In October, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) headquarters in Denver, Colorado, for an in-depth, beef advocacy training called Top of the Class. Originally, I was actually supposed to attend last year, but with moving to Nevada they let me postpone, and I had to postpone again this past spring as I was already committed to another event. I am sure the people in those classes were great, but I am very glad I got to meet four other persons with whom I could share this great experience.
One of the requirements for Top of the Class is to complete the Master of Beef Advocacy (MBA) Training. This training does a great job going through all of the major points of the beef lifecycle, as well as sharing the facts and research. One of the greatest things, once you are a MBA grad you can download the app, which has all of the resources and materials in a handy little location.
Top of the Class helped us practice our media interview skills (always a challenge when the hard questions start coming at you), practice live cooking show skills where we prepared Cuban Crispy Shredded Beef, a planned-over. Additionally, we met with many of the great folks at the NCBA and went over our online goals, our web presence, honed in on our niches, and so much more. This was very helpful for me, as blogging has taken a back seat this year as I have been working to get my career going in Nevada. But fear not, I now have a plan, and am ready to get 2017 back on track.
Johnny Prime, a meatatarian if there ever was one. Johnny is based in New York City, and has what can be argued is one of the greatest jobs ever… He is a steakhouse reviewer! As he takes one for the team in this terrible job (add sarcastic font here), he provides reviews on where to find a juicy, tender, and delicious piece of meat in NYC, as well as around New Jersey and the Long Island area. Additionally, Johnny provides commentary on fine eateries, cooking tips, recipes, cooking videos, general meat information, and more. And, not only does he take meat and food photography very seriously, he is funny and provides a ton of foodporn photos for your viewing pleasure. Johnny is a tremendous advocate for the beef and meat industry, and has really dedicated the time to learn about and understand the intricate details of cattle ranching and farming. I very much appreciate Johnny’s quest to learn about the facts and truth when it comes to agriculture instead of believing the buffet of lies and fearmongering out there. Thanks for being a friend of meat and agriculture Johnny Prime!
As you can see, beef lovers and advocates are on each coast and everywhere in between. I encourage you to check out and follow these fine folks, they share some great information. Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Johnny Prime did a nice feature piece on one of the beef industry’s finest, Meet your meat: Anne Burkholder (Feedyard Foodie). Anne was not only one of the instructors for our training, but is a mentor to many.
Thanks to the Beef Checkoff (cattle ranchers and farmers) for making this possible.
MBA… You probably instantly thought of a Master of Business Administration, but there is another MBA that you should take notice of, especially if you are an agriculturalist or someone who is interested in learning more about the beef industry. The Masters of Beef Advocacy – which will be the MBA I refer to in this post.
Fun fact… when I was in grad school, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) rolled out the very first ever Masters of Beef Advocacy program. As a graduate student at West Texas A&M University we completed it as a collegiate pilot program. Over the years, my email address changed, I moved around a lot, and let my MBA training fall through the cracks. Recently, I had the opportunity to complete the MBA 2.0. Yes, a complete update and remodel of the one I had seen years before. Completing the MBA 2.0 was a prerequisite for the Top of the Class Program hosted by NCBA, of which I had the honor of being a part of recently (more on that coming soon).
It was fun and informative to go through the “all things beef” modules again. I will always be a lifelong learner, so brushing up on the information and reacquainting myself with the statistics and facts was advantageous as a beef and agriculture advocate. Plus, over the years, research changes, perceptions changes, and the entire beef industry continues to change and morph. Being aware of the latest information and research being conducted is important to me.
If you are interested in learning more about the beef industry as a whole, then this training is for you. If you are interested in learning more about sustainability, then this training is for you. If you are interested in learning more about beef’s role in a healthy diet, then this training is for you. Not only can you too earn a MBA, you can do it for free! That is right, thanks to the great American cattle producers and the beef checkoff, this training is free to you. Where else can you get a MBA for free?!
As my friend, Daren Williams (NCBA Senior Executive Director, Communications) said, “Thanks for earning your MBA after already completing your PhD.”
In 2012, West Texas A&M University (my Alma matter – Go BUFFS!) meat and agricultural science researchers started a beef cloning project to increase efficiency in the beef industry, specifically, meat quality.
“Most of that high quality beef that you would find in those white tablecloth, high-end dining experiences (has) a tremendous amount of waste fat that must be trimmed from the carcass,” said Dr. Ty Lawrence, professor of meat science and lead researcher on the project.
