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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Importance of GMO's and Writing Letters to the Editor


Usually, I jam out to 106.9 Country Legends on the radio in my truck but in the mornings, on my way to work, I listen to the highly syndicated Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show. Every week or so they have a segment titled "Consumer Watch" and they talk about a few topics that consumers should be interested in - previous topics include cigarettes, a cell-phone in the car law etc. One morning the topic was GMO's (genetically modified organisms) -- this was around the time of Prop 37 in California -- and I developed a stomach ache listening to the false information they were saying. They were basically giving their opinions but not backing them up with any fact and it was so frustrating.

So I did what any active advocate would do and I wrote them a letter.  I have never heard back from them and if they addressed my concern during another Consumer Watch segment, I missed it. But here is my letter, because I believe that everyone should fully understand the capabilities that GMO provides us with in terms of food production and also the importance they play in the world's hunger problems.

-----

I have been listening to the Kidd Kraddick show for some time now and I am always laughing and truly enjoy the show. I donate to Kidd’s Kids and have signed up for Friends with Benefits – in short, I’m a big fan.

However, every time you guys have a consumer watch I get so frustrated with your analysis of anything to do with food that I have to change the station. The latest incident happened just this morning when you were discussing Prop 37 in California and how, if passed, all genetically modified food (GM) would need to be labeled. You are right, this would be a huge hindrance to food production companies, would increase every family’s grocery bill and would put negative connotation on most food products at the grocery store.

What you failed to do was provide actual facts regarding GMO food.  Genetically modified organisms revolutionized food production and agriculture in the 60’s and 70’s. Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his contributions to the “green revolution” which had a tremendous impact on food production in underdeveloped countries in Asia and Latin America. The green revolution (and Mr. Borlaug’s work) was focused on the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains like wheat and aiding farmers in better management and use of technological advancements. Without the work of Mr. Borlaug and other scientists of the green revolution, over a billion people would have starved. 

Genetically modified doesn’t necessarily mean that the product was radiated or anything like that, it could be as simple as cross breeding or using a gene mutation in a strain of corn to make the plant more productive. For example, some variations of papayas have been genetically modified to resist the ringspot virus – this was done by developing a breed that is resistant to them. Hawaii, a big producer of papaya, almost had their industry devastated by the virus however, since the new genetics were discovered, their industry is successful. It’s important to point out that there is still no method of production other than the genetically engineered papayas that is resistant to the virus. Organic papayas (which are ridiculously expensive, like every other kind of organic food), are not resistant to the virus. Other GM foods are soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets and squash. GMO versions of tomatoes, potatoes and rice have been created and approved by the government but aren’t commercially available yet. 

Modifying plants allows farmers to be more productive which is essential with a population that is growing exponentially. If we don’t accept and employ technology like GMO’s, it’s going to be pretty dang impossible to feed 9 billion people in 2050.

Regarding obesity – I can’t believe that you guys just blamed the obesity epidemic on genetically modified food. Americans are overwhelmingly overweight because we have become increasingly lazy and restaurants have increased their portion sizes dramatically. The fast food industry is booming – it’s easier (and often, cheaper) to buy a meal off the dollar menu than it is to buy fresh food or whole grains. America is one of the few countries in the world where it is more expensive to buy fresh food than it is to buy processed food. Add into the mix that low-income families can buy more food if they buy Cheetos and Pepsi than they can if they buy juice and apples and you can see why so many Americans are overweight. 

Hundreds of thousands of folks listen to your show every day – you have the opportunity to set the record straight on controversial issues like this and hopefully you will be more responsible with the facts you are representing. It would be nice if as much research went into Consumer Watch and food issues as does the Showbiz Top 5.

Thank you for reading and please keep up the hilarious antics.
Respectfully,
Brandi

---

So that's my letter. Again, I've never gotten a reply but hopefully they are aware of the influence they have and will take steps to make sure that future broadcasts are more fact filled rather than flashy and entertaining. Fear sells but isn't always the truth.

Have any of you ever written a similar letter to the editor? Did you get a reply? My only other experience has been this and it's been a rollercoaster ride since then.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Monday, January 28, 2013

Animal Welfare and AgChat - Questions Answered!

