Sep 22, 2014
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August 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. 

Prehistoric Latrines

Aug 29, 2014

There's a connection between your lunch and the spot where hunter-gatherers relieved themselves. Writing for Forbes, Richard Levick says, "crop domestication – or the earliest instances of genetically modified food – took root in prehistoric latrines."

Levick is referring to the naturally occurring mutations that made certain fruits and vegetables attractive to humans, and that "those fruits and vegetables contained seeds that required digestion to germinate." Why is this fact important? Because, Levick notes, 59% of Americans turn to the Internet for nutritional advice, and that's where GMO opposition groups have swayed public opinion in their favor. A recent Nielson poll suggests 61% of consumers have heard of GMOs and almost half say they try to avoid eating them.

WOTUS Maps "Astonishing"

The EPA's maps that detail the extent of the "Waters of the United States" proposal were made public this week. Congressmen such as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science Committee, was not happy once he saw the maps. "Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA's desire to minimize the importance of these maps," Smith wrote to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. "But EPA's posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents. While you claim that EPA has not yet used these maps to regulate Americans, you provided no explanation for why the Agency used taxpayer resources to have these materials created."

Iowa Farmer Next Bachelor

Some of my "friends" that help me with this daily newsletter tell me that you'd want to know a farmer has been named to star on the next The Bachelor. Haven't seen it, and probably won't watch this Iowa boy on drivel that passes as reality TV. But, for those of you who are interested, Arlington, Iowa, farmer Chris Soules is the 19th participant of ABC's hit show. Soules became popular on this past season of The Bachelorette and fans often referred to him as "Farmer Chris."

Border Security

Arizona rancher and veterinarian Gary Thrasher has lived along the U.S. southern border for more than four decades and says the problems in the area defy a one-size-fits-all solution. The rise of drug smugglers has made ranching in the region dangerous. "We don't very often come in contact with very many people because we don't want to be in contact with them," he says. "There's just been too many people hurt and too much violence."  

Wall Street to Rural Routes

Aug 28, 2014

Looks like the hedge-fund types are now investing in property lined with hedge-rows. According to The New York Times investors are moving their finances into farmland and some of these stockholders are coming from hedge funds. Currently hedge funds now have $14 billion tied up in agriculture property. One particular real estate investment trust, American Farmland Company, has purchased 11,000 acres from 16 farms for a price of $131 million. But this pales in comparison to what Alaska’s state pension fund invested in 2013 for farmland: $485.9 million!

Do Svidaniya, Mother Russia

No more South Dakota beef genetics for you, Russia. An October trade mission trip to Russia put together by South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and South Dakota Beef Breeds Council has been cancelled. "Unfortunately, after two successful trade missions in 2012 and 2013 led by the SDDA, a return mission this fall will not happen," said Ty Eschenbaum, SDDA ag development representative.

Russia's already invested a lot of money into building up its own beef industry with a lot of those genetics coming from the U.S. Beef packer Miratorg has received government support to create a breeding operation of 110,000 Angus-based cows that should help meet 20% of Russia's beef demand.



More Hot Water for BLM

While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was able come out looking a lot better than Cliven Bundy after their much publicized feud, the government organization hasn’t been able to stay out of the headlines entirely. The BLM is once again forcing ranchers to take their cattle off of grazing allotments in central Nevada. This time it's because of drought, but that has fired up a group of grazers called the Cowboy Express who plan to ride across the country to D.C.

Meanwhile, wild horse activist are claiming that the BLM takes favor to cattle.

To make things worse those activists might be right. The BLM had to release a statement about the deaths of 57 horses moved from a Kansas pasture to a corral in Scott City, Kan., and the euthanizing of 13 more mares.

Profit Tracker: Losing Steam

Profitability for both cattle and hog producers has been losing steam for the past month, but things could be a lot worse.

Cattle feeders recorded average profits of $162.67 per head last week, down more than $35 from the previous week, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. The margins represent a $222 per head improvement over the average losses of $59 recorded last year at this time.

Jamie Oliver, Eat It!

Aug 27, 2014

Despite a celebrity chef and ABC News' best efforts lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) is back on the market. During the spring of 2011, British chef Jamie Oliver tried to convince U.S. consumers they needed to watch a butcher grind their beef because of "pink slime."

The following year ABC News stepped up the conversation on LFTB with an 11-part investigation into the USDA approved beef product.

Drought and record high prices have brought LFTB back into grocery stores and the national spotlight, but this time it appears here to stay.

Dandelion Tires???

Dandelions really aren't good for much. The weed is an eyesore on most lawns and it takes a lot of weed pulling or Round Up to rid your grass of the pesky stuff. But researchers may have people changing their minds on dandelions with the discovery that a plant originating in Kazakhstan could help supply the global tire market. The Kazakh dandelion's taproot contains a milky fluid that holds tire-grade rubber particles and is known to grow in even the poorest of soils. This is good news for tire manufactures who have been searching for alternatives to traditional tree rubber because of a fungus outbreak in Brazil.

