America Returns to the Jungle

A safe and secure food supply is essential to a free society

The United States was always able to feed itself. Except for a few non-essentials like coffee, tea and bananas, we were self-sufficient.

The British government, along with their corporate partner, the East India Company, saw unlimited potential to extract wealth through the American colonies. Our Founding Fathers, willing to fight for our freedom and sovereignty, risked their lives and the lives of many citizens, to save us from the servitude of the British Crown and East India Company plutocracy.

Wenonah Hauter informs us in her timely book, Foodopoly, that the U.S. is now a net food importer on a value basis. She also pulls back the curtain exposing the cartel of companies that now control America’s food supply – known as Big Food. How could this have happened in America?

Forty years ago, I graduated from Colorado State University. The curriculum taught that the U.S., with its vast resources, technology, and smart young leaders, would not only be feeding ourselves, but we would be feeding the world. Finance professors told students, “Don’t be afraid to borrow money (lots of it) – leverage is the key to success in the expanding and exciting field of agriculture.”


Hopeful and energetic students weren’t prepared for anything other than a fair, open, and competitive marketplace. There were laws to keep markets fair and competitive. Suggesting that one company or even a small group of companies could control our food supply was inconceivable. Food was considered too important to allow anyone too much control over it. After all, farmers were scattered across America, producing all kinds of food in various ways and selling into local markets. The export market was too big and exciting to even contemplate.

President Reagan sends America back to The Jungle
uptonsinclairthejungle“They [big corporations] own not merely the labor of society, they have bought the governments; and everywhere they use their raped and stolen power to entrench themselves in their privileges, to dig wider and deeper the channels through which the river of profits flows to them!”
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906

In his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, President Reagan said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Americans cheered Reagan’s message of self-government and individual freedom over liberalism’s so-called trust in bureaucracy. The stage was set for a new kind of government, but not one of the American people, but a government of, by, and for multinational corporations. Antitrust laws and rules against abusive market power were abandoned. The way was cleared for corporations to dictate in their new no-rules Robber Baron economy, much like the one described by Upton Sinclair in his 1906 book, The Jungle.

When we lose our markets, we lose our freedom
“They were a gigantic combination of capital, which had crushed all opposition, and overthrown the laws of the land, and was preying upon the people.”
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906

In 1978, from my cattle operation in Northwest Kansas, I could sell my finished cattle to as many as twenty meat packers. Today, the number is zero. Since 1996, when we filed the antitrust case against the world’s largest beef packer, IBP (In 2002, Tyson purchased IBP), over 39,000 cattle feeding operations have closed. Nearly half our ranchers have been forced out of business.

The U.S. cow herd number is the smallest in over 70 years at the same time as overall beef demand has continued to grow. Over 90% of our hog farmers and over 85% of our dairy farmers are gone. Thousands of independent meat packers and food processors have closed their shops, with vital infrastructures abandoned and/or destroyed.

“Despite the intervening century, with it’s dizzying array of technological advances and dramatic social reforms, meat and poultry processing early in the twenty-first century is regrettably reminiscent of what Sinclair (The Jungle, 1906) described early in the twentieth.”

The Kings of Big Food rule
Our nation’s biggest beef packer and poultry company is JBS, a Brazilian (state-sponsored) corporation. JBS is number two in pork after acquiring Cargill’s pork division. The largest pork company is still Smithfield, now owned by the Chinese. According to Forbes, family members of Walmart (the world’s biggest retailer) control $149 billion in wealth, about as much as 40% of Americans. Walmart now has the power to dictate terms to the world’s biggest food companies, forcing prices and wages lower to helpless farmers and workers around the world. Walmart and other big box retailers, big food service companies like Sysco, and food management firms like Sodexo hold unprecedented market power and control over distribution; far greater today than during Upton Sinclair’s 1906 Robber Baron era.

