Nolan Ryan Talks Beef and Burgers With SideDish

SURPRISE, Ariz.–SideDish is a food-oriented blog, so I won’t go into the finer points of Nolan Ryan’s baseball career. The other day I sat down with the retired hard-throwing right-handed pitcher to talk about something other than baseball. We talked about cows.

The eight-time MLB All-Star has been a rancher for most of his life. When he isn’t busy being the President of the Texas Rangers, he’s moving cattle on one of his two ranches. In between, he sits in a board room, discusses global meat markets, and makes decisions for his company Nolan Ryan’s Guaranteed Tender Beef.

SideDish: When you were playing baseball, did you dream of being a meat purveyor?

Nolan Ryan: I’ve been in the cattle business for 35 years. I guess I’ve had the meat company for—hey, don’t hold me to it, but it’s been about six or seven years. I can’t say I really thought about getting into the meat business. I was much more involved on a day-to-day basis, you know all the marketing, before this job (President of the Rangers) came along. So now I head down [to the ranch] when the team goes on the road.

SideDish: So is pitching the beef business difficult?

Nolan Ryan: I really like the ranching part but when you first get on the producer’s side, you think you know what goes on in the end product. But until you get into that side of it, the marketing of the product, you find you really have to want to be in the business. You have to learn about what drives the demand for the end product. It’s a tough business. We’re going through a horrible drought right now, the worst in 35 years.

SideDish: Tell us about your cows and products.

Nolan Ryan: I’ve run personally myself 2,000 [cattle]. But the company has cattle from other programs and producers. We have five feed lots in South Texas, one in North Texas, and one in California. We use a composite Beefmaster and breed them with a red or black Angus depending on what we need. We graze on grassland and with grains harvested by area farmers and we don’t use added growth hormones or antibiotics during the last 100 days of the feeding period. We never feed meat by-products of any kind.

SideDish: I understand all of the burger stands at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington use your beef. I hear there are plans for a new, expanded concession area with tables and chairs that will feature more options.

Nolan Ryan: [Looks down at the ground, smiles, and shakes his head] Yes, they’re in the process of opening a new stand, a grill–a kind of destination type place with different products. I haven’t seen the final menu yet. I’ve got a lot on my plate.

Ryan’s beef is available at Kroger’s and other stores and restaurants in the Southwest. Here is more info on cuts and quality.  Ryan’s new eatery at the Ballpark will debut on April 6th. I’m waiting for details from non-baseball PR types. (Photo courtesy of Nolan Ryan’s website.)