The Flat Iron Steak:

July is National Grilling Month!

In 1985 the Beef Promotion and Research Act was passed that required a dollar be collected for each head of cattle sold to be used towards beef promotion and research which became to be known as the Beef Checkoff Program.

Some of these funds were provided to meat scientist to study how the value of beef could be improved. Through this research the Flat Iron Steak was discovered by Chris Calkins a meat scientist at the University of Nebraska and Dwain Johnson who plays a similar role at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The muscle that is now known as the Flat Iron Steak was originally just tossed in a pile with other less desirable beef to be ground up for your hamburgers. Through scientific study, the two researchers found that this particular muscle was very tender and flavorful and would earn the beef industry more money behind sold as a steak rather than being ground up.

If you have never tried the Flat Iron Steak I urge you seek one out and give it a try on your grill. I am willing to bet you will love it.

The Beef It’s What’s for Dinner website has created a fun interactive page that allows you to select a state to discover regional recipes and meet local members of the beef community. They have also included fun little culinary facts about each state, which is how I learned that Nebraska played a role in the discovery of the Flat Iron Steak.

Click on the link below to learn about beef where you live and maybe find yourself a new recipe to try. https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/united-we-steak

Sources:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-meat-science-and-marketing-gave-the-world-the-flat-iron-steak

My Wife: I forgot to thank her

When I left the firefighting world and began to struggle emotionally with my life not following the path I always thought it would follow it took me a few years to realize what was happening to me, I didn’t know something was wrong, and once I did realize something was not right it took me just as long to figure out how to fix it.

The internal anger I had would often prevent me from being the kind of supportive husband my wife deserved. She never once said anything to me about it but I could see it in her face, I knew I was letting her down, and I struggled to find a way to fix it so that I could be the person she needed me to be. No matter how grumpy I was she was always right there by my side.

The first time my wife ever heard me publicly acknowledge that I had not been the husband I should have been for the past few years was when I was on the Rob Sharkey XM show. After being on the show and acknowledging that I needed to be a more positive and supporting husband it really seemed to help improve my relationship with my wife, I owed it to her to admit that I was the one with the problem and I needed to be the one to fix my problem, it surely wasn’t going to fix itself.

Last night I was listening to some podcasts about mental health and a light bulb went off in my head that even though I had acknowledged I needed to improve who I was I never thanked my wife for always standing by my side, she never once complained, she didn’t know how to fix what was wrong either but she made sure that I could get the resources I needed to make myself better. So this morning when I got home from work, I told her thank you. Sometimes the loved ones that help you in your darkest hours just need to hear those two little simple words….. thank you.

What comes to your mind when I say mental health?

When I was a young lad growing up I called my brother dork one time in front of my grandma. Grandma could not believe I called him that word, reason being was that in her time as a kid the word dork had a complete different meaning, the word dork was very derogative but over time the word had taken on a completely different meaning.

If you have seen the movie Back to the Future do you remember when Marty McFly would say “that is heavy” and Doc asking him about why he kept using the term heavy, was there a problem in the future with density? Same word, but the word has taken on additional meanings over time.

Tonight I did a little experiment, I asked my wife “When I say the words Mental Health, what is the first few thoughts that come to your mind?” She thought about it for a second and she responded that she thinks of someone crazy, she is rather blunt, but none the less that was her first thought.

When someone says the words “mental health” what are some of the first thoughts that come to your mind? Do you first think of someone that has anxiety or depression? If someone commits suicide do you find yourself saying he or she lost their battle with their mental health issues, or that maybe that person had been struggling with mental health issues for a long time?

Just saying the words mental health often causes people to tense up, some people would say it’s a scary subject that most people are not ready to talk about yet.  The words mental health have begun to take on a meaning of someone who has mental health issues and that person must have something wrong with them, that person probably needs some professional help.

Mental health is a much broader spectrum than just someone who deals with things such as depression or anxiety, mental health is something that affects anyone and everyone, yes you read that correctly, everyone has mental health. Most of us have seen people out jogging or going to the gym because that person is most likely working on maintaining or improving their physical health. Some people like to cook healthy foods because they are concerned about maintaining a healthy body and good nutrition is a great way to make sure your body has what it needs to be healthy. Mental health is no different. Working on maintaining your mental health is just as important to keeping you strong and healthy as it is to go to the gym and work on your physical well being.

If you see a person who is in good shape going to the gym you might not assume they have some sort of problem they are trying to fix or that they are trying to improve their strength because of an injury, if you are like me you might think that person is concerned about their physical well being and the gym is how the remedy that concern. My wife goes to the gym to improve her mental health and her physical well being, her trying to kill herself in a cross fit class is a great mental release for her, as for me things like cooking and wood working are ways I improve my mental health.

