Recently Sara Blakenship reported that chef Brian Luscher was embarking on summer camp tryst with the Kansas Beef Council. As proprietor and chef of The Grape on Greenville Avenue, undisputed burger master and barbecue pro, what better person to represent Texas out on the ranch?
So, with permission slip signed and his name clearly labeled on his sack lunch (surely a burger), Luscher boarded a bus in Kansas to follow the journey of a steak from pasture to plate. And, this isn't a fancy metaphor. He literally went to the pasture, every step in between, all the way to the processing plant.
The two-day tour included a feedlot with 52,000 head of cattle in middle of nowhere Kansas, an animal auction, a seed lot operation, a cow-calf ranch and the Cargill Meat processing facility in Dodge City (no phones, cameras or open-toed shoes).
Surely not for those with a weak disposition, but certainly worthy of some interesting insight into the meat processing business. So, Luscher, how was camp?
One of the first stops on the tour was at the Cargill Meat Processing facility.
"The number one thing that struck me was the professionalism and cleanliness by which everything is done," Luscher says.
Luscher recognizes that this part of the tour was more than most people ever want to know about their burgers or steaks.
"For some people, they don't want to know where the beef comes from," Luscher says. "They don't want to see the harvest at Cargill, and I get that. That shit is as real as it gets. It's all very surreal. They're processing five to six thousand cattle a day. But, there's dignity in the way they handle it."
Another stop on the trip was the Mule Creek cow-calf ranch operation and Gardiner Angus Ranch, all of which specialize is different areas of breeding and raising cattle.
"The truth of it is," Luscher says, "and no matter what I say someone is going to disagree with me, and I understand that, the majority of cattle and calves are raised by family ranches that have been doing this for three and four generations.
"Would it be better if everyone had their own farm and they could name their cow and brush it's hair? Sure. But, that's not realistic. The point is that we understand the process is safe and understand where it's coming from. And the bulk of the ranchers are American families who love what they do."
Back in Dallas, Luscher was clearly inspired by the tour. He seems to have a new appreciation for American ranchers and no qualms about how our beef is processed. Pointing to rising prices in the beef market, Luscher is emphatic that the process remain in the United States.
"Everyone gets to make their own choice," Luscher said, "but if it's USDA prime and choice steaks or ground beef, I'm down with it."
He's a happy camper.
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