 Fresh, clean bedding for new baby lambs in the middle of winter = great animal care

For those of you who are unfamiliar with AgChat, it's a weekly conversation held on Twitter in which anyone can ask questions revolving around a predetermined topic. The topics change every week and the participants change often too - all are welcome to engage and communicate. Tomorrow night, be sure to search #agchat around 7 pm CST and join in on the convo!

Now that we're all on the same page, I must admit that very rarely is there a topic on AgChat in which I have enough expertise to positively contribute. Soil conservation, generational planning, herd management - these things don't play a role in my life yet. They will in the future, but for now it's me, the Ninja and a few select domesticated animals that rock out at the FroBuzz Ranchero.

However, AgChat on January 22 was right up my alley. The topic was animal welfare and since I have a M.S. in animal behavior, well-being and health, I consider myself relatively knowledgeable on the topic. But, insert a wedding anniversary and a KSU vs KU basketball game and participating in AgChat was made impossible. Shucks.

My solution is to answer all the questions from the 22nd in this blog post - there were about 15 questions and I'm going to answer them here to the best of my ability and in my opinion (I"ll even try to stick to 140 characters per 'tweet'). I would love to have you all chime in and contribute your own thoughts and ideas as well!

Q1 - Please tell us about farm and ranch efforts to care for animals in the frigid temps much of the country is experiencing.
A -- Increase bedding in shelters, make sure that adequate shelter is provided and increase forage intake to increase body heat. #animalwelfare

Q2 - To farmers & ag peeps, how many nonfarm folks have you had convo with regarding farming methods in last three months?
A -- Approx five. Was at a bach party and topic of grass-fed vs grain-fed beef came up. Made sure everyone knew that all #beef is raised humanely

Q3 - How has the livestock industry improved animal welfare over the past decade.
A - Better handling facilities in the race, more efficient and safer ways of stunning. Less stressful handling has been developed i.e. quieter

Q4 - What are some of your best practices for speaking with opposing groups about animal welfare? Do's and Don'ts?
A - Don't preach. Do be honest. Don't get defensive. Do find common ground and work from there. Don't attack opposition. Verbally or otherwise

 Even though this horse is dirty (he likes to roll), he isn't being poorly cared for. It's muddy outside but he is in out of the wind and is fat; meaning he has access to lots of food which keeps his body temp up during cold weather.

Q5 - Animal welfare is something that can be hard to explain. How would you describe it?
A - The overall wellbeing of an animal. Physiological responses, behavior patterns & health status in one collective term. VERY hard to measure.

Q6 - What are the public's biggest concerns when it comes to animal welfare?
A - Industrial farming, antibiotics and slaughter plants. No question about it.

Q7 -What is the perceived value of of certifications such as Animal Welfare Approved & Certified Humane?
A - Cert is valuable but issue is if people will pay for it. Many see labeling and feel good abt purchase, even if they don't know what it means

Q8 - How can we encourage veterinarians to be more engaged in talking about animal welfare?
A - My initial thought is that they are so busy on office and farm calls they probably don't have time to chat.
A - But on 2nd thought, talking to small animal vets who don't have a lot of large animal background could help in the long run.

Q9 - How much value do producers actually put on the results of animal welfare research?
**This was my question, so I'll post my answer and few other answers that were provided**
A (mine) - depends if they 'approve' of the investigator/company/institution that funded the research. Everyone plays politics, unfortunately.
A - (from farmerhaley:)  Q9 - A LOT! The methods in which farmers use to care for their animals today all evolved out of available research. #agchat
A - from (diana_prichard:) Q9 Value is dependent on methodology. If the research is sound, I put a tremendous amount of value in it. #AgChat
A -  from (judgingcoach:) Q9: Research is only as good as the people doing it. Non-producers regularly question how it's paid for/who's putting it out? #agchat
 ** There will be a blog post regarding that last answer early next month**
 
Q10 - What are the biggest public misconceptions about farm animal welfare?
A - Where to start!?  nutrition, health care, housing, handling etc. Slaughter houses, antibiotics and nutrition are the big ones in my mind.
A - Bigger is bad or cruel. If a farmer has more than 50 animals it makes them a corporate jerk. Technology shouldn't be allowed in animal ag. 

Q11 -  Why do farmers and ranchers spend so much time, $$ and effort to keep animals healthy?
A - Because it's the right thing to do and farmers and ranchers have souls like everyone else.
A - Also, healthier animals are more productive and yield more. This means more food for a hungry world.

