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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why Vegetarians are Crazy: Part 2

This is part two in a two-part series of posts about my conversations with a vegetarian. If you did not catch the first post, please go check it out here. 

By now you have probably figured out that I am not a vegetarian. Nor do I think vegetarians are crazy. I had a conversation with a vegetarian friend of mine and wanted to share it with you. It enlightened me and I hope you will find the same thing, no matter what's in your diet!

How long have you been a vegetarian?
I have been a vegetarian since I was 14 (over 20 years). The summer before my freshmen year, I went to a camp sponsored by the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science, where the food was disgusting and many of the counselors were vegetarian environmentalist KU students. I didn’t eat any meat that week and just never started eating it again.

What are the main reasons you choose to maintain a vegetarian diet?
Meat just really doesn’t seem like food to me. You would never want to eat your mittens or the newspaper; meat is the same way for me. I also think my body functions best on a diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and not many “heavy” foods. Although I haven’t eaten meat (intentionally) in 20 years, I just can’t imagine that my body would like it.

What major resource did you use when converting to make nutritionally sound decisions?
When I first stopped eating meat, my mother bought me a copy of Diet for a Small Planet and The Vegetarian Times cookbook. She also got me a subscription to the Vegetarian Times (which I’ve maintained). Because my father has high cholesterol and high blood pressure, my mother had previously purchased a Dean Ornish book and a cookbook called The Vegetarian Gourmet, which both contained nutritional information. Finally, my mother made me meet with a registered dietician to learn about balancing nutrients. (Unfortunately, the nutritionist didn’t really know much more than I did.) Today I have a large collection of vegetarian cookbooks, and I follow a number of healthy eating (but not necessarily vegetarian) blogs, including Kath Eats Real Food, Apple Crumbles, Runner’s Kitchen, and The Daily Garnish.

I have always thought that the food and agriculture industry failed you (and others who choose not to consume meat) as a consumer, where do you think that happened or what is the problem?
I really don’t think the food or agriculture industry has failed me. I certainly spend enough on groceries!

Is your point of view respected often? At home? At work? On travel?
I am surprised by the extent to which my point of view is respected and tolerated in the middle of beef country. Most people go out of their way to make sure that I have something to eat, and I really haven’t been teased about my eating habits since high school. My mother-in-law (who is from a ranching family) keeps veggie burgers in her freezer for me and has stopped adding bacon to her green beans so I can eat them. My friends keep vegetable broth in their pantries so I can eat their soup. The biggest problem I encounter is lack of understanding, particularly in restaurants. For example, the people who run the Chinese restaurant in Hugoton don’t understand why I don’t want to eat fish sauce and people who run Mexican restaurants around here are confused when I ask about lard. Even my mother sometimes forgets to read labels and tries to feed me something with meat in it.  I do find it refreshing in places like California where food is labeled vegetarian or vegan, and I actually have more than one choice on a menu. That doesn’t really happen around here.

What could the animal agriculture industry do a better job of in order to reach out to consumers who choose to maintain diets that include animal products?
I suppose focus on health benefits of animal products?

The population is growing exponentially, how can food producers  accommodate the extra growth?
I am particularly concerned about the lack of availability of whole foods, particularly in areas of poverty. I think it’s important that people everywhere have access to fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods and are given the tools and education needed to prepare that food.

Let me know your thoughts!

Tera Rooney 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Vegetarians are Crazy

You didn't really think I was writing a one-sided post about why a rural Kansas, farmer's daughter thinks vegetarians are crazy, did you? Well, they aren't and I hope that you clicked on this post for more than just the catchy title, because if you'll stick around you might even learn something new about consumer choices. 
I am always challenging myself to learn the opinions from people on what I used to consider, "the other side". It is a way to broaden my view on certain topics and adjust my opinions accordingly. Sometimes I find out that there really aren't sides at all...

That is exactly what happened when I had a conversation with a vegetarian. She is a good friend of mine and someone I have learned a great deal from without even talking about our diets. I wanted to start with a background and if you come back soon, you'll get to hear more from my vegetarian friend!

A consumer is a broad label used for people or households that utilize goods or services generated within the economy. 

Within this broad category of consumers, people identify with different choice groups, oftentimes labeled with a name, based on the type and kinds of goods or services they consume.

Food consumers are no different and the American Dietetic Association identifies four types within the vegetarian lifestyle:

  • Strict vegetarian or vegan: A vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products
  • Lactovegetarian: A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish and eggs but includes dairy products
  • Lacto-ovovegetarian: A vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry and fish but includes eggs and dairy products. Most vegetarians in the United States fall into this category.
  • Flexitarian: A semi-vegetarian diet with a focus on vegetarian food with occasional meat consumption. 

That's a lot more complicated than I ever dreamed! There is an estimated 2.5% of US population who fall into one of these four consumer groups. No matter if you find yourself falling into one of these groups or not, we all have one thing in common - we make choices about our food at the grocery store or farmer's market everyday. 

