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December 2013 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. 

Twerking Heifers

Dec 31, 2013

"Cattle twerking" is something we thought we’d never type, but thanks to Kansas cattle producer Derek Klingenberg, it is now a reality. Klingenberg has released numerous parody music videos over the past year, and his latest "Feeding Cattle in the USA" will certainly coax a laugh out of farmers and ranchers, especially if they’ve had to feed their cattle in the snow lately. The new video shows Klingenberg driving around in his tricked out, Christmas-lighted feed truck, delivering "corn, silage and hay" to his hungry bovines while singing into an ear of corn like a microphone. Just trust us—this video is worth a watch.

Beef Bowl Chow Down

The turn of the calendar means a lot of things: a new start to the year, updating your goals or the simple fact that you’re getting older. For many in America, it means New Year’s Day bowl games, and none is older or has more pageantry than "The Grand Daddy of Them All." For the latest installment of the Rose Bowl, teams are once again participating in the pre-game "Beef Bowl," a prime rib feast for the opposing teams. The only sad thing about the Beef Bowl is that it historically was a competition, but today we’ll no longer know which team can eat a hot carcass weight worth of steak.

Taxing Meat

We’re not too wild about this idea proposed by several scientists: They hope taxing meat will in turn cut down on methane emissions. "Influencing human behavior is one of the most challenging aspects of any large-scale policy, and it is unlikely that a large-scale dietary change will happen voluntarily without incentives," they say. "Implementing a tax or emission trading scheme on livestock's greenhouse gas emissions could be an economically sound policy that would modify consumer prices and affect consumption patterns." All we can say is, good luck forcing people in developing countries to pay a tax for the life-sustaining nourishment they get from their cattle, sheep, goats and other animals.

Christmas for the Goats

What do you do with a tree after Christmas? Feed it to the goats!


Low Expectations Met

Dec 30, 2013

When the Huffington Post launched its "Food for Thought" blog last fall our expectations were low. And so far the editors haven’t disappointed. For instance, in "6 Crimes Against Nature in Factory Farming," author Martha Rosenberg uses an abundance of hyperbole to paint food producers in the most unflattering way possible. She believes modern farming practices have "created institutionalized ruthlessness toward animals, workers and the environment." There’s nothing really new here, just a rehash of activist claims that animal abuse is widespread, despite evidence to the contrary and the overriding fact that farmers know healthy, happy animals are more profitable. But what caught our attention is that Rosenberg also throws a punch at ag journalists with this line: "'Forget it’s an animal,’ wrote one farmer magazine." Really? Rosenberg is supposed to be an investigative journalist but is afraid to name the "farmer magazine?" Highly suspicious, and if true the quote is likely taken out of context.

Dogometer App for Ole Blue

Is weight loss one of your New Year’s resolutions? If so, you’ll join 108 million other Americans currently on a diet. And it’s big business — a $20-billion-dollar industry that includes weight-loss books, diet drugs and weight-loss surgeries.

Techies are also noticing the weight-loss industry, and there are now thousands of fitness apps in the iTunes store. The New Republic reports that the most popular is MyFitnessPal, which has more than 40 million users.

Maybe you don’t need to lose weight, but maybe your dog does. There’s an app for that, too. It tracks Fido’s activity so you can determine how much exercise he’s getting. Trendy or not, we don’t expect to see many of those in cow country.

FDA Under Fire Over Antibioitcs

The Food and Drug Administration is taking a lot of heat over its new guidelines for antibiotic use in livestock production. Announced earlier this month, the guidelines are criticized mostly because they are "voluntary," and because livestock producers would still be allowed to use antibiotics to treat sick animals. Predictably, there are a bunkfull of editorials criticizing FDA for not implementing an outright ban. USA Today says producers use antibiotics "cavalierly" and the FDA response was "timid."

Writing for CNN, New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Johns Hopkins professor Robert Lawrence claim the new FDA guidelines fail to protect the public. They want Congress to take action. LOL! Like that’s gonna happen.

Livestock producers haven’t ignored the antibiotic issue, however. In fact, Dr. Richard Raymond, former undersecretary of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, provided some science-based, common sense to the issue with "What the Center for a Livable Future, Pew Commission and Others Aren’t Telling you about Livestock Production."

It’ll Never Fly, Orville

Hi-tech gadgets draw all the attention, but there’s still a need for the low-tech variety down on the farm.

Then there’s the stuff developed by people with way too much time on their hands, like this bike-powered coffee grinder. Yeah, it’s simple and it works, but it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. Wait, there’s more. This gadget sells for about $575. Probably more than the Wright brothers invested in their first flying machine.



Money’s No Object

Dec 27, 2013

If you needed proof that plenty of American's have more money than sense, consider there's now a burger called the M.N.O. Burger, which stands for Money's No Object. Adam Fleishman launched Umami Burger in 2009 with the idea that folks would pay up for a better burger. Umami Burgers are infused with secret ingredients with umami properties that give the burgers a unique flavor. And, unlike most burger restaurants, Umami has a waiter service and a full bar. Umami's latest offering, the M.N.O. Burger, features Wygyu beef topped with a port reduction and freshly shaved white truffles. The price? $65! A foie gras topping costs an extra $10. Crazy, you say? That's what we think, too, but Umami now has 22 locations. But don't look for the restaurants in Omaha or Little Rock. They're only found in New York and California.

