Monthly Archives: March 2012

CN&R, Pink Slime and Good Reporting

During California’s last election, there was an initiative that was poorly written and harmful to California’s egg industry, prop. 2. Most of our local papers advised voters to educate themselves about the issue and realized this was an initiative written and supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). As my very smart readers know, HSUS is for the most part, not what they seem. But that is for another blog post.

One local paper, The Chico News and Review, supported prop 2. Basically they fell victim to the excellent marketing campaign (baby pigs are cute!). Also this paper loves to quote anything our local Farm Sanctuary says as truth, even if it isn’t. Well, I bet you all would be surprised to learn I started a letter writing campaign asking them to use better resources when talking about local agriculture. I actually just found the e-mail exchange, I should post it, it was funny!

The CN&R did get an ag intern from our local University and things were a lot better. Then the intern graduated, and things went back to normal. It became apparent to me, that this paper only cared about their own agenda, not the community, not the local farmers or ranchers, not the animals, not the land. I went on to law school, and didn’t have time to write a letter every time skewed facts or misinformation was printed. I also started this blog in hopes of getting some good information out there. Plus it’s common knowledge within this community that the CN&R is not the best place to get news.

With all the bad media coverage going on about, well, pretty much everything, I think it’s time that the agricultural industry step up. We need hold the media responsible when they do their job poorly. These reporters need to understand that their fear mongering does have a direct impact on our livelihoods and familys. And that is not ok.

This week’s edition of the CN&R spurred me into action. I’m posting the article for you to read and I’m posting my letter to the editor. Feel free to use my letter as a template if this article upsets you as much as it upset me. Again I’m not telling you to eat burger made with LFTB. I believe it is incredibly important to have choice in our food supply.  Using fear and fallacies to limit that choice is a new low and should not be condoned. 

Dear Editor,

Your recent article regarding “Pink Slime” in the Green House Greenguide was very disappointing. Instead of reaching out to local experts to gather facts, educated opinions, or doing any independent research about lean finely textured beef (LFTB), Ms. LaPado used hyperbole to demonize a product and company that she is apparently unfamiliar.

Butte County is an agricultural community, in an agricultural state. Many of Butte County’s local farmers and ranchers, that you claim to support, work tirelessly to combat sensationalism like your “Pink Slime” article. Promoting this type of misinformation to the public and our consumers only hurts the very family farmers you claim to champion. Do you expect readers not be alarmed when the very title is “Soylent Pink”?

What surprises me the most, however, is as someone who reports about sustainability, Ms. LaPado never mentions why LFTB is used. Cattle-people like myself would have to raise anywhere between 516,000 to 654,000* extra cattle per year to produce same amount of beef if we did not use the lean beef trimming, which is simply beef that has been separated from the fat in beef trimmings and not “basically offal swept up off the slaughterhouse floor” as Ms. LaPado claims. Using the whole beef carcass is instrumental to improving sustainability. It would take a lot of natural resources to produce all those extra cattle.

Ms. LaPado also failed to mention that three out of four BPI plants have closed due to the repercussions of incomplete journalism, leaving thousands of people struggling in an already uncertain financial economy. The “corporate beef giant” BPI, has a very solid food safety record and clean facility. Noted food safety attorney, Bill Marler, even reiterated that fact. Did BPI need to show more transparency? Absolutely. People have the right to full disclosure in our food supply. But did BPI deserve this smear campaign? No.

As I mentioned before, many local farmers, ranchers and processors work incredibly hard to make ourselves available to newspapers, blogger and journalists. We are also lucky enough to have two agriculture colleges, and several slaughterhouses in this area, it’s not hard to find a good resource about meat or beef. In fact, Chico Locker and Sausage Company at http://chicolockersausage.com operate a very informative blog about current meat issues. My blog, thebeefjar.com also contains information about modern beef production. I also noticed the CN&R on twitter. Twitter makes available a wealth of knowledge through #agchat, and the ability to connect with industry experts in one tweet.

In the future, I sincerely hope you use educational resources available to you and do your due diligence by using factual information.

Thank you,

Megan Brown

6th Generation Cattle Rancher

*According to Dr. Jude Capper

8 Comments

Filed under Ag, food, Media, Rants, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Horse Power

Leave a Comment

Filed under Ag, History, photos, Wordless Wednesday

Guest Post: What Breed of Horse Are You?

