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Talking shop with Mike Callicrate 

The owner of Ranch Foods Direct, Mike Callicrate is many things: local food advocate, meat-packing muckraker, provider of the best local meat available. His clients range from the North End Diner and El Taco Rey to English Dockside.

Indy: First, how do you view Colorado Springs' dining scene right now?

MC: Well, I think what's going right are things like Conscious Table, with [chef] Brent Beavers. The awareness that we should be eating food, and it should be coming from our local community. I think there's a very fast-growing awareness of the importance of supporting your community. And through food, I think people are seeing that opportunity to support the local producers and those local folks who are involved in the food system. So I'm really excited about that.

In our business, in the Ranch Foods Direct business ... we were up 26 percent in our retail store over a year ago, and in our schools, wholesale — I'm talking Chipotle, the restaurant businesses that we sell to — we are up 154 percent over the year before. ... We're up to over a half-a-million a month now in total sales. So, we're starting to make an impact.

Indy: And what did it look like five to 10 years ago?

MC: Dismal. It was a battle, just a constant battle against the national chains, and the big industrial food service companies that source the cheapest stuff they can find from wherever it may have been produced.

So, now it's just getting to be an easier thing to talk to people about. They've got some understanding, especially after watching Food, Inc. I think that was the turning point.

Indy: What would you say is not going well, then? What's still to be worked on, as you see it?

MC: Well, what isn't going well, I think, is what hasn't been going well for the last 30 years, and that's the chains continue to really be a source of unfair competition. I mean, these are companies that externalize their costs, that buy food that's produced below cost of production; they don't pay living wages to employees. They are extraction-type businesses that are here to take money out of the community, rather than contribute money to the community. ...

Indy: There's a few thoughts on Wagyu beef [out there]: There's the purebred, and then there's the Black Angus mix. What do you think about that — is there a real difference?

MC: Well, here's the deal: I have some purebred cattle, but they're breeding stock. And so it's the purebred Wagyu bull bred to the pure Angus female. The Angus female is a much better cow than the Wagyu cow. The Wagyu females don't give a lot of milk, they really don't fit our climate that well ... but the genetics of the breed is phenomenal.

They've got two things to offer, in my view: The calves that they sire come out of that heifer, or that cow, easily ... the other thing the Wagyu breed offers is very high marbling, and their fat profile is very healthy. ...

The thing about the purebred Wagyu is they almost are marbled too much. Some of them are extreme, and there's just not a lot of demand for that steak that is more white than red. So the cross is a better cross.

Indy: What's your favorite restaurant in the Springs?

MC: Well, my favorite steak house in the whole region is the Tabeguache Steak House in Woodland Park. They're wonderful, wow. Fred Brocklesby is the owner and chef. Since you ask it that way, I just had a steak there Monday night. But that's by far my favorite steak concept in the whole region.

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