Maverick Ranch Association, Inc.
Maverick Ranch Association, Inc.
Sales: $117 million (2005 est.)
NAIC: 424470 Meat and Meat Product Merchant Wholesalers
Maverick Ranch Association, Inc., is a private company based in Denver, Colorado, that processes and distributes meat free of antibiotics, synthetic steroids, and pesticides. Owned and operated by the Moore family, the company receives much of its cattle for beef production from a sister operation, the Rocking M Ranch and it contracts with hundreds of other ranchers who raise cattle to meet the company’s stringent requirements. Additional processing capability is offered by another affiliated company, Rocking M Cattle Company, and Colorado Meat Packers, in which the Moores hold a controlling interest.
Another family-run business, GuaranTek Laboratories provides quality assurance testing, while Maverick Marketing serves as an in-house design and advertising agency. Beef products include lean ground beef, steaks, and roasts, and organic beef. Maverick also offers natural pork products, processing without the infusion of water or phosphates; natural buffalo ground meat and steaks; natural lamb products; and free range chicken, both natural and “air chilled,” and cage-free eggs. Other products sold under the Maverick label include beef franks and buffalo franks, free range natural turkey, ground ham, and precooked entrees such as beef pot roast, meatloaf, and beef stroganoff. Targeting the broadest spectrum of the marketplace rather than gourmet or natural foods stores, Maverick Ranch makes it products available in about 3,000 grocery stores across the United States, and is represented by six of the ten largest supermarket chains in the country.
FAMILY’S TIES TO CATTLE DATE TO 19TH CENTURY
The great grandfather of the Maverick patriarch, Roy R. Moore, Jr., first came to the west in the 1870s, traveling like so many before him, in a covered wagon. The family established a homestead in western Idaho and began raising cows for milk and steers for beef. In 1934 Moore’s parents homesteaded a Wyoming ranch where, along with a second ranch, he was raised and learned the cattle and sheep business. Representing a new breed of rancher, Moore went to college, earning an animal science degree in animal production from Colorado State University in 1958. He returned home to apply what he learned at his parents’ ranch. Three years later his father, by this time in his early 70s, sold the ranch and moved to Phoenix to invest in horses and real estate. Unfortunately he made some poor decisions, and in 1962 Moore followed him to Phoenix and began trading property to help his father extricate himself from debt.
At first Moore worked for a major Arizona real estate firm, Ed Post Realty, where he established the firm’s exchange division, specializing in the buying and selling of ranch properties. Moore then earned his broker’s license and struck out on his own, launching National Property Exchange in 1963. He soon began to set state and national real estate sales records. He also established Mountain States Cattle Company in 1963 to operate ranches as well as subdivisions, apartments, hotels, and restaurants.
While becoming a successful businessman Moore found time to marry Roberta (Bobbi) Olney and begin raising a family. By 1971 they were the parents of four boys. In 1972 Moore used the profits from a hotel deal to make a down payment on 38,000 acres in Weiser, Idaho, which became the Rocking M Ranch and provided him with a chance to return to the cattle business and a place to raise his sons and instill the ranching values he had learned as a child. He quickly became an industry innovator, in 1974 becoming one of a group of cattlemen to import the Salers breed of cattle to the United States from Europe. Producing a lean and tender beef, Salers was one of the last European breeds to be introduced in the country. The Salers bull they imported, a champion named Jet, would then sire calves for Moore’s sons, who were actively engaged in R-H and showing their cattle at Idaho and Arizona county and state fairs, winning numerous awards. Moore himself enjoyed tremendous success competing in the National Western Fed Beef Contest in the early 1980s, consistently taking grand champion or reserve grand champion honors.
CHANCE ENCOUNTER IN 1985 LEADS TO BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
Because of the Salers’ natural qualities, Moore did not need to rely on growth-promoting hormones. In 1985 Moore was visiting a natural food market in Boulder, Colorado, called Alfalfa’s, now known as Wild Oats, and was asked by the owner if he could supply the store with beef. By this time Rocking M was selling more than 400 Salers bulls a year, and Moore recognized an opportunity to use his large customer base and the excellent genetics of the cattle to become involved in the natural beef category, which would fetch a premium price for the producers. Thus, the Moore family formed Maverick Ranch Association and signed up close to 100 participating ranchers, who agreed to follow the guidelines for the production of natural beef.