New New England Farmers

USDA's most recent census reports that farming has been decreasing in popularity. From 2007 to 2012 there were 95,000 farms lost, but the Northeast saw a 5% jump in farms. Farming is also gain steam in the classroom with a 43% increase from 2004 to 2012 for students from the Northeast doing their undergrad studies in agriculture. In states across New England the local food movement has made small scale farming on property often less than 50 acres profitable because of the ability of these new farmers to connect with consumers.

Raising vs. Purchasing Heifers

Ranchers weigh options on replacement heifers amid historic high prices.

When it comes to replacement heifers in beef cattle operations, producers are faced with a dilemma: Raise them, buy them or sell them and "take the money and run."

Meat Myth Busters

Aug 26, 2014

We’ve heard it all when it comes to people abstaining from eating meat. Well, the Business Insider did a nice video that helps bust some of these meat myths.

Myth #1: Meat causes cancer. Not so fast my friend. Processed meats like hotdogs have been linked to cancer when eaten in high amounts, but properly cooked red meat cuts like steak are risk free.

Myth #2: Meat rots in your colon. False. Meat is broken down in the stomach and absorbed by the bloodstream. This will irk some vegans but their diet choice actually causes ingestible plant fiber to sit in the colon and ferment. Sounds like those vegans maybe a little drunk from all that fermenting!

For more meat myths checkout the video.

Beef Boycott?!?

Beef has been a trendy topic in the news lately thanks to "scientific" reports claiming that the environmental footprint of raising cattle for meat is detrimental to the planet. AgWeb blogger Sara Hessenflow Harper poses the question: "Can You Really Save the Planet by Boycotting Beef?" in her most recent post. According to Sara the answer is no. Beef production utilizes grass that is not digestible for humans or other livestock species like poultry. Cattle grazing also creates better biodiversity on grassland habitat. And Sara knows a thing or two about sustainability as she works at Vela Environmental as director of sustainability & supply-chain solutions.

Winter Is Coming

Soak up the sun and the hot temperatures while you can because this winter looks like it could be a cold one. The Farmer’s Almanac is projecting the winter of 2014-15 to be well below normal for ¾ of the country. Last winter several polar vortexes dropped down from the Artic and the trend appears to be continuing. The Northern Plains and Great Lakes will see frigid temperatures again with a projected -40°F in some areas. A potential El Niño would also be a welcome sight for producers in California and the Southwest.

All Eyes on the Market

While cattle numbers continue to be tight, the calf market has been holding strong.

As we reported yesterday cattle on feed have been dropping at a record pace, but prices have seen a big boost thanks to this trend particularly for calves weighing less than 600 lbs. Derrell Peel, an Oklahoma State Livestock Marketing Specialist says, "If you figure the gross margin of the value of gain from buying these light weight calves and putting anywhere from 200 to 400 pounds on them, the value of gain is pretty good right now. It’s well over $1 to $1.30 in some cases."

PETA Won't Want to See This

Aug 25, 2014

Bears are notorious for being snoopy when it comes to food related items. They even have a cartoon depicting a picnic basket stealing bear that goes by the alias of Yogi. Well, we just ran onto a cool video clip from last month that we're sure PETA won't appreciate. Wisconsin logger Garrett Smith saves a curious black bear after its head got stuck in an old milk can. Smith uses his log loader arm to grab the milk can and in turn rescue the bear from a bleak fate ... And if you’re wondering Smith did have permission from the farmer to cross that corn field.

7% Fewer Cattle on Feed

Cattle feeders continue to see fewer placements in their yards. For the month of July only 1.56 million cattle entered feedlots, a 7% drop from last year. Inventories as a whole are down 2% for cattle feeders with just 9.8 million head accounted for.

Nebraska feedlots have actually bucked the national trend by adding 4% to their capacity in the past year.

Earlier this year Nebraska jumped ahead of Texas for cattle on feed and from the looks of the latest numbers there won’t be anything changing this pattern for a longtime.

Phone In Food Waste

The USDA reports that 40% of food is thrown away in the U.S. each year, basically that's $165 billion going in the trash. If you're tired of wasting food fret no more because there's an app for that. PareUp lets users know which supermarkets and stores have too much food and if they are selling it at a discount. Often times the food can be discounted anywhere from 25 to 75% on the app.

Cattle Prices Lower For a Third Week

Cattle prices continue to skid for the third week in a row.

Cash fed cattle traded another $2 to $3 per cwt. lower this week as packers appeared to hold the leverage in the market for the third consecutive week. Cattle traded at $152 to $153 per cwt., fully $13 per cwt. lower than the market high of $166 recorded three weeks ago. On a dressed basis, cattle sold from $240 to $242.

Candidate Asks for Urine

Aug 22, 2014

As previously noted, we tend to avoid poking fun at politicians since they make such easy targets. Alas, some politicians just stand up and demand that we recognize their ... umm ... activities. Such is the case with Oregon's Art Robinson. He's a congressional candidate who also happens to be the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party. Technically, Robinson is a scientist and he's never won a state-wide elected position, and his third try at unseating 4th Congressional District Rep. Peter DeFazio is almost sure to fail spectacularly.

