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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Should you let your meat rest after cooking?

If you cook meat you are probably aware that you should let it rest, or sit, for a few minutes after cooking to let the juices (please do not call it blood, it is a protein water called myoglobin) reabsorb into the meat. Let’s dig into this topic more to see if there is any validity behind resting meat.

In theory, as meat is cooked the juice in the meat moves away from the surface (as the muscle fibers are shortening during cooking) to the center of the cut, when you flip the meat over, the juices move again, away from the heat during cooking. When you take your meat off the grill, all of those juices are still in the center of the meat. If you immediately cut into the meat all of the juices have no where to go, but out. However, if you let the meat set for three (minimum) to ten minutes, those juices have redistributed themselves throughout the meat, thus making your meat eating experience a more flavorful and juicy one.

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Yummm… steak

The rest time depends on the size of the meat. A roast should rest for 10-20 minutes before being carved, while steaks and chops only need three to five minutes. I found several rule of thumb guidelines for rest times: about one minute of rest time should be given for every 100 grams (about 1/4 pound) of meat, five minutes per inch of thickness, 10 minutes per pound, or half of the total cooking time. The Serious Eats Food Lab suggests the best way to measure length of rest time is by temperature. At an internal temperature of 120*F (49*C) the muscle fibers have relaxed and juices have been redistributed. Additionally, most cookbooks provide some guidance on rest times, those can be followed too.

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Six steaks of identical thickness, each cooked to 125*F. Each steak was sliced in half every 2.5 minutes and placed on a plate to show how much of the juices leaked out (Source: The Food Lab – J. Kenji Lopez-Alt)

It is suggested that while the meat is resting it should be kept in a warm place. Options may be loosely covering it with foil, placing it in a small space, like your microwave or oven. Do not cover it too tightly with foil as you will cause the meat to sweat and loose more liquid. Keep in mind, the more you cook your meat the dryer it will become as juices and fats are lost to cooking and evaporation. This may result in a less desirable eating experience too. If you are a serious meat smoker check out some great tips and suggestions at The Virtual Weber Bullet.

There can be some drawbacks of resting meat. One is that it can cool off and not be as hot as it would have been when it was fresh off the grill or out of the pan or oven. Another is the possibility of losing any rub crust, or that the crust becomes soft during this time instead of providing a more crunchy texture and robust taste. More importantly, when covered in foil, your meat can continue to cook, in turn taking your degree of doneness up a notch or two. Additionally, the fats change. When fresh off the grill or out of the pan or oven, the fat and collagen in the meat is hot and soft, when cool, the fats start to solidify again and may stick to the roof of your mouth. Finally, the skin on poultry may also get soft and rubbery instead of crispy.

lamb chops
Lamb chops on the grill

Several sources I have read said that you shouldn’t purposely wait the three to five minutes. By time everyone sits down, you build your plate, start eating, and have conversations, the three to five minutes has come and gone and your food is still hot. It was also suggested that meat juices on the serving tray/plate be poured over the meat and that you soak up the juices with each bite you cut off.

While there are some reasons or concerns with letting meat rest, there are also some benefits. The most important things to consider are, will resting the meat impact a key component of the flavor or texture? Or will it make the degree of doneness undesirable? Use your best judgement when it comes to letting your meat rest. Personally, I loosely cover it with foil while I put the finishing touches on the meal.

tri-tip
Barbecued tri-tip and fixings

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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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Meat: To wash or not wash?

To wash or not wash your meat before cooking… This has been a discussion of debate for a long time. Well wait no longer dear readers, the verdict is in.

Dr. Jonathan Campbell, meat extension specialist at Penn State University, says“from a food safety standpoint, it’s a bad idea because we can potentially spread the bacteria that are on the meat to all other areas of our kitchen. That makes the food safety hazard even worse.” Campbell adds that washing meat also is not effective at removing all of the potential bacteria, which is best accomplished by cooking the meat to the proper internal temperature as confirmed with a meat thermometer.

A new Meat MythCrusher video produced by the North American Meat Institute and the American Meat Science Association also discusses the best strategies for safely removing meat from packaging to avoid any cross contamination and the proper temperatures for various cuts of meat and poultry.

 

If interested, the Drexel University website discussed in the video is found at Don’t Wash Your Chicken.

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Source: Drexel University, Don’t Wash Your Chicken

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Out for a ride… Throwback Thursday

My sister, left, on Rowdy, and myself on Cayenne out for a ride. We were probably out checking cows in the fields… I am guessing this was about 15 years ago. Our dog, Teko, was tagging along that day. Unfortunately, all of the animals have since passed, but we will always have fond memories. In horseback in the mountains I shared more about how Cayenne came into my life, as well as how he went out…

horses

Do your childhood memories included horses and animals?

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