Why Science Matters: Research

There are three main concerns that we as consumers should have as we analyze the research that is being done in beef science. The first is safety. Does more research increase the safety of the beef that you and I purchase from the grocery store? Secondly, does advancements in science and technology lead to a product that is of greater of lesser quality? And finally, does research contribute to a safe, high quality product at a lower cost?

For more information on studies from A&M: http://animalscience.tamu.edu/livestock-species/beef/research/

For more information on studies from A&M: http://animalscience.tamu.edu/livestock-species/beef/research/

When considering the first issue of safety there are several contributing factors that should be talked about. One study by Texas A&M studied the effect of a feed yard ration that contained ethanol co-products and the prevalence of salmonella as a result. The study is significant in several regards, but the results which concluded that feeding wet distillers grain (a co-product of producing ethanol) did not lead to an increase in salmonella allow farmers to have confidence in using wet distillers grain as a feed for their cattle. If the results would have show a risk of higher contamination then action would have been taken to stop using those feeds. It is this type of research that might seem like a minor discovery, but they are actually ensuring a safe beef product for you and I to consume. There are countless studies concerning food safety that directly impact that quality of the food we eat.
Beef Cattle being fed Wet Distillers Grain

Beef Cattle being fed Wet Distillers Grain


One form of technology that has led producers to identify superior genetic is ultrasound. Now its not what your thinking. Ultrasound technology is used to detect pregnancy, but it has several uses in carcass analysis. With the use of ultrasound a live animal can be measured for certain characteristics that previously required post slaughter analysis. By ultra sounding the rib eye for example, a bull can be selected that will sire progeny with higher carcass quality. What does that mean for you at the grocery store? It means that beef producers are better able to select cattle with genetics that will produce a larger, more evenly marbled steak. ultrasound_title_image
At the end of the day, whether or not new research is interesting to you, what is significant is the result of that research. The hope and intention of advancements and research is to increase efficiency, reduce inputs for the producer, and make a safer, higher quality steak for you and I.

Beef & Blessings,

Rachael

#ManCrushMonday – Baxter Black

Cow Attack – By Baxter Black

Reciting "Cow Attack" from memory with Baxter Black has been one of my favorite memories this year.

Reciting “Cow Attack” from memory with Baxter Black has been one of my favorite memories this year.

“What happened to your pickup seat? Is that a buffalo track?”
Well, I guess you had to be there. We had a cow attack.
It all began when me and Roy went out to check the cows.
We’d finished lunch and watched our “soap” and forced ourselves to rouse.

We”s pokin’ through the heavy bunch for calves to tag and check.
I spotted one but his ol’ mom was bowin’ up her neck.
She pawed the ground and swung her head a-slingin’ froth and spit
Then bellered like a wounded bull. “Say, Roy,” I says, “Let’s quit!”

But Roy was bent on taggin’ him and thought to make a grab.
“Just drive up there beside the calf, I’ll pull him in the cab.”
Oh, great. Another stroke of genius, of cowboy derring-do.
Sure-’nuff when Roy nabbed the calf, his mamma came in too.

And I do mean climbed up in there! Got a foot behind the seat
Punched a horn right through the windshield and she wasn’t very neat.
She was blowin’ stuff out both ends till the cab was slick and green
It was on the floor and on the roof and on the calf vaccine.

If you’ve been inside a dryer at the local laundromat
With a bear and 50 horseshoes then you know just where I’s at.
At one point she was sittin’ up, just goin’ for a ride
But then she tore the gun rack down. The calf went out my side.

I was fightin’ with my door lock which she’d smashed a-passin’ by
When she peeked up through the steering wheel and looked me in the eye.
We escaped like paratroopers out the window, landed clear.
But the cow just kept on drivin’,’cause the truck was still in gear.

She topped a hump and disappeared.The blinker light came on
But if she turned I never saw, by then the truck was gone.
I looked at Roy,”My truck is wrecked. My coveralls are soaked.
I’ll probably never hear again. I think my elbow’s broke.

“And look at you–yer pitful. All crumpled up and stiff
Like you been et by wild dogs and pooped over a cliff.”
“But think about it,” Roy said. “Since Grampa was alive,
I b’lieve that that’s the firstest time I’ve seen a cattle drive.”