Stay tuned to see how my conversation went with my vegetarian friend. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Obesity Epidemic

In following up with Brandon's recent post about the tragedy that is hunger occurring around the world, there's a polar opposite issue that many are dealing with here in the US.


It's a human health epidemic and it's amazing to me that you can travel 6 hours in a plane in any direction and witness the two situations. Gives new meaning to feast or famine.

Check out this website put out by the CDC. You can literally push "PLAY" on the map and watch Americans become more and more obese.

Best Regards,

Tera Rooney

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hunger in the Horn

There is a thing in this world called hunger and it’s not something that most Americans deal with on a regular basis. There are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. We have taken for granted that when we go to the grocery store there will be food on the shelf. We no longer know where our milk, eggs, produce, bread and meat come from – as far as we are concerned they come from the store. We are out of touch. So what would we do if we went to the store and there wasn’t any food on the shelf? Go without eating? Are you kidding me?

If you’ve been keeping up on current events you know that there is a drought of horrific proportions going on right now in the African Horn. Somalia, Ethiopia, and the northern region of Kenya have been hit the hardest. There are over 1500 new refugees coming out of Somalia and into Kenya every day; this doesn't include the thousands who are going into Ethiopia. Almost 30,000 children under the age of 5 have already died of starvation, and it’s estimated that 12 million people are fighting for survival. I heard a story of a mother having to leave one of her children to die on the roadside in order to save the life of her other child on the 80 km walk to the Kenyan refugee camp – and that’s just from the border to the camp; she probably had to walk double that to get to the border from the Somali countryside. In another example from one of my Kenyan friends, he had to rescue a baby who was still clinging to life in the arms of her dead mother. You may not believe this, but it’s true – they are in a desperate situation and there is no end to it in sight.

There is food relief that is being made available to the refugees. USAID has invested 564,459,389 dollars in aid and private donors and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are working tirelessly in an effort to get food supplies to this region. Organizations like NUMANA, based in Kansas, are taking an active role to try and engage in food aid relief. The trouble is that this is a temporary fix. What these countries need is greater investment in research and development of agriculture. More investment must be made in crops and growing practices that can better serve this type of environment – the same kind of research that allows America to have the most abundant food supply in the world.

I will be boarding a plane on Sunday to Nairobi, Kenya with my friend and coworker, Tyler Lund – we both work for Senator Moran. The Senator sits on the Hunger Caucus, so this cause strikes close to home both personally and professionally. Tyler has lived extensively in Kenya and is an expert in African agriculture and African production practices. During our time in Kenya we will be meeting with NGOs, government agencies, and refugees to identify current problems with the aid structure. There is also an opportunity for us to facilitate food aid ourselves. We are going to be working trough an NGO called First Love International to deliver food to the Dadaab refugee camp, which is currently housing around 417,000 people.

So when you eat dinner or go to the store this week, think about this: we are blessed. We are blessed with technology and production practices that allow us to feed a nation. We must continue to invest in agriculture if we are to feed a world. We aren’t doing it now, and the population is growing larger by the day – there is expected to be 9 billion people on this earth by 2050.

If you would like to get involved or learn more you can contact me or check out the links below.



People Requiring Humanitarian Assistance in Kenya 3.7 million U.N. Agencies – July 29, 2011

People Requiring Humanitarian Assistance in Ethiopia 4.8 million U.N. Agencies – July 29, 2011

People Requiring Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia 3.7 million U.N. Agencies – July 29, 2011

People Requiring Humanitarian Assistance in Djibouti 165,000 U.N. Agencies – July 29, 2011

Number of Somali Refugees in Kenya 476,808 UNHCR1 – August 3, 2011

Number of Somali Refugees in Ethiopia 159,871 UNHCR – August 5, 2011

State Senator Speaks Out!

Some people put it best, simply.

Nebraska State Senator Tyson Larson puts it best when he speaks out against the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS plays on consumer misconception of their involvement in local humane society pet shelters to raise milions of dollars for the already large budget they operate on. What many consumers do not realize is that the HSUS shares less than 1% of it's annual budget with local pet shelters. Find out who runs the real show in your community and consider redirecting your donations to the right people.

Senator Larson tells it like it is in this article:


Tera Rooney

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Television Debut

Food For Thought is hitting the big screen this week on RFD TV. Please tune in to NCBA's Cattlemen to Cattlemen to see the feature they did on our group. Check out your local listings and tune in at the following times to catch the episode.

Airs Weekly on
Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
Saturday at 9:00 a.m.
(All Times Eastern)

Log on to for more information online. Thanks for tuning in!

What is a factory farm?

I've never liked the term "factory farm," mostly because nobody seems to be able to define it. For many livestock producers the term is offensive as well as troubling. Here's what Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) livestock producer Anne Burkholder has to say:

I am an American.

