Meet Stephen Hughes, owner and operator of Chinook Ranch in Longview, AB., along with his three daughters - Kayla, Josie and Erin. His dad Jim & wife Karen also live & work with him on the ranch.
With so much information out there, I think it is important to show the things we are doing well, to share the story of how we do things on the land, and what ranchers do. As not only a rancher, but also a consumer, I think it's important to be transparent. Ranchers are truly conservationists at work.
Stephen's grandfather, James, came to Canada from England in 1928. Throughout the '40's, he gradually put parcels of land together, and Chinook Ranch ranch was established around 1950.
Growing up on the ranch, Stephen knew he loved ranching, and by the time he had graduated from the University of Alberta in 1990, he had developed a true passion for the land. By the fall of 1996, after a trip to NZ and Australia, he and his father decided to change how they ranched, transforming from the traditional farming, to grazing cows year round.
This generated a passion and huge interest in range management, water development and lead to a natural appreciation for embracing the environment he operates in.
As Stephen's confidence grew, so did his passion and appreciation for Mother Nature, to embrace the native grasslands ecosystems where they live. In 2003, Chinook Ranch was awarded the Alberta Beef Producers' Environmental Stewardship Award, in part for those changes in grazing management style that utilize the land, while conserving the natural ecosystem.
Stephen is not only passionate about the natural environment, but about his community too. He has worked with the veterinary school in Calgary, and has lead the 4-H club leader in his community of Longview for 19 years.
In 2019, you may remember seeing Stephen as one of the faces in a McDonald's Canada TV commercial talking about beef sustainability and the importance of transparency - transparency builds trust, and that is what he is so passionate about.
Stephen was selected as the first Canadian beef producer in McDonald's Flagship Farmer program. See his story in the video below.
To me, sustainability is producing food in a a manner that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. It is about showing people what is behind the food, where it comes from, and how it is raised. It is important for use to verify what we are doing well, so we can keep doing it.
I firmly believe that it is an honourable way to live, and raise a family. I have immense pride in producing food for everyone, and being able to stand behind the product that I produce.
"Sustainability is not about what is in it for me - it's what's in it for all of us."
Why we became a CRSB Certified Ranch
It was back in 2013 when he was invited to a meeting in Red Deer with folks from McDonald's, the World Wildlife Fund, Cargill and others, where Stephen's passion for sustainability took hold. That first meeting was one of the first steps in McDonald's beef sustainability journey - a Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot Program - which, through CRSB's many partners, has turned into what is now the CRSB's Certified Sustainable Beef Framework.
"It spoke to me", he says "and to celebrate the sustainable nature of the grasslands ecosystem where I live and work."
He was one of the first to volunteer to have a sustainability audit on his operation, and Stephen often talks about how that on-farm audit was one of the best days of his life on the ranch. It was a celebration of everything he does well, and the ability to demonstrate all of the sustainable practices he has implemented over time.
Our Sustainable Practices
For us, the grazing management plans that we have implemented here on the ranch, and the development of the water sources that are necessary to enable us to grazing our cattle all year round.
We pride ourselves on animal welfare, we use "quiet" handling that keep the animals calm, which in turn, results in high quality beef.
Nutrition is key to the operation - we work closely with our animal nutritionist and veterinarian - relationships with these professionals are imperative to a successful operation.
We try to work with the rhythm of nature and what it provides in our environment, and use the grass to our advantage.
What I want you to know...
- I'm a consumer as well, so I take pride in producing a good product. My livelihood depends on the health of the animals, and healthy land. My passion is to send out a good product raised with integrity.