Could Beef Be Banned Like Trans Fats?

I would like to respond to and reiterate some points made by Troy Marshall in his most recent column, “Eliminating Trans Fats -- What This Means For Beef Producers.”

The column centered on FDA’s plans, announced last week, to require the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats, which previously had fallen into the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category. This is a category reserved for thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. FDA says such a move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

In a nutshell, Marshall's column warned beef producers that if beef was to one day be deemed as unhealthy by the government, then it would go to the wayside much like soda, trans fats, cigarettes and sodium. Imagine if that happened to the beef industry; such a pronouncement would put the beef industry in a world of hurt. Is it likely? Probably not anytime soon, but we must be vigilant about the potential.

 

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Unlike trans fats, however, beef has an entire nutritional profile that’s hard to beat. What exactly are trans fats? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. They're used both in processed food and in restaurants. Another name for trans fats is 'partially hydrogenated oils.' Look for them on the ingredients list on food packages.

What about beef? It’s not made via an industrial process. It’s a whole food and one that offers a nutritional power punch like nothing else. I recently attended a cooking demonstration put on by the AHA, Avera Heart Hospital and the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) for National Eating Healthy Day. The demo showcased beef and the heart-healthy ways it can be prepared, and featured recipes such as roast beef and garlic kale.

“For many years, people thought beef wasn’t healthy, but with emerging research such as the BOLD (Beef In An Optimal Lean Diet) study, we now know that’s not true,” said Holly Swee, SDBIC director of nutrition and consumer information. “When shopping for beef, an easy way to choose a lean cut is to look for items with ‘round’ or ‘loin’ on the label.”

The BOLD study Swee referred to was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers from Penn State University found that people who participated in the BOLD study and consumed lean beef daily as part of a heart-healthy diet, experienced a 10% decline in LDL "bad" cholesterol.

Additionally, beef’s fatty profile is heart-healthy; 51% of the fat found in beef is mono-unsaturated, the same heart-healthy fats found in olive oil. What’s more, beef is packed with nutrients like zinc, iron, protein and the B vitamins. It’s a complete protein and can keep folks satiated for longer periods of time, which means they're less likely to snack on junk food like chips and cookies, both of which contain trans fats.

However, instead of fear-mongering that Big Government is going to smear the beef industry (although I’m afraid they’ve been doing this since the 1970s when fat was demonized), we should be focused on re-educating the public that beef can be the center of a healthy dinner plate. Feel free to share this information via social media and help spread the word. Beef is nothing like trans fats. Period.

What do you think about the FDA’s proposed ban on trans fats? Could this translate to the beef industry? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Expert Panel Defines the Need to Harmonize Trichomoniasis Regulation and Testing Procedures

Life Technologies Corporationassembled a cross-section of industry stakeholder experts to discuss with state veterinarians the need for consensus on standardization of regulations and diagnostic laboratory testing methodology for trichomoniasis (trich) at the 2013 USAHA Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease in cattle with significant economic consequences to beef producers resulting from infertility and embryonic loss in cows and heifers. Bulls are the carrier of this disease but show no outward signs of infection. There’s no treatment for infected bulls, so diagnostic testing of bulls before exposure to females plays a crucial role in managing trich.

To control trich within and across state lines, states have regulations to help producers and veterinarians comply with health requirements. Unfortunately, there’s wide variation in these defined regulations and testing procedures among states, which causes confusion, additional handling of animals, and varying diagnostic test results, according to Jeff Baxter, Senior Product Manager, Life Technologies.

“Finding common ground on the harmonization of trich regulations and testing procedures would help beef producers economically by eliminating repeated or unnecessary testing and reducing the danger to animals and handlers,” said Baxter. “The primary goal of our conversations with state veterinarians is to build confidence with all stakeholders that the best diagnostic testing technology is being used to accurately identify trich-positive bulls. Defining the need for regulation harmonization and testing is the first point of clarity in this conversation accomplished in hosting this event. The next step is to find common ground with those states open to building consensus on points of agreement. Working closely with state veterinarians, cattlemen’s associations, and their respective state diagnostic labs can help us arrive at solutions based on sound science that economically benefit beef producers.”

NCBA advocating for regulation harmonization

Kathy Simmons, DVM, chief veterinarian of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said the association’s membership has directed the leadership to help facilitate the harmonization of trich regulations between states. She said NCBA recently compiled information on the various state trich regulations determining 50 percent (25 states) have regulations.

Simmons said these varying and ever-changing rules between states make compliance difficult for veterinarians and producers, who often plan cattle testing and movement in advance.

