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What Are Animal Welfare And Environmental Certification Programs?

Several organizations in the U.S. provide guidelines on how animals should be raised to maximize animal welfare and protect the environment. Some of them also offer certification -- and the use of their logo -- to farmers who can prove they follow those guidelines.

The three primary farm animal welfare programs are Certified Raised and Handled, American Humane, and Animal Welfare Approved.

Guidelines can range from how the animals are fed and sheltered to how they are transported or slaughtered. Some (e.g., Food Alliance) also include guidelines on how animals are grazed or how streams and ponds are buffered from runoff.

To read the entire article, link here.

San Francisco Not Happy With McDonald's Happy Meal

San Francisco has a long history of bold public health and environmental stances, going after everything from plastic bags in grocery stores to cigarettes to sugary drinks. The latest target: Ronald McDonald.

A proposed city ordinance would ban McDonald's putting toys in their Happy Meals unless the company adds fruit and vegetable portions and limits calories. The proposal would apply to all restaurants, but the focus has been on McDonald's and its iconic Happy Meals.

Supervisor Eric Mar says he proposed the law to protect the health of his constituents, but McDonald's has waged an aggressive fight to block the measure. A battery of McDonald's Corp. executives showed up at city hall to argue that the legislation is a heavy-handed effort that threatens the company's decades-old business model and the free choice of its customers.

To read the entire article, link here.

Examining Cow-Calf Costs

Many cow-calf producers are pleased to see the relatively good calf prices being reported this year on video auctions and a few early calf sales. Unfortunately, all of the improvement in calf value is needed to offset what seems to be ever-increasing costs.

The relatively good calf prices have many cow-calf producers asking if they should sell at weaning or maintain ownership for a period of time. Fortunately, several factors are in place now to reward producers for high-quality cattle so selling average commodity doesn't have to occur.

Certainly data shows that there is a price difference for preconditioned calves which was not often the case 10-15 years ago. Calves with a reputation for fast and efficient gains are often sought after by past buyers and usually trade at some premium.

To read the entire article, link here.

Corn A Viable Grazing Option For Grass-Fed Beef

As grass-fed beef becomes more popular in our country, more producers are looking for an economical way to put those final few pounds on to finish. According to Bob Scriven, a grazing consultant from Kearney, NE, grazing standing corn can be a viable option for some producers.

“The interest in producing grass-finished beef has continued the interest in the whole corn plant for a grazing medium,” he says. “But, it has to provide a forage with no grain. This interest increases as we realize it is very difficult to produce reasonable gains on finishing steers in the fall months when they are grazing quality, cool-season forages.”

Scriven further explains that high protein forages can provide good gains on stocker cattle, but not deposit the fat on a nearly finished steer that needs to produce a tender and flavorful meat product.

“The whole corn plant meets the energy requirements that are needed,” he says.

To read the entire article, link here. Here's a BEEF article on the topic.

So You Want To Be A Rancher?

For the first time in many years the cattle market looks rosy and typical of that outlook is the fact that more than a few folks sitting on acreage are thinking they might like to pick up some beef cattle. Is that a good idea or a sure bet?

Too often people jump into livestock production whether that be horses cattle, sheep even buffalo without researching stocking rates, soils, soil fertility, weed and brush management, beef cattle selection, feeding strategies grazing management and, most important, what end market to pursue. Head spinning? It should be. Novice livestock producers can find themselves in a heap of trouble without proper council and homework. On the positive side, in the cattle industry today, a wealth of information exists both on the internet and through workshops and clinics.

To read the entire article, link here.

Food Evolving To Lifestyle Choice

The future of food continues to evolve from the basic sustenance of nourishment for human life to the consumer’s desire for a personal involvement in the food supply.

Consumers today want personal exposure to plant and animal production, says Lowell Catlett, ag economist, futurist and dean of New Mexico State University’s College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Consumers’ hunger for agriculture follows multiple generations of people who no longer farm. Long gone for many are their grandpas and grandmas who worked the land.

To read the entire article, link here.

NCBA Blasts EPA For Anti-Agriculture Agenda

The National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) has launched a series of blistering allegations against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson recently testified before the Senate Ag Committee that her agency is not out to get American agriculture.

But, Tamara Thies, NCBA's chief environmental council, accused EPA of trying to put the cattle industry out of business, "It is ironic that as we strive to become less dependent on imported oil the policies of the Obama administration are likely to make us more dependent on imported beef."

She accused EPA of waging a war to bring an end to production agriculture, "EPA exhibits reckless indifference to scientific fact, and instead imposes stringent regulations based on nothing more than its biased, anti-animal agriculture agenda that will leave many cattle operations with no recourse but to shut down."

To read the entire article, link here.

Convenient Meal Options With New Beef Products

The beef industry has worked hard in recent years to get more products in the store that meet customers’ needs for a grab-and-go meal. According to a research study funded by the beef checkoff and conducted by Mintel International Group, the number of new products that include beef are increasing.

Beef products launched as the center-of-the-plate protein increased 31% from 2004 to 2008. Launches in 2009 slowed to below the 2008 launch rate, attributed to the impact of the financial downturn. Beef had more product launches than chicken, pork and turkey from 2004 to the first five months of 2009. In 2008, there were 130 beef product launches, 96 chicken, 92 pork and 36 turkey.

Top flavors of products launched are beef flavor, beef and teriyaki, beef and vegetable and teriyaki. Others include beef and cayenne pepper, beef and chicken and pork, marinara and pepperoni, mushroom and wine, and beef and pepper and smoke.

The Beef Innovations Group (BIG), funded by the beef checkoff, is always working to develop concepts for products that meet the consumer's demand for convenience. View all here.

MN Reaches Another Milestone In Bovine TB Fight

State officials have announced another milestone in the fight to eliminate bovine tuberculosis from northwestern Minnesota.

The vast majority of the state was upgraded to TB-free status.

Portions of four counties - Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, and Beltrami - remain subject to closer scrutiny. Some of that zone was upgraded Friday to a level that drops or reduces testing requirements and movement rules for cattle producers.

However, producers in a small area of those four counties remain subject to the same testing, movement and fencing requirements as before.

To read the entire article, link here.

Grandin: GIPSA Proposal Could Compromise Animal Welfare

A letter recently written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack by animal welfare expert, Temple Grandin, suggests the well-being of livestock could be threatened if a proposed rule to require packers to market and sell livestock through dealers is implemented.

Grandin’s letter addressed the logistical implications of the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed federal rule: “Implementation of Regulations Required Under Title XI of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008; Conduct in Violation of the Act.” As proposed, the rule suggests prohibiting packers from “purchasing, acquiring or receiving swine or livestock from another packer or packer affiliated company.”

“I urge you to consider this rule from an animal welfare perspective before you finalize it,” wrote Grandin.

The letter pointed out that integrated beef-processing companies that own feedlots or production facilities would, for example, be required to ship cattle to either their own plant or to an independent dealer, perhaps hundreds of miles away, rather than selling to another company’s packing plant that could be in the same proximity of the feedlot or ranch.

To read the entire article, link here. For more information on the GIPSA debate, link here.