Sep 16, 2014
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March 2014 Archive for Grazing the Net

RSS By: Greg Henderson and Friends, Beef Today

Our editors spend some time roaming the web looking for stuff cattle people and others in agriculture might find useful or entertaining. 

Silky Smooth Situation

Mar 31, 2014

You've heard of milk baths for beauty, but these Siberian milk and cheese plant workers took things a little too far when they bathed in large vats of milk, and then posted pictures of the event on Russian social media. While that thought might curdle your desire for a glass of moo juice at breakfast, the incident actually highlights the tremendous lack of sanitary oversight in the country's food industry. In the last five years, Russian law limited inspections of such facilities to only once every three years.

Now who's up for some international travel?

Vegan Strippers

When we are grazing around the net and see the headline "Vegan strippers let it all hang out," how can we not click for a quick read? The world's first (and only?) vegan strip club is in Portland, Oregon. And it turns out, most the ladies of the evening are not vegan, but they must abide by vegan principles while at work. That means only faux fur panties and fake leather bustiers. The article actually focuses on their view of politics. But there's one stripper who caught our eye (actually ah, yeah ... her comments caught our eye). She is particularly concerned about the American food supply and is setting aside her stripping money to purchase a 30-acre farm. There, she plans to live with like-minded individuals and raise her own food. The group plans to live off grid and is exploring the energy possibilities of humanure ... yeah, you guessed it: human manure.

It's OK to click, we did.

Free Grazers?

There's a showdown setting up in central Nevada that might be worthy of a new Bonanza episode. Rancher Cliven Bundy grazes cattle on public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Bundy hasn't paid BLM grazing fees since 1993, and the government agency has threatened to seize his cattle. He contends the BLM isn't the proper landlord of the land, citing family ancestors who worked the land long before the BLM was an acronym. It looks as if the face off is coming to a head. The government showed up with trucks and trailers a few days ago. But the jury's still out on if anything will happen. The BLM also said it was prepared to remove Bundy's cattle in 2011.

What would Ben Cartwright say?

Kudos to the NY Times for a positive look at ranching

Water Wise

Vehicle shopping? You might want to look at a Japanese amphicar. Yep, you guessed it -- or more likely you didn't -- the amphicar can run on roads or water. A company developed the car to help drivers negotiate impassable roads and flood prone areas in Southeast Asia. Somehow we don't see the concept taking hold in much of drought-ridden California or Texas.

Does this car float your boat?

Drought-wise mayor of Tank Town sells a different idea


Lime Prices Go Loco

Mar 28, 2014

While we were watching the price of cattle and hogs shoot up, we missed the fact that lime prices have nearly tripled. A lime in many supermarkets can now cost about 53 cents, compared to 21 cents last year.

Bad weather and pests that reduced lime production in Mexico are the reason your margarita now costs more, and lime prices have increased so much lately that Mexican drug cartels have taken notice.

"If they're nice," one journalist says, "they put humongous taxes on the farmers. If they're not nice, they just kill farmers and take the land and take over lime production themselves." NPR also reports lime producers are now hiring security details to protect shipments of limes from organized hijackers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Electricity at $40 Per Head

Drought is not a concern for Parker Ranch CEO Neil "Dutch" Kuyper. Located on the big island of Hawaii, the famed 130,000 acre Parker Ranch gets plenty of rainfall, it's the $40 per calf electricity costs that keep Kuyper awake at night. The ranch has an extensive water system with large reservoirs and water tanks, but much of the water must be pumped. With 17,000 head of cattle, the Ranch's annual electricity bill is about $680,000.

We Eat Our Words

Yesterday we told you about this new word we learned, invasivores, which is what folks call themselves who eat invasive species that aren’t normally considered food.

To add some context to our description, we mentioned locavores and omnivores, but we bungled the definition of omnivores, even though we knew better. Several readers called us out on our error. So, to clarify, herbivores are those who eat a plant-based diet, and omnivores eat both meat and plants. We’re eating our words today, but to satisfy our carnivorous tendencies, we’re taking them with a side of crow.

Pink Slime Suit Moves Forward

ABC News failed in its attempt to have the $1.2 billion "pink slime" lawsuit dismissed. The suit stems from the company’s coverage of a meat product they dubbed "pink slime" in 2012. Beef Products Inc., filed the suit claiming the news reports led to the closure of three plants costing 700 people their jobs. Ruling Thursday, South Dakota judge Cheryle Gering said ABC isn't protected against liability by saying in its news reports that the product is beef, is safe and is nutritious. The case moves forward, and is likely to be a long affair.

Eat Your Enemy

Mar 27, 2014

You don't have to be a cannibal to participate in this new food movement. Maybe you've heard of locavores (those who eat locally raised food) and omnivores (those who eat a plant-based diet), but now there's a new vore in our language – invasivore. That's what folks are calling themselves who eat invasive species such as carp, feral hogs, Himalayan blackberries, Canada goldenrod and rock snot. (We weren't familiar with rock snot either, but it's apparently a species of diatom that produces nuisance growths in freshwater rivers and streams that has been described as a cross between mucus and throw-up. Yum.) Andrew Deines is a Michigan State University biologist who enjoys invasive garlic mustard ice cream and heads up a group who run, a site that provides all the news and recipes you need to eat your enemies.

Editor's note: Doh! Please see 'We Eat Our Words' for a note on the omnivore correction.

