Tag Archives: food safety

What is ‘Ethical Beef’?

When people talk about ‘ethical meat’, what does it mean?

This great question came my way from nocrumbsleft via the girlcarnivore last week while I was in Denver.  Kita, AKA Girl Carnivore, attended the Top of the Class seminar for beef advocacy where I held an honorary position as ‘faculty’.  I love the passion that Kita has for all things meat (even the farmers that grow it!), and I have a great respect for her ability to bring people together online for important discussions.

DSC03744As I offer “Anne’s answer” to what is ethical meat, I am going to operate under the premise that it is ethical to eat meat, and instead address the question from the standpoint of what farming practices enable meat to be described as ethically raised. To my knowledge, there is no official definition or label for ethical meat, so please bear in mind that anywhere you see the term ethical meat you are reading someone’s opinion.

For the sake of this article, I am going to focus on beef since that is the meat that I grow on my farm.  I personally define the word ethical as ‘morally correct and striving to use practices that do not harm either people or the environment’.

Anne’s short answer to the question is,

“Farmers behave ethically by employing core values that encompass good animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and effective safety practices in their quest to raise food.  Ethical farmers grow ethical beef.”

As a city girl turned farmer, I have often pondered what makes quality food.  After twenty years on a farm, I seem to always circle back to the role of the farmer.  The very heart of food exists with the farmer.

Farmers care for animals day in and day out:

  • Working with a veterinarian to ensure good welfare
  • Making decisions of how to use and protect the natural resources on the farm
  • Striving to incorporate safety into daily farm practices

To me, food is simply an extension of the person who toils to grow it.  Perhaps the long winded answer to this question manifests itself in another question:

“How do you know that the food that you buy was grown by an ethical farmer?”

Doing the right thing tops Anne’s priority list.  Whether it is caring for my cattle and our farm, mothering my three girls, or mentoring other youth in my community through coaching athletics — I take the responsibility of doing a correct and careful job to heart.

I recognize that many of you (my beef customers) don’t personally know me, so it is hard for you to trust me.  This creates a dilemma as every time you decide to purchase my beef, you must take a leap of faith trusting that I am competent and honorable in the care that I offer to my cattle.

Almost five years ago, I found a beef farmer program that not only provided a framework to my daily cattle care, but also offered an audit tool to verify my competence.  I settled on Progressive Beef  because it was the most comprehensive and practical QSA program that fit my core values of quality animal welfare, environmental stewardship (sustainability), and food safety.

Progressive Beef provides me with 39 different Standard Operating Procedures to ensure a daily culture of good ethics on my farm.  Crew training and in depth documentation requirements pair up with audits that verify the behaviors and management practices of my crew and I.  The core values of the program become a promise of competence when I pass the audit; thereby lending credence to my claim of being an ethical farmer.

In essence, Progressive Beef closes the gap between the farmer and his/her beef customer when a personal relationship between the two is unattainable.

Aligning our core values within the Progressive Beef QSA allows for both of us to enjoy ethical beef.


Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Food Safety Thoughts From a “Mom” Farmer…

I received a private email from a blog site visitor a few weeks ago asking a combination of questions regarding food safety and sustainability. While I feel as though I have hit the topic of environmental sustainability thoroughly over the past year, food safety plays an important role in the discussion and a post covering it seems appropriate.

girlsswim2015a2.jpgAs the mother of three daughters as well as a farmer, the topic of food safety relative to beef always occupies the forefront of my mind.

  • I grow it.
  • I eat it.
  • I feed it to my children.

BCItshirt.jpgWhen I think back to early lessons that my farm taught me, there are two that quickly rise to the top of the list:

  1. I cannot control Mother Nature. My savvy as a farmer increased when I realized that my “job” was not to control, but rather to work to build harmony – to bend and adjust my farming practices in order to positively blend with what Mother Nature gives to me.
  2. The world is not black and white. We all exist in the “gray area” and every choice that we make has consequences. Every day I use both practical skills and science to put “the pieces of the puzzle together” in order to best use the resources of the farm.  I want it to be on the “white end” of the gray, and I need it to both thrive in the present and to remain healthy to protect for the future. My farm has a footprint – my life has a footprint – everyone’s does. There is no perfect answer to any challenge– simply an array of choices that each has both positive and negative influences.

When I think of the topic of food safety, I think that both of those “life lessons learned on the farm” come into play. Mother Nature drives my farm. I cannot change weather patterns, nor can I change naturally occurring scientific evolution. What I can do is manage the resources and the animals on my farm to be as close to harmony as possible.  While I recognize that I will never be perfect, I do work resolutely toward continuous improvement.

Bacteria exists universally on the planet earth. Normal micro-flora live in the rumen of cattle that can be pathogenic to humans. Let’s use Ecoli 0157:H7 as an example. Bovines provide natural “host” environments for these bacteria – the bacteria does not negatively affect the animals, but we discovered in 1993 that they could negatively affect us. In the ensuing 20+ years, scientists and farmers along with government regulatory agencies have focused on improving the safety of hamburger utilizing a united food production chain effort.

