Best of 2016… Agriculture to art

My blogging took a backseat this year after moving from Nebraska to Nevada and getting settled in out west. Resettling took more time than I thought, but that is a post for next year 🙂

I look forward to getting back on track and bringing great stuff to you in 2017. Until then, I wanted to share some of the best posts of 2016, as well as some all-time favorites.

Top 5 posts written in 2016…

  1. Does freezing meat make it more tender?
  2. Meat: To wash or not wash?
  3. Robot butchers? Technology coming to your table
  4. Grain Silo Art
  5. Clay pot cooking: Cornish Game Hens

Reader all-time favorites…

  1. Is the beef industry sustainable: A look at grass-fed, hormones, growth promotants, and more
  2. No added hormones & no antibiotics – meat labeling terms (3)
  3. Chicken ears – the better to hear you with…
  4. Why is there a hole in that steer?… Fistulated Fun Fact Friday
  5. Organic vs. Natural Programs – meat labeling terms (2)
  6. Processed meats and cancer: Fearmongering or true concern?

And because I just like these…

  1. Growing up a rich rancher’s kid
  2. Poop patty… Is there fecal material in your hamburger?
  3. Caring for livestock in cold temperatures
  4. Dark cutting beef… Fun Fact Friday
  5. Butchers, are you talking to yours? 21 conversations you should be having (if you are not already)

I hope you have a happy and healthy New Year!


Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

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Using Social Media to “Agvocate” for Farmers and Scientists

It is no secret that I am passionate about agriculture. I am a fourth generation agriculturalist, educated in various agricultural sciences, and I love the advancements that science and technology are bringing forward in agriculture and food production daily. I try to share my love of ag on all of my social media platforms.

Recently, I had a great interview with the wonderful people at CropLife International. CropLife International’s mission speaks to me, as it reads: We champion the role of agricultural innovations in crop protection and plant biotechnology to support and advance sustainable agriculture.

To read the interview check out Using social media to “agvocate” for farmers and scientists. You may also want to check out other blog posts with great information.

Croplife International can also be found on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

**Note: I was note paid or provided compensation in anyway for this interview or to share information about CropLife International. I just happen to believe in their mission, and we share a common passion for agriculture and the farmers and agriculturalists around the world.


Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

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GMO bill passed by Congress

Congress has passed a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) bill. According to MeatingPlace.com, on July 14, 2016 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 306-117 to pass a bill establishing a national mandatory system of disclosure for foods containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients.

The bill says, “To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes.”

Since the Senate also approved the bill on July 7, in a 63-30 vote, the bill will now be sent to President Obama who has agreed to sign it. The proposed bill was a compromise between Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), ranking member, that will give food manufacturers three options for affixing a GMO label to their goods:

  1. Text, a symbol, or a written statement on the package,
  2. A link to a website or a phone number to call to ask about the food product,
  3.  A QR (Quick Response) code that shoppers would scan with their smartphones to look up information about the food product.

Reportedly, there will be no penalties of fines imposed for noncompliance. Additionally, the bill’s requirements for labeling will be phased in over the coming years, allowing food companies time to adapt.

In reading through the bill, it outlines when a food would/would not meet the criterion expressed about as containing genetically engineered foods. It also states, “SAFETY.—For the purpose of regulations promulgated and food disclosures made pursuant to paragraph (2), a bioengineered food that has successfully completed the pre-market Federal regulatory review process shall not be treated as safer than, or not as safe as, a non-bioengineered counterpart of the food solely because the food is bioengineered or produced or developed with the use of bioengineering.”

The bill exempts foods in which meat and poultry are the main ingredients. GMOAnswers.com addresses the question of If livestock eat genetically modified grain, will there be GMOs in my meat?  The short answer is no, however to fully understand why, be sure to check out the article. Another interesting read is No sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed (peer-reviewed journal article linked in article). The bill also exempts gene-edited food items, or items where genes have been removed. To learn more about gene editing, this article on Questions and answers about CRISPR does a good job explaining. Ultimately determining what exactly a GMO product is will be determined by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) reports Food Safety Magazine.

