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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pink Slime? Not in my hamburgers!

For your information as a consumer who wants to be educated about what you are eating and where it comes from! Please don't believe the media all the time, they aren't always the experts on a subject! Remember Hyatt's post about the subject? If not, here it is again.

Please post any questions you might have in the comments section.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Farming the Wind

Welcome to the Gray County Wind Farm
On my way home for spring break, I know, such an exotic spring break location, I stopped and snapped a few pictures of one of the most beautiful farms near home. It's not your average grain farm, but it sure is a sight to see! Today, we're going to take a trip today to Kansas' largest and oldest wind farm. You might have not thought about harvesting this type of crop, but these farms are popping up across Kansas and it all started back in 2001 in Gray County near my hometown.

The Gray County Wind Farm has 170 turbines that generate enough electricity to power 33,000 homes. The towers sit on over 12,000 acres of farm land, but only 6 acres are directly used for the towers and roads. The rest of the acreage can still be farmed traditionally.

A couple of turbines at the Gray County Wind Farm
One of these turbines is 217 feed high. Each blade is 77 feet long. Why are sites chosen for wind farms to be built? The turbines only produce power when wind speeds are between 10 and 56 miles per hour. At the Gray County Farm, average wind speeds are 20 miles per hour.

Turbines in a corn stalk field near Montezuma, KS.
How many tons of carbon dioxide emissions does this farmer save in a year by having these turbines on his land? 585,000 tons

How much money does the farmer make from each turbine? $2,000 per turbine for 20 years

What are some major benefits of owning a wind farm? It produces no pollution while allowing ground to remain in agricultural use and supporting the local economy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Foodie Feature: Colorful Cauliflower

Today's Foodie Feature surrounds a vegetable I've wanted to try for a while now. I've seen it in the grocery store. I've been attracted to buy it because my blood runs PURPLE! I just didn't know very much about it, until now, so I finally decided to give it a shot!

Colorful Cauliflower
I went straight to a grower's website. Andy Boy produces this jewel-toned variation of regular snow white cauliflower in California and Arizona. Andy Boy is a family-run farm that the D'Arrigo family has kept in business by diversifying in several areas of vegetable production. There are no artificial colors or dyes added.


Green cauliflower is credited with having significant amounts of beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and is slightly sweet.  The Orange cauliflower is especially high in beta-carotene, with a slightly nutty taste and creamy texture. The Purple cauliflower is recognized for anthocyanins, also found in red cabbage and red wine. 

The color change is not a result of genetic modification of the plant, but rather long generations of selective breeding. According the USDA and several UK sources who all agreed, I found a lot of interesting things about the genetic changes that do occur in this fancy cauliflower. 

PURPLE - Anthocyanins are responsible for the color of many flower, fruits and vegetables and is also responsible for a gene mutation in cauliflower that allows for the abnormal purple color to express a phenotypical purple color in the curds. When talking about genetics, phenotype refers to the physical appearance that the plant or animal possesses.

ORANGE - Works in a similar manner to the purple, except for an increased amount of Beta-carotenes are present in these mutants! Think about carrots and sweet potatoes, they contain a lot of Beta-carotenes. 

GREEN - The lime green cauliflower is sometimes referred to as broccoflower. It is actually higher in protein than cauliflower and broccoli (the normal ones!).
 So, I have to give you my recipe for the evening and how I tried out my fancy new produce!!! It's super easy, delicious and if you don't like broccoli and cauliflower this way, well then you're just refusing to try it. It's that good!

Roasted Colorful Broccoli/Cauliflower
2 bunches of broccoli
2 bunches of colorful cauliflower (or white if you want to be boring!)
5 T. of Olive Oil (you can use butter, if you wish)
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
Minced Garlic
Parmesan Cheese
An oven
A knife
A cookie sheet

  • Take the broccoli and cauliflower out, rinse it well and let it dry. The edible portion is the florets, so cut all those off and just give them a nice chop. 
  • Make sure you cut your vegetables on a different cutting board than your meats!
  • Drench in your oil, seasonings and garlic. I eye balled all of these because it's better to cook that way!
  • Save the cheese for now.
  • Heat your oven up to about 400. 
  • Place your veggies on the cookie sheet and bake away! I baked mine for about 20 minutes or until tender and slightly crispy. 
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and give them a couple more minutes in the oven. 
  • Serve with a nice lean meat and you have an amazing dinner!

