Category Archives: Nutrition (cattle and human)

An Aggie, Aussies, and Sampling…

Howdy!

We’ve been busy at the yard the past week. All of this rain we’ve been having has made for some muddy conditions! Everyone is working as hard as they can to clean out pens before we receive new cattle this upcoming week.

In addition, we had a tour group of Australians join us Friday afternoon to learn more about the feedlot industry in the United States. They were especially baffled by how close we are to ground water here in Cozad, being that the feedyard is right over the Ogallala Aquifer makes it just a short distance, about 10’, to ground water as opposed to their 500’ deep wells in Australia. Overall I think they really enjoyed their experience at Will Feed, and we certainly enjoyed their company!

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Another very important task we accomplished this week was sampling feed stuffs for monthly nutritional analysis. Being that I am studying ruminant nutrition, it only seems fitting to share a bit about this critical aspect of the feedyard.

RationEVWe feed all of the cattle rations that are formulated with the help of the nutritionist. A ration can be thought of as a casserole. There are a variety of ingredients that all serve a different nutritional purpose whether it’s cracked corn for energy or roughage for fiber content, the ratio of ingredients within the “casseroles” are carefully calculated to meet the specific needs of the cattle at certain stages of growth.

If we do not know the right nutritional contents of our ingredients, our rations will be off and the cattle may not be able to reach their full potential and it could even cause health problems such as bloating. By sampling each individual ingredient, we can check the composition and ensure we are keeping the cattle happy and healthy with properly formulated rations.

All of the ingredients for a ration are loaded into the feed truck and the back of the truck acts like a giant mixing bowl. There is a combination of paddles and augers that mix the ration after all ingredients have been added. In theory this should create a perfectly homogeneous mixture.

To ensure this is the case, we also must sample the rations once they are mixed and delivered to the bunk. This ensures the feed truck is working properly, thoroughly combining all of the ingredients, and there is consistency amongst what is being fed.

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One load of feed in the truck may be dispersed throughout multiple pens, it is key that what is delivered to the first bunk is the exact same as what is delivered to the last. Therefore, we collect samples along the bunk line from the first and last bunk the load was delivered to.

RationSamplingEVOnce all the samples are collected, both individual ingredients and mixed rations, they are brought to Ward Laboratories in Kearney, NE for testing. The feed results are reported back a few days later and analyzed by the nutritionist, that way rations/mixing procedures can be adjusted accordingly if necessary.

The nutritionist especially uses the calcium content as an indicator of how well the ration was mixed. It is important the mix is homogenous for a variety of reasons but especially so the supplement pellet is distributed to all of the cattle at the right amount being that it includes a variety of ingredients vital to food safety.

When we dropped off the samples, Dr. Ward was nice enough to show us around the lab. They do a variety of testing there including, soil, water, and feedstuffs.

Did you know people will send in homemade craft beers to be tested for mineral content to best be able to match/adjust their unique flavor profiles?

It was definitely a week full of learning experiences! I look forward to my last few days here in Cozad. We have a busy schedule ahead with lots of incoming cattle to receive, process, and acclimate!

-Emily

Corn

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An Aggie In Nebraska…

Howdy!

My name is Emily and I have the privilege to be a guest on the Feedyard Foodie’s blog this week! I am originally from rural Connecticut but am currently residing in Texas. Both my Fiancé, Garrett, and I are recent graduates of Texas A&M University (just two weeks ago, actually!) with our Bachelor’s in Animal Science and are both currently pursuing a Master’s in Ruminant Nutrition.

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A ruminant refers to an animal with a four compartment stomach (ie. cattle, sheep, or goats), however, both of us are specifically studying the beef cattle sector. Our ultimate goal in the future is to start our own cow-calf operation in Texas. A cow-calf operation essentially raises the animals that will later go to the feedlot.

So how did I end up in Cozad, Nebraska?

As Anne mentioned in her previous post, I had the privilege of hosting her and Megan at Texas A&M in the fall after inviting her for a speaking engagement through the Animal Science Department. Every feed yard utilizes a ruminant nutritionist to make sure the cattle are being fed properly and nutritional requirements are being met. Knowing that I was going to be studying in this field, it seemed fitting to come visit the feed yard for a few weeks over the summer to get an inside view on how the operation is run, even if it isn’t the exact path I plan to take.

The thought behind my visit was that it’s always worth taking advantage of an opportunity to learn.

There is a good chance that my future career will somehow relate back to the feed yard, especially if it includes a cow-calf operation responsible for filling empty pens.

The Feedyard Foodie Family graciously accepted me into their home for three weeks and I have been learning everything from the business side of the operation to running various equipment at the feedyard. As far as the cattle go, we’ve processed, transported, and shipped cattle and will be receiving new calves into the yard next week.

