Tag Archives: Certified Angus Beef

Finding Value…

We all search for value in our lives.  I would argue that what we individually value often defines who we are as a person – creating our priorities and the actions that result from them.  There are three core values that make me Anne:

  • Integrity
  • Hard Work
  • Altruism

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I am in-arguably both an idealist and an over-achiever.  Honesty and transparency are high on my list of priorities, and a capacity for hard work seems to be firmly entrenched in my DNA.  When I landed at Dartmouth College as an incoming freshman, I had to take a math test to prove competency due to my less than stellar math SAT scores.  I responded by passing the test, getting an A in college calculus and graduating Cum Laude four years later.  My brain didn’t get any smarter, but determination and dedicated study brought me success.

I grew up believing in working for the greater good.  At age seventy, my mom still spends her days teaching high school English driven by an admirable passion to make a difference in the lives of her students.  While I chose a farm and bovines over a classroom full of teenagers, it is easy to see my mom’s steady influence in my dedication to altruism.  There are likely times when this makes me a less skilled business woman, but I tend to lead with my heart and take faith with me on the journey.

My feed yard crew consists of myself and three employees.  My guys are nothing short of awesome, and it is virtually impossible to find the words to relate how valuable they are to my family and our farm.  The team that we form together ensures that our day to day animal care upholds a standard of excellence.  I know it because I live it – you all can believe it because our Progressive Beef audit scores are always in the “excellent” or highest category possible.  My guys and I find value in doing our best, each and every day, to ensure that we offer appropriate and responsible care to our cattle.  It is easy to do that when you dedicate your life to taking the time to care.

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session...

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session…

Ideally, an altruistic person works tirelessly to make the world a better place without ever giving thought to being rewarded for those actions.  Since my guys and I are human, I have to admit that sometimes we get tired.  In the midst of a 60 hour week, we wonder if what we have dedicated our lives to really makes a difference.  We watch our cattle thrive and reach their God-given genetic potential, but we rarely receive any positive feedback from outside of our farm for our efforts.  It is hard to push yourself, day in and day out, to strive for excellence when there is no one rewarding your efforts.

The beauty of the BMG-Progressive Beef-Tyson-Braveheart Beef program exists in the system of support and reward.  The community of food production that we create together refuels itself by adding tangible value to the beef that we grow.  After many, many years, my guys and I are finally able to see that someone outside of our farm really does care that we do our jobs well!

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I’ll never forget the first week that we shipped cattle destined to create beef for the Braveheart brand.   There were proud smiles all across the feed yard as my guys experienced a true sense of accomplishment.  For once, our “face” could appear on a product – our story held significance – our efforts created tangible value to someone outside of our farm.

The demand for Braveheart Beef is growing.  A new partnership to create a Certified Angus Beef – Braveheart beef product launched this year combining two great brands to bring each of you a verified and value added beef eating experience.  The product initially launched in New York City and the boxes of beef keep flying off of the shelf as an impressive demand overpowers supply.

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Meanwhile, my guys and I keep doing our part creating value on the farm.  Focusing on integrity, hard work, and being positive contributors to the country that we love.  We are sporting proud smiles with the knowledge that someone outside of our farm thinks that we do is valuable 🙂

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, CAFO, General

It Takes a Community…

A few years after I moved to rural Nebraska, an elementary school teacher told me “Anne, it takes a community to raise a child”.  I was a new mother at the time trying to figure my way into the vast responsibilities of having a child, and her words resonated in my heart.  Many years later, I still think of her advice as I continue to raise my own daughters as well as serving as a youth athletic coach in our small town.

A great amount of power exists in a community.  The team work and dedication to a common cause provides strength and longevity.  Just as strength comes in numbers, compassion increases exponentially as the group works to provide for its members and the common good.  Although my vocation is responsibly raising beef, the local kids that I coach and mentor serve as a daily reminder of what is truly important in life.  Of all of the things that my community has given to me over the past twenty years, the ability to positively make a difference in the lives of our youth is the one that I truly treasure.

