Finally some good news from the folks at Ranch Foods Direct
... well, aside from their involvement in the soon-to-arrive Colorado Springs Public Market
After the recent debacle with District 11
and other school systems that have ceased purchasing RFD ground beef, RFD has completed the acquisition of Federal Food Service
, a distributor located on the east side of town.
A press release touts the following benefits:
* A much-needed local food hub and commercial kitchen;
* Room for additional smoking, curing and other prepared food applications;
* Ideal facilities to handle a much larger selection of fresh produce;
* Room to offer educational and food apprenticeship-type programs;
* Roughly 3 acres of property landscaped to provide pollinator habitat.
RFD owner Mike Callicrate
shares that the cost to buy Federal was $1.4 million, and that includes a truck fleet, more than 100 active customer contracts (some to major organizations, such as prisons), and several staff — "everything from fork lifts to racking and the crappy coffee in the kitchen cupboards," he says.
The current RFD retail front off Fillmore Avenue may stay open, he says, but he is still in talks with his landlord. But all meat processing will move to the new spot, where Callicrate's parent company Good Foods Concepts will handle the wholesale contracts, while the Ranch Foods Direct brand will remain the retail link to consumers.
RFD, via GFC, now becomes a full-service provider of everything from aluminum foil to to-go wear, proteins and produce. And if current customers wish to stay with conventional suppliers, Callicrate will serve that need. But he confirms that his team will push hard to replace as much as possible with local and sustainable options, including area farms and RFD meat.
Ranch Foods Direct's Mobile Slaughter Unit aids smaller farms in getting their product to market in a more financially viable manner. They've done community demonstrations at Venetucci Farm in past years to help educate consumers and be fully transparent in their process.
Yes, that could even mean going after D-11's business again, but this time selling them the same conventional meat they're procuring elsewhere at potentially a better price, says Callicrate, who would love it if they were instead able to afford RFD meat, but would not see servicing their conventional needs as hypocrisy.
"We're filling the needs for the community," he says. "We'll sell Callicrate Beef hard and hope that folks buy it. But we'll fulfill whatever products they want. You can't build a box that you can't survive in. If you structure a business with so many restrictions, there's no way to make it. If we're going to keep Federal's customers, we'll have to give them what they want."
Even if Callicrate couldn't land RFD meat in D-11 regularly again, he may be able to keep some of the district's expenses directed into the local economy versus outward, which is at least one minor victory.
Aside from that one situation though, this takeover could be quite big for RFD, which takes the building over on May 10 and hopes to be operational within 90 days.
The 28,000 square feet will feature a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen that will be available for rent to area cottage industry types or food trucks in need of a commissary. And beyond expansive refrigeration, the site will host Shawn Saunders' The Sourdough Boulangerie
, plus a charcuterie and smoked meats department.
The new hub will facilitate a meat market space planned for the Colorado Springs Public Market as well by transferring fresh product over for another retail sales point.
"This is really going to greatly enhance our ability to get back on track with ground beef business," Callicrate says, referring to that lost by the school districts' pullouts. And with full trucks deploying with both meat and produce versus smaller vans with only RFD meat, Callicrate believes his pricing structures will be more competitive too, due to distribution efficiency.