Jim and Sue Waggoner have been providing high quality meat to Wyoming residents since the early 80s. Both grew up caring for livestock and wanted the same character building experience for their children. When friends and neighbors started asking to purchase meat, it was a natural transition for the Waggoners to make a lifestyle into a family business.

After moving from New Mexico, the first and ever present challenge of harsh Wyoming winters had to be addressed. For those who raise livestock, the desperate lingering cold of winter in Wyoming means more than numb fingers and chapped skin. It also causes considerable stress for the animals. Making use of their experience, research and dedication to selling the highest quality product, the Waggoners moved calving to late April/May. Late season calving matches the animals more closely to the natural growth of native plants, removing stress and the associated changes in metabolism that can slow growth in calves projected to gain roughly a pound a day through their first winter.

The limited growing season and cold weather also contribute to the size of the animals. The Waggoner family raises slightly smaller, early maturing cattle that reach eating quality at a younger age. Close attention to the comfort and contentment of the animals contributes to a better product, but for Jim and Sue, their sons and their grand kids, treating livestock with respect is a choice that supersedes business matters. “Each one has their own personality” Sue said, adding that the animals have emotional reactions just like anyone.

Even though this level of care and compassion is given, not as a selling point, but as a matter of course, it is an attractive attribute to anyone interesting in purchasing high quality meat products. The knowledge that an animal is treated well even to the day of harvest, when there is no prodding, yelling or abuse of any kind, puts the consumer’s mind at ease while their pallet enjoys the delights of locally raised meat.

The demands of consumers and the industry itself are constantly changing and require an amazing amount of creativity and attention in order to serve customer needs and continue to offer a great product. Many unique items for sale are a response to the shifts of supply and demand.

Supplying the Big Hollow Food Coop and selling at the Laramie and Cheyenne Farmer’s Markets, plus keeping up with direct orders and special requests keeps the family busy. It is not easy work, but knowing they improve other people’s lives by providing healthy, humanely raised meat is its own reward.

Positive responses from their customers vary widely from those who appreciate the flexibility of being able to buy smaller portions, to those who are grateful for all natural meat because allergies or dietary restrictions prevent them from eating meat that undergoes conventional processing, which involves the addition of salt and phosphates. One story illustrates how far hard work, great food and a generous heart can reach to improve the lives of others. Deb Bonser organized people and businesses around Laramie to send 100 lbs of beef jerky to troops overseas. When she invited the Waggoners to take part, they readily agreed. Wags Livestock contributed the meat and the processing of the beef jerky at a reduced cost. The distinction of having a “made in Wyoming” label is a point of pride for the Waggoners and caught the eye of a young veteran passing through the farmers market. This man had received some of the beef jerky while serving overseas. He told the Waggoners that they would never know how much their generosity meant to him.

Wags Livestock has much to offer. They conduct their business with creativity, honesty and respect. Jim Waggoner shares the family’s business philosophy in a simple statement “We don’t sell it if we wouldn’t eat it.” And you can’t ask for a surer guarantee than that.

To contact Wags Livestock, call 307.742.4871 or email them at wagslivestock@yahoo.com. Their natural meats and meat products are available at Big Hollow Food Coop, the Laramie and Cheyenne Farmer’s Markets and direct by phone or email. All of the processing is conducted under USDA inspection and no chemical enhancers or preservatives are added.