This agreement was reached just days before the nation’s first biotechnology food labeling law was set to go into effect in Vermont on July 1. This bill prohibits individual states from mandating labels of food or seed that is genetically engineered, creating a patchwork of varying state standards which would needlessly add cost for food companies that package foods and create unnecessary alarm among consumers, reports Mankato Free Press. Additionally, individual state requirements would make it extremely difficult for food manufacturers to distribute food products in multiple states without running into legislative inconsistencies, not to mentioning costs that would be passed to the consumer.

If you keep up on the labeling of genetically modified foods, then you know there has also strong opposition to it. GMO Answers addresses some of those concerns in Why do GMO companies seem like they are so against labeling GMO foods? 

Want more information about GMOs? Some great resources I recommend include:

What do you think about this new bill? Will it be something you look for when you shop for food?

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Ag lives matter… Slow down

We have all experienced inconsiderate and dangerous drivers, but in the agricultural community that risk can be even greater when large, heavy equipment is involved. Recently, a longtime family friend was telling our local branch of Cattlewomen about an experience that happened to her daughter’s friend.  Please read the editorial that Annalyn Settelmeyer submitted to the local papers.

Our teenage daughter, niece and their friends are helping on the hay crew this summer.  My daughter’s 15 year old friend was driving a tractor and hay tedder through Genoa yesterday.  At the main intersection stop sign, her tractor stalled. The tractor has fail safes and is difficult to restart in a fast manner. People behind her were upset started flipping her off, calling her a moron and questioning her parent’s linage. She had never been yelled at or called these names before and got flustered which in turn, exacerbated the situation.  She finally managed to get the tractor going and headed to Jacks Valley.

I grew up near Genoa and was ashamed of such bully-like behavior.  I would like to invite them to come drive a tractor.  People often talk about moving to the area because of the rural lifestyle, green open spaces, cattle and eagles in the fields. We are an agriculture based community and you will often see farm equipment.  This summer while you’re traveling around the valley, please remember we farmers and ranchers have a narrow window to get hay crops up for our cattle and hay customers.  This means more motorists and farming equipment sharing the roads.

According to the National Safety Council 1/3 of all tractor accidents happen on public roads.  Farm equipment moves slowly. A car traveling 55 mph toward a tractor can close a gap the length of a football field (300 ft.) in FIVE seconds.  Our equipment is only moving 15 mph so please slow down as soon as you see a farm implement and the slow moving equipment sign. Our equipment is heavy and difficult to stop.  We need room, don’t assume we can see you.  We don’t have the opportunity to move off the edge of the roads safely allowing others to get by.

The key to safety with farm equipment: caution and patience.  Please slow down.  Don’t follow too closely.  Never cut between the equipment and the escort vehicle if there is one, the escort is there to protect you and us.  Don’t pass until it is clearly safe.  Often it will be difficult or impossible to see where we are entering a field.  Please pay attention to our blinkers and hand signals.  Yes, when making that turn we do have to swing wide.  Yield to large wide equipment coming the opposite direction as well, our equipment is heaver and bigger than most passenger vehicles.

We understand we are delaying you, but please understand we don’t want to be on the road any more than we have too.  We are being as careful as we can.  The main issue is when others are impatient. We have to move in a diligent way to remain safe. We are doing our jobs in proving food for our families and yours.  Please remember, it is someone’s dad, mom, son or daughter driving that tractor.  We are your neighbors, your kids coach, your politician, your church member, and your pharmacist’s daughter.  We share a community together, please, for a short window each year, share the roads with us as well.   We love our teenage daughter, niece and their friends who are working hay crews this summer and are passing on not only a tradition, but a lifestyle that has been in this valley for generations.  Thank you so much!

If you ever encounter a piece of agricultural equipment, a combine, or livestock in the road please proceed with caution. These pieces of equipment are large and heavy, they cannot stop quickly. Ask yourself if passing the agricultural equipment in a dangerous spot is worth dying for or killing someone else? Is something so important that you can’t wait a couple more minutes to pass?


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Life Update: Nebraska to Nevada

I cannot believe June is wrapping up! Where has the time gone? I have been terrible at blogging over the last few months, and for that I apologize. My calendar is freeing up, and I am going to get back in the routine. Until then, I thought I would give you an update on how the big move and career change from Nebraska to Nevada is going.