 Pick some colorful cauliflower out at your local grocer. Give it a try and let me know what you think. My next recipe will be mashed potatoes with a purple cauliflower puree swirled in. Let's be honest - we could all use a little purple swirl in life!



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Boots on the Ground - cattle farmer. buckeye. advocate.

Time for another BOOTS ON THE GROUND post. If you haven't kept up with all of them, please do so by checking out the link. You can find introductions to farmers from Kentucky, Canada and Kansas. I can't wait to add to the list! 

Today we go to Ohio. The Ohio.
Wayne County, Ohio

Mike Haley is from Wayne County Ohio where he lives and works on his family farm. A proud buckeye, he graduated from The Ohio State University where he studied agriculture business and applied economics before returning to the family farm.

When do you put your boots on, Mike? 

 This time of year, during the winter months, I typically start getting my boots dirty every morning by tending to our beef cows needs.  This includes checking to see if there are any new calves that need attention since the last night check, restocking hay and mineral for the cows, and feeding our steers, bulls, and replacement heifers.  When all the cattle are content the rest of my day may include a variety of activities like fixing equipment, delivering hay, bookwork, building fence or going to agricultural meetings.

When do you get to take your boots off? 

My boots can get very dirty throughout the day, therefore they come off when I enter the house.  This may be for a short break at lunch, but when things are busy lunch may be in the tractor cab or even skipped.  The last time my boots come off each day can range from 6:30 to 2 am, depending on how much work needs done.  This does not mean my day is necessarily over, though, as the next day needs planned and bills need paid.

Boots workin' hard!

Agriculture is important to you, it's pretty obvious, but what is an issue facing your industry that you feel is important to bring up? 

In an ever changing world farmers have grown away from the rest of society.  Our values, ideals, and lifestyle may be cherished by those outside of agriculture, but we have not made a sincere effort to show them what our daily lives are about.  How we take care of our animals, crops and environment are unknown to them.   With little transparency in agriculture society will continue to lose trust in us paving the way for increased restrictions and regulations in how our families can manage our farms.

To the consumer of your farm's products, what are you interested in letting them know? 

I would like to invite everyone to take a few minutes to learn more about agriculture, not from writers, books, or the news but instead directly from farmers.  With the evolution of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google plus anyone can easily connect with farmers daily.

Connect with Mike Haley if you are interested in an entertaining take on agriculture from a man who has his boots on the ground every day raising food for you!

on twitter: @farmerhaley
on the web:

BOOTS ON THE GROUND is brought to you by Country Outfitter They sent me a fancy new pair of boots and so I'm linking them on to this series. Mike's boots come from Country Outfitter too!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is PINK SLIME dangerous to consumers?

   The ABC news has recently run reports on what is being termed "Pink Slime" on March 7th, 8th and 9th decrying its use in food production. Feel free to watch the most recent report from Friday's evening news. Before this past week, I had never heard anything about this "Pink Slime", so of course I was curious to figure out what was going on. Turns out, I actually did know about the stuff, as I had seen it produced in 2009 when I had the opportunity to tour the facility where it is processed.

   For those of you who don't know what it is, the "Pink Slime" being referred to is actually "Lean, Finely, Textured Ground Beef" or LFTB, so from hereon I'll refer to it as that. I remember going to the Beef Products Inc. (BPI) packing plant where the product is made and the whole trip really impressed me. To explain, the vast majority of beef comes from whole muscle cuts that are safely harvest from the animal after exsanguination. However, we raise some pretty chubby cattle today, as we prefer the taste of high-quality beef that grades USDA Choice or Prime. In doing so, there is some fat on the external part of the carcass that is trimmed off to be used to make other by-products for food or manufacturing. When that fat is trimmed off, there is a small proportion of meat remaining in the fat and BPI (and others) have an extraction process that separates that lean meat from those fat trimmings. Part of the extraction process involves using ammonium hydroxide or citric acid mist to make sure the product is free of bacteria or any other microorganisms. The mist then evaporates and is not present in the final product, although both are approved for use in meat and other foods as well.