“Harmonized state trich regulations for the interstate movement of cattle would facilitate cattle movement at the speed of commerce,” Dr. Simmons said. “Well-defined, thoughtful and mutually accepted testing procedures for trich between adjoining states could eliminate redundant testing procedures and reduce the danger to animals and handlers from repeated or unnecessary testing.”

According to Baxter, individual state trich regulations often define which testing procedures are accepted. Most states accept culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results. Typically testing is done either by collecting up to three cultures during a three-week period or by providing a single culture for real-time PCR testing.

“Certainly, conducting one real-time PCR test as opposed to collecting three cultures is easier, less invasive and less dangerous for the animal and handler,” added Baxter. All 25 states with trich regulations have validated the use of PCR as an officially accepted diagnostic test. Because of better technology improvements in the overall laboratory workflow, some states have taken the next step in defining PCR as the only official test allowed for compliance.

New Kansas trich regulations require PCR testing

Bill Brown, DVM, Kansas Animal Health Commissioner, spoke about the state’s recent enactment of new, more comprehensive trich regulations for the intrastate change of ownership and interstate movement and diagnostic testing of cattle. Dr. Brown appointed a trich working group comprised of four veterinarians and four beef producers to spearhead the evaluation in improving the management of trich in the state of Kansas. The group, charged with developing science-based regulations, has gathered information and opinions from more than 2,200 livestock producers and industry professionals attending 30 meetings throughout the state.

Some of the most notable changes require veterinarians to be certified to test for trich, require 14 days of sexual rest for bulls, require all positive bulls to be slaughtered, and recognize real-time PCR as the only official diagnostic test accepted in the state.

“There was a lot of talk about cultures versus PCR testing,” said Dr. Brown. “Our working group wondered why producers and veterinarians were getting bulls in once a week for three weeks, when one PCR test will take care of it. At the end of the day, everyone was on board with doing a single PCR test, which most producers in Kansas are comfortable with.”

For more information about the new Kansas trich regulations, please visit the Kansas Department of Agriculture website.

Practicing veterinarian calls for testing standardization

From a hands-on perspective, practicing veterinarian Jeremy VanBoening, DVM, Republican Valley Animal Center in Alma, Neb., shared his insight being on the front line of dealing with varying state trich regulations, accepted testing procedures, and a wide array of recommended sample-handling procedures for trich. Beginning in 2008, trich cases in Nebraska noticeably increased for about two years, prompting the Nebraska Cattlemen Association to discuss how best to protect its members’ herds, resulting in the implementation of state regulations for trich.

VanBoening has discovered great variability in recommended sample-handling protocols among state diagnostic laboratories. Labs varied on whether or not samples needed to be incubated, whether or not to put on ice, how the samples are shipped and the labs’ preferred collection media. VanBoening says standardizing lab recommendations for sample collection and handling would greatly improve the quality of samples submitted for testing.

“States also need to come to agreement on adopting only the best diagnostic testing technology available, which I believe is quantitative PCR using chemical lysis and internal controls,” said Dr. VanBoening. “We need our diagnostic labs to use these workflow procedures to ensure we’re getting back the very best tests results possible. And most importantly, we need to keep increasing veterinarian and producer awareness about the economic impact of trich with the goal of keeping everyone vigilant in managing this disease.”

Baxter said Life Technologies is excited to collaborate with all stakeholders in the beef industry to open the dialog on the need for harmonization of trich regulations.

“It’s clear from these conversations there is a movement to find common ground for developing consistent trich regulations, sample handling and testing procedures across states with the goal of building confidence in the testing process among veterinarians and producers,” concluded Baxter.

 

3 Lessons From A Greenpeace Dropout

lessons from a greenpeace dropout

A founder of an extremist environmental group isn’t the typical agriculture conference’s agenda highlight. Nevertheless, earlier this month at the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council Conference in Minneapolis, Patrick Moore, a PhD who was once smack dab in the middle of the radical environmental crusade, captivated producers and agri-business leaders as he shared his sensible approach to environmentalism.

Moore’s story starts during the height of the tension surrounding the Cold War, Vietnam War and, as he says, “the threat of all-out nuclear war.” In the late 1960s, the ecology PhD student joined a small group of activists in planning a voyage across the North Pacific to protest U.S. hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska. Their success proved that a “ragtag bunch” could gain huge amounts of public attention and change the course of history. From there, Greenpeace was born. By the mid 1980s, his small group, which had its inception in a church basement, had grown into a powerful organization with offices around the world and attracting $100 million in donations annually.

At that point, Moore says he decided he needed a change.