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While it takes a community to raise a child, it also takes a food production community to raise high quality and traceable beef.  From the ranch all of the way to the dinner plate — an organized supply chain needs to inspire all of the contributors to act with integrity and congruence.  What Virginia, Rachel and I do on our farms makes a difference in the lives of our animals.  In order to complete the circle of quality, we need partners at the retail level of food production to maintain and augment that value all of the way to your dinner table.

The best way to do that is to work together to build a brand.  Three years ago my feed yard became a member of the Beef Marketing Group.  I was looking for a group of like-minded feed yards who focused on quality animal care, and were interested in coming together to sell a value added product. Each feed yard in our cooperative participates in the Progressive Beef QSA program and is audited against animal welfare, food safety and sustainability standards.

The Beef Marketing Group now teams up with Tyson Foods and Performance Food Groups to bring the Braveheart Beef product to your restaurant table.

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This is a unique and true partnership that adds value all across the production chain. Cattle care and farmer integrity are assured, and the Path Proven technology verifies that the DNA of the Braveheart Beef comes from one of our Progressive Beef certified animals.

This adds confidence to the food supply chain by:

  • Audited and verified animal care on the farm
  • Meat testing to ensure traceability and product integrity

BMG, Tyson, and Performance Food Groups come together to let you know that “we’ve got your back” relative to beef quality and farmer integrity.  The product is sold in restaurants all across the country, and we are hopeful that demand for it will continue to grow making it even easier to get to your dinner plate in the future!AnneGirlsApril2016.jpg

My girls are blessed to be able to grow up on “Mama’s beef”, now the Braveheart Beef brand makes it easier for you to be also 🙂

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

From Ranch to Plate: The Beginning of the Cattle Life Cycle…

I remember when my favorite father-in-law first introduced me to the cattle business.  Matt and I were still living in New Hampshire, but we flew to Kansas City to attend the 1996 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention.  The *plan* was to move back to Nebraska to the farm the following June, and I was badly in need of a basic cattle education.  As was the case for many city folk, I thought cattle went from the pretty green grass pasture straight to the package of beautifully marbled Certified Angus Beef steak that my dad loved to grill…

It never really occurred to me to even think about everything that went into making that awesome tasting steak until those first few days at the NCBA convention.  Twenty years later, I am well versed on the complicated process of beef production that begins on a cow-calf ranch and ends at the grocery store.  I know that it takes teamwork, a dedication to caring, and a disciplined and respectful use of natural resources.

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Fifteen years ago, I took over the job of procuring cattle for the feed yard.  I set out looking for ranchers who wanted to partner with me — sharing information that allowed for the improvement of both animal welfare and beef quality at the first two levels of beef production: the ranch and the feed yard.  I was finding success personally as a calf caregiver, and I realized how much better the lives of my cattle would be if I could better organize a holistic lifetime care program that included ranchers who shared my vision.  The make up of resources on our farm did not allow for a cow-calf herd, so I set out to find ranchers who wanted to collaborate with me and follow their calves from birth to harvest.

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The majority of cattle in the United States spend the first 8-14 months grazing on grass pastures and growing from about 70 pounds (at birth) to approximately 600-700#.  Grass is a wonderful resource and a critical component to raising beef.  More than half of Nebraska’s landmass (23 million acres) is made up of these grasslands where the soil and topography allows only for the growth of prairie grasses.  Cattle, as ruminant animals, have a digestive tract that is made up of four compartments which allows for them to be tremendously efficient grass converters.  This capability provides a core component in our effort as farmers to convert a non-edible resource (grass) into a nutrient packed and great tasting human protein source (beef).

The list of ranchers that I work with has grown over the years, and my partnership with them allows for better animal care and a smaller environmental footprint in our journey of beef production.  Our animals remain healthier both allowing for a more efficient conversion of feed resources, and a smaller antibiotic use footprint.  Tracing the performance of the animals from birth all of the way into the packing plant allows for genetic changes to improve beef quality, taste, and tenderness.  In short, together we get smarter as farmers, and our animals get more efficient and produce a higher quality beef product.

