Love Food Friday Tip #7: Make the Most Of Your Investment!

Love Food Friday

ChrisNCBAkitchen2.jpgFood Waste Elimination Tip #7: Make the most of your food investment!

Chef Christopher Giegel

Most of us spend a good amount of money on food each month, and own a refrigerator. However, most people aren’t making the most of their investments with either. One can get the longest shelf-life out of produce and other perishables if one stores things in their optimal place. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your investments and reduce food waste due to spoilage.

  1. Store potatoes, onions and whole garlic in a cool and dry (and dark, if possible) place away from direct sunlight. This will maximize the shelf life of these vegetables.
  2. Store produce and fruits in their appropriate drawers in the refrigerator. They are specifically designed to offer ideal environments for fruits and veggies.
  3. Store milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy items away from the door. While that gallon of milk fits nicely on the door, it’s actually going to spoil more quickly because of the temperature fluctuation when the door is opened and closed. The door is ideal for condiments and dressings that are less perishable.
  4. Store beef and other proteins in the coldest part of the refrigerator—usually the back.
  5. Check the temperature of your refrigerator. The colder the better, so long as it’s not freezing things. I keep my walk in refrigerator at work at 33°F. This maximizes the shelf life of all my products—especially the expensive beef I often have on hand.

These are just a few tips to help you maximize shelf life on your products and minimize waste.

Beef and Egg Breakfast Mugs: Click here for the recipe!

Beef and Egg Breakfast Mugs: Click here for the recipe!

Start your day with a protein punch eating Beef and Egg Breakfast Mugs: A great way to use up beef leftovers :)

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Blue Jeans Without Any Bling…

I met my favorite farmer at a Dartmouth College fraternity party more than 22 years ago. No matter how many times they hear it, my daughters love listening to the story.threegirls.jpg

Halloween night the senior football player, wearing devils horns glued to his head, meets the underclassman swimmer. They visit for a few minutes and then the swimmer goes home.

Fast forward three weeks…

The senior football player again meets the underclassman swimmer, same location but without the devils horns. They visit for a few minutes and then the swimmer goes home (early morning swimming practice generally motivated good behavior).

The next week…

The senior football player walks around the underclassman’s dorm looking for her (having only her first name and the knowledge that she was on the swim team to go on). Fate was on his side, and her door was decorated with swimming spirit signs for the season opening meet against Brown. He had found her! But, his luck fell short, his swimmer wasn’t home.

The next week…

The senior football player figures out the underclassman swimmer’s phone number (a landline – in the dark period prior to the invention of a cell phone!), calls and asks her out on a date Thanksgiving weekend. Dinner (she orders chicken because it is the cheapest thing on the menu and she worries that a farmer from Nebraska would be short on money), a movie, ice cream —

and, they fell in love.

Anne and Matt0003The part of the story that always brings the most drama from my daughters is the fact that I wore a flannel shirt and blue jeans (with no bling!) on the nights that we met and on our first date. The look of incredulity on my fifteen year old’s face upon learning this fact was truly priceless. This tidbit of information firmly places me on the bottom end of any teenage girl’s fashion scale. Add onto it the fact that I have never really worn any makeup and consider brushing my hair the extent of getting ready to go out – and you can begin to imagine the dramatic noises that might be uttered during the story telling session.

Today, whenever the occasion warrants blue jeans with bling, I simply go to my daughter’s closet and pull out a pair to borrow. Seeing as how I spend most of my days with large bovines that have no concern for fashion, my own work jeans lack the sparkly detail…

Denke3April.jpg

It could be argued that my favorite farmer and I lack bling. We aren’t flashy and ostentatious. The kind of spark that we have comes from a deep love for each other, and a passion for caring for both our farm and our community. While we will likely never been considered sensational, we hope that our contribution is meaningful – that our story gives a glimpse into the lives of the family farmers that grow your food — that our toils produce nourishment for those in need.

annemattjeans.jpg

Perhaps, most importantly, amidst the dramatic eye rolling is the learned lesson that real bling doesn’t come from jewels on the back seat of your jeans!

