Jul 24, 2014
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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. 

Slaughter-Free Dairy

Jul 23, 2014

It's too early to call this enterprise a trend, but a new dairy option is a concession of sort by some animal activists that they'll never convince the masses to give up meat and dairy. A Pennsylvania dairy now offers milk at $10 a gallon, which includes a $2.50 "cow retirement fee" and a $1.50 fee for "boy calf care." In other words, Gita Nagari Creamery is a slaughter-free dairy – less than half of their 60-cow herd is milked while the rest are "retired" freeloaders.

Such a business model might sound warm and fuzzy to vegans, but it's far from sustainable. If all U.S. dairies became slaughter-free, about four times as many dairy cows – 27 million – would be needed to produce the same amount of milk.

Queen's Horse Fails Drug Test

Estimate, a five-year-old filly owned by Queen Elizabeth II that won the Ascot Gold Cup race last year, has tested positive for a banned drug. Estimate narrowly missed winning the prestigious Ascot Gold Cup race last month, placing second. Buckingham Palace said Estimate tested positive for the painkiller morphine, and initial reports suggest the positive test is the result of consumption of contaminated feed. If officials determine Estimate tested positive after this year's Gold Cup, the horse could be stripped of her second place finish and the Queen would forfeit the approximate $137,000 in prize money.


Fuel For The GMO Debate

Should food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) be labeled as such? The editorial board of the Des Moines Register thinks so.

At the center of the debate is the fact that consumers want transparency, as Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, recently told Gannett Company, owners of the Des Moines Register. "We're in the midst of an area of food democracy the likes of which we've never seen," he says. "People want to know everything about their food, what's in it, who made it, where it's from, how it's made. The politicians who are trying to deny people the right to know about their food are running headlong into this sort of brick wall of opposition."

Some commodity groups, including the National Corn Growers Association, have stated they support voluntary labeling if it is consistent, informative and "eliminates confusion and advances food safety."

Is There A Place For Cows In The Future?

Like it or not, for beef production to expand, the economics of the beef cow needs to have a threefold increase in net returns to compete with crop production. To leave land in hay production, the net return for hay needs to double. These are very unlikable thoughts, says North Dakota State University beef specialist Kris Ringwall, but certainly thoughts that will drive the next wave of young agriculturists.

Hot Air About Beef

Jul 22, 2014

Yesterday was a red-letter day for meat haters. Two new reports laid a bulk of the blame for climate change at the hooves of livestock production, with beef cattle identified as the worst offender. A study examining the effects of livestock production was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that claims raising cattle in the U.S. requires 28 times as much land and 11 times as much irrigation water, and pumps five times as much planet-warming gases into the atmosphere than producing dairy, poultry, pork or egg products. Most major news organizations carried the story, which invited headlines such as "A Beef With Beef," and "Eating less beef is better for the environment than giving up cars."

A second study claims the methane and nitrous oxide released by livestock account for 28% of global warming activity. NCBA’s Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, director of sustainability and research, was unimpressed by the research. "The PNAS study represents a gross over-simplification of the complex systems that make up the beef value chain, a point which the authors acknowledge."

Marijuana Meals

Once Colorado legalized marijuana, it was only a matter of time before an enterprising chef launched a business around cooking pot.

Blaine Alexandr-Hein is a private chef who teaches people how to expand their cooking repertoire by including marijuana. He says the goal is to keep the integrity and flavors of the food without overwhelming them with the flavor of pot. Hmmm. We’re guessing the folks cooking with pot aren’t that interested in the integrity and flavor of the food.

Cowboy Cologne

We don’t know any cowboys who routinely apply cologne before heading out to the barn, but a company from Portland, Maine, hopes to change that. Lisa Brodar, who operates Portland General Store, says she has created a cologne that is specially calibrated for cows. Which means she believes the scent of her cow-friendly cologne soothes and relaxes cows. But at $110 a bottle, we don’t expect the new scent to show up on ranches and feedlots anytime soon.

Cattle Feeding Margins Remain Above $280

Cattle feeding margins declined $22 per head last week, but remain more than $280. That’s a tidy profit, especially considering feedyards were losing more than $123 per head at the same time last year. The decline in profit margins was due to higher feeding costs and breakevens that were nearly $2 higher than the previous week, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker.

The Problem With Pig Cheese

Jul 21, 2014

Louisville Chef Edward Lee has been enormously successful with his upscale Louisville restaurant, the 610 Magnolia.

Lee has been recognized as one of America's top chefs, and he authored a popular cookbook, Smoke and Pickles. Like any good entrepreneur, Lee constantly searches for ways to improve his business. And like a lot of entrepreneurs, some of his ideas lack, well ... logic. For instance, Lee is consumed with idea of offering pig cheese on his menu. That's right, cheese made from sow's milk. However, there's a giant obstacle to this idea. Lee has yet to figure out a way to milk a sow. The sows are more than a little uncooperative.