Depressing Lifestyle

We've always thought a vegetarian lifestyle would be depressing, but now there's evidence to support such ideas. In fact, a new study of 1,320 Austrians published in Nutrition and Health says vegetarians are more likely to have cancer, food allergies, and anxiety and depression. Researchers also found vegetarians take fewer vaccines and have fewer preventative checkups.

"Overall, our findings reveal that vegetarians report poorer health ... and have a lower quality of life," the researchers wrote. Of course, if you're a vegetarian you're likely to dispute the study, as the folks at Grist do.

As for us, we've never seen a depressed person eating barbeque.

Drought Continues

The ongoing drought threatens many farmers and ranchers. California has upped its estimate of unplanted acres to 800,000 and the early guess for on-farm losses is $3.56 billion.

The National Drought Monitor shows 65% of our nation's cowherd is in states currently experiencing drought. Six states in the Central Plains – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa – account for 40% of those cows and each of those states are under various degrees of drought.

Tornado Drought

There's another drought underway in America – a tornado drought. Through March 26, only six tornadoes have been confirmed, according to the Weather Channel. That matches the lowest March tornado count of six recorded in 1951. The reason, meteorologists say, is due to the same pattern that gave us a cold and snowy winter in parts of the U.S. But don't be misled by the lack of early-season tornados. April brings a marked ramp-up of tornados as warmer, more humid air flows farther north to intercept under the still-energetic polar jet stream.

Big Vegan Lies

Mar 26, 2014

Vegans believe their diet can help people lose weight and even reverse killer diseases. The reality, however, is the evidence is weak and there is a large body of evidence that they are ignoring, says Kris Gunnars, a medical student and personal trainer who launched "Many vegan advocates are incredibly dishonest about animal foods and spread unscientific fear mongering to convince people that their diet is healthy," Gunnars says. He's compiled the "top 11 biggest lies, myths and misconceptions about vegan diets."

A Fish Story

Scientists tell us that the invasive Asian carp threatens America's watersheds. They've been found in 12 states and the Great Lakes, gobbling up native fish and reproducing like crazy. Solving the problem would be easy, if only carp didn't taste like, well ... carp. The Chinese, however, apparently like carp, so a Kentucky firm has launched the latest method of carp disposal and heavy carbon footprint food processing. They're shipping carp to China, where carp are a "prized" food.

A Lift Out To Sea

California's drought has left Chinook salmon high and dry. Specifically, millions of juvenile salmon can't swim out to sea on their usual migration because the state's waterways are too dry. So, state and federal officials are giving them a lift via tanker trucks. Over the next few months, some 30 million Chinook salmon will be trucked from the Central Valley to waters where they can make their way to the ocean. California's salmon industry is estimated to be worth $1.5 billion.

New Technology, New Laws

Officials in Alaska have taken preemptive action to prohibit hunters from spotting wild game with drones. Alaska Wildlife Troopers say the practice is not widespread now, but with the technology becoming cheaper and easier to use, they fear more hunters would begin utilizing drones to spot moose, bear and other game animals.

A Magnet for the Toilet?

Mar 25, 2014

Americans have learned to recycle glass and plastic, stopped bagging lawn clippings and many take their own reuseable bags to the store to carry groceries home. The next step in ecofriendly living may include hanging a magnet in the toilet. A team of German scientists have developed a way to remove the phosphorus from wastewater simply by adding something called superparamagnetic particles to the water. When the particles detect a magnetic field, they themselves become magnetic. The phosphorus particles then end up "piggybacking" off the superparamagnetic particles and can be removed from the water with a magnet.

Celebrate National Ag Day With Us

Today, we're celebrating our annual 'A Day in Ag' event and we want you to be a part of it. Held in conjunction with National Ag Day, the event is a chance to share photos, videos and stories right from your farm. Tag your photos #adayinag14 -- or email them to -- and we'll show them on

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of The World Food Prize Foundation, thinks every March 25 should be Borlaug Ag Day. Today is the 100th Anniversary of Borlaug's birth, and Quinn writes that our Ag Day celebrations should also honor the "Father of the Green Revolution."

Menu Prices Slated to Go Higher

With beef and pork prices at or near record-highs, retailers and restaurant owners are raising prices in an effort to keep up. Consumer demand has held strong early this spring, but the lofty price levels make many industry analysts nervous. USDA predicts retail beef prices will rise 3 to 4% this year. One pork industry economist thinks pork prices could jump 10 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, cattle and hog producers are enjoying excellent profits. View the Sterling Profit Trackers.

One Billion Dollars on the Way

The farm bill authorized $1 billion to reimburse farmers and ranchers for lost livestock and provide money for feed purchases. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden encourages livestock producers to bring their records to one of USDA's field offices. The farm bill reauthorizes disaster relief programs that hadn’t been operational since 2011.

Come Hell or High Water

Mar 24, 2014

You may have heard about the long spell of dry out west, and that a lot of folks are seriously wondering about drinking water, not to mention bath water and what not. Which makes this story about releasing a "pulse" of water from Lake Mead, in hopes of reinvigorating a dry region in Mexico, all the more curious. Mexican and U.S. water authorities have been planning this release of water for some time, part of a five-year pilot project, and it's just a coincidence, they say, that it launches now when record drought threatens water security in the West. So, over the next eight weeks the gates will open and an estimated 105,000 acre-feet of water will be released. Come hell or high water, as it were.


