Tag Archives: foodie

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 Books..., CAFO, General

The Psychologist…

The psychologist in me is constantly striving to get to know you all, my blog readers.  I am naturally curious about you—the wonderful people who take time out of your busy lives each week to read my pontifications.  DSC03742

  • Some of you leave a comment or send me a personal note every once in a while so that I can have a glimpse into who you are.
  • Some of you are also bloggers so I can get to know you through your own posts.
  • Some of you are silent and leave me wondering…

This New Year’s I am thinking of all of you—thankful for your participation whether it is vocal or silent in nature.  I am reflecting on which of my posts were read and enjoyed the most–contrasting that with the posts that I had the most fun writing.  It is interesting how they line up…

The Top Most Read Feed Yard Foodie Posts in 2012

  1.  Hard Work, Trust and Faith:  https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/hard-work-trust-and-faith/.  My first syndicated writing on the BlogHer network, this post responded to the Pink Slime media craze and garnered close to 5000 reads…This lead the way to a year of more than 70,000 reads for Feed Yard Foodie.
  2. Wow That Cow: https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/wow-that-cow/.  My second syndicated writing on the BlogHer network and the most circulated post on Facebook for the year, this post explained all of the “non-beef” products that are made from cattle.
  3. How Do I Feel: https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/how-do-i-feel/.  This post was my attempt to explain how I rationalize and accept the fact that I spend my life caring for animals that will be killed for food production.
  4. Why Is It Ethical To Eat Meat: https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/why-is-it-ethical-to-eat-meat/.  Written by my 12 year old daughter, this post gives a young person’s point of view relative to the ethics of raising animals for food consumption.
  5. It’s Not About the Trailer: https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/its-not-about-the-trailer/.  Communication and relationships build the base of a successful country.  In this post, I try to explain why it is so important that conversations about food occur between the farmers who grow food and all of the wonderful Americans that eat it.  I include my favorite quarter horse, Dandy, in the post which makes it a special one for me…anne and dandy

Interestingly enough, my own personal favorite post did not make the top five list.  It is the story of an idealistic young girl molding her dreams into a beautiful and practical life on the Nebraska prairie:  https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/blending-dreams-with-reality-leads-to-harmony/.

  • Perhaps it is my favorite because I find it fascinating how that little girl became the confident woman that I am today.
  • Perhaps it is my favorite because, below the layers of steel will, I am truly a dreamer.
  • Perhaps it is my favorite because the day spent with my daughter that sparked the post made memories that will warm my heart forever.
  • Perhaps it is my favorite because I am so very proud of what Matt and I have built on our farm over the last 16 years.

    Thank you for becoming a part of our lives in 2012...

    Thank you for becoming a part of our lives.

Is there a post that was your favorite in 2012?

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Filed under General

A Thankful Daughter and Mother…

This week my high school alma mater, Cardinal Newman, is hosting a special celebration for 50 years of high school athletics.  As part of the celebration, they are honoring the top athlete graduates of the school and have asked them to be present for the celebration.

Three generations…just before my wedding day…

In addition to being a “Cardinal Newman Mom”, my mother has been a dedicated teacher at the school for more than twenty years.  She has a passion and love of teaching that rivals my passion and love for raising cattle and making beef.  As both “faculty” and “mom” she has been intrinsically involved in the planning of this athletic celebration for almost a year now.

As a three sport high school state finalist, I am supposed to be in Florida attending the celebration.  The phone conversation where I had to tell my mom that I was not going to be able to attend was a painful one.  I know that she was terribly disappointed and, as a daughter, that I let her down.  She was my biggest athletic “fan”, and spent years getting up at 4:30 in the morning to drive me across town to swimming practice until I got my driver’s license.  She always supported me and never complained.  I do not remember her ever missing a swimming, cross country or track meet.  As my own children begin their athletic careers, I am beginning to have a better understanding and appreciation of the unselfish and constant support that I received from my mom.

So, why am I in Nebraska instead of in Florida this week?

