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Local Food Shift Colorado
- This Cattleman's Got A Beef
Photo: Sean Cayton - 2003People producing good food from happy animals, while improving the environment, shouldn’t have to fear the government.
Photo above featured in a 2003 article: This cattleman's got a beef, Mike Callicrate and Ranch Foods Direct take on the big meat packers by Kathryn Eastburn
- BIG Food Exposed
- Great Ranches of the West
Purchase Great Ranches of the West for only $34.95 and $20 will go to an Organization or Project of your choice!
"An eye opening and heart touching portrait of a culture and industry that we are in great danger of losing. This book will help readers understand the urgency of preserving the Western ranchlands inhabited by families and rural communities that provide nourishing food for our nation, preserve a healthy natural environment and entrust that great American values will endure."
- Mike Callicrate
An Endangered Species
Every month 1,000 ranches go out of production. It's the national security issue that no one is talking about.
Food Policy & LawE. Coli Confessions Part I
by John Munsell | Oct 11, 2011
Editor's Note: This is the first part in a series written by John Munsell of Miles City, MT, who explains how the small meat plant his family owned for 59 years ran afoul of USDA's meat inspection program. The events he writes about began a decade ago, but remain relevant today.
They say that confession is good for the soul. I've been involved in a series of ugly events since my plant in 2002 recalled 270 pounds of ground beef contaminated with E.coli O157:H7 and now want to admit the embarrassing truth for public review. more
Tagsadvanced meat recovery antibiotics beef checkoff Big Food BPI Callicrate Callicrate Beef Callicrate Cattle Co. Cargill Chipotle Colorado Springs Dudley Butler e. coli Eric Schlosser fast food nation food Inc. Foodopoly GIPSA HSUS IBP Industrial Agriculture JBS McDonald's meat packers Mike Callicrate Monsanto NCBA OCM Organization for Competitive Markets pink slime R-CALF Ranch Foods Direct Rick Hughes Smithfield Sodexo steroids Sysco Temple Grandin Tom Vilsack Tyson U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance USDA Vandana Shiva Walmart zilmax
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National News Supplement
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.
Refusing to believe something doesn’t make it untrue
In last week’s Atlantic article, Farmland Without Farmers, Wendell Berry describes how industrial agriculture has replaced men with machines, depriving the American landscape of its stewards and the culture they built. He discusses the value of living in a place for a long time and observing, in that place, what’s missing.
Over the last 35 years, as Wendell Berry describes, corporations have assumed near total control of agriculture while family farmers have lost their markets, their land, and their livelihoods. When family farmers are replaced with industrial corporate farms, animals, people, communities, and the environment all suffer. Why would any society allow the demise of their farmers and ranchers? They wouldn’t if they knew it was happening. In fact, any good citizen would raise hell at the thought of losing their food supply. So why aren’t more people speaking out about the concentration and consolidation of our agricultural and food system?
Last week I saw the newly released film, Merchants of Doubt. Robert Kenner, producer of Food Inc., once again brilliantly exposes the lie, the deception and message manipulation that keeps normally intelligent people in the dark. The film explains how the lie often gets more light, more consideration, than the truth. I left the theater reminded of the danger in broadly giving others and their stories the benefit of the doubt. The film reveals the sociopaths among us. They operate from very dark places, knowing full well the damage they cause, while taking pleasure in it.
Around 40 years ago independent poultry farmers lost their markets. They either left the business or were led into contract grower serfdom by giant poultry companies and their partner banks, like the Farm Credit System. Sixteen years ago the big pork packers pounded pig prices down to 8 cents per pound, driving over 90% of our nation’s hog farmers out of business. A rigged milk market forced over 85% of our dairy farmers off their farms. Seventeen years ago my world suddenly and painfully changed. My fight to restore a fair market left me ostracized with no one who would buy my cattle. I had to shut down Callicrate Cattle Co., just one of over 39,000 cattle feeding operations that have been forced out of business.
From the farm crisis of the eighties, to the plundering and pillaging of the 1990’s, to today’s final steps to totally crush any hope for an open and fair marketplace, the people who produce our food are left to suffer and die at the hands of big food companies. Not one Secretary of Agriculture in the last 100 years, including Secretary Vilsack in this current administration, has done their duty in protecting the marketplace. In fact government policy has facilitated its demise. All the talk about rural development, support of young farmers, and USDA’s “Know your farmer, know your food” campaign, is nothing but a siren call to the corrupt fools game of corporate controlled agriculture and its indentured servitude.
