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- 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
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National News Supplement
January 6, 2020
Cattle producers now have the dubious distinction of being betrayed by the President and both political parties. There was no Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in the recent vote by the House of Representatives to re-do the NAFTA agreement. This would have been the most logical place to reinstate COOL. Unless the Senate restores COOL when they vote in early 2020, American consumers will continue to be ignorant of the true origin of their beef purchases and cattle producers will continue to have beef and cattle imports killing the market.
The original NAFTA agreement sacrificed two broad segments of Americans – factory workers and cattle producers. We know how that worked out for the factory workers; their jobs were outsourced to Mexico. We also know how NAFTA allows a flood of unpriced “captive supply” cattle and beef from Canada and Mexico, to depress the domestic market.
Many of us were hopeful that President Trump would restore COOL in his effort to reform NAFTA, which he characterized as the worst trade deal ever. Unfortunately, for all of his political bluster and fireworks, the newly renegotiated NAFTA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement – USMCA) is nearly identical to the old NAFTA. This past summer, cattle producers made a heroic effort to appeal directly to the President but with no success. The House Democrats, however, did add some provisions favorable to the labor unions, but again no COOL.
The NAFTA II/USMCA must still be ratified in the Senate, where we have six declared champions (Senators Tester, Rounds, Thune, Klobuchar, Warren, and Booker). We need to encourage these Senators to recruit more of their colleagues. A phone call or email is cheap and does not take much time. Take the time, it may help and can’t hurt.
Predictably the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), and the Farm Bureau (FB) continue to team up to oppose COOL every chance they have. Even when their own organizational policies, ratified by their own members, clearly support COOL.
This was the case this past spring in the Montana Legislature when MT-COOL bills sponsored by Senator Al Olszewski and Representative Brad Hamlett did not receive traction because of opposition from the MSGA and the Farm Bureau. Mt-COOL was defended by the Montana Cattlemen’s Association (MCA), the Montana Farmers Union, and Northern Plains Resource Council, but these organizations could not overcome the built-in partisanship of the Montana Legislature. There are a number of Montana’s legislators who should be ashamed of themselves.
Jennifer Houston, President of the NCBA, says of the recent House vote, that “Today was a crucial win for all U.S. beef producers and a reassurance that U.S. beef will continue to have duty-free access to Canada and Mexico.” The vote changed nothing in the cross-border cattle trade, so there is nothing for cattle producers to feel grateful for. The NCBA has a long history of accenting only the export side of the balance sheet and completely ignoring imports. But the fact is we import a lot more cattle and beef than we export to Canada and Mexico, and these imports clearly affect the market for the worse.
In 2018 Cattle exports to Canada and Mexico were only 11.9% of imports. The USDA trade figures say that we imported 630,736 head from Canada and 1,218,236 from Mexico, while exports to Canada was 197,831 and only 21,916 to Mexico. As for dressed beef we imported 343,466,000 lbs. more than we exported, the equivalent of another 570,000 head.
The issue of COOL goes beyond the fact that the cattle market is being manipulated and that consumers are being defrauded, it is also about democracy and national sovereignty. When Congress in 2015 folded, following a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against COOL, they rescinded COOL only for beef and pork. All other labeling requirements remained in force including poultry, seafood, fruit, vegetables, and clothing. None of these commodities were affected by the WTO ruling and there is no ongoing effort to outlaw labeling for any other imports.
Most countries have labeling requirements, so why was beef and pork imports to the United States singled out. Obviously, there is no principle that the WTO was upholding. That leaves only corruption pure and simple to explain the WTO ruling. And it can only be the money and influence wielded by the packer cartel that prevented the President and the House of Representatives from including COOL in the re-negotiated NAFTA.
Cattle prices are bad. Equity is being drained from cattle producers all across this nation and beginning ranchers are having some tough discussions with their bankers. The future of our rural communities is in jeopardy. Reinstating COOL will not solve everything that is wrong with the cattle market but it sure would be a good start. We need labels that proudly proclaims:
Grass Range, Mt 59032
Contrary to the positive theme of your Colorado Sun article, Food Maven is not a new innovative way to reduce food waste. They have simply diverted the value in excess food into their own bank account, leaving the hungry still hungry and local/regional food producers without a fair market. Business models like Food Maven, as with Dollar stores, are a direct threat to local and national food security as well as our food sovereignty.
The IRS allows highly profitable big-box Food Maven suppliers a profit after taxes (Big Hunger) on food donations. This creates an increased demand for the highly subsidized, chemical-intensive, industrially produced food that is destroying our environment, decimating our rural communities, and blocking market access for the most ideal regenerative farmers and ranchers. The Food Maven model rewards overproduction. Allowing for-profit companies to make money on their excess food only incentivizes poor inventory management and increases waste overall.