Our List of Lists

Congress is on recess, the president is vacationing in Hawaii and newsgatherers are frantically searching for stories to fill newspapers and web sites. Year-end lists are the filler of choice for many editors, and this year has provided a bucket full. We thought about creating a list of the best and worst year end lists, but that would seem like we're just creating copy to fill a hole. Here's a sample of the year-end lists that caught our attention.


Go Ahead, Make Our Day

The cool thing about this Internet gig is that it allows you, the readers, to provide instant feedback. Well, most of the time it's cool. Sometimes the feedback is none too complimentary. We've been called liberal, conservative and lots of other things meant as insults that are unprintable here. Still, whether you agree with us or not, we appreciate hearing from you--it makes our day! And we're not the only ones that appreciate a little feedback. Ag columnist Alan Geubert keeps a file in his desk with some of what he calls "acidic" reader responses.

China's GMO Politics

Rejection of about 2,000 metric tons of U.S. dried distillers grains (DDGs) by Chinese officials over the detection of a GMO strain could mean a year-end discounts for other buyers in the region. Farm Journal's Nate Birt calls this latest export escapade "China's Corn Export Hokey-Pokey," and his sources suggest the news may not be as bad as it sounds for U.S. growers. The GMO strain, MIR 162 developed by Syngenta AG, has already been approved by Japan, South Korea and the European Union. Suspicions of politics were raised by the Chinese decision to reject U.S. corn containing MIR 162 by the fact they accepted a shipment from Argentina earlier this year that contained the same GMO strain. And, traders say they expect China to approve the strain for all shipments later in 2014.

Humpty-Dumpty on the Internet

Dec 23, 2013

We think any business marketing plan that relies on criticizing your competition has a giant crack at the foundation. That’s how we view GoodEggs.com and other startups that are taking online orders and delivering food to upscale shoppers. Some are calling this a wave of entrepreneurship and creativity, so what’s our beef? Mostly that these startups cater to the stuffy, high-income crowd, and they make unsubstantiated claims that their products are better for consumer health, farmworkers, livestock and the environment. All of which is simply hogwash. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t provide solid evidence to any of those claims.

Mad Cow, 10 Years Later

America’s beef industry dodged a bullet 10 years ago today. This is the anniversary of the "cow that stole Christmas," the first cow in the United States that tested positive for BSE – mad cow disease. Beef exports dropped to near zero in the aftermath, but American consumers largely trusted what the feds were saying, that the "fire wall" of safeguards worked, that our food supply was safe. While that was true then, consumers have changed in 10 years. Their trust has eroded. Think pink slime. Have we taken steps to improve the system? Not so much. Our animal tracking system is still woefully inadequate.

Forbes Calls Out the Luddites

That Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, is pro-business is not a revelation. But who knew he was pro-agriculture, too? Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Forbes touts American agriculture and the technology that sustains it. He also criticized the European activists who have "exported their Luddite views and implemented bans preventing the planting of bioengineered crops in all but four African nations." Finally, he offers this: "Agriculture is where an ecosystem of farmers and scientists provides the highest-quality products to Americans' tables, employs millions of workers and is saving lives around the globe. It is time to take note." We couldn’t have said it better. Thanks, Steve!

Will a Bounty Work?

Pennsylvania farmers are trying to cope with a growing coyote population. One solution offered by state lawmakers is a $25 bounty on the cunning critters, and they’re willing to set aside $700,000 to pay for the program. Wildlife officials, however, say there’s little evidence that bounties provide relief from the varmints. Most of the state’s cattlemen, however, favor anything that might help protect their calves that are growing more valuable by the week.



Prime (Rib) Time

Dec 20, 2013

Kudos to Huffington Post today. Wait, did we just say that? How can we offer up such words after part of their website is sponsored by Chipotle and features download links to the horrid scarecrow ad and game? But today, Huff Post got it right. They offer some delightful prime rib recipes for Christmas dinner. And they’re well timed, we might add. This weekend, millions will do their Christmas dinner shopping, and their photos and recipes are plenty enticing.

Global Flatulence

Save the earth. Eat less meat. That’s the message printed in The Guardian today. A few climate science "gurus" say taxing meat will cause people to eat less of it, thus reducing global warming. They believe the easiest way to convince people to put their beefy forks down is by hitting them in their pockets. For years, many of the UN’s climate change folks have been chided for bad science, but that hasn’t stopped them from pushing their crazy ideas. Have they considered sources of pollution and planned taxes on those? Likely not.

A few from the ag sector in England have commented, saying meekly that livestock turn grass that we cannot eat into a protein to feed the human population. If that’s all they’re going to say, it’s no wonder the Guardian keeps targeting the British cattle industry. They appear to be easy targets.

Wired.com has also chimed in. Ironically, they do acknowledge that carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas. Hello? Who emits CO2? We suggest they all hold their breath—for a really long time—to limit the CO2 they are emitting to the atmosphere.

Beef’s Passport to China

If the Brits are being asked to eat less, maybe the Chinese will make up for it. China has promised to ease restrictions of U.S. beef imports and will promote U.S. beef in the country. The jury’s still out as to exactly what their "promotions" will include, because the country has promised to ease those restrictions before. Nonetheless, bringing beef into one of the most populous countries in the world can’t be a bad thing.