Sometimes I have called in sick to work, not because I am physically sick, but I simply had a day that was very taxing mentally and I need a little time to fix my mental health, to unwind so to speak. It does not mean I am suffering from depression, I just need a break, I need a night to collect my thoughts and refocus myself, I use that time to maintain my mental health. Now with that being said, if I don’t work on maintaining a healthy mental health then sure it might lead me down the road to anxiety or depression if I don’t do something to fix myself. It’s no different than eating cake and donuts and fast food all day long, your physical health most likely will take a turn for the worse if you don’t do something to improve your eating habits and your physical well being.

So in summary if someone says they need to work on their mental health don’t assume that person has some serious mental issues or assume that person is “crazy”, it may just mean they are working on keeping themselves healthy mentally, however it might also mean they are seeking help because maybe they are struggling. We need to break the stigma of mental heath is something bad. Mental health is not something we should be afraid of. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are okay or if they need any help, a person who is currently in a bad state of mental health may just need to hear that you care and that their life matters, sometimes that can be enough to lift a persons spirits, or it may be enough to give them hope that they can fix their mental health so that they can get back to a healthy lifestyle.

If you are someone who is struggling and not sure what to do, there are several resources you can reach out to. One resource I really like is T.U.G.S. Check them out at http://tugsgroup.com/ They are a great resource for people needing help, also a quick google search will yield you many options to finding help as well.

If you are curious and want to learn more about mental health I urge you to check out my friend Jason Medows, he is the host of Ag State Of Mind podcast, he can be found at https://agstateofmind.com/ Jason’s podcast is geared more towards the agriculture industry but don’t let that scare you, I promise you will hear that most of the stuff he is talking about can relate to your own life or it might relate to someone you know.

Take the time to heal yourself whether its physically or mentally, your life matters, don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Nutrition Saved my life

About 2 years ago I could not lose any weight if my life depended on it, until that’s exactly what happened, my life depended on me needing to lose weight, because essentially I was so sick my body was starting to shut down, my internal organs were showing the early signs of failure, I was a ticking time bomb, you could see it in my face, I looked sick, old, and miserable, something was wrong.

For years I had been gaining weight and not eating right, knowing full well I needed to do something, I knew I could not continue down the path I was on, but I didn’t know how to change myself or my eating habits. I tried the normal diet thing, but those never seemed to work no matter how hard I tried. I tried talking to doctors and they started giving me meds to help this and help that which only caused more problems. Doctors would send me to their nutritionist who would give me the generic speech of eat a well-balanced diet, here is a copy of the food pyramid, just follow these few simple rules and you will do fine, and for most people yes those simple things do work, but not for me, something was wrong.

I reached a point where nothing I ate satisfied me, I always felt hungry, my anxiety seemed abnormally high, I felt bloated after I would eat something, I would crave sugary foods, my entire system seemed out of whack. At one point I went on the KETO diet and gained 8 pounds on the diet, well that’s not supposed to happen, you should lose weight not gain it. I saw tons of people on social media dropping weight like crazy, but not for me, something was wrong.

I was at my breaking point, I didn’t know what to do, everything I tried failed, was this it for me? At 44 years old I felt I would not make it much longer, I truly feared I would not live long enough to see my kids grow up, it took a toll on me that I was too sick to go out and swim with my kids, I was embarrassed and I was ashamed of how I felt and how I looked, something was wrong.

My wife belonged to a cross fit gym, my wife had tried for a long time to get me to go, but I was so sick I felt like there is no way I can do cross fit, have you seen those people, they are like in really good shape and have you seen me, I am like not in really good shape, if you look up what is the opposite of cross fit you will see my picture. But the gym my wife belonged to was a different cross fit gym, they actually cared more about you getting a good work out in than they did about you trying to be like everyone else. So I finally agreed to go the gym and check it out. One of the coaches at the gym was a lady named Sarah Bouse, Sarah is a nutritional practitioner. I know what you are thinking, she is a what? Basically in layman’s terms it is kind of like a regular nutritionist but only with a ton more education, it truly is amazing what these nutritional practitioners have to know in order to be certified in what they do.

After going to the gym for a few weeks, Sarah was holding a class on what it is that she does for a living and how maybe she could help you. I sat in on her class and listened to what she had to say, and at first I was skeptical, how could someone use nutrition to fix my problems, isn’t that what medicine and doctors are supposed to do? Since I was out of options and fearing my end was near I figured why not go and see Sarah, what did I have to lose, it’s not like I am getting any better doing what I was currently doing.