Due to its proximity to most of the producers, Denver was chosen to serve as the company’s headquarters. Because Maverick Ranch paid them a bonus for the best cattle, and in turn charged consumers a premium for the resulting products, producers were given an incentive to cull cattle with less desirable traits from their herds. As a result, the quality of Maverick Ranch beef steadily improved while both the company and its independent producers found a better way to compete in a marketplace increasingly dominated by giant meat packers.
Maverick began selling beef, processed by an outside company, under the Maverick Ranch Natural Meats label in January 1986. Initially the company sold four head of cattle each week through Alfalfa’s. The brand enjoyed quick success, leading to $1 million in sales in the first year, although perhaps grew too quickly too soon. The company was able to attract venture capital but it was then taken public immediately in 1986, and when the fledgling operation struggled to turn a profit in 1987 the shareholders were all too ready to shut down the business. Instead, the Moore family bought back the business and restructured the operation.
At Maverick Ranch Natural Meats, our vision is to lead the way for our livestock producers to raise natural meats that are safe and nutritionally superior, while providing the ultimate dining experience for all of us. We believe that the producer that achieves these goals should also be paid a premium for raising those animals.
Maverick Ranch was able to sell its products into some of the largest retailers in Denver and St. Louis in 1987 but the most important development that year was the company becoming an “Olympic Supplier.” By donating beef to the three U.S. Olympic Training Centers (the main facility was located in Colorado Springs), Maverick Ranch was able to include the highly coveted Olympic symbol on its labeling and adopt the slogan “the beef behind the U.S. Olympic athletes.” The company was also allowed to use Olympic merchandise, such as jackets and caps, for use in promotional programs aimed at independent butchers.
The U.S. Olympic Committee did not accept Maverick Ranch beef simply because it was free, however. It was chosen for its nutritional value, taste, and tenderness, and because it was laboratory tested to guarantee that it was free of steroids, antibiotics, pesticides, and growth-promoting hormones. Maverick Ranch had to establish a testing program conducted by an independent lab, but it was worth the expense. With the Olympic seal of approval, Maverick Ranch beef doubled its annual sales for three straight years and continued to grow at a steady clip beyond that. The same could not be said of the 50 competitors in the specialty branded beef segment: Ten years later all but five companies had fallen by the wayside. Another factor in the development of the brand, at a time when red meat consumption was dropping due to consumers’ health concerns, was the company winning permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to label some of its cuts as “lite,” leading to the creation of the company’s NaturalLite Beef brand, which Maverick Ranch used to promote the healthful aspects of lean red meat.
The Olympic tie continued to pay dividends in the 1990s. The company teamed up with the United States and Japanese Olympic Committees to become the first U.S. company that was able to market its products in Japan using the U.S. Olympic logo. The company’s ongoing success during this period led Maverick Ranch to begin bringing more of the business in-house. Shortly after the company began doing business in 1986, the Moores formed Maverick Marketing to handle the brand’s design and advertising needs. Bobbi Moore, who had studied graphic arts at Boise State University, served as creative director, assisted by the couple’s youngest son, Monte, who was becoming a commercial artist. In the early 1990s Maverick Ranch added processing capabilities as well as a testing laboratory, GuaranTek Analytical Laboratories, which tested beef for steroids, antibiotics, and pesticides. In 1994 Moore Holdings was created to house Maverick Ranch and eight other family-owned companies, including timber assets, a company that made house logs for people interested in building their own log homes, a Idaho resort business, and a marine dealership in Arizona.
