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Monday, February 28, 2011

Awww, Sugar Sugar

I recently spent my honeymoon in Fiji. Beautiful country - lots of touristy things to do but if you leave the 5 star resort area and pristine beaches to head inland - you'll see an awful lot of this luscious green crop: sugarcane.

(photo courtesy of http://www.fijiorganic.org/)

Sugarcane yields products such as white table sugar, molasses, rum and ethanol. It is produced in over 110 countries and the U.S. ranked 10th in world sugarcane production in 2008. In 2009, over 1,683 million metric tons was produced accounting for 22.4% of total world ag production. Sugarcane is harvested with a combine, just like wheat, corn and sorghum.

In the U.S. soda is produced using high fructose corn syrup while in many other countries, pure sugar (derived from sugarcane) is used instead. This switcharoo in ingredients causes soda in varying countries to taste differently. I realized this first in Germany, then South Africa, then Fiji and now while in Australia. It takes some getting used to!

Sugarcane is used for a wide variety of things in the U.S. however it is not a huge part of our GDP. This is a similar case with rice and bananas. However, in small developing countries like Fiji, sugarcane is a front runner in the development and maintenance of a stabilized economy. There are over 22,000 sugarcane growers in Fiji all who contribute to exporting the surplus of their valuable product. It's mutually beneficial for the U.S. to have free trade agreements with countries like Fiji so that both parties can receive goods without being subject to excessive taxes.

It's important to be mindful of where certain staples in our food supply come from  - whether from home soil or abroad.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Get into organized agriculture and veterinary medicine

Well, Tera talked me into writing a blog. So here goes my first blog on the Food for Thought website. I speak all around the U.S. and the world on beef cattle welfare and the animal rights movement. One of the most common questions that I get is how can I help be an advocate for animal agriculture. My first response is to join organized agriculture groups. These might be a cattlemen’s organization, this might be a general agriculture organization or a professional organization. I am a member of multiple organizations such as National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the Academy of Veterinary Consultants.


Most people want to get involved and going out on your own is better than nothing. But, we get organized and have synergistic activities within our producer and professional societies. These groups are always looking for volunteers within their organization. They are also organized across the United States and prevent us from duplicating efforts that conserves our human and capital resources. Get on the right bus, be active and help steer us in the right direction. Passionate people that want to serve are needed today in our producer and professional organizations.


Get on board!


Dr. Dan Thomson

Get into organized agriculture and veterinary medicine

Well, Tera talked me into writing a blog. So here goes my first blog on the Food for Thought website. I speak all around the U.S. and the world on beef cattle welfare and the animal rights movement. One of the most common questions that I get is how can I help be an advocate for animal agriculture. My first response is to join organized agriculture groups. These might be a cattlemen’s organization, this might be a general agriculture organization or a professional organization. I am a member of multiple organizations such as National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the Academy of Veterinary Consultants.

Most people want to get involved and going out on your own is better than nothing. But, we get organized and have synergistic activities within our producer and professional societies. These groups are always looking for volunteers within their organization. They are also organized across the United States and prevent us from duplicating efforts that conserves our human and capital resources. Get on the right bus, be active and help steer us in the right direction. Passionate people that want to serve are needed today in our producer and professional organizations.


Get on board!


Dr. Dan Thomson

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Foodie Feature: I Am Angus - Creating Connections with Consumers


Connections between consumers and producers is what Food For Thought is always striving to create. A great example of this is the connection that the I Am Angus series, produced by the American Angus Association, is creating.


For your information, Angus is a breed of cattle largely used in the beef industry. Angus cattle are black hided and commonly associated with high quality carcass characteristics. Different breeds form associations to connect breeders from across the country. Breed associations are built on the premise that registered cattle are worth more, the benefits trickle down through the system to the individual producers.


I Am Angus is an hour-long show that airs on RFD-TV. All of the videos are posted on YouTube as well. This February 28th at 7 p.m., the program will feature several people in the industry with highlights including one of our own Food For Thought members, Chelsea Good, and world-renowned animal behaviorist, Dr. Temple Grandin. Tune in on RFD-TV or catch the segment on YouTube because you won't want to miss this touching video connecting consumers and producers by telling the story of agriculture.


