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Category Archives: Young Producers

The Evolution of Cattle Production: Why Consumers Can’t Have the iPhone 5, Sprawling Suburbs and the Pitchforked Farmer Too

BY AMINA BENNETT, Wife and Mother near Chicago, IL

Originally published Oct. 3, 2013: http://www.mommamina.com/2013/10/the-evolution-of-cattle-production-why.html 

The iPhone 5s was just released a few days ago, excited consumers across the nation eagerly waited hours (even overnight) for Apple stores to open in anticipation of getting their hands on the newest Apple technology. The iPhone 5s now boasts a larger screen, Touch ID, a faster operating system and enhanced camera features. Technology in communication is widely embraced, new inventions are encouraged, and consumers are eager to evolve with the changing times. That said, I think it’s safe to say that I would be an anomaly if I walked down the street with a vintage phone…

Hellooooooooooo

or a cell phone circa 1983…

Yup…they once looked like this!

So why is it that the same eagerness to evolve with the changing times, which is so apparent in the communications industry, not exhibited for the agricultural industry? In a recent visit to the Larson Farm, Farmer Mike Martz made mention that he felt as though society wanted him to “farm like how his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had farmed in years passed.” But with an increasing population, more urban sprawl (which leads to less farmland), and fewer farms to spread the labor (as future generations of farmers opt out of the family business), why are Americans unwilling to let farming evolve with the times?

While I haven’t got the answers to why some folks are so unyielding to the evolution of agriculture, I can only address the 5 fears that I once touted as the big WHY. And it goes a little something like this…

1. No Feedlots Please, I prefer my cattle roaming and grazing
As a Midwest city girl I always assumed that land outside of the city lights (and suburban sprawl) was sufficient enough to raise tons of cattle for grazing and roaming. But with the growing population and constant building outside of the city limits we’re encroaching upon farmland and animal habitats. Even coyotes have decided that since they can’t beat our burgeoning population that they’re going to join us here in the city. So when it comes to raising enough cattle to feed a large population, cattle feedlots are in response to the need for more livestock within a smaller farm area.

2. I don’t want my family consuming extra hormones; I’malready portly AND I want my kids to look like kids!
Sure, hormones are implanted into the ear of cattle to increase their size during their last few months of life, but according to the FDA, “all approved implant products have a zero day withdrawal. This means that the meat from the animal farm is safe for humans to eat at any time after the animal is treated.” In addition, the ears are discarded before the animal is slaughtered.

Furthermore, because I’m a believer in the power of statistical information, here’s a couple stats to give you some perspective on hormone use in cattle:

Organic Beef = 1.4 nanograms of estrogen hormone per 3 oz of meat
Conventional Beef = 1.9 nanograms of estrogen hormone per 3 oz of meat 
Potatoes = 225 nanograms of estrogen hormone (occurring naturally) per average sized potato
Birth Control Pills (at the lowest dose) = 20,000 nanograms per pill  

M&M visual of hormone dosages compliments of the Larson Farm
 Left to Right: Organic, Conventional, Baked Potato, Birth Control Pill

3. I don’t want to consume antibiotics when I’m not even sick!
Well, if you’ve followed my farming posts thus far, then you’ve got an idea on what I’ve learned about antibiotics. If you haven’t, check it out a here! But suffice it to say that at the Larson Farm, sick cattle are tagged, removed and then tested. The sick cattle are then kept 2 weeks later than when they are “technically” safe to sell as an added precaution. Antibiotics are not permitted on the meat market.

4. All feedlot farms (especially CAFO’s) are inhumane and mistreating their cattle 
Just a bit of clarification here. A feedlot is an area or building where livestock are fed or fattened up. A CAFO is a concentrated animal “production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined spaces, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls and manure management) for land and labor.” The Larson Farm is considered a CAFO (due to the number of cattle housed) and as a result, the farm undergoes a required certification every 3 years by the EPA.

While visiting the Larson Farm I didn’t witness any signs of animal abuse (no excessive mooing, cow bullying-yes it happens amongst cattle too, and no fear of people). I don’t believe anyone these days is naive to the mistreatment of animals in the farming industry, but what I can attest to is that not ALL farmers treat their animals cruelly. In fact, cruelty is not a matter of size or conventional versus organic. It’s a matter of the moral fiber of the farmer raising the animal. Which brings me to my next point…

5. I don’t want my food coming off of an assembly line!
Since when did being organized get a bad rap?!?! In fact, it’s when systems are not in place where all good intentions go to hell. Ever heard of Temple Grandin?