Most people think you simply cannot run a cattle ranch without horses, it just isn’t done! When I explain to people that our Ranch has pretty much stopped using horses, they are shocked! For us, it’s become easier and more economical to use ATV’s to work and gather our cattle. Our Ranches are, for the most part, rangeland that is easy to drive ATV’s on, so horses tend to be more work than they are worth.

People not familiar with horses tend to think you can just get on a horse and go. They don’t think about the vaccinations, farrier, the training,  the tack, the feed, the time, the supplements that you must provide to your horse to keep him healthy and happy. In stark contrast an ATV needs gas and an occasional oil change to keep it running. It is never cranky or hard to catch in the morning and they rarely buck you off.

When I was a child our Ranch had a huge herd of horses. We bred and raised our own, so in addition to the forty head or so of saddle horses, we also had a bunch of breeding mares. I have memories from when I was very little of horses everywhere on the Ranch, it was amazing! Now we are down to two retired geldings, whose main job is to be a pasture decoration. Of course if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that my horse crazy is back, and I would give my left arm to be back in the saddle on a daily basis (for the record, I never ever, ever thought there would be a time when I worked in an office, fulltime, off the Ranch, away from my horses and cattle. Funny thing about life, I guess).

My dream in life is to own an Akhal-Teke horse, for three reasons. The first being this horse literally has a metallic coat, and for a girl obsessed with palominos, it’s like the zen of horse owning. The second is I would like to ride endurance (I already have the saddle). The third reason is my whole life I’ve been told that I am only to own gelded quarter horses. That is like the equivalent of telling me I can only wear cowboy boots for the rest of my life, not practical or realistic, and it’s just not going to happen. Plus when someone tells me that I can’t do something, I hear “Megan, you simply must do it! You must! You must! You must! Do it! DO it! DO IT!” That mentality has ended a lot of relationships for me, lol.

However, the problem with being the kid and not the parent (ahem, boss more specifically, Dad) on a ranch is you don’t get to make that decision for yourself. So until the time when I get to make decisions for myself, retire from my office job, and can have horses again, I won’t be writing too much about horses. I asked a friend of mine, who is currently in the horse world, to write a guest post for The Beef Jar.

 – Megan

*********************************************************************

I am a Halflinger. Blonde, buxom, and not afraid of a day’s work, but I’d rather stuff my face with grain and take a nap in the sun.  To describe me in human terms, I’m a Type B personality.

As certain personality and physical traits are passed through families and nationality they are also present in horse breeds. Italians are short, boisterous, loud, loving while Germans are built large in stature with harsh personalities (I realize these are based generalizations).Thoroughbreds are fleet footed, sleek Type A personality types while a Quarter Horse is the dude kickin’ it on the beach smokin’ a doobie. Breed personality generalizations are a great place to start when looking for a horse. It will tell you if you will get along with a certain breed as a whole.

Endurance riding.

If you are a Type A personality that is easily flustered, a Thoroughbred or Arabian is probably not a wise choice. Horses like these are known as “hot bloods.” They are very sensitive and pick up on a rider’s nervous or frustrated energy right away. If you’re learning to ride or taking lessons and are scared, nervous, or frustrated, these horses will generally pick up on your feelings and what started out as a simple half-pass exercise will end up and epic battle ending with horse and rider drenched in sweat and shaking. You’ll want a horse that is naturally calm and level headed such as any breed of Stock Horse (Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints, Criollos, Australian Stock Horses etc). If you’re a Type A person that is a go-getter, never gets nervous and is self confident a Thoroughbred or Arabian is a good personality match.

CC

A Type B personality might suit a hot-blooded horse well, because horses will feed off of the rider’s personality. This gives a hot-blooded horse a calm and relaxed leader to follow. A Type B person also may lack motivation which is not a good thing paired with a horse that is naturally lazy. They will feed off each other and nothing will get done, what started off as a simple half-pass exercise will end with the rider napping and the horse grazing (guilty). However, if all you’re doing is moseying down a trail, this is the perfect match.

I tend to love my Stock Horses, as a Type B I’m easily frustrated with “feather brains” and over-reactions. I love the calm easy-going personality of a Quarter Horse, Paint or cross. My horse CC is actually Paint/Thoroughbred. He has enough athleticism to do what I need and at the same time, I can ride him bareback in a halter down the road.

