Category Archives: General

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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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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A Student of Life…

I gained many great ideas at Dartmouth College, but an intrinsic love of learning provided the most precious lesson. Although I traded Hanover, NH for the plains of Nebraska almost 18 years ago, the desire to always build knowledge remains a steadfast component in my life journey. My favorite farmer smiles and rolls his eyes a bit when a new topic catapults me into research mode, but after 22 years with me he appreciates that it is one of the things that makes me “Anne”.

My journey studying food waste ultimately originated in volunteer work that I do relative to animal (bovine) welfare. Welfare provides an important component to sustainability both from a social perspective as well as an environmental perspective. I feel that one of my greatest environmental victories as a farmer comes from improving the feed conversion of my cattle – reducing the pounds of feed resources required to make a pound of beef. There are a myriad of factors that go into this improvement, but quality animal welfare (as determined by the unique needs of the bovine) rises quickly to the top.

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The bridge from welfare to sustainability ultimately led me to begin studying the topic of food waste. Prior to this, I had no idea how much food ended up in landfills making it a critical component to sustainability.  Last Thursday I shared with all of you a list of things that I do both on farm and in my kitchen to work to limit waste, today I share a few of the headline statistics that inspired me to devote more energy to the topic.  Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council compiled these findings as well as providing initial suggestions for areas of improvement relative to food waste from farm to fork.

One of my favorites -- smoked beef brisket...

One of my favorites — smoked beef brisket…

Getting food from farm to fork uses:

10% of the total U.S. energy budget

50% of U.S. land

80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States

Despite this valuable use of resources, 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten costing Americans over $160 billion dollars each year.

The majority of the uneaten food ends up in landfills and provides the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste — Thereby becoming a significant source (EPA estimate of 23% in 2010) of methane emissions.

Reducing food losses by 15% would provide enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans per year.

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Perhaps it is because I see everyday on my farm how many resources go into growing food, or perhaps it is simply because I want to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds me; but as I look at the above statements I am motivated to work for positive change.

I hope that you will stick with me on this journey and continue to offer your own suggestions for improvement.

 

 

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Food Waste — We All Play a Role…

A study performed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2011 found that in the United States approximately 40% of all food grown for human consumption is wasted. While beef “food waste” is lower than that average, its’ 20% figure still staggers me.

Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson with my favorite blonde cowgirl...

Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson with my favorite blonde cowgirl (a couple of years ago)…

Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, through her work developing a lifecycle assessment for beef (NSF certified 2013), identified that cutting consumer waste of beef in half would improve the overall sustainability of beef farming by a whopping 10%. As a cattlewoman who cares about environmental responsibility, this statistic caught my attention.

Because I am both a farmer and a consumer, I recently spent some time thinking about things that I do, both at the feed yard and in my kitchen, to reduce waste.

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As a Cattle Farmer:

  1. The majority of my cattle are born and raised in the Sandhills of Nebraska. This unique grassland ecosystem allows for cattle to turn land not suitable for crop production into meat all while improving wildlife habitat and protecting the natural beauty of the land.
  2. After the cattle move from the ranch to my feed yard in preparation for harvest, more than half of what they eat is “by products”. In other words, during the final phase of beef production, cattle are *recyclers* and eat the part of the plant that is leftover after its’ primary use is complete.
  3. The majority of my cattle live their entire lives within a two hour radius of my farm which reduces both animal stress and transportation costs. Both of these components lesson the environmental footprint of my beef.
  4. The waste material (manure) that my cattle produce is recycled by my favorite farmer and used to maintain soil health on our crop farm.
Homemade meatloaf with home grown tomatoes is one of my summer favorites!

Homemade meatloaf with garden fresh tomatoes is one of my summer favorites!

As a Mom and a “food consumer”:

  1. My favorite farmer and I eat dinner leftovers (reheated for lunch)
  2. Food not eaten by our family is fed to my favorite teenager’s Rhode Island Red Laying Chickens, and thereby *Recycled* into eggs for our family.
  3. We make frequent trips to the grocery story (mostly because as a working mom I struggle on organized planning for meal preparation, but on the positive side this decreases the amount of food purchased that deteriorates in the refrigerator before being eaten.)
  4. Any portion of food individually taken at the dinner table is expected to be eaten. Our girls are good about cleaning their plates and not taking more food than they are able to eat. This facilitates saving leftovers for future lunch use.

It is estimated that food waste costs the average American family of four $1365.00-$2275.00 per year. This out of pocket cost is in addition to the environmental impact of wasted resources as well as food security issues. While reform is needed at each sector of the food production system, food waste at the household level is the most costly as the resources needed to deliver the food to the plate are highest at this last stage of the food production chain.

How do you limit food waste in your kitchen?

Author's note: Reducing food waste is a personal goal.

Author’s note: Reducing food waste both on my farm and in my kitchen is a personal goal. I plan to revisit this topic periodically and hope that you will share in the journey by thinking of and sharing ways that you too can reduce food waste.

Together we can make a more sustainable planet…

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