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July 2013 Archive for 100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

what’s for dinner Eh

Jul 24, 2013

Trust us, it's "approved".

 

   A new food certification label is now available for "100% grass-fed" meat products in Canada. Animal Welfare Approved has introduced the first and only food label which guarantees that food products marked as "grass-fed" comes from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet and are raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range for their entire lives.

 

Really?  Well….kinda?  O.K. not really.

  
The new Animal Welfare Approved Grass-fed label is the result of both consumer and farmer demand to distinguish authentic grass-fed products in a confusing marketplace, and seeks to set a new standard for grass-fed labels in Canada. Sounds like a good idea so far huh?  Keep reading.

   With annual independent on-farm audits to ensure compliance with strict production standards, the Animal Welfare Approved Grass-fed program provides 100% grass-fed farm businesses with the opportunity to clearly differentiate their products from other grass-fed claims. 

   The standards have been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the government agency responsible for the administration of food labeling policies, ensuring that qualifying farmers can use the grass-fed label on their products with confidence.  That’s about as comforting as saying the U.S. Government has our best interests in mind when they don’t pass a farm bill!

   As more consumers understand the damaging impact that intensive farming is having on their health, the environment, and animal welfare, they are seeking out truly sustainable alternatives, including 100% Grass-fed  labeled meat.  As a result, an increasing number of products, labels and brands are making grass-fed claims that aren’t always true.  No!  Really?  I know that might be hard for some of you to believe, but when it comes to the almighty dollar, unfortunately truth in advertising usually comes as an afterthought to honesty. 

   But have no fear!  Animal Welfare Approved has come up with a way to make it easier to advertise false claims legally!  How you might ask?   Go ahead,ask.  O.K., I’ll tell you.  Here’s the real kicker, because the term "grass-fed" is not regulated in Canada, the production systems behind these grass-fed labels vary significantly, leading to situations where some producers could confine their cattle on dirt feedlots, and even feed grain in the finishing ration, and yet still legally label and sell their meat as "grass-fed."

 

   So what has really been accomplished here?  Nothing when it comes to transparency or honesty.  It just makes it easier for dishonest producers to label and sell their products for a higher dollar, and it should make Canadian consumers even more uneasy about buying honestly produced and marketed Grass-fed Meats. 

And you know the U.S. is going to be importing those legally mislabeled products for consumption to unsuspecting consumers in the lower 48 states.

 

   I guess this should be a wake-up call to some, and a re-enforcement to many whom are concerned about what they eat and feed their families, especially if you or a family member can only consume truly 100% Grass-fed meats.  For many of our customers, 100% Grass-fed isn’t a consumable "fad".  If they eat something that is labeled as 100% Grass-fed and it isn’t 100% Grass-fed, they will get very ill.  This isn’t a joke folks.

 

   And one last thing to think about.  Why would an organization who is suppose to be specifically concerned about an animals welfare while it’s alive and how it is killed be certifying the end product as being produced in a very specific way, when they can’t guarantee it was in fact produced the way they are "certifying" it?!

Sounds like just another Government agency.

 

So, what’s for dinner Eh?

BQA

Jul 18, 2013

It’s time to once again for our annual review

of what we should all be doing as cattle producers

to create the safest BEEF possible.
It doesn't matter if you’re a "Grass-finished, 100% Grass-fed,

Grain-Finished or Feed-lot producer." 

 

This is the first installment of 5 focusing on BQA

 

What is BQA?

BQA is Beef Quality Assurance. It’s a national program that provides guidelines for beef cattle production.  The program raises consumer confidence through offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry. 

Beef producers have embraced BQA because it is the right thing to do;  It’s an educating program, that helps Beef producers identify management processes that can be improved on their farm’s & ranches that will refine or hone the way they handle their cattle.

Guiding Principles

"BQA is a process of figuring out what could go wrong, planning to avoid it – then validating and documenting what you have done. BQA is just part of good business," explains Dee Griffin, DVM, associate professor at the University of Nebraska’s Great Plains Veterinary Education Center. Griffin was among the BQA pioneers, and his words ring true for both beef and dairy producers.  "The BQA Manual is the overarching guideline that provides consistency across the state programs.  It provides good production practices to guarantee the quality of beef products," continues Dr. Griffin.

"BQA is not just about the mechanical part of beef production, like giving vaccines; it is also about the philosophical part, including proper handling and treatment of the animals," says Bill Mies, who served as the technical advisor for the BQA program at its inception. Mies was involved in research concerning beef quality while a professor in beef cattle science at Texas A&M University.

The guiding principles of BQA are based on these core beliefs:

WE BELIEVE production practices affect consumer acceptance of beef.

WE BELIEVE the BQA Program has and must continue to empower beef producers to improve the safety and wholesomeness of Beef.

WE BELIEVE these fundamental principles are the fabric of the BQA Program.
Empowering people…because producers can make a difference.
Taking responsibility…because it’s our job, not someone else’s.
Working together…because product safety and wholesomeness is everyone’s business.

