Steamboat Springs School District to try out bison dogs |

Steamboat Springs School District to try out bison dogs

Jack Weinstein

Steamboat Springs School District Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert will serve bison hot dogs Feb. 11 from the Bear Mountain Ranch, which is located about three miles from the base of Rabbit Ears Pass.

— Bison is the newest menu item in the Steamboat Springs School District.

Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert just got his first order of bison hot dogs. They'll be served Feb. 11.

Introducing bison is another way Huppert is trying to change how Steamboat students eat. It's not easy, but that doesn't stop him from trying.

"It's really hard to get kids to try new things and get off the fast food they're used to," Huppert said.

Huppert bought the bison hot dogs from Bear Mountain Ranch, located about three miles past the Walden turnoff over Rabbit Ears Pass on U.S. Highway 40.

Meredith Rumsey, who works for the 10,000-acre ranch to promote bison in Steamboat restaurants and now the school district, contacted Huppert in December.

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She said her main focus is to keep a product from the Steamboat area in the local economy and to get people excited about a healthy product. Rumsey said bison is leaner than skinless chicken breast.

Huppert toured the ranch in late December, sampled some of its products and left impressed.

"There's not really that much that is local," he said. "This is 100 percent local. It's farmed and processed in Routt County. It helps out two separate entities and keeps tax dollars in Routt County. It's a quality product. The only downside is the price."

Huppert said the bison hot dogs, at $6 per pound, were about six times more expensive than what he could order from the district's food distributor. He said ground beef is about four times more expensive, and top round is three times what he could get from the distributor.

Because the district's order volume for the hot dogs wasn't high, Huppert said there wasn't a break in price, which he said is an issue with most local products.

With the district estimating that it will have to cut $2 million from the 2010-11 school year budget, Huppert acknowledged that he, too, has to tighten up what he spends on food.

The district's school lunch fund is designed to be self-sustaining, but in recent years, it's been supplemented by the general fund.

Huppert has worked to trim the amount the general fund has contributed to the lunch fund since he started working for the district. He's making more food from scratch, which saves on costs, but still is working to make this year's budget — something Huppert said he's on track to accomplish.

According to Finance Di­rec­tor Dale Mellor's De­cem­ber financial report, which was presented to the School Board on Jan. 11, Huppert was under budget for that point in the school year.

Rumsey said the ranch's partnership with the district also included education.

She would like to give students a presentation about how the bison are raised, fed and cared for on the ranch. Rumsey also said she would like the partnership with the district to include field trips to the ranch. There are some logistics to work out before that would happen, she said.

Huppert said he would see if the students liked the hot dogs before placing another order or deciding whether to buy different bison fare.

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