Sarah met with me, she was compassionate and understanding of my situation, she reassured me if I put in the work and followed her plan I would get better. She was upfront and honest, this is not going to be an easy fix, it will take work and dedication, your life as you know it is about to change, but do the work and you will see the results, and she was going to be right there with me the entire time to help me see it though. I did just that, I did what she asked of me and slowly over time I started getting better, things started to heal up, it was amazing, my body was repairing itself, it just needed to have the right fuel to do it. It’s much like planting a crop in the field, or raising an animal for food, you have to give it what it needs in order to survive and grow and be healthy, and not every soil type or every animal is the same, what may work in one field may not work in another, or one animal may need a different diet that another, that was me, I needed a plan that worked for me.

It’s been 18 months now since I met with Sarah and my life has improved drastically, I no longer crave sugar, I no longer feel sick or bloated, my anxiety is back to normal, I look younger, I feel younger, I have more energy, I feel like what a 46 year old should feel like, alive.

I now understand the true meaning of eating good quality food, what you eat really does matter. Obviously not everyone will end up needing to go through what I had to go through, for most people simply cutting back on less healthy things maybe all you need to do.

If you are someone who is struggling with weight loss issues, or health issues and you feel what the doctors are doing isn’t working then reach out to me and I can talk more about what I had to do to fix myself.

You can also reach out to Sarah Bouse and chat with her, she can be reached at sarahbouse@gmail.com, or check out her website at https://sarahbouse.com/ Sarah truly changed my life, she gave me a road map to follow for me to get my life back, had I not found Sarah I am scared to think about where I would be today, probably not here writing this blog and urging you to heal yourself if you need healing, take the time, do the work, and make yourself better, you deserve it, your life matters.

What’s the difference between Hamburger, Ground Beef, Ground Round, or Ground Chuck?

Ground beef accounts for approximately 60 percent of all beef consumption in the U.S.

What’s the difference between Hamburger, Ground Beef, Ground Round, or Ground Chuck?

Hamburger meat is essentially the same as ground beef, which can contain meat and trimmings from any of the primal cuts of beef, however there is a difference between hamburger meat and ground beef.

Ground beef can’t have extra beef fat added to the mix, while hamburger can, as long as it doesn’t contain more than 30 percent total fat.

Also ground beef or hamburger may not have added water, phosphates, extenders or binders, so basically the difference between ground beef and hamburger comes down to how the fat is added to the ground up beef.

So why do some people call “hamburger” ground chuck or ground round?

If your meat is ground round or ground chuck, then all of it must come from the specific primal cut, whereas the ground beef can be made from a combination of the primal cuts with no added beef fat, and the hamburger can be comprised of beef from multiple primal cuts and can have fat added to its mixture as long as it does not exceed 30 percent total fat to achieve a desired beef to fat ratio. Chuck is cut from the shoulder, which contains enough fat to add flavor and juiciness and is a good choice for hamburgers.

Round cuts of beef come from the hind leg. Ground Round is the leanest type of ground up beef, but this cut can become dry when cooked beyond medium rate, also note that a burger cooked to medium rare will not reach the temperature required to kill bacteria.

If a beef product is labeled as a lean product is must have less than 10 grams of fat within each 100 grams of beef, and for it to be called extra lean is must have less than 5 grams of fat per 100 grams of beef.

Can antibiotics be used in cattle raising and are they in your hamburger?

Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in cattle. No different than if you or I go to the doctor with a sinus infection and the doctor prescribes an antibiotic to clear our bodies of the infection. If an animal is given an antibiotic there is a withdrawal period that is required from the time the antibiotic is given to allow the residues of the antibiotic to exit the animals system before that animal can be slaughtered.

Always check the labels of what you are buying and be aware of the wording and what it means on the label in order to know what exactly you are purchasing.

Sources:

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/difference-ground-round-chuck-hamburger-12377.html

https://meatscience.org/TheMeatWeEat/topics/article/2017/07/19/ground-beef-vs-hamburger—do-you-know-the-difference

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/c33b69fe-7041-4f50-9dd0-d098f11d1f13/Beef_from_Farm_to_Table.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

https://www.beefmagazine.com/beef-quality/has-us-become-ground-beef-nation

Why do some people have a sick sense of humor?

Let me explain a little something about humor and mental health. One of the ways I survived 23 years of firefighting was with humor. Sadly yes it’s most likely what some find dark, twisted and cruel or even down right mean humor. In these times some may even call you out and say that humor is unacceptable.