“Conversely, if you have a high-yielding carcass that is trim, it is most often low in marbling. What we’re trying to do is both at the same time. We want to be able to produce taste fat without that waste fat.”
Over five years ago, Lawrence was walking through a meat packing plant, and within 10 minutes, he found two carcasses that graded Prime, Yield Grade 1. This combination of quality grade and yield ranks as the best in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) beef evaluation system and only occurs in about .03 percent of all beef carcasses.
“You’ve kind of got to be standing in the right place at the right time and have your lightning rod up to get struck and see one of those,” Lawrence said. “That’s the ‘aha’ moment; that’s what gives you the impetus to call your boss at 11 o’clock at night.”
Lawrence called Dr. Dean Hawkins, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at WTAMU, and received the go-ahead to buy the steer and heifer carcasses and begin his research.
WTAMU researchers teamed up with ViaGen Cloning Technologies to clone a bull they named Alpha from the steer carcass. Three heifers were also cloned from the heifer carcass named Gamma 1, 2, and 3. The crossbreeding between Alpha and the Gammas resulted in 13 calves, nine bulls and four heifers. “Then, our research hypothesis: If we can create a male and a female from a clone and crossbreed those, we will simultaneously improve beef quality and yield,” Lawrence said. “We kept the two best bulls and sent seven of them [steers] to our research feedlot. The remaining two bulls and four heifers are under the good care of Dr. David Lust, associate professor of animal science at WTAMU at our Nance Ranch. They live there today.”
“The calves were raised by their mothers while grazing our native pastures, in the herd with our other commercial cattle,” Lust said. “They were weaned at a normal time and then fed at the WTAMU Research Feedlot for 185 days on a typical feedlot diet. They have been treated just like commercial cattle throughout the industry.”
The seven steers sent to the feedlot were finished out and then harvested. A USDA grading supervisor found that one of the seven achieved Prime grade, three graded High Choice, and three were Average Choice. For perspective, the meat grading industry average is Low Choice, with only about ~3% of all cattle grading Prime.
The steers averaged a 15-inch ribeye, which was a 9% increase from the average of a 13.7 inch ribeye. When adjusted for the steers’ smaller size and weight in comparison to the average animal, it became an 18% difference in size for the cloned steers. John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M system, said that, compared to industry averages, the steers produced 16% less seam fat, 45% more marbling, and 9% more ribeye poundage. Lawrence said that they gained just 2.9 pounds a day on feed, without any additional hormones. “We’re selecting for a genotypic trait, instead of a phenotypic trait like a lot of cloning projects have done,” says Landon Canterbury, manager of West Texas A&M University’s ranch.
“In and of itself, these individual traits of better marbling, better muscling and better yield are not that impressive on an individual basis,” Lawrence said. “What’s impressive about our cattle is that they all occurred simultaneously in the seven cattle. We’ve been able in seven animals, as a proof of concept, to shift the distribution to higher quality and higher yield simultaneously.”
WTAMU Assistant Professor of Animal Science Trent McEvers said this project contains the power to affect cattle producers through increasing efficiency for the beef industry.
“In my opinion, the way this is potentially going to shift the industry is that for every pound of feed that we feed an animal, if a higher proportion of that weight of feed is actually converted into muscle, then fat, that basically improves our utilization of energy,” McEvers said.
“In our college and across the university … our mission and goal is to provide a world-class education to the most valuable commodity, (and) we think, in Texas, that’s the young people,” Hawkins said. “Our second goal is to conduct cutting-edge research with applications that apply directly back to the producers that feed us every day.”
The next step for WTAMU is to compare the bull Alpha to top Artificial Insemination (AI) sires from the Angus, Simmental, and Charolais breeds. Additionally, 1,300 cows have been bred by Alpha, and the calves will be treated the same as any other calf while in the feedlot. It is important to remember that these calves are not cloned – they are the product of cloned animals.
It will be fascinating to see the results from all of these future offspring and the impact they will have on the beef and meat industries. It will be an amazing day when you can go into 10 different restaurants, and the steak you order in each one will be as tender, flavorful, and juicy as the previous one; gone will be the days of inconsistency between each steak! Below is a great video that sums up this project. It is a good day to be a WTAMU Alum.
This post was created from the following news sources:
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.
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 BeefCheckoff 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…
I always start getting twitchy this time of year, I want to be traveling! Until my next international adventure I like to reminisce about some of the parts of the world I have been blessed to visit.