Sustainable agriculture begins with the farmer…

And ends with a customer that trusts and empathizes — no bling included :)

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Love Food Friday Tip #6: Buy “Ugly Ducking” Produce…

Love Food Friday

ChrisNCBAkitchen2.jpgFood Waste Elimination Tip #6: Buy “Ugly Ducking” Produce!

Chef Christopher Giegel

There is beauty in an “ugly duckling”…

We often have this idea in our heads that all produce needs to look perfect—uniform, shiny, without a single blemish. The reality is that produce comes in all shapes and sizes, just like people and cattle. Just because a tomato isn’t perfectly round or a pear has a minor blemish doesn’t mean that it’s any less healthful or tasty.

In America we waste tons, literally tons, of produce a year because it doesn’t meet the consumer’s expectation of perfection. In commercial food service, chefs can actually choose to buy cases of produce labeled “packer” that aren’t perfectly shaped, but are completely healthy and delicious. We often can save some money doing this, and it helps to prevent food waste.

I choose to do this from time to time for things that the shape of the whole vegetable or fruit is unimportant. Anything that’s going to be chopped up small or added to soup where the shape of the whole doesn’t matter. This is an opportunity to affect change and reduce food waste on a larger scale than simply not wasting what you purchase.

Next time you’re at the grocery store consider the “ugly duckling” produce and that it might actually be something quite beautiful!

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Trust but Verify…

I did an interview last week with a reporter who asked,Why does your farm participate in 3rd party animal welfare audits?”

My answer: I ask that my customers trust me to be a good farmer, but I open my farm to auditing so that they can verify that I practice what I preach.

No matter how good a job you do on your farm, an audit is a stressful time.

  • Hundreds of pages of documents are checked to make sure that records accurately demonstrate daily animal care practices.
  • Hours are spent checking the farm’s facilities (feed and feed mixing areas, cattle pens, water tanks, and corrals) to ensure that animals have good living conditions.
  • Cattle handling is observed to ensure that good welfare exists while animals are interacting with their human caregivers.
  • Caregivers are asked questions about farm protocols on many different issues relative to animal care to ensure that those folks who provide daily care for the animals are well trained and educated.
They gather closely around me because they are thoughtful and curious.  They choose to do this despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home...

They gather around me because they are comfortable, confident, and curious. They choose to come close to me despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home…

I wear several “hats” at my feed yard. I am the owner and boss lady in addition to being one of the laborers who provide daily cattle care. I tend to greet audit day with mixed feelings. The boss lady realizes how important the audit is, but the farm hand struggles to accept outsiders interfering in the daily workings of life on the farm.

It is hard to have someone from the outside critique everything that you do – there is also no way to have an audit without disrupting the daily schedule of the farm. The combination of these things makes audit day on the farm long and stressful. Additionally, because I love my farm so much, opening it up to the judgement of an auditor creates a feeling of personal vulnerability. I feel it in my heart, and I know that my crew does as well.

Their care is important to me.

Their care is important to me.

Two weeks ago the feed yard had its first 2015 audit. I came home that night with a myriad of emotions fluttering through my head, the greatest being anger. Not anger toward the audit itself, but anger toward an ever growing vocal subset of the population who distrusts and dislikes American farmers like me. Tired from the long day, all I could think about was Why do I bother to go to the extra work of an audit to verify my farm care when nobody trusts me anyway”.

As an active advocate for agriculture, I am painfully aware of the distrust that exists toward modern farmers. An ever growing group of elitist philosophers breed this cynicism by employing an effective blend of zealotry and scare tactics. No matter how much I care or how hard I work to responsibly grow beef – these people ensure that I carry the label of the evil factory farmer. I open the newspaper or bring up the internet and find dozens of derogatory statements about how farms like mine abuse our animals, the environment and ultimately the people that we feed.

