Beef Counts: Partnership connects generous beef producers with local families struggling with food insecurity

A collaboration between the Washington State Beef Council, local beef producers, and Second Harvest is helping nourish communities in need and cultivate gratitude in the hearts of producers through the gift of high-quality beef!

In Spokane, Washington, a line of cars snakes through the community, eagerly awaiting their turn to receive boxes of food. Even before the distribution begins, tangible anticipation fills the air. This is the Beef Counts program in action—a collaboration between the Washington State Beef Commission, Second Harvest, and Food Lifeline, dedicated to providing high-quality, nutritious beef to local food banks and supporting families facing hunger.

The Beef Counts program, which is supported by local beef producers, addresses a critical need for lean protein in the diets of those struggling with food insecurity. Originating in Idaho 14 years ago, the program has since expanded into Washington State, where it has since made a substantial impact on the local community. With over $1 million donated and more than 2.5 million servings of beef reaching Washington families in need, the program has become a cornerstone of community support.

According to those involved in the program, Beef Counts is a testament to the unity within the Washington beef community. The partnership involves ranchers, grocers like Rosars, and everyone in between, working together to ensure that quality beef reaches those who need it most.

“Beef counts means to me that we’re as a Washington beef community providing safe and nutritious beef to our neighbors in need,” said Vice Chair for the Washington State Beef Commission Pete Charriere, expressing the program’s significance.

Studies consistently show that people struggling with food insecurity often lack access to lean protein in their diets. Beef, particularly ground beef, emerges as a crucial component to fill this nutritional gap.

The Beef Counts program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, aligning with the spirit of summer generosity. Ten cents of every pound of beef sold at Rosars during this period goes toward funding the program. In partnership with Agar Beef and the Washington State Beef Commission, this initiative has the potential to contribute up to $50,000, ensuring the program’s sustained impact.

“Most studies show that the people in need don’t get lean protein in their diet very much, so that’s where Agar Beef, our beef company, comes in to donate all the beef—whether it’s ground beef chubs or beef roasts,” explained Mike Alfson, a local meat merchandiser that participates in the Beef Counts program.

For those in line at food distribution sites, the contents of their food boxes are often a mystery. However, the universal joy sparked by the inclusion of ground beef is palpable. The overwhelming gratitude expressed by recipients resonates deeply with those involved in the program.

“People are so thankful, people are just ecstatic,” Charriere said. “It feels like gratitude. I don’t think I can come up with another word.”

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