Almond Milk Is A Scam

What do you get when you breakdown an 8-ounce serving of almond milk? "A jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds," says Mother Jones Tom Philpott. In other words, the trendy alternative to cow's milk is a scam. Philpott's analysis of almond milk found an 8-ounce serving contains 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of fiber and 5 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Which means you would need to drink a 48-ounce jug of the stuff to consume as much protein as found in a single ounce of almonds. The price? Let's just say that ounce of almonds delivered in cloudy water costs $3.99. Healthy? It's gotta be healthier, right? Philpott calls almond milk a waste of good food.

Cattle Rally Takes A Breather

After running uphill for three consecutive months, stocker and feeder markets fell lower amid light receipts. By all accounts it was a fantastic run, adding about $35 per cwt. to the price of yearling feeder cattle.

Consumer Demand Pushes Beef

A big factor in the strength of cattle prices this year has been strong consumer demand. Domestic meat demand was up 4.6% in May compared to last year, and on average, domestic demand for red meat and poultry has been up 3% over the last 12 months. Specifically for beef, domestic demand was up 6.7% in May compared to last year. Export demand for beef was also up 7.5%.

The Donkey Whisperer

Jul 18, 2014

You’ve heard about the horse whisperer, and the dog whisperer.

We now have a donkey whisperer, though he doesn't appear to possess the same animal behavior-modification abilities as other animal whisperers.

The donkey whisperer is from Texas, which will come as no surprise once you watch the short video. Posting of the link here is for entertainment value only, and should not be considered an endorsement in case you are looking for someone to whisper to your donkeys.

Sniffing Out Dyer's Woad

While our canine companions over the years seldom earned their keep, canine unemployment is not an option at the non-profit Working Dogs for Conservation.

Dogs were originally used to locate carnivore scat. Now, dogs are used to find invasive plants, invertebrates and contaminants such as heavy metals and pharmaceuticals.

One fully-employed dog is Seamus, trained to patrol Mount Sentinel in Colorado. His job is to sniff out dyer's woad, a noxious weed that takes over rangeland, choking out native grasses. When he finds the plant he stops and the GPS in his doggy backpack marks the location of the weed so it can be sprayed later.

Global Warming is Ruining Booze

We now have a big reason to put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions. Global warming is ruining booze. Specifically, tequila. Apparently the hotter summers in Mexico are causing the blue agave plants used in tequila production to mature too early and they aren't absorbing the proper nutrients. That makes for weaker and less flavorful tequila.

Beef Exports Maintain Momentum

U.S. pork and beef exports maintained their strong momentum in May, with export volumes for both products exceeding last year's totals and value increasing by double digits, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports in May were up 5 percent in volume (102,967 mt) and 15 percent in value ($589 million).

Polar Bears Adapt

Jul 17, 2014

Artic sea ice has been retreating for years, which is good news if you’re a seal. That’s because the melting ice makes it harder for polar bears to catch their favorite dinner, which happens to be seal.

Polar bear numbers are estimated at about 25,000 globally, placing them on the endangered list and drawing greater attention. Scientists have theorized that warmer temperatures leave polar bears stuck on land with no access to seals for longer periods each summer, meaning there’s some very hungry polar bears come fall. Except, polar bears apparently don’t give up so easy. They’re finding substitute menu items such as caribou calves and eggs from raiding geese nests. In short, polar bears are adapting to longer ice-free seasons.

Anti-Vaxx Skeptics Rebuffed

Many news sources have reported about the dramatic uptick in measles cases in the U.S., a disease that was eradicated in North America a decade ago. Much of the blame for the measles outbreak rests squarely with vaccine skeptics, people who deny the safety of the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Alas, anti-science stupidity is not confined to North America. A Queensland, Australia, mother-to-be was shocked when she was handed a brochure promoting the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN) while at the Gold Coast University Hospital. In fact, the AVN was the only source of information on vaccines available in an information package given to expecting mothers. Queensland Health has since responded saying the form has been pulled and the matter is being investigated.

They Won’t "Got Milk?"

The owner of a Kauai island resort in Hawaii is suing to stop the development of a proposed dairy farm on a nearby property.

The lawsuit filed in Circuit Court last week says progress on the dairy operation should cease until developers prove it won't negatively affect the surrounding environment. Hawaii Dairy wants to open a facility nearby on 582 acres that will milk 1,800 cows. Spokeswoman Amy Hennessey says the suit is "deeply disappointing," and calls it a malicious attack on local food by commercial resort interests."

Drones Invade Heyworth, Illinois

Drones could add $82 billion to the U.S. economy by 2025, with the lion’s share of that going to agriculture. That was just one of the messages delivered at Farm Journal’s Drone Fly-In event this week in Heyworth, Ill.

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