A visit with Lucky Star Farm’s Tonia Rupe

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Tonia and Randy Rupe of Lucky Star Farms have spent years developing and caring for family-owned ranch land in Greenwood County, KS. Lucky Star sets the benchmark for humanely-treated animals and perfectly marbled meat. GreenAcres Market offers Lucky Star’s fine beef and pork to its customers in all four of its stores in Kansas. After you’ve cooked a Lucky Star black Angus steak or grilled a Lucky Star pork chop, you’ll never go back to eating “regular grocery store” meat again.

It’s always educational when we visit with Tonia when she comes in to restock our frozen meat coffins. She and Randy work their ranch the way cattle and hogs should be worked. It’s called “respect”–respect for the animals, respect for the land.

We at GreenAcres feel fortunate to have met the Rupes and to be doing business with family friends that feel as we do about offering customers only the best and preserving the highest form of cattle ranching for the next generation.

We think you’ll like what you’ll hear when we sit down with Tonia to learn a little more about grass-fed ranching and why quality and value are worth the time and trouble.

Q. How did you happen to find your animal grazing fields? Did you inherit the land or did you just come upon it one day?

A. Most of the land that our animals are grazing is part of the Rupe family’s ranch.  My husband used to raise and sell registered Saler cattle on the ranch.  The family at one time owned more than 7,000 acres of grassland and farm ground in Greenwood county but sold some here and there as most of it was leased out to other ranchers and farmers in the ‘80s and ‘90s after the cattle and farm markets dropped.  When Randy saw that the grass was being overgrazed and poorly managed, he decided to move back out to the ranch and start taking better care of the land himself.  We are very fortunate to have one of the most untouched ecosystems left in the world–the Tallgrass Prairie right here in Kansas.

Q. Tell us a little about the benefits of having beef flash frozen at the site and then driven to the store, rather than having freshly cut meat in the store?

A. Our beef is dry aged for 21 days at a constant temperature just above freezing and then cut and packaged and immediately frozen at -10 degrees.   Meat flash frozen in this way preserves nutrients which are concentrated by the dry-aging process.  The cell walls in the meat are preserved ensuring texture and moisture remains in the cells.  What this means to the customer is flavorful juicy meat. Vacuum sealing in BPA free packaging allows you to see the quality of the product and prevents contamination from environmental bacteria during transportation and storage.  Meat that is stored at refrigerated temperatures has a very limited shelf life as well as the potential for bacterial contamination and growth.  In addition, much of the refrigerated meat sold in stores has been previously frozen and thawed.  Our frozen products will last a year or more stored at 0 degrees in your freezer.  A flash frozen steak thaws more quickly than conventionally-frozen meat and looks, feels and tastes almost exactly as it did before being frozen.  The flavor, the nutrients and the texture of our meat retains farm-fresh quality.

Q. Do you worry about cross contamination of grazing fields with GMO seeds blowing in the wind? 

A. Not with the grasses and native pasture.  The most prevalent GMO crops in the US are corn, soybeans and canola.  We don’t grow these crops ourselves and use local, organically-grown soybeans in our food for poultry and pigs.  We have chosen to focus on raising milo as a feed for our pastured poultry and pork and stay away from corn and wheat and the risk of contamination.  

However, the FDA did approve genetically modified alfalfa for planting in the US a couple of years ago, and this is a crop that we grow organically and is theoretically subject to contamination from GMO fields.  At this time there are no farms using genetically-modified alfalfa seed near us, but it could happen in the future.  Fortunately, alfalfa is a crop that is challenging for even bees to pollinate;  they get frustrated with the flower structure, so this makes contamination less likely, but still possible.  

It’s really important for consumers who care about the genetic modification of our food supply without long term studies and observation on the effects on health and the environment to join forces with the millions of other consumers worldwide and foreign governments to say no to the expansion of genetic modification of crops without oversight and demand labeling of GMO foods at the consumer level.  We need to contact our legislators and let them know how we feel and vote with our dollar by purchasing only certified organic foods and foods locally raised by producers that we know and trust.  

We at GreenAcres couldn’t agree more!