Aug 1, 2014
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May 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. 

PETA: 'Got Autism?'

May 30, 2014

Looks like PETA has got a beef with milk. The animal rights group is currently pushing their agenda by misleading consumers into thinking that drinking milk leads to autism. PETA is using a campaign that incorporates the slogan 'got autism?' and uses information from studies done nearly 20 years ago to back up their claims. This isn't the first time PETA has tried to manipulate milk drinkers into putting down their cartons. Back in 2008 'got autism?' billboards were removed after groups like The Autistic Self Advocacy Network pressured PETA. It just goes to show that an old dog like PETA will always try the same tricks.


Food > Oil

China has quite the dependency on foreign oil and mining with more than $200 billion invested in countries like Australia and Argentina. Now the world's most populated country is pouring that kind of investment into something more important: food. Last year firms from China and Hong Kong invested $12.3 billion into foreign food companies like pork industry giant Smithfield Foods Inc. According to Jefferies Group LLC , China has 21% of the world's population with just 9% of its arable land, and an even lesser percentage of fresh water. Continued acquisitions of food companies and commodities will play a big role in feeding the Chinese population.


 

‘Slime’ Out

Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) or 'pink slime' continues to decline in use thanks largely to the ABC News report that questioned its safety. Just this past fiscal year the National School Lunch Program saw 94% less LFTB in schools. That is 7 million pounds less than last year with schools only purchasing 392,000 pounds of LFTB. Thanks a lot Diane Sawyer. We hope that law suit from Beef Products Inc. is treating you all right. Not.


Tragedy in Bolivia

The Bolivian cattle industry experienced a catastrophic cold spell and floods more devastating than last fall's South Dakota blizzard.

This past week, cattle producers in Bolivia went through a cold swing that saw temperatures dip to 3°F (-16°C). Early reports from Bolivia indicate that at least 60,000 cattle were lost. This comes as an addition to the 84,000 head of cattle that perished during floods earlier in the year. Officials say it could cost the country $1 billion to rebuild the cow herd.

Eating Invasives to Extinction

May 29, 2014

Invasive species are a pain in the neck. Cattle producers deal with them daily thanks to the folks who introduced noxious weeds from around the world to try solving problems like erosion. The fish industry seems to have the right idea. Instead of simply killing off problem species like the lionfish, fishermen have begun marketing the predatory fish to restaurants. Asian carp are also being fed to the homeless in Chicago. Now, if we could just get vegans to eat some sericea lespedeza, thistle or kudzu, we'd be set!


Let 'Em Graze

Green pastures with black and white Holsteins grazing on them is the image most consumers think of when it comes to life on the farm for a dairy cow. However, that isn't necessarily the case. Most dairy cows in the U.S. are housed in state-of-the-art facilities that maximize cow comfort, while reducing the risk of costly problems like lower body condition scores, that are common in pasture systems. But Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage wants to "cut through consumer confusion" by offering milk that does not come from "confinement dairies."


Ditch the Rule

The EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers have really gotten on the nerves of farmers and ranchers across the country with their plan to expand the federal authority over "waters of the United States." American Farm Bureau has been at the forefront of this issue and has been ramping up the conversation with a campaign that encourages farmers to "ditch the rule!" Well, the message was heard loud and clear by two members of Missouri Farm Bureau, Kacey and Andy Clay. The Missouri farm family released a parody video of the hit song "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen that tells the government "That's Enough." We agree, Kacey and Andy.


Trashing School Lunch

Hey, Mrs. Obama! Food in the trash can does not help child nutrition!

On Wednesday, that was the message AgriTalk Radio host Mike Adams had when he criticized First Lady Michelle Obama for pushing forward strict school nutrition regulations while ignoring calls for more flexibility from school nutrition professionals. "More food winding up in the garbage can just so schools can say they met the standards to be in the school lunch program, that fails the kids and it doesn’t get us any closer to ending childhood obesity," Adams said on his nationally syndicated broadcast.

USDA Partners With "Judas Pig"

May 28, 2014

It's alarming when the folks you pay to inspect meat and conduct soil tests begin ordering machine guns and other military paraphernalia. Rest easy, because USDA has just revealed a partnership with Judas Pig that erases questions about the agency's motives. Yes, we were concerned when USDA announced it wanted to buy machine guns, but relieved when we discovered they were for the 100 or so law enforcement agents who encounter bad guys on a regular basis.

USDA also says it will add thermal scopes and drones to its arsenal. The night-vision scopes and drones are not for the machine-gun toting agents, but rather to help USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) employees wage war against feral hogs, which they say cause about $1.5 billion each year in damages. Leading covert operations in this war is Judas Pig, code name for captured feral sows fitted with transmitters and released back into the wild to help hunters zoom in on feral herds. Who knew those USDA guys were so devious?


Whole Foods at Half Price

Whole Foods' stock prices are rotting on Wall Street. The organic food giant's stock is the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year with shares down nearly 35%. CNN Money says, "You may still need your Whole Paycheck to shop at Whole Foods. But you only need a fraction of it to buy the stock."

Quinoa, kale and tofu are still hot items for consumers of organic foods, but the entry of Walmart into the organic food business has had an immediate impact. Walmart partnered with Wild Oats with a stated mission to "drive down organic food prices."


