Morton the Mousse hates feedlot beef—not just for the ethics of the practice, but because “the flavor is boring and one dimensional, and the texture is like baby food.” Niman Ranch beef is decent, especially when aged, but the base flavor is uninteresting. The same goes for Western Grasslands, Creekstone, and the other large-scale natural beef distributors around here: Their ethics are fine, but their beef is uninteresting. The smaller ranches, on the other hand, practice good animal husbandry, but because they lack the facilities to process their own animals, they often freeze the meat, and rarely age it right. The result: tough beef without a fully ripened flavor profile.
But now, Morton has found Prather Ranch, which is completely different from every other Bay Area beef he’s tried. “The first day I bought beef from Prather Ranch it was like the clouds parted, and God himself handed me a pound of oxtails,” he says. “Here, you have meat that is the perfect balance of ethical and hound worthy. Not only am I proud to support this fine rancher, their meat is simply the best beef I have ever eaten.”
They use steers from a closed crop of cattle bred for ideal flavor and texture. The beef is slow grown on grass, and finished on hay, barley, and rice.
So far, Morton’s tried: oxtails, top sirloin, rib-eye, chuck, hanger, and a truly magnificent standing rib roast. “Every bite has been phenomenal. The top sirloin is so good that I’ve had it three times. … This is the standard by which I will judge all other beef.”
“For those who are used to eating dry aged corn fed beef, the texture and flavor of Prather will seem off,” says Amy G. “Prather has a fuller flavor with strong minerality. For those who have been eating pure grass fed beef, e.g. Marin Sun, etc., the texture and flavor of Prather will be much better. For me, pure grass fed beef has a slight fishy taste like flax seed which is probably proof that it is better for you, but I am not keen on the taste and the tougher leaner texture.”
It’s pricier than supermarket beef, but comparable to other locally available natural beefs—an excellent value. Prather takes special orders for pretty much anything: offal, bones, whatever.
The ranch sells most of its stuff through its various farmers’ market stands; it also has a standing butcher’s shop at the Ferry Building. Keep in mind that the Ferry Building shop gets restocked on Thursdays—so Tuesdays and Wednesdays can be slim pickings, says maigre. All of the staff seem very knowledgeable and trustworthy, too.
Board Link: Prather Ranch has the Best Beef in the Bay Area