Another thing to consider is what is going to be your horse’s “job?” All horses need a job, whether it’s 100-mile endurance rides or looking pretty in your yard. Hot-Blooded horses obviously have a lot of energy and are great for someone who rides 5 days a week and is training hard. Quarter Horses or other similar Type B personality horses are great for the weekend rider. However, if you’re schooling 3’ fences a 14.2 hand Quarter Horse might not suit your needs on the other hand you may be a competitive Reiner riding 5days a week and showing every weekend at which point a Stock Horse would be perfect.

Based on your personality type and physical stature, what breed of horse are you?

Natalie Stoppani has a BS in ag communications from Chico State. She is currently looking for a job in the industry, so if you know of anything please let her know at swissgirldrivesatruck@gmail.com.  Please check out her blog and her ask her how you can help Gibbs, a horse she saved from a very sad life. 

3 Comments

Filed under Ag, Guest Post, Humor, Rants, Uncategorized

Long Lost Family

As my loyal readers are aware, I’ve been researching my family history, and it turned out to be a hot mess of historically significant awesomeness. In addition to helping me learn where I come from and who I am, my super secret wish was that this blog would help me meet more members of my extended family. Being the only child, my fear in life is that I will end up alone when I’m old, with no family for me to share my life with.

My family is full of strong personalities, passion and drama, and according to my research we’ve always been this way. The current generations are no different. The Brown side of my family is like a Lifetime movie of the week. The best stories, of course, I can’t write until more family members have died, or I get a book deal and a team of lawyers to defend me (hint). Until that time, I can only share the PG-13 stories about generations gone.

Today I met Dawn. Dawn is related to me through the Lucas family. As near as I can figure, we are 3rd cousins once removed. The Lucas Family is the side that came to Chico as pioneers and ran the meat shop. Want to know what Dawn does for a living? She is a meat cutter! The love of cattle and meat run strong in this family. It was amazing meeting Dawn. I felt bad I only had my lunch break to visit with her. But we did get to share stories from each of our immediate family, and it is safe to say, we are related! The stories and personalities that we got to share were freakishly similar.

Dawn and I at the memorial for John Henry Lucas Jr. in Children's Park, Chico, CA.

This family is huge, and during the 1900’s they all scattered and lost contact. During the late 1900’s they all died, leaving the younger generations with no way to learn about each other. Unfortunately I think this occurred because of anger and bitterness. My family can hold a grudge like no other, and after talking to Dawn about it, she confirmed that fact. A lot of our conversation was surreal, it was almost like talking to myself in a way. We have so much in common, from both having a partner that helps soothe our grudge holding ways, to having immediate family with alcoholism.

When my Grandfather died, I got a first hand lesson in grudge holding from my immediate family. How he chose to divide his estate caused a lot of hard feelings and anger for the immediate and not so immediate family (oh, yes, I have stories about THAT). So it’s really no surprise to Dawn and myself, that generations before did the same thing. I think in addition to the family drama, it was common during the early to mid 1900’s for people to move from country life to city life because of mechanized agriculture. I’ve seen a lot of evidence of that in my family tree.

Dawn and I plan on meeting up in the future. Her Mom has memories of staying on the Lucas Ranch, and meeting family members that have died. I want to interview her and learn all I can for the book that I someday plan on writing. Hopefully Dawn and I can combine our powers and research even farther back, back to Ireland and Germany. Then we can meet our European Family.

1 Comment

Filed under Ag, food, History

Fun Ag Facts VIII

fun ag fact of the day: Guinea pigs were originally domesticated for their meat in the Andes. Traditionally, the animal was reserved for ceremonial meals by indigenous people in the Andean highlands, but since the 1960s it has become more socially acceptable for consumption by all people.

fun ag fact of the day: Out of 20,000 species of bees, only 4 make honey.

fun ag fact of the day: The United States and Canada produce nearly 83% of the world’s total blueberries!

fun ag fact of the day: China and India produce over 52% of the world’s total rice.

fun ag fact of the day: It takes a chick 21 days to develop in the egg. It starts developing when the egg reaches a temperature of 88 degrees F.

fun ag fact of the day: Fresno, California is the top-producing county in America when it comes to agricultural products.

fun ag fact of the day: About 46% of the country is farmland—that’s an area more than ten times the size of California and greater than twice the size of Alaska.

fun ag fact of the day: Carrot Cake has been around since the Middle Ages. At that time, sugar and other sweeteners were rare and very expensive, so people used sweet vegetables to flavor their puddings.

fun ag fact of the day: One of the sweetest fruits is Date Palms or simply referred to as Dates. Palm trees are the oldest cultivated trees in recorded history. The date trees found in North Africa are said to have been grown since the past 8,000 years.

fun ag fact of the day: A ‘black baldy’ most times is a cross between an Angus and a Hereford.

fun ag fact of the day: Michigan ranks first in the nation in tart cherry production with over 74% of the nation’s total.

fun ag fact of the day: One pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn. There are 150 yards (450 feet) of wool yarn in a baseball.

fun ag fact of the day: A cow’s gestation period is approximately 283 days. This is the average number of days from the day a cow is bred to the time she has a calf.

fun ag fact of the day: A modern combine takes just nine seconds to harvest enough wheat to make about 70 loaves of bread.

fun ag fact of the day: La Mancha goats have very small, almost nonexistent ears.

fun ag fact of the day: meat (beef) from intact bulls has a coarser texture, lower marbling and more variable tenderness.

fun ag fact of the day: 16.7 million farmers grew biotech crops in 2011. 90% were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

fun ag fact of the day: An acre of corn removes 8 tons of harmful greenhouse gas, more than your car produces annually.

fun ag fact of the day: artichokes are closely related to sunflowers.

fun ag fact of the day: Jelly is made from the juice of fruit while Jam is made from crushed fruit .

1 Comment

Filed under Ag, food, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Float On

20120320-214612.jpg

Leave a Comment

Filed under Ag, photos, Wordless Wednesday

Giant Cast Iron Cookie

20120319-104829.jpg

I like big food. I can’t help it. Ridiculously large amounts of food bring me comfort. A beef roast the size of a small child? I’ll take two, thank you. The ham that is *almost* too big for my oven? I should probably buy a couple extra for the deep freeze (think of the leftovers!). I’m fairly certain I starved to death in a previous life.

In addition to big food, I also love my cast iron pans! When my Grandfather died and the family went crazy trying to grab all of his personal possessions, I quietly slipped away with the pictures and the cast iron cookware. Consequently I now have a collection of antique cast iron pans that would make most grandmothers jealous. They are my pride and joy and I use them for pretty much everything.

20120319-104740.jpg

This recipe combines my love of several things, large food, cast iron and cookies! I found the original recipe from Martha Stewart, but it needed some help. So I helped it, and now Giant Cookie is my new favorite thing!

You Will Need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda (use fresh, your cookies will be puffier)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter, at or close to room temp

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons (running over) pure vanilla extract

About a cup and 1/4-chocolate chips

3 tablespoons nutella

20120319-104756.jpg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your Kitchen Aid, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add flour, soda, salt and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

20120319-104804.jpg

Put your dough into an 10-inch cast iron skillet, and press to flatten, covering bottom of the pan. Make sure your cast iron is seasoned or put a layer of Crisco down before you press the dough. Now take some of the nutella and dollop some on the top of the Giant Cookie. Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 35 minutes (more if you like a crispy cookie, I do not).

20120319-104813.jpg

Remove your Giant Cookie from your cast iron or it will continue to cook (this is important, I learned this the hard way. Incidentally vanilla ice cream does a wonderful job of fixing over baked Giant Cookie).

20120319-104821.jpg

4 Comments

Filed under Ag, food, Recipe

Ag can be lovable, so it’s time to show it | Blog | Blog | Feedstuffs FoodLink

Oh, hi there Beef Jar Reader. If you’ve been a long-time follower you’ve seen the evolution of this blog and my writing. I’ve gotten a lot better over the 3 or so years I’ve been doing this. It’s been hard work! My point of views about some things agriculture have changed dramatically over the years. And change is hard. But change is also good. I’ve learned so much and hopefully you have too.

I’m very excited to announce that I have joined the Feedstuffs/Feedstuffs FoodLink team of contributors along with Jesse R. Bussard and Mike Haley (I know, can you believe it? Those are some serious agvocates)! This is a HUGE deal. I work with Andy Vance now (he’s the Paul Harvey of our generation, in case you didn’t know)!!!! My very first column is published, and here it is, my Mom is so proud (and so am I)! Enjoy!

Ag can be lovable, so it’s time to show it | Blog | Blog | Feedstuffs FoodLink.