“I had been against at least three or four things every day of my life for 15 years. I decided it was time to figure out what I was in favor of,” the former Greenpeace president explained. “There is no getting away from the fact that 7 billion people wake up every morning on this planet with real needs for food, energy and materials. I found that my Greenpeace, which had begun as a humanitarian organization trying to prevent all-out nuclear war, had drifted into a position where we described humans as the enemy of the earth.”

That was Moore's preface to an excellent discussion he led with producers and agribusiness experts during the Minneapolis meeting. Here are three of my top takeaways from that discussion:

  1. The extreme environmental movement is anti-human. Detractors of groups like Greenpeace have been to known to label such “extreme environmentalists” a few different things, but Moore’s definition hit the closest to home to me. Moore says environmental extremism is anti-business, anti-capitalism, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-trade, anti-globalization and, in the end, “just plain anti-civilization.” And they do this, he says, all while flying around the world connected via the latest tablet and smartphone. It’s all a little too ironic and, unfortunately, the media buys into this anti-human agenda.
     
  2. Too many people wake up hungry each day. Technology will be the only way we can solve this. Moore’s most recent endeavor isn't winning him back any buddies from his Greenpeace days. Currently, he is actively involved in the Allow Golden Rice Now campaign and vows to help get the technology off the ground across the world. If you aren’t familiar with Golden Rice, it is a plant that has been genetically modified (GM) to contain beta-carotene, the source of Vitamin A. Millions of people around the world are currently facing a deficiency of Vitamin A, and clinical trials have shown that this technology could substaintially prevent deaths and issues related to the micro-nutrient deficiency.

    To most who are comfortable with GM foods, Golden Rice seems like the answer to a much larger problem of malnutrition across the world. However, it has yet to gain traction because of severe opposition from groups like Greenpeace. It is such opposition that drives Moore to accuse Greenpeace of committing a crime against humanity. When technology benefits both humans and our environmental efficiency, he says we must utilize it.
     
  3. A sensible environmentalist would look more like a farmer or rancher than a radical environmental activist. Moore closed his presentation with his definition of a sensible environmentalist.

    A sensible environmentalist would:
  • Grow more trees and use more wood.
  • Choose hydroelectric power where it is available.
  • Choose nuclear energy over coal for electricity production.
  • Use geothermal heat pumps in most buildings.
  • Develop cost-effective technologies that require less fossil fuel.
  • Use genetic science to improve food security & reduce methane.
  • Not ban useful chemicals unless there is evidence of harm.
  • Embrace aquaculture as a sustainable industry.
  • View climate change as natural and not catastrophic.
  • Recognize that poverty is the worst environmental problem.
  • Not kill or capture whales or dolphins, ever.

While we might not all agree with everything Moore professes, I think we can agree that his approach to sensible environmentalism is a step in the right direction -- which is the point of Moore’s engagement and environmental efforts. The ex-Greenpeace activist believes we need to find a consensus on competing efforts, and work toward compromise for the greater good of the environment and mankind.

Compromise, however, is a little hard to come by these days, so perhaps that's actually the bigger lesson in all of this. Reaching across the aisle, or the farm gate, or the conference table, to find a sensible middle ground will result in a lot more good than an extreme viewpoint on either side. 

And that's a lesson that stretches far beyond the scope of environmentalism.

To learn more about Moore, read his book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist.

 

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South Dakota Nixes Joan Jett On Its Thanksgiving Parade Float

More than a few feathers were ruffled last week when my fellow South Dakota ranchers got wind that Joan Jett, rock star, vegetarian and PETA spokeswoman, was going to ride on the South Dakota float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next week.

This will be South Dakota’s third appearance in the big event; singers Neil Diamond and Don McLean, the latter one being the singer of "American Pie," rode on the float in previous years. The float highlights some of the top attractions in our great state, such as Mount Rushmore.

 

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The celebrities who ride on the float are chosen by the Macy’s parade committee, not by the state itself. However, the state does pay for the celebrity’s services. In fact, it costs South Dakota $175,000 to be in the parade, with $5,000 going to the celebrity.

So when South Dakota ranchers heard that their tax dollars were going to pay for Jett, a PETA supporter who wears hypocrisy literally on her sleeve with her leather jackets, boots and leggings, they dug their boots in and demanded a change. Within days of learning this information, ranchers had rallied the media, and forced a change in celebrity for the South Dakota float.

That infuriated the PETA folks, whose spokesperson called cowboys, “crybabies.” However, Jodie Anderson of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, told KEVN that “when we learned that about Miss Jett, we were rightly concerned about her representing South Dakota and a state that is so heavily reliant on agriculture and livestock production to drive our economy."

