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.”
Additionally, CRISPR technology differs from the technology used to created genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and it is important to understand the differences.
As quoted from the article: “In the same way that spell-check identifies and corrects single-letter errors in a word or grammar errors in a sentence, gene editing can be used to identify and change the letters that make up the genetic code within an individual,” wrote Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology cooperative extension specialist for the University of California – Davis Department of Animal Science, in an eXtension article published in 2015.
One of the major benefits of this CRISPR technology is creating cattle without horns (polled) which greatly increases safety for other animals and people. Check out the video here:
Where else could CRISPR technology be used?
**Note: no compensation was received for this post. I just believe the information was worth sharing.
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.
Recently, Karl, the cow/calf herd manager at the research station where I am based, asked if I wanted to go look at the calves. I jumped on the opportunity, as it had been a few months since I had seen them, I also grabbed an office support staff member who missed the baby calf viewing.
Karl has this herd split into two groups, as they are easier to manage. Karl also explained that these cows have two roles, they are part research herd and part teaching herd.
As part of the physiology research herd, these cows may have blood drawn to look at progesterone levels, they may have different breeding synchronization methods, or they may be fed different feed rations to see how the fetus responds, and later how that calf performs in life.
Fun fact: cows that experience stress (i.e. diet limitations) while pregnant, have calves that generally do not perform as well as calves born to cows with minimal stress. By using cows as a model, we now know the same holds true for humans! To read more about cattle fetal programming, visit here, here, and here. Did you know cattle also have a 9 month gestation period just like humans?
As part of the teaching herd, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) graduate students learn how to collect blood, help with various cattle tasks as needed, and may assist with surgeries if and when necessary. It is a very hands-on, real world approach.
ALL animals involved in research and the people who work directly with them, must be current on their IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) training, and all facilities are inspected twice a year to ensure they are safe for both animal and human. Read more about IACUC here.
As you can see, these research cows are very healthy, have plentiful amounts of grass in their pastures, and appear to be happy. Karl and the UNL students ensure they are well taken care of daily! The research cows look just like any other cow that you may see in pastures! The cows also play a role in making advancements in human health and medicine, how cool is that!?
Last week media headlines indicated there is poop or fecal material in hamburger meant for human consumption. Yikes, that is a scary thought… Thankfully, it is untrue. This post will explain why these headlines are full of half-truths, and steps you can take to ensure you are practicing safe hamburger cooking.
About 50% of the red meat we eat is in the form of hamburger (aka ground beef), it is versatile, convenient, and usually the price is right. It is always important to use good sanitation when preparing food and to cook meat to the proper internal temperature (Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart).
Before meat or hamburger is demonized, it should be noted that ALL foods (plant and animal based) have the potential to make you sick. Did you know the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is responsible for tracking food recalls, withdrawals, and safety alerts? And they make that list available to us? You can read the 2015 list here. The thing I want to most point out: all foods, regardless of how they were grown/raised (organic, conventional, small farm, large farm, etc.) are on the list. These recalls do not necessarily happen because of a possible foodborne pathogen problems, it is often because a product is mislabeled, does not indicate it contains a possible allergenic ingredient, or has a distribution problem.
The original report by Consumer Reports can be read here. As is the case with sensational headlines, bits and pieces of the article were cherry picked and the good information did not make headlines…
Consumer Reports said: “All 458 pounds of beef we examined contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination (enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli), which can cause blood or urinary tract infections. Almost 20 percent contained C. perfringens, a bacteria that causes almost 1 million cases of food poisoning annually. Ten percent of the samples had a strain of S. aureus bacteria that can produce a toxin that can make you sick. That toxin can’t be destroyed—even with proper cooking.”
Eric Mittenthal, with the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) says “many in the media have focused on one claim from the study that has led to several very misleading and inaccurate stories—the idea that there is poop or fecal matter in your meat. Certainly this makes for eye grabbing headlines, but Consumer Reports did not find fecal matter in meat. In fact, nowhere in its report does it mention the words “fecal matter” or “poop.” What it found were bacteria, namely generic E.coli and Enterococcus, that are sometimes classified as signal organisms for fecal contamination, but different than fecal matter. The majority of this was Enterococcus which microbiologists now say are not good indicators of fecal contamination. What Consumer Reports found were bacteria that are commonly found in the environment, so it is no surprise to find them in beef, blueberries, anywhere else in a grocery store, or on your computer keyboard or phone. That doesn’t mean there’s poop on your phone, just that bacteria that once originated in a gastrointestinal tract is there. Simply put, they are different. For media to claim otherwise is simply inaccurate and misleading.”
