.....A view from "down the lane" ....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cattle: Good for the Environment...Surprise, surprise...

What's all this that cattle and good stewardship do NOT go hand in hand?? Wow, please, get off the train if that's what you believe. Cattle ARE good for the environment, when they are raised in balance with the nature around them.

First of all, cattle are a bovine species, meaning they are related to bison/buffalo. As they graze (and YES, most cattle are raised for at least 12 months ON grass/hay, not confined or fed just grain, etc...), their hooves act to stir the soil, moving and transplanting grass seed. They do not overgraze, either, by nature; they roam naturally and continually. They are also creatures of habit, crossing streams in a line, not damaging the banks like many people assume. Because of their four stomachs, they can also graze on less than desirable grasses and dry matter, which is an important element of fire protection. MOREOVER, according to recent studies, GRASS-FED BEEF ARE BELIEVED TO HELP REVERSE THE GREEHNOUSE EFFECTS. Pastures and grasslands store carbon, vs. releasing it into the atmosphere!

Because they are vegetarian, and feed on grasses, their meat and fat contain HEART-HEALTHY omega-3 fatty acids, plus CLAs. Those animals that are fed grain, are not traditionally fed that until the last 30-60 days and that is if they are shipped to a feedlot. For those who desire tender meat, this is a requirement. If consumers don't mind tougher meat, purely grass-fed will be a mite tougher.

The mythology surrounding the raising of beef in this country is actually enough to raise the ire of most ranchers/farmers. What was "exposed" recently at the Chino slaughterhouse is so sad, BUT farmers/ranchers, like most people, were not happy about such conditions, either! Older cattle should not be processed at all; on the other hand, there is little to link those animals to diseases like BSE (Mad Cow). And it is certainly not grounds for the assumption that beef is unhealthy or 'disease-ridden.'

In fact, MORE people die from eating peanuts, shellfish, even chicken and other meats than from beef! But such is the desire for some people/activists to eliminate ranchers from the West that consumers NEED to be aware of the attack that is constantly being made against them. This is more than a health issue that people such as these want to rid the U.S. of beef; it is a political move and it carries a HUGE agenda.....who should 'own' the open spaces is a question that consumers would do well to analyze.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Some interesting Agriculture Facts....about California and the to the world!

So many in California do not recognize the contributions agriculture makes to the state's economy, the nation's economy, or the world's economy. Alone, the great Central Valley of California is one of the most productive agricultural regions IN THE WORLD. How sad that so much of it is rolling under the miles of asphalt, highways, and homes--construction that doesn't seem to stop! Over 400 miles long, the valley boasts rich soil that grows virtually anything.

Here are some facts you may not know.....check them out:

California's LARGEST industry is agriculture, which includes fruit, vegetables, dairy, and wine.
The agribusiness is more than TWICE the size of the state's second industry, aerospace. Its revenue topped $26 BILLION in 2004.

If California were a COUNTRY, it would rank 6th in the world in agricultural production. In 2003, cash receipts topped $27 BILLION, followed by Texas with $15.3 billion.

Cattle and calves are #6 in the top 20 agricultural commodities produced in California. Ranchers own and/or manage approximately 38 million acres of privately and publicly owned rangelands in California and most of these ranches are family owned and operated; many have been in the same family for four or five generations. In California, there are approximately 14,000 beef cattle operations.

In addition, the beef industry is the #1 agricultural industry in the US and constitutes the largest segment of production. Receipts totalled $98.3 BILLION in 2003, which translates to 1.4 MILLION jobs across the nation (directly associated with beef production).

California is the leading milk-producing state in the union; in 2005, it produced over 37 BILLION pounds. Yet, there are fewer than 3000 dairy farms in the state.

California is the #2 cheese-producing state in the union, accounting for about 25% of the cheese produced in the nation. In 2005, that accounted for 2.14 BILLION pounds of cheese! Almost 50% of California's cow's milk goes into cheese making.

California produces more than HALF of the country's fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It is the #1 DAIRY state, the #2 COTTON state, and produces 50% of the nation's flowers and nursery products.
Virtually all the artichokes in the nation are grown in California; 75% of those are grown in Monterey County. Check out the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival each May, now in its 48th year!

