Mike Callicrate is an independent cattle producer, business entrepreneur and political activist. He serves as an outspoken leader in addressing the rural, social and cultural impacts of current economic trends.
A native of Evergreen, Colorado, he earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Colorado State University in 1975 and later moved to St. Francis, Kansas, where he started farming and ranching. He and a small group of investors built a cattle feeding operation there in 1978. In 1986, he left that operation and built his own independent 12,000-head feedyard nearby.
Frustrated by the castration equipment he was using in his feedyard, he invented the Callicrate Smart Bander in 1991. The popular humane, bloodless, and drug free method is still manufactured in St. Francis, contributing more than 30 jobs to the local community.
In 2000, he formed a value-added meat company called Ranch Foods Direct. The fabrication plant and retail store processes and markets high quality all-natural beef in Colorado Springs and over the Internet at www.ranchfoodsdirect.com.
Since the mid-1990s, Mike has been actively involved in social and political efforts to improve the welfare of family farms and to restore effective publicly-regulated markets.
He was a founding member of several farm advocacy groups including the Organization for Competitive Markets, R-CALF and the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association. He also was a lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the world’s largest meatpacker, IBP, now part of Tyson Foods, alleging unfair and discriminatory marketing practices.
In recognition of his efforts, he has received the “Westerner of the Year” award from Western Ranchers Beef Cooperative; the first ever Legacy Award from the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association; and the Carl L. King Distinguished Service Award from the American Corn Growers Association.
Mike has been an advisor for the films Food Inc. and FRESH, and is cited in several books including The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation. He is revered as the “go-to expert” for understanding negative consequences of trends in the modern meat industry.
He is the father of two sons, Tyler and Teegan.
Mike Callicrate’s Businesses
Dear Mr. Callicrate, I just finished reading Fast Food Nation and was sooo relieved to learn that you and your ranch “made it.” Many years ago I gave up beef b/c of how appalling the industry is. Little did I know that it’s worse than I even imagined. I’m so thankful to know ranchers such as yourself are out there and are standing strong and fighting a hellatious industry that has no place in any society. All of that being said, I also want you to know that I am a raw vegan foodist and animal lover. I am not opposed to consuming animals as a food source but am vehemently opposed to the industrialized meat packers and their treatment of animals. Not all of us vegans are extremist just as not everyone in the cattle business supports the corporate meat packers. My hat is off to you and other ranchers such as yourself. I hope that sooner rather than later the balance of beef (and chicken/porkc) production shifts back in your favor as that will also be a positive shift in all of our favor. Thanks so much.
I’m a vegetarian (I eat no meat of any kind, but some milk), almost vegan, for the past 40 years. What interests me in your story is the issue of big business suppression, with government help, of small business.
Regarding the “hay is a pollutant” canard. For quite some time now at construction sites throughout this country, hay bales and loose hay have been copiously used to sop up and retain effuents and to prevent runoff and erosion. In fact, environmental regulations have required the construction industry to use hay bales and loose hay for that purpose. If “hay is a pollutant,” why do the environmental regulations require the use of hay bales and loose hay to prevent pollution at construction sites?
If “hay is a pollutant,” one might likewise define practically any agricultural waste, or even any agricultural product — or even any forestry waste or any forestry product — as a pollutant.
Regards, Gregory Fegel
Thank you, Mike, for representing Colorado agriculture at the Occupy Wall Street Farmers’ March yesterday! We were there with you in spirit. Do you know where we might find coverage of the event? Cheers, Wink
Mike, be careful if you team up with HSUS in your fight against NCBA. You seem to be aligned with HSUS and PETA which is not a good thing. Be careful it might bite you in the ass. I say good for you to fight the NCBA, I support it. But to align with HSUS and PETA is treason to the beef business and all of agriculture. Yes there are some bad players out there but lets weed them out the right way.
You do not want a backlash against you. You have done good things, especially with your bander.
Dear Mr. Callicrate, I am a Texas rancher frustrated by my inability to market my grass fed cattle. Our operation confirms to AGA and AWA standards and I think produces very fine beef cattle. However, with the exception of two years selling to Whole Foods, about which enough said) I find that selling at farmers’ markets or on the internet are pretty much my only options. Local ranch to table restaurants tell me they don’t need true grassfinished beef because their customers don’t really like it (which confirms my belief that most grass fed beef is harvested too young with insufficient fat content).
I can understand why Texas might be behind in establishing appropriate slaughter and marketing infrastructure for a less profitable product but surely I don’t have to go back to a traditional cow calf operation!
Take a look the SOIL Intitiatve: https://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/soil/
It’s a long answer to your question, but I think our only option is to build the alternative pathway from the farm and ranch to the consumer, while holding companies like Whole Foods, institutions and restaurants accountable for their false and misleading claims.
Great to see Mike still in action! I was deeply moved at the first R-CALF meeting in Denver. In recent years, my work on sustainability through responsible property rights has led me to work with ditch companies and small ag issues. Most recent, and perhaps of interest: a book chapter on agricultural resilience, with a close friend who left USDA ARS when it was trumped, and is now with K State. Chapter available for individual use: https://ibs.colorado.edu/wiener/
Thanks for all of your great work!
John D. Wiener, J.D., Ph.D.
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