Meredith Ellis grew up on her family’s sprawling ranch north of Denton, but she traveled extensively in her teens and 20s. At one point, she planned on becoming an FBI agent and leading an exciting urban life. Instead, she studied landscape architecture at the University of New Mexico. The experience taught her that pristine landscapes were undervalued, and she began to see her family’s land as an opportunity to impact the next generation.
Ellis now owns and runs her family’s 3,000-acre G Bar C Ranch in Rosston and is part of the Integrity Beef Alliance, a group of small and medium-sized ranchers (two-thirds of which are in North Texas) looking to raise cattle in an environmentally responsible manner.
Part of the alliance’s protocol involves moving cattle to different areas of the ranch to let the plant life recover and the carbon sequestration to occur, all of which results in raising smaller animals than industrial ranches. “Every year that I do ranching the way I do ranching, it takes 551 cars off the road,” Ellis says. The alliance provides a set of principles that are flexible and allow each rancher to make the best decisions for their land. The pillars are based on the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which includes addressing food security, preserving biodiversity, and practical implementation.
The alliance is a fluid group of three to four dozen members who preserve their land to be able to ranch without harming the environment and requiring expensive inputs, hoping to influence the finishing lots and larger producers where many of their cattle end up.
“Everybody tries to do some things that are environmentally sustainable but just don’t know how to go about doing it,” says Robert Wells, executive director of the alliance. “Ranching is diverse. What works in North Texas may not work in Florida. There are many different ways that you can peel the onion.”
Ellis has a herd of about 200 mother cows and sells offspring to various beef finishers. She focuses on grazing systems, herd quality, and carbon sequestration as an advocate for sustainable ranching and the benefits it provides to the planet. She says she sees value in the land beyond the beef it can produce. “Instead of seeing our ranch as a cattle operation, I see it as an incredibly rare, private national park,” Ellis says. “It’s dwindling and not valued the way it should be. The best thing I can do is protect it and take care of it.”