Producers Demand High Quality TPP Deal

Beef producers from four Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries have again demanded that any TPP agreement be a high quality deal that eliminates all tariffs on beef. Members of the Five Nations Beef Alliance (FNBA) from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, urge all participants involved in the TPP negotiations to re-commit to securing a comprehensive, non-discriminatory outcome – one which eliminates tariffs and, more importantly, addresses behind-the-border trade barriers.


Supreme Court Sides With GM Farmer

An Australian farmer was declared not guilty of contaminating his organic neighbor's crops by the Supreme Court in Perth. Michael Baxter was sued for $85,000 by his neighbor, Steve Marsh, after GM canola allegedly blew from Baxter's crop onto Marsh's field in 2010. The contamination caused him to lose his organic certification for more than half his property for almost three years.

Pig Tattoos: Art or Abuse?

May 27, 2014

We had some experience with hogs in our youth, enough to assure you that a hog will not like being tattooed. We know that with certainty, even before we read about Andy Feehan who was working on his master of fine arts in 1977 and decided his project would be, "The Tattooed Pig as an Aesthetic Dialectic."

Let's just pause for a moment and try to absorb that title …… Yeah, didn't help us much either.

Feehan, in fact, did tattoo a pig, and said in a magazine article in 2000, "I wanted them to be art. I wanted them to have an unusual life of luxury, like a pet, like a precious weird animal in the circus of humanity." More recently, Wim Delvoye began tattooing pig skins, and then live pigs, establishing an "art farm" in Beijing, China, where pigs were raised exclusively to be tattooed with his artwork. After the pigs died their skins were sold as artwork, fetching as much as $100,000. Even as Delvoye's "art farm" saved pigs from the dinner platter, many saw his work as abuse. We just think it's strange.


Mexico Coach Bans Beef

Soccer never interested us. Kicking a dodge ball up and down a field seems trivial compared with American-invented sports. For instance, there's the oblong ball where players pile on the guy trying to carry it down the field. Or, the much smaller ball with no air that guys throw at other guys who are trying to hit it with a stick. Sporting preferences aside, the world's eyes will focus on Brazil this summer for soccer's World Cup, where Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera says he won't let his players eat beef leading up to the games. He's afraid steaks and burgers will cause his players to test positive for banned drugs, eliminating them from competition. The drug is clenbuterol, and the concern is apparently legitimate – if the beef is from Mexico. The U.S. and Europe ban clenbuterol in food-producing animals. The drug is a nonsteroidal anabolic and metabolism accelerator, and can increase lean meat production. Five Mexican players were banned in 2011 after testing positive for clenbuterol, but were reinstated after Mexican Football Federation and world soccer governing body FIFA considered the presence of clenbuterol in Mexican cattle a public health problem. Which is why we prefer American beef with our American sports.


Waiter, There's a Robot Making My Soup!

Be careful what you protest. That might be the advice fast-food companies have for workers demanding higher wages. Many of those companies are beginning to experiment with new technology that would eliminate many jobs in the coming years. "Faced with a $15 wage mandate, restaurants have to reduce the cost of service," according to an ad from Employment Policies Institute published last year. "That means fewer entry-level jobs and more automated alternatives -- even in the kitchen." Panera Bread spent $42 million developing a new automated service system, and announced last month that it plans to bring self-service ordering kiosks to all locations in the next three years. Chili's and Applebee's already have tablets on their tables, allowing diners to order and pay without interacting with human wait staff.


Cattle Feeding Margins Dip $31 Per Head

Cattle feeding margins dipped more than $31 per head lower last week to average $157. The loss in profitability was due to an average $1.86 per cwt. decrease in cash cattle prices, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker.

Worthless Meat Labels

May 23, 2014

The good folks at the Animal Welfare Institute spent three years studying meat labels and have concluded 80% of them are worthless, which is about as useful as saying small amounts of saliva swallowed over long periods of time causes cancer. Specifically, AWI criticizes USDA for allowing companies to call their meat products "Humanely Raised and Handled," or "Sustainably Farmed," when USDA can't adequately document such claims.

More accurately, USDA can't document the claims to suit AWI, largely because "humanely raised" and "sustainably farmed" mean different things to different people. So, if there is no concrete definition, there can't be enforceable regulations, and that's unacceptable to a group such as AWI that claims, "one of our greatest areas of emphasis is cruel animal factories, which raise and slaughter pigs, cows, chickens and other animals."


Worst States to be a Farm Animal

If you're reading this newsletter, it's likely you live in one of the best states to be a farm animal. That's our opinion, of course, based on our experience visiting farms and ranches throughout the Heartland. Unfortunately, that view is not shared by everyone. Indeed, there's a boisterous flock of bran-eaters who believe you torture your animals and that you "go to great lengths to hide animal abuse." Hogwash, of course, but here's the list of the 5 worst states to be a farm animal, according to TheDodo.com.


"Pro-Climate Action" vs. "Anti-Science"

Did you notice the political winds are heating up? November's mid-term elections are about five months away, but the money is starting to flow, and climate change is one of the hot-button topics. This week "green" billionaire Tom Steyer's plans were announced to funnel $50 million into campaigns to support climate-friendly political candidates and attack the climate-deniers. The national media is hoping for a money-slinging fight between Steyer and the Koch brothers.


Warm Up The Grill! Send us Photos!

We grill beef year-round, but Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to summer grilling. To provide our urban friends some grilling tips, South Dakota State University meats specialist Keith Underwood shares some of his favorite non-traditional beef options.

If you're baling hay or working cattle this weekend, you may not have time to kick back on the patio. But if you do, and you're grilling beef, send us a photo. We'll post them online next week.