I honestly don't understand how this is evil and abusive...

I honestly don’t understand how this is evil and abusive…

Put yourself in my boots for a moment.

  • I work long hours on the farm.
  • I come home at night to write blog posts and share pictures of how I grow beef.
  • I patiently answer questions from reporters and customers.
  • I open my farm to both audits and tours.

And, at the end of the day, I am still belittled by the people that I have dedicated my life to feed.

So, I ask the important question:

What is it going to take for Americans to trust farmers and the practices that they use to grow food?

I believe in Trust but Verify, but verification is simply a burdensome chore if trust is unattainable.

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Love Food Friday Tip #5: Purge the Pantry!

Love Food Friday

ChrisNCBAkitchen

Food Waste Elimination Tip #5: Purge the Pantry!

Chef Christopher Gigiel

Use it so that you don’t lose it!

While you’re getting into that habit of planning meals and menus and organizing your kitchen, be sure to plan one day a week that uses what you have on hand. No matter how well you plan there are always leftovers, and left over groceries that need to be used. I do this regularly in the Culinary Center at NCBA. I often have extra produce on hand and get creative with how I can use it instead of buying more. I look at my canned goods and dry storage and see what I have on hand already and plan something that utilizes those things with a minimum of additional purchases required. And, of course, if you have several kinds of leftovers in the fridge and haven’t frozen them it’s always great for the family to be able to “make what they want” for dinner, and if there’s still some left, freeze it.

Love Food Friday Recipe Share #5: Four-Way Slow Cooker Shredded Beef

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#BeefsOnMyPlate Campaign…

Beginning today and running until May 8th (when the comment period for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines ends), beef farmers are teaming together to create a social media campaign to run alongside the comment period.  Participating in this campaign, in addition to sharing your comments with Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack, will help to raise awareness of the positive health attributes of beef in the diet.

BeefonmyplateHere’s how you participate: At noon Eastern time today, @BeltwayBeef sent out the opening twitter message to Sec. Burwell and Sec. Vilsack establishing the hashtag #BeefsOnMyPlate.  Please head on over to twitter and retweet the original message making sure that @secburwell and @usda are included in the retweet.  Then continue the twitter campaign by including your own pictures of “beef on my plate” next to vegetables to show a complete and healthy meal.

Feel free to continue to share pictures of #BeefsOnMyPlate throughout the month to help spread the message.

meatballs2.jpgAshley Grace’s homemade beef meatballs in marinara sauce :)

Together we can make a difference!

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Love Food Friday Tip #4: The Freezer Is Your Friend!

Love Food Friday

ChrisNCBAkitchen2.jpg

Food Waste Elimination Tip #4: The Freezer Is Your Friend!

Chef Christopher Gigiel

Don’t Waste it, Freeze it!

I like soup, chili, stew, and casseroles. I’m also single and making any one of those meals means that there are a lot of leftovers because I haven’t mastered the art of cooking smaller amounts in my personal life after cooking for large groups of people in my professional life. But, I don’t waste it, I freezer leftovers in single-serving size containers so that I can pop them out of the freezer and reheat them for a quick dinner, or pack it for a homemade lunch.

I use inexpensive “disposable” type plastic storage containers that you can find at the grocery store so that it’s not a large expenditure to have a plethora of them on hand when things need to be stored. I also label and date leftovers on the front edge so that I can easily find what I’m looking for in the freezer and know how long it’s been in there. This lets me use up the things that have been there for a while.

This is a great tip if you’ve made a large amount of something and you don’t want to eat it all week. Portion it and freezer it. It also gives you choices for quick meal options or lunch on the go. Additionally, you can freezer an excess of produce before it spoils. Particularly good for fruit for smoothies. If it’s more than you can eat before it spoils, chop it and freeze it and you’ll have delicious fruit on hand for that morning smoothie. Also works great for veggies from the garden or farmers market – freeze them and pop them out and into that stir fry.