That's because Robinson’s campaign seeks not just votes, but urine samples, too. It's no joke, Robinson told the Roseburg (Ore.) News-Review.

"This is a research field I've been involved in my whole adult life," he said. Two years ago Robinson gathered 39% of the votes in Oregon’s 4th.

Why ...

Does the world need a square-shaped watermelon?

It's even sillier when you discover cube-shaped melons are inedible. That's because they must be harvested before they are ripe. Still, the Japanese growers claim they're selling the square, inedible watermelons for at least $100 as decorative gift items. Goofy? We think it ranks right up there with jeans with holes in them, until we found this site that shows how to put holes in your jeans that look "professional."

Sandpaper or a cheese grater are the suggested tools. Then there's this tidbit of wisdom: "Grease ... Used sparingly, nothing beats it for natural looking staining."

Fighting Bull Beef

Beef from fighting bulls is experiencing a resurgence in Spain.

Surprisingly, some of bull fighting's biggest opponents favor eating the meat. If the animals killed in the bull ring aren't eaten, they argue, the meat goes to waste. Further, the fighting bull breed exists as a function of the bullfight, so the animals will be killed whether the meat is eaten or not. Reasonable. But those same proponents claim that the bulls are "happier, healthier cattle than commercial beef." We think them's fighting words, Señor!

No Horse Slaughter in N.M.

Valley Meat Co. has ended its efforts to build a plant near Roswell, N.M., that had envisioned horse slaughter for overseas meat buyers, state government officials told Meatingplace. The company's recent withdrawal of a request to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) for a ground water discharge permit was the last straw, and came some 7 months after a federal spending bill slashed funding for horse slaughter inspection.

Chickens Gone Wild!

Aug 21, 2014

You can get arrested for letting your son or daughter go to the park alone, as North Carolina and Florida mothers discovered. But it's fine to let chickens roam the streets? Yep. In fact, Fair Oaks, Calif., celebrates their wild chickens with a festival.

The city has about 200 chickens roaming the streets, and folks occasionally take a hen home to produce eggs. Other residents have released roosters into the roaming flock. The Fair Oaks Chicken Festival is scheduled for Sept. 20.

Nestlé Takes the Plunge

Nestlé pledges to improve the welfare of the farm animals in its supply chain, following the signature of a partnership agreement with NGO World Animal Protection.

The agreement means that all 7,300 of the company’s suppliers of animal-derived products will have to comply with tighter animal welfare standards.

Nestlé, with its global purchasing footprint, also becomes the first major food company to form an international partnership with an animal welfare NGO (non-governmental organization).

Feed Yard vs. Shopping Mall

Have you cringed at the sight of your kid wearing new jeans that had holes in them? Even more cringe when you found out he/she bought ‘em that way, and paid triple the price of a new pair of Wranglers? If you prefer root canals to back-to-school shopping, you’re not alone. Anne Burkholder, aka the Feed Yard Foodie, thinks like you do. She posts five reasons why she prefers a cattle feed yard to a shopping mall.

Forget Bitcoin: BBQ is the New Currency

A Canadian restaurant chain says it's successfully paid for the world's first ad campaign in meat. Montana's Cookhouse & Bar, which operates nearly 90 restaurants across Canada, recently filmed an entire ad campaign by bartering with BBQ ribs, sausages, chicken, brisket and shrimp. Montana's surprised businesses across Toronto by walking in and offering a plate of BBQ meat in exchange for goods and services. Over two days of bartering and shooting, the team received a psychic reading, an MMA lesson, a manicure, a yoga lesson, men's skin care products, some new shoes, a haircut, a bouquet of flowers, an area rug, a massage and even a real tattoo.

We Say ‘No’ to Entomophagy

Aug 20, 2014

We don't care how clever the packaging or how much chocolate they pour on the stuff, we refuse to eat bugs, the practice known as entomophagy.

"Crickets have as much calcium as milk," says Wendy Lu McGill.

Again, we don't care. We're planning to continue getting our calcium from a cow. Our protein, too.

Trombone Training

Kansas rancher Derek Klingenberg's video of serenading cattle with his trombone went viral earlier this month.

He's since been interviewed by media from Canada, Brazil, Norway and Japan. His YouTube video has more than 5.6 million views. Now, Klingenberg has a newly arrived group of cattle, which means they need a little trombone training.

Signs of Herd Expansion?

Rain has been the missing ingredient for ranchers trying to capitalize on higher cattle prices. With a few notable exceptions--California, the Southwest--pasture conditions have improved significantly in cattle country. Rancher Glen Cope says the abundant rain in SW Missouri "has let us consider expanding once again and make up for some for the numbers we sold off."

Still, the drought in California continues to astound us with its severity, as shown with these time-lapse drought maps.

Changing Grasslands

The invasion of woody plants into the Earth's grasslands is happening at an alarming rate, say scientists. The transformation leads to a loss of critical habitat and causes a drastic change in the ability of ecosystems to produce food--specifically meat. Researchers with Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences led an investigation that quantified this loss in both the United States and Argentina. The study’s results are published in an online issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

PETA Can't Pass The Smell Test

Aug 19, 2014

Last week Dairy Carrie told us PETA’s video claiming abuse at a North Carolina dairy had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.