Q12 - How are animal welfare and antibiotic usage in livestock related.
A - Both are about responsibility at their very core. And both also contribute to a stronger, healthier and more productive animal.

Q13 - Let's help each other. Who are the animal welfare experts you recommend learning more about or from?
A - Well, I am one so first I try to come up with an answer myself. But I've worked with Temple Grandin on projects and learned a lot from her.
A - Bud Williams is also an animal handling pioneer and has some great methods.

Q14 - How can animal agriculture be more proactive in welfare?
A - Allow more tours of slaughter plants and handling facilities. Public is afraid of unknown. Make them familiar & they'll be more accepting

Q15 - This year, I will personally do ____ to foster convo regarding animal welfare.
A - I will do a better job of posting more animal welfare related posts that are easy to comprehend and can connect with consumers better.
** I think this post is a good work on my answer for number 15**

So those are my answers - if you want to see what the rest of the Twitterverse said regarding animal welfare, you can check out the archives.

Anyone want to add anything? Discuss methods, my answers, your opinions? Any non-ag folks out there with questions about animal handling or processing? I went to school to answer questions just like this and have worked, done trials and seen different methods in lots of different settings and would love to chat with you! Feel free to ask me any questions regarding animal behavior or welfare and I'll do my absolute best to answer them!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Mush Continues...

Don't fret - this is the last mushy post of the year (probably). But I just have to share the details on our 2nd anniversary.

THE NINJA KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK.

I woke up on Tuesday morning and was getting dressed and curling my hair and he said, "Make sure you bring something to wear to watch the game" and I immediately thought he wanted to go to Aggieville to watch the Cats. So when I asked him where we were going to park our butts for the game, I was shocked for him to say "Section 1."  I flipped out, y'all. Did my happy dance around the bedroom, jumped on the bed - the whole caboodle. Day officially made. Nobody knows me better than the Ninja. This was the absolute perfect present - I wasn't sure how he was going to swing planning a great date AND working the game in but he totally scored major husband points for catering to sports fanatic Buzzard.

So it makes perfect sense for the rest of the day to drag ooooooooooooon. When 6 pm rolled around and I got these puppies in my hand, I had the biggest possible grin on my face. Cheesin'

 That's my boy - McGruuuuuuuuder

I make the Ninja smile for pictures on special days. He doesn't like it but he obliged when I held up my 2 Years sign for us to take a photo with in the Octagon of Doom. Many of you saw it on Instagram (follow me @brandibuzzard) Tuesday night but here it is again for your viewing pleasure. 

 The other side said "We Are K-State" and had McGruder's number on it which also happens to be the same day as our anniversary. Coincidence?

And just for good measure, here's the one from last year:
Look at that hand-crafted beauty of a sign.

 So the game didn't quite turn out like I had hoped but I was thrilled to see that we can easily hang with KU. McGruder had an off night and KU only had 7 fouls called against them in an entire game but it's over and I"m looking forward to the game this Saturday against Iowa State. 
And just because he is amazing, he got me a dozen roses to boot. I'm not the kind of girl that needs flowers, but I don't know a girl who doesn't appreciate them. And these are sure making my office look and smell very cheery!

Warning: here comes the mush. I've said time and again I'm a very passionate person and the Ninja will attest to that. I can go from passionately happy to passionately ticked in the same hour but I'm of the frame of mind that normality is over-rated. I am so unbelievably blessed to have married a man that appreciates and loves all of me, all of the time. He never reads this blog but maybe he'll see this. Who knows.

I am so grateful for the Ninja's ability to love a red-headed, loud-mouthed, stubborn, quick talking, passionate tomboy. I'm glad he sticks with me although I'm not entirely sure that if I were a horrible chef that he wouldn't leave me. So I guess I'll keep frying and baking to keep him around. Like I said, I don't believe in being average and I found a great old movie quote that pretty much sums up our life together:

"Unless it's mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it's a waste of time. There are too many mediocre things in life, & love should not be one of them."


Until next time (with waaay less mush),
~ Buzzard ~




Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dos Anos

That's two years for the non- Spanish speaking.

Dos anos ago, this happened:

Ah, sweet wedded bliss.

So today this week, things are going to be a little more mushy on the blog. I can't help it. I love the Ninja. A lot.

