Oct 2, 2014
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April 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. 

The Fertilizer Hypocrisy

Apr 30, 2014

Critics of Big Ag don't like the use of synthetic fertilizer. But it appears they don't like the use of natural fertilizer, either, mainly because it smells like ... well, fertilizer. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism found that when irrigation systems spread liquid manure on farm fields there is a distinct odor. Shocking! Scientists, however, say there are benefits to the practice. For instance, since manure is piped to irrigation units the use of trucks is unnecessary, reducing the burning of fossil fuels and damage to roads. Manure can also be applied to growing crops through irrigation systems instead of being spread on bare fields. That reduces excess manure running into streams and seeping into groundwater.

Confused Activist Confessional

We've often said we believe most animal activist are confused, and Catherine Gerson's farm confessional to Modern Farmer only solidifies those beliefs. In fact, Gerson represents much of what is wrong with today's animal welfare/animal rights activists and volunteers – they've drunk too much of the activist Kool-Aid. For instance, Gerson works for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, where she says, "I was looking every day at video and literature about the horrors of factory farms." She feels guilty, she says, because she still eats some meat – though she must know where and how it was raised. Buying meat from a grocery store is off-limits to Gerson because she’s seen too much "video and literature about the horrors of factory farms."

The Demitarian Delusion

European researchers suggest climate emissions could be reduced 25% to 40% if people would just reduce by half their consumption of animal products. They call that the demitarian diet. The recommendation comes from the European Nitrogen Assessment Special Report on Nitrogen and Food, which says cutting meat consumption would reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air and water pollution from nitrogen.

Livestock sustainability consultant Jude Capper, however, says the carbon footprint of beef was reduced by more than 16% between 1977 and 2007.

You can read more common sense about food and animal production at www.bovidiva.com.

Walmart Hosts CEOs for Sustainability

Leading CEOs from companies like Monsanto, Cargill and Dairy Farmers of America, pledge to increase sustainable food production and launch a recycling fund. Together, the participating suppliers represent more than $100 billion in sales at Walmart.

Did He Really Eat That?

Apr 29, 2014

If you were homeless and starving, would you eat chicken? A French tourist in New York this week discovered the answer. Paris native Karine Gombeau visited New York's Little Italy neighborhood last week and saw a man sifting through the garbage. Assuming he was homeless, she offered him her leftover pizza. When asked what she offered, Gombeau said it was barbecue chicken pizza, and the man took it. Chicken on pizza? That revelation leaves us flabbergasted, but there's more to this story. The man was no hobo, it was Richard Gere, a Hollywood A-list actor who was in character on the set of his new movie, "Time Out of Mind." Gere accepted the pizza, never revealing to Gombeau his true identity. So, did he eat the pizza? Gere has been rumored to be vegetarian, but he says that's not true. However, he admits he hasn't eaten red meat in 30 years. Hmmm. We think he ate the chicken.

Water Doesn't Come From a Spout

Food doesn't come from a store, and water doesn't come from a spout. It's a concept some Californians don't grasp. In the midst of the state's worst drought in recorded history, Governor Jerry Brown reminded Californians this week that watering lawns does not fall into the category of necessary water use. But it wasn't just individuals Brown was targeting with his proclamation. He also had to order homeowners associations to stop threatening to fine individuals who comply with water conservation measures. In other words, stop watering lawns and washing off driveways.

Windy City Stockers

There's a new stocker cattle operation in the midst of Chicago. The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences will graze four head of stocker cattle this summer on 12 acres somewhere in the midst of the Windy City. And we give a shout-out to the Nebraska LEAD Program that donated the cattle. Nebraska LEAD was funded with the help of the University of Nebraska to promote agriculture, primarily to young people.

The pasture was once a tree nursery, but has since been converted to Timothy grass. Principal William Hook says he hopes the cattle gain 40 pounds a month. We think the principal shouldn't be surprised if the cattle gain much better than the 1.3 pounds per day he hopes.

Profit Tracker: Beef Margins Tick Higher

Profit margins for both beef and pork producers moved slightly higher last week, ending a month-long downward trend. Both sectors remain solidly profitable.

Cattle feeders recorded average profits of $179 per head last week, about $3 per head more than the previous week, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. The margins represent a $229 per head improvement over last year.


Texas Or Bust

Apr 28, 2014

America's drought continues to expand, and its impact on the nation's cow herd can't be exaggerated. By our calculations, at least 65% of America's cows are in state's currently experiencing widespread moderate to exceptional drought.

California's drought is the worst in recorded history, and ranchers are shipping their cattle east. Reuters reports that up to 100,000 California cattle have been shipped out of state in the past four months.

Many are headed to Texas, though most of that state doesn't seem to be in much better shape. Homeowners near Lubbock report their water wells have run dry as the cotton irrigation season began.

Frustrated with the Feds

An "anti-science movement" is preventing advancements in food safety. That's the opinion of Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He believes more food should be irradiated to kill harmful bacteria. He's not alone. Dozens of scientific studies have shown that irradiated food is safe, and the process has been approved by the World Health Organization, American Medical Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Yet proponents of irradiation are frustrated with the federal government for endorsing irradiation but then not educating the public as it has with childhood immunizations and water fluoridation. The FDA has approved irradiation to wipe out pathogens in dozens of food products.


