You probably see these two terms on your menu when you’re at a restaurant or buying beef in the meat case, right? While local has a different meaning to different people, you can be confident that most of the beef you eat right here in the U.S. is “local” because it is raised and grown right here!
The idea of local food excites the senses — tidy fields, yielding a bounty that travels just a few miles, touched by a few hands on its way to the table.
However, the challenge with geographically local food is that not every environment is suited for all types of food production. Our family raises only beef. This is kind of rare in our area as many cattle producers also grow crops.
We only raise cattle because our land has two types of soil structure: sandy and rocky. In the low areas near the Big Sandy creek (why do you think it got that name?) the land has suitable grass, but if plowed it would be hard to grow anything without more than enough rain. Conversely, the other side of the ranch is situated on the Palmer Ridge which is very rocky amidst the native grasses. Our family chooses to utilize the land and soil in the BEST way we can – and for us that is to graze it with cattle.
Our family has been raising cattle on the plains of eastern Colorado for 70 years. We want to keep our ranch for future generations, which is why we’ve been sustainable since the beginning, in caring for the soil, water, air and habitat for our cattle.
Let’s keep looking at where food is produced in Colorado. For example, since we are close to Denver, would this be considered our only “local” market?
When Colorado’s bumper crops and mature livestock are ready for harvest, practically every ton is shipped out of state. The vast majority of our state’s livestock and grains are loaded onto trucks and rail cars bound for rural counties in western Nebraska, Kansas and the Texas panhandle. There, cattle are efficiently fed in large feedlots and slau
ghtered nearby. Every fifth truckload of corn is distilled into ethanol fuel. Wheat is milled in the Midwest, or barged down the Missouri for export. Most all of our home-grown produce flows east, out of the state.
And quite frankly, I believe that we don’t have the best grain production in Colorado so I want to send our cattle to where grain is raised best, so they get the best nutrition. Healthy cattle = healthy beef.
But that doesn’t make us not local. The beef from our cattle is marketed with the label “Cattle Company Beef,” which is exclusively available to Food Services of America customers. This means our beef is bought by restaurants and food service companies in the U.S. who want high-quality beef.
While I cannot say exactly where our beef is going, I can tell you that our beef stays in the U.S. and is consumed by people who care about how their beef was raised. To me, that is what “local” is all about. It doesn’t have to mean a certain location. If I wanted “local” shrimp and that meant a certain mileage from my house, I’d be out of luck! (Yes, this beef girl likes her shrimp.) For example, I consider the shrimp I buy in the grocery store or at a restaurant to be local if it comes from the Gulf, and obviously, I can’t find it here.
When we talk “local,” we need to talk about how safe and efficient our food is. As a rancher, I can testify that we take the best care of our cattle. We want healthy cattle so we can have healthy, safe and nutritious beef. My friend, who is a rancher in Pennsylvania, cares for her cattle the same way I do, so I would eat her beef just as soon as I would eat mine. That’s local.
So while you’re heating up your grills this summer, consider the beef you buy to be the best local food you can get, because it was raised by an American rancher who cares.
This post is part of my ongoing sponsored partnership with U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. All opinions expressed are my own.