Playing the Fool’s Game
Information resulting from the IBP lawsuit revealed that even before Reagan became president the big packers had already agreed to cooperate rather than compete. So around the time (1978) I was busily building a new feedyard near St. Francis, Kansas, the big packers were already working together to manipulate prices, reduce competition and concentrate and consolidate the markets – digging “wider and deeper the channels through which the river of profits flowed to them.”

Monopoly – The enemy of capitalism and democracy
After eight years of fighting our way to the court room, the jury awarded the cattlemen $1.28 billion in the Tyson/IBP lawsuit. Almost before we boarded the plane home, the Reagan appointed judge, insulting both the jury and cattlemen, reversed the jury verdict. The judge then ordered us to pay $80,000 to Tyson for their court costs.

“…the price of dressed meat had increased nearly fifty per cent in the last five years, while the price of “beef on the hoof” had decreased as much, it would have seemed that the packers ought to be able to pay; but the packers were unwilling to pay…”

The de-reg-minded-John-Roberts-led Supreme Court refused to hear the cattlemen’s case, preferring to hear the Anna Nicole Smith family feud case, forsaking any hope of getting the much needed injunctive relief that would have led to restoring competition to livestock markets. Legal scholars argued it was the most important case concerning livestock producers in the last 100 years. The court’s refusal to hear the case gave the green light to the big meat packers to increase their plunder and pillage of the largest sector of American agriculture.

“It drove men to madness and suicide. It had forced the price of cattle so low as to destroy the stock raising industry, an occupation upon which whole states existed…” – The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906

Live cattle prices have recently again plummeted, costing cattle feeders a historic loss of over $500 per head while retail beef prices remain basically unchanged. Today’s price collapse for cattle feeders represents what eight cent hogs did to pig farmers in 1998. Ninety percent of our nation’s pig farmers, nearly all of them family farmers, went out of business while retail pork prices were basically unaffected – once again, without a word from government law enforcers.

Our Big Food controlled Congress recently voted to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) so importers can sell meat to unknowing consumers. Meanwhile, Big Food’s own USDA is announcing plans to further increase imports of low quality, cheap beef and pork from South American regions known to be infected with “Hoof and Mouth” or “Mad Cow” disease, making wider and deeper the channels of trade, controlled particularly by JBS and other multinational corporations. Additional announcements include more beef from “Hoof and Mouth”-infected areas of Africa and cheap chicken from China.

Local food to the rescue? – Maybe not
Discerning consumers seeking to support higher quality, healthier local food from farmers they can know and trust are having a difficult time figuring out what’s real. The Real Food Challenge, an organization uniting students for just and sustainable food, is fighting to eliminate industrially produced food from school menus. They define real food as food that is produced locally, in ways that are ecologically sound, fair, and humane for both people and animals.

The Antitrust Division of the U.S. Justice Department wasn’t the only place Reagan gutted critical government oversite. Along with other government agencies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was neutered, becoming an obedient lapdog to corporate giants like Walmart and Monsanto. After years of looking the other way at clearly anti-competitive mergers, the FTC recently said no to the number one food service company, Sysco, buying the number two food service company, U.S. Foods. Extortion schemes, kickbacks, and widespread predatory pricing continue unchecked.

Consumers are easily deceived as the corporate wolves wrap themselves in pictures of small family farms, hiding their corporate agenda behind images of farmers and small businesses. They mislead with slogans like USDA’s “Know your farmer, know your food” and Chipotle’s “Food with integrity”. Big Food’s well healed advocates like Farm Bureau, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers constantly morph new lobbying organizations with nice sounding names like the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. They even go so far as to advocate for constitutional changes that threaten our sovereignty and security, benefiting foreign governments and corporations over the interests of U.S. citizens. A so-called “Right to Farm” measure passed in Missouri last year giving China and their pork company, Smithfield, special privileges over the state’s family farmers and rural communities. A similar measure will soon be on the ballot in Oklahoma.

The fool’s game continues today in the local food movement. The more pressure we apply for change, the more resistance we face. Until the predators in the marketplace are brought under control, and until USDA goes to work for the people, little hope exists for new entrants in the “new” local food movement.

