• Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    Every Steak has a Story

    May is National Beef Month. I don’t know who decides these months or why, but I’m glad we have a whole month devoted to a protein that I love to eat and raise. I have been mulling on the idea for this post for a while and figured May would be a great time to put my thoughts on paper, or technically, computer screen.

    I love to do farm tours. We take a group of ladies on our annual Moms on the Farm Tour here in Northwest Arkansas, but we also do tours with students and other groups. A few years ago, I had some friends from Dallas come to town and ask me for something fun to do with their kids and I said, “Want to go see a dairy?” And we did. We toured a local dairy and had a great time!

    On these tours, everyone loves to hear the farm story; how long the farm has been in operation, how many generations of this family have operated the farm, what crops have been raised there over the years. We love to see those farm stories in the grocery store, too. Several food companies do a great job of sharing the stories of their farmers with their consumers. People love to go to the farmers market or see ‘locally grown’ on the food they buy. I think it’s great that so many consumers want to know about their food and the farmers that produce it.

    But, here is what I think people are missing… every steak has a story.

    There are about ¾ of a million beef farms and ranches in the US, and over 91% are family owned or individually operated. The average size of a cow herd is 40 cows.

    That means that most of the beef bought in the US came from a farmer with a story, just like the one you would hear from our ranch. The calves from our ranch aren’t sold at the farmers market or to a special store with our name on it. They go from our place to a backgrounder (like the Peterson Farm Brothers) or a feedlot operation (like the Feedyard Foodie). I’ve written a post about the segments of the beef industry. Then they will be harvested in a commercial facility and processed into beef that may go to a fancy restaurant or a small grocery store.

    Cows on snow on the plains, on green grass here in
    Northwest Arkansas, or in the arid mountains in New Mexico.
    They all raise beef.
    When you buy a steak at the store or order one in a restaurant, it could have come from a farm in Florida or a ranch in Montana. We visited a farm in Hawaii where the cows ate Noni fruit and lived within view of the Pacific Ocean. That’s the great thing about beef. Cows can live in very diverse climates and under lots of different conditions, but they all produce beef.

    If you are interested in hearing more stories about farmers who raise beef and others in the beef industry, check out these blogs:

    Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Myths about Super Chicken

    Lately, I’ve been seeing some stories about how unnaturally large and overgrown chickens are. People see how much bigger chickens are today compared to 50 years ago, and they question what farmers and poultry companies are doing to get them that way. So, I thought I would write a post addressing some of the myths about Super Chicken.

    MYTH: Chickens are given steroids and/or hormones to make them so big.
    First, it has been against Federal Regulations to give chickens steroids or hormones since the 1950’s. You may remember that from my previous post about food labels. In addition to being unlawful, steroid hormones don’t work well through feed or water, so farmers would have to inject the birds to get the effects of the hormones. Most chicken farmers have 50,000 birds or more. It would take a long time to give that many shots.

    Poultry scientists have studied bird nutrition for many years and learned the optimal diet for raising chickens quickly and efficiently. The diets are balanced with the exact about of carbs, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals the chickens need at their specific phase of growth. The birds have access to feed at all times, and all this attention paid to their dietary needs helps them grow fast.

    MYTH: Chickens are loaded up on antibiotics to make them grow.
    Most large poultry farmers raise their birds with minimal to no antibiotics in the feed and water. They have learned to control disease with sanitation and proactive feed ingredients like probiotics and essential oils. If a farmer needs give their birds antibiotics when they are sick or to help keep them from getting sick, they work with a veterinarian to determine the best medicine for their flock. Farmers predominantly use types of antibiotics that are not used in human medicine to treat sickness.
    It is important to remember that, regardless of whether or not antibiotics were used in raising your chicken, there are no antibiotics in your chicken meat. All animals must go through a withdrawal time after they are given antibiotics, allowing their bodies time to metabolize the medicine and clear it from their system.

    MYTH: Chickens are genetically engineered to be big and have large breasts. 
    Chickens are not genetically modified or GMOs. Traditionally, farmers kept the biggest and the best hens (momma chickens) and mated them with the biggest and the best roosters (daddy chickens) and produced bigger and better chicks. Today in the poultry industry, those best-on-best mating decisions are made by scientists with pages of data about the birds. They can select new generations of chickens and emphasize any number of traits from growth and breast size to health and bone strength. Couple that with the fact that a farmer can produce a new generation of chicken in a much shorter time than a cow or a pig, and changes in the chicken industry have happened very quickly.

    MYTH: Chickens are raised in cages to make them grow.
    The inside of a chicken house.
    Birds raised for chicken meat are kept in large open houses and allowed to roam freely. To protect the birds’ health, the houses are closed and protected from the outside environment, but the birds have lots of room to wander wherever they wish. They are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There is food and water available all throughout the house. When you visit a chicken house, the birds are quiet and happy.

    Do you have more questions about chicken myths?

    There is more great info on the website, Chicken Check In. Or you can follow chicken farmers on social media.
    I don’t have many chicken posts, but you can check out my post from the Moms at the Poultry Counter on white striping in chicken, or see my hormone or antibiotic posts. I also have one recipe post with chicken, Grannie Annie’s Pozole.
    As always, please feel free to ask questions in the comments below. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does.