Deschutes County

C. Oregon ranchers turn beer waste into beef

Barley Beef collects waste from half-dozen breweries

Beer's circle of life in C.O.

ALFALFA, Ore. - When breweries make beer, thousands of pounds of grains and yeast are left over.

Here in Central Oregon, two cattle ranchers have partnered to use that waste for farming, in an ultimate display of sustainability.

It's at the Borlen Cattle Company in Alfalfa, where Barley Beef is fed to more than 200 cows that will in turn be turned into beef sold here in Central Oregon.

"Breweries produce it by making beer, and they need a way to get rid of it," said company owner Matt Borlen. "The best way to get rid of it, in that sense."

What Borlen is talking about is the feed for his cattle.

"There's going to be protein in it," Borlen said. "There's going to be the flavors, and that's what they (cows) really like."
The feed is made up of water, hops, grains and spent yeast -- the leftover ingredients breweries don't use.

Borlen began collecting the waste from Deshutes Brewery in 1993, but as more breweries have popped up, and as local beer production increases, so too has the spent grain collection.

"When we tell them we are going to pick up the grain, we are there every day," Borlen said. "Even on Sundays, I'll stop by after church."

He feeds 50,000 pounds of grain to his 200 cows each week -- grain from seven local breweries.

So after all the cows are fed and taken to Central Oregon Butcher Boys, where does all the meat go? To hamburgers at the Deschutes Brewery Pub, completing the circle, so to speak.

That started in 2002, when the pub requested ground beef for their Wednesday night Meatloaf Special. Now, Barley Beef is all they sell.

"They came to us and said, 'We love the burger. There is something different about it. The flavor is phenomenal, and we want to do all of our ground beef with you guys,'' Borlen said. "And we said, 'Okay.'"

While most beef sold in stores is from corn-fed cows, these cows are eating something way different.

"We have grass-fed cows, supplementing that with the beer mash gives them a real nice flavor, with just the right trimmings around the edge to give it a good taste," said Rob Rastovich. "But it's not so fatty that you are dripping and having to take the fat off in the Hamburger Helper."

Barley Beef shares the mash with other small local farmers.

"It allows the farmer to make more money," Rastovich said. "It allows the consumer to get a better product, and allows our economy to grow. It's good all the way around."

The environmentally friendly aspect of all this is that by taking the waste, the city's wastewater facility won't be clogged down.

You can find Barley Beef at the Deschutes Brewery Pub, Nature's, Jackson's Corner, Central Oregon Locavore, Crux Brewing, Celebrate the Season Market and LifeLine Tap House.

To learn more about the beef, you can log onto the website

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