PETA's App a Real Stinker

May 22, 2014

PETA, that constantly annoying animal rights group some call People with Extremely Terrible Advertising campaigns, has a new smartphone app. Use the app to scan groceries and when meat is detected, "releases a noxious cloud of aerosolized stink juice from a remarkably inconvenient device that looks like the ass of a Pikachu and hangs from your iPad," according to Grist.

PETA encourages kids to download the app then activate the smelly stuff at the appropriate time by pushing the "Meat Stinks" button. The putrid odor "replicates a slaughterhouse's stench of bodily wastes, blood, and decomposing flesh—for their parent to experience."

Another stupid stunt from an increasing irrelevant group.


They're Not Loving It

McDonald's has had a rough spring. The company bought new clothes and a new hairdo for Ronald, but people laughed.

They designed a new Happy Meal mascot and people thought he was creepy.

This week, the company was forced to close its corporate headquarters to protect employees from an estimated 1,500 protesters who want the hourly wage for fast-food workers raised to $15. The demonstration was scheduled on the eve of McDonald's annual shareholders meeting. More than 300 people were arrested by police wearing riot gear.

In his address to shareholders on Thursday, CEO Don Thompson said the company has a heritage of providing job opportunities that lead to "real careers."


Labels Are Expensive

Consumer activists repeatedly tell us they want to know what's in their food, which is the concept behind the movement to label foods containing GMOs. Be prepared to reach deeper into your pocket for the info. A new study at Cornell University by William Lesser says New York's GMO labeling bill would cost the average family of four an extra $500 per year.

The study confirms some similar studies in Washington state and California that showed mandatory GMO labels would produce similar increases in food costs. "American families deserve safe, abundant and affordable food," said Claire Parker, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food.

"A mandatory GMO label will just make it more difficult and expensive for hard-working American families to put food on the table."


Bees Unleashed in Delaware

Interstate 95 in Delaware was buzzing yesterday when a truck hauling 460 beehives crashed when the truck failed to completely negotiate a turn. An estimated 20 million were unleashed, forcing police to close the Interstate. The truck's driver and two passengers were hospitalized with 50 to 100 bee stings each.

Artisan Frankenburgers

May 21, 2014

As the price of gasoline skyrocketed in the summer of 2008, Tonight Show host Jay Leno noted that gasoline prices were above $5 per gallon in California, "but that's for natural, free-range gasoline." A punchline in a monologue, sure, but could such silliness help sell lab-grown meat? Last year a Dutch researcher revealed the first lab-grown burger, which was about as popular as tracking mud in your wife's kitchen.

Consumers just couldn't get past the "ick" factor. But what if the lab-grown Frankenburgers were "artisan" and produced "locally?" That's the idea of Johannes Tramper, a bioprocess engineering professor at Wageningen University, Netherlands, who proposes a small-scale "meat factory in every village." The concept is to raise pigs on "animal-friendly (urban) farms" that would serve as the living donors of muscle stem cells through biopsies for the lab-grown meat. Which is all well and good, we suppose, except that we doubt routinely biopsied pigs can be called "happy."


The Aussies Stole Your Steak

Diners in London's trendy Soho district are feasting on Australian grain-fed steaks that you paid for.

Not the actual steak, but the research and development behind the flat iron steak. In fact, there's a new Flat Iron restaurant on Beak Street, Soho, that is dedicated to just one cut of beef, the flat iron. One of the most tender cuts of beef, the flat iron is a success story launched with your checkoff dollars. Research projects launched in the late 1990s into the chuck and the round with beef checkoff funds sought to identify ways to increase the value of those cuts, and researchers found what they called "diamonds in the rough."

The flat iron, petite tender and ranch steak are just three of 13 new products cut from the chuck and the round, adding value to muscle cuts that were routinely ground into hamburger. So, if you know some blokes Down Under, tell ‘em Flat Iron is American for steak.


McScary

McDonald's changed its Happy Meals to be a little healthier, adding low-fat yogurt as a side. But it isn't the food that's drawing criticism from consumers, it's the new mascot for Happy Meals, named Happy. People think he's downright creepy. The reaction on Twitter has been merciless. For instance, one tweet said, "Please tell me an unpaid intern designed this, because otherwise, there's no excuse." Ouch!


California Drought Will Cost Thousands of Jobs

Not surprisingly, researchers have determined that California's drought will cause thousands of workers to lose their jobs and cost farmers in the Central Valley breadbasket $1.7 billion. The most populous U.S. state is in its third year of what officials are calling a catastrophic drought, leaving some small communities at risk of running out of drinking water and leading farmers to leave fallow nearly a half-million acres of land.

Guns 'n Burritos

May 20, 2014

What's with the PDF? You know, public display of firearms? Chipotle Mexican Grille apparently thinks likewise because they've told customers not to bring assault rifles - or any guns - into their restaurants.

We've made it well-known we are offended by Chipotle's marketing campaigns that disparage livestock producers for using FDA approved animal health products. That's why we refuse to patronize the chain that sells those over-priced burritos. Now, however, Chipotle enters the debate on another hot-button issue by saying, "the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."


15 Million Rea$on$

If you need new reasons not to donate money to the Humane Society of the United States, the animal rights group has 15 million new ones. That's how many dollars HSUS shelled out to settle a racketeering lawsuit that included witness bribery and obstruction of justice. We told you last week that HSUS' suit against Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was thrown out of court as "frivolous," "vexatious" and "groundless and unreasonable from its inception."