Love Food Friday Recipe Share #4: Albondigas In Spicy Tomato Sauce

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My Comment Letter To Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack Regarding the 2015 Dietary Guideline Committee Recommendations…

Dear Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack,

After researching the science of nutrition and the history of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, I write to you as a concerned American and a mother of three girls, as well as a cattle rancher. I have great misgivings with respect to the recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

While raising teenagers is inarguably a challenge, mentoring my own teenage girls through the “sea of dietary confusion” reminds me distinctly of an Iron Man Competition. The CDC reports that 9% of all girls age 12-19 are iron deficient. In particular, athletic girls require more animal protein which uniquely provides heme-iron to ensure good health. Yet, the recommended 2015 Dietary Guidelines reduce even further the recommended dietary intake of animal protein. The “one size fits all nature” of this approach to diet inaccurately provides for the American people, and the resulting dietary education as well as the lunch nutrition that my girls’ receive in the public school system thereby runs contrary to their needs.

The high carbohydrate/low fat diet that serves as the basis for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines stems from epidemiological work begun by Ancel Keys in the 1960’s. Repeatable clinical trial studies since Dr. Keys’ hypothesis was formed have not provided scientific validation to the proposed merits of the diet. A small number of clinical trials done on middle-aged men provide the only non-epidemiological scientific basis for this dietary recommendation. To date, there is virtually no scientific data supporting this hypothesis as healthy for women or children. Perhaps even more disturbing is the culture created in the nutritional community since the establishment of the first Dietary Goals in 1977. Actions include stymieing other diet hypotheses and scientific trial work that do not match the original Key hypothesis. For instance, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee refused to include the BOLD dietary research study in the reference section of their report thereby enabling them to “selectively choose their science” and further cut the recommendation for red meat.

Good science is both debatable and able to be replicated over time. Unfortunately, in addition to a biased approach to nutritional research, the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee Recommendations also include a further reach outside of documented science and into the realm of philosophy relative to the topic of sustainability. The science of sustainability is in its infancy. Much deeper analysis into topics like food waste and appropriate land use need to be completed before substantial information exists to promote one diet over another in the name of sustainability. Additionally, the topic of sustainability is clearly outside the scope of committee responsibilities.

In closing, I request that both of you do what is best for the American public and take a moment to read the research demonstrating that perhaps the high carbohydrate diet is part of the cause of the dietary ailments of Americans rather than the solution. In the lifetime of the Dietary Guidelines the culture of the American diet has shifted dramatically. According to USDA, the consumption of grains (41%), vegetables (23%) and fruits (13%) rose significantly from 1970-2005 while red meat (-22%), milk (-33%) and eggs (-17%) fell dramatically. Overall carbohydrate intake for Americans rose with low fat starches, and vegetable oil took the place of animal protein and fat in the diet. Animal protein lovers shifted from beef to chicken, and many traded whole fat dairy for skim milk and margarine thereby forsaking nutrition density for lower saturated fat options. All of this occurred during a time in the United States when obesity rates more than doubled (15-32%), the prevalence of heart failure, cancer and stroke all increased, and the rate of diabetes increased from less than 1% to 11%. Clearly, the dietary changes caused by dietary guidelines resulted in an “unhealthier America” as Americans traded protein for sugar.

I ask you to help put the science back in nutrition by:
1.Recognizing that the nutrient requirements of Americans vary according to age and sex thereby rendering a one size fits all approach to diet both ineffective and potentially harmful to women and children.
2.Including diverse animal protein options (including beef and whole fat dairy) as part of a balanced and healthy diet.
3.Encouraging a robust and healthy dietary science community where hypotheses are proven before they are sold as truth, and studies on all hypotheses are universally included in the discussion.
4.Removing all verbiage relative to sustainability from the dietary guidelines as that topic is both outside the realm of the committee as well as lacking the necessary scientific basis to be meaningful.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Anne Burkholder

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