Tag Archives: factory farms

Finding Honor While Raising Food Animals…

I learned an important lesson on Saturday morning — When it is 12 degrees outside, your phone might get “cold” and shut down in the middle of a Facebook Live broadcast 🙂 It never crossed my mind that would happen. I’m used to working in the cold — I just assumed that my phone would be too!

I am very proud of my favorite blonde cowgirl who helped me with the broadcast. She did an awesome job! Due to the “phone shutting down complications”, we ended up with two broadcasts: one with no ending, and a second one telling the entire story more efficiently (before the phone shut down again!). Below find the second broadcast. You can find the first one on the Feed Yard Foodie facebook page if you would like to compare 🙂

The moral of the story is that there is always something new to learn! The road to excellence may not always be comfortable, but it’s certainly an interesting journey…

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

Fast Food Nation…

Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation in 2001, four years after Matt and I moved to Nebraska to go to work on the family farm.  I had heard of Mr. Schlosser because of his participation in the filming of the movie Food, Inc. but I had never read his book until a couple of weeks ago.

Sometimes the only way you can take a really good look at yourself is through somebody else’s eyes.

I read Fast Food Nation because a group of high school students from Omaha asked me to.  They read the book as part of a class requirement and were looking for another point of view.  The book focuses on food production practices and cultural eating changes relative to the growth of fast food restaurant chains.  Beef production, in particular packing plants and feed yards, appear as a center stage topic.sept. 2012 weaning calves 055

I felt a myriad of emotions as I read Schlosser’s words.  While I agreed with his desire to promote good health through a balanced diet and physical fitness, the beef industry that he described in the book was not the one that I participate in.

When I look out my window, I see something very different from what the author describes.  I see my feed yard as a place of integrity, where cattle are well cared for and enabled to make safe and healthy beef.  My husband and I also work hard to be environmental stewards using a combination of crop farm and cattle farm to create a sustainable and productive cycle.

There is a quiet beauty on our farm that is priceless...

There is a quiet beauty on our farm that is priceless…

While touring the major beef packing plants intermittently during my 16 years as a cattle farmer, I also saw something very different from what the author describes.  I toured Swift (JBS) in 1998, Cargill in 2001, National Beef in 2012, and Tyson just two weeks ago.  I believe that these packing plants are well run.

In fact, they are all audited on animal welfare, sanitation and food safety practices to ensure quality and professionalism. Most of them have Temple Grandin’s proposed camera surveillance system to ensure constant compliance in addition to third party auditing on animal welfare standards.  Additionally, all of them have USDA and FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) inspectors in the plants anytime that they are operational to protect for food safety assurance.

Safe and healthy beef is always my goal--it is what is on my dinner table...

Safe and healthy beef is always my goal–it is what is on my dinner table…

As I think about the book, this quote from James Thurber keeps circulating through my head:

There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates and the glare that obscures.

It is my hope that my Feed Yard Foodie blog is the light that illuminates—showing each of you how I raise cattle and grow the beef that you purchase to feed your families.

It is my opinion that Fast Food Nation is a glare created by a predisposed elitist— obscuring the U.S. beef production system in order to fit a desired hypothesis.  No where in the book can I find a cattle farm like mine or a balanced description of a packing plant.  For a more extensive book commentary and links to additional literature, please click fast-food-nation-thoughts-for-the-blog-with-links1

I would like to thank the three classes of students (along with their teacher) from Omaha for reaching out to me and inspiring me to read another point of view relative to the industry that I have grown to love.  Looking through someone else’s eyes is a great intellectual exercise and allows me continual personal growth and improvement.March 26, 2012 070

Interestingly enough, the students from Omaha decided that Mr. Schlosser would like my feed yard.  They likened it to the In and Out Burger restaurants that the author endorsed at the end of the book.

What do you all think?

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Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., CAFO, General

Cleaning House…

The Feed Yard Foodie house…

My family hosted a reporter from Washington DC last Friday.  When he called a few days before arriving to confirm the trip, he said “By the way, a photographer is coming along to take pictures for the story so you have a couple of days to clean house before we get there”.  I instantly rattled off my typical response about the state of my home, “I am not the best housekeeper in the world—my house always seems to look lived in”.

The outside of the Feed Yard Foodie house (this is the side view) is well-kept just like my cattle feed yard. I have not yet devised the miracle that would allow the inside of my house to look this good…I suspect that it has something to do with motivating my three children to pick up their STUFF!

When I got off of the phone, it occurred to me that he really was not talking about the cleanliness of my house, he was talking about the visual aspects of my cattle feed yard and our farm.  The concept of cleaning house as it pertains to a cattle feed yard is an interesting one.  Having a well maintained and clean feed yard is a journey—not a destination.  It is one that we work at every single day and that work is intrinsically tied to Mother Nature.

My feed yard is marked by calm and comfortable cattle. They make safe and healthy beef!