Here is the preview that you can access today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6j14NdR10.


My best,


Tera Rooney

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's getting hot in here...

Fundraising for the future.

We will be hitting it hard this spring, as Food For Thought members, to reach our goal of $250,000 seed money to establish the Upson Lecture Series.

Dr. Dan Upson had a large impact on a lot of students at Kansas State University. We hope to show him that those students have made a large impact on agriculture by sustaining the Upson Lecture Series for years to come.

Check it out - we're turning up the heat little by little!



Let me know if you are interested in financially supporting a great cause!

Tera Rooney
trooney@ksu.edu

Holy Cow!

We at K-State aren't always proud of the student newspaper's articles that are written about food production or agriculture. In the past few years there has been an increase in negatively skewed articles.

This week I was pleasantly surprised! Holy Cow hit the front page of the Collegian and presents a valid, fact-based and positive view of food production in the beef industry.


My best,

Tera Rooney

Monday, February 14, 2011

What are your thoughts?



We want your food for thought! Go to this article on the NYtimes and give us your thoughts in the comment box below.

I created the picture above using Wordle and it eliminated the common, meaningless words from the article to get a big picture of the topic and a neat typography image.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What is sustainable farming?

Sustainable agriculture is a buzz word that seems to fly frequently when talking about food production these days. It is truly important because we have to think about feeding the current population as well as the future.

What does sustainability mean to an agriculturist?

Sustainability means that a farmer's son can come home to farm the same acres of ground he inherited from his father. Sustainability means that a rancher can turn his cows out on the same pasture year after year. What could be more important to an agriculturist than the sustainability of his or her family business?

To further explain sustainable farming, I think it's best to use a real life example from my back yard.


Royal Farms Dairy is near Garden City, KS is managed by Kyle Averhoff and the Irsik family. They milk around 6,000 cows each producing around 6.7 pounds of milk per day. That is a total contribution of about 14,673,000 gallons of milk to consumers in a calendar year! When I visited Kyle's dairy farm, he talked about the environment and the measures that Royal Farms take to ensure that they are doing things correctly. By taking these measures, he can provide a sustainable approach to producing milk and I know that Royal Farms Dairy will be around for years to come.




Royal farms uses a milking parlor like this and water is flushed down it to keep it clean. It's important to keep the parlor clean to help maintain food safety standards. The water that cools the milk is also re-used to clean the feed alleys outdoors and is ultimately pumped in to a center pivot to water the nearby corn fields. Royal farms irrigates 1,600 acres with the water from their dairy. The manure that is hauled away from the farm is also incorporated into the soil to increase water holding capacity and provide natural fertilizer for the crops.


Air quality is always something that gets brought up when a large number of dairy cows are kept in one area. One thing that I thought spoke to Kyle's dedication to properly maintaining his dairy farm is that his house is literally across the road. He raises a family using the same ground, water and air that his dairy does. Air quality was superb when I visited Royal Farms Dairy.

One of Kyle's best examples of sustainability and something that really hit home for me was when he brought up a simple relationship. I don't remember the numbers exactly, but Kyle related the amount of water that Royal Farms Dairy uses in a year and compared it to the 62 employees his farm provides jobs for. In a rural community, if you look at the number of children that will be enrolled in the local schools because of the increased employment at a nearby farm, you can't get a better deal! Enrollment numbers are important to rural schools and farms like Kyle's boost the economy of a small town and help add to those numbers. The amount of water used really becomes minuscule when you think of it from this angle.

Sustainability at it's finest at Royal Farms Dairy.

For more information about the dairy industry, I've found this site really useful.

Kyle's farm was honored at the World Dairy Expo and there is a lot more information on this site.

All my best,

Tera

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hunger doesn't take a day off and neither do cattle ranchers

We've had some crazy weather in Kansas over the last week. Both K-State and Washburn Law were closed for two days last week due to snow and ice. Even the legislature shut down for a couple days. However, cattle ranchers didn't get any time off. They were outside working hard to take care of the livestock, especially those who had cows calving.

