The Garden City Telegram

Beef fete: Event helps drive home importance of industry.

Local resident Bob Baker summed up a big part of the allure of Beef Empire Days in a simple way.

"It always helps if you like beef," Baker said with a laugh when asked about activities at the annual event.

Baker, who helps deliver savory fare in the Beef Empire Days Chuckwagons in the Park event, and others involved with the annual celebration know full well how beef is relished in this part of the country — and not just because it's a tasty dish.

Beef, after all, has been a driving economic force for generations in southwest Kansas.

A look around the region delivers plenty of proof, from grazing cattle to feedlots and meatpacking plants. The industry has been honored locally every year since the late 1960s, with residents and visitors alike gathering for Beef Empire Days.

This year's event features yet another impressive menu of educational and entertaining offerings for all ages.

Beef Empire Days also has served as a way to help people better understand what goes on behind the scenes in the beef industry, and why the hard work of moving cattle from the field to the fork matters in our region and state.

Consider the following economic highlights from the Kansas Livestock Association:

— Kansas ranked third nationwide in commercial cattle processed with 6.2 million head in 2012, and second in fed cattle marketed with 4.70 million.

— Kansas ranked third in total red meat production in 2012, with beef representing 5.3 billion pounds of the total.

— Meat packing and prepared meat products manufacturing make up the largest share of the food processing industry in Kansas, reportedly employing more than 18,700 people in the state.

Expect Beef Empire Days to again help those involved in the beef business share their world with the public. They'll also showcase the innovation that's key in any industry.

Beef Empire Days ties all of the information together in a welcome way.

Take time to check out the food and fun served up in healthy portions, while learning more about an industry we should never take for granted.