Today’s USA Today contains a full-page ad from HumaneWatch.org informing readers of the settlement, and a press release from Humane Watch claims the money paid to Feld Entertainment came – at least partially – from HSUS donor funds, despite assurances from HSUS to the contrary. HSUS claimed the settlement money came from insurance, but Humane Watch says court records show HSUS was denied insurance coverage.


"Fired With Enthusiasm"

Do you remember the speaker at your high school or college graduation? Yeah, we don't either, but there are a few memorable speakers that actually impart some wisdom on graduates. For instance, Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, once told graduates, "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm."

Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde told graduates, "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught."

The New York Times Magazine published a story about the national statistics on graduation rates that has some eye opening statistics, such as, "More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven't earned their degrees after six years."


Beef Hormone Facts

Some consumers are worried about the amount of hormones in beef. Should they be? University of Nebraska extension educator Bruce Treffer explains why it's a non-issue. "When hormones are eaten, they are digested, broken down and largely neutralized, so they don't act as hormones anymore. Even if they did, the 1.9 nanograms of estrogen in implanted beef seems miniscule when we consider that a child's body produces around 50,000 nanograms of estrogen per day. An adult female (non-pregnant) will produce 480,000 nanograms of estrogen per day on its own."

Cows Thirsty in Mouse's Playground

May 19, 2014

First it was the desert tortoise. Now it's the western jumping mouse. Federal agents in New Mexico have locked cattle out of a spring-fed watering hole in an attempt to protect the mouse's habitat. The feds seem oblivious to the fact that New Mexico is in the midst of an historic drought. On Friday a meeting was held in Albuquerque at a U.S. Attorney's Office between the two sides to find a resolution. Unfortunately, the matter was not resolved because, as one rancher said, "the Forest Service said they don't have the authority, and neither did DOJ or anyone at that meeting, to just allow the gate to be opened." Folks, we’re talking about cows here, not camels. Their need for water can’t wait for a Congressional Committee hearing.


 

About Those USDA Machine Guns

When news broke last week that the USDA was seeking to buy machine guns and high-capacity magazine clips, some GTN readers were skeptical the story was true while a few others envisioned dangerous government overreach. Indeed, the story is true, but while we don't expect to see the local NRCS agent toting an AK-47 anytime soon, arming USDA and other government agencies is not new. The issue dates back over a decade, when The Homeland Security Act of 2002 amended the IG Act to grant inspectors "full law enforcement authority to carry firearms, make arrests and execute search warrants." USDA says that there are more than 100 agents employed by the law enforcement division of the department's Office of the Inspector General who investigate criminal activities, including fraud, bribery, extortion, smuggling and assaults on employees.


Turner Ranch Loses Ag Status

Ted Turner's New Mexico Vermejo Park Ranch has lost its agricultural status, according to the Taos County assessor's office. That means the half-million acre ranch's property taxes are substantially higher – as in $90,000 higher. The assessor's office revoked the ag classification for 2013, asserting that the primary purpose of the full-service guest ranch is commercial, not agricultural. A protest filed last week argues the Taos County acreage should be valued at $2.9 million instead of the $17.7 million asserted by the assessor's office.


Grabs Life By The Teats

Life is like a dairy cow. So says Gilmer Dairy Farm. Life "may kick at you and crap on you." But you "have to grab it by the teats and milk it for all it's worth."

Cowboy Hats Not Included

May 16, 2014

If you have the money, you could become an instant rancher. That's the sales pitch offered by real estate auctioneer Billy Long who will sell parcels of Colorado's Maytag Mountain Ranch June 5.

Buyers will get a 100-acre parcel, making them partners in an organic ranch that produces free-range chicken, organic vegetables and grass-fed beef to supply the Boulder, Colo., Whole Foods Market. "They'll also have access to horse and hiking trails, lakes and streams stocked with fish and a luxurious lodge for parties and events." Yeah, there's catch to this offer. Opening bids start at $450,000, and buyers will also need to pony up $8,000 in annual dues. You'll also need to buy your own cowboy hat.


10 Ways Marrying A Farmer Will Change Your Life

Jenny Dewey Rohrich has learned to live with the little inconveniences that come with being married to a farmer. Things like finding soybean seeds rolling around in her clothes dryer. But Rohrich is happy on the farm, even though it includes spending a lot of time alone and date nights during harvest are spent in the combine.


Crushing Meat Myths

Need talking points to counter that know-it-all down at the coffee shop? BuzzFeed published 15 Common Meat Myths That Need to be Crushed for Good, courtesy of the American Meat Institute. The list covers antibiotic use, hormones, animal welfare and other hot-button issues.


California Drought Impact

An article in the Denver Post says about 150,000 of California's 600,000 breeding cows have been sold. Nearly 57,000 head – both dairy and beef – have entered Colorado this year, compared to 28,980 during the first four months of last year.

Drought conditions in California are not expected to improve over the next five months. The best opportunity to break the drought this year may hinge on the emergence of an El Nino in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Drought Monitor says the entire state is suffering from some form of drought, and the rainy season just ended.

USDA Looking to Buy Machine Guns

May 15, 2014

We've scratched our heads long and hard over this one. If you think military intelligence is an oxymoron, the same would apparently be true at USDA. First, why would USDA need machine guns? Enforce COOL regulations? Implement animal ID? Shoot rabbits? And even if they could justify a need for machine guns, you would think somebody in Washington would tell them to check with the Pentagon first.