That’s now confirmed by the Haywood County (N.C.) Animal Control department, who visited the farm in question to see for themselves. Animal control officer Jean Hazzard found no evidence the cows were either emaciated or in poor health, and wrote in an email that the alleged deplorable confinement and living conditions were "unfounded." PETA also claimed regional grocer Harris Teeter was receiving milk from the dairy—a fact the grocer denied and demanded to be retracted.

And about PETA’s claim that the dairy was a "factory farm?" They milk about 30 cows.

Beef Recall Leads to Federal Charges

Federal charges were announced Monday against two owners and two employees of Rancho Feeding Corp., the Northern California slaughterhouse involved in a series of beef recalls, including one for 8.7 million pounds. USDA shut the plant down in February. Prosecutors allege the company slaughtered about 79 cows with cancer eye while USDA inspectors were on lunch breaks. While there were no reports of illnesses linked to the meat, more than 1,600 food distributors were alerted to the recall. In March, USDA allowed Marin Sun Farms to take over the shuttered Rancho slaughterhouse.

Cowboy College

Beef Today’s Cowboy College is rapidly approaching. The event, designed for feedlot cowboys, cattle crews and others involved in day-to-day care and welfare of the animals, will be held Sept. 9-10 in Omaha. This educational event will be led by veterinarians Dan Thomson and Tom Noffsinger. Attendees will see how management of newly received cattle, low-stress cattle handling, care of high-risk calves and antibiotic and therapy decisions can significantly impact the bottom line and lead to higher profitability. Online registration can be completed here.

Angus Names New AGI President

The American Angus Association has named Dr. Dan Moser as its new president of Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) and Association director of performance programs. Moser brings more than 15 years experience in genetic research and education to the Association’s 25,000-plus members and their commercial partners. A native of Effingham, Kan., Moser received his bachelors of animal sciences and industry from Kansas State University in 1991, then earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in beef cattle genetics from the University of Georgia. Moser will begin his new role on Sept. 1.

High Prices, High Anxiety

Aug 18, 2014

Tight cattle supplies and strong consumer demand has produced a record-shattering year for cowboys. Lost in the glow of this once-in-a-lifetime market, however, is the precarious position of your national beef checkoff. A shrinking cattle herd means a shrinking budget for promotion, research and consumer education. Couple that with the fact a dollar has about half the buying power it did when the beef checkoff was launched over a quarter-century ago, and you begin to realize the budget crunch facing the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. There’s plenty of evidence that the $1 checkoff has paid tremendous dividends back to producers, but it’s clear the program needs a raise. Several organizations with ties to the beef industry have held ongoing discussions about raising the national checkoff to $2.

Texas producers approved an increase in that state’s checkoff by a 2 to 1 margins last month.

Cowboys and Pipelines

Texas rancher Pete Bonds believes state law gives pipelines too much power to condemn and grab private land. Bond, who is the president of the Texas & Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, and other Texas landowners are keeping a close eye on the Texas Railroad Commission’s recent efforts to more tightly regulate the states’ network of oil and gas pipelines. The Commission, which regulates 426,000 miles of pipelines in the Lone Star State, has been criticized for rubber-stamping applications by pipeline companies.

Cattle Feeding Margins Decline $87

Cattle feeding margins declined $87 per head last week, but remain near $200. Farrow-to-finish pork margins declined $16 per head to $61.74, according to John Nalivka, Sterling Marketing, Vale, Ore. Beef cutout values declined about $5 and beef packer margins improved $2 per head.

USDA Seeks to Change Grading Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking public input on possible revisions to the U.S. Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef. Significant changes (such as grass fed versus grain fed feeding regimens, instrument grading, management, and export requirements) have taken place in the beef industry since the current grade standards were adopted in 1997. AMS is seeking input from cattle producers, food processors, the public and other sources before revising the grades to better reflect the characteristics of meat that is available for Americans.

PETA Says "Cease and Desist"

Aug 15, 2014

Dairy Carrie considers her "cease and desist" letter from PETA a badge of honor. And we do, too! The ruckus is over a video PETA claims was filmed in a dairy barn showing cows wading in boot-high manure. Except, there are several inconsistencies in the video, as pointed out by our heroine, Carrie Chestnut Mess, aka Dairy Carrie. You have to read her post to get the whole story, but Dairy Carrie says the cows "were telling me the truth." For instance, the cows wading in the manure look like they just walked out of a shower – except for their feet, of course. How is that possible? It's not, and thanks to Dairy Carrie, PETA was exposed.

Montana Cowboy Bucks Putin

Montana rancher Darrell Stevenson stands to benefit from Russian President Vladimir Putin's ban on U.S. and European meat.

The third-generation American cowboy also has a ranch 550 kilometers (340 miles) south of Moscow, and believes the sanctions will "stimulate the growth and development of (Russia’s) domestic herds. Within a year, a considerable amount of Russian-raised beef will be available." With the government embarking on what Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev calls a "new page" of agricultural development in the wake of tit-for-tat sanctions, the biggest challenge for Stevenson and his team is the lack of ranch knowledge and infrastructure in the country.