It is important to note that the bacteria found are not commonly associated with foodborne illnesses from eating undercooked meat. It takes time for the toxins to form. These bacteria are more commonly associated with cooked food left out too long at the wrong temperature says Daren Williams, Executive Director of Communications, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
Additionally, Dr. Gary Acuff, Texas A&M microbiologist and director of the University’s Center for Food Safety, confirmed that the presence of bacteria do not indicate fecal contamination. “A “fecal indicator” bacteria does not mean feces is present. It means that bacteria originally associated with a gastrointestinal tract are present, and that might indicate the possible presence of a pathogen like Salmonella or Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC). We use generic E. coli to give us a heads-up that something might be wrong with sanitation or our process, not to indicate the actual presence of feces. Read the entire NAMI response here.
Mandy Carr-Johnson, Ph.D., senior executive director, Science and Product Solutions, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), says “The good news is the bacteria found in the Consumer Reports tests are not the type of bacteria commonly associated with foodborne illness in ground beef.” Carr continues to say, “As an industry, our number one priority is producing the safest beef possible. Ground beef is the safest it has ever been with greater than 90 percent reductions in bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and significant reductions in salmonella in recent years. The beef community continues to invest millions of dollars in developing new safety technologies with the goal of eliminating foodborne illness.”
The Consumer Report says “Between 2003 and 2012, there were almost 80 outbreaks of E. coli O157 due to tainted beef, sickening 1,144 people, putting 316 in the hospital, and killing five. Ground beef was the source of the majority of those outbreaks. And incidences of food poisoning are vastly under-reported. For every case of E. coli O157 that we hear about, we estimate that another 26 cases actually occur.”
So let’s pencil this out… That is 10 years of time (counting 2003 and 2012), 8 cases of E. coli O157 tainted beef per year, sickening 114 people per year, putting 32 in the hospital annually, and killing 1/2 person a year. While I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of the effects of food-borne pathogens E. coli O157 in this case), these numbers on an annual basis may seem more reasonable. Or think about the fact you have a bigger risk of being in a car accident, get hit crossing the street, or struck by lightning than you do from eating E. coli O157 tainted beef! This statement mentions that not all cases may be reported, this may be due in part to people not knowing what made them sick, people’s acidic stomachs killing possible pathogens, or not enough people getting sick from a common source to make it a case. Persons who are very young or old, pregnant, or who have immunocompromised systems would be most at risk with foodborne pathogens. Fun fact: packing plants regularly swab carcasses for pathogens, to ensure optimal food safety.
The Consumer Report says: “It’s not surprising to find bacteria on favorite foods such as chicken, turkey, and pork. But we usually choose to consume those meats well-cooked, which makes them safer to eat. Americans, however, often prefer their beef on the rare side. Undercooking steaks may increase your risk of food poisoning, but ground beef is more problematic. Bacteria can get on the meat during slaughter or processing. In whole cuts such as steak or roasts, the bacteria tend to stay on the surface, so when you cook them, the outside is likely to get hot enough to kill any bugs. But when beef is ground up, the bacteria get mixed throughout, contaminating all of the meat—including what’s in the middle of your hamburger. Also contributing to ground beef’s bacteria level: The meat and fat trimmings often come from multiple animals, so meat from a single contaminated cow can end up in many packages of ground beef. Ground beef (like other ground meats) can also go through several grinding steps at processing plants and in stores, providing more opportunities for cross-contamination to occur.”
This statement is partially true, on a whole cut of meat (i.e. steak, chop, roast) potential pathogens would only be on the surface of the meat and should be killed during the cooking process. However, when a ground meat product is made, the meat may be handled several times, come from several animals, and in general just have more places in the trimming/grinding process where contamination can occur. This is no different than a glass of orange juice containing juice from several oranges, a glass of milk containing milk from several cows, or a bag of rice containing rice from several fields.
Consumer Reports says: ” And then there’s the way home cooks handle raw ground beef: kneading it with bare hands to form burger patties or a meatloaf. Unless you’re scrupulous about washing your hands thoroughly afterward, bacteria can remain and contaminate everything you touch—from the surfaces in your kitchen to other foods you are preparing.”