System wide food safety mechanisms follow the structure of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points). They start on the farm, continue at the packing plant and retail distributor, and end with your kitchen. Let’s take a moment to look at all of the ecoli food safety mechanisms that occur with hamburger grown on my farm.

On My Farm

When bacteria are a concern, isolation and containment are critical. We know that many different strains of ecoli exist naturally in the environment (some are harmful to humans, some are not). These bacteria exist in pasture based growing systems (ranches) as well as feed yards — on conventional farms as well as organic farms.  Good sanitation programs are vital components in a holistic food safety system.   Clean water tanks, clean feed, clean living spaces, and clean equipment lead to a reduction in the spread of bacteria.

One of the three pillars to the Progressive Beef QSA is food safety. The majority of the 39 Progressive Beef Standard Operating Procedures that I use to manage my feed yard pertain to sanitation because the farmers in our BMG Cooperative recognize what a critical role we play in delivering a safe and healthy beef eating experience.

I also feed a direct fed microbial called Bovamine Defend to all of the cattle on my farm. This all natural product reduces both the amount of Ecoli 0157:H7 in the rumen (stomach) of my animals as well as inhibits the spread of the bacteria from one animal to another. My packing plant partner, Tyson, measures the amount of ecoli in the groups of cattle arriving at their facilities and reports that animals fed Bovamine Defend have ecoli levels 50-70% lower than animals not fed Bovamine Defend. There are multiple scientific studies that consistently report the effectiveness of this all natural product in reducing ecoli levels in cattle. I believe this to be a critical component to my personal “food safety” footprint.

At the Packing Plant

The last 20 years have seen enormous food safety strides at the packing plant level. New technologies such as: Hide cleansing, steam vaccums, organic acids, thermal treatments, as well as chilling and sanitation practices all provide multiple layers in a stringent food safety regime. You can learn more about these practices by visiting the Beef Industry Food Safety Council website (BIFSCO).

In Your Kitchen

You can also play an important role in food safety by using good sanitation and cooking practices in your kitchen. Disinfect utensils and counter surfaces as well as your own hands after handling raw meat. Cook your hamburger to 160 degrees which will eliminate/kill any bacteria that might be present.

Food safety is vital to all of us. We must eat to live, and we must eat safely to remain healthy. A team effort provides multiple layers of protection and ensures a nutritious and safe eating experience for each and every one of us.


Safe and Healthy Beef

It’s What’s For Dinner at my house!

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Filed under General

Progressive Beef’s First Pillar: Food Safety

I will never forget the day that I met Nancy Donley.  My favorite 10 year old and I had lunch with her after touring BPI’s lean finely textured beef facility last spring.  It is impossible to spend more than a few minutes with Nancy without being compelled to attain excellence in food safety measures.

Every child's life is precious...

Every child’s life is precious…

Nancy’s only son, Alex, was killed by Ecoli 0157:H7 in 1993.  Following his death, she became actively involved in volunteer efforts to improve food safety.  Nancy has voluntarily served as the President for STOP Foodborne Illness for more than 10 years, and currently also serves on the USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection.

I truly cannot explain the emotion that I felt when I met Nancy.  It shook me to my very core.  As I look back on it, I view it as an incredible experience which prepared me for what was to come six months later.

  • I can tell you that I will never forget the passion and strength that Nancy exudes.
  • I can tell you that after meeting Nancy, I had a renewed motivation to proactively search for pre-harvest food safety measures to employ at my cattle feed yard.

ProgressiveBeefLogoGreenIt was Nancy and Alex that I thought of the day that the Progressive Beef team sat in my office and told me about a new E Coli 1057 vaccine that can be administered pre-harvest in order to significantly reduce Ecoli pathogens in the intestines of cattle.  As I learned more about the new vaccine technology, I knew that it was something that I was going to implement at my feed yard.

It is my passion to responsibly grow beef.  It is my passion to provide safe and healthy nourishment to my family and to yours.  It is my passion to do the right thing.

Combining this pre-harvest food safety measure with all of the post-harvest measures that my packing plant partner utilizes will effectively increase the safety of the beef that I grow.

I am her Mama--I want to nourish and protect her...

I am her Mama–I want to nourish and protect her…

I began using the E. Coli vaccine in December and we are currently transitioning toward administering it to all newly placed cattle at the feed yard.  By this summer, every animal on my farm will have received the vaccine.

The cost of the vaccine is $2.50 per dose and must be used in a multiple dose vaccination program.  The cost of not using the vaccine is evident in Nancy Donley’s eyes as she talks about the little boy that she lost so many years ago.

This vaccine helps me to make a real contribution to food safety.

This vaccine helps me to make a real contribution to food safety.

Every time that I administer the vaccine, I think of Alex and I thank God for my own daughters who bring such joy and vibrancy to my life.  They, like Nancy, are a constant source of inspiration to me as I search for better ways to raise safe and healthy beef.

