Tag Archives: sustainability

What is the Integrity Beef Sustainability Pilot Project?

The month of November always leaves me thinking about the concept of community. I think about it in terms of the athletic teams that I coach — the volunteer efforts that sustain my rural town — and the way that farmers all across the “food chain” must find both continuity and effective communication in order to work for continuous improvement. How do teams of people effectively come together for the benefit of a meaningful cause? And, perhaps more importantly:

Why is it so important?

It is no secret that the beef life cycle is complex and often involves many partners across the production chain. From the rancher who owns and manages the breeding herd — to the feed yard that cares for the cattle for the final few months — to the packing plant and then finally the retail distributor that brings the beef to your dinner table; all of these groups of people must find a way to come together to make a beef product that is marked by integrity.

The US Roundtable For Sustainable Beef (USRSB) provides a foundation on the topic of sustainability to inspire teamwork and community as we travel the journey of continuous improvement in the beef industry. Pulling together the entire vertical supply chain and developing scientific metrics on the important topics of:

  1. Animal Health & Well Being
  2. Efficiency and Yield
  3. Land Resources
  4. Air and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  5. Water Resources
  6. Employee Safety & Well Being

The Integrity Beef Sustainability Pilot Project provides the first collective effort to trace the footprint of beef across the supply chain. It will, in essence, trial the work of the USRSB in a real-time business scenerio so that we can all keep getting smarter relative to beef sustainability. Click on the below video to see the framework for the project.

Sustainability is a tough topic to wrap your arms around; but the work of the USRSB and the Integrity Beef Sustainability Pilot Project brings the beef industry together as a community in order to search for positive improvement.

  • You can’t open your mind if you don’t look for new ideas.
  • You can’t figure out how to get better without always searching for ways to improve.
  • You can’t find an answers to important questions if you don’t volunteer to be a part of projects that seek new knowledge.

It’s a really awesome project to get to play a role in, and I am very excited to see what we learn as we move forward in the next few months!


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

Respecting the Land…

Since closing the feed yard, I have a new habit of exercising during the dawn hour. As part of my training for the half marathon that I will run in the end of October, on a daily basis I trade off swimming and running. I do this for two reasons:

  1. I love dawn and have a 20 year habit of being outside to watch the birth of the new day.
  2. I love to exercise and am using it to “fill the gap” now that I am not reading bunks every morning at the feed yard.

Sunday morning, I ran round trip from my driveway to the old feed yard facility — high 5’ing the stop sign at the half way point — and meeting a training goal of a 9 mile run. As I saddled up my horse early the next morning to go down to the pasture to move cattle, I questioned my intelligence as my stiff legs caused me to look trepidatiously at my favorite black quarter horse who stands over 16 hands tall.

I am glad to report that my legs cooperated as I consciously filled my head with youthful thoughts while gaining the saddle. We had a beautiful morning to move the cattle as the animals began their return journey to the main corral to ultimately ship to Roberts Cattle Co. in a couple of weeks. Maximizing our grass resources while ensuring good animal care provides the steadfast goal for our family.

As we drove home after moving the cattle, Megan, Karyn and I had a good conversation about always respecting the land. I have a Wendall Berry quote hanging in the hallway of my house that reads:

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children!

As farmers, Matt and I respect the land by using the resources that Mother Nature bestows upon us while also carefully making sure that we tend to it. We recognize that increasing the quality of the land enables it to sustain into the future. There is pride to be found in being a good caretaker and we want to make sure that we pass along that lesson to our girls 🙂

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Filed under Farming, General, Video Fun on the Farm

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

Efficient Living…

cornanneOur family returned via airplane to Omaha from our trip to New England on Monday night of last week.  I got up Tuesday morning and got on a different set of airplanes to head to Springdale, Arkansas for a Animal Well-Being meeting.  Always one to find ways to be efficient, I jumped on the chance to combine the two trips and cut out the 7 hour round trip car ride from our farm to the Omaha airport…

It made for a long time to be away from home — 11 days — but my foreman and his son, along with my cowboy took care of animal chores for me while I was gone.  The summer months are the slowest time in the calendar year at the feed yard because Mother Nature provides grass pastures for cattle in June, July and August which seasonally limits the role of a Nebraska feed yard.

I traveled to Arkansas as a member of Tyson’s 3rd Party Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel.  I serve on the panel as the cattle/beef farmer specialist for the group.  I knew very little about Tyson as a company before I became involved as an Advisory Panel member in May of 2013, but this role has provided me with a tremendous personal and professional growth opportunity.

I love both the ability to make a difference in “food” animal welfare as well as the interaction with Tyson team members as we work together to brain storm ways of improving how we grow food.  Our Advisory Panel meetings fuel the “intellectual Anne” as we tackle subjects that encompass animal welfare, sustainability, and food safety for poultry, pork and beef.  The Tyson leadership team and the animal welfare scientists that make up Tyson’s Sustainable Food Production team are first class.  I am continually impressed by their intellect and understanding of the highly complex issues that surround growing food; and value their ability to work as a team to move forward in a meaningful way.

