The Beef Counts program, which raises money to provide beef year-round to families in need, recently passed the $1 million mark.
Washington ranchers gathered Sept. 22 at the Toppenish Livestock Commission sales yard to raise more than $23,000 during a rollover auction.
The Kittitas County Cattlemen donated the steer for the event. The Washington Cattle Feeders Association donated $10,000 to the effort.
“A decade and 2.5 million servings of beef distributed is no small feat,” association president Camas Uebelacker said in a press release. “It takes a commitment from everyone in the beef community to accomplish this. I’m extremely proud to be a part of this community.”
County organizations and individual ranchers bid in $100 and $1,000 increments during the auction. A total of 28 people made bids.
Ranchers themselves have donated more than $231,000 in the last decade to the program, organized by the Washington Beef Commission.
“Producers are already doing good deeds in their small community, very quietly,” said KayDee Gilkey, director of industry relations for the beef commission. “Once we learned about the need for protein, everyone was willing to jump in and help.”
According to the commission, the Beef Counts program served 625,000 families in need over the last decade, with 2.5 million 3-ounce servings, or the equivalent of seven stacks of hamburger patties, each the height of Mt. Rainier, which has an elevation of 14,411 feet.
Ranchers volunteered more than 3,000 hours to the cause.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for beef more apparent, Gilkey said. About 40% of people using the Second Harvest food bank are new clients.
Gilkey hopes to reach more than 5 million servings and $2.5 million raised in the next decade.