Category Archives: General

Raising Teenage Girls Amidst a Sea Of Dietary Confusion…

Apart from my favorite farmer, my three girls are my greatest blessing. In less than two weeks, 2/3’s of them will be teenagers. Our house is a bevy of activity permeated by moments of drama, and decorated by athletic bras hanging to dry on nearly every doorknob.

While raising teenagers is unarguably an adventure, I believe that the journey of raising healthy and confident girls resembles a never ending Iron Man competition. Nagging concerns of being thin, pretty, and accepted butt up against dreams of athletic and intellectual prowess. An internal struggle capped off by an innate drive toward individualism that may conflict with mainstream culture as well as push the dogma perpetuated by parents and mentors.

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The life journey of a teenage girl proves that the road to excellence is never comfortable…

While many of these daily struggles simply come together to create the iconic journey toward maturity, some have become exacerbated by the complex dual between science and politics that make up the history of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. I was two years old in 1977 when the science of nutrition became diluted with the burden of politics. Fortunately my parents shielded me from the ramifications of the new age of political nutrition rhetoric, choosing to instead pass along to me a traditional culture of family meals and a balanced diet.

I grew up in a house where dinner was always a home cooked meal. Meat was the center of the plate accompanied by a vegetable, some sort of starch, and a glass of milk. While my mom was not a fancy cook, her meals were delicious and she taught me how to put diversified nutrients on the table. I learned to equate the basics of home cooking with healthiness, primarily due to my mom’s steadfast commitment to a pragmatic diet approach.

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I do not have childhood memories of other influences (outside of my family) on the topic of nutrition. I cannot say that same thing about my daughters. The web of political influence over nutrition has grown to where it touches their lives daily through school lunches and nutrition education in the classroom.

  • I serve my girls eggs, meat, and whole milk as a part of a balanced diet at home while they are told in school curriculum that these are unhealthy even when blended with fruits and vegetables on the home cooked dinner plate.
  • I preach about the importance of protein and fat as sources of energy and nutrients in the diet while the government mandated curriculum teaches them that eating healthy means a plant based high carbohydrate and low fat diet.

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The result is a conflicted and confused teenager trying to survive amidst a sea of dietary confusion.

The next few blog posts will take a look at both the science and the politics of nutrition. I will examine Nina Teicholz’s New York Times Bestseller The Big FAT Surprise, as well as the current nutrition debate that struggles to surface amidst a 30 year culture of food politics determined to create a one size fits all answer to the diet and health of Americans.

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Filed under General, Nutrition (cattle and human)

Love Food Friday Tip #2: Organize Your Kitchen!

Love Food Friday

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 Food Waste Elimination Tip #2: Organize Your Kitchen!

Chef Christopher Gigiel

Organize your fridge and pantry.  An organized kitchen is a happy kitchen, and also an efficient and less wasteful kitchen.

If you can easily see what’s in your refrigerator and pantry you’re much less likely to waste things.

  • I keep perishable things at the forefront of my fridge so that they don’t get shoved to the back and become a fuzzy science experiment-gone-wrong.
  • I regularly take mental inventory of what I have and make sure that I store newer groceries behind older ones so the older ones get used first.

In the restaurant business we call this FIFO – First in, First out, it ensures I use things in a timely manner and they don’t go to waste. I go so far as to physically do inventory and check things off the grocery list that I made before I go shopping so I know that I’m not buying in excess.

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Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by organizing your kitchen and enjoying Chef Chris’s: Slow-Cooked Corned Beef in Beer with Red Currant-Mustard Sauce

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Filed under General, Love Food Friday

Reviewing the Topic Of Antibiotics…

I have received many requests for information over the past week relative to antibiotic use in cattle feed yards.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, I am going to share the links to a series of blog posts that I wrote a few years ago, as well as an updated post from the fall of 2013.  For those of you with questions regarding this topic, hopefully reading these posts will help you out.

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I am also including a short update on my favorite 10 year old whose struggle with pneumonia instigated the antibiotic posts three years ago.

