A Year in Review

1

20 senior competitors traveled to Denver, Colorado in hopes of earning one of the five spots as National Beef Ambassador. Five people representing five different states brought together for their passion and love as beef-met as strangers and will leave as friends!

2

The power of a brand, loyalty to customers and the qualifications for grading CAB beef were all valuable lessons during our first trip as a National Beef Ambassador Team.

3

Genetics are key to the breeding of beef producers. Fore front thinking done on behalf of businesses such as Select Sires, there is the ability to continue producing quality, safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef.

4

Educating a variety of individuals at the Pennsylvania Farm Show proved to be enlightening and engaging. The beef industry is proud to use food byproducts such as distiller grains and chocolate meal as a part of a total mixed ration for cattle.

5

Sizzling Hot San Antonia and the NCBA Convention was a week long educational adventure. Learning from some of the top notch beef industry men and women, experiencing the trade show, and being able to share some of knowledge about the beef industry showcased our time in Texas-where everything is bigger and better!

6

A part of the New York City Half Marathon with the Pennsylvania and New York Beef Councils, I learned how busy and health conscious New York City residents are and was able to promote lean beef to the area runners as a great recover protein.

7

While in Denver, Colorado, we were able to tour one of the largest feedlot companies and packing plants owned by JBS and Five Rivers Feedlots. The efficiency and timing of every worker in the JBS harvesting facility was down to the minute, and yet so amazing to think the abundance of meat that this plant harvests, packs, and ships in a single day so that consumers around the world can eat.

8

Greely, Colorado is home to Greely Hat Works. This company sells cowboy hats all around the world and bases their business off of customer loyalty and trust-a similar theme to producers in the beef industry.

9

Through a grant awarded to the National Beef Ambassador Program, we had the privilege to attend the Spring Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Here we were able to meet key players in the beef industry allowing us to network and learn from them, as well as spend a day on Capitol Hill with our individual state representatives to discuss important beef industry issues.

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Cooking demonstrations were a big component of the Nashville cooking show. Here teammate Will and I prepare a fresh twist to a summer salad called Sugar Snap Pea and Sirloin Salad which included a lean cut of beef, barley rather than lettuce, and lemon peel for an added flavor. As a part of the Nashville Cooking Show, there were also interactive, hands-on stations that helped consumers better understand how to freeze beef, cut beef, season beef, and take the temperature of beef.

 

All in all this past year serving as a National Beef Ambassador has been filled with learning experiences, exciting travels, binding with individuals from various parts of the United States, and making memories that will last for a life time. Thank you to all those individuals who helped to make this past year a success!

For those contestants gearing up to travel to Denver next week, have fun! Meeting people from different backgrounds and learning about the beef industry from other advocates is a once in a lifetime opportunity. So above all the nerves, smile and showcase your inner personality, because it’s what makes YOU shine!

-Above all else, Beef It’s What’s For Dinner!

Demi

 

 

 

Forms of Identification

Identification within the cattle industry is a very important part of management and record keeping. It is important that as beef producers we use a form of identification to differentiate our cattle from one another, as well as keep our records complete and understandable through documentation. There are four main types of identification that beef producers can choose to use within their cattle herds. No one identification method is better or worse than the other. Depending on geographic location is a big determining factor of identification and how producers will choose to identify their cattle. Below are the four identification methods that beef producers use to identify their cattle within the herds.

ear tag

Ear tags are comparable to an earring in a human. Displayed on the outside of the ear with numbers or letters, this method of identification is used more so within smaller herd sizes because the ear tags are not super big. Reading them may require being a closer distance to the animal, but ear tags can come in multiple colors which can differentiate owners within a family or breeds within a herd.

tatoo

A tattoo is a form of identification within the ear. Little needles pinch through the ear flesh and leave permanent holes within the ear. Both numbers and letters are used in this form of identification which is used specifically for show cattle. Tattoo identification is used to match identity on record papers, which is comparable to a humans birth certificate. The letters signify the year which is universal for all herds and the numbers indicate the order of birth between calves on the certain farm.