Prairie Fire!

The annual spring burning of the prairie is mostly over in the Flint Hills of Kansas. But the annual rite of spring always generates interest from environmentalists and others who are intrigued by the practice. The Flint Hills are the largest remaining tall grass prairie due to the fact the soils are shallow and unrelenting to the plow. This story from NPR offers a glimpse of fire as a management tool, along with some great photos.


Shrimp in Dairyland?

Wisconsin is famous for beer, cheese and the Green Bay Packers, but Forbes Adam hopes to also make the Badger State synonymous with shrimp. Yes, shrimp, one of America's favorite sea foods, has come to the heartland. Adam operates aptly named Dairyland Shrimp, Wisconsin's first indoor shrimp farm. To keep the shrimp alive, the room containing the shrimp tanks must be kept at 93 degrees F.

New Rule: Don't Attempt Poop Transplant at Home

Apr 25, 2014

In case you need to be reminded, doctors say you shouldn't attempt a fecal transplant at home. Yeah, that was never on our bucket list, but apparently some folks will try anything. The warning comes along with new research in the journal, "Clinical Infectious Diseases," that finds frozen poop can be just as effective as fresh feces for use in fecal transplants doctors are now using to treat difficult infections.

Doctors obtain a stool sample from a healthy person, chop it up in a blender, filter it and dilute it, then give it to a patient through a colonoscopy or a tube that's threaded through the nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. The beneficial bacteria from a healthy person's feces outcompetes the harmful bacteria in a patient's intestine. Incredibly, doctors have confirmed some people have tried this on their own.

Al Gore is Not Giving Up

Former vice president Al Gore has a new look, a fat wallet and a consistent message. "I want to catalyze the emergence of a solution to the climate crisis as quickly as possible. Period," he says. Gore is 50 pounds lighter than when he last held office 14 years ago, a benefit, he claims from becoming a vegan. His net worth, however, has ballooned to more than $200 million, thanks to the sale of his Current TV network to Al Jazeera last year. Gore says he's more convinced than ever that climate change can be stopped, predicting a coming "political tipping point."

Walmart's Organic Scheme

When Walmart announced plans to begin selling lower-cost organic foods, a flurry of press – both positive and negative – followed.

Many are concerned with Walmart's growing market power. For instance, in 1998 the Bentonville behemoth accounted for 4 % of grocery sales. Just 16 years later, its market share was more than 25 %.

It plans to open at least 385 new stores in the U.S. over the next year alone. Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argues that with Walmart's presence in the food system, "nearly everyone involved in food production and distribution has seen their income take a hit. Farmers are getting a significantly smaller share of the consumer food dollar. Wages for slaughterhouse workers have fallen 9 percent in the last 15 years. Employees at competing grocery stores have lost ground on wages and given up benefits."

Cattle in School

A new project at Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown, Ind., has students raising cattle that will supply beef to the school's cafeteria. Students will learn about agriculture and business while raising the steers, and the school will save $2,000 to $3,000 in food costs.

Range War Shifts to Race Card

Apr 24, 2014

This story just won't go away. Cliven Bundy's spat with the BLM has become much more than a dispute over grazing rights on federal lands. It morphed into a rallying cry for many who hold anti-government sentiments, and provided fodder for politicians like the two Nevada senators – Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Dean Heller – who ratcheted up the rhetoric.

Reid called Bundy a "terrorist" while Heller called him a "patriot." The political controversy generated by the Bundy incident drew media like flies to a feedlot. But as Bundy’s 15-minutes of fame dwindled, he threw the media more red meat when he veered off into comments about abortion, welfare and race, reported by The New York Times.

Those comments were quickly denounced by both parties.

Farmer Gets Kidney From Hunter

Rob Robinson first met Gil Alexander when he knocked on the Kansas farmer's door to ask about hunting. Three years later, Robinson was back to ask to hunt again and that's when Alexander mentioned his ill health and that he needed a kidney. When Robinson got home he was tested and discovered he was a match for Alexander. The operation was a success, and the two have founded Forever Outdoors, a nonprofit that brings vets, kids, and others to Kansas for nature and hunting expeditions.

Betty Davis Eyes?

Nope. Justin Bieber hair. That’s how the world's biggest hamburger flipper has remade its mascot. McDonald's wants Ronald to look less clown-like, so now he sports a red blazer, a red bow tie, red-and-white striped rugby shirt, yellow vest and yellow cargo pants. Oh, and coiffed hair.

Prairie Chicken Threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the lesser prairie chicken will be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Cumulative habitat loss, encroachment by invasive woody plants, wind energy development, petroleum production and the ongoing drought are just a handful of reasons why there are fewer lesser prairie chickens in the wild today.

Nudity OK at BundyFest!

