Stolen steaks cost Taos Valley ranch thousands

January 6, 2019

TAOS — With about 30 local businesses working under the same roof, the Taos County Economic Development Center operates on a basic measure of cooperation and trust. After the recent theft of about 1,000 pounds of premium beef from a freezer at the center, however, local ranchers are questioning whether they can afford to use the space.

David Montoya, manager of Wolf Springs Ranch west of Taos, went to the center Wednesday morning to check out an anonymous tip that steaks bearing the label of the ranch’s owner, Anthony L. Benson, were being sold around Taos County by an unauthorized vendor.

A glance inside the freezer told him it must be true.

“We have a lot of beef that was stored here, probably three steers,” Montoya said. “There were somewhere in the average of about 1,900 pounds of meat: steaks, grounds, roasts. Now, there’s only 900 pounds in the freezer.”

Sold at roughly $6 a pound, Montoya estimates $5,400 worth of Angus beef was pilfered sometime in the past few weeks. That’s around a quarter of the total beef the ranch had hoped to sell from 11 steers slaughtered this year — a big loss for the ranch, but also for a community where many restaurants pride themselves on keeping local meat on the menu.

Montoya reported the theft to Taos police.

He he had been assured by the economic development center that the kitchen and meat lockers were secure, Montoya said.

“Several businesses work in here at the same time,” said Terrie Bad Hand, the center’s manager. “It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There’s probably about 30 businesses that work in here, particularly around the farmers market time.”

Many successful local businesses have gotten their start at the center, she said.

But Bad Hand acknowledged the risks of working in a shared space.

“Whoever is responsible probably had access to the food center and might work for another business or something,” she said. “We have cameras and surveillance, so we’ll be checking our cameras and we’ll be able to see who took the beef.”

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