   When I saw this process, I remember how amazing I thought it was that by using our brains and clever technology, we could utilize an additional 10 to 12 lbs of beef from each animal. This is increasingly important as we see the cost of food continue to rise for various reasons, we need to be efficient in order to feed 9 billion people by 2050. LFTB was approved as safe and wholesome for use in food back in the 1990's by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the director of the FSIS at the time, Dr. Russell Cross, recently made a statement reaffirming his belief in the safety of the product, which I've posted below:

Statement From H. Russell Cross, Ph.D.

Professor and Head of Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University
"As Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) in the early 90s, I and my staff evaluated numerous research projects before approving lean, finely textured beef as a safe source of high-quality protein. The FSIS safety review process was and is an in-depth, science-based process that spans years, many research projects and involves many experts across all levels of the agency-and in this case, the process proved the product is safe."

"Approving lean finely textured beef as safe was the right decision, and today, it remains a safe way to meet the nutritional needs of a growing population. All beef is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins.

"Finely textured lean beef helps us meet consumer demand for safe, affordable and nutritious food."

 While I am not an expert on the product, I know that it is a safe, nutritious product which is the same thing as regular ground beef, just processed in a different way. There is alot of science that supports this, or else it would have never been allowed into the food chain to start with. I recommend reading some additional materials prepared by people much smarter than I.

Engineering a Safer Burger - An excellent newpaper article by the Washington Post about the history of the product

I hope that this information can be helpful to anyone concerned about using Lean, Finely Textured Ground Beef, and just know that I'll continue eating burgers because I'm confident in the safety of U.S. produced beef. One last trivia piece, over the past decade, the number of ground beef samples testing positive for E. coli 0157:H7 have been cut in half, and the use of LFTB has helped contribute to this decrease!



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tailgate Lectures: Fields of Our Fathers

I haven't posted a Tailgate Lecture in a long time. I'll remind you that these posts are filled with stories and lessons I learned from my Grandfather. This Tailgate Lecture is a little bit different. In the fall of my senior year, we had a special assignment in Journalism Class. We were to write about the pivotal moment in someone's life, the person was to be very special to us. I easily chose my grandfather as my subject. In true fashion, I procrastinated about the project and ended up interviewing him during a trip home from a cattle sale when the only way I could write his answers was to use the light that shined in from the trailer of heifers we were hauling home. The essay turned out to be the neatest thing I have ever done for someone in my entire life. He was truly proud of it and it turned out that I got it written just in time - he passed that summer. I am proud to share this essay with you: 

Fields of Our Fathers

My grandpa loved farming, ranching and FISHIN'!
 His voice is deep and coarse. You can almost hear the dust, inhaled during countless hours spent in the fields plowing; settle in his lungs after he clears his throat mid-sentence. His skin is dark and weathered like a cowboy’s favorite pair of boots. Nevertheless, he is a stately man, tinged with the rough edges from the hard times in his life. Archie Rooney surpassed great adversity to own a farming  and ranching operation that encompasses nearly 20,000 acres in Southwest Kansas.

Grandpa Archie and my dad on "Doc" the family cow horse.
The beginning of Rooney’s life as a farmer, however, was not a smoothly paved road. It might be better described as baptism by fire rather than holy water. 

“I was 19 when my dad passed away. He left behind 2,000 acres and a young kid to run the place. I had always helped him out on the farm, but never made any real decisions,” Rooney said. 

Rooney’s father, Harry, suffered a severe cerebral hemorrhage while changing a flat tire. The hemorrhage led to his eventual death. Fear is the only feeling Rooney could recall upon the death of his father. As a college student, he was left with the responsibility of a 2,000-acre farming operation and a herd of about 100 head of commercial cows. Equipped with only the knowledge from his high school years, he had to make the farm work. A neighbor convinced Rooney’s mother to send him back to finish the semester. A few months from the end of the term, Rooney spent every weekend at home, working in the fields around the clock in order to get the spring planting finished for the farm.

