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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Foodie Feature: Gilmer Dairy Farms

This foodie feature is of Gilmer Dairy Farms

With the recent publishing of Mercy For Animals video on veal production in Ohio, I would like to point out that there are better and more accurate references out there.

Get your information about the dairy industry from the source. These people raise dairy cattle and are on the farm day in and day out ensuring the health and well-being of their animals. I think that Gilmer Dairy Farms does a particularly good job of helping consumers, like myself, understand what it takes to get milk and milk products from farm to fork.

When I see videos, like the ones published by organizations like Mercy For Animals, it raises questions not concern. Instead of being concerned about the dairy industry and the products it provides my family, I went to the Gilmer Dairy Farms website and brushed up on a little day in the life of a dairy farmer.

A fellow Food for Thought member also featured this dairy in a post on this blog with a video about nutrient management. It is another great example of what great things the Gilmer Family is doing and you can check out Buzzard's Beat for additional posts that Brandi has written about the agriculture industry.

My best,

Tera Rooney

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Temple Grandin

Receiving 15 Emmy nominations is a great accomplishment.

Receiving an Emmy is even bigger.

Receiving several Emmys - AMAZING!

I congratulate Temple Grandin on a lifetime full of achievement and influence. I commend HBO for fitting the bill. I think Claire Danes played the perfect role that was so true to life. It is great to see such a great movie be awarded and the people who worked on it to see their efforts and talents paid off. I'm also proud to be a part of the animal agriculture industry in which Temple has had such a strong influence on.

If you haven't seen the movie or want more information on it please visit the HBO website.

Temple has made a huge impact on the animal agriculture industry in the realm of animal welfare and well-being. She is a pioneer in animal handling systems that reduce stress. If you would like more information on Temple's work with animals and autism check out these sites.

Also, if you are keeping up with Food For Thought events. We will be hosting Dr. Temple Grandin on the campus of Kansas State University in November. Keep up with our facebook page, twitter and this blog to get more information as the big event approaches. Temple will be addressing our student body over her two day visit planned for November 10th and 11th.

My best,

Tera Rooney

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tailgate Lectures: Good Stockmanship

Grandpa told me to stand on the fence watching while he entered the pen. He looked back at me and said, "You know a good stockman can sort the baby calves off from the mama calves without saying a word. Good stockmanship takes practice." I was amazed as the old man stood in the pen of cows and calves and moved slowly, raised a hand here and there, shifted his body, and kept a calm voice and demeanor while one by one the cows ran into the left pen and the calves grouped in the right. I could see that he cares for the well-being of his animals and let them do the work.

That day in the pasture, I understood the importance of stockmanship practices that promote animal well-being. I've noticed that these buzzwords in the media, especially referring to TV media, are oftentimes misused. The misuse of a word or phrase can lead to consumer confusion and ultimately lead to choices and opinions that are not based in fact. When I hear these words like Animal Rights or Animal Welfare, I go back to that day of working cows with Grandpa. It's that memory that clears up the confusion for me. I thumbed through a dictionary to look at a few definitions to help clear up the confusion for you.

  • welfare - noun: the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity of a person, group, or organization.

  • well-being - noun: the state of being happy, healthy and prosperous

  • rights - noun: that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles

  • animal rights - plural noun: the rights of animals, claimed on ethical grounds, to the same humane treatment and protection from exploitation and abuse that are accorded to humans.

You'd have to search pretty hard to find someone who doesn't agree with the idea of animal well-being or welfare. It is our human responsibility to provide health, happiness and prosperity to an animal in which we come in contact with. I believe in this responsibility as a human and take comfort in knowing that agriculturists around the world, especially those involved in animal agriculture, take this responsibility very seriously.

I do not believe that the same inalienable rights that are accorded to humans and have been fought for throughout history, are due to any animal by just claim, legal guarantees or moral principles.

You see while animal rights is a social movement in my mind, animal well-being is a practice. It's a good and important practice that is being utilized by stockmen across the country.

I'm always interested in hearing other opinions on this debate and welcome that discussion.

My best,


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eat New Beef

Seems like we have a beef theme going on this week...

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Beef Innovations Group (BIG) introduced six new cuts generated from the beef round. You may be thinking, "How exactly do they just come up with new cuts?"

By making new cuts to larger, sometimes cheaper muscle, the BIG has unveiled some new cuts of beef that give consumers even more options to put beef on the dinner table.

The six new cuts include more lean steak and roast options for your delight:

  • Santa Fe Cut — similar to a flank steak, perfect for fajitas, stir fry or for shredded beef
  • Round Petite Tender — flavorful, best cut into medallion steaks, offers a restaurant-quality experience on a bed of pasta or a roast for two
  • San Antonio Steak — ½-inch lean steak, versatile and cooks fast, works well with a marinade
  • Tucson Cut — the perfect lean cut for foodservice operations looking for value
  • Braison Cut — ideal for any braising application and makes a great osso buco or pot roast
  • Merlot Cut — deep red color, lean and flavorful, ideal for a variety of ethnic dishes

Cutting guides and related marketing materials for the new round cuts are available to food service and grocery operators. You can even take cutting guides into your local butcher to ask him/her to learn and make the new cuts. These guides will be available on the BIG Web site by September 30, 2010.