Apr 23, 2014

Wear your guns but not your clothes. Is that the message Cliven Bundy stood up for in his range war with the BLM? Wait ... what? Yes, we know Bundy's protest of the BLM began over grazing rights to a remote portion of the Nevada desert. Now, however, Bundy's challenge of authority raises a laundry list of legal questions, and some folks who would be described as Bundy's political opposites are using his arguments to invade the same desert Bundy claimed for his cows. Sean Shealy has announced plans for an anti-Bundy festival called BundyFest! with 240 bands playing 24/7 between Sept. 5 and Oct. 5. Shealy says if Bundy's arguments against the BLM are sound, then BundyFest! should not require permits, visitors can camp anywhere, and full nudity will be acceptable.

GMO Pot?

We're intrigued by the booming marijuana business after its legalization in just two states. But the new industry is much more than just growing and selling pot. For instance, Potbotics is a new company using DNA seed readers to suggest best growing cycles for cannabis cultivation, as well as EEG brain scans to help doctors recommend medical marijuana strains and track results.

Clients of Potbotics are promised a "fully integrated growth plan that can raise their yield of cannabis by 20%." Legal marijuana, therefore, is allowing mainstream companies and scientists to create business models designed to improve benefits and increase production and profitability. Can GMO marijuana be far off?

Robots in the Milking Parlor

We've always avoided dairy work, but if we ever ventured into that business we would want one of these new dairy robots. New York dairy farmers are also singing the praises of the robots – they never complain about getting up early, working late or being kicked. Scores of the machines have popped up across New York's dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation.

Beyond the Blizzard

It's been six months since that freak devastating blizzard hit western South Dakota, but the financial and emotional impact of the livestock losses remain. Scott and Heidi Komes lost 75 cows and 45 calves in the storm, but spring has the couple busy rebuilding their herd and their dreams. The Komes received 20 heifers through the Heifers for South Dakota program established to help storm victims. Those heifers are now calving and helping ranchers like the Komes recover from Mother Nature's fury.

PETA & the Welfare Rancher

Apr 22, 2014

PETA supports the Bundy Ranch ... well, sort of. In a strange move the animal rights group is not up in arms about the endangered tortoises that inhabit the Nevada desert, instead PETA is upset about the BLM euthanizing cattle.

It also took a few weeks, but the political satirists over at The Daily Show with John Stewart have finally picked up on the Bundy Ranch saga. Stewart points out some of the craziness of the issue like the Bundies not acknowledging the U.S. government and even comparing the family patriarch to an Occupy Wall Street protester. "Dude, you're a welfare rancher trying to pull off the world's largest cattle dine-and-dash," Stewart says.

Dangerous Milk

Campylobacter jejuni outbreaks have doubled over the last three or four years compared to outbreaks the decade previous to that. The reason: The increased consumption of raw milk. Dairy Today editor Jim Dickrell says along with Campylobacter, raw milk is also among the main sources of contamination by Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and even E. coli 0157:H7. Prior to pasteurization, outbreaks of food-borne illness were caused by dairy products nearly a fourth of the time, says the Mayo Clinic. Since pasteurization has been required, dairy products account for just 1% of food borne illness. But here's the kicker: Of the recent dairy outbreaks, raw milk accounts for 70% of the illness.

Earth Day Loggers

If you didn't know already, today is Earth Day. We're guessing many of you are doing more for this planet than many of the activists who will be celebrating by planting trees and taking meat from their diets. Either way, we're starting to think that our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere have figured out how to outsmart tree huggers. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation offered insight on a failed program known as Managed Investment Schemes, where investors in tree plantations were given huge tax breaks. Now the blue gum trees are being cut down and the land is being turned back to farm ground or pasture. As the Aussies say, "Good on ya, mate!"

Beef, Pork Margins Drift Lower

Profit margins for both beef and pork producers fell for the fourth consecutive week, yet both sectors remain solidly profitable. 

The Great Emu War

Apr 21, 2014

The enemy numbered 20,000, but the soldiers had been supplied only 10,000 rounds of ammunition. That was just the first blunder of Australia's great emu war, won convincingly by the emu, even though the flightless birds went into battle unarmed. Six days after the enemy was first engaged, 2,500 rounds had been fired, but only an estimated 50 to 500 emu had fallen. The Australian government and soldiers had greatly underestimated the feathery foe.

Decades of Lies

A damning new report criticizes the marketers of organic and natural foods for "engaging in a multi-decade public disinformation campaign." In other words, they've created fear among consumers, and fear sells. The authors of the report said, "Consumers have spent hundreds of billions of dollars purchasing premium-priced organic food products based on false or misleading perceptions about comparative product food safety, nutrition and health attributes."

Gone to Pot

As California withers away under an historic drought, fingers are pointing to an ever increasing list of causes. Climate change, overconsumption and demands from agriculture have all been indicted in the natural disaster. Now, marijuana farms – most illegal – are linked to the state's water worries. Each plant can use about six gallons of water during the summer's peak, and the illegal farms have already been linked to wildlife deaths, as the farms are often protected with rat bait. To protect the wildlife, California banned the sale of rat poison last month.

