Mike Callicrate is becoming an international spokesman for independent ranchers and beef processors.
The owner of Colorado Springs’ Ranch Foods Direct recently filmed a feature segment for TV Tokyo, a Japanese network that produces the only business television show in the country.
The film crew was in Colorado Springs at the processing plant, and toured Callicrate’s ranch in St. Francis, Kan.
“They were very impressed, very confident in the way we handled our cattle and processed our beef,” Callicrate said. “They were very detailed – the crew went through our plant and traveled to our ranch in Kansas. They were very happy with what they saw.”
The Japanese market has been closed to U.S. beef since December 2003, when a cow imported from Canada tested positive for mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalitis).
Tainted beef can infect humans with a similar disease, known as Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.
The Japanese government could decide as early as December whether to reopen its market to U.S. beef, Callicrate said. Beef producers and meat packers are eagerly awaiting the decision, because Japan was the largest importer of American beef in the world.
With the threat of mad cow disease, Japanese consumers are cautious about eating mass-produced American beef, Callicrate said.
“The Japanese are desperate to find some source that is more directly involved with the producers,” he said. “That’s what Ranch Foods is all about. If you buy from Tyson, you don’t know which country the beef is from. Tyson doesn’t even know; they don’t want it tracked. No one knows – no one in the feed lot, it’s just not tracked.”
The program has not aired on Japanese television, Callicrate said. But the repeated visits from Japanese television producers have already benefited Ranch Foods. Callicrate has an order ready to ship to Japan, as soon as the ban is lifted.
“We’ve had about four Japanese groups touring our facilities,” he said. “And we’ve never lost a taste test. They all said our beef was the best they ever tasted. Japan produces Kobe beef, which is supposed to be the best in the world. They all said ours was better.”
The Japanese consumer is concerned about safety – wanting assurances that U.S. beef is free from mad cow disease. In Japan, every cow that is slaughtered is tested for the disease, while very few cows are tested in the United States.
“It isn’t expensive to test the cows. The Japanese test every animal that is slaughtered, as a guarantee to the consumer,” Callicrate said. “Big packers don’t want to have to slow down processing lines; it isn’t about the expense at all. They want the government to force the Japanese to take our beef; in my view, that’s not a good way to deal with the customer.”
The Pikes Peak Independent Business Alliance is sponsoring “Pikes Peak Unchained” on Nov. 19 to encourage shoppers to spend one day shopping solely at independent, locally owned stores.
In conjunction with America Unchained, a nationwide event organized by the American Independent Business Alliance, the day-long event is designed to draw attention to the locally owned, independent businesses in Colorado Springs.
“We estimate, roughly, based on sales tax from the state, that if everyone shopped locally for a single day, $9 million would go into the local economy,” said Andy Gipe, manager at Compleat Hobby store on Tejon Street and president of the PPIBA. “Of course, the state doesn’t track single day sales tax, so we have to extrapolate it. The idea is that if you shop locally, more money stays in the community than if you shop at chains or big box retail stores or even online.”
Gipe said the organization realizes that it might be unrealistic to spend an entire day shopping only at local stores. “But the concept is there to illustrate how an individual’s purchasing decisions affects the economy,” he said.
The November event, always held nationwide on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, is coupled with Independents Week, the first week in July, to raise awareness of local businesses.
The PPIBA has 140 members, Gipe said. The organization seeks to help individual businesses compete by working together, as well as to educate consumers.
“If ‘like’ businesses can work together, they can increase their competiveness by pooling their resources,” he said.
The Citadel Mall plans to raise money for local schools during a special shopping day on Dec. 4. School groups will sell $10 coupons that can be used at participating stores, said Diane Loschen, marketing manager for the Citadel. Each school will keep all the proceeds from the sales.
The Shops at Briargate is launching a gift-giving program Nov. 11 aimed at needy seniors. Called the Giving Tree, five shops have trees with ornaments that are requests from seniors who are homebound, disabled or alone. The shops participating are Brighton Collectibles, Draper’s and Damon’s, MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Talbots.
Givers are asked to purchase a new gift that matches the request and place it unwrapped in a gift bag. Shoppers then return the gift and ornament to the giving tree.
Amy Gillentine covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.