The Values of Growing Up as a Ranch Kid

If you could take a look at my house right now, it would be needless to say, I’ve been packing for college this week.  It is such an exciting time for me, but also a time for me to reminisce on the past 18 years of my life.  Growing up on my family’s ranch, I have never moved or had a dynamic change in what I considered “home.”  Home has always been in the middle of a pasture surrounded by livestock; 10 miles from the closest neighbor.  But now “home,” will be considered my new college dorm room, in the middle of a town I have only been to a few times, with a “neighbor” just across my room.

I consider myself extremely blessed to grow up the way I did.  Not only was it a fun place to grow up, but it also taught me numerous life lessons and values.

  1. No one knows hard work like a farm/ranch kid does.  From early mornings to the middle of the night I’ve been helping alongside my family.    Sometimes in the summer heat and other times it has been below freezing and blowing snow, but work still has to be done.  Not only was hard work a given, you aren’t paid either.

2. You learn to appreciate Mother Nature.  Mother Nature can make or break you each year.    Whether it is Christmas morning or the 4th of July you NEVER complain when it rains, because we’ve seen what a drought can do.  When school was canceled for a snow day, while most of my friends would spend the day watching movies or sledding, not us.  We were helping put out hay and break water for the livestock.  Mother Nature can bring you the greatest blessings and the worst destructions.  Either way you develop a huge respect for Mother Nature.

  1. You know the meaning of team work more than any of your friends on the basketball team.  Team work isn’t just a game on the farm/ranch, it’s a necessity, and without everyone pulling their weight it can’t be done. Working with my family can sometimes be a real challenge, but we learn to work together, as a team.

4. Time is yet a number.  While I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a set time for lunch, dinner, or bed time, I have never know what this was like.  Many nights my family doesn’t eat supper until 10 o’clock because we were still outside doing chores, but other nights we might eat supper at 6 o’clock because it was an early morning and everyone is exhausted.  Either way, you learn to go with the flow, you usually don’t even ask what time it is, because it really doesn’t matter until you have finished the chores for the day.  Sometimes livestock don’t quite work on the same time clock as we do.

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  1. A driver’s license doesn’t mean much.  I first learned to drive when I was about five; yes I was five driving across a pasture, by myself.   Driving was a rite of passage at a very young age.  Driver’s Ed was a breeze, by the time I was 15 I had almost a good decade of driving under my belt.  Not only do you learn to drive at a young age, you also learn to ride a horse, learn to ear tag new calves, call cows in (because most time the siren doesn’t work), and countless other tasks around the ranch.  If you were old enough to walk you were old enough to help do chores.
  2. You develop a passion and respect for agriculture.  Growing up on a farm/ranch, agriculture is your family’s way of life.  Generation after generation has tended to the land and livestock in a sustainable and responsible manor; you learn that it is your job as the next generation to do the same.

I am beyond excited to leave for college tomorrow, but I know I will truly miss the life I have come to love so much and the beauty of the rolling planes.

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Beef & Blessings,

Justana

 

A Summer Worth Working For – Part 2

Earlier this summer, I introduced you to a few young agriculturalists from around the U.S who were all embarking on summer internships. Throughout the past 12 weeks, these college students have immersed themselves in new cultures, explored potential career opportunities, and devoted themselves to their work. As their internships came to an end this past week, I had the chance to ask them the question, “What has this experience meant to you?”IMG_3073-2

“It’s always been my goal to have a career with a purpose. Having this internship on the Crop Insurance team has been so fulfilling because I have been able to find that purpose and make a difference by protecting farmers from losses.” –Joanna King, Crop Insurance Intern with Farm Credit Mid-America.
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“Traveling half way across the country to work for Monsanto has taught me more about corn, Texas, Monsanto, and myself than I ever expected. This internship gave me the opportunity to start my professional career in agriculture and truly contribute to my team in Texas. The people I have met and the knowledge I have gained this summer will continue to help me along the way as I hope to continue my career with Monsanto.” – Seth Erwin, Field Sales Intern with Monsanto.
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“Working for Harris Ranch this summer has been incredible for a myriad of reasons, but gaining the hands on experience in the final stages of the beef production cycle; learning or being instructed in Spanish rather than my first language; and building relationships with all of the people I had the privilege to work with and learn from were the top three aspects I loved the most.” – Gabriella De Simone, Harris Ranch Intern.
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As for me, working with the Certified Angus Beef® brand has taught me to never underestimate the amount of work that goes into transitioning beef from the pasture to the plate.  While it may take 18 months to raise one beef animal, a chef only has four minutes to make it great.  I have greatly enjoyed my time working with the Public Relations team and further recognizing the importance of meeting the needs of consumers and understanding how we can better serve them in the future.