Beef in Bulk

Higher retail beef prices have some consumers turning to buying in bulk to save money. A Washington-based distributor of beef and pork, Zaycon, delivers boxes of meat directly to buyers in the parking lots of churches, bowling alley and other public venues. Since 2009, the company has signed up 325,000 customers.

They Slaughter Horses

Apr 17, 2014

The BLM stepped in road apples again. They've taken plenty of heat for their attempt to confiscate Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's cows, even as it became clear Bundy was in arrears on his rent for 20 years.

Now the BLM is under fire for gathering a herd of horses in northwest Wyoming and handing them over to officials who sold the animals to a Canadian slaughterhouse. Wild horse advocates are not happy. They say they should have had the chance to intercede, but the BLM says the horses were abandoned – not wild – and that it publicized the sale beforehand.

Chicken King

Burger King might want to change its name to Chicken King after the company's most recent move. The king of burgers has announced that it will introduce the Chicken Big King, an updated version of the Big King hamburger. Burger King's president Alex Macedo says, "As beef prices have increased significantly over the last 20 years or so consumption has gone down. Chicken is growing in consumption quite a lot." We sure hope the Whopper doesn't change to the Clucker anytime soon.

The COOL Down

Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) continues to frustrate beef producers, but an end could be in sight. The U.S. Court of Appeals will hold a hearing on May 19 to discuss a lawsuit filed by a collation of packers and industry groups to stop the more stringent rules that have been set in place for COOL. U.S. trade partners, Canada and Mexico, have not appreciated what COOL has done to their producers. Canada is looking at placing tariffs on U.S. imports, while Mexico has been sending fewer cattle. Last year nearly 990,000 head of cattle were imported from Mexico, down approximately 480,000 head from 2012 year.


Goat Penthouse

Goats have been picking up in popularity on hobby farms, and now the farm animals notorious for climbing are getting their own penthouse towers. The first goat tower was said to have been built in the 1800s by a Portuguese wine farmer. Nearly a century later a South African vineyard and cheese maker followed suit making a tower that is home to 750 Saanen milk goats. There have even been some towers popping up on farms across the U.S. Now the question is who will be the brave cattleman that retrofits a silo for their cows to climb?

Pizza From Hell

Apr 16, 2014

Heading into the Easter weekend, New Zealand pizza maker Hell Pizza created a bloody controversy – not with its new rabbit pizza, but with its provocative marketing campaign.

The company erected a billboard adorned with rabbit pelts, bearing the tagline: "Made from real rabbit. Like this billboard." You can imagine what the animal rights folks are shouting down under. The company acknowledged on its Facebook page that rabbits may be quite cute, but they're also a pest destructive to the New Zealand environment. The company suggests that you go to www.Hell.co.nz for more.

Great Lakes Ice Issues

Nearly a month after the first day of spring, ice remains a problem on the Great Lakes. Scientists say as much as 96% of the Great Lakes were covered in ice this winter, and as of April 10, ice remained on 48% of the 90,000-plus square miles of water. All that ice creates lingering issues, such as a sluggish start to the shipping season. More than 200 million tons of cargo travel across the Great Lakes each year, mostly iron ore, coal and grain. In March, however, the lakes saw only three shipments of coal, 69% less, by volume, than last year.

Can Cool, Wet Spring Ease Drought?

Meteorologists still call for above-average rainfall for much of the Central Plains, and farmers and ranchers hope that moisture can reduce drought conditions in the region. The West and Southwest remain locked in an historic drought, however, and at least 65% of America's cow herd are in states currently experiencing some level of drought.

Yet there is hope. Sioux Falls-based National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Gillispie said, "It looks pretty good for conditions to improve into the early summer."

Beef, Pork Margins Softer

Profit margins for both beef and pork producers fell slightly again last week, yet both sectors remain solidly profitable.

Poultry at the Prom?

Apr 15, 2014

Corsages for this year's prom may offer the choice "Original Recipe" or "Extra Crispy." Seriously. In what may be the strangest marketing gimmick in recent memory, KFC is debuting a chicken drumstick corsage just in time for the annual high school formal. A Kentucky florist offers the corsage kit, which includes a $5 KFC gift card that can be used for the drumstick.

Profit Tastes Like Chicken

Record high retail beef and pork prices have proven lucrative to chicken producers. Americans are buying more chicken as a cheaper alternative just as fast-food restaurants including Yum! Brands Inc. and McDonald's Corp. add new menu items from wings to club sandwiches. The sales surge has sent wholesale prices to an all-time high, boosting profit for processors including Tyson Foods Inc., and left Ozark Mountain Poultry unable to keep up.

Ranch Sustainability Forum in Wyoming

The First Annual Ranch Sustainability Forum hosted by Sheridan College and the Padlock Ranch will be held on May 12-14 in Sheridan, Wyo. The purpose of the event is "To provide informational resources and tools for ranch stakeholders that will help provide healthy and sustainable ranches in 2020 and beyond."

Livestock Federal Aid Signup

Tuesday is the first day ranchers can sign up for the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. Both were authorized in the farm bill that was signed into law Feb. 7. Signup continues through next January.