Cow Herd Expansion: Where and When?

Higher prices for cattle and calves should encourage ranchers to expand their herds. But it will take time – maybe six to eight years. That's according to Purdue University Ag Economics professor Chris Hurt, who expects expansion to start in the Northern Plains. It's a region where beef cow numbers did not decline over the past seven years. "We have a lot of marginal land in that area and now there is a profit incentive," Hurt says. The western Corn Belt from Minnesota to Missouri, where cow herd reductions totaled 566,000 cows, is also primed for expansion. University of Kentucky analysts claim the next cattle herd expansion will be complex for producers.

"Too often we discuss cow-calf operations as though they make decisions year-to-year, when expansion decisions take a long-term outlook."

Feral Horse Fight

Free-ranging horses near Placitas, New Mexico, are now drawing the ire of some residents who say their growing numbers are hurting the delicate desert landscape amid an ongoing drought. Horse advocates say the drought is to blame for damaging the landscape and state officials have blocked their attempts to administer a female contraceptive to help control the horse population. A round-up of some of the 125 or so horses by state authorities and a plan by federal officials to remove some from nearby federal land have raised the potential for a standoff between horse advocates and federal officials over the animals' fate.

Moo-less Milk

Aug 14, 2014

The San Francisco-based makers of cow-free milk are banking on vegetarians and lactose intolerant individuals for the success of their laboratory-created drink. That's a fairly narrow target audience.

The moo-free milk reminds us of the moo-less burgers announced last year.

Still, the scientists who created the cow-free milk claim that since they can make it from scratch, taste can be adjusted to imitate the essence of true dietary milk. The selling points for the moo-less milk? No animals, no hormones and no cholesterol.

Border Ranchers Anxious

The flood of illegal immigrants across America's southern border has become the primary concern of many ranchers. Over the past decade, rancher Presnall Cage estimates he's found over 100 bodies on his Brooks County, Texas, ranch.

They're mostly undocumented immigrants who succumb to the brutal Texas summers. But the increasing traffic from drug smugglers has made ranchers fearful for the safety of their families and employees. Rancher Frank Yturria has begun arming his ranch hands as more armed smugglers are walking across his land.

Weed Remains A No-No in Oregon

Yesterday, we mistakenly legalized marijuana in Oregon, which came as a surprise to some of our Beaver State readers. They let us know that if you want to get stoned you need to visit either Washington or Colorado, the only two states with legal marijuana. The story referenced the fact that proposed GMO-labeling laws would include edible marijuana, which might garner resistance from recreational marijuana users. The GMO-labeling campaign, however, continues to gather momentum across the country. There are currently 84 bills on GMO labeling in 29 states, as well as dueling bills in Congress.

Yet, as Molly Ball writes for The Atlantic, "No widely accepted science supports the idea that GMOs are inherently dangerous to people's health or the environment."

Profit Tracker: Feeding Margins Decline $70 Per Head

Cattle feeding margins declined $70 per head last week, but remain more than $280. That's a tidy profit, especially considering feedyards were losing more than $83 per head at the same time last year. The decline in profit margins was due to a $2.50 per cwt. decline in fed prices last week and breakevens that were nearly $3 per cwt. higher than the previous week.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

Wading Into Wacko

Aug 13, 2014

As we wrote yesterday there's a good chance your bottled water comes from drought-parched California, and much of that is simply tap water.

The article was from Mother Jones and gathered interest from the far reaches of the Internet, mainly because the whole bottled water business just invites criticism. Which is all good until somebody pulls out a calculator and tries to add up the drops of water in a salad or a steak. Eric Holthaus from wades into such wacko when he tries to convert your loathing of bottled water into hatred for beef.

Per capita, Americans consume about 30 gallons of bottled water each year. "But here's the kicker," Holthaus writes. "A single steak dinner uses as much water as almost a lifetime (61.5 years' worth, to be exact) of drinking bottled water." That's 1,845 gallons per pound of beef, using Holthaus' math. We think the slide rule they use at the University of California-Davis is more accurate. They say it takes 441 gallons of water to produce a pound of boneless beef.

Stoned on GMOs

Even some of the anti-technology folks like technology when it suits their desires. Like, GMOs are evil unless you can manipulate marijuana to make it more potent. That seems to be the sentiment in Oregon and Colorado – states where marijuana is legal – where there's a movement to exempt genetically engineered marijuana from proposed GMO-labeling laws.

In Colorado the GMO-labeling initiative is called I-48, and the proposal exempts several categories of food from labeling, including alcohol. But since the law does not exempt edible marijuana, supporters fear recreational pot users will oppose the GMO-labeling initiative. Dude, this is like…really confusing.

Brazil's Beef Buyer

Brazilian beef exports are on the rise, thanks mainly to a doubling of purchases by Russia. Vladimir Putin responded to international sanctions over his meddling in the Ukraine by banning imports from Europe and the United States. That opened the door for Brazil, and the country's Association of Meat Exporters said Tuesday that beef exports rose 19% in July, and exports to Russia rose 113% compared to July of last year. Brazil exported 144,700 tonnes of beef in July, up 8.6% from a year ago.