Make a comment on this post about your favorite way to prepare any cut of beef. I will throw your name in a hat to win some free "BEEF" merchandise that I have managed to gather! Send a friend of yours to become a follower of our blog and I'll throw your name in 3 times! Make sure and have them post a comment and give credit to you for sending them our way.

Eating Beef For Dinner Tonight,

Tera Rooney

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Getting to know your BEEF

Did you know that ground beef and hamburger aren't the same product? I didn't either until recently, while on Twitter, social media friend iTweetMeat brought up that point. Upon further investigation I discovered the main difference between the two similar products.

Beef fat may be added to hamburger, but not ground beef. Regardless of this addition, neither hamburger or ground beef may contain more than 30% fat. So, when shopping for a lean product just check the label - for example 80/20 indicates 80% lean-20% fat and 93/7 indicates 93% lean-7% fat.

Additional facts about ground beef and hamburger that you may not have known:
1. All meat transported and sold in interstate commerce is federally inspected according to the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
2. Ground beef and hamburger are made from the less tender cuts of meat on the animal - grinding tenderizes the meat and the fat reduces the dryness and adds flavor.
3. When cooking ground beef or hamburger - always remember "Safe and Savory at 160" - cook these products to 160 degrees to ensure a meal that is free of harmful bacteria.
4. When choosing a product at the store, select a package that feels cold and is not torn. Once you have the product at home, store it at 40 degrees or below or freeze it.

For more information of wholesome, safe and nutritious beef visit the USDA Meat Prep site or Beef: It's What's for Dinner.
Until next time,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Efficiency in Ag Benefits Environment

Efficiency, in my opinion, is what made our country so dominant in the past. The productivity that comes from American companies innovating new ways to do more with less is what spurred our international success.

However, somehow, efficiency has become a dirty word when it comes to food and agriculture. There's a scene in Food, Inc. where the narrator talks about McDonald's revolutionizing the way hamburgers were made by bringing efficiencies such as training to do just one thing to the back of the restaurant. "It was inexpensive food, and it tasted good," the narrator says - like that's a bad thing.

I propose that turning away from efficiency when it comes to agriculture is not just regressive but also dangerous. Just 1/32 of the earth’s surface is arable land we can depend on to produce food. This is a finite resource – one that is decreasing with urban sprawl. Additionally, this land is going to have to feed a rapidly growing world population.

Feeding more people with less land? Sounds like efficiency is going to have to play a pretty big role.

Critics of modern agriculture claim current mass production practices are wasteful. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being efficient means doing more with less – which includes using less environmental resources. A recent study backs this up.

According to the study released last month, advances in productivity over the past 30 years have reduced the carbon footprint of modern beef production in the U.S. The study was conducted by Washington State University assistant professor Jude Capper and compared the environmental profile of the U.S. beef industry in 2007 to its historical production practices in 1977.

Capper’s research revealed improvements in nutrition, management, growth rate and processing weights significantly have reduced the environmental impact of modern beef production and improved its sustainability.

Another study shows the dairy industry reduced its overall carbon footprint by 41 percent from 1944 and 2007. Improved efficiency has enabled the U.S. dairy industry to produce 186 billion pounds of milk from 9.2 million cows in 2007, compared to only 117 billion pounds of milk from 25.6 million cows in 1944.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Basil Blues

I love food, but I really love Italian food the most. This is a picture of me in front of the terraces of the Cinque Terre in Italy during my study abroad trip there. I enjoyed some of the best Italian food while on this trip and am counting the days until I can get back!

One of the spices that makes Italian food so yummy is basil! Consumers who might enjoy fresh basil in their Italian dishes might have a challenge finding it in the grocery store soon. A fungus is damaging the US basil crop.

Known more scientifically as, basil downy mildew, it causes spots and lesions on basil plants highly reducing the quality of the popular herb used in Italian dishes. Organic basil growers are going to be the hardest hit because of restrictions with fungicide use on certified organic farms. As much as one-fourth of the US basil crop is being damaged by this fungus.

Here are some interesting facts I found about Basil and it really gives an economic view of the impact basil downy mildew will have:

  • Basil is the most commonly grown herb in the US.
  • One acre of basil can be worth more than $10,000 an acre.
  • Many basil farmers are considered potted basil growers meaning their crop is grown in pots.
  • Basil fungus is sensitive to warmer temperatures and drying conditions.
  • The most common variety of basil used in Italian cuisine, sweet basil, is the variety hardest hit by the fungus.

