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:

– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
Facebook
Pinterest

 

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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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Fire: Friend or Foe?

You may (or may not) have heard about the major wildfires that have burned thousands of grassland acres in Kansas and Oklahoma over the last week. Not only does this limit the grass available for livestock to graze, but it can displace wildlife that share the area, and it can threaten (or completely destroy) homes and structures as well as fencing and stored hay. However, fires can be beneficial too, as they remove old dead grass, weeds, and trees making room for new grass to grow. I thought I would share with you more about fires, and how they are used to manage agricultural land.

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom recently blogged about The Fire the National Media Won’t Tell You About. Nicole talks about the size of the fire, animals impacted, and Mother Nature’s hand in it all. Since so many of the people impacted here lost pasture grass, hay in storage, fences, and more, donation and relief funds have been established to help these folks during this time.

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Burning a pasture. Photo courtesy of A Kansas Farm Mom (Nicole).
Also on Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom, you can follow Flat Aggie on a Prescribed Burn. Flat Aggie is sent on adventures, and classrooms can follow the adventures to learn more about how food is produced. In this example, you can learn what preparation goes into preparing for a burn.

The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, will occasionally have her husband – Marlboro Man, share information about their Oklahoma ranch. In the post Why We Burn Our Pastures, he talks about the benefits to burning a pasture, as well as what that means for the cattle who graze their pastures.

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Cedar trees (which are an undesired tree in pastures) being burnt. Photo courtesy of A Kansas Farm Mom (Nicole).
Over at Kids, Cows and Grass, Debbie shares Why do ranchers burn their pastures? Five beneficial reasons to put up with the smoke. Learn why burning is beneficial to wildlife as well as why there are less chemical applications after a fire.

While fires can certainly be devastating, they can also be beneficial, especially to grasslands and pastures. I hope these blog posts gave you some new insight into the process.

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New growth after the burn. Photo courtesy of A Kansas Farm Mom (Nicole).
Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
Facebook
Pinterest

Top 10 in 2015… Don’t miss these!

Well the 2015 “tops” countdowns have begun…

Today I bring you the Top 10 most read blogposts from 2015 (insert drumroll here).

10. 10 things you may not about GMOs

9. Growing up a rich rancher’s kid

8. Poop Patty… Is there fecal material in your hamburger?

7. Butchers, are you talking to yours? 21 conversations you should be having (if you are not already)

6. Chicken ears – the better to hear you with…

5. Cold temps cause frozen ears…

4. Do you know where your food comes from? Take the quiz. 

3. Processed meats and cancer: Fearmongering or true concern? 

2. Meat labeling: no added hormones and no antibiotics

1. Is the beef industry sustainable: A look at grass-fed, hormones, growth promotants, and more 

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And for fun, these posts were some of the tops in 2014…

Dumping Discover

Meat labeling: Grain-fed and grass-fed

Meat labeling: Organic and natural programs

Gluten free myths

Jello, lipstick, and marshmallows –  oh my! 

I hope all of you have a great New Year full of blessings and prosperity. See you in 2016!

Dr. Lindsay Chichester

Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
Facebook
Pinterest

Is the beef industry sustainable: A look at grass-fed, hormones, growth promotants, and more

Recently, several of my colleagues and I hosted a Sensitive Issues: Media and Communication Training, we worked on developing and improving our communication skills around agriculture and agricultural topics. One of the topics we received more information on was sustainability.

Dr. Jude Capper, a livestock sustainability consultant, was our first speaker. I want to share with some of the messages about sustainability shared by Dr. Capper.

Capper– Sustainability is defined as “able to last or continue for a long time.” Many livestock farmers and ranchers are sustainable – whether they raise 10 head or 1,000 head. If you have never heard of the Century Farms Program, you should check it out. The American Farm Bureau Foundation recognizes farms or ranches by state that have been in a family for 100+ years! That is sustainable.

– There are essentially three things that need to be considered to be sustainable: 1) the economic viability, 2) the environmental response, and 3) the social acceptance. I think you would agree that no matter the type of agriculture system, these are all important to livestock farmers and ranchers.