Read the Fine Print

A horse rescue group, Front Range Equine Rescue, says it’s working with HSUS to stop horse slaughter in the U.S. Although the group appears to have somewhat different motives than HSUS, offering funds to help horse owners humanely euthanize unwanted horses, the fact that they’ve aligned themselves with HSUS makes us truly wonder about their cause. If they are passionate about finding solutions to unwanted horses, then they should read the fine print when it comes to HSUS. Recently, Wayne Pacelle even admitted donors "are confused" about HSUS.

Slow Learners?

Dec 19, 2013

There’s been some buzz in the media this week about BPI’s lawsuit against ABC News. The news giant is asking a judge to throw out BPI’s case against them. Of course, BPI says "no way." Court documents say ABC intended to harm BPI’s relationship with its customers and the phrase "pink slime" was used more than 132 times. What we find a bit ironic is all the news media covering the story uses the slimy moniker as well – most of them in the headline. Politico’s story coins the remark four times, including in the URL. Lincoln’s Journal Star was a bit more judicious, only printing the epithet twice. ABC says it’s not an argument about a nickname, but rather free speech. Regardless of the outcome of the trial, and likely no matter how many hours are spent educating the public on lean, finely textured beef, the unfavorable pseudonym is here to stay. And yes, we had to use a thesaurus to come up with creative ways not to fall victim to the unfortunate alias as well.

Affluent Cattle

Chew on this today: Apparently, affluent cattle have less gas than poor ones. That’s what one group of researchers are saying, and these oh-so-smart types are even blaming poor cattle (not poor as in skinny, but poor as in little money) for contributing to global warming more than their wealthier counterparts. Do we simply train our more affluent cattle to be more conspicuous with their flatulence? No, their argument is based on the fact that cattle in poor countries eat poor quality food, and that contributes to more methane production. They looked at the "emission intensity" of cattle raised in Sub-Saharan Africa versus those in the United States. According to their research, the poor cattle can release the equivalent of 1,000 kg of carbon dioxide for every 1 kg of protein they produce. For American cattle, the emission intensity is around 10 kg for every 1 kg of protein. Now, please excuse us while we get back to teaching our cows Emily Post’s book of etiquette.

Barter for Beer

The idea of bartering for goods is older than any currency, but apparently one convenience store clerk wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Maybe it’s because of what the customer at a Florida quick shop was bartering with. One very thirsty individual trapped a 4-foot alligator from a local park and tried to trade the animal for a 12-pack of beer. Unfortunately, the customer is probably still thirsty. He was arrested for illegally trapping the alligator—a second-degree misdemeanor. He faces six months in jail and a $500 fine. We can’t help but wonder what animal he will bring to court to pay his fine. After all, if a 4-foot alligator is only worth a 12-pack, what will it take to pay court costs?

Flaming Steak

We prefer our steaks grilled over mesquite, but always because of the flavor, not for safety concerns. However, maybe we should consider the safety of preparation next time. A Detroit sports personality suffered facial burns this week after ordering a popular Flaming Tomahawk Steak from a local restaurant. The Flaming Tomahawk is served on a sizzling plate, and at tableside, Bacardi 151 rum is poured over the top. Apparently, the waiter poured a little too much rum and the flames got a little too close to the connoisseur. Maybe he should reserve the rum for a glass.


Clone-In Steak

Dec 18, 2013

Cloning really hasn’t gotten too popular in the beef industry yet, but the folks in the European Union want to make sure it won’t get that way. The EU is currently proposing a ban on the cloning of farm animals and the sale of meat from cloned animals or their offspring. This would include imported meat, but there is one hang-up: Europe only produces 11% of the world’s beef and has a population of 500 million people. Needless to say, there could be a lot of hungry people in the EU if they don’t want to eat meat from cloned animals or food containing GMO crops.

Golden Hamburger

Got $200 to spare? If you do and you’re ever down in Houston, try the bistro burger at 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. The half-pound Akaushi beef patty is topped with seared foie gras and shaved white truffles. If that’s not enough to make you drool (or maybe gag), listen to what the bread is made of: a 24-karat gold-plated bun. We enjoy some of the finer things in life, but at that price we might just stick to the Dollar Menu.

Call Dudley Do-Right

The Canadian Mounties are on the lookout for 600 head of stolen cattle. Previously convicted cattle rustler Timothy William Flad is accused of selling cattle that he had financed, but there is one hold-up: He didn’t tell the lender that he was selling his herd. Mounties are now looking for leads from anyone who may have purchased the fraudulent cattle in Alberta or Saskatchewan. This almost sounds like the plot of a Dudley Do-Right cartoon. Hopefully, none of the Mounties ride their horses backwards like Dudley; they might have trouble seeing all the cattle.


Connecticut is now going to label GMOs. We guess Connecticut could be called the EU of the U.S?


Ordinary Extraordinary People

Dec 17, 2013

Here is a tragic event that led to a truly inspiring story. Iowa sale barn owners Tom and Leisa Frey recently lost their two sons in a drowning accident after the boys fell through a frozen farm pond. The local community and auctioneers from across the country stepped up to aid the family during their time of need at one of the Frey's latest auction. At that sale, prices went strong for the cattle but one particular calf truly stood out above the rest. After being donated and resold numerous times the steer brought in $53,000 for the T. J. and Nathan Frey Memorial Fund.

