Why All the Beef About Beef?

Owen eating cheeseburger
We enjoy beef in all forms – including the $1 cheeseburgers at McDonalds. Don’t be fooled by foodie elites, all beef is safe and nutritious.

I’ve got a beef with today’s view of beef. Too many times – and it happened again yesterday while flipping through a food magazine – I found an article telling me that hamburger from the local butcher is trustworthy and safe, but beef from the grocery story, well, maybe not.

Sure, the local butcher is probably a good guy and takes great care of his cold cuts. But so too are the men and women of Tyson, Cargill, National Beef and others that process millions of pounds of hamburger every year and do so safely and without incident.

We raise beef cows – lots of them actually – and while our end goal is a healthy animal that produces steaks people would pay $1 million for (ok, that may be excessive but we make really, really good steaks), we know that many of our animals will likely end up in your next fast food cheeseburger. And that’s ok. We just want you to enjoy beef.  Our animals are sold to large beef companies that then distribute the beef to restaurants, food service companies and grocery store chains. We keep our animals healthy and trust the companies producing the end products will likewise keep the beef fresh and safe for consumption. How do we know? Because federal inspectors are in processing facilities daily and put their seal of approval on nearly everything that goes out the door to the public.

Likewise, the neighborhood butcher is inspected and overseen by state and/or federal inspectors. What’s the difference? The butcher’s beef stays in house while the other must be transported. But that extra step does not compromise the quality or safety of the beef you pick up from Wal-Mart or Costco or enjoy at Wendy’s and Burger King.

In fact, many fast food restaurants are also getting into the game and keep a close eye on the beef they serve. Yep, even Micky D’s (https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-our-food/quality-food.html) As a whole, the beef industry collectively spends more than $550 million each year on testing, interventions and other safety strategies.

Thousands of ranchers, just like us, take pride in our animals and the beef we produce. We trust the companies that package and deliver that beef to your favorite bar or drive-thru and know that your $1 cheeseburger was created with the same quality beef that can be found in the corner meat market. It’s all antibiotic-free, raised on grass and loaded with 10 essential vitamins and minerals.

 

Distance Distorts Understanding

Conveniences in food purchasing and preparation are leading to continued decline in connection to agriculture

Combine and grain cart

We Americans want it all. We want the big paychecks and the 40-hour work week. We want well behaved kids but don’t want to tell them no. We want big houses but little upkeep. And we want the trendiest, healthiest and riches foods but none of the input required to get it to the table.

Today’s culture has become obsessed with cooking and all things food. We have multiple television channels devoted to cooking and culinary trends. Food retails were responsible for more than $500 billion in sales in 2016 and just recently, retail giant Amazon jumped into the grocery market, buying Whole Foods and sending shock waves through the industry.

But like all things in our busy lives, we don’t seem to actually have time to shop for and prepare these amazing foods we are insisting be found on our dinner table. Heck, we hardly have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. Grocery stores now offer online ordering and curb side delivery and if you can’t possibly make it to the parking lot, a dozen or so new companies specialize in delivering meal kits directly to our homes.

While all of this convenience is nice, it’s also a bit worrisome. At a time when we have become so entrenched in dictating food policy and eating habits not just of ourselves but others – see article on school districts reducing meat consumption of its students – we are farther removed than ever from the people, places and systems that grow our food and deliver it to the table.

I’m certainly not one to point fingers. I just polished off a frozen microwave meal and handed my children Eggo waffles as they walked out the door this morning. But I still believe in cooking and making the weekly trek to the grocery store to personally pull the boxes and cans from the shelves and throw them into the back of my always dirty car. And being married to a farmer, I get to witness each part of the growing and harvesting process. Today less than 2% of the country’s population shares my experience and understanding of the food system and that’s too few.

That decline in direct connection to food has been in stark contrast to the uptick in regulations, proposals and pushes to label, stipulate and mandate ingredients, growing practices and preparation techniques. We want unblemished products from untreated seeds and unprotected plants. We want healthy and balanced ready in 30 minutes and for less than $5 per person. We want our farmers and ranchers to raise products using outdated and ineffective growing practices but want to use 21st century technology to deliver it the next day to our kitchen table.

As American consumers, we have access to the most abundant, healthy and affordable food supply on the planet. Nowhere else can people enjoy so much for so little. But our push to move technology out of the field but onto our kitchen table has further distorted most consumers’ views and understanding of how food is raised and impacts our bodies and overall health. We want to see all Americans with equal access to all things healthy and gourmet but we don’t want to see farms grow or consolidate to realize the efficiencies necessary to produce affordable grains, beef and dairy products. People who have never in so much as peeled a potato want to tell others how and what to eat.

American consumers cannot continue to take a hands-off approach to purchasing and preparing food but insist on dictating how our farmers raise their crops and others get their nutrients. If consumers want to make decisions on meals, they need to be more involved in the growing of the food. But the more we walk away from buying and preparation, the most uneducated and uninformed we all become in regards to our food.

National Running Day

Making the transition from town dweller to farm wife had its rough spots. Some of my routines had to change to accommodate my new address, schedule and household duties. But one habit that hasn’t gone to the wayside is my morning running routine.

As we celebrate National Running Day today, June 6, I look back on the habit that has helped keep me healthy and sane. (Read more about National Running Day at www.runningday.org)

Farm dog Roxy tries to smile for the camera after a summer morning run – which included a swim in the creek.

I’ve been running since I was in seventh grade. I still don’t know what inspired me to lace up my tennis shoes and hit the road, but it’s a habit that has stuck with me, and thankfully so. Running helps me burn calories so I can enjoy a sweet treat every now and then, it gives me time to organize my thoughts and ponder life’s big mysteries and it helps me burn off stress from work, life and everything in between.

Now that I reside in the country, my runs are a little less hectic and a little more scenic. I am accompanied by our dogs, Kate and Roxy, and have the pleasure of watching the sun rise, crops grow and cattle graze.

Some morning my runs take on a second duty. During the summer months, I can help my husband by checking on a pivot sprinkler or, as in this morning, put cows back in the pasture that have somehow escaped onto the road.

The dogs enjoy the chance to run free and I cherish the time to I get for myself, my thoughts and nature.

About a year ago, I merged my love of running with my passion for agriculture by joining Team Beef, sponsored by the Kansas Beef Council. I have a fantastic jersey that I can wear when racing that promotes beef as a great source of energy and protein. I may not always be the fastest – but I will always have one of the best-looking running jerseys. (Read more about Team Beef and the Kansas Beef Council on the Beef Chat Blog at http://www.kansasbeefchat.com/)

I truly cherish my morning runs and while they do require an early waking time, I am fortunate I have been able to maintain my healthy habit and find ways to merge my old and new lives.

If you’ve contemplated taking up running, here are my top three reasons for hitting the road each day:

(1) Thinking Time – Runs are the perfect opportunity to clear your head and think through problems, work projects and upcoming plans. With no one to interrupt you, it’s a great time to let your thoughts flow free.

(2) Calorie Burn – I have never been a good dieter. I have friends that can stay away from cookies, ice cream and French fries with no problem at all. No me, I crave sugar and anything fried and telling myself I can’t have them only makes me want them more. To counter my love of all things bad for me, I make sure I hit the road 5-6 times a week. Running burs, on average, about 125 calories a mile. It is one of the most efficient calorie-burning exercises.

(3) Sight Seeing – No matter where you run, you can also experience new sights and sounds. Whether you pound the pavement of a large city or hit the dirt roads, like me, there is always something new to see, hear and smell. I love watching the sun come up during my runs.