– Every farmer and rancher can be sustainable! Sustainability is seen in all types of agriculture — conventional, organic, grass-fed, grain-fed, small, and large. Size of the agricultural enterprise is NOT a determinant of sustainability. Sustainability does not just apply to niche agricultural products.

– Animal agriculture’s U.S. carbon footprint is small! According tot he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meat production accounts for 2.1% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

– If everybody in the U.S. went meatless every Monday for an entire year… The National carbon footprint would only decrease by less than 1/3 of 1 percent!

– If animal agriculture did not exist, what would be the carbon cost of sourcing product ingredients that currently come from agricultural byproducts? Think about all of the products we use daily (i.e. cosmetics, gelatin based foods, paints, etc.), medications, and even food for our pets. Animal agriculture helps keep the carbon footprint low!

– Meat and dairy can be replaced with vegetable proteins, but humans produce methane too!

– In 1977, it took five animals to produce the same amount of beef as four animals in 2007. Raising beef has become more efficient. 

– In 1977 it took 609 days to get them to a harvest (slaughter) weight, in 2007 it took 485 days.  This equates to 3,045 animal days in 1977 and 1,940 animal days in 2007. Raising beef has become more sustainable, and is reducing resources.

– If we converted our current cattle feeding system entirely to a grass-fed system:

– We would need 64.6 million more cattle for a grass-fed system. These cattle average a 615 pound hot carcass weight (the weight after the animal has been harvested, hide, hooves, and intestines/variety meats removed), and it would take approximately 679 days to get them to a desirable harvest (slaughter) weight.

– In comparison, a conventional (or grain-fed beef animal) has an approximate 800 pound hot carcass weight and takes approximately 444 days to get to desirable harvest weight. 

*** All cattle farming/ranching systems are needed and valued, whether it is grain-fed, grass-fed, organic, or natural — one is not better than another, they are just different.

– If, the entire beef industry converted entirely to grass-fed beef we would need an additional 131 million acres of land, 468 billion gallons of water, and 131 million tones of carbon!

– Hormones in food are considered unacceptable, but lifestyle hormones are acceptable.

– One 8 ounce steak from a non-implanted beef animal contains 3.5 ng of estrogen, from an implanted beef animal (a beef animal given additional hormones) it is 5.1 ng of estrogen. One birth control pill delivers 35,000 ng of estrogen. In comparison, a woman would have to eat 3,000 pounds of beef daily to get the same amount of hormones through meat that is found in birth control!

– Growth enhancing technologies (i.e. growth hormones) reduce the environmental impact of beef by 10.7%! More specifically, 4.2 tonnes of feed, 1 acre of land, and 22,722 gallons of water per 800 pound carcass and reduced if growth enhancement technologies are used.

– The extra beef produced as a result of using beta-agonists and implants on a single carcass with supply seven children with school lunches for an entire year!

All foods and food systems can be sustainable. Sustainability is best achieved by optimizing efficiency across the entire food and agriculture chain. Technology has allowed beef farmers/ranchers to produce more beef using less resources.

What other questions do you have about sustainability? I have also written about it here.

cow-calf pairs

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

When “sustainable” becomes unsustainable… Feedback Friday

This morning I saw the news article that Chipotle had announced they would now be sourcing all of their beef from Australia, instead of from Texas (or any other state that produces beef). I was confused and still am. So I thought I would throw it out for a Feedback Friday post. Now before you think this is a personal attack on Chipotle, it is not. This is an attack on any USA based company that isn’t even giving the USA a chance to produce the product. I love that consumers (myself included) have choices on where they eat and they type of food they eat. We get choices on what to watch on tv, what to wear, who to spend time with, and of course with our food – a huge perk of living in America. From what I understand, Chipotle sources its product from sustainable, humanely raised, no antibiotics, no additional hormones sources – correct? Well, we produce beef just like that in the United States of America. And with so many young persons/women/minorities wanting to become involved in agriculture, a specialty or niche product like what Chipotle wants could be perfect for their start in ag. So what I need help with understanding, and where I would like your thoughts: – Is shipping beef 8000 miles still sustainable? At what point does “sustainable” become unsustainable? – When a product is coming from another country how confident are we that the product was raised and grown to the same high standards we have in the US? What about federal inspections ensuring the safety? – Are there concerns over the potential food safety issues that may arise from a journey like that? The west coast is having shipping port issues at this time – will that impact these beef imports? – The price? I am sure a premium price is already being paid for this beef, will that price skyrocket with the addition of these shipping costs? What is the breaking point on the cost of the beef items for consumers? – Why does Chipotle not think American farmers/ranchers can provide the beef they need? Cows under tree Please help me try to understand… ——————- Dr. Lindsay can also be found on: – Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food) – Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay) – Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay) – Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Chipotle: There Is NO Pork Shortage!

