Crook County Stock Growers Association ranchers are providing beef to CCSD for school meals

by: LON AUSTIN - Charlene Osborne pours pepper into a ground beef mix for making nachos.

Crook County School District Nutrition Manager Dana Rudy can now answer the question: “Where’s the Beef?”

Planning to serve meat-based meals of nachos and meatloaf over the next few weeks, Rudy knows exactly where the beef came from — Crook County ranchers.

As part of the Ranchers Feeding Kids program, local ranchers recently donated 855 pounds of beef, saving the district over $1,800.

Crook County Stock Growers Association members McCormack Ranch and Quail Valley Ranch donated 355 pounds and 500 pounds, respectfully.

“I think that Ranchers Feeding Kids is a really great program,” said Rudy, “Beef is one of the most expensive food items we buy and having local ranchers donate it helps our food service immensely.”

The Ranchers Feeding Kids program, which originated in Oregon's Jordan Valley in 2009, is expanding into many of the state’s school districts.

“Many school lunch programs focus on fruits and vegetables,” said Anna Marie Chamberlain, Oregon State University Livestock and Range Management Extension Agent, “The Ranchers Feeding Kids program helps get beef into the meals for students.”

According to Trent Smith, CCSGA president, the program has been in place for the past three years.

“The program is a win-win for ranchers and the school district,” he said, explaining that the program is an outlet for ranchers whose animals might not sell through normal channels.

“What started out as a way out for these animals that weren’t up to market standards has turned into a significant commitment on the part of the ranchers,” said Smith, explaining that each donated animal is valued at well over $1,000.

Not meeting market standards does not mean the beef is substandard. In fact, the cattle still meets all USDA requirements and are mobile, according to Smith.

“Any animals that are donated that do not meet USDA guidelines are sent to auction,” said Smith. “Money from the sale of those animals is put right back into the program.”

And that money helps pay for processing and packaging costs, all done locally at Butcher Boys, at a cost of $250 to $300 per animal.

Since Rudy came on board as the district’s nutrition manager, Smith has known exactly how much beef is required to meet the nutritional needs of the students.

“Dana has been great in laying out the protein and beef needs of the students,” said Smith, “We are hoping to donate 20 to 25 animals each year to meet those requirements.”

And, local ranchers are doing their part to fill the order, as each animal produces 300 to 400 pounds of beef.

“About 15 ranchers have shown interest in being a part of the program,” said Smith, “We are well on our way to meeting the requirements for the district.”

And, Rudy is grateful to the ranchers.

“The fact that the beef is locally grown is just the icing on the cake,” said Rudy. “This most recent donation will make about 5,000 servings of our entrees that use ground beef, allowing us to put meat on the menu more often than we otherwise would have been able to.”

For Smith, it is just a case of taking care of the kids.

“We are an agricultural economy here in Central Oregon and this program helps raise awareness for that,” he said.

“The kids love it,” added Rudy, “This is such a big help and I can’t thank them enough.”

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