USDA – Probably not what President Lincoln had in mind
“We used to trim the shit off the meat.
Then we washed the shit off the meat.
Now the consumer eats the shit off the meat.
David Carney, USDA Meat Inspector from Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U. S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz, 1997″

The October 2015 Consumer Reports found that out of our 300 packages of ground beef from grocery stores across the country. almost all showed fecal contamination.

“On May 15, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing “at the seat of Government of the United States a Department of Agriculture.” Two and one-half years later, in what was to be his last annual message to the Congress, Lincoln said: “The Agricultural Department, under the supervision of its present energetic and faithful head, is rapidly commending itself to the great and vital interest it was created to advance. It is precisely the people’s Department, in which they feel more directly concerned that in any other. I commend it to the continued attention and fostering care of Congress.”
– Lincoln’s Agricultural Legacy,
by Wayne D. Rasmussen

“The USDA had developed previous regulatory policies in a ‘vacuum of scientific research,’ failed to check the public health impact of new technologies that drastically increased contamination levels, and skewed testing methods to produce planned results.” – Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U. S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz, 1997

President Lincoln strongly warned of corporate power. His desire for USDA to develop the “full capacity of the soil” has been betrayed. Instead of building healthy soils, and producing good food from thriving rural communities, USDA has aided in turning agriculture into a mining operation for extracting natural and human resources. With USDA’s permission, today’s industrial agriculture squanders precious water for corporate profits, replaces animal husbandry with animal science, and stewardship with destruction. Small producers and processors, known for safe and wholesome food, are being intimidated, harassed, and suffocated under costly USDA regulations and useless paperwork. Meanwhile the biggest food corporations continue on, unregulated, to sicken us with their dirty and fake food from wherever it can be found the cheapest, while polluting the environment and mistreating humans and animals. The “great and vital interest” of the people has been hijacked!

A healthier, more just and responsible farming and food system is possible
Words like regenerative, restorative, responsible and community come to mind when I think about what’s needed today. A co-opted word like sustainable doesn’t work anymore – who would want to sustain this badly broken and corrupt food system?

For a better agricultural economy and food system to evolve, we must breakup the concentrated power of Big Food. Instead of the five year Farm Bill, we need a permanent Food Bill that involves all eaters, especially farming families and agricultural and processing workers, setting truly good food and ag policy. Our land grant colleges need taxpayer support, rather than sending them begging from and selling out to big agribusiness.

Ironically, today’s corporate controlled government IS the problem. To defeat this abusive freedom sucking power we must first stop supporting it with our money. Supporting local producers and locally owned businesses, rather than Wall Street and multinational corporate interests, will begin the rebuilding of new local economies. To support what is in our own common and long term self-interest, we must see a significant shift from rampant price shopping consumerism back to responsible consumption and good citizenship. So, as American citizens, can we at least begin the journey back to freedom by growing our own food?

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Letter to Congressman Lamborn Concerning FSA and Recall – A Plea for sanity!

November 5, 2015

U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn
District Office
1125 Kelly Johnson Blvd. Suite 330
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

Dear Congressman Lamborn,

USDA has been conducting a Food Safety Assessment (FSA) at Good Food Concepts, owner of Ranch Foods Direct, since October 13, 2015, a process originally scheduled to conclude in a week’s time. Upon finding some minor mistakes in labeling, USDA suspended our operations and launched a Class One recall for over 12,000 pounds of product.

Food Safety Inspection Service Officer Jenifer Monteverde first asked for records of sales for the past three months on products that were missing some required labels. Not finding enough volume of product in that span, she requested documentation for an entire year. She lacked any evidence of incorrect labeling practices for this extended period.

We have had management changes over the past year that resulted in changes within our operations. The labeling problem involved mostly the improper use of the USDA Mark of Inspection in the retail store. The retail store by law is exempt from USDA inspection, but, as you know, is located in the same building as the USDA inspected plant. Employees simply failed to change the label stock, which contains the USDA mark, when labeling retail product. There was never any risk to anyone’s health.