Into Africa

Burgers and fries are a popular piece of Americana, but the last frontier for fast food chains to economically feast on is Africa. Pizza and fried chicken restaurants have already established a strong presence on the continent so it only seems natural for juicy hamburgers to follow suit. However, the infrastructure and beef supply really isn't there. This has led to the price of a single patty hamburger with toppings selling for $14 in countries like Nigeria. That type of price has got us salivating at the possibilities of flying some U.S. beef to Africa.

Back on the Farm

Golf courses have dominated the landscape of housing developments, and in turn have taken away land that was once grazed by cattle or farmed. Now, there is a movement for subdivisions to be built closer to agriculture. People who want to be near their food can now assist hired farmers at new developments by caring for livestock and growing vegetables. Sounds like an interesting way for some urbanites to get their hands dirty.

Chocolate Milk Shower

Championship teams could soon be celebrating by dousing their coaches with chocolate milk instead of the traditional Gatorade. Milk does a body a body good and research has shown that chocolate milk really does a body good after a rigorous workout. Now the "Got Milk?" campaign is championing "Got Chocolate Milk?" in an effort to get more athletes to put down the sports drinks and kick back with cold glass of protein rich milk. Sounds like the Beef Checkoff should get in on this action and replace protein bars with beef jerky sticks.

FBI Uncovers GMO Seed Thief

Dec 16, 2013

Mo Hailong, a Chinese national, is having a hard time explaining why he was allegedly found driving around rural Iowa cornfields in a rental car, and why he was seen on his knees in a field recently planted to corn. Unfamiliar vehicles in rural areas always draw the attention of local farmers and they usually turn out to be somebody's Uncle George looking for an old family farmstead. The FBI, however, alleges that Mo was looking to steal genetically engineered seeds and ship them back to China. Further, the FBI says they've uncovered a conspiracy to steal the intellectual property of DuPont Co., and Monsanto Co., and that company employees may be involved in the plot. Mo claims his innocence, but the fact that he was employed as director of international business at Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co. (which has a corn seed unit), further raises suspicions. The FBI estimates the loss of a GMO seed line to be a "minimum of $30 to $40 million."

The Price We Pay for Cheap Journalism

Last week we told you about the Rolling Stone's sensationalized article, "Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat." We weren’t the only ones disappointed in Paul Solotaroff's reporting. Wanda Patsche is a wife, mother and grandmother, who writes the blog Minnesota Farm Living, and she believes Solotaroff's article "is laden with lies and misinformation." She also points out there were no family famers interviewed for the article despite the fact 96% of hog farms are family farms. Regarding the hog diets that include "garbage" as described by Solotaroff, Patsche says, "The truth is our pigs eat more nutritiously than my family." That's probably an exaggeration because we're guessing Patsche cooks a tasty pork roast.

Water Worries

California is facing a water disaster. So is India. California imports its water for human use and irrigation through a complex plumbing system that transports snow from the Sierra Nevada to the Golden State. Governor Jerry Brown has published a 34,000-page draft plan to re-engineer much of the state's water supply system to "fit the scientific, engineering and political pieces together in order to allow Californians to adapt to climate change while sustaining both the environment and the economy." The water supply in India is drying up, too, but their source is the estimated 27 million wells drilled in recent years. India has successfully increased food production since the 1960s, but now the wells that help produce three-fifths of India's grain harvest are starting to go dry. The country is experiencing a "food bubble," increased production with water that will soon play out, leaving 190 million people hungry in the future.

Another Horse Meat Scandal

French officials arrested 21 people in connection with an investigation that found meat from horses used in laboratory procedures landed on French dinner tables. The horses were used to create antibodies against rabies and tetanus, and after about three years the horses are often sold to vet schools or individuals. Officials charge, however, that the horses were sold to a slaughter facility that put the meat into the human food chain.

Raw Milk: Got Infection?

Dec 13, 2013

There’s a reason most of us don’t drink raw milk anymore. Mostly it’s called common sense, but it’s also because there’s this technology called pasteurization that’s been around for 100 years or so that generally eliminates the pathogens that might be hiding in milk. Still, we’ve heard some folks just insist on drinking raw milk and many even give it to their kids. Crazy, we know, which is why we’re providing this link that details research by the Minnesota Department of Health that found one in six people who drank raw milk became ill with bacterial or parasite infections.

FDA Stirs Antibiotic Debate

The Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines on antibiotic use on farms and ranches this week, and the livestock industries mostly applauded the move. It’s a voluntary program phased in over three years with the intent of helping to limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It may do that, to some extent, but the new guidelines are likely to have a limited effect. That’s because 82% of all antibiotics sold for use in animal medicine are of little or no use in human medicine, and 68% of the total volume of antibiotics sold for humans has little or no use in animal medicine, according to Dr. Richard Raymond. Pharmaceutical companies mostly climbed on board with FDA’s proposal, and some industry analysts think the new guidelines will have a minimal effect on sales.

Others criticized FDA for not going far enough and ordering an outright ban on antibiotic use. The Baltimore Sun says, "Clearly, what’s needed is a fundamental change in farm practices." The Sun uses the antibiotic issue to attack "factory farms" and other practices they likely know little about.

It’s a Deal!