I doubt that the Macy’s parade folks meant any slight to ranchers in the selection of Jett, and they rather quickly acquiesced to a change in celebrity for the South Dakota float. But I hope this doesn’t strain South Dakota’s relationship with the Macy’s parade organization. Still, it’s our right as livestock producers and taxpayers to have individuals who support our industry represent us. At the same time, however, we must be careful not to come across as bullies.

I call this a win for South Dakota and for beef producers everywhere. However, while it’s good to react to negative attention, it’s even better to spread positive messages that we can control. So let’s double up our efforts this week to talk about the things that make our beef industry great.

 

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Farm Bill, Food Aid And U.S. Shipping Changes

While a handful of issues – chief among them nutrition program funding, regional crop support differences, and dairy policy – are proving difficult to find middle ground on, the ongoing farm bill conference must also deal with international food aid reform. With the humanitarian crises in Syria and the Philippines looming large, everyone in the debate remain keen to feed the world’s hungry but how the U.S. will do that in the future is in the balance.

Those opposed to the Senate farm bill’s major revisions of the U.S. food aid model – used in the Food for Peace and Food for Progress – say U.S. jobs and military readiness would be affected if proposed changes are included in the new farm bill. Among those against the Senate’s reforms are trade unions and a broad swath of agriculture advocacy groups.

To read Bennett's column, click here.

 

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3 Cool Things Ranchers Should Know About This Week

I thought I would kick off Monday by rounding up a few items from the entertainment industry I think might be worth your time. Here are three cool things you should know about this week.

1. “Farmland,” the movie

Coming out in the spring of 2014, this movie takes folks back to the farm. 
“Most people are five generations removed from the farm, and each generation makes people a little bit further removed,” describes the movie trailer, which you can watch here. 
This movie promises to show people where their food comes from and who the folks are behind the food we shop for at the grocery store.

Watch the trailer here.

 

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2. “Our Star Goes West,” a children’s book by Rianna and Sheridan Chaney

I’m a big fan of Rianna and Sheridan Chaney’s children’s books. They have recently released their fifth book, “Our Star Goes West.” In the new book, "Our Star Goes West," young readers get to enjoy Star's new adventure moving from a small farm in Maryland to a huge ranch in south central Nebraska. The book introduces many new experiences for Rianna and Sheridan while they learn about ranch life up close and personal. It also shows the good care farmers and ranchers give their cattle no matter what the weather, and points out the importance of farmers and ranchers to the environment and to wildlife. The book includes a glossary, fun beef facts, and educational websites for parents and teachers.

Buy the book here.

3. “In Meat We Trust,” an explorative history of meat by Maureen Ogle

I received a review copy of “In Meat We Trust,” and although I’m still working my way through it, I have so far enjoyed what I’ve read. In a recent interview with Salon, author Maureen Ogle discussed the meat scandals that have occurred throughout our nation’s history. She also explains why books like “The Jungle,” and food columnists like Michael Pollan, have it all wrong.

“I think what the food reformers – and I need to make it clear, I have a great deal of sympathy with their goals — don’t understand is that the system of providing food is predicated on the fact that the vast majority of Americans don’t make food,” she says. “They expect someone else to raise it for them. And in the U.S., if you live in a city, you absolutely expect there to be lots and lots of food at a reasonable price. For the past century that’s in fact what has driven our economy: the ability to free up spending dollars. I think food reformers don’t get that the reason they have the luxury of sitting around tapping out critiques on their Apple computers is because they a) don’t have to grow their own food and b) don’t have to spend very much money for the food that they do have.”

Do you have any suggestions for good reads, movies or articles our readers might enjoy? Send them my way at amanda.radke@penton.com or leave me a note in the comments section below.

 

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Evaluate Alfalfa Stands This Fall

Even though harvest is an exceptionally busy time, a Purdue University Extension forage specialist says alfalfa stand evaluation should not be ignored until harvest is over.

Alfalfa, well suited as a component of many rations for ruminant livestock and horses, requires a higher soil pH, ranging from 6.6 to 7.2, than most other forages and agronomic crops. Because changing soil pH can take time, Keith Johnson said producers should look at their alfalfa stands now to see if they are adequate or if new seeding should be planned in the spring of 2014.

"Producers should evaluate the density of the stand and determine if soil fertility, diseases, too frequent harvest or other stresses might be the reason for the decline," he says.

To read more about maintaing your alfalfa stand, click here.

