After exiting I-44 near Joplin en route to Downstream Casino Resort, guests cruise past rolling fields where hormone-free, registered Black Angus cattle graze peacefully within view of balconies atop the nearby resort.
Those cattle are part of the nearly 1,000-strong Quapaw Cattle Company herd, the 3-year-old operation providing the lion’s share of the beef that’s served in the casino’s various restaurants. Spearheaded by John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, which owns and operates Downstream Casino, the tribe launched Quapaw Cattle Company to supply the resort’s restaurants with top-notch beef and to ensure quality control throughout the animals’ lifespans.
Berrey says that investment—including working with Oklahoma’s venerable Spur Ranch to initially form the herd and building a $50 million processing plant that’s currently in the works—has paid major dividends already, including creating jobs for the community and raising the culinary bar at Downstream. “It’s like night and day,” he says. “Texture, flavor, consistency—it’s just an unbelievably better product. Guests can really tell the difference.”
Part of that difference comes courtesy of the operation’s adherence to humane, safe practices in the raising and handling of its animals, which include buffalo. Ranch manager Tom Hardcastle says Quapaw Cattle Company follows concepts put forth by Temple Grandin, the famous animal welfare expert and scientist known for advancements including pens that improve the quality of life for cattle. “We try to follow that 100 percent,” Hardcastle says.
For Lucus Setterfield, Downstream’s director of food and beverage, those principles are what set Quapaw Cattle Company—and consequently the casino’s restaurants, like its luxe Red Oak Steakhouse—apart. “It’s something that we obviously stand behind and we’re proud of because we understand where that animal is coming from, the care that animal is being given, the humane treatment behind it,” Setterfield says. “The quality of the product itself is highly above any kind of standard that we’ve seen before.”