It may not have been the deal everyone wanted, but Congress passed a budget plan this week that will avert another government shutdown that was looming in January. The Los Angeles Times called it "The Best Budget Deal a Polarized Congress Could Make," and acknowledged it wasn’t the long-sought "grand bargain" on spending, taxes and entitlements that would solve Washington’s long-term fiscal woes. But it is good news for livestock producers who have worried about consumer demand for pork and beef if Congress let the economic train run off the tracks again. Now, all we want for Christmas is a farm bill.

Tragic Cattle Loss in North Dakota

For two days, Dick Ressler used an ATV and an airplane to search for 40 cows and 88 calves last week. He found them frozen along the Cannonball River. Their deaths are a mystery, since the water tank, creep feeders, protein blocks and other feed was less than a half mile away. For information about helping Ressler, contact Kist Livestock Auction, Mandan, N.D. at 701-663-9573.


From Russia, With Beef

Dec 12, 2013

We're proud of America's beef industry, and after reading this story, it is hard to argue that the best beef genetics are found here. The Aberdeen News sat down with cattleman Craig Howard, who went to Russia for 14 days with 13 other people to breed 33,000 heifers. Russia has been trying to beef up their rural economy with cattle, and the majority of those animals are being sourced straight from the good ol' U.S. of A and then bred back with American genetics. Now that there is no longer a Cold War, it could be said we may be entering a Hot Beef War with Russia.

Another Animal Abuse Exposé

There's a lot to criticize about the latest exposé on America's meat industry, published this week by The Rolling Stone. Anyone with a shred of empathy--farmers and ranchers especially--will be sickened by the animal cruelty described in this report about what undercover workers at slaughter facilities saw and documented. But portions of the story are just plain false, like the claim that hog feed contains "an assortment of trash, including ground glass from light bulbs, used syringes and the crushed testicles of their young." We have zero tolerance for animal abuse, but The Rolling Stone story merely feeds some Americans' desire for sensationalized gore. This story, like many others before it, simply overstates the problem--in a most disgusting and vile manner. It may be a tired argument, but one that's oh so true--livestock producers and food companies have an economic incentive to promote animal care and well-being. Simply put, animal abuse costs money for everyone. Abuse such as that described by The Rolling Stone is rare, but it will continue to tarnish our industries until it is eliminated completely.


Bearable Tale

It is Thursday, so we thought we'd do a "throwback" to a little bit of history related to the beef industry. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a grizzly bear known as Old Crack Foot wandered through the Pine Valley area of Utah, and during his 30 years, he killed between 200 and 300 cattle. Needless to say, ranchers in the area rejoiced when the grizzly was finally taken down in 1909 by a hunting party of 16 men. People came from miles around to see that the 1,040-pound bear had met his maker by celebrating with a town-wide dance and supper.


Beef Sustainability Facts to Wow Your Friends

Want to impress your friends and neighbors with facts about beef sustainability? University of Arkansas professor Paul Beck provides information you can use to counter the propaganda that conventionally raised beef is unhealthy and unsustainable. For instance, Beck says, "Current technology enables the beef industry to produce 131 percent more beef than in 1977 with 70% fewer animals, utilizing less water and feed while producing less methane and carbon dioxide." Wow. Now that's something for activists to chew on.

Meat Eaters Unite!

Dec 11, 2013

We've yet to be criticized for ordering meat at a restaurant--then again, we live in "fly over country." Apparently the folks on the coasts who like meat have to deal with silly criticisms of their food choices, at least enough of them have that Andy McDonald of The Huffington Post created this list: "The 14 Dumbest Things Meat Eaters Have To Deal With." Our favorite is number 5: "Do you know what that's doing to your insides?" Answer: "Yeah, the meat is delivering tasty care packages to a hunger zone desperately in need of them."

Tyson's New Rule

Iowa cattle producers were told this week they'll need to meet specific animal welfare requirements next year if they want to sell their beef to Tyson Foods. That's the message Lora Wright, Tyson's beef supply chain manager, delivered to those attending the Iowa Cattlemen's Association meeting in Altoona, Iowa. Tyson's animal handling requirements, called FarmCheck, ensures the best practices for the farm, which are reviewed by a panel of 13 animal welfare experts. The company says the requirements are already being met by producers, but will now need to be verified by a third-party auditor who will visit farms to ensure compliance.

FDA Will Phase Out Some Antibiotics

The Food and Drug Administration asked pharmaceutical companies Wednesday to voluntarily revise labels of some antibiotics sold for use in food animals. "Because antimicrobial drug use in both humans and animals can contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary," the FDA said. Critics claim the new guidelines give companies too much discretion in policing their own use of antibiotics, but FDA said it has already received support from both Zoetis and Elanco, companies that sell a large percentage of the products that will be phased out.

Water for Bison Campaign

When the irrigation well dried up on Kathy and Ken Lindner's ranch last spring in Northern California, their bison meat business was in peril. The 600-foot deep well-nourished 120 acres of pasture and 100 acres of hay, but without water the grass has died. Lindner Bison steaks, roast and burgers are sold at the Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers markets. Repairing the water well, however, will cost $150,000, the Lindners have asked customers of their grass-fed bison for help. Their "Water for Bison" campaign is at http://igg.me/at/waterforbison.