Temple Grandin is an autistic woman who transformed the livestock industry by inventing improvements to the animal handling systems found on ranches, farms and meat plants. She is most known for the center-track restraint system that is widely used across North America.

Cows enter and exit the center-track system here

 

Top of center-track system which prevents cows from backing up and flipping over one another
Gentle “Hug” which calms the cattle immediately so that the ultrasound tech can check marbling and fat levels
Her invention decreases and eliminates the fear and pain animals experience when they are being handled and eventually slaughtered. You see, the successful management of large numbers of animals requires advanced engineering and forethought to prevent falls, crippling injuries and untimely death. Kudos to Larson Farms for incorporating this ingenious system into their farming processes. By the way…it’s composed entirely of scrap metal!  
 
As our world continues to evolve, our food industry has to adapt alongside of it. In practical terms, with millions more people on the earth, the days of free roaming animals that eat off of the land, and farmers driving horse-drawn plows… are gone. With farmers being charged with feeding more than just their family and their town, and with less space to do it, farmers (although still good stewards of the land) are seeking efficient and effective ways to raise livestock and cultivate the land within the changing times. Everything must evolve, just as the iPhone 5s will soon give way to the iPhone 6… 
 
…it’s just a matter of time. 

Are you still envisioning the pitch-forked farmers of the past? Do you believe that the agricultural industry should evolve with the times?

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CMT Encourages Followers to Go Meat-Free For a Day

By: Sarah Ryan, YPC Leadership Board

I was perusing my news feed on Facebook this morning (Oct.1) and came across this message from Advocates for Agriculture: “CMT started off today with an insulting tweet, asking people if they can go meat-free today for World Vegetarian Day. They may play country music but they obviously don’t understand much of anything about what happens out in the country.”

Time for an admission, I haven’t joined Twitter.  But, I did follow the link provided by Advocates for Agriculture to CMT’s tweet  and was impressed by how quickly the meat raising agriculture community started to tweet back.  Among the tweets was a call to boycott CMT.  Can’t say I disagree… but I’d have to start watching so I could quit.

I am most impressed by the constant message that 1. CMT should be supportive of ranching families and eating meat and 2. constant positive messaging that eating meat is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  Obviously this exemplifies again that programs like MBA are working!  I’m really proud that agriculture has come so far (joining social media, etc.) and is ready with positive messages to promote our way of life.

Finally, I’m disappointed that companies, like CMT, have decided to promote one lifestyle choice over another.  As one person tweeted, (in my words) wouldn’t CMT’s tweet have been better spent talking about today as the start of pink month and awareness than promoting a meat-free diet…

How do you react to these types of messages?  Do you boycott any company that promotes meat-free days, especially meatless Mondays?

 

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Diary of a N. Ireland Girl

Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster member, Rachel Martin has just returned from her two month International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) to the U.S.A. The trip saw the Northern Irish farmer’s daughter leave Belfast on the 8th June and return on the 9th August traveling through a total of twelve states in a bid to learn about agriculture and culture in North America:

photo-25I was supposed to meet my first host the next day.  Sure, I had seen her photograph but there was still something daunting about the thought of meeting a stranger at a train station 6000 miles from home to go and live with them for three weeks.  The train was running late and I was worried about whether my host would even be there.  Besides, what if they were mean or creepy?  Counter to my worries Josie, my first host turned out to be very friendly and welcoming.  After all, she had volunteered to look after an international delegate and show them a little about her life and her work with 4-H in her county.

During my trip, I met and stayed with several families learning about life on their farms and ranches.   By staying with locals I quickly learned a lot about the USA, and not just the difference between chips, fries and crisps or the difficulties in ordering “proper tea” as opposed to iced tea.  But thanks to the in-depth learning experience provided by the exchange, I learned about family life, social faux pas, rocky mountain oysters – much more than a standard tourist could ever have discovered!