I have served on many different beef industry committees in the last two decades, and I can honestly say that being a member of the Tyson Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel is the one that I value most.  It is refreshing to spend time with a bunch of smart people that just want to figure out how to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I arrived back at the farm late Thursday night glad to sleep in my own bed.  I am reminded every time that I travel that leaving the farm opens my eyes to a broader perspective and offers me incentive to think outside of the box as I continue to complete the important task of putting nutritious food on the table…


Filed under Animal Welfare, General, Tyson Farm Check Program

Heading For the Hills…

My favorite blondes did not have school last Monday so I had company as I headed north to get feeder cattle near Halsey, Nebraska.  My girls spent many years traversing across Nebraska visiting ranches and getting cattle before they were old enough to be in school.  With my “baby” being a 5th grader, I have made many treks alone since those days.


The drive from Cozad up to Halsey is a beautiful one full of wildlife and picturesque scenery.  I know that wherever their lives take them, my girls will take those memories of quiet beauty with them.  This vast land where cattle and wildlife greatly outnumber people brings a sense of peace that refills my cup.

As I drive around my farm and then head north to the Sandhills, I always wonder why our urban countrymen worry so much about sustainability.  The healthy ecosystem balance found in out-state Nebraska is readily visible to any passerby, and the farmers and ranchers that tend to the land do so with a blend of natural passion and stubborn pride.


I think that perhaps many urban folks would feel better about where their beef comes from if they spent a day driving around rural Nebraska.  It might be hard to find the farmer/rancher in all the vastness of the countryside, but his/her hard work and dedication is apparent from the car window view.  If you happen to come across the human caregiver, his/her quiet manner and aloofness will give testimony to the fact that caring for the land is a solitary job.

The trip from Cozad to Halsey takes about 2 hours, and is full of deer, turkey, grouse, ducks, hawks and an occasional eagle in addition to the bovine population.  They all live in harmony with a bit of human help under the influence of Mother Nature.  Just as cattle are known as the great recyclers turning inedible plant products into vitamin rich (and tasty) edible protein, the people that inhabit my beloved adopted countryside share the same dedication to stewardship — wasting little and carefully managing the natural resources found on the land.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

A ranch sign just north of Halsey, NE.

Those of us that make rural America home are a small and unique group. Our pride in country is evident.  Our dedication to community shines brightly.  Our responsibility to stewardship drives a life filled with both challenge and fullfillment.

With each day that passes, I am coming to realize that now (more than ever) we need our urban counterparts to take the time to learn about our lives prior to judging the validity and sustainability of both our daily work and our legacy. Beef production is much more than the steak that creates a great tasting eating experience.  It takes care of the land and fuels rural economies, while its farmers bring a steadfast patriotism and a dedicated work ethic that provides a necessary pillar for our country.


Perhaps it is time to head for the hills to learn about “Where your beef comes from”!  You might be surprised at what you find 🙂




Filed under General, Rural Communities, Sustainable Spring

The Lady Haymakers…

The fall run continues in Haymaker country.  Outside of the feed yard, you will find me at sporting events cheering on our community’s athletes.  Lest you all think that I am “sitting on my laurels” and letting my writing skills grow rusty, today I share a letter that I wrote to our Lady Haymaker athletes.  These awesome young women are in the heart of their fall sports seasons.

girlshaymakersportscollage.jpgDear Lady Haymakers,

When I became an honorary Lady Haymaker in June of 1996, I brought with me a desire to see women’s athletics rise to a new level of excellence in our town. As a lifelong athlete, I recognized the importance of sports in the development of personal growth and confidence.

Two decades later, I now realize the additional role that young athletes play in promoting community spirit. Quite simply, you are our greatest blessing. I have had the pleasure of coaching many of you in T ball, soccer, track and swim team as you started your athletic careers; and it brings me incredible pride to watch each of you find excellence as young women on the athletic field. As parents and community members, I think that sometimes we forget to tell you how important you are — to yourself, to your team, and to your town. You are a joy to watch, and every effort that you put forth representing us builds the future.

The road to excellence is not comfortable, but it is an amazing journey. Every race, every game, every competition is an opportunity to attain greatness. The fatigue, pain, and challenges that you face during competition provide you with the ability to gain strength. Hard work, tenacity, leadership and compassion enable your team to thrive. The confidence that comes with each victory not only brings incredible joy but also provides a basis of personal faith that will help to carry you the rest of your life.

The next few weeks will provide the finale of your fall sports season. Your successes this season have been plentiful, and the time now comes to: Finish Strong, Dig Deep, and Always, Always Believe! You have the talent, the determination, and the power to raise the bar — It is your effort that builds a culture of excellence as a Lady Haymaker.