In case you need a refresher, I announced in The Book of Life: Closing and Opening Chapters that I had made the big decision to leave Nebraska Extension and head west to start a career with Nevada Extension. A main reason for making this drastic move was getting back close to the family ranch and my family here. It has been a lot of fun to celebrate holidays and special occasions with my family again. We have probably seen each other more in the last six months than we have in six years!

We (the Hubs, the cat, and I) left Nebraska mid-December(ish). We picked my Dad up in Denver on day 2, and made our way across Colorado and Utah. We continued to have great weather, so on day 3 we took Nevada’s loneliest highway (Highway 50) across Nevada. When you have a roadtrip of ~1,600 miles you hope it is uneventful, and it was. We were blessed by the travel Gods.

Our belongings and their transportation to Nevada weren’t so lucky. We knew when we planned the move that it could take our stuff three to ten days to arrive. Little did we know that storm after storm across the country would derail those plans. In the end it was about 20 days later when our stuff arrived. Since I had to start work in that time I had to buy a few pairs of slacks and blouses, and we camped out in the apartment for about a week. We were sure glad to see the movers arrive.

Once we got our stuff and got unpacked we hit the ground running. A long journey finally came to an end when the Hubs became an official American citizen. You can read more at My story: 10 Immigration tips when marrying a non-American. Almost six years to the date of when he arrived on his fiance visa, he was raising his right hand and swearing allegiance to the USA. It was a great day, and one that we have waited for for a long time.

Tony

Meanwhile, back at my office… My office manager retired about 10 days after I arrived and our part-time office assistant went on vacation. It was a little stressful to not only learn what I was supposed to do, but to also learn about our budget, how to pay bills, and the other 749 things these great ladies had been doing. Happily, we have since hired a new and fabulous Office Manager and our part-time office assistant is back. It feels great to have all of the pieces in place and to be moving forward again. I immediately partnered up with the Chamber of Commerce to offer Social Media classes to local businesses, and it has gone over very well.

At the ranch, there was another great lamb crop born. Even though we had several large snow storms our family was prepared to handle them and to provide the best care for all of the animals. Read more about how we Care for baby lambs in freezing temperatures. My Mom sold several lambs to the 4-H members, and they did a great job raising them and showed them in May at the Nevada Jr. Livestock Show.

This past spring was a busy one as my Dad had a knee replaced. Considering the extent of the surgery, his recovery has been great. Just weeks after the replacement he was driving the skidsteer again – hard to keep a good rancher down. And even more exciting, my nephew was born. My Mom and I have made several trips to go visit him and his parents, and we anxiously await for their visit here at the end of the summer. I think it is safe to say he has all of wrapped around his chubby little fingers.

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As for fun… Well the Hubs and I took advantage of the nice weather and took a long weekend to Death Valley Super Bloom… A photo journal. Neither of us had ever been there, and it was fantastic. We are already planning our next visit – when the cooler temperatures return. We are also less than 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe, so we have been enjoying that scenic beauty and all that the lake has to offer.

Death AValley Super Bloom

As far as Cali cat, she handled the drive like a champ. However, the entire moving experience traumatized her. My parents have two indoor cats that are not welcoming to other cats, so Cali stayed with my Grandpa until our stuff arrived and we got unpacked (about 3 weeks). He loved the company, but she was not happy with me at all. Once we brought her home it took another month for her to get settled in. She is finally back to her old self now and is not looking forward to moving any time soon.

While there was a lot of other things that happened in the last six months, these are some of the major highlights. I look forward to getting back into a regular blogging routine. As usual, it will be a mixture of current research findings and events, interesting ag stories, and introductions to the people who grow and raise our food.


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Would Removing Beef from the Diet Actually Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Happy Earth Day! Today is generally a day for us to be involved in doing something constructive for our community and our planet. It is also a time to reflect on the sustainability of the Earth and our resources.

The consumption of meat, specifically beef, gets a bad reputation for being perceived as a high emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG). This article share other sources of GHG. More importantly, it challenges you to think about food waste as a consumer, and the role you play in global concerns.

Facts About Beef

Ashley Broocks, Emily Andreini, Megan Rolf, Ph.D., and Sara Place, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the US Department of Agriculture. 