Maverick Ranch launched a mail-order program in 1995, which helped to boost sales to $17 million. In that same year, Maverick Ranch applied to the American Heart Association Food Certification Program and was able to have nine of its cuts of beef designated as “heart healthy,” allowing those products to display the association’s Check logo on its labels. In 1996 Maverick Ranch added case ready meats, primarily to make sure the company’s products were available in supermarkets during the evening hours after store butchers went home. The company also began adding natural buffalo meat to its product offerings and in 1998 began supplying this item to the three U.S. Olympic Training Centers. Also in 1998 both Maverick Ranch buffalo and beef products were certified by Heart Smart International for cuts sold to restaurants.
Maverick Ranch continued to expand its product offerings in the new century. The company added natural lamb products, and in 2001 a new line of natural pork was launched, produced from hogs that were antibiotic free. Moreover the products did not make use of sodium phosphates, nor were they enhanced with water. The natural pork products were then made available to the U.S. Olympic Training Centers. Another important development in 2001 was the acquisition of a 70 percent interest in Denver-based Colorado Meat Packers, increasing Maverick Ranch’s packing capacity, especially case ready products for Denver-area supermarkets. By this time, annual sales were in the $35 million range.
- Company formed.
- Association with U.S. Olympic Committee begins.
- Case-ready products are added.
- Natural pork products are introduced.
- Poultry unit is formed.
- Five-year plan is launched to make product lines 100 percent organic.
Maverick Ranch took advantage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new “organic” beef label, becoming one of the first to receive the certification for its beef products. For years the company had been marketing what it called organic beef (free of hormones and antibiotics, produced from cattle raised on organically produced feed) but had met with consumer resistance because of the high price. The company and other organic beef producers hoped that the new government seal of approval would help to move the category into the mainstream. The discovery of mad cow disease in Canada in 2003 provided even further incentive to consumers to consider organic and natural beef.
POULTRY DIVISION FORMED: 2003
Many consumers simply avoided red meat altogether, of course. Maverick Ranch was able to pick up some of this business by forming a poultry division in 2003, Maverick Ranch Natural Poultry and Egg, which offered antibiotic-free and free range chicken as well as airchilled chicken. Instead of being soaked in cold, chlorinated water, air-chilled chickens were passed through cold chambers, thereby lowering bacteria counts by 85 percent, extending shelf life, and creating better texture and flavor. Organic, cage-free eggs were added in 2004, as was natural turkey. During the course of the year air-chilled chicken was also certified by the American Heart Association as heart healthy. In addition, Maverick Ranch introduced a new line of ovenready entrees after the Safeway supermarket chain approached the company about developing a line of valueadded products. An executive chef was hired to develop two brands: Chefs at Home, a less expensive line made from conventionally raised animals, and a more expensive Maverick Ranch line.
In 2005 Maverick Ranch generated $117 million in sales, according to the National Provisioner trade magazine. The fastest-growing segment was the organic business. Although just 5 percent of the company’s products were organic, the Moore family decided that it would become 100 percent organic and in the summer of 2006 began implementing a five-year plan to accomplish that goal. “Organic is the future,” Roy Moore stated in a press release, “and it’s our family’s goal to keep our leading-edge by blazing the path for others to follow.”
Maverick Ranch Natural Meats; Maverick Ranch Natural Poultry and Egg.
Coleman Natural Foods LLC; Cooperative Regions of Organic Producers Pool; Laura’s Lean Beef Company.
“Contaminants Can’t Hide at This Lab,” Meat Processing, April 2006.
Copple, Brandon, “Glad Cow,” Fortune Small Business, March 2004, p. 67.
Dunn, Julie, “Maverick Ranch Making Meat As Safe As Possible,” Denver Business Journal, November 11, 2002.
Gazdziak, Sam, “A Five-Year Plan,” National Provisioner, September 2006.
Macnow, Glen, “Small Firms’ Road to the Olympics,” Nation’s Business, July 1992, p. 31.
Narvaes, Emily, “Denver Company Beefs Up Athletes,” Denver Post, July 21, 1996, p. G5.
Salvage, Bryan, “Case Ready and Natural,” National Provisioner, January 2003, p. 24.
Sullivan, Debbie, “Biography: Roy R. Moores, Jr., S.E.C.,” S.E.C. Real Estate Observer, http://www.secobserver.com/archive.