Kansas BPI Plant to Reopen

A shuttered Kansas processing plant that produced a treated ground beef product critics dubbed "pink slime" plans to reopen next week with limited operations amid rebounding sales. Beef Products Inc. said it plans to start collecting fresh beef trimmings at its Garden City facility beginning Monday to support its current Dakota City, Nebraska production operations. The Kansas plant is the first to reopen since the company closed three of its facilities over the 2012 controversy about the meat.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

Stupid (HSUS) Pet Tricks

Aug 12, 2014

David Letterman held auditions for his "Stupid Pet Tricks" segment on CBS’ Late Show earlier this summer.

We’re wondering if Wayne Pacelle submitted an entry from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), because their latest stunt is worthy of national recognition. Back in May it was revealed HSUS agreed to pay $15.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the feds under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

That was the result of a suit filed against the owners of Ringling Bros. circus who were accused of mistreating elephants. The suit fell apart when the feds uncovered a scheme where the plaintiffs (HSUS) were paying a witness and the witness lied in court. But apparently HSUS still has plenty of cash. Now we learn HSUS has been stashing money in the Cayman Islands, calling them "investments." Shady? That’s what Charity Navigator, one of the most trust-worthy charity evaluators, thinks.

They downgraded HSUS from a 4-star to a 3-star rating earlier, but this week they removed the rating altogether, stamping the organization with a "Donor Advisory" warning.

Baxter Black on the "ANTIs"

Baxter Black thinks most reporters are responsible people who "eat bacon and hamburgers." But he laments the fact that RFDtv – which carries U.S. Farm Report – is being dropped from some media networks that are intent on merging. That’s because "a network about agriculture is not relevant to the modern urban viewer." HSUS and other radical groups will be thrilled.

Bottled Water from Drought Zones

Much of the water Americans drink falls as snow in the Rockies, runs down the Colorado River into municipal water supplies in California, is bottled up and shipped to stores. That’s right, as much as 45% of bottled water is simply tap water, and much of that comes from companies in drought-parched California.

Sound crazy? Not any more so than the fact that Coca-Cola bottling plants, which produce Dasani, use 1.63 liters of water for every liter of beverage produced in California.

Questions for Pollan?

We’ve long held a laundry list of questions for Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" described by The New York Times as a "liberal foodie intellectual." More accurately, Pollan has been a leading critic of modern agriculture and a participant in a vocal, if misguided, movement to transition food production back to the horse-and-buggy days. This week we may get a chance to question Pollan. will conduct a live video interview with Pollan on Thursday (Aug. 14) at 7 p.m. and readers can sign up to submit a question. We’d like to ask Grist to give equal time to Jon Entine, a respected author and journalist who accuses Pollan of using his considerable influence to promote anti-GMO junk science.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

Got $725 Million?

Aug 11, 2014

A big chunk of Texas is up for sale and if you've got $725 million in spare cash it could all be yours. The Waggoner Ranch near Vernon is located on 510,000-acres and spread across 6 counties. Founded in 1923, the ranch really traces its heritage back to 1849 when Dan Waggoner started ranching. Those deep roots still couldn't stop a court battle from happening a century or so later that has forced the sale of the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S.

Not a City Slicker

An eastern Colorado rancher has gone from herding cattle to people. Brad Buchanan is the new director of the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development, but in his spare time he looks after his family ranch in nearby Strasburg. Buchanan says that he gets the best of both worlds in trying to create a more sustainable planet. "I get to work downtown on improving and hopefully perfecting urban place making, which is the future of where people are going to live. And I get to play a small role on the Eastern Plains of Colorado preserving native grasslands and creating healthy, grass-fed beef."

Hawaiian Hurricane

When most travelers visit the island paradise of Hawaii they don't have weather concerns. This past week wasn't normal though and the island state saw two major storms negatively impact the tourism industry in just a few days. While the first storm Iselle was downgraded from a hurricane it still wreaked havoc on Maui's second largest ranch. Sumner Erdman, Ulupalakua Ranch president says, "In history, it's probably the worst wind we've had at Ulupalakua Ranch ever."

Plenty of damage was sustained on the 18,000-acre property that is home to 2,300 cows. Numerous roads were blocked around the ranch because of downed trees, waters were broken and a machine shed was completely decimated by the worst storm to hit the area since 1871.

Cattle Outlook: Pasture Values Increasing

Pasture values are increasing at a faster rate than cropland. The trend could continue with on-going profitability in the cattle market.

Currently, choice boxed beef cutout prices are 38.6% higher than last year at $261.33/cwt. Fed cattle prices are also much higher than the previous year with steers bring $38.38 more on a live basis at $160.75/cwt.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

Russia's Embargo Roulette

Aug 08, 2014

Most folks in the United States seem fairly blasé about Mr. Putin's ban of food products from the U.S. and Europe suggesting the move will hurt Russian consumers as much as it does U.S. producers. The European Union will consider a WTO move, and RT has extensive coverage. They say Brazilian poultry producers will prosper and point out that the stock in Russian food companies jumped on the news.

