Natural beef pioneer Glenn Melvin "Mel" Coleman died Feb. 3 of pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
A great-great-grandson of homesteaders in Colorado before it was a state, and a man who had true ties to the land and the animals that thrived on the range, Coleman ranched in the San Luis Valley, a high mountain desert in the south-central part of the state.
In spite of his background in traditional ranching, Coleman recognized problems in the beef market of the 1970s. Diethylstilbestrol had recently been prohibited in beef production, but he was still concerned about the hormones, antibiotics and stimulants that were permitted in beef production.
Natural beef was the answer.
To Coleman, that meant beef raised without antibiotics and bovine growth hormone. He wanted only vitamins and minerals added to food; no preservatives in feed would be allowed. It also meant animals that needed antibiotics would be treated, but would be removed from the herd.
In his first year of natural beef production, Coleman told the Denver Post in a 1986 interview that he sold only 50 head of cattle. No one knew what natural meant when applied to beef.
Things have changed.
Today, Coleman Natural Products Inc. earns more than $70 million a year—50 percent of the natural beef market.
Coleman beef, raised by like-minded ranchers according to Coleman regulations on more than 700 ranches in the U.S. West, is sold in approximately 2,500 retail outlets across the country and in Japan.
Coleman was a member of the National Cattlemen's Association and an adviser to the Humane Society of the United States. He was a member of the Colorado Board of Trustees of the Nature Conservancy, acting as a liaison between the conservancy and the agricultural community.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Polly; two sons, Mel Jr. and Greg; and a daughter, Diana Montanari.
Mel Coleman is the subject of a Natural Legacy profile in October 2002.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 3/p. 11