On 800 acres in Darby, Angus beef and Berkshire hogs roam with full access to their resources. These are happy cows and healthy pigs. In 1985, Jim and Lynn Kouf bought the property because they wanted their kids to grow up knowing where their meat came from. These days, their son Dillon oversees the operation along with his wife, Tesa. As managers of the Double K Ranch, they’ve stayed true to the original vision while also demonstrating how today's ranchers can sustainably manage livestock and work with the land to produce quality products.
Today, the ranch supplies its own retail meat shop, a cured meat product line known as ”Fifth Season Montana,” and a new deli in Missoula. Their deep care for the animals is behind every expansion the ranch has made.
“Because the butcher shop is onsite, we can make everything healthier and safer for the stock and our staff,” said Dillon. “Our animals never have to leave the ranch,” added Tesa. “It’s never traumatic for them. It’s just a short walk from the pasture down to the butcher shop.” Even still, it’s not only about being gentle with the animals. “Ours are grass-fed and grass-finished,” said Dillon. “It takes six months longer to raise a beef to weight doing it that way, but they’re healthier and not stressed out.” Tesa encourages visitors to stop in and see for themselves. “Folks can come by the ranch anytime, see the cows and the pigs, and visit our meat shop,” she said.
This past fall, Dillon and Tesa opened the Double K Deli in Missoula at Paxson Plaza near Southgate Mall. They sell fresh cuts of meat, cured salamis, and other products like bison and lamb from family ranches in the Bitterroot Valley. “Our main reason for entering the retail market is to have that face-to-face [interaction with] consumer sales. We love the idea of someone walking in, seeing all of these fresh cuts of meat behind the glass, and asking, ‘Have anything new I can try?’ Plus, having the deli in Missoula is ideal for us. The market wants healthier, grass-fed meat and the people really support local agriculture,” said Dillon.
When folks visit the deli to shop the day’s cuts they can also sit for lunch. The menu includes sandwiches and traditional grilled food.
“We use our pork fat to deep fry our fries,” Tesa said. “I think that’s what makes them extra tasty.” Also, prepared charcuterie boards are available to-go. “It’s a fun treat for a date night,” she said. In addition, customers can join the Salami of the Month Club to sample how Dillon and Tesa have combined their meats with local ingredients to make exceptional, value-added products. Made with mead from Hidden Legend Winery in Victor, spices from Montana Tea and Spice Trading in Missoula, and beer from area breweries, Double K's hand-made salamis have become ambassadors for the flavors of our region.
With their extra effort to keep the ranch’s 800 acres productive for generations to come, the Koufs continue to find ways to ranch sustainably. To reduce erosion, animals rotate to different pastures. There’s a composting facility on site. In addition, solar panels power 80 to 90% of operations in peak season. The land has returned that goodwill with some fun surprises.
“We purchased 20 acres bordering the ranch to raise more pigs,” said Dillon. “They're out there, digging up the first six inches of soil like manual rototillers. They’ve unearthed artifacts from decades of ranching. We have a bucket filled with metal pieces and old tools.”
There’s an undeniable relationship ranchers have with their animals, especially at Double K Ranch where every part of the process and product matters. They’ve figured out that it is possible to have it all: a prime cut of meat, growing the local economy, and gaining more interest in where our food comes from once a community member has a taste.
“It really has that generational feel,” said Dillon. “We’re a family business that goes beyond ranch to table. We want to stay Montana-focused. We want to show how raising meat can be done with minimal impact on the environment,” said Dillon. His wife, Tesa, agreed. “We want to be mindful and live off the land as best we can, and also make some delicious products, too.”
Double K Ranch Deli
2700 Paxson Street, Suite B
“We’re a family business that goes beyond ranch to table. We want to stay Montana-focused. We want to show how raising meat can be done with minimal impact on the environment,” said Dillon.