Seriously, why the heck is this up on USDA's website? "The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commercial acquisition of submachine guns." Will Rogers once said, "I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."


Virtual Free-Range for Chickens

Are your chickens tired of their coop and in need of a vacation? Austin Stewart has the answer – virtual reality. He's designed a virtual world for poultry that gives them – at least mentally – a free-range world so they can live out their lives wandering an endless field. He's serious. He offers humans the opportunity for the same experience by pairing a virtual reality headset with a modified yoga ball – somehow giving the experience of what it's like to be a caged chicken living a virtual free-range life.


Circus Wins Suit, $16 Million

Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will collect nearly $16 million from the Humane Society of the United States and other co-defendants to settle a racketeering lawsuit. The vegan animal rights group was involved in alleged illegal witness payments as part of a scheme to pursue malicious litigation against the circus. The settlement, along with $9 million received earlier from the ASPCA, will just about cover the company's legal expenses. Animal welfare activists sued Feld in 2000 under the Endangered Species Act, but the case was dismissed in 2009.


Texas Rancher's Power Line Dispute

Texas rancher Johnny Vinson is in the midst of a rift with a utility company. He says they planted the power line that crosses his property in the wrong spot, and he's not accepting their offer of damages. He doesn't oppose the existence of the line, and acknowledges that Texans need the power.

Splitsville! Steak Goes Solo

May 14, 2014

If you need to put sauce on meat before you eat it, you're either eating chicken or you've cooked your steak wrong. We realize that view is not held by everyone, which is good, we suppose, for people who make sauce. However, one iconic brand of sauce that has been tied to steak for five decades has just announced a divorce from ribeyes and T-bones. A.1. Steak Sauce is no longer steak sauce.

In a new advertising campaign A.1. bills itself as "For Almost Everything. Almost." A new video on Facebook and YouTube shows the brand breaking up with steak, while it "friends" fish tacos and crab legs. A.1. makes it clear it still goes with steak, but the relationship is no longer monogamous. We say good riddance. A good steak does just fine flying solo.


Recycled Utopia

Ever dream of owning your own tropical island but can't afford one? Build your own. That's what Richart Sowa, a former carpenter did over the past six years with 150,000 plastic bottles. Sowa's 82-foot island near Cancun includes a three-story house, gardens and its own sandy beach. Yeah, Sowa's a little eccentric, and the lifestyle is so far off the grid he probably doesn't have to worry about unwanted relatives showing up on holidays. But he brings new meaning to the phrase, "Living the dream."


Canada's GooseBuster

The Canadian goose may be a magnificent bird, but officials in Canada's capitol city have grown weary of the waterfowl and their E. coli-laden poop. Each summer geese line the Ottawa River, and their aggressive and territorial nature can be a nuisance. But the bacteria in their poop on beaches and in shallow water can lead to human disease, especially among children. Ottawa city officials, however, will be using a new GooseBuster this summer. It's an aerial-photography drone turned anti-goose-copter sporting bright flashing lights and blasting the menacing howl of a grey wolf through loud speakers.


HSUS Abandons Tail Docking Proposals

Animal rights advocates are ending a campaign to ban the practice of cutting the tails off Colorado dairy cows. The Humane Society of the United States said state officials had "misconstrued" the language of the proposals and it was too late to request that the language be changed for this fall's election. The Humane Society's proposals included getting rid of existing agricultural exemptions to the state's animal mistreatment laws.

Brits Boil Over Secret Ingredients

May 13, 2014

The Brits are positively mortified that there might be chicken on their chicken pizza. You see, it’s just become known that Pizza Express had secretly been using chickens that had been slaughtered using Halal methods, the practice of slaughtering food animals in accordance with Islamic law. According to London's The Sun, Halal chickens were used by Pizza Express in "every meal that contains the meat – but customers only find out if they ask." The Sun's story begot a Twitter campaign, #boycottpizzexpress, which uncovered more Halal perpetrators – Subway, KFC and Nandos. It's a big deal in the United Kingdom because Muslims make up about 5 % of the population, a figure expected to grow to 8% by 2030. The majority of non-Muslim British consumers don't care if their meat is Halal, but the fast food chains are satisfying their Muslim patrons food customs. Two crimes here: the first is that the companies didn't tell their customers about the Halal meat; the second crime is putting chicken on pizza.


Blame It On Ethanol

American consumers are paying a premium for beef, largely because of the federal government's misguided energy and farm policy. That's the opinion of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. Ethanol, The Tribune states, is "produced from corn that otherwise would be available for breakfast cereal, sweetners and edible oil, as well as for animal feed." In short, the Tribune says nearly 40% of the U.S. corn crop will be diverted to the gas tank, meaning, "you'll pay more money to slap a steak on the grill."


Criminal Probe in Bundy Standoff

Lawbreakers will be "held accountable," according to the director of the Bureau of Land Management. Neil Kornze said the BLM plans to act through the courts as the agency pushes to enforce orders against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy for illegally grazing cattle on public land. Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie confirmed last week the FBI has opened a criminal probe of alleged threats and assaults by Bundy supporters on law enforcement officers at the roundup.

It's alleged that Bundy owes the BLM about $1 million in past-due grazing fees and penalties, which appears to be an anomaly among ranchers grazing federal lands. In Oregon, for instance, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said that as of late April, 45 cattlemen owed a collective $18,759 in rent, and most of it was just barely past due.