Many people have suggested that removing beef from the human diet could significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In reality, completely removing beef from the diet would likely not result in huge declines in GHG emissions and would have negative implications for the sustainability of the U.S. food system.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beef cattle production was responsible for 1.9 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2013. Comparing food production (essential for human life) to transportation and electricity (non-essential for human survival, but important to our modern lifestyles) is problematic. Electricity and transportation produce much of the GHG emissions in the…

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The faces of agriculture… National Ag Day

National Ag Day (and week) is a time to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. In 2015 I wrote National Ag Week… 5 reasons to thank a consumer. In reading it over again today, I think it is still very relevant.

You may or may not personally know the people who grown and/or raise your food, so today I wanted to share some blog posts and introduce you to various agriculturalists.

Sustainable – More than meets the eye introduces you to three farming and ranching families who are practicing sustainability. They share with you what sustainability looks like for them and how it plays into the fact that these are multi-generational businesses.

Dr. Dee Griffin (cow vet) shares what agriculture means to him in Meet… Dr. Dee Griffin

Wondering what a sixth generation agriculturalist looks like? Trent Loos is a farmer/rancher as well as an advocate for agriculture. In Meet… Trent Loos, he shares what agriculture means to him.

I often share stuff that is happening on my family’s ranch and animal care is no exception. Just over two years ago the Pineapple Express Storm hit the west coast, in California ranchers bracing for Pineapple Express storm I shared what my parents and their neighbors were doing to prepare for this massive weather event. In Care of baby lambs in freezing temperatures, I share what we do to ensure the animals are comfortable and healthy.

As we all know, newborns are delicate and fragile, whether they are human or animal. Sometimes animals need a little extra help. A day in the life of a sheep rancher is a page from my Mom’s playbook and demonstrates how that care is administered, and how that may result in animals being taken to the house. My Mom was also featured in Bummer lamb to replacement ewe

At the end of the day ranchers and farmers are just regular people too. They celebrate life’s milestones and try to take vacations 🙂 In these posts, I introduce you to my Dad in Even ranchers have birthdays! and Shout out to my Dad.

I hope that some of these posts give you some insight and connection to the people growing and/or raising your food.

National Ag Day

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10 things for my younger self on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. I have enjoyed seeing my social media platforms highlighting all of these great women, and it has lead me to do some thinking about being a woman in agriculture. Although life doesn’t come with a manual, if I could go back and share some wisdom with my 20-something self, these are the things I would say to her:

  1. Believe in yourself, always. Believe that you will eventually get to where you want/need to go. Your route may not be the most direct route to get from A to B, but you will get there. Sometimes you will be the only person who believes in you and your ideas, but hang tight, because others will soon be believers too.
  2. Grit will get you through more situations than you would like to think about. When you have nothing else left, when you are raw and vulnerable, wipe away the tears and dig deep to find that grit.
  3. Work for others like you would work for yourself. Treat each and every job you have like it is the most important job ever. You will learn something from each of these jobs (even if you learn that job is not something you ever want to do again) and you will meet some great people along the way. Never loose site of your honesty, integrity, morals, or values for these jobs.
  4. Appreciate the small things, some days that will be all you have. Enjoy birds chirping, sunrises, sunsets, rain, laughter, a slight breeze, and just enough change in your ash tray to buy a bean burrito at Taco Bell. While these may not seem like big things, they will be things you value and appreciate.
  5. Live frugally so that you can save your money to see the world. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful country, explore it! Leave the state you live in, leave America, and see what else the world has to offer. It is always great to travel, but it is nice to come home too. This will give you a greater appreciation for what you have or don’t have here. Plus would you rather see the Natural Wonders of the World in real-life or from behind your computer screen?
  6. Be an eternal optimist. You know the saying you can get more bees with honey than vinegar? Optimism will get you more opportunities than pessimism will. Plus laugh lines are more attractive than frown lines.
  7. You will have some amazing friendships. The friends you will have come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and classes than you can imagine. Some of them will be in your life for a day, some for years, and some will be the kind that would help you bury a body. Be the friend who is like family to the ones who matter.
  8. Try to never give up! Sometimes giving up seems like a much easier route than actually going forward with what you wanted to do. But always ask yourself, could you live with the decision you made to give up on something? On a few occasions the answer will be yes, and know that you tried hard, and that you had to give up before you lost sight of who you were.
  9. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Some interesting things will present themselves to you, things you never thought you would have a chance to do. Consider them carefully, but try not to pass them up. Sometimes the timing will not be right, but put it on the back-burner and return to those opportunities.
  10. Having a career in agriculture and helping people in agricultural fields will not be easy, but it will be rewarding. As a woman you may have to work harder, longer, and for less pay than your male counterparts. Sometimes you will have to fight (not literally) to be heard and taken seriously, pick your battles and don’t back down when the times come. You are meant to be in the agriculture industry for a reason, go prove it.