When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle
       is wrought in our life or the life of another.
                                                                       – Helen Keller


Filed under CAFO, General, Progressive Beef QSA Program

Hard Work, Trust and Faith…

Archie Curtice is one of my favorite people.  He was the feed yard manager when I went to work there as a twenty two year old “green horn” the summer of 1997.  He has loved me, mentored me, and enriched my life for the past fifteen years.  Archie grew up on the land where our feed yard is located today, and I love to listen to his stories about the early years of agriculture in Dawson County.  Archie has more common sense and humor than any other individual that I have ever known.  He is a natural problem solver and, although his formal education ended at age 16, his innate ability to figure things out constantly amazes me.

Together we make generations of dedication...

Although I have 5 more years of formal education culminating in a cum laude degree from an Ivy League Institution, Archie is the one who taught me how to raise cattle and grow food.  He taught me how to roll up my sleeves and quite literally go to work.  He taught me the ability to look at a particular situation (no matter how challenging) and figure out how to make it work.  Some days, the lives of my animals and the safety of my crew rely on these decisions and there is little room for error.  Archie excels at problem solving because his life experiences have tenaciously honed this skill.

Archie's weathered hands hold decades of experience and hard work...Mine are not as calloused, but are working hard to continue our tradition of ingenuity and diligence.

As I read articles and researched the topic of Lean Finely Textured Beef last week, my mind kept coming back to Archie.  Those of you that read last Tuesday’s post—Hamburger: It’s What’s For Dinner In The Feed Yard Foodie House  might remember a gentlemen by the name of Eldon Roth.  Mr. Roth is the founder of the company Beef Products, Inc.  Although I have never personally met Mr. Roth, from what I have learned of him in the past 10 days, he reminds me of Archie.  He grew up on a farm until several years of droughts forced his family to migrate to California when he was a teenager.  He then went to work cleaning milk and ice cream factories.  From there, he transitioned over to meat packing plants and began a long career searching for ways to improve the safety of beef.  He, like Archie, used hands on experiences and hard work as a basis for his education.  Mr. Roth has provided a revolutionary presence in the creation of safe hamburger.  Quite honestly, it appears to me to have been his life-long mission.  In addition to his innate intelligence and ability to engineer ways to increase the safety of beef, Mr. Roth seems to possess an attention to detail and impressive work ethic that dates back to his upbringing.  Mr. Roth’s accomplishments leave me both humbled and immensely thankful.  From this day forward, I will issue him a silent thank you every time that I serve hamburger to my family.

My favorite fourth grader--eating her favorite meal!

Perhaps I feel this connection and appreciation toward Mr. Roth because he reminds me of Archie—Perhaps it is because I have had to learn on my own farm to constantly strive to be a better problem solver—Perhaps it is because raising food animals leads me to constantly think of daily production practices that impact food safety.  I do not know for sure which it is, but I do know that I trust him with my food.  His innovations and hard work (for which he has received many awards and spans several decades) make me proud to supply him with my beef.

Mr. Roth

It is hard to trust someone or some process that we do not personally know.  It is especially hard when emotional journalism repeatedly reports inaccurate information regarding the person or the process.  Quite frankly, I believe that the Pink Slime Media Craze of the last two weeks brings the term March Madness to mind.

Much more importantly, however, I believe that if we invoke a little bit of trust and look at the solid science that is behind the technology of creating Lean Finely Textured Beef that we will realize that Mr. Roth has done something that should make us all proud.  He has used his experience and his problem solving skills to create a healthy and quality product that we can feel good about feeding to our families. I hope that one day I will be lucky enough to meet Mr. Roth so that I can thank him in person.  Until then, I will leave you will a final few thoughts…

Proud of her country...

In order for our country to prosper in 2012 and beyond—

We must trust that scientific advancements are tested to ensure that they are safe…

We must trust that farmers are providing good care to their animals and doing their best to provide safe food…

We must trust that we are all on the same team, and that together we can work to make the world a better place…

Without that trust, we will never reap the benefits that we continually seek with new technology. Today, I am thankful to be a part of a group of people that plays a pivotal role in the survival of our country.  I grow animals that feed people.  Mr. Roth both helps to improve the environmental footprint of my farm by ensuring that no nutritious lean beef is wasted when my animals are harvested, and he ensures through remarkable food safety measures that the beef that I feed to my children is as safe as possible.

Food safety is a priority that Mr. Roth and I share...

The bottom line is that I have faith in my food supply—Do I have absolutely every answer about every process that is used to grow and prepare my food? No, but I have faith in my fellow Americans who partner with me every day to ensure that the country that I love so much prospers.

Take a moment to watch this YouTube clip that Mr. Roth put together to help us all understand what he is doing…


Read this article to hear the thoughts of a mother turned food safety advocate on LFTB and Beef Products, Inc.


Our kids are both the center of our world and the future of our country. Feeding them well is our #1 priority...


Filed under General, Nutrition (cattle and human)