Can't Get Eggs With Two Roosters

Dec 10, 2013

That concept may not be a revelation to you, but it was a lesson learned the hard way by the zookeepers at Drusillas Park in East Sussex, United Kingdom. That's where two sloths, Sofia and Tupee, were placed two years ago in hopes there would soon be a baby sloth. Except, somebody forgot to examine the genitalia of the two sloths--they're both male. We admit, we've never examined sloth genitalia before, but how hard can it be?

A Bounty on Drones?

A Colorado town is considering placing a bounty on drones. Deer Trail, Colo., population 598, was scheduled to vote this week on an ordinance that would allow residents to shoot down drones, but the vote has been postponed while a district court decides whether the ordinance is legal. The town's mayor thinks the vote will take place early next year. The ordinance specifies the kinds of weapons and ammunition residents could use and puts a bounty on recovered parts: $25 for the fuselage or wing, $100 for a whole drone that has U.S. Government markings. The feds, naturally, aren't fond of the idea of their drones being shot down. The FAA issued a statement that warned, "Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane."

"Sometimes We are Mean to Cows"

Dairy Carrie loves agriculture and the 100 cows on the dairy she and her husband operate. But she admits, "I have the smallest brain-to-mouth filter known to mankind." Case in point: This week Dairy Carrie--better known to her family as Carrie Mess--posted on her blog a column titled: "Sometimes we are mean to our cows." Then she explains that farmers sometimes have to go to great lengths to get a down cow up and moving for the health of the cow. The reason? "A down cow is a dead cow," she writes. PETA and Mercy for Animals members probably won't understand, but farmers and ranchers will. "After giving it our all, the cow gets up," Carrie writes. "She is sullen, scared and probably hates us but she is alive."

Ridiculously Cold!

The calendar hasn't even turned to winter yet, but we're already experiencing frigid temperatures and lots of snow across much of America. South Dakota's freak blizzard that killed thousands of cattle was six weeks ago! What's up? Are we staring at one of the worst winters in memory? Possibly, but it's probably safe to assume we won't see temperatures anything near Earth's new record low that was announced this week. Scientists say the new record low is -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit, set during August of 2010 and observed in Antarctica. Scientists say that's about 50 degrees colder than anything in Alaska. Brrr! 


Feral Cattle

Dec 09, 2013

We have a three-word answer to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials who are seeking a solution to the approximately 1,000 unwanted cattle roaming two remote islands that are part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge—"free-range beef." The feds claim the cattle are having an environmental impact on the islands and destroying wildlife habitat. The feral cattle are descendants of cattle brought to the islands as early as the 1880s, possibly by Russian colonizers. Now, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking input on what to do with the cattle. Our suggestion is to offer permits to hunt the "free-range, antibiotic and hormone-free bovines." We hear there's a tremendous demand for such beef.

Just the Antibiotic Facts, Please

Foodborne illnesses are down 29% in the past decade, but that fact is lost in media noise over antibiotic resistance. Dr. Richard Raymond, a former family physician in Nebraska and now a food safety consultant, seeks to separate fact from fiction regarding animal agriculture and antibiotics. For instance, Raymond says 82% of all the antibiotics sold for use in animal medicine are of little or no use in human medicine, and 68% of the total volume of antibiotics sold for humans have little or no use in animal medicine. The debate over the number of antibiotics sold or used is just diversionary, he says. The issue should not be the amount or frequency of microbials used; instead, it is the judicious use of microbials and their impact on human health.

The Cost of Healthy Eats

Conventional wisdom says good food costs more, and that's one of the barriers to reducing America's obesity problem. People in lower socioeconomic groups struggle to afford healthy food, and the obesity problem increases for those in the lowest income groups. But should it? Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health claim the added cost of healthy eating is $1.50 per day. The research reviewed 27 studies on the cost of healthy vs. unhealthy foods, and the results were published in the British Medical Journal. Lead study author Mayuree Rao says the $1.50 cost was "less than what we might have expected." Still, the daily increase amounts to $550 annually per person, which can remain a barrier for some families.

Sara on Sportsman TV

Sara Palin is proving, once again, her 15 minutes of fame are not over. The Sportsman Channel has hired Palin to host a weekly outdoors-oriented program that will celebrate the "red, wild and blue" lifestyle. The program, titled "Amazing America," will debut next April, but CEO Gavin Harvey says The Sportsmen Channel has no interest in being politically polarizing. "It's not our intention at Sportsman to take any political position," he said. "This lifestyle, coast to coast, crosses every type of political spectrum."

The Incredible Shrinking Cattle Industry

Dec 06, 2013

Unfortunately, this story doesn't star Lily Tomlin nor is it much of a comedy. According to a report from Canadian Cattlemen, the cattle industry is likely to shrink if COOL rules stay in place. John Masswohl, director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, had some very good points. He says some U.S. packers could close up shop due to excess capacity, and Canadian producers could be influenced to switch to growing grain, making the cattle sector even smaller than it already is. Of course, this is one of those farm bill to-dos, but since progress has been so S-L-O-W we wouldn't suggest holding your breath on this issue. However, we will hope for the best—and that this gets sorted out expeditiously.

Speaking of the Farm Bill ...

