An Iowa farmer has found a niche market for his beef.
By: Jim Offner, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
Phil Vossberg makes no bones about his passion for the beef business.
Now, he wants to start bringing that passion, and beef, to consumers, one cow at a time.
Vossberg, who grew up on a farm near Janesville, Iowa, is bringing a beef component to his dad's hog farm. He'll be selling beef directly to consumers -- with his buyers choosing the cuts themselves, even if it's an entire side of beef.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that his business is called Roaming Ribeye, which focuses on raising "naturally fed cattle to be sold as a healthy safe beef product to local Iowa residents," he said.
Vossberg is starting slowly -- he currently has 29 head, which he purchased in August. The first 10 of those will be butchered in mid-March, he said.
It's not a full-time occupation yet, Vossberg says. He has a full-time job as a welder at Unverferth Manufacturing Co. in Shell Rock. His wife, Meaghin, is a certified nurse's assistant at Windsor Nursing Home in Cedar Falls.
The couple has a son, Logan, and a daughter, Lily.
"My kids are just as important in our business as my wife is and I am," Vossberg said. "They help with chores. My daughter tells me all the time if I'm feeding (the cattle) wrong."
Vossberg says Roaming Ribeye takes a concept other farmers have toyed with and expands it -- selling direct to consumers.
"There's a few guys that do it, but it's more they do it for family and friends; nobody's really trying to make it a legitimate business," Vossberg said. "It's more on the fun side than the business side of it."
That's where Roaming Ribeye stands out, Vossberg said.
"We're looking at making a long-term, viable household name," he said. "We want, if we go to the mall, and they see our jackets with our logo, they have an idea of who we are and what we do."
The business will cater to "the middle class, the working class, the families," Vossberg said.
Already, Vossberg's idea is getting some traction, he said.
"I've already had guys ask if they can buy gift cards," he said.
He said gift cards will be available in January.
Vossberg said there's a market for the beef he's raising.
"We feed grain and hay mix," he said. "There's no antibiotics, no hormones, nothing in feed other than grain, vitamins and some minerals because every animal needs that."
Any antibiotics used are done so as a last resort, and the cows are culled from the herd, to be sold elsewhere, with a complete record of their treatments, Vossberg said.
The company has launched a Facebook page that enables customers to track the progress of the animals, Vossberg said.
"You can see the cattle growing and follow on Facebook," he said. "It's not a live feed, but we try to update it at least every two weeks, so people can feel at least a part of it."
A website will be up and running soon, Vossberg said.
Purchases will be made online, starting with a $100 deposit, he said.
"They will actually, at that point, go through where a drop-down menu asks how you want hamburger done and steaks cut, whether you want T-bones and how many per package," he said. "You can specify whether you want the heart, tongue or liver or soup bones -- stuff that you don't get in the store that come out of these cattle."
The Vossbergs are charging $3.50 per pound, "hanging weight," or $3.25 a pound for whole butchered cow or calf. Customers can order as much or as little as they prefer, Vossberg said.
"You can buy a half of a half, front and back, because you get different steaks and cuts from front and back," he said.
A customer who wants to buy more can do so, Vossberg said, noting that several orders have come in for whole calves.
The cost includes all necessary processing at Janesville Locker, Vossberg said.
"My wife and I were not specifically trying to make it cheaper than buying it piece by piece, but it is very comparable, if you weight out everything you get," he said.