Waldo Escapes the Butcher

It was promoted as a feel good story by the Minnesota television station that reported about Waldo, the Holstein steer that escaped the butcher shop last week. But reality is that the story only underscores the fact that our society is far removed from the farm, and that some of us just have more money than sense. You see, when Waldo kicked down a gate and ran out of the slaughterhouse to roam through Casselton, M.N., it caught the attention of an animal lover in Michigan who bought the steer and paid to have it shipped to a Michigan animal sanctuary called Sasha Farm to live out its days. The Good Samaritan no doubt believes saving Waldo helps make the world a better place. We're animal lovers, too, but we believe more would have been accomplished had Waldo been returned to the butcher and the meat sent to a homeless shelter.


Bureaucracy At Work

Remember that iconic photo of the President and his security team in the Situation Room as Navy Seal Team 6 took out Osama bin Laden? Weren't you just amazed at the technology – the video stream from halfway around the world, the superior weapons and tactics of those brave men? How, one must ask, can a country so advanced be so inept? We're referring to the fact that the Office of Personnel Management still processes government worker's retirement via paper! The Washington Post reports about 600 people work in an old Pennsylvania limestone mine where truckloads of paper are delivered each day. "The employees here pass thousands of case files from cavern to cavern and then key in retirees' personal data, one line at a time."

Conservation Efforts Made for Endangered Species

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has renewed and expanded a partnership to provide expert advice to farmers and ranchers to help protect the habitat of the lesser prairie chicken. The agency is partnering with a national wildlife conservation organization to jointly invest $5 million over three years.

"Beeves" and Butt-Head

Mar 21, 2014

Did you know the plural of "beef" is actually "beeves?" We really weren't sure until running onto this article by Foodbeast that did a little research into various English dictionaries and determined that in fact "beeves" is a word. Apparently the height of the use for "beeves" was in the early 1800s, but it died off at the turn of the century. "Beeves" does make sense in the same context that the plural of "calf" is "calves." Just don't count on reading any headlines from us that read "Beeves Market Rally" or that our name will change to "Beeves Today."

Bovine Identity Crisis

Milking Black Baldies must be a recent trend in Europe or this new advertisement by a U.K. grocery chain is way off base. It is the latter. Supermarket giant, Tesco, had a new advertising campaign to hawk milk featuring some Hereford and Angus-influenced cattle. When farmers spotted the fake dairy cows they weren't too happy, so Tesco ditched the baldies. Companies in the States haven't done much better with ads featuring cattle. Last year Chevy pulled the opposite move of Tesco by using a 100-lb. Holstein calf as a fill-in for a newborn Longhorn in a Silverado truck ad. At least Chevy made up for the mistake with a Super Bowl commercial starring some romantic Herefords. Your move Tesco!

Great Beef Expectations

Cattle producers have high hopes thanks to record high prices in all phases of the beef industry. Derrell Peel, livestock marketing specialist for Oklahoma State University Extension, details some of the factors that have caused the markets to hold so strong including low cow numbers, drought and PEDV in pork. "Both producers and consumers are reacting, not only to current record prices, but also to their evolving expectations for market conditions over the coming weeks, months and years," Peel says.

Lactose Intolerant Relatives

If you have a problem digesting dairy, a look down your family tree may explain why.
Researches from the University of Pennsylvania sought to determine if genetics had an effect on the presence of lactose intolerance in remote regions of Africa. What they found was evidence that recent positive selection of genetic variations were associated with lactase persistence in African populations. This change was probably caused by the development of pastoralism, or a cattle herding culture. Other studies have shown similar results where people with an ancestral tradition of milk production and consumption have no problem digesting milk.

Five-Second Rule is Hogwash

Mar 20, 2014

New research on the "five-second rule" reminds us of the old joke about the farm kid that dropped his gum in the chicken coop. He thought he found it three times. Now, research at Aston University's School of Life and Health Sciences suggests that "food picked up off the floor a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time." Duh.

We're not microbiologists, but it would seem to us that it's not necessarily the amount of time a chip or gummy bear spends on the floor, but what it's dropped in that makes it dangerous to eat. Let's just say we wouldn't eat anything dropped on the floor of any bunkhouse we've visited. But what does an expert say? Donald W. Schaffner, Extension specialist in food science and professor at Rutgers University whose research interests include quantitative microbial risk assessment and predictive food microbiology, says, "If you don't have any pathogens on your kitchen floor, it doesn't matter how long food sits there. If you do have pathogens on your kitchen floor, you get more of them on wet food than dry food. But in my considered opinion, the five-second rule is nonsense."


Don't Rush It

Today is the first day of spring, which means turning cows and calves out to pasture will soon follow. But don't be too hasty, says University of Missouri forage specialist Rob Kallenbach. "Wait for grass to reach a minimum of 4 inches of growth," he says. A delayed start on grazing becomes more important than usual this spring. "Pastures will be weak and thin," he says. "Give grasses a chance to gain strength." Grazing too early could cause need for pasture reseeding later, or the weak stands could become crowded out with weeds.



Seeking Sustainable Beef

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) released its draft Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef document for public comment. GRSB's document identifies key areas in the beef value chain that must be addressed to ensure beef production around the globe is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.

The document received plenty of criticism. For instance, Mother Jones called it "McDonalds' Vision of 'Sustainable:' Brought to You by the Beef Industry."