Breaking news: There is still no farm bill. We know, it's a shocking turn of events but it seems everyone in Washington is just chock full of optimism. Rep. Mike Conaway is optimistic we'll have a farm bill by January. Rep Randy Neugebauer is optimistic that they are "moving in the right direction" and that we're getting closer to having a farm bill. Getting closer?! For as long as they've been kicking this bill around, we hope they would have made some progress ... any progress. But with all this optimism, there needs to be some reality thrown in. Marin Bozic, a University of Minnesota economist, does just that, giving only a 60% chance that a farm bill will pass. Bozic notes that despite the optimistic politicians claiming they want a farm bill, there is no real incentive to pass one. We'll stay cautiously optimistic.

Got Semen?

If you've got pig semen, you might want to hold on to it—it could be worth something. So, what is pig semen worth? To China, quite a bit. Time reported that London struck a deal with the country to export $73 million worth of pig semen in order to help with China's demand for pork. Experts predict China will be the world's largest per-person consumer of pork by 2020.   

Have We Reached Peak Chicken?

That's the question Grist.org is asking. We have to ask a question, too. Since when is it better to airlift 1,150 elderly laying hens—at a cost of $50,000—to a sanctuary instead of using them for food? We have no doubt that these hens are a delight to be around but is airlifting these birds—where they will live out the rest of what we're sure will be a productive life of pecking dirt—a sign of true compassion or utter insanity? Of course, we must note that the animal sanctuary spending the $50K on chickens is Animal Place. They strongly advocate the vegan lifestyle, while we strongly advocate flightless birds and juicy steaks.

Operation Dead-Mouse Drop

This is too funny not to share. Visual image: Thousands of dead mice (pumped full of acetaminophen), equipped with tiny parachutes, cascading from the heavens as they are airdropped from a helicopter in order to poison and ultimately kill the invasive brown tree snake. That's right! Apparently USDA recruited Wile E. Coyote to help with a snake problem at a U.S. Air Force base in Guam. We can't make this stuff up.

Other News Bites ...

HumaneWatch.org is unpacking the HSUS gravy train for all to see. It's basically the same thing we've known for a while: Wayne Pacelle still makes nearly $400,000 with this "non-profit" organization, they still give less than 1% to actually helping animals in shelters and HSUS is still giving money to questionable organizations. Shocking!

Move over gluten-free, step aside organic, because kosher could be the next big food trend. If only they could get organized ...

Another ridiculously, stupid, bad idea: A trash can designed to give animals your leftovers. Anyone who knows anything about raccoons knows they really don't need extra help. 

Beefy Business

Dec 05, 2013

Looking to beef up your business? How about edible business cards ... beef business cards. It's a bit along the lines of "what were they thinking" but we'll support almost anything that involves purchasing beef. These business cards are printed on slices of beef jerky. And you can even choose your flavor. We foresee a few problems though, like what if they eat your phone number? And do you plan to carry these in your wallet? Back pocket? Your purse?  Pause a moment while you think about that, and then cogitate eating something that's been in someone's wallet, back pocket or purse. Maybe that phone number will be safe after all.

Don't Ask Umbra, ask Abby

There are some stories that we find while grazin' the net, and when we bring the narrative to your inbox with our commentary, we're not sure where to begin. This story from Grist is one of those. Suzy P. from Denver writes "Ask Umbra" if her organic ground beef is truly organic. After reading this, it's obvious "Umbra" is not an expert on the topic of organically grown beef and other beef practices. Why else would Umbra answer in a lengthy diatribe about "facts" Umbra knows on beef production and slaughter? After this answer, poor Suzy will likely never eat beef again, organic or not. Sadly, many people will take Umbra's answer as the gospel truth. It's just one more example of why we, the beef industry, need to tell our positive story about beef production.

When you scroll to the bottom, Umbra's title is listed: Research Associate II. Perhaps Umbra should do a little more research. We're not sure about Dear Abby, but we think she would be a little more politically correct.

Au Revoir, Trans Fats

Don't wave goodbye to those trans fats quite yet. Grocery and food organizations are pleading for extra time from the FDA to comment on the ruling. Swapping out ingredients containing trans fats could take some time as food execs and researchers look for a worthy replacement. Some foodies are pushing for an alternative on the ban, and instead seek changes to labeling or propose a maximum threshold for trans fats. Many said they were blindsided by the FDA on the proposed rule change.

Wasted Workers?

Amsterdam has a new program to get alcoholics off the street and back to work. It's immensely successful, and there's a waiting list for available jobs. Sounds great, right? But a closer look has us scratching our heads. The workers, who pick up litter from city streets, are paid mostly in beer. Two cans in the morning, two more at lunch, and a few more as reward for a job well done. We guess that they're going with the mindset of at least these people are working?

Even Dirt Has Its Day

Indeed dirt does have its day. If you're looking for something to toast after work, today is World Soil Day.


Not All Rosy

Dec 04, 2013

PETA is looking to make a splash at this year's Rose Parade, and they're getting a head start by protesting today in Pasadena. Their beef? The SeaWorld float that will feature a snorkeler, whales, a sea turtle and a reef. They say it should be replaced by a whale in a small fishbowl surrounded by chains and are encouraging parade execs to "take a stand." Yeah, like that's going to happen. If it's not too late to enter the parade, we propose a float for PETA--People Eating Tasty Animals--and feature a fine dining experience, complete with ribeyes or filets.

