When it comes to the food you eat, a handshake is a heck of lot better than a marketing slogan. Here in Colorado you can get your beef from a neighbor you know, and these days it’s becoming more and more important to know the source of your food and what goes into it.
At the National Western Stock Show, I talked with local ranchers who raise and deliver beef to Denver-area residents. The care and pride they put into their meat is amazing, and you can ask them direct and specific questions and get an honest answer.
According to National Western’s 2008 Souvenir Program, it’s individuals who own and operate 87% of Colorado farms. Livestock sales here amount to $3.3 billion of the $4.5 billion in agricultural product sales annually, and nearly half – 46% – of Colorado’s total land area is farms and ranches. 3,638 farms are in the Denver metro area, with 10 actually in Denver County! There are plenty of local sources for the food we put on our tables.
At the stock show, where visitors come from around the world to find out what’s going on in the livestock industry, you can get a good education about your protein sources, and give thanks to the animals, ranchers and farmers who provide them. You can stop by the restaurants at the show and try some prime rib or other cuts, watch the judging of the animals and listen to the judge’s explanation of the criteria. You can talk with folks in the business about the details, and pick up a packet of information with recipes and explanations of meat cuts from the beef industry booth or other trade organizations.
Once you’ve educated yourself, stop by a booth such as “Colorado’s Best Beef” or Phillips Pharms. Both of these are local businesses, dealing more in “halves and quarters” and larger quantities than shrink-wrapped steaks, but delivering top-quality beef that for Colorado’s Best is about $4.50 a pound, all cuts combined. As with any other natural product, the way it’s produced makes it quite different from the meat the media’s usually talking about. At the booth, they explained that they “corn finish” their grass-fed cattle rather than just raise them on corn throughout. This makes for superior meat, but with a taste that is closer to what city people have come to expect. Check their website for local restaurants and stores offering their products.
In the case of Phillips Pharms in Parker, there’s an amazing difference. Where, according to their information, most beef’s fat content is in the 5.4% range and buffalo is 2.6% their beef is clocked at about 0.32% with high protein as well! They say that it is “lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than skinless baked chicken breast.” Phillips Pharms can sell small packages to start, so you can see how you like it. Their Belgian Blue cattle, bred for over a century for their muscles, should have the motto “Sure, they’re blue – and good for you too!”
Besides the quality of their beef and attention to detail that beats mass-produced food, Colorado farms and ranches often are a good place to do business for ethical reasons as well. From the treatment of the animals to the use of renewable energy sources and community programs like 4-H, Colorado farms represent local values as well.
Sources: 2008 National Western Stock Show Souvenir Program