hot branding

Hot branding is a prevalent form of identification within large herds, specifically out west due to the large number of cattle within all ranchers herds. This form of identification uses hot coals to burn the hair off of the animal and can be seen at far away distances. Only hurting for minimum time, both letters and numbers are burned into the animal to signify a specific farm. Because pasture land is plentiful and herds are larger, it is important that ranches brand their cattle at a young age to identify their calves versus a neighbors which also prevents stealing.

freeze branding

Freeze branding is comparable to hot branding where the brand is permanent to the animal with both letters and numbers. Freeze branding uses extreme cold to kill the cells in the animal’s skin that produce pigmentation, or color, and is a prevalent method out west where herd sizes are large. A freeze branded animal will have white hair where the freeze branding iron touched the skin.

We all have a form of identification to differentiate us from other people, and the same is with cattle and cattle herds. Methods are helpful and necessary within beef herds to increase healthy management and effective record keeping.

Happy Tuesday!

Demi

 

The Value of an Internship

For many kids of all ages, the start of school has proceeded them or is just around the corner. Starting today, I am enjoying my last week of summer vacation; catching some sun doing outdoor projects and working with the show heifers before the county fair.

As a part of the requirements of many majors in college, summer internships fill the days of summer. Yesterday, I completed my first agricultural communication internship with the Ohio Beef Council. To say the very least, it was a very beneficial and rewarding experience. Looking back, I learned valuable tools and lessons that will help me and I continue through my senior year of schooling, as well as begin to look for a career within my field of interest.

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Ohio is a ‘two-hat’ state so our cattlemen’s and beef council office is under one roof. However my summer internship allowed me to be the public relations intern for the Ohio Beef Council.

I was lucky enough to obtain an internship within a sector of agriculture I am very passionate about. Taking an internship throughout ones time in school is very beneficial and provides great value. Throughout my internship I was able to better a handful of my skills such as photography, design work, and social media writing, all of which are big parts of my major.

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Learning to picture cattle and capture an array of sights during farm visits was a new and useful part of my summer internship.

I was also able to take this time during the summer to find the value in listening and watching others throughout the beef council office do their work. I learned that there is value is details. Sometimes as students we tend to focus on the bigger picture and forget the small details throughout a project or task that can allow us to excel and exceed in more ways. By listening and being given tasks that were new to me, I learned how to focus on the details of the task.

cooking demo

As a part of the Ohio State Fair, I was invited on behalf of the beef council to partner with my boss to give a beef cooking demonstration on stage. This is a great way to teach and interact with fair goers who wanted to learn a quick and easy 30-minute or less meal with beef.

I also learned the value in asking questions. There is never a question that is too dumb to ask because by asking questions I learned more.

The lessons and skills one learns throughout internships will always be a part of who they are and will be carried with them throughout the remainder of their professional career. Internships teach you the value of learning, questioning, listening, and details. Not every day of the internship may be packed full of fun task, but I learned that every given task is important and is what helps me as an individual climb the ladder to success.

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As a part of promotions and educations about the beef industry, all ages of consumers are talked to. It is important prior to attending an event to know whom the audience will be and center the beef messages around their questions. Most importantly, I learned to LISTEN to what consumers were asking me before I answered a question.

I challenge all college students to find value in taking an internship and learning along the way. You are never too old to learn or ask questions and there is value in listening and learning from others about an area or sector of an industry you may be passionate in.

 

-Demi-

 

Stop, Watch, and Listen

When it comes to being a part of the beef industry, there are multiple facets that one can be a part of; the beef producer, the advocate, and the shower. Most youth would agree that the best part of showing cattle is not the colorful rope halters or show sticks, the daily washing and blow drying, or the sparkles on the jeans as a part of the wardrobe, (although all fun pieces of showing) but the facet of showing the animal that so much time and dedication is put in to. There is no better feeling than walking into the ring and having your steer or heifer behave and do everything you have practiced at home; and taking home a ribbon, trophy, or banner always adds an extra sparkle and rewarding memory to the experience. However, there is more to beef cattle than just showing. One must take the time to watch and listen to effectively learn and improve upon their skills and tactics.

