by Scott Sacry
Dillon Kouf of Double K Ranch in Darby has a plan. His plan is one of ethical sustainability and stewardship. It is one of transparency and tradition. He envisions a direct to customer model of meat consumption where livestock are bred, born, raised, slaughtered, and processed all in one place. The meat is then distributed and sold in the same region where it was raised and processed.
“In many cases,” says Kouf, “in the western U.S. cattle are raised in one place, shipped to massive feedlots in the Midwest, then shipped to slaughter houses in Colorado where the meat is processed, and finally shipped to stores all over the country. This is a lot of wasted resources and consumptive energy.”
“Now imagine a scenario,” Kouf continues, “where livestock are born on the same land where they then live and grow in a sustainable environment, they have plenty of space and are grass fed in an open pasture. They end their life at the same location, and are processed at the same site and an on-site butcher processes the meat for consumption and then that product is consumed by people in the surrounding areas. It’s good for the environment because we aren’t overtaxing the land, it’s good for the livestock because they don’t have the stress of all the travel, it’s good for the consumer because you’re getting a high quality product, and it’s good for our region because we are creating local jobs.”
Double K Ranch was started in 1985 by Jim and Lynn Kouf. Jim’s son Dillon Kouf and his wife Tesalynn are also owners. In 2019, they opened Fifth Season, a business producing old-style charcuterie meats such as pork soppressata, pork chorizo, bresaola, pepperone, and lamb sucuk, to name a few. “Some curing shops use the same old world techniques we do,” said Kouf, “but I don’t know of any that do it all in one location, with animals that are sustainably raised and processed at the same site. You can stop by our ranch and pick up a charcuterie board, sit on one of our benches outside, watch the livestock roaming on our land, and see exactly where the meat comes from.”
Double K is a growing operation. They have a processing facility on site where they slaughter and process their own livestock and that of others. They also process wild game for others. They hang dry their meat for a minimum of 30 days and butcher the product in house. They just opened a retail meat shop at the ranch at 3096 Double K Ranch Road in Darby where you can purchase steaks, chops, roasts, burger, pastrami, sausage, bacon and salami in addition to their custom charcuterie boards. They currently sell their products at the Hamilton and Missoula farmers markets. They also operate a food truck which is currently located in Missoula outside of The Dram Shop. A brick and mortar deli and meat shop is also in the works and will be located in Paxson Plaza in Missoula.
Adam Hebert manages the retail meat shop for Double K and is in charge of the day to day operation, making sure everything runs smoothly. Before working for Double K, Adam was a manager at the Good Food Store in Missoula.
“I was sold by the whole vision of this place, and jumped at the chance to be part of this,” said Hebert. “I believe it is important to have transparency in the meat industry. Sometimes everything is so secret. I encourage people to come and check us out, see the fields where our livestock live, tour our facilities, see how our meat is processed, meet the butcher and see the curing process we use. We want the customer to understand the whole process.”
The Double K retail meat shop is open from 9-5 Monday through Friday at 3096 KK Ranch Road in Darby. It can reached at 406-821-2280 and online at doublekranchmt.com.