Last year, I shared the details of how we spent our first wedding anniversary and I'll be doing the same this year. I always (does two years count as always?) put the Ninja in charge of these things because he blows them out of the water. Seriously, so thoughtful. But until then, here are some of my favorite photos from the big day and the festivities afterwards. And these aren't your normal cliche, picturesque photos (well a smidgen of them might be) but are the outtakes and hilarious candids from a day of love and laughter; family and friends. I even narrate - enjoy!

 We did this exact same thing at her wedding a few weeks ago - can't
 keep a straight face around that gal!

 The Ninja missed the 'be serious' memo

 What's not to love about this picture? They were in unison for a good 10 seconds. epic.

 Two reasons I like this photo: 1) I love having a picture of the Ninja and I praying together 2) My dad and the groomsmen decided to pull a little prank. Check out his shoes!

We stood in the door for a few minutes because we were supposed to wait for the music to change and it was awkward.
 Photo fail by the Ninja. I must have said something hilarious, as usual.

 Again, miscommunication between the photogs. I thought we were supposed to look gangsta, while Becca obviously went the more photogenic route. We did this at her wedding too.

 Andy, the best man, talked about how he warned the Ninja that I 'was a handful.' A handful of awesome! (notice the empty Crown Royal bottle so early in the night)

 I love all of these guys (well, most of them - right, Rooney?)

 Papaw and I

I love what a great big-brother my husband is - he's going to be a fantastic father!

 Not our first dance but I love that the Ninja has some great dance moves now. He didn't have any when we met - mega points to me for having rhythm and being able to teach him how to two-step and swing dance.

 The power of prayer with my best ladies

 Cheap shot, Ninja. Thank goodness for cousins to wipe cake off my face. Thanks, Court.

No wedding in Manhattan is complete without swing dancing at Longhorn's. in your wedding dress. to this song.

 See? I told you I taught him how to dance.

All photos by Grant Watkins (except the bar photos)

What are some of your favorite photos from weddings you've attended or your own wedding?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard~





Friday, January 18, 2013

HSUS Donates Goose Eggs

That means a big fat zero.

In this infogram from HumaneWatch, you can see the breakdown of where the whopping 0.24% that HSUS spends on local animal shelters actually ends up. (In case you didn't pick up on it, the word whopping was dripping with sarcasm). In 2011, HSUS spent 0.24% of of its total budget as grants to support pet sheltering. Kansas, and many other states, saw a big goose egg of that money.

If you want to help shelters, donate to your local animal shelter! You'll help a lot more animals with your hard-earned cash than with HSUS' fraudulently solicited 0.24%.


Did your state get anything?  This sort of thing doesn't surprise me anymore.....

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

If You're Wasting, You Shouldn't Be Whinging

There's a little bit of Australian vocab for you - whinging means to whine, complain, protest, etc. Didn't know you were going to learn about food wastage and vocab today, did you?

Anyhow, several factors led to this blog post - first, there was this article from Drover's. I'll be sort-of summarizing it so if you don't want to read a whole article, you can read a whole blog post. You're welcome.

Secondly, this blog post that I wrote on Monday.

Thirdly, this:
A fridge full of leftovers for two people who couldn't possibly eat said leftovers in a normal amount of time before the food will be unappetizing, stinky and/or unpleasurable to the digestive system.

Hence, this post was born.

Food wastage occurs in a lot of different ways. I'm sure you're thinking, "Buzzard, you idiot. Food wastage occurs when good food is thrown away." Idiot, I am not. Food wastage, and this comes from the Drover's article, varies depending on the setting/income level of the country of origin. For example, my trashcan is an example of how food is wasted in a first-world or developed country. Sometimes, I throw away perfectly good green beans. But I am not going to save four or five bites of canned green beans when the Ninja refuses to finish them (he is my human garbage can). I am a human-being, not perfect. Did you know that up to HALF of the food that is purchased in Europe and the US is thrown away? Half, people. One 8 oz sirloin is thrown away for every pound of steak purchased. I am extremely embarrassed of that fact - one in seven people in the world go hungry every night and we are throwing away 1/2 of our food. If you're not embarrassed, you're part of the problem. Don't come whining to me about not being able to afford food if you throw out 1/2 your grocery cart every week.

However, food wastage in Malawi or a similar less than developed country is different because that loss occurs during harvest, when advanced technology isn't available to yield optimum levels. Wastage also occurs through improper storage or unfortunately, the all too common problem of a lack of infrastructure. This means the food is produced but the roads, government etc are so broken down that the food can't get to the people. Very sad. The more the developed the country, the further down the line the wastage occurs. Here, I drew you a picture:

 How about those epic graph drawing skills? Thanks Ag Economics degree, you're coming in handy after all.