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Sparkles, fancy boots, and added color are just fun extras of showing cattle, the real fun is showing off the daily hard work once you walk into the show ring.

This past week and upcoming week are filled with days spent at the Ohio State Fair working a putt putt course that helps to give scholarships to college students, as well as watching beef cattle shows and talking to fair goers and youth about the beef industry.

As I walked into senior showmanship the other morning, I could not help but notice the array of younger kids standing ringside or sitting in the bleachers watching their older peers and the judge as they battled for the top showman position. I have learned throughout my years of showing that you can learn just as much outside the ring than you can standing in it.

From the point of view of looking at the situation of each individual showman from an outward appearance, you have the ability to watch others and nitpick on their showmanship tactics and skills and learn what you yourself should do or try to help make your show animal look better for the judge. By standing or sitting back, you also have the ability to see multiple showers and animals and watch and compare, as well as learn what the particular judge judging the show likes and does not like. It is important as you watch, listen, take notes, and learn to keep open perspective of how others show. All animals entering the show ring have different personalities and were raised in different environments, and the same goes for the showers. Some showman learned different tactics than others and while watching a show it is most important to simply study how other showman work around the space in the ring and keep their animal calm to show their best to the judge.

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Youth of the beef industry taking the time to attend a show clinic to learn some tips and tricks prior to showing their animals.

Taking the time to watch, at whatever age of shower, parent, or spectator you might be, allows you to BE THE JUDGE. This is one of the most important parts of watching a show. You have the ability to watch the same show as the judge and formulate your own reasons and opinions for placing the way you choose, and by doing this you learn what is most important to you while showing and then as a shower yourself you can start implementing that piece. It is also important to really take the time to listen to the judges’ reasons for placing the way he did because you learn what he is and is not looking for in the showers.

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Youth of all ages can engage in shows and learn from watching others and listening to the judge give reasons for his placements. Taking the time to stop, watch, and listen can really pay off in the end!

The best way to learn is to watch and listen multiple times, as well as learn to be the judge yourself. It is amazing how much one can learn by taking the time to step away from the halter and take the time to stand ringside.

 

Happy Tuesday!

Demi

 

Where your Meat Comes From

The bovine timeline, from the time an animal is conceived until it ends up on your plate takes a total of approximately two years. The final step of the timeline is the packing plant/distributor.

There are many different shapes and sizes of packing plants across America. Some process between 20-30 animals per day, while others process thousands of animals per day. In either case however, packing plants are inspected by the United States government where both sanitation and attention to details are the number one priorities. Employees are well-trained and understand the importance of keeping the facilities safe for all workers while making sure the products are safe and wholesome.

It is important that the cattle have minimum stress through the process of the packing plant. From unloading off the trailer with ramps for easier walking, into pens that have watering tanks and sprinklers to help cool the cattle, into a Temple Grandin style walking coral, the cattle are moved in a low stress and low noise environment.

Through the Temple Grandin livestock handling facility design, cattle corrals in packing plants are made as winding from the pen to the harvesting facilities. Through the designs, Dr. Grandin also has researched and stated in the layout rules that the holding pen must be level, cattle must walk through the ramp single file, and the animal must be able to see two-three animals ahead of it while walking through the chute before it curves.

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Through research and the study of animal behaviors, Temple Grandin designed a curvature type walking chute that the animals proceed through as they enter the harvesting facilities. This allows for a minimum stress movement pattern for the animals.

The research done by Dr. Grandin has indicated that these methods are the most human and allow minimum stress on the animals and therefore are implicated at packing facilities.

Packing facilities are also sanitized every day and regularly inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure clean and sanitized work areas and employees. As a part of the packing plant, the meat is also inspected by the USDA to ensure a safe, quality, and wholesome product before it enters a grocery store.

