Red Delicious Beef

In the late 1800’s  Iowa farmer  Jesse Hiatt discovered a mutant apple tree on his farm that produced a delicious and appealing bright red apple. Growers soon discovered that the shiny new fruit was especially coveted by consumers. Over the years, apples were bred to be brighter and brighter. You see, growers not only enjoyed the beauty for it’s attractiveness to the buyer, but also noticed it’s ability to be picked before it was ripe and it’s durability in transit. By the 1990’s, growers had the red delicious apple glowing so brightly on store shelves that it almost looked fake. The industry had reached it’s goal, after all, “This is what shoppers want.” The problem was that breeders and growers were so sure they knew what was best for the consumer that they forgot one very important aspect of food production; taste. Millions of trees were producing beautiful apples that tasted like, well,  cork. Between 1997 and 2000, US apple producers had to throw away over 800 million dollars worth of red “delicious” apples.

What do apples have to do with waning beef demand? I’m afraid the American beef producer has gone down the same road as the apple grower.

Sometimes I do my greatest thinking when I wake up in the middle of the night. Last night I woke up at 3am with an epiphany. Instead of producing beef that consumers want, we have been listening to so called “experts” tell us that beef needs to be cheap and lean. In pursuing our goal, we have flooded our own market with cheap imported beef that tastes no better than yard bird and chews like leather. We have worked our way into producing an inferior product that consumers don’t want in our efforts to grow what we hear is appealing.

Now wait, before you get your feathers all ruffled, let me explain how I arrived at this conclusion. It all started with a podcast I listened to last week. The show was a production by a farmer who was interviewing a guy who a lot of you would call a citiot. (your first mistake in producing for the consumer) These guys go by the Twitter handles of @sf28430 aka Skarkfarmer and @snarkosaurous. Fictional names but very real people whom I have virtually gotten to know on the “tweeter”. Snark is a Chicago commodity trader who cares about the inner workings of ag. He has even fed a few cattle and apparently received a good education (or as I call it a schooling) in the beef business. During the interview, Snarko said something I’d never thought about. “People in the city don’t care how much their groceries cost.” What??? I grew up in a relatively poor household in which cost was a consideration in every purchase. Even after I was grown and married, when I went to the store with my wife, I calculated everything out by cost per ounce and bought the best value…except when it came to beef. We had eaten home raised corn fed beef even when I was a kid. If we didn’t raise it ourselves, we made a trade with a neighbor who did. Early in my married life, even when I was supplementing our protein cache with my daily hunting limit of pheasant, we still had good beef.

Another enlightening thing that Snarko brought up was the fact that some of his friends actually preferred chicken over beef. I have to wonder if they are getting the best available bovine in their grocer’s meatcase. When my daughter went to college, she had a roommate who said she didn’t like  beef. My daughter was perplexed by this until she bought meat at the grocery store and realized that what is in the grocery refrigerator was not the same as what was in mom and dad’s icebox. Perhaps some folks have only tasted good beef at a restaurant, where it’s $30 a pound.

Beef imported from other parts of the world just ain’t the same animal as we can raise here in North America. I’ve heard the argument that we don’t produce enough cheap low quality cuts, therefore need to import that deficit. To that I say HOGWASH! Those low quality cuts are to blame for waning beef demand. They cause people to think they prefer chicken or pork to beef. It sure bothers me that the same beef board that takes U.S. producer money to promote our beef is one of the biggest promoters of trade agreements that not only flood our markets with foreign beef, but flood it with an inferior product.

Lastly, I’d like to address the issue of lean. Even ads for beef run by the checkoff tout lean beef. As a self proclaimed aficionado, I can assure you, lean beef doesn’t taste as good as marbled beef. Why do you think wagyu sells for $100 per pound? People who idolize lean don’t even eat beef! Misguided doctors may be promoting the lean thing, but it’s not what people want. Open your eyes and look around, does it look to you like Americans are fixated on low fat?

Thanks for reading,

@CBKimbrell

I don’t really know why I felt compelled to write this. I’m probably just going to make folks angry. If you think I may have something here, maybe you can nominate me for the Nobel beef prize. If you think I’m an idiot, please say it kindly and quietly.