This is a true statement. I often hear people blame the animal farmer, the meat packer, the retailer, or the restaurant if they get ill, however, the consumer (you and me) can be the ones to blame. It is very important to practice good sanitation and food safety at home. Here is a good read on common food safety myths.
This was Consumer Reports methodology: “… Consumer Reports decided to test for the prevalence and types of bacteria in ground beef. We purchased 300 packages—a total of 458 pounds (the equivalent of 1,832 quarter-pounders)—from 103 grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 cities across the country. We bought all types of ground beef: conventional—the most common type of beef sold, in which cattle are typically fattened up with grain and soy in feedlots and fed antibiotics and other drugs to promote growth and prevent disease—as well as beef that was raised in more sustainable ways, which have important implications for food safety and animal welfare. At a minimum, sustainably produced beef was raised without antibiotics. Even better are organic and grass-fed methods. Organic cattle are not given antibiotics or other drugs, and they are fed organic feed. Grass-fed cattle usually don’t get antibiotics, and they spend their lives on pasture, not feedlots.”
Bias alert… While I am glad they bought beef raised in various ways, implying that organic and grass-fed cattle are safer or more sustainable is a biased statement. It is unfair to report that one beef raising system is more sustainable than another. “All beef production models can be sustainable,” says Dr. Kim Stackhouse, executive director of sustainability for NCBA. “Beef sustainability is defined as producing more product with fewer inputs, which is the goal of every beef producer in this country. To cattle farmers and ranchers, sustainability means balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and social diligence while meeting the growing global demand for beef.”
Also, the statement grass-fed cattle usually don’t get antibiotics is just an assumption. There is not a governing body to monitor the grass-fed meat market like there is for the organic market. It cannot be simply assumed that just because the meat came from a grass-fed system that it has not received antibiotics. This is a major flaw in the Consumer Reports methodology. I did a series on meat labels and what they mean, to read more about grass-fed, grain-fed, organic, natural, etc. go here.
Consumer Reports also indicated “One of the most significant findings of our research is that beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have bacteria overall, as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, than beef from sustainably raised cows. We found a type of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus bacteria called MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which kills about 11,000 people in the U.S. every year, on three conventional samples (and none on sustainable samples). And 18 percent of conventional beef samples were contaminated with superbugs—the dangerous bacteria that are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics—compared with just 9 percent of beef from samples that were sustainably produced. “We know that sustainable methods are better for the environment and more humane to animals. But our tests also show that these methods can produce ground beef that poses fewer public health risks.”
“Our concern is that leading consumers to believe organic and grass-fed beef are safer could make them think they do not need to cook those products to 160 ºF, creating a food safety concern,” says Dr. Mindy Brashears, professor, food microbiology and food safety, Texas Tech University. “It is important to note that bacteria was also found in the organic and grass-fed samples. The bottom-line is that no matter what the label says ground beef should be cooked to 160 ºF as a final step to ensure safety. Both S. aureus and C. perfringens found in the Consumer Reports study are toxin-producing bacteria that are typically associated with picnic-type food poisoning cases where food has been left out for long periods of time at the incorrect temperature, not undercooked ground beef,” says Brashears.
The good news, says Dr. Mandy Carr-Johnson is the Consumer Reports study did not find pathogenic bacteria like shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STECs) in any of the samples, including conventional beef. Controlling pathogenic bacteria is the key in terms of ensuring safety. Unfortunately, the Consumer Reports study confuses that issue with the finding of generic E. coli and other bacteria that are not commonly associated with illnesses from consuming undercooked ground beef. Read the entire article from Facts About Beef here.
When in doubt, cook ground meat products to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and thoroughly wash your hands, cooking tools, and surfaces. If you are dining out, ask for your burger to be cooked to a degree of doneness of medium-well. If you are served an undercooked burger, do not be afraid to send it back to be cooked more. Eating beef should not be a scary experience, it should be an enjoyable and flavorful experience!
The headlines about poop in your ground beef was meant to draw attention and sensationalize this story, however, it is full of half-truths and incorrect information. When stories like these hit the newsstands and media waves, it is important to read and understand them, to question what they are saying, and to engage the people who work in these industries and who know the facts that can be backed up with science and research.