Rancher Claims Range Victory

Apr 14, 2014

Cliven Bundy is claiming victory in his battle against the Bureau of Land Management, though it seems the feds decided a handful of cows didn't warrant the escalating tensions on a stretch of desert 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. BLM director Neil Kornze said, "We have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public."

That decision was no doubt influenced by the 1,000 protesters, many heavily armed and wearing military fatigues, who camped at the site of the cattle gather to support Bundy. This episode, however, is far from over as the BLM says Bundy still owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties.

Unnecessary Roughness

We're throwing a penalty flag on Will Witherspoon for a cheap shot. Oh, we like Witherspoon's passion for beef, but we're not convinced he's committed long-term. That's because he has a lucrative day job as a linebacker for the St. Louis Rams, making about $3.5 million. We don't begrudge Witherspoon's hefty salary, but it allowed him to start Shire Gate Farm near Owensville, Mo., where he raises organic and antibiotic-free White Park cattle. Cool. Until he begins promoting his products by criticizing yours: "You have a huge commodity market for factory-farmed beef. These animals are being raised shoulder-to-shoulder in filthy conditions, and the only way they're being kept alive is with antibiotics."

Now that quote is the Super Bowl of exaggeration. And what about these sustainable steaks from Shire Gate Farm? They're $28.95 a pound.

Drug Residue Rules

The Food and Drug Administration kinda admits it's in a different Time Zone. That's what we assume when we learned that a 72-hour withdrawl period for cows treated with an antibiotic is actually a day longer than that. That's because the withhold period doesn't start ticking until the day after treatment. FDA regulations also require that the animal's not leave the farm until the withholding period ends.

Retail Beef Prices Highest in Nearly 30 Years

The highest beef prices in almost three decades have arrived just before the start of grilling season, causing sticker shock for both consumers and restaurant owners—and relief isn't likely anytime soon. A dwindling number of cattle and growing export demand from countries such as China and Japan have caused the average retail cost of fresh beef to climb to $5.28 a pound in February, up almost a quarter from January and the highest price since 1987.

Full of Bull

Apr 11, 2014

Despite what you may have read on the Internet, energy drinks such as Red Bull do not contain bull semen. What, you haven't heard of this urban legend?

Seems it's been floating around for a while, and recently some entity called Longhorn Cattle Company supposedly "tested" energy drinks and found they contain a variety of yucky bovine body fluids. Why a cattle company would waste time and money testing energy drinks is not explained, but maybe that's part of the ruse.

The only connection between bull semen and energy drinks we could find was taurine, one of the main ingredients in energy drinks, which is an amino acid that gets its name from the Latin term Taurus, which means bull. And that's the extent of the bull that's found in energy drinks. Any taurine found in those beverages is made synthetically. Cheers!

Walmart Flexes Its Organic Muscle

Walmart and Wild Oats have teamed up to sell a new line of organic foods that are at least 25% cheaper than the national organic brands. Walmart, the nation's largest grocery seller, will use its massive size to drive down organic prices and make them more affordable for its low-income customers. Walmart will unveil nearly 100 pantry items under the Wild Oats label over the next several months, adding to the 1,600 organic food items it already carries. It's taking a cautious approach, planning to have them in about half of its 4,000 domestic namesake stores to make sure it can satisfy demand.

Nevada Range War Update

Nevada's Governor Brian Sandoval (R.) is calling on the Federal Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service to cease with "intimidation" and "reconsider its approach" in an ongoing grazing dispute with rancher Cliven Bundy. The Governor says he is most offended that federal officials have tried to herd protesters into a "First Amendment area" while the feds roundup and remove Bundy's cows. The dispute is over grazing rights to a 1,200-square-mile area of public land that Bundy claims the BLM has no authority over. The conflict, he says, is a state's rights issue.


Death on the Farm

Suicide statistics among farmers are staggering. Newsweek reports the suicide rate among farmers is nearly two times that of the general population, and it's not just a problem in the U.S. In France, a farmer dies by his own hand every two days. India has reported more than 270,000 farmer suicides since 1995. In Australia, the suicide rate among farmers is at an all-time high following two years of drought.

Red River Range War

Apr 10, 2014

What is it with the BLM this spring? Nevada rancher Clive Bundy's 30-year tussle with BLM came to head this week, and now the BLM has stepped into the middle of the Red River to void the deeds held by some farmers on land they've paid taxes on for decades. The Red River has long been considered the border between Texas and Oklahoma, but over time the river moves. The BLM wants to use a 30-year-old case they won against one Texas rancher as precedent to seize more land along a 116-mile stretch of the river. Property owners say they'll be forced to spend large sums of money in what could be a lengthy legal process. The dispute may involve 90,000 acres.

Big Ag, Big Data, Big Concerns

Farmers have grown increasingly concerned about computer wizardry in tractors and combines that harvest large volumes of data as they move through the fields. Ag companies have invested heavily into data storage and analytics tools, but there's concern that the data could be used in ways it was never intended. For instance, the data could be used by commodity traders and could influence farmland values. "Virtually every company says it will never share, sell or use the data in a market-distorting way - but we would rather verify than trust," farmer Brian Marshall of the American Farm Bureau Federation told the U.S. House Committee on Small Business in February. AFBF is meeting today with officials from John Deere, Monsanto and DuPont to develop guidelines for data use and privacy.