“It was hard, and it was all I could do to keep up with the farm and school. Mom would sometimes have to put on her jeans and hop in the tractor like a man to help out. She hadn’t always. You see in those days women took care of the home; they didn’t work in the fields like the men,” Rooney said.

4 Generations of Rooney Farmers - Grandpa, Dad, Marguerite (Grandpa's Mom), and my brother, Bret.  
Over 50 years later, the kid who took the reigns of the family farm has become the retired man who enjoys watching his children and grandchildren carry out the daily tasks of farming through the kitchen window as he sips his coffee and reads the newspaper. He watched the farm switch from ditch to pipe and now to pivot irrigation. He witnessed the fluctuation of the cattle market and met the demands of both the commercial and purebred industries. He drove open-cab tractors over his family’s land and watched a new tractor equipped with Global Positioning Satellites practically drive itself over the same fields. Rooney has witnessed so much change, not only in the farming business, but in himself as well. 

“Dad’s death ended up being a good experience for me. I just never realized it until the farm became successful. Things got better, after I learned how to make it work,” Rooney said.

Later Rooney would experience a tragedy not completely unlike the one that befell his father. In his 70's, he was diagnosed and treated for lung cancer. For a time, he wondered if his success was coming to an end, but Rooney, unlike his father, had the chance to look out his kitchen window to see his son plant the same acres of wheat he had planted for his father 50 years before.

My Grandpa and I in April of 2007 - He wasn't about to let me go to Prom without his approval

All my best, 

Tera Rooney

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We're on facebook!

And you should go check out our page to keep up with all of our activities!

Monday, March 5, 2012

PETA Posts Shameful Euthanasia Rate

The number of pets that were lucky enough to be adopted out last year by PETA.

Another number for you to ponder: 95+ -- The percentage of pets in PETA's care which were euthanized in 2011 (1911 pets).

One more big number: 37 MILLION -- PETA's annual budget. Doesn't seem like they're short on cash for dog or cat food.

I'm not the only one who finds this abhorrent. An interested resident of Virginia (PETA's HQ is located in Alexandria, VA) called HQ and inquired as to whether or not there is an animal shelter at HQ. There isn't, shockingly (or not?).

Upon learning of this, Dr. Daniel Kovich, Director of Animal Welfare and Health Policy for the Virginia Department of Agriculture, conducted an investigation of the facilities and determined that the building doesn't have anywhere near the necessary amount of space for the animals it takes into custody. Additionally, Dr. Kovich found out that PETA euthanizes approximately 84% of the animals it takes in within 24 hours of receiving them into their facilities. That's shameful.

For the record, I acknowledge the fact that some animals are so horribly treated and abused that the most humane thing to do is euthanize them. This is of course, very sad but necessary, and I can appreciate PETA euthanizing those specific animals. However, in no way do I believe that 1911 pets were in such horrendous condition that they needed to be euthanized within 24 hours. I'm not buying it.

I didn't write this post to blaspheme PETA and make people aware of their outrageous actions - they're marketing department does a fine job of that on their own. I merely want to point out that your donated dollar to PETA doesn't necessarily go towards saving pets. Unless they're one of the lucky twenty-four.

If you really want to help, donate money or dog/cat food to your local animal shelter. Or, even better, adopt a pet from your local animal shelter rather than purchasing a purebred.

In closing, I want to leave you with one last fact. The Oregon Humane Society saved over 10,000 pets in 2009 through adoptions, owner reunions and transfers. Over 10,000 - in one state.

Until next time,

~ Buzzard ~

Saturday, March 3, 2012


If you are interested about where your food comes from and the people who produce it. You have got to check out this blog. It's awesome!

Hands of Farmers

Reminds me of the Boots on the Ground posts here at Food For Thought! The pictures are probably my favorite, mostly because I've seen hands like that a lot during my life on the farm.

Let me know your favorite post!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Problems Wolves Pose For Cattle Ranchers

Please read this blog post from a friend of mine. I never thought of an issue that would affect cattle ranchers like this.

Ranching with Rhinestones - War for the West

Jessie attended Kansas State University for her undergraduate degree. She hails from Nevada and is currently a PhD candidate in Meat Science at Texas Tech University.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue that Jessie brings to attention in her blog post.




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