I wean calves at the feed yard in October and November.  I mentioned a couple of posts ago that freshly weaned calves are “high maintenance”.  Offering them the supportive care that they need to remain healthy and thrive during this time of stress is just plain hard work.  I will go sixty days straight of being at the feed yard at just after 6:00am, and my days will be long.  I purchase, receive, exercise, vaccinate, and ensure that my calves receive the proper feed and care…

My baby went to 1st grade this year…

My youngest daughter blessed us with her presence four weeks early on October 24, 2004.  I am convinced that she came early because she was tired of receiving and caring for cattle…She is a smart kid and figured out that the only way that she was going to get my attention during “weaning time” at the feed yard was to be born.  To this day, she tells everyone (with a very solemn face) that she has to share her birthday with the calves at the feed yard.

I am truly thankful to my family for the sacrifices that they make in order for me to be the Boss Lady at a cattle feed yard.  I could not offer my calves such a high quality level of care without the support of my family.  I could not offer you, the consumer of my beef, a great tasting and humanely raised beef product without the support of my family.

In honor of my mom and my daughters, I would like to share a favorite recipe with you.  This was my favorite meal as a kid (it’s still one of my favorites), and my kids would tell you that it is one of their favorites as well.  I do not know where the recipe originated from, so I am going to name it after my mom…

Sally’s Amazing Hamburger Cassarole

1# ground beef

½ chopped onion

1 can tomato soup

1 cup water

1 bag uncooked noodles (I use whole wheat macaroni)

1 Bar Grated Cheddar Cheese

In a large electric frying pan, brown hamburger and onion. Drain grease if necessary. Turn down the heat to just hotter than simmer temperature and add tomato soup, water, and a little bit of pepper.  Mix together until the soup and water are blended with the burger and onion.  Add uncooked noodles, stir and cover the pan.  Cook until the noodles are partially done mixing periodically.  (The mixture should bubble but be careful not to scorch the bottom—you may need to add a little bit of additional water to ensure that the mixture does not go dry while cooking the noodles.) Place in a casserole dish and top with cheese (I put half the hamburger mix in the casserole and then put a layer of cheese in the middle before adding the rest).  Bake in a 325-350 degree oven (depending on your altitude) for 30-45 minutes.  If you choose to double the meat, then you need to double the amount of tomato soup and add extra water.

Thank you, Mom (Grandma), for a lifetime of love and support…


 

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Filed under Family, Foodie Work!, Recipes and Beef Cooking Tips...

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

Welcome to Feedyard Foodie!

Life is full of transitions and changes—how else would a city girl get from South Florida to New Hampshire to a cattle farm in Central Nebraska?  It will *hopefully* be less of a culture shock for this “feedyard foodie” to enter the world of social media than it was to move to Nebraska and learn to care for cattle!  That being said, please be advised that I am much more comfortable handling cattle and riding my horse than I am posting blogs and figuring out what a “widget” is!

When I moved from New Hampshire to Cozad, Nebraska I really had no idea what my life was going to look like on a day to day basis.  I had always loved animals, had always wanted to spend my time outdoors, and had always been enamored by the romantic notion of a cowgirl.  However, I had no “hands on” knowledge of what it took to care for animals.  The last fourteen years have been an incredible journey for me.  An inexperienced, but well educated urban woman metamorphed into a mature and saavy animal caregiver.

I am so proud of what I do.  I believe that humanely raising animals for the production of food is an admirable vocation, and I am committed to both continually improving the welfare of my animals and the safety and quality of the beef that they produce.

I am an American, I am a wife, I am a mother, and I am a cattle farmer.  I wear many hats and I wear them with pride.  I care for animals that will be harvested to feed to my family and to your family.  I take a tremendous personal responsibility for the animals that I raise and I look forward to sharing that journey with you.  Please feel free to ask questions—any question that is asked in a respectful manner will get answered.

This is a journey that we will navigate together, as we strive to close the gap that exists between rural America where food is raised, and urban America where food is consumed.

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Filed under Family, General