Vegetarian Crocodiles

This vegetarian thing has gone too far. Now we've got crocodiles observing Meatless Monday, and meatless every day of the week! At Nyanyana crocodile farm near the shores of Zimbabwe's Lake Kariba, farm spokesman Oliver Kammundimu says, "We don't feed them meat anymore." The crocs are fed vegetarian pellets (yum!) that are cheaper than meat and are said to enhance crocodile skins that are used for shoes and handbags.

Federal, Voluntary GMO Labeling Legislation

Legislation was introduced Wednesday to establish a federal voluntary labeling standard for food and beverage products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The proposed bill aims to create a unified, science-based approach that has been dubbed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. If passed, the law would give the FDA authority over the labeling of GMO food and beverage ingredients.

Congress: I'm Lovin' It

Apr 09, 2014

Congress hasn't accomplished much the past few years, but they did manage to capture our attention yesterday with their endorsement of the Golden Arches, well ... sort of. Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen debated against a "bill that would require the Congressional Budget Office to stop assuming annual increases in discretionary spending due to inflation." To bolster his argument Van Hollen used charts depicting inflation with the price of McDonald's Big Mac. Firing back was Georgia Republican Rep. Rob Woodall who says he frequents the Value Menu to get a $.99 McDouble or a Spicy McChicken. At least the House budget committee members can agree on something: they love talking about McDonald's.

Car Tipping > Cow Tipping

City kids have long dreamed of going to the country and pushing over a slumbering cow. Well, the urban legend of cow tipping has now gone down a different path with groups of San Francisco youth engaging in "car tipping." On Monday, four Smart cars were tipped onto their sides in two different neighborhoods of the West Coast city. The vandalism has been blamed on pranksters, and residents are upset with the high price of living brought on by nerds ... sorry, the technology industry. In cow country we're still waiting for the gang of hooligans that could tip over a dually pickup, or even a cow for that matter.

Terrible Tumbleweeds

Gene Autry once sang about "drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds," but for residents of southern Colorado it's more like "being attacked by the terrible tumbleweeds." Hordes of tumbleweeds have taken over the drought-plagued prairies in the state by clogging up irrigation canals and blocking roadways. People have even been held captive in their homes and schools because of the invasive weed. Some of the problem stems from fewer cattle grazing pastures in the region, which has caused the tumbleweeds to overrun towns during high winds. One county has spent more than $100,000 clearing roadways, while another has spent $200,000-plus. For that kind of money, sign us up for tumbleweed picking!

And for those of you currently burning pastures, just imagine this towering vortex of flaming tumbleweeds on your ranch!

The Last of the Ranchers

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy continues to make his stand against armed government agents who have rounded up 234 head of his cattle.

Bundy and his family say that 200 armed government agents from the BLM and FBI are located around their land and helicopters have been routinely flying over the ranch. The "one-man range war" by the last rancher in Clark County has been going on for 20 years, but with close to a third of his cattle rounded up, Bundy may be fighting for a lost cause.

Rancher vs. Feds in Nevada Range War

Apr 08, 2014

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has been feuding with the federal government for more than two decades, and it’s all coming to a head this spring.

The dispute stems from the fact the BLM cancelled his grazing permit 20 years ago after he refused to accept new land-use rules for protecting the threatened desert tortoise and stopped paying his fees. Over the years Bundy has ignored repeated directives to remove his cattle from the land, so this spring the BLM plans to roundup the cows and remove them. Bundy and his family met the feds – who showed up wearing military gear, toting assault rifles and supported by a helicopter – along the entrance to the grazing allotment on Sunday to film and document what they believe is an infringement on their rights. Bundy's son was arrested in what was described as an "assault" by one family member, and was released a day later.

Bundy's family has been grazing the land for more than 100 years, and he says it's a state's rights issue and the feds should go home.

"Political prisoner"

Cattle rustlers with badges?


Big Brother Watching

Satellites can now watch the corn grow in the Midwest. NASA says new data from satellite sensors confirms America's Corn Belt is the most productive region in the world during the growing season. This new technology creates an image of the sheer amount of photosynthetic activity occurring in a region. The raging plant party in the Corn Belt during July lit up NASA's map at levels 40 times greater than those observed in the Amazon rain forest. Scientists think this may eventually lead to predicting regional crop yields via satellite. Amazing.

An Inconvenient Truth: The Sequel

The creators behind "An Inconvenient Truth" say they have discussed the possibilities of a sequel. The 2006 documentary received an Oscar and propelled former vice president Al Gore, the film's narrator, to a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. During the following years, the film's producer believes the fossil-fuel industry challenged the dialog with a misinformation campaign and now the time might be right for a sequel. During a Beverly Hills fundraiser last month that collected $700,000 for UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, producer Lawrence Bender said, "Our new inconvenient truth is that not nearly enough concrete action has been taken (about climate change)."

