A visit to Circle N Ranch with Oak Cliff residents Gary and Lauren Nitschke is one of the top stories in our March magazine. From day one, the Nitschkes say, it’s been one of their top priorities to treat their cattle well. To this end, one of their standards is keeping the cattle on their ranch from the day they are born until the day they are driven to the Whole Foods processing plant.

Letting the cows remain in one place is more humane, the Nitschkes say, and not only that, but it actually produces better meat.

“Cow calves, they do get stressed when they’re separated from their mothers or their social group, or you change their diet or change their environment,” Gary says. “Certain chemicals get released in their blood stream when they’re upset,” Lauren adds, “so if they’re harvested at a time when they’re stressed, it’s bad for the meat. If they’re stressed throughout their life, they won’t fatten up as well, and you have to give them antibiotics. It just really works well if you go with nature’s way.”

Just this week, the ranch received Animal Welfare Approved status, the first in Oklahoma and only the second in Texas (the company is a Texas LLC) to earn this distinction. More on this after the jump:

The list of standards to which a cattle ranch must adhere in order to be Animal Welfare Approved is long and detailed, which might explain why there are so few. The website profiles only 30 farms in the entire nation. (The Nitschkes are so new to this list that they aren’t on the website yet.)

The Animal Welfare Approved philosophy includes promoting "the well-being of animals and the sustainability of humane family farms," and uniting "conscientious consumers with farmers who raise their animals with compassion." Animal Welfare Approved also boasts that it was "recently lauded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals as having the highest animal welfare standards of all third-party certifiers."