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The Evert family is one of my cow-calf ranching partners.  I met Virginia Evert when she went to work at Eastside Animal Center as a vet tech in 2002.  Four years ago, she left the vet clinic to work full time ranching with her cousin and raising their families.  I do not often get to work with women, and I consider it one of my greatest pleasures to work with Virginia and Rachel and their families.

Evertcalves9a.jpgIt is easy to work with people who share your values.

Evertcalves12a.jpgIt is easy to partner with those who teach their animals confidence and curiosity.

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It refills my cup to watch the improvement that Virginia, Rachel and I can make each year in our journey helping that great tasting steak get from the grass pasture to the meat case.

You can read more about the Evert Family through this blog series featured in Black Ink with CAB by Miranda Reiman:

http://www.blackinkwithcab.com/2015/10/23/following-the-calves-everything-evert/

http://www.blackinkwithcab.com/2015/10/31/following-the-calves-a-success-story-in-the-making/

http://www.blackinkwithcab.com/2016/01/20/following-the-calves-the-herd-changer/

http://www.blackinkwithcab.com/2016/02/24/following-the-calves-decisions-decisions/

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, General

My Story…

We all have a story.

A chronicle of our individual lives or even a moment in time that helped to determine what makes us “unique”.  Because each of us plays a vital role in the success of our families, our communities, and our country; each story carries a meaningful message in this journey we call life.

The above video is my story.  A seven minute glimpse of Anne — the mom, the farmer, the American.  In 2016, many of us spend a significant amount of time studying food: where it comes from and who grows it.  We make a valiant effort to try to understand why is it grown in so many different ways across the United States.

I hope that my story will provide meaningful insight and transparency relative to farming and food production.  It a story of love, pride, hard work, and technology — that is what allows our farm to be successful.  Matt and I began our work as farmers 19 years ago.  We spend each day committed to each other, and working side by side to continuously improve the way that we grow food.

Please take a few minutes to watch my story.  Please take another minute to share it so that others can get a glimpse of life at a feed yard — a segment of beef farming that is often misunderstood.

The next few blog posts will talk specifically about my partners in the beef production cycle: from the ranchers that provide care for our cattle during the first year of their lives all the way to my brand partners that bring our beef to your dinner table.

Together, we will get a better sense of where your beef comes from!

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Beef Cattle Life Cycle: Ranch to Retail, CAFO, Cattle Handling Videos starring Feed Yard Foodie!, Family, Farming, General

It Takes a Team…

Where does your food come from?

Apart from food that is completely home raised and never leaves the farm, it takes a team of people to get it from farm to fork. While I believe that many would love to have a simple answer to this often asked question, the reality is that food production in 2015 is not a single story.

It takes a team.

I like to grow what I like to eat. My favorite food is beef. I loved a juicy steak when I was a budding athlete on the East Coast of Florida, and I still love one today. My knowledge of the beef production cycle has increased exponentially over the years as I learned to be a farmer, and my desire to enjoy a wholesome beef dinner with my family holds steadfast.

I rely on my rancher partners to help me humanely raise cattle which grow to become healthy beef.

Pasture Raised...

Pasture Raised

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Grain Finished

I rely on my feed yard cooperative, BMG, my packing plant partner, Tyson, and niche brands such as Certified Angus Beef, to help me take my beef all of the way from my farm to your family’s dinner table.

It takes a team.

I had the pleasure of hosting a film crew from Certified Angus Beef at the feed yard last week. Deanna and Josh traveled to Nebraska to help me share the story of the feed yard part of the beef production cycle. CAB is a long-time partner of mine, helping me to market my high quality beef as well as facilitating outreach to retail customers to talk about “where that beef comes from”.