Hunger doesn't take a day off either. Below is a video of Kansas rancher Debbie Lyons-Blythe thanking JBS for donating 16,000 pounds of beef to the Food Bank of the Rockies.




So next time you're inside snuggled up by the fire with a bowl of soup and it's snowing outside, think about the sacrifices America's farmers and ranchers made to make that soup possible. Also think about those who are hungry and even homeless and how much harder the weather is on them.

Just some food for thought,
Chelsea



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tailgate Lectures: The winner receives immunity...



I love watching Top Chef and one of the infamous lines that comes out of host Padma's mouth is, "...and the winner will receive immunity."

Immunity is important in the game of Top Chef because if won, in the first round Quick Fire challenge, the contestant can not be eliminated in the second round Elimination challenge. If I were on Top Chef, I would definitely want IMMUNITY!

With calving season approaching back home and in full swing for many producers right now, I can think of a lot of ways IMMUNITY could be useful.

I can remember checking on our momma cows with my Grandpa in the early hours of the morning. It was always important for us to stick around after a baby was born and make sure the calf was able to stand and suck milk from the cow's udder. Grandpa always preached to me about the importance of the immunity being passed from the momma cow to the baby calf. He always used to say that a calf without immunity from its mom is as good as dead.

Immunity, not in the form of a free pass to culinary stardom, but rather in the form of milk is referred to as colostrum.

What is colostrum, you say?


A calf nursing at Star Lake Ranch in Oklahoma

Colostrum is the cow's first milk. It is produced just prior to giving birth and is vital to the health of a baby calf. This milk provides a balance of immunological proteins that give the newborn calf the antibodies it needs. Cows don't pass these large molecules through the placenta to the fetus, so it is imperative that calves receive them orally.

Many veterinarians suggest that calves receive colostrum within 0-6 hours after being born. It is also suggested that the future performance of the calf is dependent on receiving colostrum as well. For more information on the importance of colostrum straight from a veterinarian, read this article from Beef Magazine.

The best part about colostrum is that it is FREE! Such an important piece in the production puzzle and it doesn't cost a dime!

Padma doesn't ever give a Top Chef immunity for free, but the 30.9 million beef cows in the US are giving it to every calf that hits the ground.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Get it right, Bourdain

You may have read in a previous FFT post about Hannah Hayes' open letter to Chef Anthony Bourdain. If not, you can read her letter here. What you may not have read and probably didn't even hear about is Chef Bourdain's response to Hannah. You can read that here.


Chef Bourdain's beef (pardon the pun) with Cargill, and inadvertently Hannah's dad, is that they get their hamburger from a supplier, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) who 'use ammonia in their hamburger'. I feel like there are some misplaced assumptions taking place - Chef Bourdain, let's get a few things straight.

1 - Ammonia is a natural chemical found in the human body and also in many foods at significant concentrations. In fact, products like peanut butter, cheese and a few other foods contain ammonia at levels of 400-800 ppm.
2 - Ammonia is not poured into beef, stirred around with a spoon and then served into hamburgers. Gaseous ammonia is used to kill harmful pathogens such as salmonella and e. coli in order to prevent them from making consumers very, very sick.
3 - Quoting the New York Times does not mean you are quoting a reliable source. Here and here are prime examples of misinformation - both articles are grotesquely one-sided and lack scientific based facts.
4 - If gaseous ammonia was not used to treat hamburger, the potential for harmful pathogens to make their way into the food supply would increase ten-fold.
5 - Ammonia is not used to treat all beef, only BPI uses it to treat only their hamburger. It is not used on steaks, roasts, ribs etc.
6 - BPI doesn't supply the entire nation with hamburger. So if you really just can't swallow the idea of having extra-safe beef, purchase hamburger from a non-Cargill supplier.

Again, technology allows us to have a safe, efficient food supply. Much safer than it was 50 years ago when meat plants weren't so heavily regulated....

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Been there, done that!

Have you noticed how so many critics of the food industry go on and on about how they "think" food is produced on "factory farms" here in America? How many of them have actually been to the farms, ranches, feeding lots, and packing plants where food is produced? Maybe before writing a book or article condemning the food industry, one should take a look at it first hand.