Heidi Carroll, a South Dakota State University livestock stewardship Extension associate, says to ensure sustainable beef is a meaningful designation, it will be critical to come up with standards that are measurable and can be regulated at the local and regional level. "It will be complicated to form a universal definition."


Dairy Cow Slaughter Declines

Dairy cow slaughter slowed considerably in February, with just 237,000 head sent for processing in federally inspected plants, USDA reports. Compared to a year ago, February slaughter was down 8.5%, with 22,000 fewer cows culled. January 2014 cow slaughter was 270,000 head, or 33,000 more cattle culled than February.

Why Cowboys Smell Bad

Mar 19, 2014

We sat next to a cowboy last week who exhibited a severe case of microbial conversion of the apocrine secretions into short chain fatty acids like isovaleric acid and volatile sulphur compounds like 3-sulphanylhexan-1-ol. Yeah, he had body odor. Mix that with whatever was on his boots and you understand why we moved across the room. We can't fix the smell from the stuff we step in, but apparently we can change the odor of our bodies. Stop eating tomatoes. That's what Irish biochemist J.C.M. Stewart says in a new article published in Medical Hypotheses, a peer-reviewed journal. Stewart believes the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes is the smelly culprit. Hmm ... is it possible to develop a GMO tomato that would make us smell like honeysuckle?

Drought Worries Continue

We spent much of the winter huddled near the stove, and recognize most folks in the East experienced much colder temperatures. California, however, received a lot of warm with their dry. The state is coming off of its warmest winter on record, aggravating an enduring drought.

But the drought remains American agriculture's number one worry as farmers head to the fields this spring. The California Farm Water Coalition, for instance, says farmers will idle 800,000 acres this year due to a lack of water.

Staggering. But the California drought may be overshadowing the continuation of the historic drought in the southern Plains. The National Climactic Data Center says a swath of central Texas, parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, recorded their driest January-February on record in 2014.

Check out the National Drought Monitor.


Profits Abound in Beef Market

March has been a profitable month for both cattle and hog producers, and rising beef and pork prices have helped packers record positive margins the past couple of weeks. Feedyard margins exceeded $240 per head last week. Check out the Sterling Beef and Pork Profit Trackers.

GMO Answers That Consumers Want

When it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Americans most want to know whether they cause cancer. That's according to the results of a survey commissioned by GMO Answers and the Council for Biotechnology Information. Randomly selected respondents were contacted by phone and given a list of 23 questions about GMOs. Of those questions, respondents were asked to pick those they were most interested in having answered. Global market research company Ipsos conducted the survey.

A Green Light For Fat?

Mar 18, 2014

"It's not saturated fat that we should worry about," says Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, the lead author of a new study and a cardiovascular epidemiologist at Cambridge University. The new study on fat and heart health, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, did not find an increase in heart disease in people who ate higher levels of saturated fat. And they didn't see a reduction in heart disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat. So, is this a green light to eat all the steak, butter and other yummy foods with saturated fat? Not so fast, says Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Hu says looking at individual fats in isolation could be misleading, because when people cut down on fats they tend to eat more refined carbohydrates that can also be bad for heart health. So, eat the steak but skip the bread.

The Dawning Age of Super-Plants

"Forget GMOs," says the Los Angeles Times. "Scientists are creating bionic plants." Indeed, scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are creating super-plants by placing tiny carbon nanotubes deep within their cells. Some of these altered plants increased their photosynthetic activity by 30% compared with regular plants. "The idea is to impart plants with functions that are non-native to them," said Michael Strano, professor of chemical engineering at MIT. This research confirms that we're just seeing the tip of the plant-altering iceberg. "There's a lot more coming," Strano said.

Idaho Sued Over Ag Gag Law

Idaho governor C. L. "Butch" Otter may not have sought controversy last month when he signed the state's "ag gag" law, but the state is now squarely in the cross-hairs of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a coalition of animal activists, civil rights groups and media organizations. That coalition sued Idaho this week over the new law that makes it illegal to secretly film animal abuse at agricultural facilities. The suit contends that the law curtails freedom of speech and makes gathering proof of animal abuse harsher than the penalty for animal cruelty itself.

Healthier Beef Proposal

Colorado entrepreneur Don Smith is seeking funding for a project to develop heart-healthy beef. The funds would pay for a Colorado State University research project that would feed cattle algae, a high source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Taste Test for Pig Semen?

Mar 17, 2014

We're not sure if this fits into the category of natural, sustainable farming or disgusting factory farming techniques. But it is low-tech. Vermont-born Sabrina Estabrook-Russett is a veterinary student in Scotland where she was sent for an on-farm learning experience about capturing boar semen with a Slovenian farmer. After gathering the semen she was instructed the semen must be tested for quality. Veterinary students, Estabrook-Russett says, are unfazed by the "wide array of horrendous bodily fluids we encounter on a near-daily basis." Yet, she was unprepared for what the Slovenian said next. "We test by ALL the senses: see, touch, smell, taste. You want taste?" No. We want change majors.

Vegan Madness

It must be March Madness. No, we're not talking about college basketball. We're referring to Kathy Stevens' prediction that America will be 100% vegan by 2050.

That's an optimistically naive prediction since only about 2-3% of the population is vegan today, and only 16% of Americans described themselves as "flexitarian," which means consuming a vegetarian diet part of the time. Using that description, I guess we're flexitarian, too. There was that meal back in August where we didn't consume any meat.