Really, one could argue that I am taking the opportunity to brag about my awesome daughter who (over the past three and half years) over came a series of complications from a nasty illness event with a maturity and tenacity that makes this Mama proud.

She is a rock star runner and swimmer, and maintains a daily fitness level that would leave most people exhausted.  Yesterday, during her mile swimming workout she completed her first 50 meter freestyle swim without breathing (that’s two laps of a 25 meter pool with a flip turn and no oxygen intake) — using those lungs that she has worked so very hard to strengthen. Perhaps what makes me most proud is that this journey is one that we have taken together: allowing me to serve as both her coach and training partner :)

You can read here how she is living proof that  “drugs can be traded for fitness” with the right work ethic and a little bit of faith…

Below is the antibiotic series.  I have written a brief explanation of each post immediately following the underlined link.

If you are still interested in more of the day to day workings of a feed yard relative to antibiotic use and cattle health, then I encourage you to click on either the category labeled Animal Welfare or Antibiotics, Hormones and other Growth Promotants that are listed on the right side of the home page.  Those categories will take you to other posts written on this issue. Or, you can visit Facts About Beef and read their post Antibiotics 101.

calendar raceAs both a mom and a cattle caregiver, I do my best to be a responsible user of antibiotics.  I know how very important they are, and I strive to get better with each day that passes.  Appropriate antibiotic use is a journey that we all travel together — One that must be based on a dedication to continuous improvement.

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Filed under Antibiotics, hormones, and other growth promotants..., General

Good Timing…

As winter hints of an end and spring draws my crocuses out of the ground, I spend time putting together my spring shipment schedule. The growing season in Nebraska dictates that many bovines leave the home ranch in the late fall when Mother Nature signals the end of the growing season. After wintering at my feed yard, spring and summer finds these animals ready to make beef.

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Good timing enables the ultimate goal as both the environmental footprint of my farm and the quality of my beef rely on my instincts of when to ship cattle to the packing plant.

My judicious dedication to timely cattle shipment makes me a good farmer.

It ensures that an optimal amount of resources (animal feed and water) creates the ultimate nutrient packed, great tasting beef product that we feed to our families.

If I do not feed my cattle long enough, then their beef may be less tender and not provide the best eating experience. If I feed them too long, then the additional resources of my farm are turned into fat that must be trimmed off of the meat before it is packaged to sell to you. I honor the resources of my farm as well as my customers when I do it right; and I get a report card from the packing plant each time that I ship cattle.

Many thanks to Miranda Reiman for taking this picture...

Many thanks to Miranda Reiman for taking this picture…

There are two main components to figuring the optimal time to ship a group of cattle:

  1. Looking at the numbers.
  2. Looking at the cattle.

I feed cattle off of the same ranches almost every year, so I start the process of figuring a shipment date by looking at the report card from the previous year. Did I get an “A” last year, or do I need to make changes to the feeding plan?

I then look at the:

  • Initial weight of the animals when they arrive at the feed yard from the home ranch
  • The estimated average daily gain (which I calculate looking at past years’ performance)
  • The appropriate shipment weight of the animals based on the genetics, age, and phenotype

Using these three numbers, I can theoretically predict the appropriate shipment date. As much as perfection would make life on the farm easier, weather often wreaks havoc with a good plan. Consequently, it is very important to look at each group of animals after figuring the numbers (keeping in mind the weather patterns of the recent months) to make sure that life in the real world fits the plan drafted on paper.

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Good timing relative to shipping cattle to the packing plant is both an art and a science. It also requires an inherent desire to be a responsible steward as market conditions may often tempt a cattle feeder to not remain dedicated to timely shipments.

I view good timing as one of the ways that my farm excels at sustainability and the judicious use of resources…

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General

Love Food Friday #1: Get Organized and PLAN!

Love Food Friday

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Food Waste Elimination Tip #1: Get organized and PLAN!