Individuals and groups like The Organization for Competitive Markets and R-CALF, warning that the loss of our markets is the loss our freedom have been laughed at and ridiculed by the meat industries’ own merchants of doubt. IBP’s CEO and President, Robert Peterson, arrogantly proclaimed the cause of crashing cattle prices during the 1980s and 90s: “It’s supply and it’s demand.” His toady defenders, from land grant university economists and commodity brokers to big cattle feeders hoping to gain IBP’s favor, cheered in agreement and shouted down those telling the truth. Meanwhile IBP posted record profits as cattlemen went broke and consumers paid more. The many organizations that once represented independent producers, like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) were captured by the big meat packers. These organizations have provided cover for the meat packers swindle as their members’ livelihoods were lost to the packers’ rigged marketplace.
The meat industry’s merchants of doubt promoted many false messages like, “If you’re going broke, you must be a bad manager. You should learn to manage risk. You have to become more efficient. The beef industry can learn from the vertically integrated poultry industry. Change is inevitable.”
When we finally got the packers into a courtroom, they hired the most expensive masters of deception they could find. They claimed, “Correlation isn’t causation. Study after study has shown no effect from concentration and consolidation, and captive supplies don’t affect the market.” They falsely claimed “efficiency and economies of scale” in justifying their mergers and acquisitions.
Unbelievably, if you prove to a jury that you were cheated by a meat packer, you still lose. The packers and their federal court judges came up with their “harm to competition” defense. So unless you could prove the impossible – that competition in the entire national market was negatively affected, you were denied compensation and justice. It was like a woman losing her purse to a thief having to prove that the theft of her purse damaged women with purses everywhere.
At the 2002 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual gathering, John Tyson, today a billionaire, promised cattlemen that if Tyson bought IBP, the world’s biggest beef packer, they would never vertically integrate like they did with the chicken and hog industries. Christopher Leonard in his 2014 book, The Meat Racket, details the abusive, destructive, inhumane and environmentally degrading system Tyson built in poultry, known as “Chickenization”.
Like the tobacco industry’s answer to the anti-smoking campaign, or hired guns fighting the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the beef industries main argument against the enforcement of antitrust laws was the same anti-government rhetoric: don’t tell us what to do, don’t interfere with our private business deals, no matter who gets hurt – freedom, freedom, freedom! NCBA leaders were guzzling the meat packers Kool-Aid, along with their whiskey. With the help of NCBA, the meat packers convinced Congress, the USDA, and court judges that they should be free to do anything they wanted as long as it was in their business interest. And to add insult to injury, the meat packers did it with money and political power from the cattlemen’s own Beef Checkoff, originally established to promote beef, not fewer producers. The Beef Checkoff, captured by the meat packer controlled NCBA via a merger in 1996, represents over 80% of their operating budget.
So Wendell Berry might ask someone who has been in a place for a long time, what’s missing, what’s changed?
- We’ve lost nearly half of our cattle ranchers.
- Over 39,000 cattle feeding operations have gone out of business, including small farmer feeders, good stewards and husbandmen who fed their crops to their livestock, while spreading valuable manure on the land.
- Over 90 percent of our hog farmers are gone.
- Over 85 percent of our dairymen are out of business.
- At the same time that per capita poultry consumption has doubled (without a checkoff), per capita beef consumption has dropped by nearly a third (overall beef consumption is at record levels only due to population growth).
- We just weaned the smallest calf crop since 1941. Cattle prices are historically high, but a price should not be confused with a market.
- Retail beef prices are at all-time record highs.
- The poultry market is dead.
- The hog market is dead.
- And the finished cattle market is on life support.
- Four meat packers slaughter 85% of the finished cattle compared to a third thirty years
- A constitutional amendment was just approved by voters in Missouri allowing China to
buy more of the state for factory hog farms, and other uses, in accordance with China’s five-year food security plan. Senator Ken Schilz from Western Nebraska is sponsoring legislation to make the state of Nebraska and its precious land and water resources also available to China and other corporate and foreign interests. So called Right to Farm laws are also pending in other states.
- Essentially all of a farmer’s inputs and outputs are controlled by a handful of multinational corporations.
