by Sally Colby
Chris Moul didn’t grow up on a working farm, but he recalls being interested in agriculture from a young age. He was involved in 4-H and FFA, showed pigs and cattle, and worked on his uncle’s farm during the summer. As he got older, he worked year-round on his uncle’s farm.
Chris furthered his education at Penn State, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in environmental resource management and a master’s degree in soil science. He also met his wife Leigh at Penn State. Chris worked as a hydrogeologist in several areas of the country and eventually moved to Los Angeles where he developed businesses in the oil and natural gas industries.
In 2011, Chris and Leigh wanted to purchase a farm, but they were still in California. Chris asked his uncle Wayne Hoffman, an experienced farmer and commodity beef producer, to keep an eye on farm properties. When a farm in Dover, PA came up for sale, Chris and Leigh purchased it. “I didn’t know if we were going to move back or not,” said Chris, “but at least we’d have it if we wanted to move back.”
The Mouls made the move back to Pennsylvania in 2014 and Chris was already thinking of developing an agribusiness. “I thought we could raise beef that people could really appreciate,” he said. “Not just eat, but when they eat it, say ‘that was amazing.’” That was the start of Locust Point Cattle Company.
Chris didn’t have experience raising cattle other than his youth projects, so he relied on his uncle and cousin Josh to get started. “We thought this was a good place to do this,” said Chris, describing the area near York, PA. “Our focus has been creating the absolute best tasting beef possible and making sure we do a really good job marketing it. We focus on making a really happy cow taste good.”
Chris purchased his first black calves from cow-calf producers in several states including Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina. He now sources calves from just a few suppliers who are willing to provide weaned calves that meet his standards. Chris says calves from farms sired by bulls from Pharo Cattle Company in Colorado are among the best to arrive at his farm.
When the Mouls purchased the farm, it had been used for commodity crops and wasn’t fenced for livestock. Chris began an intensive pasture establishment program, and the farm is now divided into paddocks of about six acres each. Most of the pastures are a mix of endophyte-free tall fescue and rye, and Chris recently started using a pasture mix that includes white clover, red clover, timothy, tall fescue and rye to provide a steady selection of mixed forage for the entire season.
“We circulate groups of about 20 animals through the paddocks,” said Chris. “They might be in a paddock a day or a few weeks, depending on the grass. The goal is two pounds of gain every day.” In addition to natural shade from trees, cattle can access shade cloth in each paddock from June through October. Water lines supply fresh water.
Winter feed includes haylage grown by Wayne and Josh. Winter wheat is harvested prior to heading and spring ryegrass is harvested and put up in a bunker silo. “Without my uncle and cousin, none of this would be here,” said Chris. “They invested their time and energy in helping me get started. They’re in the commodity beef business, but they’re very supportive and help with the cattle. They have the equipment, make the haylage and take care of feeding nearly two tons of haylage every day.”
Because Locust Point supplies beef to customers year-round, Chris watches calves carefully for growth and maturity to maintain a steady supply of animals that finish throughout the year. He has found that if he purchases enough calves in spring and again in fall, the numbers work out well. Right now, he has about 140 head and this spring he’ll bring in additional calves of various sizes.
Chris keeps a close eye on the herd and knows the ages of animals that are ready for processing. “I go more by age than weight,” he said. “We have different frame cattle from different farms, and even though some of the genetics are the same, one might mature at 1,300 pounds and another at 1,500 pounds. There are certain things I look at to determine which ones are ready for processing, but consistency is important.”
Finding a packer to work with wasn’t easy. “We sell gourmet beef, so the cuts and what they look like is important,” said Chris. “Consistency is a challenge.” Chris added that small variations such as different butchers cutting meat in the same establishment can make a big difference in the consistency and appearance of cuts.
After using several different processors, the Mouls found a USDA processor who will dry-age the whole carcass for 21 days and provide the same cuts done the same way every time. This is especially important for restaurants, but also for customers who expect consistent cuts. “We have customers who come in every two weeks and they can count on having the cuts they want,” said Chris. “Right now, we’re sending two animals to the packer every two weeks. Our goal is to send three every two weeks by April, and in a year, we’ll take eight steers every month.”
When it came to developing a steady clientele for beef, Chris drew on his experience in business development. “Without that experience of building business and customers, it would be very difficult to do this,” he said. “We’ve been selling beef for a little over a year and we have a strong foundation. We spend a lot of time marketing to restaurants with the goal of getting our name on the menu. When customers visit that restaurant, they have an amazing experience with beef and seek out Locust Point beef.”
Leigh explains the farm’s share plan. “It was one of our initial offerings,” she said, explaining the program that somewhat resembles a CSA but with more flexibility. “The customer can pay ahead for the year and pick up what they would like, as they like it, instead of taking portions of the animal they don’t eat.” One of the outlets for beef sales is a stand at Central Market in York, where Leigh talks about grassfed beef with customers, offers cooking tips and shares recipes.
The Mouls’ goal is to provide a farm-to-table experience without the customer having to purchase an entire quarter or half. “We’re slowly building up a strong membership,” said Chris. “We opened up a stand at Central Market in York, but that was never the original intent — the intent was to raise cattle and either have people come here or we’d deliver. As we got close to harvesting our first animals, we visited as many restaurants as we could and talked with chefs and gave away a lot of meat just to get people to try it.”
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