Chef Christopher Gigiel

One thing that sets professional chefs apart, as a group, is that we are planners. We don’t like flying by the seat of our pants. We have a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup plan for our back up plan.

When we’re talking about food, this means we plan a menu and shop for that menu. Most commercial food establishments operate on a very slim profit margin and food waste can make the different between profitability and loss. Therefore, food waste is often at the forefront of my mind.

I plan my menu and shop for what I need for that menu, and go to the store with a list. I do the same thing in my personal life – I’m much less likely to impulse buy or purchase things because they’re on sale if I have a list and stick to it. This also means that I’m not purchasing excess without a solid plan of what I’m going to do with it and what I buy is much less likely to go to waste.

I know in our busy lives it’s difficult to carve out the time to plan, and often the decision of what we’re eating for dinner is only made several hours before it needs to be on the table, but I promise you if you’ll start the habit you’ll waste a lot less, and save some money too.

Love Food Friday Recipe Share #1 : Asian Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry

AsianBeefVegetableStirFryClick here for the recipe!

Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner :)

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Filed under General, Love Food Friday

Love Food, Hate Waste!

The United Kingdom launched a large scale public awareness campaign called “Love Food Hate Waste” in 2006-2007.  Data taken by the WRAP demonstrated that this campaign successfully reduced avoidable household food waste in the U.K. by 21% from 2007-2012.  I believe these to be impressive results accomplished relatively quickly and with reportedly little inconvenience to the citizen.

Recognizing food waste and making a conscious decision to improve provides the most important key to reducing food waste in the home.  Following that with understanding labeling, being willing to purchase produce that is not “visually perfect”, and either correct portioning or a dedication to eating leftovers provide some of the basic cornerstones.

In an effort to continue to raise awareness relative to food waste, and also to give each of you some practical tips for reducing waste in your kitchen; I am beginning a season of Love Food Friday.  This spring, I am enlisting the help of professional chef Christopher Gigiel to offer a tip for eliminating food waste each Friday.  I am also hoping that he will share a few of his favorite beef recipes as well!

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Christopher joins us from Denver, Colorado where he manages the day-to-day operations of the Beef Culinary Center, caters in house meetings and events with recipes that prominently feature beef, and works with the Beef Innovation Team on recipe and new-product development.

He has worked with the beef checkoff program since the spring of 2014. A Johnson & Wales University alum, Christopher earned his Associates of Science in Culinary Arts and Bachelors of Science in Food Service Management. In addition, he held a Culinary Fellowship where he taught culinary lab classes and helped manage the operations of the culinary building.

Prior to working with the checkoff, he served as Food Service Director for a non-profit in Eastern Pennsylvania where he revitalized their culinary program. When he’s not in the kitchen, you can find him cycling throughout the Mile High City which boasts more than 850 miles of bicycling adventures or camped out in a local coffee shop with a book and caffeinated beverage in hand.

I am really excited about this series as it brings practical tips for reducing food waste to all of us as we work on this journey of continuous improvement :)

Please help me to welcome Christopher to the Feed Yard Foodie Family for the Love Food Friday series!

 

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General, Love Food Friday

Snow Skiing Should Be Treated Like A Good Piece Of Chocolate…

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When I fell in love with my favorite farmer, I made the commitment to trade sand for snow.  Matt loves to snow ski — and we are the type of couple that likes to do everything together.  Over the years, my skiing skills have developed enough that I can ride the same lift and make my way down the blue slopes, but our philosophy regarding how to get down the mountain varies significantly…

I believe that downhill skiing should be treated like a good piece of chocolate.  The ski run should be savored — taking time to enjoy the experience and recognizing that the traverse can be just as enjoyable as the speed :)

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My favorite teenager and her blonde cowgirl sidekick are heading quickly toward their father’s school of thought as well as his skills.  The trio secretly laughs at me as they take rest breaks when we ski the same slope, but I remind them with a smile that at least I am in good shape so I can ski the run from the top to the bottom without resting myself (cutting down on their empathetic break time…).

Smarty pants farmer boy skiing down the slope backwards while teasing me -- his two cohorts in the background cheering him on...