Check out this article about Ryan Andrew's, self-proclaimed plant-based eater, visit to Magnum Feedlot in Colorado. A good friend of mine's family owns Magnum, and I am proud that they opened their gates, allowed for their operation to be transparent, and took the time to educate a weary consumer.


Before you've been there and done that...don't read everything you believe. Know the truth behind where your food comes from!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oprah Went Vegan for 1 Week - supposedly...

Have you heard the hype? The 'Oprah went vegan' hype, that is.  Earlier today, Oprah hosted Michael Pollan and Kathy Freston as she revealed the results of her 1-Week Vegan challenge. The challenge consisted of Oprah, and 378 of her associates, living vegan for a whole week. But did they really achieve their goal?

Sure, they didn't eat any meat or dairy products. But did they remove the hundreds of other animal products from their lives as well?  I have my doubts. Why? Well, in cattle, everything from the carcass is used. No part of the animal is wasted. For further explanation take a look at this picture.


I have a feeling that Oprah didn't give up cosmetics (udder), shampoo or conditioner (hooves/horns), glass (bones), candles or perfume (both from fat). The absolute truth is that we need animal products to live our everyday lives.

Also during this segment, viewers got to see Lisa Ling, Oprah journalist, take a tour of a Cargill meat plant. My props go out to Cargill for opening their doors to skeptists.  As expected, the plant treated the animals humanely and the meat was processed and packed safely and without mistake. Cargill's actions were a great example of transparency and should make agriculture very proud.

Bottom line - Eating meat is not evil. That is a direct quote from Michael Pollan (who is NOT by the way a 'food expert') but he hit the nail square on the head. Exercise, in partnership with a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy AND meat, is the best way to experience a healthy lifestyle. The Oprah segment had some positive effects - it got people to thinking and talking about their food choices and options. Informed consumers are not a bad outcome.  

If you are interested in learning more about humane farm animal welfare - sign in to Twitter tonight at 7 pm CST and participate in #agchat. Several FFT members will be participating, as well as farmers and ranchers from around the nation.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


Weather permitting...


What seems to be chalked up as Snowpocalypse 2011 for much of the Midwest has successfully laid down a thick sheet of ice and is beginning to dump inches of snow in a large swath that is making it's way across the US. To top that off the temperatures are dipping well below zero in much of the area. Weather permitting, I believe I will take to the couch with my study materials and enjoy the heat of a nice fire. Weather permitting, I took a bit of time to think of the people who don't get the luxury of a snow day:

  • I personally know hundreds of farmers and ranchers who woke up this morning to the same weather I did and headed out in coveralls to get to work. Work doesn't cease on a farm when weather gets nasty, it usually just heightens the load. The key farming states in the US - Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri have been hammered by a record-setting combination of ice, snow and just plain frigid conditions. This means a lot of animals and crops will be affected. Many ranchers are trying to get their animals to warmer grounds where they can be provided with a windbreak, dry bedding and fresh water.
  • Off the ranch and into the city, as a storm sets into the Midwest region many traders who work at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange packed overnight bags to stay downtown. Many agriculture commodities will still be traded on the board, despite the weather. These commodities and futures are essential to our country's economy.
  • Grain dealers across the prairie states are taking a hard hit and operating under skeleton crews only. Major grain companies, like ADM and Cargill, have reported many portions of their operations down because of the storm.
  • A friend of mine who works at a Kroger plant, said that crews worked late into the night to keep up with the oncoming demand of what is termed, "snow bread". People flood grocery stores when bad weather is looming and deplete bread supplies. Kroger employees worked hard to help meet the demand.
  • An ode to back home, the Southwest Kansas area, is the fact that nobody out there is surprised that they get hit with all the weather everyone else is, but none of the moisture! An already almost non-existent wheat crop will undoubtedly receive a lot of damage with such low temperatures coupled with the lack of moisture.
Even though this post is aimed towards highlighting agricultural jobs that face severe challenges with the weather, I don't want to take away from the fact that many others do the same thing. If you are enjoying a snow day today, take a moment to think of the people who work in the elements to deliver the mail, keep electricity working, clear off the roads, take care of sick patients, ensure national security and keep food on our tables!!!


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