But if we're going to stop eating meat altogether within 36 years, we'll have to find a new source of stearic acid which is used in car tires. In fact, dry wall, paint, sugar and asphalt all contain ingredients derived from cows.




Florida's Python Problem

Florida spends half a billion dollars a year trying to rid itself of invasive species, but the state is about to give up trying to rid the Everglades of pythons. Last year the state organized the Python Challenge and enlisted 1,500 volunteers to help capture some of the estimated 100,000 pythons living in the Everglades. They caught 68. Officials also warned snake hunters not to eat python meat due to increased levels of mercury.

The Kobe Beef of Pork

A Michigan farmer believes the Hungarian pigs he's importing will become known as the Kobe beef of pork, since the meat is highly marbled. The breed, Mangalistsa, is also known for strikingly long, coarse hair, which may provide some advantages for raising the hogs in a free-range atmosphere.

Cowboys and Indians and the Farm Bill

Mar 14, 2014

The latest farm bill has reopened some old wounds between Oklahoma’s Native Americans and politicians. The controversy surrounds a nearly 15-square mile tract of land carved out of an Indian reservation in 1883, which was 14 years after President Grant gave the same property to the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes. The Indians want the land back, but Section 7512 of the farm bill keeps the land under USDA control for another five years. The Grazinglands Research Laboratory operates on the full 6,700 acres now, and USDA is reluctant to abandon the site, especially if it’s just to be developed into another Indian casino. Other ventures, however, may be more lucrative to the Indian tribes. Major oil and gas drilling activities are in progress nearby.

Conservation is Not an "Aberration"

We’re quick to criticize folks who we believe have a distorted view of agriculture and who think we should just go back to farming with a team of mules. But we also think it’s important to recognize when one of modern agriculture’s critics makes an honest attempt to better understand just what he’s criticizing. That’s why we’re throwing out kudos to Grist’s Nathanael Johnson, who visited Iowa farmer David Ausberger and discovered conservation on the farm is not an "aberration." Johnson wrote, "Conservation, after all, means less waste: less soil flowing downstream, less petroleum burned, fewer costly pesticides sprayed. All that rhymes with profits." Whoa! Johnson acknowledged profits!



Better Bourbon?

We know plenty of cowboys who believe one of life’s greatest pleasures is chasing down a prime T-bone with a glass of Kentucky bourbon. It’s our job to highlight the efforts of those cowboys who work hard to produce a better steak, but we’ve stumbled on this eighth-generation Kentucky distiller whose mission is to produce a better bourbon, and he thinks the ocean is the key. Trey Zoeller ages his Jefferson’s Bourbon in barrels floating on the sea. The exceptional color and flavor of this $200 per bottle bourbon comes from "rocking on the water" in the barrels. Zoeller has nearly 200 barrels traversing the globe, with official tasters monitoring the aging process and flavor at various ports along the journey. We’re investigating how one becomes an "official taster."

A Beef With Chipotle

Greg Peterson has a beef with Chipotle. Peterson, of the now famous Peterson Brother’s whose YouTube video "I’m Farming and I Grow It" went viral on the Internet a couple of years ago, takes Chipotle to task for misleading consumers. Specifically, Peterson says Chipotle’s commercial, "The Scarecrow" and their recent video series, "Farmed and Dangerous," get it all wrong. In a new post on The Peterson Farm Blog, he asks readers to keep an open mind when reading the post "because it will probably contradict a lot of different things you have heard about large agricultural operations."

Do You Have a Urine Depot?

Mar 13, 2014

A Vermont organization has the first permitted, community-scale urine recycling program. What's that, you ask? The Rich Earth Institute boasts 175 volunteers that collect their urine in five-gallon jugs and drop it of at a "urine depot." From there it's transported to a farm where it's pasteurized before being spread on fields. This fertilization scheme is called "peecycling," and the Vermont farmers using it to grow forage for cows say they expect to collect 6,000 gallons this summer. Summer internship, anyone?

GMO Cows?

Scientists in England have identified genetic traits in cattle that might provide increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis (TB). Research at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute suggests it might be possible to improve TB control through selective breeding. Refining genomic predictors of resistance will be the focus of a new study to help control a disease of major economic importance to cattle producers worldwide.

PETA Sues S.D. Airport Authority

PETA has cried foul over the fact that the San Diego Airport Authority refused an anti-SeaWorld advertisement. PETA sought to buy space at the airport terminal for an ad featuring actress Kathy Najimy ("Sister Act," "Hocus Pocus") asking people to avoid SeaWorld "if you like animals like I do." The animal rights group claims the airport authority is "unfairly discriminating against the message of a specific." Sounds like a good plan to us.

Walmart-ification of America

With more than 4,300 stores in America, Walmart has had an impact on every community it touches. Some argue that impact has been good, others see Walmart as a plague on local businesses. Whatever your opinion, take a look at this animated map that shows Walmart's amazing growth since opening its first store in Arkansas in 1962.

Survey Details Angus Influence

Mar 12, 2014

We've known black has been a favorite color of America's beef producers for years, and our recent online survey confirms that both big and small operations utilize a lot of Angus genetics. A January Beef Today/Farm Journal survey with 1,245 respondents told us 58% consider their herd crossbred, but only 20% have no Angus genetics. Many have tied Angus' popularity to the successful Certified Angus Beef Program that helps find premiums for high-grading carcasses, and at current prices a high-value carcass can fetch $2,500. That's why it's interesting that nearly 40% of survey respondents said they paid less than $2,500 for a bull last year. It's a safe bet $2,500 won't buy much of a bull this year.