To hear the Colorado College/Bon Appetit Sous chef, Matt Butler, say it’s his “moral” responsibility to feed students cheap industrially produced food waste is outrageous. Colorado College students pay a high price for their meal plan that once promised to include real food — “Real food that truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities, and the earth.” They now eat Food Maven’s second-hand, below-cost-of-production food from whichever retailer had extra the week before. It’s nothing short of bait and switch.
Colorado College’s food management company, Bon Appetit, once purchased nearly $600,000 per year in local food from my company, Ranch Foods Direct. Today the number is zero. You mentioned Regis University, a Bon Appetit managed account, is buying beef from Food Maven. Regis is and has been, a long-time valued customer of Ranch Foods Direct. Beef is what we do best.
Recently, I spent a few days with Nicholas Shaxson, the author of a new book, The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us All Poorer. Food Maven exemplifies that same “curse” with their slick techy intrusion into, and wealth extraction from, our nation’s farming and food industries. In the end, we all lose when the economy is driven by a mindset of no-rules, price-shopping-consumerism, profit-over-people, and when the biggest cheater is allowed to win.
“It was easier just to take the stuff home and feed it to my pigs. I got more value that way,” stated Arkansas Valley Organic Growers (AVOG) founding member, Doug Wiley, about Food Maven. AVOG announced its dissolution on Thanksgiving Day. Doug, and the other AVOG farmers and I were part of the team that convinced Colorado College more than ten years ago to replace Sodexo with the purportedly more locally focused and sustainable Bon Appetit.
Probably forty years ago, I met a farmer from New York state that said, “It only takes one box of lettuce in excess of demand to destroy the price for lettuce.” He was right. Except now instead of a box of lettuce, with companies like Food Maven we have corporate-sponsored food policy that intentionally produces truckloads of excess food, which depresses the prices farmers receive and drives them out of business. That farmer’s practice for his perishable products was to plant as close to the expected demand as possible and regenerate the soil with the excess, not let it bankrupt him.
People need to know how they can support a food system that feeds all of us – one that supports food workers, and a food system that regenerates our rural communities by providing a livable income for the family farmers and ranchers who provide good care for our animals and our environment. Food Maven isn’t it!
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Blogs | Oct. 21, 2019
“My stance on agriculture is an expression of my Catholic faith and the values I was raised with.”
Catholic Mike Callicrate is an outspoken champion of independent farmers and ranchers, and who dedicates himself to preserving their shrinking numbers. After all, as he has stated, they are “the backbone of America.”
Now a resident of both Colorado Springs and St. Francis, Kansas, Callicrate has an obvious passion for rural life, which started as a child growing up with seven siblings south of Evergreen, Colorado. “I became really interested in raising livestock when spending time with my cousins in Fort Collins on their diversified farm,” he said. “My parents supported all the agriculture you could fit onto our 5 acres, including a garden, chickens, horses, my brother’s turkeys, and my 4H sheep project.”
While still in high school, he also developed an interest in the sport of bull riding. “I became a professional bull rider and braided bull ropes for myself and other bull riders,” he said. “I had a rodeo scholarship. So that was my profession for 10 years. It got me through college and into agriculture.”
After graduation, Callicrate eventually moved to St. Francis to start his own farming and ranching operation. “I really made the connection between food and faith after meeting Brother David Andrews, then executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference,” he said. “He reinforced my view that eating is a moral act because our food choices have an impact on farmers, workers, animals, and the environment.”
Callicrate wrote a stirring article for the June 2019 issue of the Catholic Rural Life magazine. He said, “My stance on agriculture is an expression of my Catholic faith and the values I was raised with. As a cradle Catholic, I was taught that life and work have a moral dimension and that we are expected to do good things for others and fulfill a role of responsibility in our home and community. Eating truly is a moral act.”
Callicrate has worked hard over the years to explain to diverse audiences how food choices are connected to economic and social justice issues. He served as an adviser for several documentary films, including Food Inc., and popular books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Fast Food Nation.
On his farm, he’s worked to develop a regenerative production model, which consists of raising Wagyu-Angus cattle, Berkshire pigs and laying hens. He also markets directly to consumers. “Our meat is the best there is,” he said. “The animals are not stressed when slaughtered. They are processed right on the farm, instead of being hauled long distances. The carcasses are shipped to Colorado Springs, where they are cut up into wholesale and retail portions.” Several restaurants partner with Callicrate, along with small specialty markets.
Customers can buy the meat at the two retail stores he operates in Colorado Springs and online. He also has a food hub and processing plant that serves as a distribution point for other small regional food producers.
Callicrate feels that local parishes have not done enough to explain the connection between food and faith. “The priests give representatives of big chain supermarkets time at the pulpit to encourage parishioners to shop their markets as a fundraiser,” he said. “But big chain retailers are intent on driving down prices to farmers and ranchers and importing food from wherever they can find it the cheapest, despite worker and animal abuse and environmental degradation. We will lose our family farms and local food processors unless we are willing to support them.”
Note: For more information about Callicrate and his various business ventures, visit www.mikecallicrate.com.