I have an employee whose main priority (other than helping to feed the cattle) is to scrape and maintain the cattle pens.  This not only removes manure in a timely manner (which Matt needs to fertilize his crops), but it also ensures that cattle living conditions remain comfortable.  There are times that Mother Nature challenges us with a big snow storm or a heavy spring/summer rain, but we strive to keep our animals as comfortable as possible despite these challenges.

Here is the tractor and box scraper that we use to keep our pens well-maintained…

Is my cattle feed yard perfect?  No, it is run by a human and, as hard as I try, I am still not perfect.  Did I pray that we would not receive a heavy rain the night before the reporter and his photographer arrived at my farm? Absolutely!

Many times learning first hand about where your food comes from allows for more accurate information…Thank you to all of you that follow Feed Yard Foodie for doing just that!

As I took the reporter and his crew through the feed yard Friday morning, I asked him if the cattle looked comfortable and well cared for.  He answered, “Yes, the cattle look comfortable and they are certainly not living knee deep in their own feces.  Your pens are spacious.  It doesn’t look at all like the way that the movie Food, Inc. portrayed feed yards.”

I am one of many cattlemen who realize that the quality of the care and the caregiver determines the success of the animal…

A well maintained farm takes effort, but having a clean house sets my animals up for success. This allows them to make healthy beef using fewer natural resources because they are comfortable in their home pen.  Healthy animals make healthy beef, so cleaning house is an important job on our farm!

My living room on Mother’s Day–it was laundry day at the Feed Yard Foodie house and the clean clothes needed sorted and put away. I am constantly amazed at how many dirty clothes two farmers and three children make…

Now, if I could only convince my children that keeping the inside of our home clean was important perhaps it would not always look so lived in!

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Filed under CAFO, General

How Do I Feel?

The most frequently asked question that I receive from urban dwellers is, “How can you take care of animals for several months and then send them off to be killed?”  Quite honestly, this is a question that I ponder regularly as I think about why I believe that it is an admiral vocation to raise food animals.

My cowboy and I will put this steer “on the bus” to go to harvest this afternoon…

I believe that I am a person of great compassion, and I spend each day trying to use the abilities that I was blessed with to be a positive contributor to my community and my country.  I care very deeply about the people and the animals that fill my life.  When I crawl into bed at night, the last thing that I ask myself is, “did I make a difference today?”

This great group of kids brought a smile to my face week after week. I hope that I have touched their lives as much as they have touched mine…

Last week, someone asked me why my blog is so personal in nature.  The simple truth is that my family and my farm are so intertwined that I would struggle tremendously if I tried to separate them.  I am an American—I am a wife—I am a mother—I am a cattle farmer.  I wear many different hats, all at the same time.  Who I am and what I believe in play a pivotal role in what I do each and every day.

If you look carefully on the track, I am the one in the bright pink shirt and hat—I was a “support runner” for my daughter Megan. Here we are completing the last 800 meters of the 1/2 marathon that we ran together over the past couple of weeks. Megan is in the green shorts and white t shirt striding ahead to “finish strong”!

Here I am checking the health of my cattle at the feed yard…I “support” them too.

So, if I care—if I feel compassion, how can I send my animals to death?

The sole reason that my cattle feed yard exists is to raise cattle to make beef.  My cattle were brought into this world for the purpose of contributing to our country’s food supply.  While I believe that it is my moral obligation to provide good care to every animal on my farm, I also recognize that my cattle exist solely to produce food.

I know that each time that I bring cattle onto my farm, that their next destination will be the packing plant.  That is the reality, and it is one that I am comfortable with.  Quite honestly, spending my days caring for those animals gives me a greater appreciation for the food that I put on my dinner table.  When I look at the steak or the hamburger that I am serving to my family, I know that an animal has been sacrificed to provide this food.

This steer also shipped to harvest today…His beef will feed many people…

I carry a great appreciation for the animal that gave his life to feed my family.  I also feel tremendous pride that my hard work enabled that animal to grow, flourish, and produce healthy and great tasting food.

This is the goal…

There is absolutely no way that I could be a cattle farmer and not believe that it is ethical to raise food animals—As a person of compassion and feeling, I could never separate myself to the extent that I could spend my days caring for cattle if I did not believe that raising those animals for food production was an admirable vocation.

Up at the feed bunk and eating breakfast (while also curiously watching me take their picture)…

I recognize that my cattle are sentient beings—I know that they feel and I do my very best to ensure that they are comfortable and well cared for while they are on my farm. I also know that prey animals (like cattle) live in the present and have no concept of the future.  Because of this, I (and my packing plant partners) are able to devise a system at the harvest facility so that the cattle do not suffer when their life ends for the production of food.

I eat this meal with both gratitude and a sense of personal pride…

I send my animals to harvest knowing that I have done my best to offer good care to them.  This fulfills my goal of  producing safe and healthy beef.  I am thankful for the food that they provide me, and I am proud to be able to turn the natural resources that our farm is blessed with into a great tasting and healthy protein source.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General