Have you ever looked at your pre-packaged Styrofoam tray of hamburger meat that you picked up at your nearby chain grocery store and wonder, “Where the heck did this come from?” If you have, then you are not alone. Today, there is a growing trend of everyday ordinary people who are interested in knowing where their food comes from—whether it’s for health reasons, for environmental reasons, for social or even economic reasons. Simply put, in this day and age, food matters! That is why family farms like 4th Line Cattle Co. in Hillsburgh are thriving, because they focus on small-scale, local farming that infuses care and quality into everything they do.
Welcome to the farm
4th Line Cattle Co. prides itself on providing great-tasting, pasture-raised beef and pork, as well as free range eggs. The food they produce comes directly from their farm to your plate. The land is managed naturally at 4th Line Cattle, with the herd being moved from one lush, green pasture to the next to allow the land time to restore and rejuvenate itself. This farm and its products are much-loved in the community and beyond, with an ever-expanding list of customers who come back again and again for nourishing, sustainable, delicious food.
With such an idyllic and robust operation in full swing, one might find it hard to believe that 4th Line Cattle has never not existed. But the transition of the Mousseau family into beef farmers is a comparatively recent one. While Matt and Tamaran Mousseau have both grown up around farms, they have not engaged in raising livestock for food until now. “I’ve always had horses and always lived on a farm,” Tamaran explains. “Both Matt and I have, but not with cattle and pigs and chickens. It’s definitely been a learning curve.”
They began their farming efforts to sustain their own family in the beginning, raising only a handful of beef cattle, and enjoying the process on an individual scale. But when friends and family began to notice the quality of the meat they shared at gatherings, they were quickly asked to begin raising “just a little bit more for us, too.”
“It spiraled from there,” Tamaran recalls. “Our friends and family would tell people, and they would tell people. So, in 2017 we opened up a bit more and began accepting people that we didn’t know for bulk orders.” At the time, the Mousseaus were working out of their garage, and had customers come to the farm to pick up cuts of meat. But when they realized they needed more space as the operation expanded, they built a shed at the back of their house where customers could pickup their pre-ordered goods. The Mousseaus decided not to develop this venture into a full-blown farm store, however. “It’s hard because we’re a working farm,” Tamaran says. “It’s not possible for me to sit there all day and wait for someone to show up and shop, so we decided on this and a basic online store through our website and email, and it was working.”
When the pandemic hit, 4th Line Cattle expanded and transitioned fully to an online storefront which, today, is a thriving virtual enterprise for this small family farm.
A true farm-to-fork experience
At 4th Line Cattle Co., you will find purebred Texas Longhorn cattle as well as a small group of Hereford cattle, Heritage pigs and free range eggs. Talk about knowing where your food comes from—Matt and Tamaran know the complete lineage of their cattle dating back to their grandmothers! And, all of their animals’ food is also grown directly on the farm, with pastures and hay fields that span over 400 acres (when we said this was a small family farm, we meant at heart, of course). Features like calm temperaments in the cattle, easy calving, access to fresh, clean water, open barns, and fresh straw bedding are vitally important to Matt and Tamaran for their animals.
Of course, hopping in the car and running out to the chain grocery store around the corner might seem more convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost. For one, you really don’t know what’s in the meat you’re buying. “Our ground beef, for instance, is entirely one animal,” Tamaran explains. “That means having a closer connection to your food and a smaller footprint with our regenerative farming practices.” Additionally, because cattle are not transported over large distances to be distributed to different outlets, you’re helping the environment by further reducing your consumer footprint.
But most important is that grass-fed, free range beef, pork and eggs are simply healthier. “That’s how we want to feed our family,” Tamaran points out. “So why not make that accessible to other families within the community?”
Why supporting local matters
Farm-to-fork is not only about the best, freshest foods, it’s also about embracing the personal relationships that come along with it. Matt and Tamaran take pride in producing food that is enjoyed around their own dinner table, and want to encourage and support those values for their customers. And in return, by buying local from a small family farm like 4th Line Cattle, you are helping them continue to cultivate a lifestyle that will have effects down the generations. “Doing this means that I’m home with my kids,” Tamaran explains. “We started raising our own beef when our son was born. As we grew, it meant that one of us was able to stay home and take care of the kids. Now my oldest is eight and my second is two, and I’ve been able to be here with them and not miss a moment.”
“You never know what the future may hold,” she adds, “but we hope that this is something they might want to take on themselves someday.”
4th Line Cattle Co.
5682 Fourth Line, Hillsburgh