Farm-to-Fork: ZK Ranch

A middle Tennessee rancher opened up a new business just days before the pandemic shut everything down-- the timing could not have been better.

Zach and Lyndi Knowles know a lot about cattle. The Knowles family raises cattle in Tennessee and Texas.

“We wouldn’t be anywhere where we are unless the pandemic had hit,” Lyndi states. “People had to learn how to source protein from other places besides the grocery store, and it just made our business what it is today.”

Just weeks before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, they had decided to try their hand at processing their own beef near their ranch in Springfield, Tennessee.

“She’s a dental hygienist by trade. So, she quit her job as a dental hygienist and decided to do this.” Zach explains. “We set some things into motion and really started pushing, and by the time we started this pandemic hit and it just skyrocketed from there.”

Lyndi decided to be very hands on. Spending more time taking care of the cattle than at the retail store.

At the processing facility, a big city chef of sixteen years has taken over the butchering of the beef. The hand cut and vacuum sealed steaks are then taken to the display case, where customers like Ray Carlson can pick their prime cuts. Carlson says that not only is the taste better, but he feels better supporting local, small businesses.

“If you want the cultural values and the environment that a small city offers you should support local people,” Carlson states.

Zach says that he is averaging about 45 days in the dry aging cooler for some slabs. Grocery stores average about ten to twelve days.

“The lactic acid in the meat will bread down those muscles and cause it to be more tender, and then also at the same time, what you’re doing is you’re dehydrating that meat... it would be the opposite of watering down flavor... you’re making that meat flavor more intense,” Zach adds.

From the dry aged beef to specialty cuts and knowledge of the product, ZK Ranch is meeting a need during the pandemic that goes beyond the dinner table.