Baxter Black on Today's Ag Media

Consumers want to know where their food comes from, and cowboy poet and syndicated columnist Baxter Black says that's a reason today's ag media is flourishing. ""RFD-TV" and "U.S. Farm Report" are places they can go to meet the people who feed them," Black says. "It has changed agricultural marketing. It's good for everybody. But the most useful and satisfying result of vibrant ag media expansion is that it keeps the ag community in touch with each other."

Moonshine Milk: Got Bacteria?

Apr 07, 2014

"Got Bacteria?" If you're drinking unpasteurized milk you do. But a slew of consumers like the stuff, and there's a movement to make unpasteurized milk available to everyone.

That's a head scratcher, because the Centers for Disease Control say pathogens in raw milk produce kidney failure and can cause paralysis. Still, 40 bills have been introduced in 23 state legislatures seeking to legalize unpasteurized milk. Currently, it's illegal to sell and transport unpasteurized milk across state lines, which has led to a black market for so-called moonshine milk. Every day thousands of glass jars filled with raw milk move from state to state, some of it even packed in dry ice and shipped via FedEx. The CDC calls raw milk one of the world's most dangerous food products, yet pasteurization – a simple heating process that was first tested in 1862 – makes the milk safe. We think this raw milk movement is evidence you can't fix stupid.

Chicken's "Stupidity Just Overwhelming"

Werner Herzog has some pretty "fowl" things to say about chickens. He's not a farmer or a consumer activist, but a legendary German film maker who seems to have profited nicely from ridiculing chickens. Their "stupidity is just overwhelming," he says. In a 2012 video he said, "Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world." Wow. So what do you really think, Werner? "With a chicken leg on your plate, a good stein of beer in your fist, the world starts to look better." We're fairly sure Werner is not a PETA donor.

FDA Listens!

The Food and Drug Administration is charged with protecting our food supply from dangerous practices and unscrupulous producers and marketers. We think that's a good thing, but sometimes the FDA – like most government agencies – gets caught up in their own red tape.

This week the FDA is in the process of untangling itself from the red tape that flew out of control over proposed rules for the use of brewery waste as animal feed, part of a sweeping modernization of the food supply authorized by Congress. The proposal could make the use of brewer's byproducts cost-prohibitive, which would leave brewers no choice but to send the processed grains to landfills. Public outcry was such that the FDA hit the pause button. Watch the video.

Feedyard Disaster Plan

With 2.5 million cattle on feed in the Texas Panhandle, a natural or man-made disaster could cause catastrophic economic losses for the region. To help avoid such a disaster, Panhandle community leaders and businessmen have spent 18 months and $1.4 million to develop emergency plans for the area's livestock operations.

Mud Puddles Beware

Apr 04, 2014

The gloves are coming off as congressmen and women learn about the proposed regulations in the Clean Water Act. Perhaps they are finally hearing from those in agriculture who are up in arms about the EPA asserting regulatory authority over streams and wetlands. NCBA says even the ditch along your road could be regulated. The uproar is not divided among partisan lines, with some Democrats also speaking out against the proposed rule.

The Dirt on Clean Water Act

Thumbs down from NCBA

Farm Bureau dismayed

EPA Guinea pigs

Unhappy Hunting

Hopefully you weren’t one of the 900 across the country who purchased drone hunting licenses online from Deer Trail, Colorado, resident Phil Steel. The documents – sold for $25 each – are not valid. The Deer Trail community voted overwhelmingly against allowing a similar license, a legal one, to be sold. But that’s not stopping Steel, who sold the fake licenses as an anti-government, anti-surveillance statement. Next on his agenda: filing a citizen’s initiative to turn Deer Trail into a marijuana distributor to boost town coffers. Looks to us like Steel has done well lining his own pocketbook.

Drone Dollars

Cheap Travel

Looking for a way to vacation without paying expensive airline fees to get there? As long as you’re not looking for many amenities, FedEx might be an option. Apparently around 600,000 people attempt to ship themselves each year. Some are found with snacks and drinks inside their box. (Not sure what they do about the after-effects of snacks and drinks.) Others show up with a mailing label stuck on their body.

Peanuts not included

Hawaii on Hemp

Hawaii is in the process of legalizing hemp, but not because of why you might think. Supposedly the plant will help environmental causes, reducing pesticides, crude oil and other things from the land. The state is also looking at starting a hemp biofuel program. Pardon us for being a little skeptical. Perhaps this is just a way to offer a little relaxation with your beach vacation?

Green Energy


Food for Thought

Apr 03, 2014

If you haven't been in a school lunchroom lately, you might be in for a surprise. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by First Lady Michelle Obama placed new regulations on school districts participating in the federal school lunch program. The substantial requirements in the act place restrictions on portion sizes and calories, and also mandate students take certain foods – even if they have no intention of eating them. Trash cans are overflowing with wasted food, most that never saw a fork or spoon. Los Angeles throws away $3.8 million in produce – one of the required items which kids must put on their tray.