During my trip I have seen first-hand many of the agricultural challenges faced in the Western states.  In Northern Montana, I helped put out a hay field fire and just a few days later watched as hail tore up a year’s worth of hard work.  Unfortunately for the family, this was just part of farming in that area and something they had to be prepared for.  It made me reflect a lot on the challenges farmers face at home and that whilst my friends at home often grumble about the “bad weather” and seemingly endless rain, I soon discovered that as food producers our climate in Northern Ireland really isn’t the worst.

herding cattle

As part of her International Farm Youth exchange trip, Rachel helped herd cattle across McCartney Mountain in southwest Montana.

One of the most adrenalin inducing experiences of the trip was helping the Smith family to herd cattle across McCartney Mountain in south-west Montana.  As a girl who was never allowed a pony when she was younger because they “tramp up the fields” I found it interesting when many ranchers told me they find their horses to be more useful than their four wheelers.  Whilst in southwest Montana I also drove machinery for a few days to haul bales to the stack yard and enjoyed the work hard, play hard mentality on the ranch.  Along with my host siblings Jacob and Elizabeth I visited the Montana Folk Festival and got the drive in movie experience – something I loved and wish we had at home!

As part of the programme, I also met with 4-H children preparing their steers for the county fair as well as another group of children who were practising showing with their sheep and pigs.  I also was lucky enough to visit the State Fair in Great Falls and to go to different types of rodeos as well as seeing attractions such as Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Virginia City, Crystal Park and Glacier National Park.

My trip started in New York where I spent a few days doing all the super touristy stuff before I jumped on a train and travelled to IFYE Orientation in Bloomington, Illinois to meet with other International delegates before I went on to stay with families for the rest of the trip.  I would like to thank all my host families, IFYE, 4-H and YFCU for facilitating the exchange and making it such a success.

The IFYE program is an in-depth learning experience in which 4-H alumni and other young adults live with host families in other countries to increase global awareness, develop independent study interests, and improve language skills. Programs vary from country to country, with some emphasizing an agricultural work experience, volunteering at an adult training centre, or working with a local youth development program such as 4-H or YFCU.  If you would like to read more about Rachel’s travels check out her blog http://www.youngfarmerinthestates.wordpress.com.

 

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NCBA Accepting Applications for Spring and Summer Public Policy Internships

WASHINGTON (Sept. 13, 2013) — The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) government affairs office in Washington, D.C., is accepting applications for spring and summer 2014 public policy internships. The deadline to submit an application for these opportunities is Oct. 6, 2013.

Screen Shot 2012-09-18 at 9.05.14 AM“NCBA’s public policy internship gives college students a one-of-a-kind view into the policy making process in Washington, D.C., while helping them prepare to transition from college to career,” said NCBA Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts. “We are looking for college students with an interest in the beef industry, public policy and communications to help NCBA represent cattlemen and cattlewomen in Washington, D.C. The internship is designed to work closely with the lobbying team on Capitol Hill and assist with NCBA’s regulatory efforts.”


The full-time spring internship will begin Jan. 6, 2014, and end May 9, 2014. The full-time summer internship will begin May 19, 2014 and end Aug. 22, 2014. To apply, interested college juniors, seniors or graduate students should submit the application, a college transcript, two letters of recommendation and a resume to 
internship@beef.org. More information and the internship application are available on NCBA’s website.

“This isn’t a ‘check-the-box’ style of internship. NCBA’s public policy interns work alongside NCBA staff on critical issues ranging from agriculture policy to trade, the environment and more.” Butts said. “If you or someone you know is interested in this opportunity, we encourage you to apply.”

 

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Tweeting Tips from Mal the Beef Gal

There is so much to say and only 140 characters in which to say so on Twitter. How did Shakespeare put it? To Tweet or not to Tweet. That is the question. Or something very close to that, right? Today, I’d like to put a little pep in your step when it comes to Twitter so that we can continue to share our beef stories with consumers and our cattle community friends alike!

Malorie Bankhead 1My name is Malorie Bankhead, and I come to you over the blogosphere from California. I just recently graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Agricultural Communication in June, and I am also a past National Beef Ambassador. I first created my social media penname Mal the Beef Gal when I created my Twitter account in 2010 as a member of the National Beef Ambassador Team. One of our tasks as a National Beef Ambassador was to share the beef story over social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I had previous experience in Facebook and YouTube, but Twitter made me a little nervous. To ease the beginner’s pain for you, or to help you become more engaged in the Twitterverse, I have created checklist that will help you conquer Twitter one character, hashtag, and tweet at a time.