The US is the WORLD'S #1 producer of almonds, passing up Spain in 1977, and almost all of America's almond orchards are in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.

Almost 95% of the dates produced in the US are grown in the Coachella Valley.

The center of the fig-growing industry is centered in Fresno, California, and it represents 20% of the world's figs.

California is the only state in the union to produce olives commercially. Black olives are the most common variety.

California is also the only state to raise pomegranates.

California produces almost 100% of the nation's PRUNES (actually plums that have been dried), and this equals to about 70$ of the WORLD'S prune production.

Raisins are raised almost exclusively in and around Fresno, California, and the US is the WORLD'S #1 producer of raisins.

California also produces 99% of the nation's commercially-grown English walnuts.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

As a CattleWoman, my priority is 'myth-busting!'

As an active CattleWoman, rancher's wife, teacher, and writer, I know the anti-beef campaign in this country is real and being waged in earnest, and it's not based on truth. Therefore, education has to be number one for cattle people like us, esp. in regions where people are so removed from the source of their food. Do people REALLY believe some of this stuff? YES. So, it's naive of us, as ranchers and producers, to think that consumers will not listen to this ridiculous rant.

Unfortunately, we've seen the pendulum swinging against us before. We thought with the upswing in beef restaurants, etc., that maybe the 'fight' was won, but I don't think agriculturalists will ever be done educating the public. It's an image that we want to combat, too, so that consumers and public alike have an accurate picture of us.....

The good news is that most consumers simply want the truth and they want enough information that they can make informed decisions!

One of my recent decisions, personally, has been to find ways to share the truth -- without being overbearing. In order to win hearts and minds, we have to SHARE what we know, not beat people up over it (even if that's what we'd LIKE to do sometimes !).....letters to the editor, blogs, responses to articles that are not based on sound information....these are things any farmer or rancher can do. Also, getting involved in good, sound programs, like Ag in the Classroom, and others that promote health, etc., are also ways to help educate. There are enough scientists and nutritionists who have no bias and are therefore interested in the increased GOOD NEWS about beef, that we need to draw them out of the closets, too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What IS the beef?

I've just gotta ask the question! What IS the beef?????

As a cattle rancher's wife of 36+ years, I've heard everything that can possibly be said about beef.....and all its evils!'s amazing. And it's pretty bizarre, especially when one examines what the beef industry is really like.

Ranchers are NOT the boogey men some people want to paint. Take our ranch for instance: we are a fourth, moving into the fifth, generation on this same place. We take pride in our environment and the contributions we make to the world's food plate. We have provided an incredible wildlife reserve (for well over 25 years) along the slough, which runs through the majority of our ranch. We have continually taken care of the streams and river running through the property. Ironically, however, we are not the ODD rancher. All the agriculturalists around us feel and monitor their land in the same way.

I just wish consumers and the general public would stop buying into the myths that seem to live larger than life! Most do not know, for instance:

75% of ALL waterfowl and birds are protected - NOT BY THE GOVERNMENT or public lands - but by PRIVATE ranches and landholders.

Cattle are VEGETARIANS and in the United States, any bone meal products are outlawed and never fed to beef cattle.

In fact, they are great RECYCLERS. I wish those worried about the environment would see that cattle can actually transform dry matter/brush, etc., into a great and valuable food item. Indeed, if cattle and sheep were used to graze some of the ignored and overgrown hillsides and ranges, they would protect those areas from wildfire. Even the tribes who lived in these regions before white contact, perpetuated fire to protect the land from overgrowth. Now, with fire restrictions that have put us in the danger zone for extreme wildfire, it would be a positive step to use animals to curtail that heavy growth. Deer and other wildlife will not eat such heavy brush; they leave it and eat only the new growth. Cattle, on the other hand, consume all matter of 'debris' and dry material.

Where cattle roam, in these higher elevations and in regions not tillable, grains that are thought to be superior to animals for food production, cannot grow. What cattle do, then, is transform land that cannot be used in other ways, into a vital food product.

Cattle do not ADD any more to the environmental problem of global warming than the herds of buffalo (also BOVINE) that roamed in the millions for hundreds of thousands of years. What a ridiculous claim! Human activity may very well tilt the balance, but methane from cows is NOT the issue in global warming......