I’m not going to bullshit you here; I didn’t set out to change our food system. I was a computer gal who knew zilch about meat processing and hadn’t ever thought very hard about where my meat was coming from. I just wanted to suss out why cattle was ubiquitous in Far West Texas but local steak wasn’t. Then, I met local producer, Ellery Aufdengarten.
Our story goes something like this:
Gal meets rancher. Rancher convinces gal that she
can change the world by processing meat.
IN THE BEGINNING...
Christy Meets Ellery
The Real Deal
Ellery grew up ranching in Nebraska. He came to Sul Ross State University to rodeo (and study), met Debbie, a local gal from a ranching family and set out to make a life of ranching in West Texas. Generosity comes from the heart and curiosity from the head. As everyone around here knows, Ellery had an over-abundance of both and a strong desire to be able to connect people with the beef he raised. Some might say we were an unlikely pair, but soon we had a common goal - connecting people with the source of their food. Ellery answered all my stupid questions. He made introductions. He helped me scout out the perfect location. He had faith in me; that made all the difference.
Current State of Affairs
Food production in America has been increasingly consolidated since the 60s. In doing so we’ve replaced traditional local butchery and meat processing knowledge with expendable workers on an assembly line, we’ve allowed meat packers to control 85% of the beef supply, which both limits producers profits and prevents us from knowing what is on our plates, and we’ve allowed the over 3 billion pounds of beef imported last year to be labeled “Product of the USA”. It’s a mess.
I hustled and researched and slaughtered some cattle to better understand what local butchery and meat processing actually meant. It’s a bureaucratic crap show, without doubt, but the thing is that eating locally sourced meat raised out here means something. Ellery’s brand of authenticity and generosity is what is lacking in the world today and eating Aufdengarten beef and meat raised by other West Texas producers who care deeply about their livestock feels like the antidote to all that is wrong with the system. Since we lost Ellery in 2020, this feels all the more urgent.