About a month ago I was given the opportunity to serve as an intern for the American National CattleWomen in Denver at the Cattle Industry Summer Conference. One of my duties at the conference was to facilitate the Advocacy/Your Beef Story workshop and lead the Twitter portion of the workshop. First, we learned various myth-busting facts to present to consumers with questions about how beef is raised and how healthy it is for us to eat from Dr. Jude Capper. I followed up with ways to relay the messages we learned and other great beef story tidbits on Twitter. Here are a few tips to getting started and keeping your Twitter profile fueled to share your beef story.

  1. If you are new to Twitter and want to join, follow the advice of a very popular shoe company:  Just do it! Visit www.twitter.com, enter your name, email, and newly created password, and click the yellow “Sign up for Twitter” button. Then follow the prompts Twitter will give you to set up your profile. You will be able to select a profile picture (it is very important not to skip this step so that fellow Tweeters can put a face to your name), choose several people to follow on Twitter (this means you will be able to view their Tweets. They have to follow you in order to see yours), set your privacy settings, and create your first tweet!
  2. Let’s define some Twitter vocab. Here is some popular jargon you may hear used for Twitter. Hopefully these will help you!

Twitter:  The name of the social media network which allows you to post 140 characters in your message.

Tweet:  The 140 character message you produce on Twitter.

Follow:  You may follow someone in order to receive their tweets in your live feed.

Follower:  Someone who follows you on Twitter and receives your tweets in their live feed.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 11.28.49 AMHashtag:  A group of characters following the pound sign. Hashtags are a type of conversation markers. For example, if you include the #beef hashtag in one of your tweets, your tweet is grouped with all of the other tweets with #beef in them. Another example of a hashtag that is not necessarily a real word is #CISC13 which stands for Cattle Industry Summer Conference 2013. Sometimes conferences or other events come up with their own hashtag to group together all the tweets with the hashtag in them. You can enter any hashtag you want in the search bar of Twitter, and you will be directed to a feed of those hashtags.

Retweet:  You can retweet a tweet that someone has already posted. If you want your followers to be able to read the tweet, you can click the symbol that looks like two continuous arrows in a square underneath the tweet, and it will show up in your followers’ live feed.

Favorite:  You can click the star underneath a tweet to favorite it, which is the equivalent of liking a post on Facebook. Twitter will notify the author of the tweet that you favorited their tweet. It’s kind of like giving a thumbs up or your stamp of approval on a tweet.

Reply:  This is the arrow pointing left underneath the tweet, which will automatically tag the person who wrote the tweet you want to reply to. Twitter will also keep your tweets together in a conversation. You can click the talk bubble that says ‘view conversation’ to see your responses to each other.

Chats:  The cool thing about hashtags is that you can use them in Twitter chats. One kind of chat that I have participated in before is the #agchat. There is usually a host or a moderator to the chat who is responsible for tweeting the questions for the chat. Since it is so fast paced I use www.twubs.com to participate in the chat. This is a website that shows only the tweets with the chat hashtag in them and makes it easier to follow along and participate. Ag Chats are every Tuesday evening from 5-8 p.m. ET. Join in to see what it’s all about. You may choose just to view the chat your first time, but participating is highly encouraged!

3. If you want to share an article or a link you have found in a tweet, the normal URL will take up too many of your 140 character space. I utilize www.tinyurl.com to fix this problem. You can copy and paste the long URL into the box that says “make tinyURL”, and it will create a shorter link for you that you can copy and paste into your tweet to save room. You can find great links to share your beef story on www.factsaboutbeef.com and www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com.

And before it gets too confusing, I’ll pause for now. The point of this post is to intrigue you, not to overwhelm you, so I hope I have provided some sort of inspiration to you to jump into Twitter with both feet! For more encouragement I will share with you my Twitter secret: it took me nearly a year and a half to become a regular Twitter user. But when I made the commitment to share my beef story on Twitter the motto “practice makes perfect” helped a lot! I first made a plan to tweet three times a week, and then gradually increased my tweeting to multiple times a day. Now I’m a Twitter regular, and you can be too!

So, how can you put your new Twitter knowledge to good use? Dive in, and try it out! The best way to learn, I find, is to explore. Get comfortable with Twitter by clicking on new tabs and seeing what is available to you. What questions do you have about Twitter? Please leave them in the comments section of this blog!

Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter, if you’d like, @malthebeefgal. See you in the Twitterverse!