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A USDA inspector looks at the quality grade of meat and labels it as she sees fit prior to the meat entering the foodservice chain.

Throughout the entire bovine timeline, sanitation, health, and treating the animals humanely are all top priorities of beef producers and meat packers. All sectors want to ensure a safe, wholesome, and nutritious product is produced for both their tables and other consumers. Knowing that in the year 2050, 18 billion people in this world will need to eat falls in the hands of all livestock and crop producers, therefore, they do their job diligently and respectfully to maintain the health and safety of their animals that are being raised so others can eat.

lifecycle

The beef lifecycle takes approximately two years from conception of the animal until it ends up on your plate. During every step and process of the lifecycle, beef farmers and producers are determined to produce a safe, quality, and wholesome product on four feet and on the dinner table!

 

Have a great day,
Demi

 

Why I am Crazy About Cattle

When you are overwhelmingly passionate about something it can sometimes be difficult to translate that passion into words. Here is my attempt to articulate my passion.
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My passion for the beef community started when I took my first breath. Growing up on a multi-generation ranch, work was not an option. Even before I could walk, I was riding in the feed truck with my dad. Jobs started at a young age, because we needed the help. Regardless of the size of the job, each was critical to the success of our family business.
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God gave me something very special when He gave me my passion. I am who I am today because of my involvement in the beef community. From caring for sick cattle, I learned compassion. From working alongside my relatives, I gained unbreakable bonds with my family. From watching my father work, I learned how to learn. From watching cattle die, I learned what death is. From taking instruction, I learned how to listen. From making mistakes on the ranch, I learned the importance of constructive criticism. From watching my father in business deals, I learned integrity. From old ranchers, I learned the importance of a firm handshake and confident eye contact. From persevering through the rough times, I gained character. From pulling baby calves in the middle of the night, I learned dedication.  From being surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of creation, I learned how big God is. All the good and bad times – they have helped cultivate me into who I am today.
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It breaks my heart to walk the halls with seniors in college who have absolutely no idea what they want to do in life. They wake up in the morning feeling complacent with no direction and no motivation, and go to sleep feeling hopeless and lost. I wish I knew how to gift or teach these people passion. I wish I could give them something that would spark in them a flame, something that would get them out of bed in the mornings, something that the very thought of not taking action would make them unbearably uncomfortable, but I can’t instill that. Each person must find that individually.
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I had every intention of giving you three simple bullet points about why I love beef, but my passion goes much deeper than a few bleak sentences; rather it is tied to every fiber of my being. So for me to put it into words is for me to truly reflect my innermost motivations.
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Moral of the Story: Yes, I consider myself very blessed to have an overwhelming passion for the beef community that motivates me to work very hard to make a positive difference every day. But whether you are passionate about helping people, organizing files, working with technology, or anything, find what gets you out of bed in the morning.

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

 

Life in the Feedyard

As the beef lifecycle continues, beef farmers and producers have the choice of how to continue raising their product after the backgrounding stage. From this stage, producers make the choice whether they want to finish their cattle as grain-fed or grass-fed. When looking at the sustainability, nutritional benefits, and overall product health, both grain-fed and grass-fed are comparable and offer the consumer a safe, wholesome, and nutritional beef eating experience.

Mature cattle, at approximately 700 pounds are transferred into what we call feed-yards, or feedlots. In this sector of the bovine timeline cattle spend four to six months, during which time they have constant access to water and room to move. In the feedlot, cattle live in pens that house between 100 to 125 animals and allow at least 125 to 250 square feet per animal. The cattle are free to graze at feed bunks containing a balanced diet of roughages, such as hay, grass, and fiber, grains, such as corn or wheat, and local renewable sources, such as beet pulp, dried distiller grains, or potato peelings. Each animal also has about one foot of bunk space to eat during the two times they are fed during the day. Cattle are raised to a market weight in a feedlot of 1,200-1,400 pounds in approximately 12-18 months of age.