I am reblogging this from Wanda at Minnesota Farm Living. Wanda is a pig farmer, and has tremendous experience and expertise when it comes to pigs and the pork industry – so this article is coming from someone who raises our food.

Read this post and the comments to better understand why a large percentage of pigs are raised in barns – then YOU decide if you think there is a problem…

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Chipotle has declared a pork shortage because their supplier was not compliant with pig housing requirements. Find out why housing pigs indoors is humane.

via Chipotle: There Is NO Pork Shortage!.

Carnivore’s Dilemma…

When I read the Carnivore’s Dilemma by National Geographic I was pleased to see that it was fairly written, discussing both sides of meat production. I thought it also did a good job of presenting information about growth promoting hormones, antibiotics, feedlots, humane harvest, and more. I think Anne’s message about the article is spot on and I encourage you to read her blog post.

Feed Yard Foodie

When I was back in Florida a couple of weeks ago for my grandmother’s funeral, my Godmother asked me if I had read the November issue of National Geographic.  In it is a lengthy article entitled, “Carnivore’s Dilemma” written by scientific journalist Robert Kunzig.  Following her advice, I tracked down a copy of the issue and spent some time last weekend reading it.

I’ll admit that when I first heard that an environmental journalist had written an article in National Geographic magazine highlighting cattle feedyards, I envisioned a pejorative rhetoric belittling the method that my farm uses to complete the final step of traditional beef production.

That is not at all what I found…I found a very balanced article that discusses the complex issue of responsible food production. 

I commend Mr. Kunzig for his detailed personal research as well as bringing an open mind to an often heated debate.  You…

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Growing up a rich rancher’s kid…

I recently attended the AgChat Conference in Austin, TX and had the privilege to be on a panel with two other persons, a mom who is food writer and a local chef/restaurant owner. Then there was me, a life-long agriculturalist. While our experiences, views, and beliefs differed, I left feeling like at the end of the day we might all agree on the following message: Agriculture is important, no matter who you are or what you do – it is essential for survival!

One of the talking points that came up during the panel was a rich farmer versus a poor farmer and where the line is drawn. I have been thinking about this for several days now and I wanted to get my thoughts out.

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AgChat panel. Photo source: http://slowmoneyfarm.wordpress.com/

 

Growing up on a ranch we had access to horses, 4-wheelers, irrigation ditches to swim and play in, fishing holes, goose and duck hunting hot spots, and acres to learn to drive manual vehicles and ranch equipment on – it was essentially a 300-acre playground! We raised 4-H animals, our own food, sewed our own clothes, and could hunt and fish. We also believed strongly in family dinners, family projects on weekends, life celebrations, and good friends and neighbors. While we played hard, we also worked hard, very hard. We fixed our own vehicles and bought new-to-us equipment. We didn’t watch much tv, play video games, go out to dinner, or go on many vacations. In high school I could arm wrestle and beat the first-string football players and I could certainly hold my own in the weight room; all of the bale bucking and good ol fashioned hard work made me tough 🙂

I thought my childhood was awesome!

ranchfun_final
A little ranch fun: loading hay, cutting and chopping wood, feeding lambs, and replacing old fence.

 

At no time did I ever think my family was rich. Monetarily rich that is. Wealth isn’t necessarily measured in number of cows, acres, or amount of equipment owned. We were rich in our knowledge, skills, work ethic, family legacy (my sister and I are the 4th generation), family and community love and support, and so much more.