If there is a shortage of fresh basil in grocery stores near me, I guess I will have to revert to dried basil for any marinara sauces I make. For my favorite dish, pesto sauce, dried basil is no substitution!

All my best,

Tera Rooney

Friday, August 6, 2010

Family Farms - big and small

Tera's latest post "Welcome to my Family Farm" had me thinking about the factory farm vs. family farm debate, and how it's really not a debate at all. Most all farms - regardless of size - are family farms. In fact, according to the USDA, 98 percent of U.S. farms are family farms.

Sometimes it takes getting to know the farmers and their farms to realize this. I really enjoyed Tera's post because it helps introduce readers to a family farm. It also reminded me of a couple interviews I did last year for Colorado Farm Bureau's magazine Colorado Way of Life. Here's what those producers had to say:

Country Side Eggs is a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). Some might think that being a corporation means an operation isn't a family farm. But that isn't the case.

"We're still a family farm," explains third-generation farmer Terry Tormohlen, owner of Country Side Eggs. "It just helps us position ourselves financially by being an LLC."

Other producers often realize this.

"They're probably no different than we are," said forth-generation Yuma County corn and wheat farmer Nathan Weathers of incorporated family farms. "Most families incorporate to save on taxes or liability."

The people who don't realize that most farms are family farms are typically those removed from agriculture. So if you're a farmer, take after Tera and introduce your own family farm to others explaining along the way that most all farms - big and small - are family owned and operated. If you're removed from agriculture, take the time to get to know some of the families involved in farming in your area or sharing their story on the internet. It could change your perspective on just what a family farm is.

You can read the full Colorado Way of Life article, titled Generation after Generation, by downloading the magazine here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome to My Family's Factory Farm

It is with inspiration from an excellent article written by Marlys Miller, an editor for Pork magazine, that I write this post. The article does a great job of clearing the air and posing the question of what it is that actually defines a family farm. I've thought a lot about this very subject this past semester and found that it is more helpful if a consumer can be welcomed on to a family farm to learn first hand how they would categorize it. So without further ado, I welcome you, to my family farm.

This is my family's farmstead. It is located 5 miles outside of the bustling metropolis (sarcasm) of Satanta, KS. My father is the 3rd generation of Rooney's to work on the farm. This google map is not exactly current because there are cotton modules sitting in the field west of the house (cotton is harvested in late fall) and we have yet to replenish the hay bales this season (we bail corn/milo stalks and that won't happen until harvest early this fall) that are sitting in the middle of the lot in this photo.

Rooney Agri Business is what my family's farming operation is called. It consists of 3 equal partners - my dad, my uncle and my grandmother. We have 4 hired hands who help with the daily tasks on the farm.

We grow corn, milo, wheat and cotton. Most of our land is irrigated with pivot irrigation systems and located in Haskell, Grant and Stevens counties.

My mom helps keep the books for the farm and argues with dad when the office gets too messy. When we were younger all of us kids helped dad out on the farm. He liked to make us walk sprinklers and change nozzles, "for fun!"

We also have a herd of registered Maine-Anjou cows. We are able to utilize the dryland corners off of dad's farmland by letting the cows graze the wheat in the winter into early spring. We also calve all of our cows out on the corn stalks close to the farm. This provides extra feed for the cows during the colder months and a warm, dry bedding for the baby calves.

My family takes pride in our farm, they have for several years and will continue to work hard to keep it viable for future generations. We have a large operation that covers a lot of acres and feeds a lot of mouths, but that doesn't mean we still aren't a family. It is easy for me to define the parameters a family farm and dispel the idea of factory farming because I grew up with it. For an average consumer, it's not as black and white.

Family farming is alive and well in the U.S. You can not judge by the number of acres that are worked to give scope to a farming operation. The best way to find out is to see whose hands are doing the work, and on 98% of American farms in 2007, those hands belonged to the family.

All my best,

Tera Rooney

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Foodie Feature: Farm Vets

I had to post a link to one of my favorite blogs to follow. This blog has a very interesting angle and really gives consumers a picture of daily life on a farm.

The Farm Vet

A husband and wife duo post snippets of what goes on during a normal day in the life of a large animal veterinarian. Located in California, the couple shows videos and pictures about procedures, adventures and down right interesting things that they may encounter.

Large animal veterinarians are doctors that choose to practice on larger animals like horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, alpaca, llamas, etc. Many times these practices include working with animals that will eventually be rendered for food. It is important that people who produce and work with food animals have a strong relationship with a veterinarian to increase animal health and continue producing safe food product for us to eat.

The life of a large animal veterinarian isn't an easy one, as you will find from reading the Farm Vet blog. Currently there is a large shortage of people willing to enter the large animal field. It is an issue that has been in the news lately and deserves national attention because these are the veterinarians that help ensure food safety and national security.

Follow the Farm Vet's blog and if you enjoy that you can even "like" them on facebook!

All my best,

Tera Rooney


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