrand strives to check boxes in all categories.

Marbling

“Akaushi cattle have a significant marbling advantage when you look at them on the rail,” Carrales said. “If you’re a commercial cattleman, Akaushi feeder calves generate 100 dollars to 150 dollars over commercial prices. When a producer comes to us and wants to buy a HeartBrand bull, we know they’re doing it to increase their operation’s revenue.”

Carrales added that Akaushi cattle grade significantly better than other breeds.

“On the rail, if you were Cargill or Tyson, you would see that out of the last 60,000 head that you’ve processed, Akaushi cattle graded 45 percent Prime with less than 2 percent Select compared to the industry average of around 5 percent Prime,” Carrales added. “Being able to do that while maintaining a 2.8 Yield Grade is why Akaushi cattle have grown more popular in the past 12 years.”

West Texas rancher and loyal HeartBrand customer Tara Renfro of Sterling Ranches concurs. Renfro said she’s big on jumping headfirst into things, and on her first day visiting HeartBrand, she purchased 16 bulls.

“We have a base cow herd of black Angus cattle. There’s nothing registered on our ranch except for our Angus and Akaushi bulls,” Renfro said. “I like to raise half-blood Akaushi calves because I prefer to have everything calve as quickly as I can, and Akaushi cover those cows so well – anything hot is going to get bred.”

Renfro added, she’s also noticed the quality of cattle raised specifically at HeartBrand. She said she never gets taken on bull purchases, that none of the bulls come to Sterling Ranches with broken tools or bulls who don’t meet or even exceed expectations. Another benefit, Renfro stated, is the premiums associated with Akaushi cattle.

“We get a premium without having to talk to anybody about it or jump through any hoops. We also DNA our calves, which has helped not only HeartBrand, but the breed association as well,” Renfro said.

What lies ahead for HeartBrand?

“I’m actually excited to get out of bed and go to work every day because I think the future of Akaushi cattle is very, very bright. I personally think it’s the future of the beef industry,” Carrales said. “I also think the model ... HeartBrand has for genetic verification, our feeding protocols and how well we know our environment leads to a huge advantage in predictability. We give our consumer[s] a product they can count on time after time.”

Another thing Carrales sees for the future of HeartBrand is a phenomenon that’s swept across the beef industry: transparency with consumers.

“Consumers are looking for a product where they know how it was raised, where it was raised and how it was treated. They want that source verification, and I’m happy to say we can give that to them,” Carrales said. “I feel transparency in our industry is going to be more and more demanded every time. We’ve seen this grow over the past 10 or 15 years, and consumers aren’t going to stop heading into the grocery store where they make choices and want to know this type of information anytime soon.”

Carrales proudly said he believes the Akaushi breed, worldwide, will help to improve the perception of beef, as well as acceptance of beef as a nutritious and reliable source of protein.

Defining the appeal

Renfro is one of many satisfied customers of HeartBrand cattle. She has major respect for the whole HeartBrand team, as well as their product.

“I don’t deal with people who are less than reputable,” Renfro stated. “If I’m selling to somebody and have a bad feeling, we don’t sell, market, or purchase from or with that person anymore … that’s just not the way it is with HeartBrand. They work with me; they’re my friends. I consider them to be upstanding folks and outside of a herd of a breed, having good people is very important [to] me and my family and anyone who could potentially hear this message.” 

For more information, visit HeartBrand Cattle.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Pioneers of the Akaushi breed in the U.S., The HeartBrand team works together to create high-quality beef while building up the breed.

PHOTO 2: JoJo Carrales moves Akaushi calves in south-central Texas.

PHOTO 3: Can you say marbling? HeartBrand beef performs well on the rail, is rich in flavor and heart healthy. HeartBrand beef is sold and distributed all across the U.S. Photos provided by JoJo Carrales.

M. Purviance is a freelance writer based in Montana.

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