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Cattle finished out in feedlots have ample room to move, lay down, and eat grain. Producers follow the rule of one-thirds where one third of the cattle will be either laying, eating, or walking around.

feedbunk eating

Producers make sure that throughout the day their cattle can graze at the feed bunk with ample space for each head.

Feedlot cattle have a high percentage of grains, such as corn in their diet. The abundance of corn in the United States contributes to the economic viability of producing grain-fed cattle which is the contributing factor to why beef producers choose to feed corn. The availability of this product helps to raise a nutritious beef product for consumers at a lower cost. Raising cattle strictly on pasture grass takes longer for the animal to reach market weight and therefore, grass-finished beef can be more expensive than a grain-finished product.

feed

Feedlot cattle receive a balanced diet of grains, forages, vitamins, and nutrients to help sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Raising healthy cattle is the main priority of all beef producers. At the feedlot, veterinarians, nutritionists, and cattlemen work together to look after each and every animal. All cattle producers take the appropriate measures to produce a safe and healthy product and recognize the importance of animal health and well-being from both a moral and economic standpoint. Cattle producers accept the responsibility of being stewards of the land and protectors of their animals and their care.

 

Have a great Tuesday!

Demi

 

Stage Two: Backgrounding

Approximately 751 total days makes up the complete lifecycle of cattle. For the first 205 days, the calf spends with its mother who provides it milk as its main source of nutrients, and at the end of this time the weaning process occurs. After the weaning process occurs, cow/calf producers can sell their calves to other farms and calves will enter what is called a backgrounding stage for 100 days.

The backgrounding stage is considered the second stage in the bovine lifecycle and is also known as the intermediate stage after weaning and before placement in a feedlot. Background feeding relies heavily on forages such as pasture grasses and hay in a combination with grains, if the producer chooses, to help increase the calf’s weight during this time frame. The goal during the backgrounding stage is for the calves to reach 700 to 800 pounds, as well as build up immunity to diseases before it potentially enters a feedlot. The duration of the backgrounding stage is 3 to 5 months.

Producers that focus consistently on backgrounding cattle maintain heard sizes of cattle that are around the same age, meaning the calves were all born within two to three months of each other. The concept behind keeping all cattle close in age helps with consistency and efficiency of feeding and gaining weight, as well as consistency of the timeline of the cattle growing before they enter a feedlot.

backgrounding

Cattle in the backgrounding stage of the bovine timeline are consistently the same age and weight and spend the majority of their time grazing on grass to convert into lean protein.

Producers by the name of ‘Stockers’ background cattle between the ages of six to twelve months where they will spend the majority of their life grazing on pasture grass with some grain mixtures as a part of the balanced diet. In this stage, cattle gain weight and convert forage and grass into lean protein.

With approximately 100 days out of the total 751 days in the complete bovine timeline (conception to harvest), it is safe to say that all cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass, it is the last four to six months that determines if a producer will finish them out on a grain based or grass fed diet.

 

Check back next Tuesday to learn about the feedlot stages of raising beef cattle.

Have a great Tuesday!

-Demi-

 

Weaning: A Part of Life

The beef industry is more than just the tender and juicy steak that sits on your plate hot off the grill. It is more than just the baby calves running in the pasture or feeding hay to the mama cows; the beef industry is a connection of many different sectors and family farms all working hard to raise a healthy and wholesome product, so that at the end of the day we as producers, as well as consumers can enjoy a hardy cut of steak with both family and friends.

cow and baby

Calves spend the first five to seven months with their mothers receiving nutrients from their milk and learning to eat forages and grains

An essential sector of the beef industry is the cow/calf operation where producers’ birth mother cows and offspring are cared for. Caring for their babies is the top priority of the cow for the first five to seven months as the baby calves receive most of their nutrients such as protein from their mother’s milk. However, at the end of approximately 205 days, or seven months, calves are weaned from their mothers and begin living strictly on their own.