- Factory farms are growing in size and in numbers, not because they’re better in any way, but because they have market access through big food service and big retail, and they hold the power to externalize costs. Their industrial practices are wasteful, destroy soil health, pollute the environment, and the food they produce makes us sick.
- Big meat processors continue to destroy processing infrastructure by killing off smaller competitors, which forces producers to transport animals longer distances to slaughter. They continue to exploit their workers and fight against food safety oversight
- We are now dependent on other countries, multinational corporations, and foreign state sponsored enterprises (China’s Smithfield and Brazil’s JBS) to feed ourselves.
- The U.S., once considered a model for feeding the world, is a now a net food importer on a value basis.
Yes, the merchants of doubt in our food system are playing their game of deception very well. Folly marches on!
Thanks to filmmaker Robert Kenner for his important work and Wendell Berry for his words of wisdom.
“Hey son, what did you have for lunch today at school?”
Well, we can tell you one thing Timmy didn’t dine on, if he chose a hamburger, or meatloaf, or pasta with meat sauce: Ranch Foods Direct’s Callicrate Beef. Colorado Springs School District 11 discontinued RFD’s use last month, after seven years, to slash roughly $50,000 from its budget, says D-11 director of food and nutrition services Rick Hughes, who’s also the driving force behind the district’s ambitious Good Food Project.
“We’re funded on a corporate food system, which serves cheap food, and we’re trying to do something different than that,” he says. “But it’s getting to the point with the unfunded [state and federal] mandates that we can’t continue to do things the way we’ve been doing them, and we’re trying not to destroy the whole thing.”
The Good Food Project, implemented in 2009, targets childhood obesity and diet-related illnesses. The district has eliminated foods with artificial dyes, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, excess sugar and sodium, as well as fried items. In their place has come district-wide, from-scratch cooking, plus more fresh fruits and veggies, some grown on the district’s own educational …
Castrating a bull
For Mike Callicrate, an outspoken critic of the “beef cartel” and big believer in building a strong, sustainability-minded regional food system, School District 11’s move away from Ranch Foods Direct products is all too familiar. Inside of the last year, he says, he’s lost business from Greeley, Falcon and Boulder school districts, due to the same kind of financial squeezes. Altogether, he projects losing somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million in revenue from lost school contracts in 2015. It’s a figure that includes the loss of steak-cut sales, which must balance with his ground beef sales in order to move a whole animal through his production line.
“If you don’t have ground beef business, you can’t be in the meat business,” he says, noting that he’s cut four RFD jobs already. “This is a very ugly marketplace, dominated by just a handful of big companies, and they are brutal and ruthless. … We’re really screwed. You can’t shift it this fast.”
Callicrate says he was shocked to see the U.S. government step in last week and sue to block a merger between the country’s two largest food providers, US Foods and Sysco. But it’s not a game-changing victory. Even in today’s market, he often can’t compete with big companies that undercut what he calls his best, barely-break-even price by 25 percent — not when they import inexpensive beef while the overall U.S. herd continues to decline in population and rise in price.
“They’re able to dollar-cost-average the meat they sell … and totally wipe us out of the market. What the heck happened to farm-to-school? To our commitment to feed our kids better and support local economies and ranchers and farmers?” he asks. “The USDA fails to fund these programs they come up with. … And you know damn well these big industries have major lobbying power. …
“But hey, it’s back to performance-enhancing drugs, and pink slime is fully back” — at least in the wider marketplace, if not D-11, for now.
COURTESY DISTRICT 11 – Choosing healthy: Fresh foods are a welcome sight, but come at a cost.
Mike Callicrate is the inventor and owner of the Callicrate Bander a humane, drug-free method of castration.
Watch Jobs That Bite: Castrating a Bull – a 3 minute video program by National Geographic’s Nat Geo Wild hosted by Jeremy Brandt.
A look back to 2008 – Restoring Fair Trade, Prosperity and Food Security – a presentation by Mike Callicrate
This presentation made in 2008 is still relevant today
JBS is a State sponsored Brazilian meat packer, and now the largest meat packer in the world, as well as the largest beef and poultry packer in the U.S. They are ruthless, sharing monopoly power with Tyson and Cargill over the world’s meat packing industry, it’s livestock suppliers and workers. Among many others, JBS owns the former Monfort/ConAgra plant in Greeley, Colorado. The same plant made infamous for its nearly 20 million pound E. coli recall in 2002.
I am reminded of how helpless we can become without a proper balance of power in a relationship.