The United Steaks of America

L.V. Anderson is outraged that only four states—Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas—name meaty dishes among their official state foods. "And Maryland doesn’t really count—its state food is the blue crab, which is more like an edible bug than a meat." In an attempt to right this injustice, Anderson set out to assign a meat to every state – and not just any meat. "Red meat is what makes Americans red-blooded. Chicken, fish, and turkey? Off the table." So, Anderson’s map links a red meat dish to each state with this ground rule: the food must come from hair-growing, milk-producing, four-legged animals. Anderson, however, breaks this rule by linking Florida with alligator meat, with this rationale: "Is the alligator a mammal? No, it is not. But is Florida a normal state? No, it is not." Case closed.

Bottled Water Banned

We've long scratched our heads over the robust market for bottled water. It's now a $60 billion a year business in America, despite studies that show at least 25% of bottled water is merely tap water. Appalling, especially when you learn that in 2007 production of water bottles for U.S. consumption alone used up to 54 million barrels of oil. This week San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles on the city's property. Supervisor David Chiu, who voted to for the ban, said, "not long ago, our world was not addicted to plastic water bottles. Before (the 1990s), for centuries, everybody managed to stay hydrated."

El Niño Warning Issued

An El Niño watch has been issued by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, warning of the possible development of the weather-altering event that can bring rain to California and South America and raise winter temperatures in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest. There's a 52% chance that the Pacific Ocean will warm enough to trigger an El Niño late this summer or in early fall, said Michelle L'Heureux, a climate scientist at the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Breaking Bad: The Western

Mar 11, 2014

Many of the best westerns have been based on the good ole boys chasing down the bad guys. Those nefarious fellas were generally involved in cattle rustling and nowadays it has resulted in a pretty hefty payday thanks to record high beef prices. Modern day criminals aren't just doing it to get rich; they're also funding other illegal activities like using meth. ABC News' Nightline went out with chief agent Jerry Flowers of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture's law enforcement division and his posse to find two cattle thieves who weren't smart enough to use aliases like Breaking Bad's chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White, aka Heisenberg.

Extreme Dairy Makeover

Dairies and feedlots have a lot in common. Both operations feed cattle on a regular basis throughout the day. Both are trying to maximize production. But what happens to a dairy barn once it has outlived its use for cows? In Wisconsin, extension livestock facilities specialist David Kammel is recommending that those barn doors be opened up to the possibility of feeding steers. We think Kammel offers up some good food for thought to chew on including a crowding tub made out of an old Harvestore silo and a bunker silo repurposed as a windbreak.

Firefighting Cattle

Cattle have a lot of different job titles across the world. Bucking bulls are athletes. Oxen used as draft animals can be seen as farmers. The Hindu religion views cows as sacred, so priest might be a good fit too. Firefighter could soon be added to that list of job qualifications thanks to an experiment being performed in Australia. Cattle will be grazed in the high country of Victoria on government land and the study will see if there is an impact on fuel loads to reduce bush fires.

Beefed Up Market

Compared to this time last year feeder profits are looking outstanding. Cattle lost feedlots $54 per head a year ago, now they're making $233 off each calf. What a difference a year makes.
But just last week feeders were making $50 per head more at nearly $285, almost twice what they made the previous month.

"This Year I'm Going to Watch Stuff Die"

Mar 10, 2014

As California gets drier and hotter, no one is more vulnerable than farmers. And no one is likely to have to do more to adapt to what many experts fear will be a more drought-prone environment. But California farmers aren’t the only ones dealing with drought. Sixty-five percent of America's cow herd is in states that are under drought conditions.

Beyond the devastation for farming and ranching, all California residents are struggling with the consequences of a dry winter. One town is worried about having enough drinking water.

You know a drought is serious when Lady Gaga tapes a public service announcement on water conservation.

Just Pick One Already!

Has the start of Daylight Savings Time left you feeling groggy today? Lots of folks are beginning to wonder why we don't just pick a time and leave the clocks alone. There are at least 22 reasons why we should abolish Daylight Savings Time.

When the time changes each spring and fall we're reminded of the old joke that Daylight Savings Time is like cutting the end off a blanket and sewing it onto the other end to make the blanket longer. Whatever time it is, however, doctors say our internal body clock sets itself according to the sun, releasing hormones that make us alert at sunrise and sleepy at sunset.


Cattle Markets Remain Strong

Cattle markets remain strong despite last week's decline. Cash fed cattle fell $2 off of record highs set the previous week, but feeder cattle were steady to $4 higher. Demand for grass cattle remains red-hot, and this week may see aggressive bidding on tight supplies. Cash cattle markets are supported by higher-trending boxed beef values that suggest consumers have not been driven away by higher retail beef prices.

The Changing Grocery Business

Safeway and Albertsons announced a $9 billion merger Thursday, and analysts say it's just part of an industry-wide shake-up that is transforming how consumers shop for food. Specifically, traditional grocery stores have seen increased competition from big-box retailers such as Walmart that already has one-third of the national grocery market, and drug stores such as CVS.

How much has the grocery business changed? Out of 128 categories of items carried by supermarkets, the stores have a 50% or more market share in only 60 of them.

