In 2008, Mark and Susie Mahnken began selling their Missouri Legacy Beef out of a small cooler at the Columbia Farmers Market with their sons, Grant, Blake, Harrison, and Miles. These days, Mark and company occupy two tents, sell out of several freezers, and cook some of their savory product on a 6-foot-long event grill. Customers follow their noses to the west end of the market, where the crew grills burgers, brats and barbecue sandwiches every Saturday.
The Columbia Farmers Market “is the ideal venue to conduct commerce between the local farmer and the healthy food-conscious consumer,” Mark said. The vendors are “diverse, yet unified farmers, who love what they do, and show great respect and appreciation to those who support their livelihood. There is no other market like it in the state,” Mark said.
Missouri Legacy Beef offers more than 52 various cuts of “USDA-inspected, lean, dry-aged, quick-frozen raw beef,” he said. In addition, the family sells all-beef smoked franks, sliced smoked brisket, chopped smoked brisket, summer sausage, and beef jerky.
At the heart of Mark’s Missouri cattle operation is family, he said. “Every family member has made a significant contribution to the development, production, marketing, and distribution of our specialty beef.” Among the family’s valued market helpers are Brett Rawlings, Graham Geyer and Beth Long. The Mahnken men are fourth generation cattlemen. “In 1902, my grandfather, William, started the tradition of providing free-range beef to his friends,” Mark said. “My father, Marion, continued the tradition, finishing thousands of his cattle on lush pastures and forages, grown on the family farm,” south of Salisbury, Missouri.
In 1981, after a brief engineering career in Texas, Mark returned to his family’s 1,000-acre farm “to raise cattle and kids,” with his wife, Susie. Mark built and operated “one of the largest custom, feeding operations in the state, growing it to 5,000 head of cattle, while producing feed for the cattle on the farm.” However, about 8 years ago, he moved away from the feedlot model to a “free-range program,” choosing to raise cattle the way his grandfather did, on pasture. The family now raises 50 to 200 head on pasture.This legacy has been passed to Mark’s sons, who have learned the “art of producing quality crops and beef,” Mark said. The cattle are rotated on pastures that are terraced, and are free of chemicals and pesticides. They are also fed a low-starch, high-protein supplement. “Fresh and clean water is provided from a farm reservoir and pumped to individual water tanks on each grazing paddock. During the winter months, when grass is not available, we provide shelter, the protein supplement, and hay,” Mark said. “All beef carcasses are scored at the University of Missouri, to assure they meet our high standards,” Mark said, and Legacy beef tested at Iowa State University labs indicates “our production process produces tender beef rich in Omega-3” fatty acids.
Making a living on a family farm comes with significant risk, he said. “But with perseverance, sacrifice, very hard work, and much prayer we have survived, raising a wonderful family, and producing food.”
Learn more about Missouri Legacy Beef sales at www.MissouriLegacyBeef.com.
Susie Mahnken shared a favorite recipe for roasted Missouri Legacy Beef.