Smarty pants farmer boy skiing down the slope backwards while teasing me — his two cohorts in the background cheering him on…

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Ornery squared…

My baby put on her rebel snow board boots working to learn a new snow sport.  With her good balance and athletic prowess, I am sure that it won’t be long before she will be beating her Mama down the slopes on the snow board.  She has her sights set on challenging her surfing/snow boarding Uncle Terry sometime in the near future.

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It was a beautiful day on the mountain and a nice change from farm chores.

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Life is much more enjoyable when we can bend and compromise in order to create great family times. 

We topped off the day with a tasty home-raised beef dinner.  The only thing missing was the piece of chocolate!

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Filed under Family, General

Food Waste, Sustainability, and the Journey of Continuous Improvement…

In my never ending search for knowledge, I look to scientists to help me understand complex topics.  While I recognize that as a “layman” I will never completely understand the details, visiting with experts helps me to gain a good general understanding.  This enables me to make educated decisions in my daily life.  One of the best perks of working as a volunteer consultant outside of my farm is the opportunity to meet scientists who work in a myriad of subjects involving beef production.

As a mother of three girls, it is especially fun for me when the scientist is a confident and articulate young woman who holds all of the traits of a great mentor.  Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson spent some time sharing with us last spring explaining the topic of sustainability as it relates to raising beef.  She is back this week visiting with us on the topic of food waste and its role in the journey of continuous improvement.

 

Anne: What have you done personally in your life to improve your “food waste footprint”?

Kim: Reducing food waste is important to me and my husband. Cooking for two is sometimes challenging due to portion sizes that are available in grocery stores so we get creative with “left-over” recipes, which are becoming more and more popular and are easy to find online. My favorite beef leftover recipe is beefy sweet potato hash for breakfast, on beefitswhatfordinner.com. Another thing we do is raise backyard chickens. We have three Rhode Island Reds. We call them the “grandma chickens” because we named them after our grandmothers: Georgia, Carol, and Gaylean. They eat all of our food waste from preparing meals. Just this week I made tacos, so there was waste including stems from cilantro and avocado skins.

Anne: Can you please (as a scientist) speak to the topic of food waste relative to beef sustainability and the life cycle assessment? What role does it play in reducing the footprint of beef?

Kim: Food waste is an area where with small changes we, as society, can make a huge difference in sustainability. Approximately, 30-40% of our food is wasted in the U.S. resulting in a $161 billion dollar loss. The concern for me about food waste is not just monetary – it is environmental, and at a minimum we are wasting 2/3 of our natural resources on food that we waste. That is irresponsible. Beef is wasted much less than other foods, at 20%, but if we could reduce that waste by half we could improve the sustainability of beef production 10%.

Anne: What further research needs to be done relative to the topic of food waste?

Kim: The most pressing issues around food waste are communicating with consumers that it is a concern and teaching everyone ways they can help reduce waste – from backyard chickens that produce eggs, to more frequent trips to the grocery store, to left-over recipes – we all can help reduce food waste, help the planet and save money!

Anne: What further research needs to be done in order to accurately denote beef’s footprint relative to sustainability?

Kim: The science underpinning sustainability is quite new and while there has been tremendous progress made to better understand sustainability – like the beef industry’s comprehensive beef life cycle assessment – there are still a lot of unknowns, especially related to the unintended consequences of food production. For example, life cycle assessments aren’t comprehensive enough to capture the benefits of open space, improved water quality, wildlife habitat, land use change (from pasture to row crop), use of marginal lands for food production, or native grassland health – to name a few– all of which are dependent on the beef industry. In other words, we can’t yet quantify in a sustainability metric the whole food system as it relates to beef.

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Kim, pictured with Georgia (one of her “grandma chickens”), at her home in Colorado…

I look forward to continuing to follow Kim’s progress as she develops ideas for reducing waste in the beef production system, as well as further determining beef’s environmental footprint…

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Filed under General, Sustainable Spring