Tag Archives: sustainable beef

Filling the Gap…

Managing a feed yard for 20 years inspired me to learn to identify and fill meaningful gaps. With thousands of animals relying on me each and every day, recognizing if an important gap existed between the care that I offered and what the animal needed was absolutely critical for good welfare. As an adult, I find myself continuously looking for gaps in all aspects of my life. I have found that when you look for them with the intent to fill them in a positive way, that it gives your life purpose.

Over the past several months, many people have asked about my new job and what I do for the Beef Marketing Group. The short answer is that I work to fill the gaps. An extra set of eyes can be a critical tool for evaluating if and where a meaningful gap exists; and I work with my teams to figure out the best way to fill them. While I enjoy the time that I spend outside at the cattle feed yards the best, helping to create the plans/protocols that ensure good care as well as the communication tools to share our story also refills my cup.

Our swim team mantra for this summer is “A goal without a plan is just a wish”, and I think that is true for any facet of life. Making goals is critical for improvement; but perhaps even more important than creating the goal is building a plan which holds you accountable to see it to fruition. I tell my athletes that no matter how good you are, you can always get better and I carry that same philosophy everyday with me as I go to work for the Beef Marketing Group. It makes for a good fit.

Started by a small group of cattlemen in the late 1980’s, the Beef Marketing Group fulfilled a longstanding dream to create a team and develop cooperation with the end goal of improving beef quality in the meat case. This multi-decade effort eventually led BMG team member Heather Donley to create the Progressive Beef program. Progressive Beef’s three tiered focus concentrates on beef safety, animal welfare and sustainability. It provides the necessary plan to accomplish the goal.

In the more than two decades that I have worked in the beef industry, I have never known a program better suited to finding and filling the gap in cattle care and resulting beef quality. Daily chore protocols come together with onsite visits from animal welfare consultants like me to ensure that we are doing our best every day; and that good cattle care is always the #1 priority. Yearly 3rd party audits ensure integrity of execution and provide verification of our efforts.

It’s pretty awesome to develop the ability to find the gap, but it is even more rewarding when you work within a system that allows for you to help fill the gap in a meaningful way. It gives my life purpose and inspires me to greet every sunrise with the natural enthusiasm that results from knowing that what I do every day makes a difference – not just in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of animals that are cared for by my team, but also for the millions of people that benefit from the high quality beef that we all help to ensure is grown with integrity.

How do you fill the gap to provide a sense of purpose to your life?

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Filed under General, ILS Beef / Beef Marketing Group

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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Wow that Sustainable Cow!

Just over a year go I published a post called “Wow the Cow”, and it was a resounding success.  Because it fits so well with my current sustainability series, I have revised the post and an edited version appears here.

It always amazes me when I read about all of the different products that come from cattle.  Many times when I think of cattle, I think of beef—but there are so many other products that cattle give us!

For instance, the pickup that my favorite teenager drove last weekend in the alfalfa field while she helped me to take down temporary winter fences would not run without cattle by products.  The basketball that she likes to play with was also made from cattle leather as were the shoes on her feet!

She's not just fueled by beef--many of her favorite things are in part made from cattle products...

She’s not just fueled by beef–many of her favorite things are in part made from cattle products…

The reality is that 98% of the beef animal is used to make products that we all rely on.  Many of those are products other than the great tasting beef that we all normally associate with cattle.  I would like to share some of the other products that are made from cattle.  These products are made from the stuff that is left over after the beef muscle cuts are taken out…



*blood factors (for treating hemophilia, killing viruses, and making anti-rejection drugs)

*Chymotrypsin (promotes the healing of wounds)

*Collagen (used in plastic surgery and to make non-stick bandages)

*Cortisol (anti-inflammatory)

*Glucagon (treats hypoglycemia or low blood sugar)

*Heparin (anticoagulant used to treat blood clots)

*Insulin (for treating diabetes or high blood sugar)

*Pancreatin (aids in digestion of food)

*Thrombin (coagulant which helps blood to clot)

*Vasopressin (controls intestinal and renal functions)

*Vitamin B-12 (prevention of B-complex deficiencies)


Gelatin comes from the connective tissue of cattle and is used to make non-beef food items such as: candies, dairy products, deserts, diet products and jellies.

Household Products

*Candles                             *Ceramics                          *Cosmetics                        *Crayons

*Deodorants                     *Detergents                       *Floor Wax                        *Insecticides

*Insulation                         *Linoleum                          *Mouthwash                     *Paints

*Paper                                *Perfume                           *Plastic                               *Shaving Cream

*Soaps                                *Synthetic Rubber            *Toothpaste                      *Car Polish and Wax


Cowhide Leather!–Which is used to make clothing, shoes, boots, belts, purses, wallets, gloves, luggage and upholstery for cars and furniture, and sports balls.


*Antifreeze (contains glycerol which is derived from beef fat)…

*Asphalt (contains a binding agent made from beef fat)…

*Beef Fats and Proteins are used to make: auto and jet lubricants, outboard engine oil, high performance greases, and brake fluid…

*Glue from beef protein is used in automobile bodies…

*Tires have stearic acid which allows rubber to hold its shape…

Have you thanked a bovine today for all of the things that he provides you with?

Have you thanked a bovine today for all of the things that he provides you with?

Cattle are not only great recyclers converting non-edible feedstuffs into great tasting beef, but they are also highly diverse in the products that they offer to us.

Thanks to the American National CattleWomen for providing the information listed above which helps us to have a better appreciation for all of the products that cattle give to us…

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Filed under General, Sustainable Spring