Pic collage

What advice would you give to your younger self?

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Christmas in the Country

This year (well December 2015) when it was announced it was time for sign ups for the annual Christmas in the Country, I was hesitant. Last year was my first year to participate and I loved it… But this year I was changing careers and we were moving 1,600 miles from Nebraska to Nevada. So what did I do? I signed up to participate another year! This is a great event for ag bloggers, and has been an excellent way to meet others with similar interests.

This year I received Lara at My Other More Exciting Self. Lara is always posting excellent turkey recipes, delicious looking baking projects, and pictures of her family and Earl the Pug (I mean technically he is family too, right?). I was a complete slacker and didn’t get any pictures of what I sent Lara… Luckily she documented it well and wrote about it in her Christmas in the Country reveal post. I had fun making and thinking about things that Lara and her family would enjoy.

My surprise Santa was Taysha at Dirt Road Charm. I met Taysha a couple of years ago at an AgChat Conference, and give credit to her and her co-presenters on me taking up a more active role on Instagram. Taysha included a handwritten note in the box and told me that her local hardware store has a craft/gift section where local people from the community can sell handmade goods. How fun is that?! They were all made with love in Edon, Ohio.Christmas in Country 1

My box had a pair of mittens, which were upcycled from old sweaters by a stay-at-home mom. They are so warm and soft, perfect for the cold winter we have been having. There was a faucet knob picture holder made by a local farmer that is so clever and cute, and is already up in my new office! A burlap wine bottle sack that says “Cheers” made by the hardware owner. I may have to keep this thing for myself 🙂 And last, but not least, there was a great grain sack bag (aka purse) in there. On this gift Taysha’s letter made me laugh as she says “No idea, but I’m sure someone made it (right?)”. Haha yes, someone did make it, and it is very cute and roomy. I had to keep an eye on my Mom as she was eyeballing this for herself over Christmas. I think Taysha did an excellent job with the gifts, and they will all be well used. I encourage you to check out what Taysha received in the Christmas in the County exchange and to read her hilarious posts on motherhood.

A huge shoutout to the ladies who pulled off the 2015 Christmas in the Country. I know it cannot be easy, and I certainly appreciate the reminders of deadlines.  Check out their blogs: Jamie – This Uncharted Rhoade, Laurie – Country Linked, Kirby – 15009 Farmhouse, and Lara – My Other More Exciting Self. If you are interested in seeing what all of the bloggers who participated received, and their posts about it, head over to the lineup on This Uncharted Rhoade.

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Robot Butchers? Technology coming to your table

Recently, an article came across my desk from one of my meat industry news updates about JBS meat packing looking into using robots to process swine and lamb carcasses initially, with beef to eventually follow. In college I spent a lot of time in packing plants collecting beef carcass data, meat, and other tissues needed for samples. While I think it can be done, I think there may be some challenges (i.e. animal welfare, food safety, lack of human element) that will have to be overcome before we are ready to turn over meat processing to robots.

Below is a summation of articles from Harvest Media News and NPR on meat cutting robots. What are your thoughts about this high tech and revolutionary idea? 

meatbots_custom-3ed74201cd2d35802e270339b70141c10ce31ce0-s800-c85

Beef carcasses. Source: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants throughout the country employ about a quarter of a million persons.  Some of those workers that prepare the beef, pork, and chicken that ends up on dinner tables could eventually be replaced by robots. The world’s largest meatpacking company (JBS, the Brazil-based protein powerhouse) is looking at ways to automate the art of butchery.

Late last fall, JBS bought a controlling share of Scott Technology, a New Zealand-based robotics firm. While many manufacturers have gone to automated machines to process and package everything from food to furniture, the beef industry has held onto its workers. It takes thousands of workers to run a modern beef plant. In fact, U.S. meatpacking plants are expected to add jobs in the next decade, as the appetite for pork, chicken, and beef grows in the developing world.