Feedyard Margins Top $200

Cattle feeding margins jumped nearly $20 per head higher last week to average $216, which is $319 per head better than at the same time last year, according to the Sterling Profit Tracker.

Dung on the Range

May 12, 2014

If you're like us, you think the spat between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM was a narrow aversion of disaster. There's plenty of blame to go around, but now, with Bundy's 15 minutes of fame fading, we learn a tidbit that makes this whole affair even more ridiculous. It's about that desert tortoise that the BLM and the EPA are trying to protect. Most of us have made the assumption that removing cows from the desert range is an attempt to improve the tortoise's habitat. That assumption appears wrong, because the desert tortoise is a dung eater ... as in cow pies. According to an article by Vernon Bostick published in Rangelands nearly a quarter-century ago, "the more animals using the range, the more dung, which makes more food available for tortoises." You can't make this stuff up!


Drought, Continued ...

Drought conditions are expanding. The U.S. Drought Monitor says the drought is "pushing rapidly north along with warmer temperatures. A large expansion of D3 now covers nearly the entire southern half of Kansas." Oklahoma and Texas are already mired in a 3-year drought, causing economic harm to ranches, feedlots and beef processing companies in the Panhandle region.

In California, ranchers are calling the current drought the "worst" in a lifetime. Many are concerned it will difficult for the cattle industry to recover.


More CO2, Less Nutrition

More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the future means your crops will grow faster and yields may be 10% higher. However, scientists say that may not be all good. Samuel Myers, a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health, says some of the world's most important crops – rice, wheat, peas – contain "5 to 10% reductions in nutrients like iron, zinc and protein." That's a concern because about 2 billion people worldwide already get too little iron and zinc in their diets and it's damaging to their health.


Beef Exports on the Rise

U.S. beef exports were up 5.2% in March compared to a year ago thanks to increased shipments to Mexico, Hong Kong and South Korea.

The increase is remarkable given the record beef prices this year. The U.S. Meat Export Federation says the export value per head of fed slaughter for beef was $271.57, up from $222.20 a year ago.

Pulled From The Vegan Abyss

May 09, 2014

Kayla Thomas was just pulled out of the vegan abyss – that black hole that sucks away common sense. Her unlikely rescue was by hero-members of the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada who hosted Thomas, a dietetics student, on a two-week internship. She visited two dairy farms on her internship and was "stunned" by the easy-going workers and happy cows. It was nothing like the horrors of factory farms that she was led to expect. In short, the dairies she visited gave her a "new perspective that fundamentally challenged some of my core beliefs." Halleluiah, and pass the milk.


Naked-Necked Chickens

Some of your tax dollars are being spent to breed cooler chickens. How do you make a chicken more comfortable in warmer temperatures? Take away its feathers – at least some of them. Researchers at the University of Delaware are trying to isolate genes that would produce a chicken without neck feathers. Seriously. The project is inspired by a strain of scaly-necked African chickens. Such research is designed to breed food animals that can better adapt to climate change, but the plan has spawned many critics. For instance, Alan Miller, a former climate-change specialist at the World Bank, says USDA's approach to climate change "is like trying to promote driver safety while helping the car industry make faster cars."


Starbucks for Cows

Researchers in Japan have developed cattle feed that contains used coffee grounds from Starbucks. The coffee-based feed was developed at Azabu University's college of veterinary medicine, based on a fermentation technology created while experimenting with rice straw. The coffee grounds are also used to fertilize the cattle's pasture. The process could prove beneficial to Starbucks, which buys 400 million pounds of coffee globally each year.


WHO Report on Antibiotic Resistance

 

The World Health Organization says without action we're headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can kill. The WHO describes antibiotic-resistance as a major threat to public health. The report reveals that key tools to tackle antibiotic resistance-such as basic systems to track and monitor the problem-show gaps or do not exist in many countries. The WHO suggests ways to combat the problem such as preventing infections from happening in the first place-through better hygiene, access to clean water, infection control in health-care facilities, and vaccination-to reduce the need for antibiotics.

Mumbai's Pissing Tanker

May 08, 2014

As activist groups go, members of The Clean Indian are a little more aggressive than, say, your average naked PETA protestor. But maybe the Clean Indian is fighting for a very good cause.

Apparently, public urination is a problem in Mumbai, India. To combat the problem, members of The Clean Indian patrol the streets in a water tanker, aptly named "The Pissing Tanker," literally spraying those caught in the act of relieving themselves with a water canon. The group claims to be fighting public urination "one spray at a time."


Bittman's Struggle With Food

We seldom agree with much of anything Mark Bittman writes, but we're in particular agreement with this admission in the first paragraph of his latest column: "I don't pretend to have all the answers." But, then ... he proceeds to tell us most of what he thinks the answers are. Oh, what is the question, you ask? How do we (food producers, farmers, activists, and everyone involved in the growing and eating of food) raise more food in more sustainable ways and make it healthier to eat? We've always thought that was the goal of most farmers, at least until Bittman and others declared war on what they call Big Ag.


Top 5 GMO Myths

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is set to sign a landmark bill that makes his state the first to require GMO food labeling, though the law won't go into effect for two years. Many predict the state will soon face multiple lawsuits.

All of which makes it appropriate to review the top 5 GMO myths.


