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Where's The Beef, USDA?

logo.gif USDA has always been a strong supporter of livestock producers, helping to boost meat demand through its programs and initiatives. However, our long-standing relationship with this government entity is certainly not evident in its latest project to develop new, healthy recipes for school lunch programs. And why is that? Well, it's because the USDA left out two very important food groups for growing kids in their program: meat and dairy! What's the deal, USDA?

Here's how the USDA describes the contest: In association with USDA, the Let's Move! program is challenging school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents and interested community members to create tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country. Participants will form teams, develop, document and prepare at least one healthy recipe in one of three categories (whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, or dry beans and peas). Their creations will be served in the school’s cafeteria, and rated by students. Fifteen semi-finalist teams will have their recipes evaluated by a judging panel during at-school events, with the top three teams competing in a national cook-off to determine the grand prize winner. Semi-finalists’ recipes will also be posted for online voting by the public to determine a Popular Choice Winner. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs.

This contest, along with the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) recommendation to move to a plant-based diet, is sending the wrong message to consumers, says Kristina Butts, director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), in a recent interview.

“First off, DGAC's recommendation for a plant-based diet causes consumers to wrongly assume that they are eating too much meat. We are not eating too much meat,” Butts says.>

Food blogger Melanie Warner criticizes the beef industry for having concerns about this contest. Read her dissenting opinion about cattle producers here.

What do you think about this contest? Have you let USDA know your views? Where's the beef anyway, USDA?

Beef Industry Woes May Mean Poorer Meat

Many of the nation's cattle producers are struggling to get reasonable prices for their animals -- a trend they say could eventually mean lesser-quality meat on dinner tables across the U.S.

Bloomberg Businessweek interviewed cattle producers who reported having no choice but to sell the vast majority of their cattle to the single buyer who submitted a competitive bid. An AP analysis of shipping logs and sales receipts confirmed their accounts.

To read the entire article, link here.

FSIS Issues Draft Guidelines On In-Plant Video Monitoring

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently issued draft guidelines to assist meat and poultry establishments that want to improve operations by using in-plant video monitoring.

The purpose of the draft guidance is to make firms aware that video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment may be used in federally inspected establishments where meat and poultry are processed. Establishments may choose to use video or other electronic recording equipment for various purposes including ensuring that livestock are handled humanely, that good commercial practices are followed, monitoring product inventory, or conducting establishment security. Records from video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment may also be used to meet FSIS' record-keeping requirements.

To read the entire article, link here.

Proposed New GIPSA Rules: Myths And Facts

Updates to anti-trust provisions in the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act would decrease the number of lawsuits and keep contacts private, the department says in a report, "Misconceptions and explanations," published on its website.

USDA's Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration drafted the updates and is taking public comments about them until Nov. 22.

Most of the proposed revisions pertain to the poultry industry, where complaints have been frequent that meat companies have abused growers rights.

To read the entire article, link here.

Have You Checked Out BEEFtv?

beef-tv-sm.gif Have you heard about one of BEEF Magazine’s coolest features? It’sBEEFtv, and it offers a wide range of topics to view in a video format. Everything from GIPSA’s proposed rule, how the recession has impacted beef producers, quick facts about pinkeye, and ways to add to your bottom line have all been topics featured through BEEFtv.

A few videos you may want to check out are producer comments from the USDA-Department of Justice livestock competition workshop held in Fort Collins, CO, earlier this year. Link here to view these videos. Then, share your thoughts on the GIPSA proposed rule in the comments section below.

Another video I would recommend is one of the latest from the I Am Angus series. Although not a BEEFtv product, this episode shares some great information, including a segment about the National Beef Ambassadors. Enjoy.

This week, I will be joining you from the National FFA Convention, where I’m a coach and chaperone for my sister, Courtney, who will be competing in the job interview competition. I will send updates from Indianapolis, IN, as the week progresses. Thanks for tuning in!

U.S. Auto Dealership Count Rises

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Indiana Fueled Up And Ready For National FFA Convention

The National FFA convention comes to the Hoosier state this week and everything is fixed up, fueled up and ready to roll. For the 5th year, Toyota is providing a fleet of 25 vehicles to help keep the FFA convention moving this week. Again this year, CountryMark is providing the fuel for this fleet. John Lance, CountryMark vice president of marketing, says it is a way for Indiana‘s fuel co-op to support the FFA, “It is a real privilege for us to partner with National FFA and Toyota.”