Wholesale product labeling issues cited included a product in process that didn’t have the ingredient label applied yet. There was a corned beef brisket that left the plant without the ingredient label and it was returned. A simple corrective action to our HACCP plan and a label would have easily corrected that issue.

At most, I believe an NR (Non-Compliance Report) was appropriate, but certainly not a Class One recall.

It’s important to note that our permanent USDA inspector, Dr. Kent Daniels, was sent to Durango during the assessment and was not allowed to provide any assistance. We feel this was inappropriate and resulted in overzealous action on the part of USDA. While Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack clearly promotes local food systems, it’s also true that a business model like ours that uses processing space for both wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales is something existing meat inspection personnel doesn’t normally see.

On November 4, FSIS Supervisor Dr. Debra Klages was at our facility suggesting another recall over our USDA-approved Wagyu label. I have attached the letter I provided to the FSIS officers describing our breeding program, which included contact information for people we deal with for Wagyu breeding stock, as further proof that our breeding program is what we say it is. They deemed this letter unacceptable.

I was only given a few hours to provide the documentation. In addition to the letter from Callicrate Cattle Co. (attached) I also told the FSIS officers that I had left messages with other people who could help provide third party verification.

The FSIS officers on-site seemed hell-bent on issuing the Wagyu recall despite the fact that no Wagyu beef had been sold in the wholesale market, which is the part of our business that is under USDA’s authority. Late that very same afternoon, the FSIS officers notified us that due to RFD’s “lack of cooperation” our Grant of Inspection was once again suspended and our Wagyu beef would be recalled immediately.

However, later that same day, I finally received a message from Dr. Matt Cherni verifying Callicrate Cattle Company’s long history of raising Wagyu and Wagyu-cross cattle. After forwarding the following message, we received a call canceling the suspension and recall.

Wednesday, November 04

This is a message to confirm that Mike Callicrate has been producing Wagyu feeder calves since the early 2000’s. I helped Mike acquire Wagyu bulls in 2003 Gerry Pittenger had used at the Padlock Ranch in Dayton Wyoming. Gerry was one of the early importers of Wagyu cattle into the United States from Japan in the early 1990’s. Gerry upgraded that bunch of cattle into non- registered purebred cattle by the late nineties. I bought cattle from Gerry and have been producing non-registered purebreds ever since.

I sold Wagyu bulls out of my cows purchased from Gerry as well. The last bulls I sold Mike was around six years ago. I also informed Mike of a set of cows that might work for his operation a few years ago. I know that Mike has been producing Wagyu feeder calves for many years.


Matthew J Cherni, MS, DVM President CSC Livestock LLC

Rash business suspensions and product recalls have the power to destroy small businesses like ours. While the inspectors seek to prove their judiciousness in finding any and every potential problem, to us it feels like abusive, overzealous, heavy-handed regulation rather than guidance and assistance to make us a better operation or to keep the public safe. Instead of getting concise and consistent directives, our managers and employees were confronted with what quickly became a very confusing and stressful situation.

Ranch Foods Direct has a 15-year history of providing safe and wholesome products and should demonstrate to other innovators and entrepreneurs what is possible rather than become a cautionary tale of how a huge investment can be destroyed overnight at the whim of a single inspector whose fault-finding directly contradicts the oversight of another seasoned inspector.

Mike Callicrate

Good Food Concepts, LLC (Ranch Foods Direct) is voluntarily recalling a limited number of products processed between October 16, 2014 and October 16, 2015. These products have labels with incomplete ingredient information. There have been no reports of illness or other adverse consequences in connection with these products.

A routine Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) audit found that the product labels did not include sodium nitrite, a preservative commonly used in smoked and processed products. This recall applies to less than 13,000 pounds of product.