Disassembly is the name of the game on the fabrication floor at the JBS beef processing plant in Greeley, Colorado. Workers hold a knife in one hand, and their sharpening steel is close to their side. Line workers are dressed in chainmail, a protective mesh lining under white jackets (frocks/smocks) and aprons. Deft cuts cleave bone and meat, turning a whole cow into neat and trim cuts like tenderloins, steaks, and roasts.

“There’s right now 850 people out in this building alone,” says plant manager Bill Danley as he weaves through the maze of conveyor belts, stainless steel slides, and bone bins. The plant is a far cry from your grandfather’s butcher shop, where a single person would need to know how to turn an entire animal into cuts of meat. Large beef companies like JBS, Cargill, and Tyson have turned each minute step of the process into a job. Danley lists some of the titles: chuck boner, tender puller, back splitter, knuckle dropper, and tail ripper. “There’s a lot of jobs out here that prep for the other person,” Danley says.

Each year JBS pays out more than $100 million in paychecks to its 3,000 employees. It’s a huge chunk of the company’s operating costs. That could begin to change with JBS’ new venture into the world of robotics. “This is a very innovative and exciting company that we invested in,” JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett says of the company’s investment in Scott Technology. “And we’re excited to see what they’ll come up with.”

JBS is looking at how robots could fit into its lamb and pork plants first, Bruett says. Sheep and pigs tend to be more uniform than beef cattle. “Now when it comes to beef packing, beef processing, the fabrication of the animal, it’s very difficult to automate beef processing,” Bruett says. The various breeds of cattle brought into the plant also complicate the future of robots in meatpacking. Some days the plant breaks down the long, lanky bodies of Holsteins. Other days they’re working on sturdy, thickset Angus and Hereford. Robots would need the ability to adjust to the spectrum of cattle breeds.

The meatpacking robots of today use vision technology to slice and dice, but the key to butchery is touch, not sight. JBS’s beef division president, Bill Rupp, says right now, robots just can’t feel how deep a bone is, or expertly remove a filet mignon. “When you get into that detailed, skilled cutting, robots aren’t there yet. Someday, I’m sure they will be,” Rupp says. “It can’t do the fine cutting that you see on the fab floor, that’s one of the big challenges right now.” Robotic technology doesn’t have the fine motor skills that come easily to humans and there isn’t room for error. Some of the cuts being boxed up bring upward of $14 per pound, Rupp explains, so the key is being able to leave it on the meat and not on the bone. “I mean that’s how our business works.”

The technology isn’t quite ready for a massive roll out, but could the economics of widespread robotic use in the beef industry ever work? Not any time soon, says Don Stull, an anthropologist who spent 30 years studying the cultures of meatpacking towns at the University of Kansas. “Workers are really cheaper than machines,” Stull says. “Machines have to be maintained. They have to be taken good care of. And that’s not really true of workers. As long as there is a steady supply, workers are relatively inexpensive.” There’s a stream of immigrants and refugees, most from Somalia, Rwanda, El Salvador, and Guatemala, ready to put on the chainmail and pick up the knife, Stull says. In large, modern plants, companies pay less because the skill needed to work on the fabrication floor is so low. Some jobs take less than a week to fully master. Turnover in the industry is high, Stull points out, because of the physical demands. Slicing meat all day can lead to repetitive injuries. JBS employs an athletic trainer to keep employees limber and fit. Stull says it’s still common for workers to transfer jobs at the same plant to make better money or to just avoid falling apart. “After you do the same thing thousands of times a day, six days a week … your body wears down,” Stull says.

While the industry says it has dramatically improved on worker safety over the years, meatpacking jobs consistently rank among the most hazardous in the country. Workers stand along conveyor belts on raised platforms, adjustable based on each person’s height. Those platforms were a big step in improving ergonomic conditions for workers, Danley says. Increased automation could ease some of those injuries.

Meat processing makes up a huge portion of Great Plains communities’ rural economies, what happens inside meat processing plants affects not only the companies involved, but the very culture of rural America.

Until technology catches up in both skill and costs, meatpacking companies will continue hiring workers to turn cattle, chickens, and hogs into cuts of meat.

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Source: Stephanie Paige Ogburn/KUNC

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