Internships are truly one of the best parts of the college experience. Thank you for allowing Joanna, Seth, Gabriella and I to share our favorite moments from our internships, which made this summer worth working for.

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Why Science Matters: Meat

When you are enjoying a grilled steak, or a burger do you stop and think about all of the biological and chemical properties of the meat you are enjoying? If your answer to that question was no, I wouldn’t worry too much, because most people don’t ask those questions. But it might be interesting for you to know a little more about the beef that fuels you.

beef has a fairly high concentration of myoglobin and is dark red

beef has a fairly high concentration of myoglobin and is dark red

There are several questions that can be answered concerning the science of beef, and the first question is simple: What is Beef? Beef is mostly the muscle tissue of an animal. Most animal muscle is roughly 75% water, 20% protein, and 5% fat, carbohydrates, and assorted proteins. Muscles are made of bundles of cells called fibers. Each cell is crammed with filaments made of two proteins: actin and myosin.

Another good question is what happens in the processing of the beef?
After an animal is slaughtered, blood circulation stops, and muscles exhaust their oxygen supply. Muscle can no longer use oxygen to generate ATP and turn to anaerobic glycolysis, a process that breaks down sugar without oxygen, to generate ATP from glycogen, a sugar stored in muscle.

The breakdown of glycogen produces enough energy to contract the muscles, and also produces lactic acid. With no blood flow to carry the lactic acid away, the acid builds up in the muscle tissue. If the acid content is too high, the meat loses its water-binding ability and becomes pale and watery. If the acid is too low, the meat will be tough and dry.

Lactic acid buildup also releases calcium, which causes muscle contraction. As glycogen supplies are depleted, ATP regeneration stops, and the actin and myosin remain locked in a permanent contraction called rigor mortis. Freezing the carcass too soon after death keeps the proteins all bunched together, resulting in very tough meat. Aging allows enzymes in the muscle cells to break down the overlapping proteins, which makes the meat tender.

Now to the science we all care about… cooking the steak! What is really happening when you cook beef?
Individual protein molecules in raw meat are wound-up in coils, which are formed and held together by bonds. When meat is heated, the bonds break and the protein molecule unwinds. Heat also shrinks the muscle fibers both in diameter and in length as water is squeezed out and the protein molecules recombine, or coagulate. Because the natural structure of the protein changes, this process of breaking, unwinding, and coagulating is called denaturing.

Who would’ve thought that a delicious burger could be so complex? Next time you sit down to a beef dinner I hope you have a deeper appreciation for the science behind beef.
For more information about the science of the food we eat check out

Beef and Blessings,

Rachael

Siskiyou Golden Fair

Displaying photo.JPGThis week (August 5-10) was the week of my county’s fair, the Siskiyou Golden Fair. Though it’s a week of early mornings and late nights, barn duties, carnival rides, concerts, laughter, tears, and deep-fried everything, it serves to provide some of the best memories of my life. I have spent many an hour in the beef barn, broom in hand, greeting fair goers, sweeping shavings, and shooing the occasional kid away who was dared by his friends to “touch one of the cows.” Our fair is local and small, and there are only a handful of 4-H and FFA clubs represented, but the quality of both animals and showmen is, in my opinion, commendable. Many have been showing for years, and some, including myself, have even been there since the years of “pee-wee showmanship,” before they were eligible to sell their animals.

Displaying image.jpegRaising an animal for fair isn’t easy, and it’s something that showmen take pride in when fair rolls around. Fair is the time when young agriculturists can showcase the work they’ve put into their projects–and believe me, it’s a lot of work. The goal is to teach youth interested in agriculture how production agriculture works from start to finish on a very small scale. That is, from the animal’s birth (or from several months old) to its harvest. Often kids are with their animals two or three times a day for several months, feeding, washing, and walking them. The animals that go to fair have to fall within a certain weight range, one that is deemed “market ready” for each particular specie, and those who don’t make weight cannot sell. There are also ultrasound technicians who test each animal for carcass quality and grade. Not only does raising an animal teach the importance of raising a quality product, but it also includes communication with consumers (writing ‘buyer letters’ to inform businesses that you are selling an animal), and the ability to work well in high pressure, competitive situations in showmanship classes.

