Labatt Food Service Seeks Mescalero Cattle Growers
On the cool crisp evening of March 1, 2016, members of the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council, administration executive staff, IMG executive Staff and Labatt Food Service executive staff congregated in Wendell’s Steak and Seafood restaurant to welcome in, on the menu, a new product produced on the Mescalero reservation.
On this evening, guest were given the opportunity to taste and help launch Mescalero Apache steaks on the menu at IMG’s Wendell’s Steak and Seafood restaurant, and not just any steak but USDA Certified Choice and Prime cut steaks, the best of the best.
Tuesday night’s event marked the culmination of four years of meetings, presentations, and a lot of hard work on the part of many people. Without the patience of Labatt Food Service and the commitment of all those who work for the Mescalero Cattles Growers, Mescalero Beef wouldn’t be a reality within the tribal enterprises.
The journey began in 2012 when the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department (IAD) and Labatt Food Service (Labatt) partnered together to create and launch the “Native American Beef Program”. IAD and Labatt set out to find tribal partners who wanted to participate in the program and began meeting with various tribal leaders and tribal councils. The first participants in the program was a conglomerate of Navajo Ranchers on the Padres Mesa in western New Mexico and Eastern Arizona and the first wave of beef to hit the markets under the Native American Beef program was Navajo beef.
IAD and Labatt continued their out reached and even came to Mescalero at the time to pitch the idea as a catalyst to jump start Mescalero’s beef industry but found little interest at the time amongst the council members. Together, IAD and Labatt pushed forward seeking tribal partners and eventually partnered with the Jicarilla Apache Tribe’s rancher association. It wasn’t long before Jicarilla raised beef and was being featured in the tribe’s casino restaurants for all to enjoy while partaken in its unique taste.
In January of 2015, changes in IAD’s administration occurred which refocused the priorities of department; while still supportive of the Native American Beef Program; IAD began addressing other issues within tribal communities which left Labatt to continue its outreach alone.
Labatt again approached the Mescalero Apache Tribe and were finally given an opportunity to bid during the tribe’s next cattle sale. Labatt offered its bid and came out on top which then kick started the initiative to bring Mescalero Beef into the tribe’s enterprises. Labatt has since been working closely with the tribe’s cattle manager and the all the cowboys at number one. According to representatives from Labatt, when they bought cattle from the tribe, it was the first time that all beef produced rated USDA certified Choice or Prime.
Many of the cowboys at Cow Camp #1 have expressed their pride in producing a quality product that is being featured here in Mescalero at IMG. At Tuesday night’s event, Duane Duffy, Chief of Staff for the tribe stated, “This is something that we should all be proud of here in Mescalero. This is the first time our Apache beef is being featured at our enterprises and is of the highest quality, all natural and grass fed. This endeavor will lead to economic diversification, job creation and will represent a new revenue stream coming into the tribal coffers.” Many of the nights guest agreed and showed their deep appreciation for the job that is being done at Cow Camp #1. Councilman Ben Martinez also spoke and stated, “In the beginning many of us were unsure about the program and the process which it would follow, but after seeing it in practice and the quality of the beef, the end product speaks for itself. “
Councilman Christie Lapaz, Jr. also said a few words and started out by jokingly saying, “I came here tonight and I’m a vegetarian.” He continued by saying, “This is a good thing for the tribe, this is something I never thought would happen and I am proud of the guys at Cow Camp.” His sentiments were echoed by many of the night’s guest and all those present enjoyed the exceptional meal that was prepared by Wendell’s staff.
A short video was produced about the program at Mescalero and featured a number of tribal members, the video can be found on YouTube if you wish to view it. Mescalero Beef is a quality product produced on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, it is all natural and grass fed. “We are excited about the opportunities this endeavor will bring to the tribe and are extremely proud of the high quality of our beef.” stated Gabe Aguilar, Vice President of the tribe.
If you happen to find yourself at the Inn later this month, be sure to ask about Mescalero Beef and taste for yourself the quality of this fine Apache product. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. To all those that played a role in making Mescalero Beef a reality, thank you for your commitment and hard work. Hope to see you at the Inn and as Councilman Martinez said, “the end product speaks for itself.”