The Vera Earl Ranch has come a long way from its start in 1968 with the purchase of 20,000 acres of the Sonoita grasslands by Burton Beck, the grandfather of current owner, Ian Tomlinson.
Over the years the ranch has expanded to include a lease on the Empire Ranch in Sonoita and a partnership with the Sands Ranch in Rain Valley for the herd that is maintained by the 20 employees responsible for their care.
Vera Earl is one of 374 ranches that are CARES Certified. This process is part of “IMI Global/Where Food Comes From,” an organization that requires participating ranches to provide transparency and traceability in their beef production. It also requires that each ranch practices sustainability of natural resources with proper land and water management. Certification also assures the consumer that the cattle are properly and humanely handled and cared for until they are shipped for processing. The final processing for the Vera Earl Ranch beef occurs at the University of Arizona, a USDA federally inspected facility.
The calves are born and raised on pasture until they reach 750 pounds, then are transitioned to a locally sourced, grain-based diet for eight to ten months until they finish growing. This process assures the superior marbling that is expected in premium beef. The meat is certified as “Natural Beef” as there are no antibiotics or hormones added during the life of the animal. After processing, the beef is dry-aged for 21 days. Since it generally takes three times as long to finish the cattle on grass compared to grain, the grain finishing process helps to alleviate the strain on the environment by lessening the carbon footprint.
Vera Earl provides wholesale beef to large, natural food companies such as Whole Foods in Tucson as well as to the smaller venues like the Café Restaurant in Sonoita. In March 2020, office employees Amanda Zamudio and Val Burleson saw yet another opportunity for expansion that would benefit the community. COVID-19 was raging, and people were staying safe at home, so, with the support of owner Ian Tomlinson, a more community-based specialty company for their beef was established in Sonoita.
Customers can now buy any amount of most cuts of beef as well as lamb. The lamb is provided by Zamudio from her farm in Patagonia. They offer free local delivery and can ship anywhere in the U.S., as well. The meat can also be picked up at their office headquarters 3282 Hwy 82.