Corny Science

A myriad of reports citing health problems related to GMOs are coming under fire and organizations are distancing themselves from the reports. Our favorite? The Celiac Disease Foundation says a report linking GMOs to gluten sensitivity and celiac disease "is not supported" by its medical advisory board. Even the top medical minds on the subject are crying foul on the study. And that's not the only corny study. The publisher of research citing a cancer link with GMO corn is retracting the study, saying mice used in the research are prone to get cancer regardless.

Vegan Test Drive

Two celebs are going vegan, but just for 22 days. Grist says that Jay Z and Beyoncé are going on a 22-day "spiritual and physical cleanse" that involves forsaking all animal products. They've even tied in some weird math to justify the 22 days. We're not too worried that the duo will adapt the lifestyle full time. Afterall, Jay-Z offers leather underwear in his clothing line, and in August, Beyoncé spent over $2,000 on chicken at a casual dining chain in London. They'll be back ...

Overeating and Lingerie

Some news we just can't pass up. This is one of those. Researchers at Microsoft (yes, the computer company) are in the bra business, sort of. To fight stress-related overeating, they developed a bra that could detect stress based on heart rate, breathing, sweating and movement. The idea behind the invention was if wearers understand their stress-eating triggers, they would curb their overeating tendencies. Guys, if you're feeling left out of the experiment, we're sorry. The researchers tried similar technology with men's underwear but "it was too far away from the heart ..."

Milk Money

News on the farm bill has mainly stayed isolated to ag websites, but NPR is providing a little sticker shock today: Why $7-Per-Gallon Milk Looms Once Again. They're not pulling any punches when it comes to the lack of an agreement on farm policy. As more of these stories appear, the public might join the ag community in putting pressure on politicians.


Warning: GMOs Might Kill You

Dec 03, 2013

At least Grist would like for you to believe that's the case. In this meant-to-be-thought-provoking narrative, the author suggests GMOs could pose the same health risks as cigarette smoking and trans fats. And, after all, since it took a decade or more to prove both smoking and trans fats as unhealthy, the writer suggests we should just lump GMOs into the same category—to save time.

We Want Beef!

Olive Garden, known for affordable Italian dining, is stretching its menu offerings a bit–-for a burger. Apparently the popular food chain is losing customers who "crave a burger" so they're adding the beefy delight to the menu. Some might chastise Olive Garden for not staying with its Italian roots, but if they are buying more beef, we certainly won't.

Egg-xactly an Issue

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? After watching this video, your answer might be "neither." A high-tech start up company has invested millions to try and create eggs, sans chickens. In a "kitchen" full of tech geeks, cooks and biochemists, Hampton Creek Foods is working to find an egg substitute created from plants. Citing the crazy way eggs are harvested and that chickens are kept in cages, the food team is developing substances that will act like eggs in food products like mayonnaise, cakes and cookies. The company CEO boldly says he's out to hurt the $9 billion egg industry.

Here's our beef with their idea. Many who oppose large-scale animal production, in this case chicken cages, are also against tech-savvy products, like GMO crops. Hello ... how are GMOs terrible, but fake eggs crafted in a laboratory by biochemists are A-OK?

Dishwasher is for Dishes

Today, a public service announcement: Please don't cook your beef in the dishwasher. Sounds a little crazy, eh? We can always rely on the Grist to publish some crazy things, and how to cook a turkey in your dishwasher was a popular Thanksgiving article. Our friends at Barf Blog even attempted it, just for grins. We suggest you don't try this at home, and please, never, ever cook a fine piece of beef a la Cascade.


Drone Delivery

Dec 02, 2013

It’s Cyber Monday for retailers, and whether or not you’re a tech shopper, you might want to see this. Amazon announced the have a new way to deliver your packages – an unmanned drone. You simply place your order, and within minutes (OK, maybe a few hours depending on where you live) a mini-helicopter looking device lands on your front porch with your package in tow. Don’t get too excited yet. Shipping via drone is not available currently, but Amazon says to look for the technology in the near future. The FAA is prepping as well with new regulations for drones.

You can read all about it or see it in action.  Wouldn’t it be cool if you could order animal health products via drone? Say you’re a few doses of vaccine short, so you call up the supplier, give them your GPS coordinates and soon (hopefully AFTER you have the cattle gathered) a friendly drone drops off your order in the pasture.

Brown Bag It

Head's up! You better pack a lunch on Thursday if you like to dine on fast food. It seems the wage hike strike is back again, and this time cities like Charleston, S.C., Providence, R.I., and Pittsburgh are joining in for the first time. This week’s protest is expected to be larger than the August 29 protest and will be joined by numerous community, faith and student groups.

Warm Fuzzy

We’ve shared a few of these before, but in case you missed them, here’s another story of a South Dakota family receiving replacement heifers from Heifers for South Dakota. It’s nearing the end of the calendar year, and if you’re looking to make some donations, information on this project can be found here.

Picture Perfect

Still looking for a gift for someone who has everything? How about bringing a little bit of "So God Made A Farmer" to their living room. Ram Trucks is releasing a photography book titled "The Farmer In All of Us: An American Portrait." The 300-page coffee table book is the comprehensive collection of images that were commissioned for the television commercial. Buying the book also backs a contribution by Ram Truck to the National FFA Organization. The book is available online now, but won’t be in stores until late spring 2014.

Highly Anticipated News

And, just because we know you’re dying to find out ... here’s an update on the oh-so-exciting-farm-bill.


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