Denton Bible Church has some unusual outreach programs. The Sweat Team is a group of folks who help clean up storm debris. And then there’s the Cattle Ministry, a church-run herd that provides beef to low-income families in Denton.
The pasture in Sanger features kids hanging off creaky fences and insects clicking in the grass. The herd of cattle though? Surprisingly peaceful. You have to strain your ears to make out a moo.
The animals belong to Denton Bible Church, which started the cattle ministry 10 years ago.
“There was a couple at our church that donated two cows to us and told us, ‘You can have them, but don’t kill them.’ So we decided to breed them and raise our own,” says Kim Clarke, president of Beef Supply.
Beef Supply is the nonprofit that runs the production side of the cattle ministry. The herd is now up to 62 animals, which is almost ideal. Two are slaughtered each month, which produces a substantial amount of ground beef.
“About 40,000 quarter-pounders a year, so 40,000 servings of beef a year out of this herd, currently,” Clarke says.
Land, feed and hay — for free
Most of the land the ministry operates on has been donated. Same goes for the hay and cattle feed. Clarke says that’s made managing the herd pretty cost-effective.
“It’s incredible; we’ve paid for insurance. We’ve paid for accountants, and we’ve paid for attorneys to set everything up,” he says. “And everything else is pretty much donated.”
If Beef Supply is the front end of this operation, the church’s Vision Ministries is the back end. Michael Pirtle is its director.
“All the meat comes through Vision Ministries,” Pirtle says. “We distribute to other partner agencies in the community. All of our clients when they come in to shop for groceries — we have a food pantry there at Vision Ministries — they take home at least three pounds of our hamburger meat.”
And Pirtle says the meat is much higher quality than what you can get at the supermarket — and for one simple reason: these burgers are made with steak.
“They’re taking out the choice cuts, the steaks and everything and selling those. And we just grind 100% of that up. And so the meat that you’re getting from the cattle ministry is going to be better than the hamburger meat you’re going to buy at a grocery store,” Pirtle says. “And our neighbors seem to love it. We’ve had no complaints.”
Because low-income families often struggle to afford high-quality meat, and food pantries don’t always have fresh beef, folks with the cattle ministry saw an easy fix. And while a fridge full of hamburger won’t solve hunger in Denton County, it’ll help.
“Any time you go to the grocery store, the most expensive part of someone’s grocery bill is going to be either fresh produce or fresh protein. So this was just kind of an idea of a way to serve those in need,” Pirtle says.