Normally, this would be very bad news for U.S. beef producers, but with the current supply situation and continued strong demand in other customer countries, it's not so bad.

Trying to Define "Sustainable"

As the "sustainable" beef summit approaches, the Munchies site has a pretty well-handled story on the whole situation facing folks like Chipotle and McDonalds. It will be interesting to see how this international group deals with the grassfed-vs-fed issue.

Roundhouse Kick to Good Senses

"Chuck Norris doesn't write columns. He stares at words until they arrange themselves into sentences." This is how Bill Horan, guest blogger on "The Truth in Trade," began his blog post, and what followed was distressing to say the least.

While we love a good "Chuck Norris fact," we did not love his view on GM crops. As Horan put it, "It was a fact-free rant about modern agriculture ... It’s like somebody roundhouse-kicked the sense out of Norris."

As fans of Chuck Norris, this weighs heavily on our hearts, and our disappointment in you Mr. Norris is without measure. Now, let's have some laughs at his expense by making fun of some of the more ridiculous clips from Walker: Texas Ranger. Here's one just for fun because he sniffs the ground, tastes the dirt and says, "A plane crashed here." Wait, what?!

The World is Cooler Because the Atlantic is Hotter

Grist has an explanation for the "global warming pause" climate change skeptics have found so news worthy. Daryll E. Ray and Harwood D. Schaffer at the University of Tennesse's Ag Policy Center don't commit either way, but say better safe than sorry.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

Putin Says Nyet to U.S. Products

Aug 07, 2014

We don't always watch Russian-owned RT TV, but when we do we are skeptical. So when it said yesterday that Putin was banning ag imports, we didn't pass it on. Our bad, because today everybody is talking about it.

The news sent a chill up legs in Latin America, where old-timers remember how much the Carter-era Russian grain ban did to finance new infrastructure.

The Denver Post caught Joe Schuele and put some beef perspective to it. The Russians quit importing U.S. beef last winter, so this latest problem won't have a direct impact on the rosy outlook for exports this year.

Missouri's Farm-City Divide

Missouri's 'right to farm' amendment won by a nose, assuming a recount doesn’t get in the way. However, the local papers indicate the city-folk voted the other way.

Don't Drink the Atrazine

Toledo's water problems have been big news and they're putting a spotlight on farming practices in the country's grain belt. But, there is some good news here--Toledo's 400,000 residents can finally take a shower this week.

Water Quality

Food Safety News has a short report on a panel at the International Association of Food Protection. Here's an interesting take: "At least two of the panelists predicted that it might be another 100 years before humans learn to completely eliminate the threat of foodborne illness."

We'd bet more than a hundred years, but we're not on the panel.

Good News

The Agriculture Research Service is releasing a new type of switchgrass aimed at biofuel production and APHIS says those herbicide-resistant feedgrains are OK.

Speaking of stuff folks worry about, looks like hormones can be crossed off that list. This look at hormones in beef is enjoying a social media moment.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

Why Beef Isn't Like Lobster

Aug 06, 2014

Another "beef is the next lobster" headline reminds us of two things: 1)You don't have to dip beef in butter to make it taste good, 2)Economists have an old adage that says, "the cure for high prices is high prices."

If anybody should know the latter, it would be cattle producers who are currently living in the antipode of the adage. The current high prices are, after all, the cure for all the low prices of years' past. But, they are high and the'’re getting a lot of press telling shoppers how high they are.

The question we'd beg here is what actually constitutes "high" prices. Would that be high as compared to (A) recent history, or high as compared to (B) the cost of production? Because the adage won't necessarily hold try if the answer is (A).

Lobster prices are high because it costs a lot to find them and get them to market and there's no easy way to produce more of them. Cattle are high because it costs a lot to grow them and because there hasn't been, for a few years, an easy way to produce more of them. Too much drought, too little high-priced corn. So we're inclined to think lobsters provide the wrong analogy. Corn or crude oil would be better.

We'll find a way to "cure" these prices.
It hasn't been wise, historically, to bet against the cattle cycle. It is moving more slowing than before, no doubt, but you can be sure it is still there.

But it's not just us. The press is on bacon's price spike, as well.

Biotechnology vs. Ebola

The big headlines are about ebola and how fast it spreads and many it kills—like 50% of everybody diagnosed, so far—and how badly and quickly a treatment is needed. Turns out, though, that—thanks to that nasty biotech we see so often maligned—there may be a cure. We assume the aid workers will not be joining the anti-tech movement any time soon.

Ditch the Rule, Animated

The American Farm Bureau has produced a quick and clear animated argument urging you to help get through to the EPA.

An Indian "war on meat"

So, the Global Meat News reports the newest boss Indian says he wants to cut meat production and consumption. It is a well-known fact that hungry people get cranky and hard to deal with, so no wonder, India is throwing up roadblocks to the World Trade Organization.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

The Enigmatic El Niño

Aug 05, 2014

If there is a bigger question facing agriculture in general--and the beef industry in particular--than the prospects for an El Niño this winter, it would be hard to identify. The U.S. NOAA won't update its forecast until next week, but independent monitors say the Pacific isn't doing enough of what it's supposed to do. The Carbon Brief has an article that goes into some detail about why the weather watchers are thinking the odds are moving down.