I am a wife.

I am a mother.

I am a cattle caregiver.

I work at a CAFO.

I laugh, I cry, I love, I live, I care with every fiber of my being…

I hope that you think of me when you go the grocery store and look at the beef in the meat-case because it is people like me that care for cattle and raise beef

I am not a factory…

Read more of what Anne has to say about the term "factory farm" on her blog Feed Yard Foodie.

Until next time,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

150 Years of Kansas...

This year marks Kansas' sesquicentennial. Are you impressed that I can spell that word? Well, good thing this is a blog because I have no idea how to pronounce it!

Kansas has been a state for 150 years. This means that for 150 years, the US has been provided with many agriculture products from the Sunflower State. One I'd like to highlight today is:

Beef is a huge player in the Kansas economy and it has been for about 150 years. Beef isn't all about what shows up on your dinner plate, though. Kansas is a diverse state with many landscapes. That is a major factor lending to Kansas' success in the beef industry. Take a look at the different regions Kansas is divided up into.

The chain of production in beef begins at the baby calf level. People who raise baby calves run momma cows and calves together in a herd. In Kansas most of the cow-calf operations are located in the Flint Hills, Osage Cuestas and Smoky Hills. People who run these operations identify themselves as cattle ranchers. They are stewards of the land and livestock. To be able to put cattle out to graze on these native grasses for 150 years or more, ranchers must be ecologically aware of what the land can handle.

When calves are weaned from their mothers and ranchers begin to supplement their forage-based diet with grains we call this type of cattle operation a stocker operation. Stocker cattle convert pasture grass (a cheap source of feed for them) into beef! Stocker operations are sprinkled throughout the state of Kansas.

As calves get older and are ready to enter the final phase of production, most often they are sent out west to the High Plains region to be fed out in a cattle feeding yard. Western Kansas is an oasis of feedyards and the climate lends itself to successful cattle feeding. Feedyards house large numbers of cattle on grain diets preparing them for the slaughterhouse. Grain based diets provide cattle with a higher degree of marbling (intramuscular fat deposits leading to increased tenderness) and allow producers to get cattle to the market ready weights more efficiently. It is important for a consumer to realize that grain-fed and grass-fed are different methods of finishing cattle, but one is not better than the other. Both methods of feeding end in a beef product and just depends on what your taste buds are craving. Vote with your pocket books next time you pick out a steak at the meat counter.

Kansas Beef is celebrating 150 years and we're proud of what the industry has grown into. If you'd like a wonderful resource on what the beef industry has gone through in Kansas in the past century and a half, check out this book. 150 years of Kansas Beef has been put together by the good folks at Kansas State University and information on purchasing can be found here:

Go eat beef to celebrate Kansas' 150 years no matter what state you are from!!!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Ivy League Cowgirl

Jen Johnson holds a degree from Princeton and has a strong tie to the land her family has been ranching for generations. This video is a great example of how one passionate young woman has decided to make agriculture her livelihood.

Watch the full episode. See more America's Heartland.

Hope you enjoyed the video as much as I did!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dear Food Industry, Thanks for Keeping it Safe!

We live in an increasingly digital age and it seems like information travels at the speed of light these days. As such, we are quickly made aware of foodborne illnesses both globally and domestic, and this attention is justifiably putting alot of pressure on food producers, processors and government agencies alike. Everyone will remember the recent outbreak of E. coli in Europe caused by bean sprouts that sickened over 3,000 people and killed 31.

To hit home more closely, this week Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey after tests showed that it could be tainted with an especially dangerous strain of Salmonella, which has already been blamed in 78 illnessed and 1 death in the US.

With all the news of foodborne illnesses worldwide, it seems to me like we in the food industry are getting lazy/less stringent in our testing and tracking of food products, doesn't it? WRONG

While I am definitely a proponent of continuing to improve food safety and decrease the incidences of foodborne illnesses, I found it interesting that Foodnet, a division of the Center for Disease Control and body that tracks common foodborne infections, has seen a significant decrease in cases in the past 15 years. A report released in June estimates that since 2006 we have seen a decrease as much as 30 percent in foodborne illnesses. To put things in larger perspective, since 1996 we have seen an overall reduction of 23%.

People, those are not hollow, meaningless numbers. Those are REAL statistics that are keeping hospital beds empty and preventing loved ones from having to suffer through serious illnesses that can sometimes claim people's lives.

I think the food industry and the regulatory bodies that oversee it deserve a round of congratulations for their dedication and clear improvement in food safety. The media is great at delivering bad news to everyone, and I admit that I was surprised to see this data, which is why I decided to write a post about it. But it's also important to highlight positive achievements, and in my opinion this is definitely an accomplishment that needs to be acknowledged.

Thanks again to keeping our food supply safe, and keep striving to improve!

Hyatt Frobose


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