The reason this is all very important is of course, that we are projected to have a population of 9.5 billion by 2075. Or if you don't want to look that far into the future, 9 billion by 2050. We are going to need a lot of water, land and other non-renewable resources to feed all these hungry future-people.

Which is where my post from Monday comes in - by cutting down larger cuts of meat we can continue to utilize the efficiency of the beef industry (smaller herds but bigger cattle) without sacrificing any valuable protein to the garbage can. And if science is allowed to prevail and keep making advancements, I believe that the ingenious folks at John Deere, Monsanto, Pioneer etc can find ways to produce more with less.

Of course, it's not just on the shoulders of engineers and beef producers. You, yes you, can help with the whole feed the world mantra. Buying/preparing smaller portions. Saving (and eating) leftovers. Making your kids clean their plates or save their leftovers too (never too young to help the planet). Anyone else have any ideas or suggestions on how to make our food supply more efficient from a consumer stand point?

How's that for tying several different trains of thinking into one post? That was exhausting...

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

p.s. I hope that Jessie Vipham is impressed with my graph and that I have officially kind-of used my Ag Econ degree.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Is Bigger Always Better When It Comes to Steak

Yes and no.

As Americans, we tend to think bigger is better. More value for the dollar. Efficiency. More for less. That mantra has led to increased farm efficiency, bigger cows and therefore bigger steaks to feed a growing, hungry population.

But do Americans really want bigger steaks?

A recent article on BEEF Magazine's website calls this into question. Americans (or some of us) are striving to eat healthier. Prepare and consume smaller, more diet-friendly portions.

A 3 oz serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in only 154 calories and is about the size of a deck of cards (thanks Daren Williams and the Masters of Beef Advocacy program). While I personally would like to have more than 3 oz of meat on my plate during dinner, I can see how many people don't want a 16 oz T-bone for dinner every night. This presents a problem for an industry that has shrinking cow herd and has therefore learned how to produce more with less.

To combat the 'problem' (I don't consider efficiency bad) the article talks about taking larger cuts like the ribeye, for example, and breaking it down into more user and diet-friendly portion sizes. Not only does this create more smaller portions out of one cut but it also creates a chance to remove some of the extra bits of fat. Another form of efficiency, in essence.

So what do you think? Are you one who wants all the steak you can get or do you like to keep your plate balanced with smaller portions of meat and equal amounts of whole grains and veggies?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Buzzard's Top Five in 2012

I wanted to have a great post to start 'twenty-my-favorite-number' off the right way but the holidays, a cold, the flu, a Fiesta Bowl road trip, a wedding and moving my office have all lent themselves to blog un-productivity. So forgive me as I bring your attention to an easy blog post. The Top Five Most Viewed Posts from 2012.

Here ya go - enjoy!

5. Hyvee, Pink Slime and Stupidity - I was disgusted at the lack of journalistic integrity exercised in the 'pink slime' debacle. The barrage of negative press thrown at BPI was absurd but Hyvee provided a refreshing take on standing up to bullies.

4. Agriculture Impressions - these images have set the agriculture advocacy world ablaze. The post includes links to the artist's Facebook page. Several more have been created since this post went up - be sure to check them all out!

3. Chipotle Strikes a Nerve with Grammy Commercial - continuing on the path of bad PR and misrepresentation of agriculture is multiple offender Chipotle. They contradict themselves when it comes to sourcing their products from 'local' producers. Read on...

I'm very proud to say that my top two posts this year stemmed from the creative genius of some Kansas kids! And K-State fans at that!

2. Farming and I Grow It - the first of two viral song parodies, Farming and I Grow It, by the Peterson Farm Bros., has accumulated over 8.1 million views on YouTube. That is epic, to say the least.

1. We Are Hungry - School Lunch Parody - some high school students at Wallace County High School who were disappointed with the 'revamped' school lunch program that Michelle Obama incorporated, made this hit video and it resonated with parents, students and educators across the nation. It saw results too - the USDA is upping the amount of meats and grains in school lunches. For the 2012-2013 school year, at least.

There you have it folks - the top five in twenty 12. I hope that I can provide you with more great brain fodder in 2013.  Thanks for reading!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~