Although I spent my formative years in a large city, I am a small town girl at heart. I fell in love with rural America as a young girl fly fishing the trout streams in Wyoming with my family. Today, I raise my own daughters on the beautiful Nebraska prairie. My adopted state boasts 77,300 square miles of land, 1,869,000 million people and 4,330,000 million cattle. Agriculture is the single largest industry in Nebraska — quite simply, we are in the business of growing food.
I classify my beef as locally grown. Most of my cattle are born and raised in Nebraska, and harvested at the Tyson Foods facility about 20 miles from my farm. They are pasture raised on ranches and grain finished at my feed yard— with the feed that they eat also being grown in Nebraska.
While the vast majority of my cattle are traced from birth to harvest on the prairies of the Cornhusker State, the beef that they make likely travels a significant distance before it lands on your dinner table. Nebraska produces much more beef than its local population could possibly consume. Our state has the land and the resources necessary to raise cattle, but not nearly enough people to eat all of the beef that they produce. As a result, we export it out of the state for the benefit of others.
My beef is locally grown, but globally consumed.
Although it is a personal goal to one day be able to market and trace my beef as a branded product all the way to the grocery store/restaurant, today the specific traceability of my beef ends at the packing plant. A significant portion of my beef qualifies for the Certified Angus Beef brand, so you may have the good fortune of eating Anne’s Beef if you purchase beef with the CAB logo. However, I cannot specifically tell you where the beef that is grain finished on my farm ends up (other than the one animal a year that ends up in my own freezer!).
The conversation revolving around local food is an interesting one. While the origin of food obviously plays a key role in this discussion, I believe that perhaps the underlying topic is more one of trust toward the farmer that grows it. The more local the food, the more likely you are to know the farmer that grew it — perhaps you even have the ability to visit the farm where the product is raised.
As our human population continues to concentrate in urban areas, food production will predominantly be limited to rural areas. This will, in particular, apply to beef production because cattle require larger expanses of land to grow. The growing geographic distance from farms to urban dwellers will necessitate that food connections evolve virtually in order to meet the need for a connection between those that grow beef and those that eat it.
Most of you have never met me, do you trust me enough to grow your beef?