The livestock auction is always on Sunday, and that’s really when all the hard work pays off. There is a buyers’ breakfast, where buyers and sellers are invited to come dialogue and enjoy some early morning nourishment. The prices at the auction are inflated, of course, but they generally reflect actual market prices. After the showmen get their checks, they usually pay their parents for the cost of the animal and feed, and the rest is profit. Hopefully, if the buyer letters were done right, a pretty decent profit can be made. It’s a great way for kids to learn the importance of taking care of an animal and keeping communication with the consumer. It’s basically a very small look into what farmers and ranchers do on a daily basis. County fairs are traditional in our country, and though it may seem that they are becoming obsolete, they do so much more than provide entertainment and a place to take the kids for several days. I’ve learned many lessons, both about agriculture and life in general at the Siskiyou Golden Fair, and I hope that this tradition is one that never dies. 

With that, have a great week and be sure to check out the livestock barns at your local fair this year.

Emma

Cowgirl Wisdom

An exciting event that happened this past week… my mama’s birthday! Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 10.59.04 AMAs we got to chatting that morning about all the things she has accomplished during her time on earth, I couldn’t help but think about all the things she has done for me, as well.

My mom has conquered some really incredible life obstacles over the years. Some as big as getting her Ph.D, and others more humorous, like the time she set the lawn mower on fire. Yes, my mom has done it all, but the one I am most thankful for is raising my sister and I to be the gals that we are today. To prove that I really was listening to her words of wisdom all of those years, here are the top ten lessons that my mom has taught me:

1. Always wear a helmet.  Whether it’s a bike, a horse, or the 4-wheeler, you won’t be getting on it if you don’t protect your head. (I guess I should mention that my mom specializes in agricultural safety.)

2. Only as many riders as there are seats. And no, dad’s lap on the tractor does not count as a seat!

3. When you’ve had a hard day at work, take it out on the flowerbeds.

4. It is possible to make it to every soccer game, track meet, FFA banquet , 4-H meeting, band concert, and play performance while working a full time job and helping on the farm… though I’m still not sure how.

5. Passing on the family’s Dutch Apple Pie recipe is a gift that keeps on giving.

6. Make time for family, even if it means waiting until 8 o’clock at night to sit down and eat supper together.

7. Look out for yourself, because no one else will.

8. Be assertive and passionate, yet patient and humble.

9. If you get bucked off, get right back on. Both figuratively, so you can prove to yourself that you can do it, and literally, so you don’t teach your rotten pony bad habits!

10. Being a cowgirl doesn’t mean you will always be fearless.  Be smart enough to ask questions, strong enough to ask for help, and tough enough to show love and compassion to everyone you meet.

To all the mamas out there, thank you for your love, your guidance, and your cowgirl wisdom that has helped to shape tomorrow’s agricultural leaders… AKA, your kiddos!

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Bringing Beef to the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival

This past weekend beef ambassador, Emma, and I traveled to the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The trip was fast and furious but a great success.  Food and wine vendors from across the country filled the “grand market” at the festival, including BEEF!

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The NorthEast Beef council along with Roseda Beef (http://www.rosedabeef.com) served DELICIOUS servings of smoke sirloin steak, which I had for lunch and supper last Saturday.  If you weren’t already a beef lover, the samples would have definitely changed your mind.

 

When we first met this woman she said she was not a red meat eater, but she agreed with us to go ahead and try a sample.  This is a picture of her after her THIRD piece of steak.

When we first met this woman she said she was not a red meat eater, but she agreed with us to go ahead and try a sample.  This is a picture of her after her THIRD piece of steak.

Not only were we handing out samples and sharing the positives about beef with attendees, we also had a fun game for consumers to play.  Ever heard of pin the tail on the donkey? Well how about “Pin the cut on the cow!” The game really involved attendees and made them want to ask questions.  Some groups made it a competition to see who could get the most cuts right.

pin the cut on the cow

The beef ambassadors mainly stayed at the BEEF booth in the grand market talking to consumers, playing “pin the cut on the cow,” and handing out beef sample; but we also took a little time to play “PATTY,” the NorthEast Beef Councils mascot.  Along with the grand market was also numerous other food and wine events, like the Beach Burger Bash.  PATTY was a huge hit there.