Good Food Concepts will accept any unused products on the recall list (attached) for a full refund. Corrective action is underway, and the company is contacting all wholesale customers that have purchased these products in the past year.

Good Food Concepts processing operations have been performed under the supervision of knowledgeable USDA inspectors. Good Food Concepts makes every effort to abide by the regulations of CFR Title 9, which governs the USDA inspection process.


Wagyu Breeding program at Callicrate Cattle Co 11-04-15



Letter to Congressman Lamborn Concerning FSA and recall 11-05-15



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R-CALF USA COOL Presentation August 14, 2015

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Entrepreneurship & Antitrust: A Livestock Producers Prospective

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Editorial on COOL — We really do have the best government that money can buy.

by Gilles Stockton, Grass Range, MT

Will Rogers is credited with first saying “we have the best Congress that money can buy.” I wish he hadn’t, that way it could have been me. The House vote to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) shows just who 69% of the Representatives work for, and here is a hint – it ain’t you and me. If your Congressperson was among the 10 Republicans and 121 Democrats who voted to uphold COOL then you are lucky to be represented by a person with integrity. My Congressperson, unfortunately, has shown himself to be another corporate bootlicker. The next time I have the chance, I will ask Mr. Zinke why it is that he thinks that where their meat was raised. It will be interesting to see how he weasels his answer. The fight to save COOL, however, is not over; the Senators still have an opportunity to let us know which ones work for the people who elected them and which ones have been bought and paid for. We need to remind the Senators that COOL is about market transparency, the ability to differentiate product, and the basic right of consumers to know what they are eating.

President Obama recently said…”no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.” This COOL fight shows that this is obviously not true. Starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1994, trade treaties have drained our economy and eroded our rights to govern ourselves. It scares me that our government is negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty in secret. All indications are that the TPP will give away more of our economy and further undermine our national sovereignty.

The House vote for COOL repeal is paving the way for the free importation of beef from South America and chicken and pork from China. If COOL is finally repealed by the Senate, South American beef and Chinese chicken and pork will be in the market, and consumers will not know the difference.

Most people don’t know that China has purchased Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the US and the world. China is also poised to import chicken to the US. We know of course that health, labor, and environmental standards are not enforced in China and if you think that the U S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors food safety practices in China, then you better think again.

Argentina and Brazil have endemic FMD, yet the USDA has already declared regions of Argentina and Brazil eligible to export fresh beef to the United States increasing the risk of importing FMD as well. According to USDA projections, it could cost $228 billion to control an FMD outbreak. Personally I think that this number is low, because the little known truth is that USDA does not have the capability to combat a major outbreak of FMD. Controlling this disease will require millions of doses of vaccine specific for which ever strain of FMD is involved – vaccine which we do not have on hand. By the time the proper vaccine is available the disease will have spread far and wide and infect deer and feral pigs too. No one has ever made a convincing argument as to how FMD can be eliminated from wildlife. We will be vaccinating livestock for a long time, and our export market for high quality beef and pork will be permanently closed. Congress and the Obama Administration seems to think that this is an acceptable risk. We really do have the best government that money can buy.

Although our government has proven time and again that they don’t like free market competition; that they funnel our tax dollars to the “too big to fail” banks; that they are addicted to writing special laws to coddle their big corporate donors; and that they are determined to negotiate trade treaties that undermines our economy and freedoms – we do still have the power to take our government back if we are willing to do so. We cannot afford to give up the fight for honesty and democratic process.


Livestock producers often feel that consumers do not value the efforts we make to provide wholesome food. However, in the fight for COOL, our interests and the interests of consumers are aligned. It is a point upon which we can both understand and relate. Livestock producers partnered with consumers can take back our government from the international corporate interests. I am mad, and many others across this nation are just as angry. I really don’t give a damn about what Congress thinks, or for that matter Canada, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). We should have labels on retail meat. The print on those labels should be in red, white, and blue, and in a font big enough that everyone can read – Born Raised And Processed In The USA.

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