Feds Block Cattle From Water

Has anybody bothered to tell the feds there's a drought in progress? Apparently they don't know in New Mexico. The U.S. Forest Service has locked the gates to a mountain riparian area within the Lincoln National Forest, which has local ranchers mighty upset. Fencing cattle away from the water "denies us our usage rights," says rancher Judyann Holcomb Medeiros. The reason for the fencing? Protection of endangered species.

Skin for Sale

May 07, 2014

Would you rent your forearm or biceps out as a human billboard? The logic of this whole fascination with tattoos escapes us, but the latest ink fad has folks branding their bodies with company logos. Thirty-seven employees at Rapid Realty, a Manhattan company, have gotten the company's logo tattooed so far. The company's CEO calls them "walking billboards," and he increased their commission. Which gave us the idea of searching for ag brand tattoos. Do you know of someone with a tattoo of an ag logo? Email us a photo and we'll create a gallery for all to see. (P.S. Remember, this is a family-friendly site.)


Macho Mudders

We've always thought those 10K Fun Runs were an oxymoron – we could never see the fun in it. Some Americans, however, have taken their weekend warrior mentality to another level. Each year roughly 1.5 million people participate in obstacle races with names like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and Spartan Race. They crawl through mud, climb walls, crawl underneath barbed wire, dodge live electrical wires and wade through standing water all in an effort to have fun. Few, however, expect to spend the next week plagued by fever, vomiting and diarrhea. That's what happened to 22 participants in a race in 2012 on a ranch in Nevada. Officials believe people were sickened when they swallowed muddy water contaminated by animal feces which left them infected with campylobacter coli.


 

 

Gluten-Free Giggles

Gluten-free foods are the current fad, though it's likely few people avoiding gluten actually know how gluten is used or what it does. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel – who says he's not anti-gluten because he's pro-pizza – apparently had the same impression, so he went out to the streets with a camera crew to interview the proverbial man on the street. Gluten intolerance such as celiac disease affects 1 in every 144 people in the U.S. But Kimmel's point is well-taken: when you stop eating certain foods you should know why.


Feedyard Margins Near $200 Per Head

Cattle feeding margins jumped nearly $17 per head higher last week to average $196.50. The increase in profitability was due to an average $1.63 per cwt. increase in cash cattle prices and a decline in total feed costs for the calculated feeding period, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker.

Hen Retirement Home

May 06, 2014

Do you lie awake wondering what to do with your hens when they quit laying eggs? You can sleep sound tonight because we just found out about the British Hen Welfare Trust.

That's where old hens go to scratch out their days under the protection of Jane Howorth, who founded the Trust nine years ago and which has adopted out more than 400,000 hens.

And don't get any ideas about adopting a few of these hens to become the main course at your summer barbeque. The hens aren't just handed out to adoptive parents like prizes at a county fair, there's a screening process. However, Howorth admits the growing number of birds up for adoption means she's had to drop the home-visits with applicants. Whew!


Facts Not Fear

A proposed GMO-labeling law in California "caters to a scare campaign that is not based on solid evidence." Those aren't our words – they're from the editorial board of The Los Angeles Times. We've been saying the science doesn't support mandatory labeling, and now the nation's fourth largest newspaper by circulation (653,000) agrees. "The scientific evidence on genetically engineered food, which has been around for two decades, indicates that it is as safe for human consumption as any other food." Labeling laws, The Times says, "should be based on facts, not fear."


Aussies send feeder cattle to Russia

Two Australian ships loaded with 32,000 Angus steers are on a 23-day voyage to the Black Sea. It's a $40 million cargo, and the export manager for Livestock Shipping Services (LLS) says the company is in negotiations for future contracts. The current shipment is the first of feeder cattle to Europe under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which makes the exporter responsible for animal welfare up to and including the point of slaughter. The Australians say 50,000 to 100,000 Aussie cattle could be shipped to Russia this year.


21 Reasons Cows Are Awesome

Why are cows awesome? Lindsey Robertson from BuzzFeed counts the ways – in photos.

Obama Roasts Bundy

May 05, 2014

This whole Cliven Bundy thing just won't go away and during the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday President Obama took it as an opportunity to crack some jokes at the Nevada rancher's expense. The President pointed out that Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky had uninvited the defiant rancher after he had made racists remarks a few weeks ago. "As a general rule, things don't end well if the sentence starts with, 'Let me tell you something about the Negro,'" Obama joked.

Comedian Joel McHale also poked fun at the grass-fed beef filet dinner for being "freshly dragged off the Cliven Bundy Ranch. The steaks are very tasty, once you pull off the tiny white hoods."


Fighting Your Ally

It has been said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but now some environmentalist are forgetting who their friends are. The Western Watersheds Project of Hailey, Idaho, and the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center of Bozeman, Mont., are upset with the National Park Service for allowing cattle to graze on the Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. "Few people even know that private grazing occurs on these priceless public lands," says Jonathan Ratner, the watersheds project's director for Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. "National Parks, tiny cacti, fragile soils and a bunch of cows don't mix." Well apparently environmentalist and a program "Charged with the trust of preserving the natural resources of America" don't mix either.


India's Beef with Beef

The largest election the world has ever seen is quickly approaching in India and it will have big implications on the global beef market. Prime Minster candidate Narendra Modi is thought to be the leader in the race and if he wins Modi vows to protect cattle. Modi is Hindu – a religion that views the cow as being sacred – as is 80% of India's population. Bharatiya Janata Party has Modi's backing and the main objectives of the group are to conserve, protect and promote the cow. The only hang up might be that beef is a big business and India happens to be the second largest exporter in the world.