Now that's something to be proud of

Jul 11, 2013

Because it's the right thing to do

 

   Cattle and beef production represent the largest single segment of American agriculture. In fact, the USDA says more farms are classified as beef cattle operations (35%) than any other type.   USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture classified 687,540 farms as beef cattle operations.  The future of our industry depends on producing a safe, wholesome and nutritious food tailored to the needs of our consumers.   For many farmers and ranchers, raising cattle is a family tradition.  Some producers may be first generation, some may be 3rd, 5th or even 9th generation cattle ranchers.  There’s more to raising safe, wholesome, quality beef cattle than just turning your bull out to pasture in late summer with your heifers and cow’s.  It takes knowledge by trial & error, knowledge by learning from other producers, desire, integrity and honesty.  Most farms and ranches in the United States, including cattle ranches, are family owned and operated.  Even the largest "farms" tend to be family farms. More than 97 percent of beef cattle farms and ranches are classified as family farms.  When it comes to beef cattle production, most operations are smaller than you might think.  According to USDA, the majority of beef cattle operations (79%) have less than 50 head of cattle.  Although cattle farms and ranches are spread across the United State, nearly a third of cattle operations are located in the Plains states.

 

   As beef producers we all strive to provide safe, high-quality beef for our consumers both stateside and over-seas at an affordable price while sustaining and improving resources under our close watch/care.   Beef production methods have evolved to achieve this goal, resulting in new management protocols and technologies specifically through programs like The Beef Quality Assurance Program (BQA) and NCBA’s MBA Program.  Both of those programs help us meet consumer demand.  And now a day’s, consumers demand quality animal care otherwise known as BQA.  As Beef producers, the best way to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious beef is to simply combine the latest scientific advances (see NCBA’s web-site and the Center for Beef Excellence site), with time-honored family traditions which most of us already posses.  If you’re a first generation farmer/rancher/producer, there’s no better time than the present to start cementing family traditions for following generations.  Every family started as first generation "somethings"!  Right?  Why not start a family tradition of producing Beef and/or Pork with the guidelines set forth by the BQA & PQA programs?

 

   If your not a Beef producer and don’t have the opportunity of becoming one, but like to learn as much as you can about what you eat and where it really comes from and how it get’s there?  The following is a brief synopsis I found on the Explore Beef.org web-site…

 

   Beef production begins with a cow-calf producer who maintains a breeding herd of cows that raise calves every year. When a calf is born, it weighs 60-100 pounds. Beef calves are weaned at six to 10 months of age when they weigh 450-700 pounds.   Calves leave their ranch or farm of origin between six and 12 months of age. Younger or lighterweight calves may be sent to a backgrounder or stocker who continues to graze them on grass or other forages until they are 12 to 16 months old.  Both the cow-calf and stocker segments graze cattle on range and pastureland that is largely unsuitable for crop production. In fact, about 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops, and grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

  

   After the calves are weaned, some are sold at an auction market.   A cow-calf producer may also choose to keep the best females to add to the breeding herd. Some animals may not be sold at an auction market, and instead will go directly from the cow-calf producer to the feedlot or from the backgrounder/stocker to the feedlot.   Most beef cattle spend approximately four to six months in a feedlot just prior to harvest where they are fed a grain-based diet. At the feedlot (also called feedyard), cattle are grouped into pens that provide space for socializing and exercise. They receive feed rations that are balanced by a professional nutritionist.    

  

   Feedlots employ a consulting veterinarian, and employees monitor the cattle’s health and well-being daily. Feedlots are efficient and provide consistent, wholesome and affordable beef using fewer resources. The time cattle spend in a feedlot is often called the "finishing phase."  Some producers choose to finish cattle on grass pasture. The beef derived from these animals is "grass-finished" (sometimes called "grass fed").  This is a significantly smaller segment of modern beef production because it requires unique climate conditions, and it takes the cattle longer to reach market weight.  All cattle—whether they are grass-finished or finished in a feedlot—spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass pasture.

 

   Once cattle reach market weight—typically 1,200-1,400 pounds and 18-22 months of age, they are sent to a processing facility to be harvested. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are stationed in all federally inspected packing plants and oversee the implementation of safety, quality and animal welfare standards from the time animals enter the plant until the final beef products are shipped to retail and foodservice establishments for consumers to purchase.

 

   There, that was fairly painless right?  I you’re a consumer and you have any other questions about where you food comes from and how it got there, log on to ExploreBeef.org.  Above all, don’t be afraid to stop at a farm or ranch and ask a producer about how they raise their Beef and why?  Ask as many producers as you can find, you may be surprised how many different way’s of raising Beef there are. 

 

  Beef production affects the U.S. economy. According to USDA, producers of meat animals in 2008 were responsible for more than $66 billion in added value to the U.S. economy, as measured by their contribution to the national output.  Now that’s something to be proud of!

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