Weaning is known as the process of managing without something or someone on which a species has become dependent on, such as young dependent on its mother’s milk. The mothers need time to put weight back on and have a rest period before birthing another calf. The ruminate of the calf takes four months to develop and after this time frame, the older a calf gets the more mature it becomes and can eat other foods, such as grass, hay, and grain that will sustain its body. The weaning process can be completed in a handful of ways such as fence line weaning or gradual weaning. Both weaning processes allow the calves and cows to be in familiar surroundings, as well as see and smell their mothers during the process of learning to live fully on their own, without their mother’s milk.

calves at gate

Gradual weaning allows calves to be separated by gates from their mothers during the evenings and return with their mothers during the days for approximately 3-4 days

fenceline

Fence line weaning happens in one day with a fence separating the mothers and babies

During the weaning process, both the mama cows and their calves bawl because of being separated. The bawling is more of a psychological factor because the mother and baby are use to being together and bonding and being separated is a life change. As one looks at the process of weaning, mama cows seem to bawl more during the separation than the calves because as the calves get older and bigger, they spend more time away from their mothers playing with the other calves. Weaning is comparable to a mother sending her child to school for the first time, watching him/her get a driver licenses, or dropping them off at college. It is separation from what has been the norm, however it needs to happen and both the mother and child or calf has to learn to be on their own.

It is important that the weaning process takes place around the calf being five to seven months of age for the safety of the mama cows. The calves are old enough to function on their own, so if they are left with their mothers, they would continue to take the nutritional milk that needs to be reproduced for the next offspring. The bull calves would also begin to harass their mothers, which could result in stressful and unhealthy circumstances.

drinking milk

The older a calf gets the better it is able to care for itself. Weaning a calf at 5-7 months of age ensures the mother cow can rest and reproduce milk for her next offspring

Beef producers have the goal to produce a healthy product, on four feet or on the table. To produce a healthy product during the stage of weaning, the cows and calves need to have minimum stress and be closely monitored for injury and sicknesses. The stress level is also minimized when producers wean during adequate temperatures, meaning that the day of weaning is not too hot or cold and rainy which results in the least amount of stress and sickness which overall results in a better product.

calves eating grain

As calves learn to be away from their mothers full time, they eat grain, hay, and other forages to maintain a healthy lifestyle

Weaning calves from their mothers is a natural process that all (animals and humans) go through. For the overall health, safety, and low levels of stress on both the cow and calf, weaning is beneficial and is the beginning of another sector of the beef industry bovine timeline.

~Demi~

Fighting for Freedom: Beef Edition

I hope everyone has recovered from a fun weekend of colorful fireworks, yummy hamburgers and family get-togethers. Independence Day is a wonderful reminder of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, such as the right to bear arms, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. To maintain these freedoms, we are challenged to defend them.  In the same way, beef producers are faced with the challenge of defending their way of life every day.

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When it comes to our food supply, our desire for information is insatiable. As consumers, we want to know that our steak was happy and healthy when it was alive. No one understands the importance of that better than the beef producers themselves.

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Now more than ever, we are demanding transparency from agriculture producers. If those who produce the safe, wholesome and nutritious beef our families enjoy do not speak up, people who have no understanding of the business or animal welfare aspects of their operations will speak up for them. Producers cannot afford for their words or production practices to be misconstrued in anyway.

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There are many voices in the conversation about meat and food production. Our challenge as consumers is to tune out the “white noise “, or uneducated chatter, created by people who do not understand the logistics and fundamentals of beef production and animal welfare. To accomplish this requires us to research. Our fast-paced, constantly-connected society is guilty of being gullible. Our easily-convinced, drama-seeking nature is aligned to follow the societal norm, even when the information is false.

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Moral of the story: The beef producer’s number one concern is their cattle. Ranchers have a responsibility to do what reflects the best for the well-being of their animals. And in order to achieve that, they must maintain their freedom to produce healthy cattle.

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In order to meet the demand for transparency and protect their freedom to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious beef, producers must also do everything possible to tell their story. With the same token, consumers have the responsibility to research beyond the tabloid headlines and discover the truth about their food. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! 🙂

#MeetYourMeat

 

God bless, folks!

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe