Joshua Welch Supplies His Small-Town Rhode Island Restaurant with 100 Percent American Aberdeen Beef
By Grace Vehige, Contributing Writer
Within the agricultural industry, there is a large variety of sectors operating under different circumstances and serving different purposes. At the end of the day, however, there is one thing each business has in common: community.
For Joshua Welch, of Stonington, Conn., the cattle business brought a sense of connectedness to his life.
“I like the community o f people that I work with and come in contact with,” Welch says. “The people involved in agriculture or the livestock industry are just awesome people, and that adds a richness to life.”
Welch, a white-collar businessman by trade, resides alongside his family in Connecticut where they operate a variety of businesses, including a cattle farm, J.W. Beef, and two restaurants – Bridge and Graze Burgers.
J.W. Beef is based in Stonington,Conn., in a location Welch describes as “a special combination of shore and sea,” being five miles from the Ocean.
“We asked ourselves what the highest value and best use of the land was and decided that cattle made the most sense,” Welch explains. After deciding on a location and business plan, the next step for Welch was selecting a breed of cattle to raise that would be both practical and profitable. “I knew I wanted to farm on grass alone, so we really chose Aberdeen because of the small frame size and disposition,” Welch says.
Not only are American Aberdeens easy handling, but Welch says the breed has been great for his operation due to their calving ease and stocking rate.
While the J.W. Beef herd began in 2008, and with just five animals, hard work and determination has allowed the operation to grow to 125 head of American Aberdeen cattle.
According to Welch, those who wish to raise livestock must either be incredibly optimistic or born into ranching. He claims identity with the former. However, a local family has been mainstay in assisting the J.W. Beef operation. “Noah Lewis, who I have the pleasure of working with, was born into the livestock industry,” Welch explains. “He is very resourceful and helpful.”
Noah and Kelsie Lewis have been a great help to the Welch family’s herd, as well as a great resource to work alongside. As many in the industry would note, it takes a community to maintain progress, and that is what the Welch family has developed.
Keeping Business Local
In Westerly, R.I., about eight miles from J.W. Beef, is the family-owned restaurant, Bridge. This full-service restaurant was the first of two the Welch family would open in the area.
With a vision to cut menu size and open a counter-service restaurant, Welch opened his next eatery, Graze Burgers, which is also located in Westerly.
A visit to the Graze Burgers website gives consumers access to a unique piece of information they are not always privy to – transparency with food origin.
J.W. Beef supplies 100 percent of the beef served at Graze Burgers. Customers are able to note their food products are grass fed, hormone-free and raised locally by a family-owned operation.
The website displays the message, “Our American Aberdeen cattle live on a completely foraged, highquality pasture diet, grow at a natural rate without hormones or growth promoting additives, and are treated with care and respect for their entire lives.”
For Welch, offering this information for consumers is key in educating customers and increasing business. “There is a lot of affluence and interest in food and healthy eating in New England,” Welch says. “There’s a big part of altruism and educating people that plays a role and showing customers a better product for the same price.” Not only does J.W. Beef provide American Aberdeen beef products at the family-owned restaurants, but they are able to stimulate the local economy by conducting business with resident butchers, farmer’s market partners like Stone Acres Farm and community members – notably including Graze Burgers’ contributor with a traditional German hot dog recipe.
Welch is able to achieve this community business through operational success and growth. “The herd is growing and we’re doing a better job of optimizing yield with primal cuts and selling them in different ways at restaurants and farm stands,” Welch says.
According to Welch, one of the most rewarding aspects of the restaurant and cattle businesses is their mission to provide transparency and educational opportunities for consumers.
“When it comes to food, everyone has an opinion. We’re providing a grasp of the product, which is local and sustainable, and we can tell people which animal every burger comes from,” Welch says.
One platform used to share this information is the text message service promoted on Graze Burgers’ website. Welch says the restaurant receives frequent inquiries about the food products, processing facilities and management practices involved in their integrated business, including the following questions: How are the animals raised? Are there hormones included in the beef? Where is your beef processed?
“People want to know what they are eating,” Welch explains. “There is a big educational process at work, and that is huge in the industry today.”
Quality People, Quality Products
Like any cattleman, Welch believes in the power of integrity and respect, and he remembers to uphold these values in the business environment.
“I believe you have to take care of people. You have to respect them and give them transparency, and most of all, you have to put out a quality product,” Welch says.
The white-collar businessman and cattleman, who enjoys puzzles and creating solutions, dedicates much of his time to working with customers and building relationships within his community.
As the family continues to raise beef and pork products for local consumers, farm stands and restaurants, one philosophy continues to guide their day-to-day business and lives: “Great Grass, Happy Animals. Great People, Great Food.”
Joshua Welch and J.W. Beef are able to showcase a small portion of the livestock industry to New England residents. With the words “locally sourced, responsibly raised” written on the Graze Burgers website, Welch provides an outlet for educating others on all things American Aberdeen