During the summer of 2008 I spent three months in Seoul, South Korea as an intern with the U.S. Meat Export Federation. It was a summer I will never forget! Not only did I travel alone, I was completely on my own for those three months in a country with unique customs and traditions, the food was like nothing I had ever experienced before, where English was not the first language, and where it was very humid (not my favorite climatic condition).
During my stay, there were daily protests about American beef and negotiations of it reentering the South Korean market, and at one point (I learned after my internship) they had thought about sending me back to the USA, as they were concerned for my safety. Despite some of these challenges, I learned so much, worked with some great people, and saw first hand how emotional and sensitive beef export/import and BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (aka: Mad Cow Disease)) was to a country.
I kept a blog about my experience during that time. Occasionally, I read through some of the posts and chuckle about the stories I shared. Here are a couple that share specific details of the experience. (PS – during my time there I had the opportunity to be a tourist too, I will share some of those experiences in another post).
On June 30, 2008 I wrote:
Well half of 2008 is already over, how time flies. Speaking of things that fly – there were lots of very hard inanimate objects flying this weekend at the protests. The protests have taken a very violent turn as you may have seen on tv. As soon as it was announced that Korea was officially open for US beef imports, the riots have escalated to a new violent height. While police were able to deter protesters from gathering in City Hall, they pushed them to rally in front of my hotel. I was peacefully napping, and it was so loud it woke me up. So I saw things were getting crazy, with fire extinguishers and yelling. When I went downstairs to try to get some photos, the hotel persons would not let me go out. Ahh safety precautions, so after a trip to the roof, and back down I was able to get out and check things out. By that time things had died down to a dull roar. It has been estimated that over 150 police officers were hospitalized (as well as some protesters), some for critical conditions (and one guy had his skull bashed in), over the weekend. And do you know what their injuries were? Broken and bruised bones due to hits from hammers, pipes, rocks, and water bottles inflicted by the protesters!!! I have asked my co-workers why does this madness continue? Why are the police not enforcing stricter behaviors? Because in the 80’s when Korea was still becoming democratic, the police were very violent to the citizens who protested; pepper spray and violence were used quite often. So the police (and gov’t officials) vowed that pepper spray would never be used again. I guess you should never say “never”! I will never understand why the police can be used as punching bags, and the citizens boo hoo if they are hit back. Perhaps if these violent rallies continue more drastic measures will have to be taken.
This weekend, in an afternoon outing I went down to City Hall. Home of the protesters. I was amazed to see all the buses that have been destroyed thus far (over 100), were parked up and down the streets, they were lined up in front of the statue leading up to the Blue House (President Lee’s house). My co-worker said that the buses have been placed there to get people to realize what is happening; to see the damage that is being done. And in some way get them to stop protesting. I am doubtful it works.
Of the 5,300 metric tons of beef that has been in storage since October 2007 (after bones were found in a shipment) only 85 metric tons have passed quarantine inspection. Things are moving so slow because 1) the protesters are wreaking havoc at the ports where the beef is stored – they are causing road blocks and doing more rallying, 2) restaurant owners and retail stores are afraid to sell/advertise they have US beef because the citizens may boycott their store/restaurant. And like I have mentioned before, it is not good enough to have US beef in retail locations, label it, and let the people choose for themselves. Korean consumers do not trust even the retail food owners because they may be mislabeling the meat. So it opens a whole new can of worms. While the US has yet to implement a traceability or COOL program; these are issues we may face when we do. Or will Americans really care where their food is coming from?
On July 10, 2008 I wrote:
Well it was official today. As of 5:00 a.m., July 10 (USA central time) beef is officially being slaughtered for Korea. So in a few short weeks US beef will be arriving here for consumption. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is. The good news is that the protests will only happen on the weekends from here on out. They have estimated that the month and half of protests have cost $2.5 billion in damages; which is in lost business, the ruined buses, hiring of extra police, restaurant and taxi business losses, etc., plus the grass at City Hall has to be replaced. And to top it off the founders of the Mad Cow group are holed up at a temple. I guess if they remain there, the police cannot come onto the temple grounds to arrest them, the only way it can happen is if the temple wants them to leave. President Lee has replaced 3 more of his cabinet in hope of trying to get public sentiment back to a reasonable level.
Burger King is under some fire now. In the US they released a statement saying that hamburgers were from cattle over 30 months of age. Well Burger King in Korea was telling people that their burgers were cattle under 30 months, so I guess the head office put their foot down, and now Korea Burger Kind has announced that yes, their burgers are from cattle over 30 months of age too. The good thing is that when we went there for lunch today, it was not busy at all.