The day and a half that we shared last week was filled with not just filming, but also learning. I love any opportunity to share my farm with others, and it is always such a joy when I get to host people like Josh and Deanna. Their genuine interest and sincere friendliness renews my faith in outreach work, and gives me hope looking forward to the future of my farm.

This project focuses on explaining a cattle feed yard to urban customers.

  • What is a feed yard?
  • What is the role of a feed yard in the beef production cycle?
  • How do feed yard crews offer care to their animals?
  • What role does a veterinarian play at a feed yard?
  • How are feed yards sustainable?
  • How can a feed yard be both a steward to its animals as well as to the environment?
  • What faces lurk on the other side of the farm gate?

Annegate.jpgThe people are the heart and soul of a farm.

I am incredibly excited to see the finished video which is set to unveil at the Certified Angus Beef Annual Retail Conference in late September. You can also look for it on Feed Yard Foodie as I plan to share it as soon as CAB completes the project.

It will provide an authentic view of a feed yard — this nebulous and under-explained part of the beef story. Video footage is complete with filming taken remotely via a camera drone flying over the cattle pens as the sun prepared to set on our farm. What an awesome piece of technology!

The drone and it's fearless leader :)

The drone and its fearless leader!

Many thanks to Deanna, Josh and the entire Certified Angus Beef team for taking the time to understand and also to share. Additional thanks to John Butler of the Beef Marketing Group for inspiring me to continue to share my story.CABjohnfilm

It takes a team…

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Who I am…

Earlier this fall, a camara crew from the Angus Association (Angus is a breed of cattle) tagged along with a group of graduate students from the University of Nebraska and made the trip out to the Feed Yard Foodie farm.

It was a typical windy day at the feed yard: exercising calves, feeding and checking the health of our animals.  I talked with the UNL students about the practical implementation of holistic cattle care and Beef Quality Assurance in a feed yard.

While I always enjoy when students come to learn at the feed yard, this particular visit was extra special for me because of the YouTube video embedded below.   I am so thankful to the Angus Association for putting together this five minute video of me and my cattle.

  • This video explains who I am.
  • This video states what I believe in.
  • This video is my mission statement.DSC03747

I am Anne Burkholder.

I am proud to raise cattle and grow your beef…

Please take a moment to click below and watch it if you missed it on RFD TV last week! Please pass it along to every one that you know that has questions about a cattle feed yard 🙂

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

Teamwork…

Together we are stronger…

 As important as I believe it is to be strong and self reliant; I also recognize that teamwork is imperative for meaningful and long term success.

 How do we learn the skills necessary for teamwork?

 My daughter Ashley Grace has participated in a school sponsored program called Destination Imagination since the second grade.  Very simply, Destination Imagination is a program that teaches children team work and problem solving skills.  She has had the same seven team members for four years now.  They are a very talented and very strong willed bunch of young ladies.  Last year (as fifth graders), they mastered the skill of working together and, as a result, were highly successful and placed at the Global Finals Destination Imagination competition in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Great Brain Power!

 They learned to respect and use each others individual talents in order to make an incredibly powerful team.

 

I am good at caring for and feeding cattle.  I have done my homework, and I understand my animals and their needs.  I am willing to give 110% of myself everyday to my animals because that is what it takes to make the best beef.  I love what I do, and I believe that it makes a positive and lasting impact on the world that I am so blessed to live in.

 But I also realize that I can not make the best beef all by myself…

Being successful and delivering to you a great tasting beef eating experience each and every time that you purchase my product takes teamwork.

 For reasons based both on tradition and on practicality, the beef industry is not vertically integrated.  This means that most cattle will be owned or cared for by at least two different individuals or farms before they are ready for harvest.  Following harvest, the beef will be owned and handled by at least two other individuals or entities before it makes it to your dinner plate.

 What does this mean?

TEAM WORK IS ESSENTIAL FOR SUCCESS!