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Beef & Blessings,

Justana

Why Does Science Matter?

This summer I put myself through 8 weeks of Organic Chemistry. As an Animal Science major, I am

How could organic chemistry matter to a cattle farmer?

How could organic chemistry matter to a cattle farmer?

required to take several chemistry, biology, and any other “ology” class you can think of. Sometimes I wonder why it is necessary for someone like me, who wants to study beef cattle to learn about Newman projection of molecules, or the official IUPAC nomenclature for organic compounds. How can knowledge of organic chemistry be of any benefit to me as a cattle producer? Or maybe a better question to ask is how does science, specifically scientific advancements in beef production result in a higher quality, lower cost beef product for you to purchase at the grocery store?
In these next few weeks in my blog posts I want to “geek out” and talk about the simple science behind how beef gets from the farm to your fork, and why you should care about what research is being done to make advances in the animal science field.
What I came to discover these past few weeks is that science does matter, even organic chemistry. As we all know, science has led to inventions that have allowed our country and world to make huge advancements. But agriculture has had its fair share of advancements due to science as well.
Many times science and technology are grouped together in the same boat. While they both lead to similar results (a safer, more efficiently produced, higher quality product) I don’t think that they should always be thought of in the same context. We need them both, but science and technology play different roles in the beef cattle industry.
Science and technology are allowing farmers to produce higher quality beef

Science and technology are allowing farmers to produce higher quality beef

The science of beef cattle can span as broad a range as you want to explore. But these next few weeks I want to focus on reproduction, nutrition, health, and food safety. I will also touch on some new technologies that are being researched and used in beef cattle production that are allowing farmers to reach further in their pursuit of high quality beef production.
Even though I am completely in love with everything science, I am still intimidated by the big words, and concepts that don’t make sense. That’s why I want to break down those barriers and find the simple science behind better beef.
How does science take beef from farm to fork?

How does science take beef from farm to fork?


Join me as I start asking the question, “Why does science matter?”

Rachael

Five “Must Know” Grilling Tips for Steak

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.16.28 PMYesterday, I had the opportunity to give a beef cooking demonstration at the Ohio State Fair, showing consumers how to prepare beef with confidence. For my cooking segment, I chose to prepare Strip Steaks and a classic chimichurri sauce.

Now, I am by no means a grill expert, and my gourmet cooking skills could definitely use more practice; but perhaps that’s why so many fairgoers gathered around as I performed my demonstration. Certainly, if a 19-year-old college girl could cook a perfect steak, so could they! Here are my top 5 “must know” grilling tips for preparing the ideal steak.

 Hot, Hot, Hot!
Whether you are using a grill, skillet, or griddle, you always want your cooking surface to be extremely hot before placing on your steaks. This will help you to create a perfect “crust” around your steaks, and in return, they will cook to perfection.

 Oil the Steak, Not the Grate
Rather than greasing up your pan or grill slats, brush a little olive oil onto both sides of your steaks before cooking. This will prevent your beef from sticking to your cooking surface and help your seasonings stay on, as well.

 Avoid Excessive Flipping
By only flipping once, you will prevent your beef from drying out and becoming tough. Cook your steaks for 8 – 9 minutes, and then flip. To get those marvelous diamond grill marks, start by laying your beef diagonally on the grill and after 5 minutes, rotate at a 45° angle and continue cooking. When you turn your beef over, you will have picture perfect grill, marks every time!

 Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.12.29 PMUse a meat thermometer
Don’t trust a timer or your own touch to guess when your steaks are finished. Use a meat thermometer to be confident that your beef has reached the proper internal temperature and is safe to serve. Remember that Medium Rare is 145°F, Medium is 160°F, and Well Done is 170°. Anything less is mooing, anything more is shoe leather.

Rest!
After removing from the heat, always allow your steaks to rest for 10 – 12 minutes before cutting into them. This will allow all the beef juices to settle back into the meat and will end up on your taste buds, rather than in a puddle on your plate.

By using these 5 pointers, you’ll have your friends and family convinced that you are king (or queen) of the grill!

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen