Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Family Loves Hamburgers


The quality and safety of U.S. beef has made headlines over the last few months. First, the controversy surrounding Lean Finely Textured Beef (which also goes by the unfortunate name “pink slime”). Most recently, the discovery of a BSE cow in California. I want to share facts and resources to aid you in making an informed decision about consuming U.S. beef.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
BSE, more commonly known as mad cow, causes neurological problems in animals. The California cow diagnosed with BSE, found via a routine Agriculture Department testing program, was the fourth ever discovered in the U.S. This particular cow had atypical BSE, which is rare. Here’s what you should know about BSE:

  • No BSE has ever been detected in muscle meat or milk.
  • BSE cannot be transmitted through milk.
  • BSE is not an infectious disease and does not spread from cow to cow.
  • Humans can’t get BSE from contact with cows.
  • The U.S. government has safeguards in place to detect cattle infected with BSE.

BSE found in UK cattle in the 1990’s was a form caused by cattle eating animal-based products made from BSE infected livestock. Since that time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the adding of meat scraps to cattle feed. After America’s first case of BSE in 2003, Congress passed a law banning the sale of downer cows (animals that can’t stand on their own due to illness). These animals can’t be taken to a processing facility for beef production, they must be euthanized. All these steps were taken to ensure meat quality and safety.

Visit these sources for facts about BSE:
Information and links from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association 


Lean Finely Textured Beef
Like most Americans, this is not a product I gave much thought to until the anti “pink slime” campaign hit the airwaves. After reviewing facts from trusted sources, I learned that boneless beef trimmings are 100% edible, USDA inspected beef. This beef product has the same nutrition attributes of lean ground beef; protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.  

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, lead the charge to ban so-called pink slime. He told people this product is made of “dog food full of salmonella and e-coli”. Then he illustrated the process of making this product by placing a mound of fat/bones/guts/tissue into a container and poured household ammonia (labeled with a skull and cross bones) and advised “we’re turning dog food into kid’s food”. He then asked parents, “Do you want this fed to your children?” After the show he put on, the answer was obvious. Of course not! What parent wants their child to eat a product equivalent to dog food? Unfortunately, Jamie’s illustration was filled with emotion and half-truths. This is irresponsible and false reporting. Jamie advised his audience that the only way they can get quality ground beef is to go to the butcher and watch him grind it. That’s not realistic or necessary. I did my own research and found out that lean beef trimmings are natural beef and are not harmful to me or my family.

For facts about LFTB, check out these sources:

The goal on our farm is to maintain a well cared for and healthy herd of cattle with the end result being quality milk and meat that is made into nutritious and delicious products. I believe food processors aspire to produce quality products people want to eat.

When stories about BSE, LFTB or any other food safety/quality issue receive widespread attention, it’s important to do some research yourself to get the facts. News reports are not always accurate and their stories seem to be aimed at shocking and scaring people. Groups like HSUS and PETA then jump on the opportunity to point out how bad it is to consume animal products urging people to adopt a vegan diet. Outrageous and gross stories are much more interesting and attention-grabbing than the boring facts.

There are no 100% guarantees when it comes to food safety, or anything for that matter. But it’s important to know there are many steps throughout the food production system, from farm to processor to retail that are taken each day to ensure food quality in this country. Improvements in processes and technology continue to be made in an effort to produce healthy, quality and safe food.

I’m curious to hear from you. What was your initial reaction to pink slime and BSE? Do you still consume ground beef and beef products? What are the information sources you trust regarding food quality and safety issues? What can we as farmers do to help you feel confident about the food we are producing?

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for doing research on both topics (BSE & LFTB)! The links you attached are GREAT! Very factual.

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  2. As an employee of BPI thank your for spreading the truth about LFTB! and this countries beef industry. Anyone interested in spreading the truth against false reporting join Peple for the truth group on FB or tweeter

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  3. Thanks for the comments. I've joined People for the Truth on Facebook. I hope others will too!

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  4. Thank you for some pure fact telling. Too many people are unwilling to actually look into true factual info on their own. I believe the activists used their biggest arrows at the wrong target when they went after LFTB.

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  5. It's interesting that you talk about BSE and LFTB together when discussing the safety of beef. I believe that BSE is possibly the most important health risk that is associated with LFTB. As you mention, BSE is not found in muscle meat. However, the prions are present in spinal tissue. In 2002, a survey conducted by USDA found that up to 35% of mechanically separated beef contained spinal tissue. It is an issue that the Food Safety Inspection Service is still publishing on their website.
    If I have a choice, I'll still feed my family a home-grown steer and save the scraps for dog food. I'm not willing to risk their lives to help promote big ag.

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  6. I appreciate your input. I recommend reading the USDA Q&A on BSE which I have linked to my blog. The Q&A addresses questions like; Is the U.S. food supply safe from BSE and How effective are the safeguards against BSE?

    I believe the safeguards in place have been extremely effective because BSE hasn’t been a livestock or human health problem in the U.S. It’s your choice to raise beef for you and your family and I respect that choice. But most people are not able to raise their own food. For those of us who purchase food at the grocery store, I believe we are extremely fortunate in this country to have such a safe food supply.

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  7. There's no doubt that statistically the US food supply is safe. However, numbers are only as good as the trustworthiness of their sources. It becomes difficult to trust a USDA who can tout the effectiveness of their "interlocking safeguards" but does not publish any detail about these safeguards. This is the same USDA who conceded the right of dairy farmers to genomically test their own bull calves, reserving that right for the AI companies. People are getting fed up with the influence that big companies are sucessfully exercising on our government agencies.

    While it's true that most people don't have the opportunity to raise their own beef, anyone is able to purchase livestock either directly from farmers or at local livestock auction markets and have it locally processed. This is a great opportunity for producers such as yourselves who have the ability to build trust with the public. Anyone who has cooked a locally grown and processed hamburger can tell you that it is a totally different product than what you buy in stores. In this respect, I believe that "Holstein Hamburger" has more marketing potential than Angus Beef ever did.

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  8. The consumer is always right big ag wants profit at the expense of the small family farm we need to unite with them not discredit there concerns they won on the BST debate and they will always win with there pocket book dairy dad !

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  9. I agree that government intervention on our farms and businesses can be frustrating. While I might not agree with all government regulations, I do want safeguards in place to make sure our food supply is safe. This is regulated by state and federal government, but is the responsibility of farmers, food processors, retail stores and consumers. I support your efforts to promote Holstein Hamburger!

    Regarding the next comment, I would appreciate some clarification. Define “big ag”. Who would you like to unite? What do you mean “they won on the BST debate”? I like a good discussion, but am having a hard time following your comment.

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  10. Big ag would be defined as anti competitive vertical integrations of our food supply only a very small percentage of dairy fall into this category mainly processing and cooperatives the consumers won the BST debate good thing if not are price would be twelve a hundred we need to unite for the greater good of our industry dairy dad

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  11. Thanks for the clarification. I agree dairy producers need to unite.

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    1. Do u think nmpf represent the dairy farmers best interest

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    2. We are independent dairy producers and are not members of a cooperative. I believe the idea of farmer-owned cooperatives is a good one; farmers serving as board members to make decisions based on the best interest of the farmers the coop serves. Based on what I’ve seen from coops, this doesn’t happen. I believe cooperatives and NMPF favor processors and retailers above producers.

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    3. Okay we r one step closer to being united no one is representing us effectively

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    4. Holstein HamburgerMay 2, 2012 at 8:43 PM

      Anon, you may be interested in looking into this organization. They are still in their infancy, but their goal is to do just what you are talking about. The dues are a bit steep, but we joined because we really believe in what they are trying to do. As a side note, I think I actually followed a link on their website to find the Dairy Mom blog!
      Dairy Mom, I think you are probably right about NMPF and many coops. When the largest cooperative in the country pays its directors a $450 per diem, they start to become more focused on job security and not making waves than actually representing the best interests of producers. NMPF representatives consist of many of these same per diem collectors. It was just published in The Milkweed that Jerry Kozak received a $400,000 pay increase in 2010, bumping him just over $1.1 million per year to head up NMPF.
      However, cooperatives are the only hope that smaller farms have for any influence in the marketplace. I realize it is a minority, but there are coops where the boards do try to represent the interests of the members. We are fortunate to belong to such a coop.

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    5. Thanks for the link. We are members of the National Dairy Producers Organization and hope that organization is effective in representing the best interest of dairy producers. It's frustrating to hear the large salaries NMPF staff members are receiving when dairy farmers are suffering across the nation.

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    6. 450 per diem u better add another zero or two lets learn from the two soccer moms who started this hamburger thing if they can rally three hundred thousand why cant we rally ten thousand dairy men and women to change how we r represented in our struggle for common sense solutions

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  12. Holstein HamburgerMay 2, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Just thought I should clarify a bit. My comment was not talking about goverment regulations. I agree they are necessary, especially when it comes to our food supply. I'm talking about the consumers' rightful distrust of government agencies to protect their interests because it seems the agencies are bought and paid for by the large corporations. I mentioned what has occurred in the AIPL branch of USDA, but the same thing is happening in other branches of USDA and other agencies such as FDA, EPA, etc. With public funding on the decrease, this problem will only get worse as these agencies rely more on resources provided to them by private business.

    The next comment was not mine, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment of the "dairy dad".

    I'm glad you like the "Holstein Hamburger" idea--I'll use that for my name to avoid confusion. I'm also glad you like a good discussion. I don't mean to cause trouble for you here, I appreciate what you are trying to do. I have posted comments here because I can tell you are a thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate dairy producer and am interested in your thoughts about ideas that don't necessarily follow Farm Bureau talking points.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Holstein Hamburger. I understand people’s distrust of government. I would count myself in that category in some cases. I appreciate you taking the time to engage in discussion. You bring good points to the table. One of the things I love about having a blog is the candid discussion that happens. I admire people who are passionate about their beliefs!

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  13. How do u feel about margin insurance dairy dad

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  14. I'm ok with margin insurance being offered to dairy farmers as a risk management tool. I'm a supporter of small government and limited federal programs. Unfortunately, the federal government has heavily subsidized ethanol/corn which has driven livestock feed prices sky high. If an industry or business can't make it on their own, they should not be in business. It's not the job of the federal government to pick and choose which businesses they will "support". This creates a false market place which has winners and losers. Right now, the grain farmers are winners and the dairy farmers and consumers are losing.

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  15. Holstein HamburgerMay 5, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Just wonderin' if my earlier comment on margin insurance was removed or just lost? Thanks.

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  16. I'm not sure what happened. I didn't remove any comments. Sorry it's not showing up here.

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  17. Holstein HamburgerMay 6, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    Thanks, I'll try again. The problem I see with margin insurance is that it actually requires a large amount of government subsidization in order to be a viable risk management tool for dairy farmers. Even when almost half the premium is paid by USDA not many producers sign up because of the high cost. Crop farmers receive premium subsidies for their crop insurance, too. However, crop insurance pays out indemnities at a much higher ratio to premiums collected than LGM ever will. The April Hoard's had an article that said in 2011, livestock insurance products collected premiums of $34 million and paid indemnities of $4 million, while RP crop insurance paid out $7.9 billion against premiums of $9.2 billion. Regardless of subsidy, I see margin insurance as taking a piece of the dairy industry pie and giving it to the insurance industry in administrative costs and underwriting gains. We need to be careful what we ask for. Sure, volatility is tough when we're weathering the lows, but I'll take that over an overall lower milk price. Land-based dairy operations like yours and ours that can grow most of our own feed have the advantage now--I'd hate to give that up. We can survive high feed prices, we just need a fair price for our milk.

    The real problem with our industry is our unwillingness to take steps to control supply to more closely match demand. Methods to accomplish this have been proposed by both NDPO and the Holstein Association, and would not require any taxpayer dollars. Talk about limited government! In these times of low milk prices, high feed costs, and high shipper cow prices, we should be culling the herd, not growing it! It's not a bad thing to have extra feed available to sell.

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  18. Amen hamburger the day I buy insurance is the day i quit milking

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  19. HoIstein Hamburger should give some consideration to the realty of what dairy imports are doing to our so-called "surplus." Free Trade agreements, passed without any degree of scrutiny by the American people, allow foreign dairy products into our country at accelerated rates. Look at the Australia Trade Agreement alone that allows increased access to our domestic "dairy market." Let's face it, that's a lot of "access," so why should US dairy farmers be accused of "overproduction" and be expected to reduce domestic milk production by "supply management" of any kind only to have foreign dairy imports plug the US production hole? Furthermore, look at milk protein concentrate (MPC), both domestic and imported, never tested for safety or nutritional value, displacing traditional dairy ingredients like milk, cream, etc.in cheese and other food products, and adding to the perception of "overproduction' as a result of MPC's extension of cheese yields, too. Check the records and notice how many years since 1996 the US has been domestically dairy deficit. An early 2012 surge of imported MPC is noted in recent research by noted dairy researcher John Bunting.

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    1. Holstein HamburgerJune 30, 2012 at 7:23 PM

      I appreciate your comment and the opportunity to clarify my position. You are correct that supply management of any kind would be futile without controlling imports. That's why I support the proposals like those by NDPO and senate bill 1640--they address this concern. The so-called market stabilization portion of the Dairy Security Act does nothing about imports. I would encourage you to further look into the National Dairy Producers Organization, as the importation of MPC's is among their main concerns. This is a big part of why they developed the 100% USA label for dairy products.

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Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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