1 Comment

Filed under Ag, Feedstuffs Foodlink, food, Media, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Active Environmentalist

Mountain lions were not a subject I planned on writing about. Right now, in California, it’s a rather polarizing topic. However, recent events have made it necessary for me to share something with my Readers. A couple days ago a mountain lion attacked the mountain community where we summer our cattle. In an especially vicious attack 9 of our neighbors goats were heartlessly slaughtered, not eaten, but slaughtered. Not only is this terrifying to me as someone whose very way of life depends on the safety of my animals, but as a child, I grew up running wild in this community. This attack could have very easily been on me, 20 years ago, or now, on one of my friend’s children.

Cattlepeople take our environment very seriously. We understand how delicate our eco-system is, because when something is out of balance our animals and land suffer. I also like to say a Rancher is not an environmental activist s/he is an active environmentalist. Sometimes when our eco-system can’t right itself, it becomes the Rancher’s duty to interfere. This is one of those times. – Megan

***********************************************************************************************

20120315-050020.jpg

20120315-045858.jpg

20120315-045908.jpg

20120315-045921.jpg

20120315-045935.jpg

Howling winds couldn’t distract my gaze. The stillness of their bodies was surreal. Scrape marks in the soil. Hay moving in the wind, that last night was carefully placed in the mangers for these goats. Expecting him to breath, I am transfixed on the body of the large Billy goat. I wait, thinking I see movement but it is only the wind blowing his hair. Glimpses of white and brown dot the area. Looking closer I see their little feet, their soft ears and precious mouths. Just a few hours ago they were romping by their mothers as they made their way to the barn for the night. Leaping, kicking out to the side, landing only to take off again as if they had springs on their feet

20120315-050036.jpg

20120315-050049.jpg

“It jumped out over here.” I am startled back to the reality of what needs to be done. The lion must be tracked down and “taken” and it must be done before the rains come. There are new foals in the barn and they may be next on the lions quest. The hounds whine, but there are no bays of chase. It has been too long we will have to wait until the lion comes back.

20120315-050204.jpg

The few live goats that are left are locked in the barn where the mare and foals are housed. The bodies of the nine (9) dead are piled in one place, so the lion will come to a distinct area. A trick wire is placed on the top goats’ carcass so when it is moved an alarm that the Tracker has, will go off. The waiting begins. At 10:00 p.. the alarm is sounded. Our hound man gets his dogs and as he approaches the barn he sees the lion emerge from the barn and leap over the 6’ 6” fence without touching, loping across the arena and heading toward the mountain. The hounds give chase and soon the lion is treed. It is huge. The biggest lion our tracker has ever seen in his many years. The lion is shot and falls, the wind is howling and the rain is here, coming down is sheets.

20120315-050103.jpg

20120315-050112.jpg

Document the damage. Document the results. Document the loss. All are documented, all is legal. The depredation was a success; yet there is no celebration at the Walking G Ranch. The dead are counted and the living are being cared for by the young man, Paul, of 13 years of age who they belong to. The nannies that are alive have lost their young, the young that survived have lost their mothers. Each kid must be fed three times a day and the nannies milked, for they won’t accept another’s young at this point. Chores are a welcome distraction. The filling of water buckets, cleaning the stalls. Chickens to be let out. Horses fed.

It is raining in an area of dust. Welcomed rain, rejuvenating rain. Spring will happen this year. Paul is consoled, he is encouraged and receives many calls of condolence for his loss. He is a tough young man. Practical minded, he plans on getting a loan from his mother and father and buying 100 young goats to eat the star thistle and buy another guard dog, since one was definitely not enough.

20120315-045954.jpg

20120315-050003.jpg

“This is my business.” Paul states “and no lion is going to ruin me. “ A smile of hope is on his young face. Yet as we are loading the body of his prized Billy goat, the goat that was raised on a bottle, that he played tag with, I watch his hand caress the goats’ face and give him a little pat with a trembling hand, as the tail gate is closed. I turn away not so much for his sake, but mine..tears were blurring my vision and I felt so angry, so helpless in the midst of this created madness.

20120315-050124.jpg

20120315-050220.jpg

Heather Kingdon is a commercial cattleperson, photographer, horsewoman, teacher, artist, mentor, Mother and Grandmother in Plumas County. She can be reached at heatherandbrian.kingdon@gmail.com . If you want to know more, please watch http://youtu.be/rYY3lTa9G84

23 Comments

Filed under Ag, food, Guest Post, photos, Rants, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Newt Porn

20120314-065114.jpg

20120314-065132.jpg

20120314-065146.jpg

2 Comments

Filed under Ag, Humor, photos, Wordless Wednesday