Every day has been something new to do and another skill-set to learn. I’ve even had the opportunity to learn about the various farming sectors in Cozad from planting to harvest and of course the town, and family’s love of sports has led me to a new insight into both the track and swimming season! Anne has been a great mentor sharing her experiences in the industry, as a manager, and making time for what’s important as small business-owning parents. It has been quite the adventure and I look forward to sharing more about my journey as I move into my final week with the family!

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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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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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Fitness Foodies…

It is difficult to talk about diet, weight and health without including the topic of physical exercise.  During my dietary guidelines research, I unearthed a statistic that I have pondered over the past few weeks.

USDA data reports that more than 50% of adults in the United States are not physically active. 

While I likely define the words “healthy weight” more loosely than the Obama Administration, I do think that everyone benefits from physical activity.  When we discuss fitness at the Feed Yard Foodie residence, we do not discuss weight — rather — we talk about building muscle, cardiovascular strength, and the ability to be active.  My favorite farmer and I are life-long athletes.

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I devote time to coaching youth athletics because I believe that we need to create a culture of fitness in young Americans.  To build a culture, exposure must start early and it must be fun.  I hope that my volunteering plays a positive role in the lives of the kids that I mentor just as my dedication to fitness is a result of my parents and coaches teaching me to love exercise at a very young age.  Although almost 20 years have passed since I retired from collegiate athletics, I still love a workout.  Apart from making me feel good, being fit allows me to experience better health and a healthy weight.

I’ve heard that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”…

My favorite high school student recently chose to learn to be a Fitness Trainer for a semester project in math/science.  She selected family members as her first “clients”.  Basic kinesiology, benchmark testing, training, and fitness goals permeate family dinner discussions as our favorite trainer leads the current family fitness journey.

Sunday morning found us at the track doing an “Owen’s Circuit”.  I have to admit that when Ashley Grace began my parenthood journey 15+ years ago, no one at the hospital told me that this would be part of the challenge :)  For those of you that are unfamiliar with an Owen’s Circuit (which one could argue is a good thing), it is a series of upper body, core and leg strength exercises intermixed with running repeats on the track.

Crunches...

Crunches…

After 400 yard repeats -- note that the smile on the youngest member of the family's face :)

In between 400 yard repeats — How awesome is the smile on my youngest daughter’s face?!

Rocket jumps...

And, rocket jumps…

100 meter sprints...

Topped off with 100 meter sprints…

And a myriad of other fun things like push ups, burpees, lunges and dips that help you find muscles that you might have forgotten existed!

While the primary focus of this blog post is to provide a bit of “light humor” in the midst of a very serious discussion, I do want to point out the importance of fitness in life’s journey.  Everyone will likely define the word using different difficulty scales (I wouldn’t recommend an Owen Circuit workout to the general public), but the fact remains that being healthy almost always involves some sort of physical activity.  Take your dog for a walk, swim a few laps, play racket ball with your spouse, or have a rousing game of tag with your kids in the front yard.

If our country is going to effectively tackle the problem of obesity and its subsequent health challenges, I believe that it is equally important to learn to love exercise as it is to eat a balanced diet full of protein.  As many things are, the answer is complex and requires personal buy-in to be effective.calendar race

Both diet and fitness are personal choices –As a country, we will make positive change by empowering life choices that can be both fun and healthy. 

This isn’t something that occurs through Dietary Guidelines and regulation, it happens when the American people are motivated to become Fitness Foodies…

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Policy Does Not Equal Science…

In the late 1970’s the low fat diet traveled to the halls of Congress in Washington DC. The Senate Select Committee on Nutrition, led by Senator George McGovern, held two days of hearings entitled “Diet Related to Killer Diseases”. After the hearings, committee staff member Nick Mottern orchestrated the political crusade for the (low fat) diet-heart hypothesis despite the fact that he had no background in nutrition or health. His personal negative bias toward red meat further tainted the narrative and his report, called Dietary Goals, secured the U.S. Government’s support with Congressional adoption in 1977. At this point, the diet-heart hypothesis became politically protected as truth despite the fact that virtually no clinical trial scientific proof existed.

“The United States had embarked upon a giant nutritional experiment to cut out meat, dairy and dietary fat altogether, shifting calorie-consumption over to grains, fruits and vegetables. Saturated animal fats would be replaced by polyunsaturated vegetable oils. It was a new, untested diet – just an idea, presented to Americans as the truth. Many years later, science started to show that this diet was not very healthy at all, but it was too late by then, since it had been national policy for decades already.”(Teicholz-102)

In February of 1980, the Dietary Goals transitioned into the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans eventually providing the basis for the USDA Food Pyramid, and the subsequent “My Plate” dietary teachings known to every school aged child in the country. Revisited every five years, the dietary guidelines provide a one size fits all approach, equating the nutritional needs of every American over the age of 2.

It is ludicrous to suggest that her dietary needs equal that of a middle aged man…A nutrient rich diet that includes beef leads her both to victory and good health. 800M Champion last weekend in her first high school track meet!

