Rancher’s Legacy Meat Co.

Processing beef and pork products to the highest standards in the heartland
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Dana Merk-Wynne

Today more consumers are demanding information about where their food comes from, especially in the case of meat and animal products. They also want confidence in the fact that it’s processed in a safe, healthy manner. The same goes for chefs and restaurateurs. When doing business with Rancher’s Legacy Meat Co., formerly Unger Meat Company, customers can rest assured that they’re receiving a high-quality fresh or individually quick frozen (IQF) product backed by the highest industry standards.

The Rancher’s Legacy team brings 150 years of combined experience in the meat industry to the table and the company’s processing site is Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute Level 3 certified. Based in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities, Rancher’s Legacy has built its name as a trusted provider of ground beef and pork. The locally owned and privately held company produces traditional patties and bulk ground beef, as well as steaks and chops, meatballs, seasoned products, specialty blends and some grass-fed items mainly for foodservice customers, U.S. military operations and retailers.

Food safety first and foremost

Rancher’s Legacy began operations in late 2010. “We located a building that formerly was used as a furniture manufacturing facility,” says Tim Tyrrell, vice president of sales for Rancher’s Legacy. “We built it into a state-of-the-art processing facility, which is SQF Level 3 certified. We achieved this certification in our second year in business, which is quite a feat. There are a lot of 30- and 40-year-old companies out there that are still trying to achieve this level of certification.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Rancher’s Legacy from the get-go. “The first couple of years were a bit of a struggle as the company tried to find its direction, but we had built a grinding facility that is second to none, and our customers and potential customers soon realized that we could produce superior quality products,” says Tyrrell. “Food safety is of the utmost importance to us. People are blown away by what they see when they come to our plant. When people visualize a meat plant they don’t think of a nice space. Our space is very bright, clean and very appealing.”

Tyrrell says the new management team and the new ownership group behind Rancher’s Legacy have worked extremely hard over the past three years to boost business and gain market share. “Rancher’s Legacy’s ownership group, along with management’s vision and direction, really helped to stabilize operations with a consistent message that has resonated with customers and potential users of Rancher’s Legacy products,” he explains.

Although Rancher’s Legacy has a department dedicated to quality assurance and follows the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Program, management expects every employee to be part of its QA function. The company’s manufacturing process also includes multiple metal detectors and a superior bone elimination system. “Our software and technology employed also includes exceptional product traceability,” says Jeremy Turnquist, Rancher’s Legacy vice president of operations.

Rancher’s Legacy has 30 employees between plant processing, packaging, shipping and customer service. Approximately 20 percent of its products are shipped overseas, including U.S. military bases, and to customers in the Middle East, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean and also holds numerous national regional accounts with major retailers and foodservice distributors and customers.

Rancher’s Legacy produces bulk ground beef and pork in a variety of options to meet the needs of its customers. The company makes pillow and brick packs, from 1 pound to 10 pounds and also chub packs. In terms of bulk grinding capabilities, Rancher’s Legacy offers private-label services and co-packing opportunities.

A better burger

The company also offers many patty options, varying in size, shape, dimension, lean-point, seasoning and packaging. “We use Tender- Form technology to form our patties,” says Turnquist. “This helps ensure more even cooking. The shelf life of our patties is 21 days for fresh ground beef, and up to 12 months for frozen product without the loss of quality, taste or performance.”

Formax technology uses a controlled feed to carefully convey the ground meat to the pump box where it flows through holes in the fill plate. Strands of meat, much like those produced by a meat grinder, are gathered in vertical columns and collected within the mold plate. The column structure of Tender-Form allows heat to pass evenly through the meat, making for a faster, evenly cooked burger.

A cut above

In addition to ground products, Rancher’s Legacy also sells custom cuts of beef and pork and employs several steak cutters on staff. “We cut a variety of portion-cut steaks for the foodservice and restaurant industries,” says Tyrrell. “Our steaks are hand-cut at our USDA-inspected facility by this highly skilled team.”

“Our custom cut steak program offers our customers and chefs the exact cut they want,” says Tyrrell. “Whether that’s a juicy ribeye, porterhouse, top sirloin or tenderloin, strip steak, short ribs, tenderloin tips or stew meat — in addition, we can produce more exotic cuts such as Tomahawks and Manhattans — Rancher’s Legacy can fill the order.”

“Cuts are available fresh or frozen,” he adds. “We build products to our customers’ specifications. Despite the higher quality of the product and the care we take in producing it, our products are reasonably priced — our customers appreciate knowing who is cutting their steaks and have direct access to the cutters when necessary.”

Rancher’s Legacy has extremely loyal customers and Tyrrell says it all starts with good old-fashioned customer service. “We’re accessible, we listen and we follow through on our promises,” he says. “While we operate in a production facility that is capable of high volume, we’ve been able to remain flexible in meeting our customers’ demands and wants. We have short lead times and are able to respond quickly in delivering a safe, high-quality product that meets the customer’s specifications.”

Even with a dedicated team, a loyal customer base and products that truly stand out, there are still challenges. “The meat business is a very challenging business — now and even 30 years ago,” says Tyrrell. “You’re dealing with commodity pricing with corn and the drought conditions farmers face. It takes more than a year for an animal to mature and a lot of water is needed for cattle to grow and survive. Fortunately, the drought conditions in Texas are improving and the herd is recovering.”

As market demand shifts toward greater product traceability, higher food-safety standards and higher and more consistent quality, Rancher’s Legacy Meat Co. is well-positioned to expand and continue to serve restaurants, retailers and foodservice customers with the highest quality beef and pork products. 

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Upper Lakes Foods