Dry Lakes Ranch Serving Up a Tasty Piece of the ‘American Dream’ & Giving Back
PAROWAN, Iron County – While cruising down I-15 on the way to southern Utah, it can be easy to rush past the town of Parowan as you anticipate a rest stop in Cedar City or prepare to enjoy the beautiful national and state parks the area has to offer. Beyond being the County Seat for Iron County, it’s also home to one of the newer and award-winning meat shops in the region. But failing to stop will have you miss out on one of the best-tasting steaks around!
Dry Lakes Ranch Beef opened in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, with ranchers Reyes and Kacie Carballo taking the leap to open the store to fill the need for great local beef. Kacie manages the store while her husband, Reyes, manages the herd of Hereford/Angus cattle. The cows graze in the high mountain meadows not far from the Brian Head resort, in an area known as Dry Lakes during much of the year, as well as on Utah’s west desert in the wintertime.
While tasting the mouth-watering cuts of beef and reading the press clippings of their many awards, you could mistakenly think success came easy to the Carballo family, but you’d be missing out on an inspiring story of grit and determination that is the hallmark of this southern Utah family.
Living the American Dream
The ranch itself is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, starting off as Mitchell Herefords in 1873, but Reyes’ involvement with the ranch is a winding journey that started with his days growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico, his time as a horseracing jockey, and eventually stopping in Parowan in the early 1980s because of a snowstorm.
“I was on my way to Colorado for work and we got stuck in Parowan with only $40,” Reyes said. “I thought it was beautiful and decided I was going to stay and find work, even though the others with me kept on to Colorado.”
Reyes did everything he could to make a living – including gathering soda cans for extra money – and eventually started working for the late Dennis Stowell on his sheep ranch. The former mayor of Parowan and state legislator was a mentor for Reyes, who still gets emotional when thinking of the opportunity he was given.
After working for Stowell for several years, Reyes took up work with a nearby cattle rancher, Hal Mitchell in 1995. Reyes became like a son to Mitchell, because of his dedication to working on the ranch and his love of the Mitchell family. He took over the ranch from the family, though he still manages it in Mitchell’s honor. He was recently honored during Ogden’s Pioneer Days Celebration this past summer as Iron County’s representative for the Day of the American Cowboy. It’s part of a nationwide effort dedicated to preserving America’s cowboy culture and pioneer heritage by highlighting and honoring hard-working cowboys throughout the country.
“I have learned a lot from those I’ve worked for. People believed in me,” Reyes said. “I dreamed of this beautiful place and have worked really hard to reach my dream to be somebody. No days off!”
While working with the cattle, Reyes and Kacie noticed an opportunity during the pandemic. With a glut in the meat processing sector, Kacie saw the demand for fresh, local beef and that there weren’t many places to get it in southern Utah. They took a leap of faith and Kacie stopped her ag teaching job at the high school to open their meat shop on Main Street in Parowan. Armed with a lot of research and no-how, Kacie admits nonetheless that they’ve learned a lot.
The Carballos started the shop with their savings and have pinched pennies to grow responsibly. Reyes feels strongly about staying out of debt and works to help others continue in agriculture because he feels the need to invest in the future of agriculture.
“We work to leave the land better than how we found it, and work with partners to make water improvements and other ranch improvements,” Reyes said. “We’re running out of farms, and we need to support them. If we ever have insurance payments that come from drought relief, we use it to invest in young people with FFA and other animal projects. We have been blessed, and we want to be a blessing to others.”
Local Beef Tastes Better
If the awards hanging in the store aren’t enough to prove their quality, the lines of customers and the fact they’ve had to expand three times since opening should do the trick.
“While we have lots of local customers, we have had many others from California and Nevada, and as far away as New Jersey and Hawaii. But the farthest has got to a customer from the Congo in Africa,” Kacie said. “We are blessed to live in an area with beautiful national parks, and so many come to visit and stay in an Airbnb or other vacation rental and want to have some delicious beef. Instead of just going to the grocery store, they look us up and give us a try. Consumers want to be connected to agriculture and quality food.”
The focus on quality starts on the ranch but continues with Kacie’s efforts in the butcher shop. She regularly takes trips with cattle for initial processing from local facilities along the Wasatch Front and then returns each week to prepare the cuts of meat that customers are looking for.
“We do a lot of research into trends and ways to prepare the beef,” Kacie said. “We prepare beef like Hanger steak [which is prized for its flavor] and other cuts that most don’t have, and I think that really sets us apart.”
In addition to serving up delicious cuts of beef – as well as lamb and pork from other local farms, Dry Lakes Beef is on the menu of some local restaurants as well, including Milt’s Stage Stop and Rusty’s Ranch House, both in Cedar City.
To visit and order beef online, visit drylakesranchbeef.com. But as Kacie says, seeing the meat in person is even better! For those wanting to visit the shop to buy some delicious beef, it’s a short distance off the freeway at 73 North Main Street in Parowan.
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