Sharkfarmer’s podcast can be found at sharkfarmer.libsyn.com

 

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Genetically Moronic Organisms

I’ve had about all I can stand. No I’m not referring to the latest Hillary scandal or today’s crazy line that Donald Trump has blurted out. What’s troubling me is political but doesn’t lie within the realm of conventional politics. I’m so troubled by this problem that I’ve decided to write about it,which if you know me, means it’s a big deal.

The subject of this, my first blog, is concerning the ignorance that is being promulgated throughout the food industry. Our elite culture has created a generation of food snobs who have fallen prey to a movement driven by greed, fear and envy. As a rule, I would let this slide, as I do many other people who espouse beliefs that I find odd or just flat wrong. This one however, has far reaching consequences if it is allowed to creep further into main stream culture.

“Religious” movements  in the food industry have led to a cult like following that is growing with each passing year. Anti GMO, gluten free, organic, hormone free, antibiotic free, and local to name a few. Ideals that on the surface seem harmless or perhaps beneficial, are leading to changes in production practices and even laws which impact the growth of production throughout the world. If you are a believer in one of these fads, hold on before you get your feathers ruffled and stop reading. This is being written for a purpose and your good will and care is at the heart of this article.

I’m not here to educate you on the toxicity of organic pesticides used in organic production or to write about the large amount of pesticides that I have been able to avoid using since I started growing GMO corn. These topics certainly need be discussed as well as a plethora of other touchy subjects such as treatment of animals with antibiotics, but hey this is a blog, not a book.

My concern of the day is the impact these movements have on people far removed from our affluent or perhaps I should say effluent society. Yes effluent, because it stinks. While we make our food choices with our persnickety attitudes, there are starving people in Africa. Your mom or your school lunch lady may have said this as you threw away food. My attitude toward her was “so what am I supposed to do, send this to ’em?”

I hope this has you asking “what do my beliefs have to do with the malnourished?” The answer is – PLENTY. Modern science has enabled us to grow more with less than ever before, leading to greater abundance despite a growing population. The movement against science is being led partially by businesses such as organic food conglomerates who profit by anti science consumer choices. Another anti science movement is being promoted by people with anarchist type beliefs who are envious of corporate success and also against population growth for the sake of protecting the environment from those awful people who by their existence are ruining the world. These groups are pushing their philosophies to consumers who are easily taken in by ingenious advertising and propaganda on social media. The result from these pressures is the beginning of a rejection of science and modern farming practices. More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day . More than 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day. Did you know that scientists have engineered a rice plant to produce beta-carotene in order to provide a cheap source of nutrition and prevent death and blindness among the poorest in the world? Did you also know that this deficiency results in the death of 670,000 children under age 5 each year? Did you know that anti GMO activists have blocked this rice from reaching those who need it most?  A preference for having things grown to your specific desires is your choice, but when you go so far as to support these inhumane fearmongers you are causing the deaths and blindness of these kids. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s absolutely the way it is!

I know many of you don’t see the impacts of your choices and just want to make healthy choices for your family. I just want you to consider the facts. While there probably is a place for organic practices as a niche, if all farms turned organic, billions of people would starve. Modern farming practices have allowed us to produce more than 5 times more crop yield on the same amount of ground verses 75 years ago. Science and technology are the only way we’ll be able to feed an ever increasing population. As the old saying goes, they’re not making any more land.

I want to leave you with one last thing to ponder. What do I as a producer eat? I grow and eat a lot of my own food. Though there are few crops that actually have GMO traits, when given the choice, I prefer to eat what has less insect damage and crops that have been fertilized with commercial fertilizer. I prefer GMO sweet corn for example. Before it was invented, we used to have to spray pesticides on it twice a week to keep the earworms out. If we didn’t spray, worms would invade the corn and their feces would produce a mold that is toxic to humans and animals. As a certain infamous restaurant chain has discovered, non-GMO and organic doesn’t necessarily mean safe.

Disclosure: I do not and have never worked for any biotech company. This article is not written from a standpoint of my own greed, as today’s farmers would see the greatest profit from a hungry world without the modern technology that has given us surplus food and fiber. Though I farm in a time of some of the thinnest per acre margins in history, I am glad to provide American consumers with plentiful supplies of food and fiber. Americans now enjoy their groceries at the lowest cost ever in history, as a percentage of their wages.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @CBKimbrell  You’ll have 140 characters to express all of your complaints 😉