RIVERTON — Some of the most amazing bites of steak in Wyoming were here this past weekend at the Rendezvous City Beef Roundup.
It’s a contest that began four years ago, and is already attracting national and international attention. The idea behind the competition is simple. The same cut of steak is cooked and seasoned the same way for a blind taste test. No one knows which producer goes with which steak during the test.
Guests who have signed up for the dinner-hour tasting event get 1-ounce bites of each steak delivered to their tables hot off the grill. The guests then rate each bite based on tenderness, flavor and aroma with a score from 0 to 10, with 10 being best.
After each steak bite has been delivered, the scorecards are tallied, and the three steaks that received the best scores are announced.
This year’s best beef in Wyoming comes from Turbiville Ranch in Sundance. Second best is Circle H Ranch in Afton and third was a tie between Jackknife from Freedom and J. Walker Land and Livestock in Gillette.
Here’s The Beef
The Rendezvous City Beef Roundup is really a celebration of all things beef.
It includes wine and beef pairing classes as well as other educational programming that revolves around beef.
The program also includes two contests. In addition to best beef in Wyoming, organizer Tyler McCann has added an open division for best beef in the West.
McCann said as word got out about the Beef Roundup in Riverton for Wyoming beef, he was taking all kinds of calls from producers in other states who wanted to participate. So, he created an open division to bring them in.
This year, states as far east as New York and New Jersey entered the open division. One of the judges for that competition even came from Perth, Australia.
“To know that we’re international after just four years is very exciting,” McCann said. “We’re making this a thing.”
First place winner of the Best of the West is Sawmill Creek Farms in Richmond, Michigan, while second went to Burly Brothers Country Butchery in Attica, New York. Third is Goethe Farms in Bricelyn, Minnesota, and fourth is Mountain View Meats in Fort Collins.
There were 16 entries in all from Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Washington, North Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Nevada, Utah, Nebraska and Wyoming.
Turbiville Ranch Isn’t Traditional
Turbiville Ranch started selling meat direct to consumers in 2012. The primary operation there is roping steers, and Heath Turbiville was looking for a value-added product once the steers were too old for that.
“We don’t do anything that’s really traditional, just black Angus beef cows, and we have Corrientes roping steers that we lease,” he said. “When they’re done with that as a life, then we fatten them and sell the meat off.”
The cattle do get a lot of individual care, Turbiville told Cowboy State Daily.
“They get fed twice a day with corn, oats and a barley ration,” he said. “I think some of the feed gives them a good flavor. That and the breed is a leading well-marbled meat.”
Turbiville has been farming and ranching all his life, as did his dad before him and his dad before that. He’s not sure, however, how many generations back the farming and ranching lifestyle goes.
“It was ever since they migrated to the United States,” he said.
That might easily make it four or five generations back, though not all on the same farm.
“My mom and dad do the majority of the business,” he said. “And my mom really likes people. She’s developed a lot of friends over the years, and she just enjoys taking meat to them and getting to visit with them.”
Turbiville runs about 400 cattle a year and presently direct sales about 100 a year. The direct sales have grown significantly since the beginning in 2012, when the ranch sold just 15 steers.
“We started out with the idea that a lot of people didn’t want to buy or didn’t have freezer space to buy a whole or half a beef,” he said. “So, we started selling smaller bundles, all the way up to a full beef.”
A Coffee Brainstorm
The Beef Roundup started as a coffee brainstorm.
Tyler McCann, who owns Wyoming Cowboy Cuts, was with his wife Angela at a coffee roasting festival, learning all about the different flavor notes of coffee beans.
A light bulb suddenly switched on as he was thinking about that, because beef has a lot of different flavor notes, too, depending on where and how the beef was raised.
“You look at any other business and there’s awards for cheese, there’s awards for wine, there’s awards for whiskey,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Any of those businesses have some kind of event that’s a culminating event where they can advertise that they’re there and scored high or got a medal. But beef has never had that.”
So, McCann decided to ask the president of Central Wyoming College, Dr. Brad Tyndall, whether he could put on a beef-tasting event at the college once a year.
It’s a funny story, one that he retells often when people ask him how the Beef Roundup got started.
McCann was in Tyndall’s office, explaining that he wanted to take the same cut of meat from each of up to 10 producers, season and cook them all exactly the same, and then let people just taste test the steaks to choose their favorite.
“He looks at me and he says, ‘So you want to cook all of these steaks exactly the same?’” McCann recalled. “And he very politely looked off to the side. And I thought he’s probably going to just say, ‘Thank you, yeah, that sounds interesting.’”
Finally, after a long silence that felt like forever, he looked back at McCann and said, “I love it.”
McCann hasn’t stopped talking about it since.
“My wife was the first person who heard about this, and I think she thought the caffeine rush would go away and I’d come back to my senses,” he said. “But it kept going when Dr. Tyndall said yes, and then another person said yes, and people just continue to say yes to this.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.