I believe in you. Whether on the Golf course, the Softball field, the Volleyball court, or the Cross Country course —

  • Aim high
  • Compete with passion
  • Recognize that you can attain far more than you ever dreamed.
  • Unify together to embrace the challenge and fight for the victory.

It is in giving of yourself that you receive.

Your biggest fan,


Filed under Family, Rural Communities

Monkey In the Middle…

As a kid, I played Monkey In the Middle with my older brother and his friends. They delighted in throwing the ball far above my head making the likelihood of me catching it microscopic in nature. Every once in a while, I outsmarted them and snagged the ball which earned me temporary bragging rights — but mostly it left me frustrated and unequipped for success.

The buzz word sustainability often takes me metaphorically back to that childhood game.  The word itself encompasses such a broad range of ideas and topics that it becomes difficult to tie it down into meaningful bullet points for action.  The politics surrounding the word also exacerbate the inherent complexities as large corporate businesses, NGO’s, and politicians bat the word back and forth in an effort to prove to Americans that they are engaged in the conversation.

Without a doubt — the sustainability of our country, our culture and our planet is vital to both our present and our future.  Effectively learning from the past, changing our actions in the present, and teaching our children how to protect for the future helps to ensure our livelihood.  There is no easy or simple answer to the challenge of creating something meaningful and sustainable.  It takes both a grass roots understanding of the challenges as well as dedication on the part of each individual to work toward positive action.


Sustainability is not a headline — it is not a marketing label — it is not piece of legislation — it does not appear magically at the end of a rainbow… 

Sustainability is a team effort — One that effects each and every one of us in multiple ways. 

I spent a large amount of time this winter covering the topics that I believe are vital to the sustainability of our future:

  • Identifying and reducing food waste
  • Getting balanced and meaningful science back into both the education and the research on nutrition
  • Realizing that good personal health comes from a diversely balanced diet teamed with appropriate levels of exercise
  • Understanding that responsibly growing food animals is a complex challenge that includes a dedication to environmental stewardship and quality animal welfare.

    They gather closely around me because they are thoughtful and curious.  They choose to do this despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home...

    They gather closely around me because they are thoughtful and curious. They choose to do this despite the large amount of space in the pen that they call home because they trust me as a caregiver.

There is one component of sustainability that is often not voiced. 

It is trust. 

I am deeply saddened at the lack of trust and faith that Americans have in farmers.  From the individual American — to the large corporate grocery store– to the philosophical intellectual foodie — to the NGO — to the government — In the last twenty years, our country has collectively abandoned support for the people that grow food.  Instead of building appreciation and goodwill; a plentiful, diverse and safe food supply has rendered the American people unsatisfied, distrustful, and accusatory.

Sustainability is not possible without nourishment. 

Widespread nourishment disappears when the American Farmer decides to only feed his/her own family and leave the profession of agriculture behind.  There will come a point when those of us who work to feed the world will decide that it really just isn’t worth the pain when the only thing that you get in return is the ability to wear the monkey hat.


Do you value the farmer who feeds you? Please take the time to request that farmers be included in the sustainability discussion.

*If you missed the winter blog posts on this subject, some of them are chronicled according to topic below.

Food Waste:

A Student Of Life

Food Waste We All Play a Role 

Food Waste, Sustainability and the Journey of Continuous Improvement

The Love Food Friday spring series offering food waste elimination tips from Chef Chris Giegel.


Raising Teenage Daughters Amidst a Sea Of Dietary Confusion

Perhaps It’s Time To Stop Apologizing For Fat

Policy Does Not Equal Science

My Comment Letter To Secretary Burwell and Secretary Vilsack Regarding the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

Fitness Foodies

Environmental and Animal Welfare:

When Your Husband Needs You For Your Manure

Good Timing

Answering Questions: Responding To a Recent Comment

Trust But Verify

How Do You Know When a Group Of Calves Are Acclimated?

Reviewing the Topic Of Antibiotics


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

Love Food Friday Tip #9: Get Serious!

Love Food Friday!

ChrisNCBAkitchen2.jpgLove Food Friday Food Waste Elimination Tip #9: Get Serious — Document — and Save!

Chef Chris Giegel

For anyone serious about reducing food waste, it helps to know what is often wasted. Designate one week where you keep a journal or record all the food that gets wasted in your household. This will help you make informed and wiser buying decisions. If you buy less you waste less.

This could be as simple as freezing half a loaf of bread because you don’t eat an entire loaf before it goes bad, or realizing that your family doesn’t like something and avoiding purchasing it in the future. Buy a smaller gallon of milk if that regularly spoils before you can drink it all.

It’s easier to form a plan to reduce your food waste if you know what’s wasted. It’s well worth the time and will likely save you some money too!

BeefStripSteaksandMushroomKabobsGrecian Beef Strip Steaks & Mushroom Kabobs…

A great way to celebrate May as Beef Month and Memorial Day Weekend

Wishing you a fun filled holiday weekend, from our family to yours 🙂


Filed under Love Food Friday