Alert: Ticks are Working for the Vegans

Mar 07, 2014

While we're not sure which group has recruited them, the lone star tick has apparently teamed up with one or more vegan advocate groups and are working to turn avid meat-eaters into reluctant vegans. One bite from these reddish-brown parasitic arachnids and your meat eating days are over.

In all seriousness, this is a concern for folks in the Southeast. A bite from the lone star tick is causing people to develop a serious allergy to red meat. More specifically, people develop an allergy to a sugar called alpha-gal, which is present in red meat. If you develop this allergy, it can cause rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and all around nastiness when you eat anything involving red meat. Unfortunately, this sudden allergy brought on by tick bites is becoming more and more commonplace. In fact, in a recent story on USA Today, "Clinics with the Vanderbilt Asthma Sinus and Allergy Program are diagnosing one or more cases a week."

We suggest an all-out war on ticks! Take no chances, kill on sight ... the ticks, that is, not the vegans.

Historic Angus Herd Honored

The Historic Angus Herd Award is presented to Angus breeders that have been in continuous production of registered Angus cattle for 50 or more years. This year, Double Dye Farms of Shelbina, Mo., is being recognized. Their herd was founded in the 1940's and they're still at it today. With five generations under their belt, Double Dye Farms and the Dye family truly have something to be proud of and we hope they continue on for another five-plus generations.

Visit for more information on the Historic Angus Herd Award and to view a list of awarded members since the program began in 1988.

Celeb Salami? Eww!

We wish we were making this up. It's too weird to be true, right? This has to be a hoax. Unfortunately, it seems to be the real-deal, at least in theory. A company called BiteLabs is attempting to create a test-tube meat using tissue from celebrities and mixing it with other meats to produce "artisanal salami." The company claims that their "test-tube meat would eliminate environmental and ethical concerns associated with livestock production." Yes, we couldn’t agree more. After all, cannibalism is much more ethical.

International Women's Day

Tomorrow is International Women's Day. Given , this is a holiday that we've never heard of before but it reminds us that behind every cowboy is an equally hardworking cowgirl (though they can just as often be found out front leading the herd). All of us at Grazing the Net would like to recognize the women of agriculture for everything that they do.

There are some great groups just for women in ag, like:

If you happen upon any lady farmers this weekend, tip your hat to them … not that you shouldn't do that anyway.

Meat: The New Tobacco

Mar 06, 2014

The food police are at it again, and the latest anti-meat study is certainly headline-worthy: It claims--much to the delight of vegans everywhere, we're sure--that eating meat and dairy could be as bad for you as smoking. The researchers say that people who eat high-protein diets are more likely to die of cancer than people who eat low-protein diets, and plant-based proteins are less harmful than animal-based proteins.

However, comparing meat to cigarettes is just blowing smoke, according Gunter Kuhnle, a food scientist at the University of Reading in the U.K. Kuhnle says the mortality risk is much greater for smokers than for meat-eaters, and comparing the two trivializes the risks of smoking. "People don’t need cigarette smoke to live – but protein is crucial to our bodily survival, and an essential part of our diet. Meat and cheese provide proteins and many other important nutrients, and can be part of a healthy diet," he says.

Moreover, Zoe Williams writes for The Guardian that the researchers' claims aren't just over the top, but the study itself is flawed. The problem? The study used data from a national diet survey, and people tend to lie about what they eat.

Viva la France

We respect anybody who respects a great cut of beef, which is why we're 100% supportive of the "foreign beef movement" that's happening in Paris. You see, French cows were historically bred for work, so the meat they produce leaves much to be desired. This has led French butchers and chefs to import about 20% of their beef from Europe, South America and the U.S., and it's introduced the French to new cuts of meat, like short ribs. And an extra thumbs-up goes to restaurant owner William Bernet, who insists on serving all of his beef somewhere between raw and rare.

All we can say is, we hope this movement continues to flourish. Because we believe everyone deserves a great ribeye.


We always knew wolves were bad news for livestock, but a new study by Oregon State University has found that wolf attacks affect more than just the downed animal. Reinald Cooke, animal scientist at OSU, explains: "Wolf attacks also create bad memories in the herd and cause a stress response known to result in decreased pregnancy rates, lighter calves and a greater likelihood of getting sick. It’s much like post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – for cows." Long story short: Stressed-out cows lead to decreased profits.

Meat Myths, Dispelled

We've heard plenty of crazy reasons why people shouldn't eat meat, but Kris Gunnars does a good job of dispelling the most common ones. It's a little hard to believe that anyone would honestly think that "meat rots in your colon" or "humans aren't designed for meat consumption," but as Gunnars says, "There is a lot of nonsense in nutrition."

Silly Selfie Snowballs to $1.5 Million

Mar 05, 2014

We're out of the loop, we admit. We haven't been to a movie theater in years, and we didn't watch the Oscar's on television Sunday night because they hold little interest to us. But our interest spiked when we heard that the Humane Society of the United States is $1.5 million richer because of the Oscars. Seems Ellen DeGeneres, the host of Sunday's Oscars show, posted a selfie on her Twitter account and Samsung USA, the phone company, pledged to donate a dollar for every re-tweet of that photo. DeGeneres has 27 million Twitter followers, and the photo apparently became the most retweeted in history, thus generating $1.5 million for DeGeneres' favorite charity, HSUS. Wayne Pacelle, of course, was ever so thankful for the generosity. Hmmm ... We wonder what Ingrid Newkirk thinks, is this a snub of PETA by DeGeneres? We certainly hope so.