I was my class Salutatorian, and was banking on the fact that good grades and some money in savings from the sale of 4-H animals would get my through college. It never dawned on me that other people thought my family was rich until I started applying for college scholarships as a high school senior. Several people wondered why I would need the scholarship money, my family was “rich ranchers” and could afford to send me to college! I was shocked that was the perception others had of my family. We weren’t (and still aren’t) fancy or rich people. But in the eyes of others my family had money, and lots of it because we had land, livestock, and various vehicles and equipment. Perception is an interesting thing…

I also never thought my family was poor. In our family, and with many others in agriculture, money is tied up in land, animals, equipment, and other assets. Ranch income was spent fixing up and/or making purchases of things that had been neglected over the past year. Because in ranching, you may only get one or two paychecks a year – when the calves and any open (non-pregnant) or crippled cows are sold! Talk about budgeting. So as a kid, and still today we knew that some months would be financially tighter than others. We also knew how to differentiate between wants and needs.

So as you can see, I struggle with the rich vs poor in agriculture. I think food production is one of the hardest professions, but also one of the most rewarding. And it doesn’t matter if you have 10 acres or 10,000 acres. The time and financial commitments, the long hours, hard work, and dedication are all similar concepts just on different scales. There are certainly those who are rich in agriculture, and kudos to them for making a profit with their livelihoods. But does that mean a person who may not have much money in agriculture is poor? Not necessarily, they could be rich like my family – rich with all of things that are hard to touch, see, and measure. You see I always thought my family was rich…

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Married on the ranch. My family on my wedding day!

 

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You can also find me on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Give American beef the chance…

Recently, Chipotle announced they were going to begin sourcing beef from Australia because they claimed there was not enough beef in the U.S. to meet their demands. I have nothing against Australia, I think it is a great country with great people…BUT Chipotle is not even giving the American beef farmer/rancher a chance to meet their demands.

cowsongrass
Cows and their calves grazing grass.

If Chipotle is having such success and knew meeting beef demand might be challenging, why didn’t/don’t they have people who find beef farmers/ranchers or put out the call they are looking for beef farmers/ranchers willing and able to raise beef that aligns with their mission (grass-fedno antibiotics and synthetic hormone free), and contract enough beef to meet their demand? As a beef farmer/rancher, you can get in a real bind if you grow beef for a specialized market, and then find out that market will not support you. But if you know the market will support you, and you can support it, then it can be a real win-win.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture report showed that the number of women, Hispanic/Spanish/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Black/African American agricultural (specifically beef) operators is actually increasing! There are people in America that can and would raise beef that aligned with Chipotle’s mission and goals, which would keep Chipotle (an American company) supporting an American product (beef) through American people! But Chipotle has decided to start sourcing beef from Australia. While Australian beef may fit Chipotle’s model, does the increase in price for beef at a Chipotle restaurant fit into your model? Are you willing to pay more for your meal at Chipolte to cover the costs of the beef, shipping, transport, inspections, and customs costs for beef that has traveled over 8,000 miles?

It doesn’t seem Chipotle is the only one sourcing beef from outside of the U.S. to meet demand. McDonald’s announced it would source “verified sustainable beef” by 2016. Last I heard McDonald’s was unsure where to begin on the issue, and they hadn’t yet defined sustainable, and now they are in serious discussions with Canada about supplying their eateries with Canadian beef? It seems Canada has  several long-running cattle programs in place which make it attractive to McDonald’s.

MeatingPlace reported (June 23, 2014) that beef imports from Australia and Candad went up 26% and 11% respectively, contributing to an increase of beef imports into the US up a total of 6%!

I don’t know about you, but when American companies claim there is not enough beef to support local, I have a hard time supporting them, especially when I know they are lying. I am a fan of supporting local, but importing beef from Australia and Canada is not local in my eyes.  American farmers and ranchers have what it takes to produce enough product for both Chipotle and McDonald’s!

This is a topic that is vitally important not only to me, a person with a deep love for the agricultural industry, but to you, consumers of food from which these companies will make you pay higher prices for their products that CAN and should be be grown and sourced in the USA! If you leave with nothing else, know that American beef farmers/ranchers have the ability and capability to meet the demands of these companies, it is not necessary for them to source beef from other countries!

 

cows eating
Nutritious and Delicious!