Trashy situation

Grandparents won’t force feed the veggies

Beef’s not the only higher priced food

Bullet Proof Crop Dusters

Crop dusters are routinely used in agricultural operations, but did you know they are also used in the battle against Columbian-grown drugs? The U.S. State Department charged a Texas crop duster manufacturing company with developing bullet-proof crop dusting equipment. The special planes are necessary to protect pilots who fly drug enforcement missions, spraying fields of cocaine crops.

Dangerous duty

Quality Meat = Quality Life

We hate to keep beating this drum (well, not really), but more and more studies are finding that vegetarians lead less healthy lives. The latest research is out of Austria and demonstrates an elevated risk of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders for vegetarians. It also says they have a lower quality of life and require more medical treatment. Our own very unscientific poll of people in our office agrees – without meat in our diet, we would most definitely have a lower quality of life!

Live it up!

Drive Thru Downer

New Jersey is cracking down on distracted driving – talking on a cell phone, putting on makeup, watching a movie – all are reason enough for a $130 ticket. But so is one other task: eating. Yes, even grabbing a bite to go could land you in the poor house.

Don't get it to go

Quiz Your Faithfulness

Apr 02, 2014

Just how vegetarian are you? That's what the Huffington Post wants to know, citing that although the thought of being vegetarian is popular, many people are just along for the ride but secretly want meat. (We don't blame them.) So out of curiousity, we took their little quiz. Our result: "You ain’t no vegetarian. Your about as vegetarian as a lion. Your love of meat is not over and you are clearly not a very committed individual." Hmm. We take offense to that. We are very committed – to eating meat!

Quiz yourself

Climate Hogwash

Climate change gurus believe that in order to reach the UN's global warming mitigation goals, people need to quit eating meat. Their argument is based on information from the EPA that says agriculture comprises eight percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. Okay, that's fair, but don't they realize agriculture is more than just the meat industry? Where do they think the chickpeas for hummus or the soybeans for their beloved tofu come from? Uh-huh. Agriculture.

What's more ironic is the story admits transportation and electricity account for more than half of emissions in the United States, but we don't see them arguing for less electricity.

Light candles and eat beef

Phage Phocus

Our industry has worked on several technologies to eliminate E. coli bacteria. Recent research at Purdue University has uncovered a new idea – bacteriophages. In case it's been a while since you took high school science, bacteriophages are viruses that target and kill bacteria. In the research, an injection of bacteriophages or "phages" decreased E. coli by 99%. The technology had similar results with both beef and spinach. This sounds like a great advancement. Our only concern is the name "bacteriophages."  Could it be hard to get consumers past that name? We've had similarly bad luck selling "irradiation" and a "puff of ammonium hydroxide." Maybe we can call these phages E. coli Eaters or Natural E. coli Enemies.

Great idea; unpopular name

National PB&J Day

Although it's not a national holiday, some are celebrating the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A survey from 2002 revealed that the average American eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating high school. We have to admit, we've had our fair share.

Peanut butter, jelly time!

Protein Popularity

Apr 01, 2014

As part of our quest to publish any mainstream anti-vegan news, we couldn't resist on this find: More Americans willing to try cannibalism than veganism. Hmmm ... we are beef eaters to the core, but dining on our fellow human? With so many jumping on board, perhaps we should add it to our bucket list. It does appear that the two proteins share a common trait: a supply shortage.

The hottest new protein

Better read this one, too.

Beer for My Cows

The FDA has the beer industry fit to be tied after a proposed federal rule would limit breweries' ability to sell leftover grains as animal feed. If adopted, millions of tons of "spent grains" would be dumped in landfills instead of fed to cattle. According to the article, the going rate for spent grains is $100 per ton. One of the breweries that sells spent grains is Lagunitas in Petaluma, Calif. The brewery generates at least 23,000 tons per year. Ranchers are uniting with the beer lobby to fight the proposed rule.

Read up, drink up!

Seeing the Light

We don't applaud too many animal rights activists on this blog. Well, actually, I guess "never" would be a more appropriate term. But when a self-proclaimed protester calls out Mercy For Animals for their true agenda, we have to give activist Sherry Geno a high five. Doing a little investigating of her own, Geno determined that MFA’s true intent was to put any and all livestock facilities out of business, not to simply highlight and correct limited animal abuse. Noting a vegan lifestyle is "a wise choice," Geno admits the meat and dairy industries are not going away, and MFA's attacks impact thousands of people and hundreds of jobs.

Ag-gag epiphany

Read it and weep, MFA

Mile High Club

In the spirit of April Fool's Day, here's one we're not so sure is a joke. Love Cloud, started by a Las Vegas entrepreneur, is offering a posh environment for those tempted to tango at 10,000 feet. Insisting that the flights are meant to be romantic, the pilot (wearing noise cancelling headphones) will take you and your partner for a 40 minute trip above the Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon or Lake Mead. Maybe we're mistaken, but we don't think the scenery is the point of the flight. And at $799 per trip, you better get your money's worth. Yes, that comes out to $20 per minute.

What happens in Vegas....


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