So far, the meatloaf has been my favorite clay pot dinner. It was very moist and had a rich, meaty flavor with the hint of earthiness from the clay. This recipe was the hardest to clean up afterwards. Some of the meat was stuck pretty good to the bottom of the pot. Next time I would add just a bit more liquid, or as I mentioned, decrease the cooking time. I also found a meatloaf and potato recipe. This one suggests putting the potatoes around the loaf, but I think I would put a layer of potatoes on the bottom, then the meat on top. Stay tuned, we have some other clay pot creations coming.
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?
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.
My name is Brandon Morrison, I am a Powerlifter and Strongman, and I have been running LBEB (Lift Big Eat Big) for 4 years now. I graduated from Seattle University with a degree in historical theology and religious studies. Now, that doesn’t really have anything to do with lifting, but there is much more to me than lifting. I am the biggest (literally) history buff you will ever meet, and I have an insatiable appetite for more knowledge!
What role does animal protein play in your life?
Animal protein plays a big part in my life. In addition to hunting with my father or brothers most years, I use animal proteins in most of my cooking videos, and they are usually the centerpiece of the meal. In addition to simply cooking it, I like to study the different cuts of the animal, and learn how the animal’s lifestyle can influence the taste or texture of the meat. For example, I recently have been learning about the sleeping positions of cattle, and which side they favor to rest on. The side that they rest on can greatly influence the composition of a brisket. If a cow tends to rest on their right side, as I believe the average cow does, the right brisket will be much tougher than the left brisket. For this reason, I like to buy left briskets whenever I can!
Do you have any agriculture experience?
I unfortunately do not have much agricultural experience worth discussing. However, I like to get my ag information from experts in the field, rather than Facebook scare tactic photos. 🙂
How did you get into the culinary arts?
I got into the culinary arts for a few reasons:
#1. Cooking gives me an immediate sense of gratification, which I do tend to enjoy more than I should.
#2. I need something to obsess over, and since cooking can always be improved, it fulfills my needs.
#3. I am constantly bombarded with new ideas in my mind, and it can create for a very stressful life. With cooking, though, I can put these new ideas to use, as quickly as they come. For example, last Saturday I made 9 different meals, just for fun and practice.
#4. I love discussing the mouthfeel of food, what it reminds people of, what can be improved, and most importantly, I love when people enjoy food!
What is your favorite thing to make?
Right now my favorite thing to make is biscuits. Actually, no, I love biscuits, but I am obsessed with cooking pasta in a risotto-style right now. Basically, this means that instead of boiling pasta in water until cooked, you heat butter and the pasta in a hot pan, and have 1/2 gallon of chicken stock heated in another pan. You will add 1 cup of hot stock to the noodle pan, about every 3 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. It will completely change the way you make pasta, any pasta. I’ll never go back!
If you could master any food dish what would it be?
If I could master any dish, it would have to be a simple Chinese dish. While some Chinese dishes may SEEM simple, in reality, you almost need an entire second kitchen’s worth of tools and ingredients. I have made Chinese bao buns, which turned out great, but I would really enjoy making great dim sum from complete scratch. I will get there, eventually. 🙂
What a fun interview! A seat at Brandon’s table would be a foodie’s dream. Brandon, the agriculturists of the world thank you for your support!
I am a foodie… I love trying new recipes, new flavors, and flavor combinations. As you can imagine I am that person that rarely orders the same thing twice at a restaurant. So when I found this recipe at Tablespoon, I knew I had to try it!
Balsamic Glazed Steak Wraps
I made a few adaptations from the original recipe.
At my local retailer I found round steak already thinly sliced into 7 pieces.
I added a yellow squash to my lineup of vegetables. I think you could add or eliminate whatever suited your tastes.
I chopped the rosemary and added it to the glaze versus just using the springs and then removing them.
The balsamic glaze was amazing, but I wanted more of it as I was eating the rolls, so I doubled the recipe.
We paired this with rice and it was a great accompaniment.
We pan fried these as we weren’t sure how they would hold up on the grill. I think they would be fine as long as you were fairly gentle when you flipped/rolled them over.
Here is a copy of the recipe I used, adaptions and all.
I think it would be fun to make a breakfast version of this with herb potato slices and a fried egg inside the steak roll with a spicy salsa drizzled over the top? What other versions would you make?