While USDA reports that these guidelines over the past 30 years were not well followed, they most certainly shifted the culture of the American diet. In response to their advice,  Americans moved away from red meat, eggs, and dairy and towards carbohydrates and vegetable oils. Many replaced nutrient dense protein with sugar and polyunsaturated oils – a combination which arguably played a role in causing obesity and other metabolic diseases like diabetes to explode across the population. The dietary guidelines became officially destined for political battle when they became law in 1995.

According to Adele Hite MPH, RD, MAT of the Healthy Nation Coalition, the policy changes associated with the dietary guidelines altered the food environment in our country by affecting:

  • What’s available for purchase on grocery store shelves.
  • What’s available for purchase through the WIC and other government programs.
  • What’s being fed to our military members on active duty.
  • What’s being fed to our kids through school lunch programs.
  • What’s being taught in school to our kids in Nutrition and Health classes.
  • Narrowing the focus for future nutritional studies and limited scientific debate on the topic.

In addition to equating the dietary needs of a two year old child with a fifty year old man, this government sponsored nutrition dogma portrays unproved science as the truth.

The proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines limit animal protein even more than the previous guidelines, despite the fact that the 2010 report states that the food patterns recommended in the Dietary Guidelines “have not been specifically tested for health benefits”. The continued increase in the growing percentage of obese and metabolically challenged Americans should cause our leaders in Washington DC to take pause and reexamine their advice — but the high carbohydrate narrative lives on.

It is time for the American people to let their voices be heard. The comment period for the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines is open until May 8, 2015. I will be sharing my comment letter next week both on this website and also with the USDA/HHS. You can share your thoughts by going to the government website. If you would like to view other sample comments you can go to either the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Website or be a signer on the letter written by the Healthy Nation Coalition.

Together we can reinforce the notion that policy does not equal science and take back our right to chose healthy foods for our families.

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Perhaps It’s Time To Stop Apologizing For Fat…

How often do you eat a steak, an omelet, or cook with real butter? What kind of milk is in your refrigerator?

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While animal protein arguably tastes good and makes us feel satiated, the nutrition community has steadfastly steered Americans away from eating red meat and whole fat dairy for the past four decades. The diet-heart hypothesis (coined by a biologist named Ancel Keys in the early 1960’s) proclaimed that a low fat and high carbohydrate diet provided the basis for good health. Although not proved through clinical trials, the hypothesis gained support from the federal government and provided the basis for mainstream dietary advice during the ensuing decades.

In my lifetime, 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%.

An association hypothesis (mirroring the process used by Ancel Keys to develop the diet-heart low fat mindset) might suggest from these two sets of data that replacing animal protein with vegetable oil and carbohydrates actually reduced the quality of health of Americans – the direct opposite from the intended consequence of Keys’ hypothesis. Uncovering this discrepancy inspired Nina Teicholz, an investigative food reporter, to delve deep into the nutrition archives. After nine years of research covering thousands of studies and a wide array of interviews with nutrition scientists, Teicholz uncovered a laundry list of interesting findings in her New York Times Bestseller The Big Fat Surprise.

  • The current U.S Dietary Guidelines are based on Keys’ hypothesis and drawn from epidemiological studies primarily done on middle-aged men. Clinical trials have not confirmed the epidemiological data, and virtually no data exits supporting this hypothesis for women and children.
  • The causal associations seen between red meat consumption and heart disease are minimal.
  • The saturated fat found in animal protein increases HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) which appears to play a positive role in heart health. Additionally, fat plays an important role in providing energy as well as ensuring that a number of essential vitamins be fully absorbed by the body.
  • Total cholesterol is not a good predictor of heart disease for most people. In particular, LDL (bad) cholesterol does not consistently predict an increased risk of heart disease. The cholesterol argument is the primary basis for the advice to reduce red meat consumption.
  • No health studies exist to discern the effect on health of liquid vegetable oils; and studies have shown that the process of solidifying vegetable oils (to make butter imitations) creates trans-fat which are incredibly unhealthy. Vegetable oil use is up 8% since the diet-heart hypothesis began to drive dietary advice.
  • Carbohydrates are a primary cause of insulin secretion – the constant consumption of carbohydrates throughout the day creates elevated insulin levels in the bloodstream which renders the body unable to digest its fat stores. This leads to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Eating fat and protein do not cause insulin secretion during digestion.  High fat, low carbohydrate diets like the Atkins diet are more effective for achieving lasting weight loss.
  • Multiple clinical trials demonstrate that a diet which trades carbohydrates for protein and fat can be healthy suggesting that a shift in thought process and nutrition study focus is prudent.

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I encourage each of you to read Teicholz’s book. It is an eye opening experience that inspires the reader to guiltlessly enjoy a steak while thinking that perhaps it’s time to stop apologizing for fat…

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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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