Sin-steer-ly,

Mal the Beef Gal

 

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BEEF, Great for the Heart… and the Soul

BY ELIZABETH BURNS-THOMPSON, YPC Member

We know that lean beef is part of a heart-healthy diet, but the benefits of this “power protein” go far beyond the dinner plate.

This year the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association celebrated the 31st annual Governor’s Charity Steer Show at the Iowa State Fair. The show has become a long-standing tradition at the fair, and is the result of months of hard-work and collaboration between  industry sponsors that purchase the steers, the youth that raise them, and the local celebrities that volunteer their time to participate in the event.

Ronald McDonald and Craig Hill, the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, with the Grand Champion Steer.

Ronald McDonald, IFBF president, Craig Hill, and Shanee Tate with her Grand Champion steer.

Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and many other celebrities from across the state lead the 25 steers around the ring, vying for the championship ribbon and showmanship award. Following the show, the steers were auctioned off with the proceeds from each sale going to charity. Since its inception back in 1983, the show has raised more than $2 million for the Ronald McDonald Houses of Iowa, which provides a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children being treated in near-by hospitals.

This year’s Grand Champion steer, “Farm Bureau Pride,” was raised by Shanee Tate from Renwick, Iowa. The steer was sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, and shown by IFBF President, Craig Hill. Following the close of the auction, a record-breaking $185,339 had been raised, which will be divided amongst the three Ronald McDonald Houses in the state. The Governor’s Charity Steer Show is just another great demonstration of agriculture’s continued support for Iowa families.

About the author: Elizabeth is a third-year student at Drake Law School, working on her Juris Doctorate specializing in Agricultural Law, and is a member of the Iowa Beef Advocate Network . She was born and raised on a small family farm in eastern Iowa, and holds a B.S. in Agricultural Business and International Agriculture from Iowa State University.

 

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The Little Opportunities

BY ZEKE McCARTY, YPC Leadership Board

I recall an instance when I was grocery shopping with a good friend of mine about a year ago. We were walking through the beef section of the meat department at our local King Soopers, checking prices and cuts just to see if anything stood out as a “must have” at the moment.

InteractiveMeatCaseAs we were browsing, we hear a man behind us ask the meat department employee a question. He held up two different packages of beef and asked, “Which is better: Angus or Choice?” The employee quickly piped up stating, “Angus is better.” As soon as my friend heard her answer, he couldn’t help but intervene in the conversation to make sure the consumer was quickly educated on the facts of what exactly Angus beef was and how that compared/related to USDA Choice beef. It was a textbook maneuver if I had ever seen one. He politely introduced himself into the conversation, provided his credentials in order to be viewed as a reliable source, and explained the facts.

As I reflected on the occurrence, I thought: “What would have happened if my friend had not said anything?” That consumer would have been “educated” by the meat department “specialist” when in reality, it was simply her opinion. That consumer would have gone along, for potentially his entire life, without knowing the basic facts regarding Angus beef and Choice beef. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to discount Angus beef by any means. I just believe in the principle of allowing someone to make their own opinion after they’ve been provided the facts. But not only that, think about the number of people this one consumer could influence throughout his lifetime with the information he was provided by simply word of mouth.

PrintA few weeks ago, at the same King Soopers’ beef section, an almost identical situation arose. I happened to overhear a man ask a meat department employee (different employee) what the difference was between Angus and Choice beef. At least this employee didn’t take it upon himself to offer his opinions as facts which I give him credit for. He simply told the man, “I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference.” I knew at that moment, it was up to me to step up and provide a little education, which I did. As I reflected again, I couldn’t help but imagine how many times a day that must happen. How many consumers look to these “experts” in their field of customer service and are provided with wrong or no information at all?

Now, my purpose isn’t to degrade my local King Soopers or ridicule the meat department employees by any means. I still continue to shop there and still continue to interact with the people. My purpose is simply to challenge you as I have myself. Be aware and take advantage of the little opportunities that arise where you can provide some insight and knowledge concerning our industry. If we want our industry to strive, we must do our part to provide and promote the truth and facts in a misinformed, consumer driven world.

Editor’s note: If you would like to know more about beef cuts and grades, check out the Interactive Meat Counter for more information and ways you can save at the store. Images and information provided by the Beef Checkoff. Beef It’s What’s For Dinner. 

 

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