The courtesy cars will be used to transport FFA staff and leaders to the many different convention venues in the city.

This year in addition to fuel, CountryMark is providing information on the dangers of distracted driving. “At CountryMark, safety is a top priority,” says Lance. “We want to remind our visitors to stay focused and be safe when behind the wheel.” With over 50,000 high school students in town, there will be a lot of texting going on. That is one reason Lance says they want to emphasize the dangers of cell phone use while driving. Informational cards have been placed in each vehicle with tips on staying focused while driving.

To read the entire article, link here. Check out BEEF Daily this week for updates on the National FFA Convention as it unfolds. Blogger Amanda Radke will be covering the event from Indianapolis.

National Beef Ambassador Talks Cattle

When Maddy Ruble, of Albert Lea, MN, found out she won a spot on the 2011 National Beef Ambassador Team, it may have just been her most “fabulous” accomplishment to date, along with the most nerve-wracking moment of her life.

“I couldn’t eat breakfast that morning, I was so nervous,” she says. “I hardly made it up on stage!”

Maddy, the daughter of Doug and Pam Ruble of Albert Lea, was named to the team at the annual competition Oct. 1-3 in Rapid City, SD. She competed against 26 other contestants from across the U.S. in the areas of consumer promotion, classroom presentation, media interview technique and issues response.

To read the entire article, link here.

Facing High Corn Prices Again: What's Your Plan?

img_4489.JPG As corn prices continue to climb, many livestock producers are reminded of 2008 when corn prices reached historic highs, creating one expensive year for feeding cattle. Current trends indicate corn prices will continue to move up, causing concern for beef producers as they prepare for the fall and winter feeding months. Pablo Guiroy and Ryan Eichler, both with Cargill Animal Nutrition, recently discussed with me how to deal with these high prices again, this time keeping in mind the lessons learned from 2008 and with the confidence of seasoned producers who have handled it once before.

In 2008, the folks at Cargill Animal Nutrition put together an approach on how to deal with high corn prices, and it was broken down into three options for producers.

1. Producers can more efficiently use corn grain.

2. A greater substitution of feeds and by-products can be used in place of corn.

3. Reduce the number of days on feed.

“How will these three options impact the economics of feeding cattle?” asks Guiroy. “The first two options will help, but will have a small to medium impact on your bottom line. However, the third option can have a major impact. Feeding cattle 90 days vs. 150 days is huge. There is a tremendous opportunity to reduce feeding days and use by-products.”

“A big point that we want to focus on is having a correct benchmark for making our decisions,” adds Eichler. “That benchmark is our profitability, or dollars per head. You can remain with your old feeding program, but you want get the best use of your dollars. Your old program might give you the best gain or best feed conversion, but in these times, we need to focus on a new benchmark — profitability.”

Eichler and Guiroy agree that although they can’t predict just how high corn prices will go, they can work to help their customers understand profitability and risk management. The bottom line, they say, is that there is a need for producers to take action. This means having a more efficient use of all ingredients and technologies available. Producers should also look at the substituting feeds in diets based on price, availability, nutritional value and consistency. Finally, reducing the days cattle are kept on feed can have a huge impact on producers’ pocketbooks.

What’s your plan for this fall? What risk management steps have you taken? How do you plan to handle rising corn prices when feeding cattle? Share your thoughts, experiences and advice in the comments section below.

Strong Momentum Continues For U.S. Beef Exports

August was a solid month for both U.S. beef and pork exports as both easily outpaced the results of August 2009 and increased their gains over the cumulative totals from the first eight months of 2009.

Beef exports for the month increased 24% in volume and 43% in value compared to August 2009, totaling 92,579 metric tons (mt) valued at $373.7 million. The cumulative January-August totals were up 16% in volume (680,609 mt) and 27% in value ($2.57 billion). This value total is 9% higher than the corresponding pre-BSE value total from January-August 2003. Korea remains the largest growth market, with exports of 73,625 mt valued at $345 million (an increase of 131% and 175%, respectively).

Exports made up 11.4% of production, up from 9.7% last year.

To read the entire article, link here.