Evanoff: Where's the beef? Memphis. Investors plan 800,000-acre cattle range in Mid-South

Assuming the arid West and its diminished aquifers cannot long sustain expanses of grass land, a Memphis investor plans to range cattle over nearly 1 million water-rich acres around Memphis.


Ted Evanoff, Memphis Commercial Appeal (TN)

June 6, 2019


Aware that many Americans wonder about hormones and antibiotics fed to cattle showing up in their steaks and cheeseburgers, a Memphis investor is gearing up to turn thousands of rural Mid-South acres into pasture for cattle feeding on natural grass.


Former food service executive Bill Townsend has joined Los Angeles investor James D. Somes and launched American Land & Cattle Co. from inside his Central Gardens home.


“If I had 800,000 head of grass-fed cattle, I could sell every single head,” Townsend said. “That’s exactly where the market is today.”


Assuming the arid West and its diminished aquifers cannot long sustain expanses of naturally hydrated grassland, the partners are betting the water-rich country within 100 miles of Memphis can become a new center for cattle ranching. Their plan: Raise and sell 600,000 to 800,000 beef cattle every year.


Memphians have been looking for a modern gold strike amid the new buzz around farming — indoor agriculture, ag science, sustainable farms, healthier food. How much success Townsend and Somes will have is difficult to say. If the projected growth plan works out, the firm could stand among the nation’s premier grass-fed cattle producers, supplying enough beef for 1 billion quarter-pound cheeseburgers.


“If they can do it, more power to them. We could use the stream of income coming through the state,’’ said farm land broker Russell Black of Indianola, Mississippi.


Even if the startup firm makes it big, it is unlikely Memphis beef will soon become a common phrase like Memphis barbecue. American Land won’t create a supermarket brand like, say, Williams Sausage of Union City, Tennessee. Instead, the beef firm will serve wholesalers who market their own brands. And it’ll supply restaurant chains intent on grass-fed beef satisfying customers, who, hearing the new focus on nutrition, are becoming less accepting of feedlot cattle.


“The chains like Denny’s all are moving to elevate the quality of their offerings. They are moving from mainstream ingredients to more premium-quality products like grass-fed beef,’’ said Los Angeles investor Jorge Sadurni, a retired Nestle Inc. food executive consulting with American Land.


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