 I strive for vertical collaboration with all of the parties that own my animals and the beef that they produce.  By collaborating with each other we can ensure the success of the animal and its beef from farm to fork…We have talked extensively about the partnership that I have with my cow/calf ranchers (like Al and Sallie), and we have talked about the partnership that I have with U.S. Premium Beef and their packing plant (National Beef) in order to harvest the animals.

 So what happens to the beef that my animals produce and where does Certified Angus Beef fit in?

 Last quarter I harvested 1970 animals through U.S. Premium Beef.   85% of those animals graded Prime or Choice quality.   35% qualified for the Certified Angus Beef brand.  Why?

 To qualify for the Certified Angus Beef brand, there are very specific live animal and beef quality science-based specifications that must be met.  These specifications are challenging to achieve, and help to ensure that you have a great tasting beef eating experience every single time you eat it.

 Beef Specifications for Certified Angus Beef…

Modest or higher marbling (high Choice or Prime Grade)

Medium or fine marbling texture

“A” maturity—superior color, texture, and tenderness

10-16” Rib Eye Area

Less than 1000# pound carcass

Less than 1” fat thickness around the edge of the meat

No blemishes in appearance or color

In fact, only 1 in 4 Angus cattle meet all of the brand’s specifications.  While these specifications allow for a consistently juicy and tender beef eating experience, perhaps (to me) the most important part of Certified Angus Beef’s role is connecting the grocery store or the restaurant and their ensuing customers to my farm and beef farms all across the country.

 Certified Angus Beef builds this last invaluable bridge from my farm to your table.

 Are there other types of beef coming from other breeds of cattle that taste great?  Absolutely!  But, Certified Angus Beef leads the way in connecting the consumer to the story behind where your beef comes from…All of the way from farms like mine and Al and Sallie’s to your home so that you can feel good about choosing beef for dinner tonight and every night!

Matt and I receiving our award in Oregon...

 That is teamwork at its very best…Independently we master our roles, and together we are invincible!

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Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, Foodie Fun!, General

From Nebraska to Oregon, in search of more bridges…

The balance (precarious at times) that exists at our house was disrupted this week…

The kids went to school as usual Tuesday morning, but Diggie (grandpa) was in charge of the after school pick up.   At 3:20pm he dashed into the elementary school parking lot to meet his favorite blonds…

He was in charge of the gymnastics drop off and pick up until Demi (grandma) became available to relieve him from his taxi duties.

Demi and Diggie with their favorite blonds...

Demi and Diggie, the brave souls that they are, were in charge for a few days (at least as much as my oldest daughter allows anyone else to be in charge…).

Very organized and usually in charge...

It is unusual for Matt and I to travel and leave the kids behind, but this was an important trip.  We set off for the long haul from Nebraska to Oregon to attend the Certified Angus Beef Annual Conference.

A product display case at the conference. Great looking beef!

A few years after Al and Sallie Atkins (and several other ranchers from Nebraska) began working with me to trace our cattle from birth to harvest in an effort to improve the beef that we grow, Certified Angus Beef recognized my feed yard as a “feed yard partner” of their branded beef program.

Many of you will probably recognize their logo, as Certified Angus Beef has more than 12,300 licensed retail (grocery store) and food-service partners in the United States and 46 other countries.  Certified Angus Beef is known for quality and taste…

This week, Matt and I were honored to receive the Certified Angus Beef Feed Yard Partner of the Year Award in the “small feed yard” classification.  As part of the award, we spent a couple of days visiting with all of the wonderful retail and food service folks that help to bring our great tasting beef to your local grocery store or restaurant.

Certified Angus Beef helps to build a very important bridge:

From my farm...

To your plate...

Next week, we will take a closer look at Certified Angus Beef, and give you all some more insight into what makes a great beef eating experience.

In the meantime, I will be shoveling out my house and my desk at the feed yard in an optimistic hope of regaining balance “on the home front”.  I am pretty sure that Demi and Diggie will be trying to sneak in a few naps in order to recover from the whirlwind of a couple of days with my children…

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Filed under Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, Foodie Fun!, General