Fewer Heifers, Possible Herd Expansion

There are more steers in feedlots this April, but fewer heifers. It could be a sign of herd expansion.

The April cattle on feed survey said there were 2.2% more steers on feed at the start of April than a year ago, but 5.9% fewer heifers in feedlots. The increase in steer numbers is driven by lower corn prices and record fed cattle prices. The decline in heifers is likely due to increased heifer retention

Tall Corn Tragedy

May 02, 2014

A couple of Nebraska farmers were sued because their corn was too tall. It began in October of 2007 when two pickups collided at an intersection obstructed by 7-foot-tall corn planted near the road. The crash killed one passenger and left another a quadriplegic who died from his injuries three years later. The second victim’s wife sued the truck drivers and the farmers who planted the corn. The suit traveled all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court which confirmed the two farmers were not negligent for the height of their corn that created the blind intersection.


Pelican Outrage

California’s case of the mutilated pelican carries a much deeper message for livestock producers. We’ve known for years that consumers care about animal welfare and they want assurances that food animals are treated with respect. That sentiment was underscored this week by the public’s outrage over the mutilation of a brown pelican in Long Beach. Person(s) unknown slashed the pelican’s pouch from ear-to-ear, leaving the bird unable to feed. The bird, named Pink by rescuers, was found April 16 and a veterinarian at International Bird Rescue spent 6 hours stitching up Pink’s pouch. How much do people care about Pink? The Port of Long Beach donated $5,000 towards the bird’s medical bills, and multiple anonymous donors have contributed a total of $20,000 to a reward fund in an effort to catch the person(s) responsible for the cruelty.


Bundy vs. BLM ... Continued

Undeterred by mounds of criticism, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy continues his fight against the Bureau of Land Management for last month’s attempted roundup of his cattle. Today, Bundy was set to file a criminal complaint in Las Vegas against the BLM for "men blocking access to public land ... harassing people for taking photos" and other claims such as impersonating police officers, threatening to use stun guns and "threatening to fire upon unarmed civilians" as well as use of attack dogs and "men pointing weapons."

The spat also has spilled over into the local community. According to a letter Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) sent to a local sheriff, armed militiamen around Bundy’s ranch have set up road checkpoints and are asking passersby for proof of residency.

Local authorities and Bundy’s neighbors are growing weary of the attention. Travelers are calling the sheriff asking if it’s safe to travel along Interstate 15, where some of Bundy’s armed supporters are visible.

Ag commentator Dan Murphy says, "For the sake of every honest, hardworking, clear-thinking cattle rancher out there, let’s hope the Cliven Bundy debacle goes away."


Dust Bowl 2014

The drought is unrelenting.

Massive dust storms this week across the High Plains crated zero-visibility conditions in central Kansas and one western Kansas school was forced to cancel classes and activities. Monday's dust storm was so large it covered most of Kansas, western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and eastern Colorado, said weather service meteorologist Jeff Hutton in Dodge City.

The Wheat Quality Council 2014 Hard Winter Wheat Tour wrapped up yesterday with an estimated production for the Kansas crop at 260.6 million bushels. This is the lowest tour estimate since 1996. The average yield, calculated from 587 stops, was 33.2 bushels per acre.
 

 

 

Vermont's Welfare Lawyers

May 01, 2014

Calling Vermont's new GMO labeling law "problematic" is an understatement. In fact, the new law seems to be Vermont's effort to ensure lawyers are never without work.

Vermont planted this legal minefield when state legislators created multiple exemptions to the law. For instance, Vermont dairy cows can eat all the GMOs they want, but the milk from those cows is exempt from GMO labeling. Further, the milk from those GMO-fed cows can still be certified organic and used in yogurt. Except, that makes Vermont's bill in violation of the Food and Drug Administration's definition of organic.

However, there appears to be a smidge of common sense among the state legislators who drafted this crazy law – the bill includes an $8 million legal fund to defend the new protocol if necessary.

We call that the Vermont lawyer subsidy.


Got Milk, Comrade?

Spend any time around America's rodeo circuit and you'll likely hear a brash young cowboy claim, "I can ride anything with hair on it." This story suggests your response should be, "Yeah, but can you milk it?" Located in the Russian city of Kostroma is a sanatorium renowned for producing a cure for peptic ulcers. It is moose milk – high in butterfat, loaded with double the amount of essential amino acids as cow's milk and full of lypozyme – an enzyme that kills ulcer-creating bacteria. The sanatorium sources their milk supply from nearby Sumarokovo Moose Farm. And there's only one way to milk a moose.


Jobs for Out-Of-Work Environmentalists

Thirty-years in the future the nonprofit environmental sector will be kaput – or so Erik Assadourian assumes with his satirical list of future jobs for out-of-work enviros. His top 10 includes small-scale farmer, of course, and teacher and taxi driver. He also adds trash miner, which is sifting through a mix of food waste, toxic household chemical residues and other refuse to keep unwanted items out of landfills. He also lists eco-preacher, which is exactly what you think it is, and urban forager, which with a little training will enable you to make acorn flour pancakes. It's a tossup, but we would rather listen to an eco-preacher for an hour than be forced to eat acorn pancakes.


Record Day For Feeder Cattle

Feeder-cattle futures surged to a record and headed for the longest rally in 22 years as U.S. ranchers sent fewer animals to slaughter, signaling an increase in beef costs that already are the highest ever.

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