A Fowl By Any Other Name

We quote from Merriam-Webster: "Ten•der•loin noun \'ten-d?r-?lo?in\ : a piece of very tender meat from the back of a cow or pig"

Do you see anything in there about chickens? No. A tenderloin comes from a "cow or pig" and it's delectable when grilled, which, by definition in the first case and common sense in the second, means it can’t come off a poultry thing. Nonetheless, Popeye's has appropriated the name to sell its product.

This name-jumping is getting to be a habit among beef's competitors. You'll remember this spring that the swine folks just plain said they were going to start calling their pig parts by cow parts names because people think they taste better. You can call a pork chop a ribeye or a porterhouse—the terms were never trademarked—but they are still pig. You can't get around Wendy's old advice: Parts is parts.

And they don't taste like beef. Next time the beef industry decides to codify cut names, they should trademark.

Cows Gone Viral

That cows come running to odd sounds will be of no surprise to cattle producers, but as of this writing, Google offered 50 chances to "explore in depth" Derek Klingenberg's gone-viral trombone cattle call.

So, a guy with a trombone and trailer ...

Oregon is suggesting cattle folks take precautions, and no wonder. In this market, a single animal is worth a week's work at minimum wage, so do the math for the trombone players in your nearby community. Forty hours of pushing brooms equals, what? 10 minutes of blowing Lordes?

Online Learning

Speaking of high-priced cattle and the need to adjust management practices to maximize production, health and survivability, it strikes us that we could probably justify a few bucks and a few hours to pick up the latest tips on animal health management.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.


A Hard Sell in Missouri

Aug 04, 2014

Missouri voters will get their say on the state's "right to farm" amendment tomorrow, and not everybody agrees with the state's agriculture establishment about the need for such a law. In fact, most newspapers seem to be on the other side of the issue along with (of course) Wayne Pacelle.

For (slightly) more balanced coverage, you might consider STL Today, NY Times or even Heck, on this kind of issue you might even want to see what a farmer has to say.

Tired, Maybe, But Still Perfect

Sometimes, you have to use a tired but perfect phrase to help folks capture a big picture, so we'll give Kevin Good a pass on the "never use hackneyed phrases" paragraph in our handbook of writing done right for describing the current market situation as a "perfect storm." We can’t think of a better way to say it.

Ron Hays, as usual, has the good interview online.

Cheering on the EPA

While just about everybody in agriculture is expressing concern about the EPA's grand plans for increasing the reach of the Clean Water Act, the guys at Grist are cheering the agency's plans. No wonder folks like NCBA and the American Farm Bureau are pushing so hard to get producers to pay attention.

Did you hear the one about the ranchers who trusted lawyers? These folks are looking at a million dollar hickey because their attorney failed to do his job.

Real Ranchers Needed

The Nature Conservancy is finding out this stuff ain't as easy it seems on paper.

Mark Your Calendars for Cowboy College

Beef Today is proud to be hosting Cowboy College on Sept. 9-10, in Omaha, Neb.

USDA Report is Here to "Assist" You

Aug 01, 2014

You've always got to be careful with the politically predictable websites, but the Daily Caller has put its (right, of course) finger on an issue we find nobody else paying serious attention to this morning. USDA released its technical assessment of "Greenhouse Gas Report to Assist Producers Facing Climate Challenges" yesterday, and the Daily Caller bets it is laying the groundwork for lots of new regulations.

Given the fact that a lot of folks think like Elizabeth Kucinich about cattle production's role in global warming, we'd say they may have a point.

Immigration Reform Gets More Shilly-Shally

So who knows what's next on this immigration "crisis?" The Senate gave up. The House appears to be about to give up and even if they don't give up, anything they agree on will be dead on arrival since both the Senate and the President won't agree to anything the House agrees to.
As of this writing, CNN has about as good a take on the situation as anybody we find.

There is no shortage of opinions on the matter, though an exhaustive search of the internet finds only the one bit of heartening news—the BBC reports Mexico is going to try to keep so many kids from trying to ride the death train. (It bemuses us that joint US/Mexico cooperation has been so successful at controlling screw worm flies at the Yucatan, but can’t stop Central American children. Maybe this is a sign of progress.)

The Farm Bureau has some ideas, that might get us some affordable labor, although MSNBC's Ed Schultz is against affordable labor of any sort, even illegal. Colorado has an idea to go along with its pot laws—give the illegals drivers licenses.

Big ROI on the Checkoff

Ron Hays has a good interview with Cornell University's Harry Kaiser, who has been studying the matter. He says every dollar of checkoff has returned $11 to producers—adding nearly 12% to domestic demand and 6.4% to international demand.

Safer Chinese Food. (Maybe)

Not that there's been any problems to speak of, you know, but the Chinese have agreed to participate in a joint food safety project. 

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