 

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How To Successfully End A Ranching Partnership

tips for successful ranch partnerships

Humans are interesting creatures, and our relationships show just how interesting we can be. A couple of teammates on my college judging team were in a serious dating relationship that went south; both were great people, but in the process they went from lovers to enemies. I always thought that was such a shame. Yet, I have had a business partnership and a friendship end in a way where I wouldn’t call us enemies, but there is little contact; the relationship is severed, seemingly permanently. There is always a sense of regret when things end this way.

Perhaps ending a business relationship is much like getting a divorce. One side usually doesn’t want the relationship to end, and there is no denying that the deeper the bond, the more difficult it is to cut. I read a story that detailed the importance of establishing, at the outset of a business relationship/partnership, how it should end in order to make the process painless and to avoid the confrontations that inevitably emerge. It made sense, but it seems a little like putting together a divorce agreement on your honeymoon. 

It always makes sense to plan for success rather than anticipating failure. Perhaps a more constructive approach to prevent disagreements from becoming unsolvable deal breakers is to understand that there will inevitably be disagreements and outline how these disagreements will be dealt with.

I have yet to get involved in a relationship where both sides didn’t want to work out the vision; the goals have always been shared or compatible. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems and usually, they are the result of ineffective communication. There are hundreds of books written on the differences in communication styles, but we still do a terrible job in this regard. Once communication is compromised or one side stops communicating, there is little hope to fix the problems and they usually only fester if not addressed.  

 

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It is probably impossible to anticipate all the problems that might arise in a business relationship, but there are some discussions that would be constructive if conducted prior to when the problems crop up; hold regular meetings to discuss how the relationship is advancing. Marriage counselors have great advice on conflict resolution and fighting fair. While business partnerships are usually handled more professionally than personal relationships, it is naïve to assume that there won’t be difficulties in a business relationship.

And yes, just like a marriage, business relationships should be fought for. But unlike a marriage which represents the ultimate commitment, there should also be preparations made to dissolve the partnership with minimum hardship to the partners. When a dispute ends up in court, there has been a colossal failure of communication, or you made a critical error in judgment about who you partnered with.

 

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EPA Proposes Reduced Ethanol Requirement

epa proposed RFS changes

Less of this year’s bumper corn crop will be burned as ethanol if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sticks to the proposal it released Friday.

The agency’s proposed levels of renewable fuels for blending into gasoline and diesel next year are 1.34 billion gal. less than this year’s Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). That’s according to the EPA proposal released for a 60-day public comment period.

In cowboy terms, EPA apparently finally recognized the blend wall is more than a fancy term. It prevents achieving the statutory RFS requirement. U.S. gas consumption decreased significantly since the RFS was implanted via the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In order to avoid the wall and comply with the RFS, U.S. producers would have to decrease gasoline production or export more production. This considers corn-based ethanol, specifically, which accounts for 83% of the of mandated renewable fuel levels this year.

The implied proposed volume of corn-based ethanol for 2014 is about 13.1 billion gallons. That’s taking the total RVO of 15.21 billion gal. (range of 15.00-15.52 billion gal.) in the EPA proposal and subtracting the estimated 2.2 billion gal. of estimated other renewable fuels (biomass-based diesel and cellulosic biofuel).

More specifically, according to the submitted proposal (way down on page 175 out of 204 if you’re interested), “The ranges that we are proposing for advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel determine the range of non-advanced renewable fuel that would be needed. The majority of non-advanced renewable fuel is ethanol made from corn starch … the volume of corn-ethanol that would be needed would be 12.94-13.07 billion gal.”

 

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The outcry from ethanol proponents is as loud as it is predictable. Compared to the original, untenable RFS, the proposed rule does represent a reduction in mandated ethanol. Compared to recent years, though, 13.1 billion gal. of corn-ethanol would represent an increase.

According to the proposal narrative, “This range represents an increase in comparison to 2012 corn-ethanol consumption, which was about 12.5 billion gal. While this range represents a reduction in comparison to the statutory volumes for 2014, it nonetheless represents an increase relative to projected 2013 corn-ethanol consumption of about 12.3 billion gal…”

Moreover, while the proposal represents some relief for ethanol opponents, it falls short of the repeal many want.

“EPA’s decision to reduce the ethanol mandate is long overdue,” says Mark Dopp, vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel for the American Meat Institute (AMI). “While this is a positive step, the fact remains the RFS is a flawed policy that requires Congressional action.”

Ironically, the way EPA is going about achieving the proposed reduction has ethanol proponents questioning the agency’s legal authority, something even opponents can commiserate with.

“Even with a record corn crop expected this year, the damaging ripple effect of this defective policy has moved through the meat and poultry complex for the past several years. The time for Congressional action is now,” Dopp says.
 

 

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