McDonald's Custom Burger

McDonald's is conducting a test of what some are calling a "supersecret" restaurant concept in Southern California that allows customers to order a "custom" hamburger. "Custom" in this case, means patrons can order their burger with some un-McDonald's fixings such as sharp white chedder cheese, caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, or applewood-smoked bacon. Additionally, the restaurant caters to the young, tech savvy crowd through tablet ordering – building their custom burger on a touch screen iPad. For those of us who might be tech-challenged, employees are available to help customers use the touch-screen menus.

Global Food Becoming Homogeneous

The global food supply has grown more similar over the past 50 years, and that has some researchers worried. "Diversity enhances the health and function of complex biological systems," researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But, they said, the world of food has become homogeneous, to the point of suggesting a global standard food supply. In the last half a century, "national per capita food supplies expanded in total quantities of food calories, protein, fat and weight," they said. But at the same time, there has been "a decline in the total number of plant species upon which humans depend for food."


Ocean Temperatures Offer Clues to Crop Season Weather

Al Dutcher, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, says the Pacific and Atlantic oceans have a direct impact on weather patterns across the United States. Understanding these effects can help you assess which U.S. region(s) is likely to have a drought or favorable weather pattern.

Wandering into GMO Quicksand

Mar 04, 2014

Mark Twain must have outlined Green America's GMO Inside campaign strategy when he wrote: "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." Today, GMO Inside called on Starbucks to serve only organic milk sourced from cows not fed GMOs at its 20,000 stores in 62 countries.

Why? Because, well ... GMO Inside is kinda short on reasons Starbucks should comply, except that GMO Inside thinks that's the right thing to do. And, they remind us, (caution: sarcasm ahead) they had such overwhelming success with their campaign in January to get General Mills to drop GMOs from basic Cheerios. Except that, umm ... well ... General Mills said Cheerios are made from whole grain oats, and since there aren't any GMO oats, Cheerios never contained GMOs.

So what do you do when caught in such amazingly stupid PR quicksand? Claim, as GMO Inside did, that you "made worldwide headlines" with the Cheerios blooper!

Cattle Feeding Margins Exceed $280

Last week's sharply higher cattle prices helped increase feedyard margins, according to John Nalivka, Sterling Marketing, Inc., Vale, Ore. Five-area direct steer prices averaged $151.07 per cwt. last week, producing profits of $284.85 on every animal shipped, an increase of $30. Hog feeding margins were estimated at $49.81 per head, an increase of nearly $15 per head. Beef packer lost an average of $80 per head last week while margins for hog packing were at breakeven.

Fishing for Drought Solutions

There's just no way we can over-hype California's historic drought. NPR reveals shocking satellite images comparing snowpack from January 2013 and January 2014.

Mountain snowpack is unlikely to change this season, meaning water shortages will be a fact of life for Californian's 40 million residents this year. One proposed solution to California's water issues that has been called "drought-proof" is desalination, and the state has 17 such plants on the drawing board. Near Carlsbad, construction is underway on a $1 billion seawater desalination plant that is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. When complete in 2016, it will provide 50 million gallons of drinkable water each day. Not nearly enough, however, since the community uses roughly 750 million gallons a day. Further, desalination is expensive, uses lots of energy and requires about 2 gallons of seawater to produce 1 gallon of useable water.

Wyoming Cow Camp

Every year come calving season, the Proffit Ranch sets up "Cow Camp"—a temporary new home for the family’s 350 head of mother cows to birth a new crop of calves. Follow along as they journey to Granger, Wyoming, to set up their latest camp, courtesy of Country magazine.


Organic Egg Irony

Mar 03, 2014

There's a shortage of organic eggs across the country, and the shortfall draws attention to an ironic and spectacularly silly phenomenon. National Public Radio's food blog, The Salt, reports that demand for organic eggs is rising at the same time supply dwindles. The supply problem can be traced to the fact that America's farmers don't produce enough organic corn and soybeans to feed our organic chicken flock. Therefore, organic egg producers are forced to import organic corn and soybeans from places like China, India and Argentina. That's right, the U.S. exports soybeans to China, and they ship us organic soybeans so we can claim sustainability and save the planet by eating expensive organic eggs. You can't make this stuff up!

Wet or Dry, Warm or Hot?

The bitter winter of 2014 seems to reinforce the reality that man's attempts to forecast weather is only mildly successful. Still, as spring approaches farmers and ranchers are anxious to find clues about the upcoming growing season. Will it be wet or dry, warm or hot? The NOAA's Climate Prediction Center sees a hot summer ahead, while an independent weather service finds evidence of a drought brewing for the Central U.S.

Other meteorologists see hope in a developing El Niño, nature's most powerful influence on weather around the globe. Observations and computer models show increasing signs of El Niño's return, which might portend more rain for California.

Cattle Markets Set Another Record

Cash fed cattle prices posted $5 to $6 gains last week, with trading at $152 per cwt. in the North and $150 in the South. Yearling feeder cattle sold unevenly steady with noted pressure on those over 850 pounds. Calves were called steady to $5 per cwt. higher. USDA Market News reporter Corbitt Wall says there were "crazy prices again this week."

Is That a Bull in the Corn Market?

After many dismal months, there is now plenty of positive news coming out of the corn and soybean markets. "You have to go back to September to see prices this high," says Jerry Gulke, president of the Gulke Group.

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