Over the course of my time as a firefighter I have pulled dead kids from a fire, kids the same age as my own kids, I have worked on women beaten, bloodied and battered by their spouse, I have worked on dead people in the middle of the road while their loved ones stand watching and heard them cry out. You hear their screams in your dreams, you hear their cries when it’s quiet, it can drive you insane if you let it. The cries of a mother hearing she just lost her child is something that haunts you, you can’t block it out no matter how hard you try, yet you have to find a way to hold yourself together so you can go on to fight another day.

Humor is a way some people choose to release that pain and burden that builds up from seeing some of the worst things a human can experience. I am not saying it’s right or wrong but if it keeps you from taking your own life then it’s what you do.

Not knowing how to balance the crushing emotions some turn to drugs and alcohol, some become abusive, and some turn to humor. I am not trying to justify why it happens I just wanted to provide a little background on why some people may laugh at something you wouldn’t laugh at and maybe something you can’t understand how someone could laugh at. So before publicly chastising someone for something they thought was funny maybe think is this a cry for help, is this person trying to vent and release some frustration? Maybe that person really needs a shoulder to lean on and not harsh and threatening words because you think what they did was not acceptable.

How to learn

If you need help with mental health the best person to help you is someone who has lived with mental health

If you need help with addiction the best person to help you is an addict

If you want to learn about farming ask a farmer

If you need help understanding racism seek someone who has experienced it first hand and is willing to explain it to you

If you want to understand gay people ask a gay person about their life experiences

The best way to learn and understand today’s world is to listen and learn from people who have actually lived the life.

What is the next move for Advocates?

Agriculture Advocacy is like a game of chess, it is much more than just blasting social media with a ton of pictures and videos. True advocacy really must include engaging with the other side, so what is the next move for Agriculture Advocates, is it time to shift gears?

In the military we study the opponent, we learn and understand the opponent’s behavior so we can anticipate what their next move may be or how they will react to a certain scenario. The military may have detailed knowledge of what kind of weapons the other side may have, or they may know the war strategies of another nation or even our allies. Part of the military’s job is knowing the logistics of what it will take to move the right troops to the right part of the globe in a moment’s notice.

Advocating for agriculture really isn’t all that different than the military planning a defensive or even an offensive strategy. To be prepared to defend the agriculture industry one should study and understand the non-agriculture culture. What kind of threats should you be prepared to face? Are you going to be armed with actual facts to counteract misinformation that may be thrown at you? Can you back up your answers with actual true evidence that supports what you say? Chances are if you have worked in the agriculture industry then yes your firsthand knowledge and true life experiences are going to make you well prepared to answer most questions from the non-farmer side.

So now that you are experienced and you are well prepared to answer questions from the non-farmer, what about trying to understand a little bit more about the non-farmer? Have you taken the time to sit down with a non-farmer and ask them why they live in the city, or ask them their thoughts on agriculture? If you can understand why a non-farmer thinks the way they do that might make it easier for you to explain your side of the agriculture story, it might help provide you with a better angle of attack so to speak.

I often hear people say “it is important for me to know where my food comes from.” That is a good time to ask them why it is important for them to know. The non-farmer may have a health condition that prevents them from eating certain foods, and it could be that the non-farmer simply overheard someone else say that, they may not even know why it is important for them to know where their food came from. By engaging with the consumer you may determine it’s just an old fashion case of the consumer has been misinformed about agriculture and after you educate them on what it is you do and how the food is safe and cared for you may just change that person’s opinion about agriculture, you may have just gained an ally. However to accomplish this it will take actual engaging and listening to the consumer to achieve this goal.

Part of advocacy is earning respect and trust from a consumer, but the consumer also wants to feel they too are respected, and they want to feel confident that you really do have their best interests in your intentions. Sometimes simply explaining to a consumer that you feed this same food to your family that you love and would not want to harm can help the consumer realize you the farmer may have some of the same concerns and they do.

Think of the relationship with the consumer as being in a marriage. At the end of the day when you come home to your spouse, your spouse may ask you how your day was and most spouses are more than willing to sit and listen about your day whether it was good or bad, but part of a marriage is returning the favor of asking your spouse about their day and as well as listening to them the same they did for you. The same holds true for the farmers and the consumers, if you expect them to listen and understand your story you should be willing to do the same.

While taking the Masters in Beef Advocacy training courses one of the things that stuck out the most to me was the part about engaging with consumers:

  • Listen First
  • Find Common ground
  • Share information
  • It’s okay to not have all the answers

Those 4 simple steps will go a long ways in helping you to understand the consumer so that you can help the consumer understand you.

Is advocacy even worth it?

As someone who is not a farmer I sometimes ask myself is it really worth all the work it takes to be advocate for the agriculture community, what is the point if I really don’t even have a dog in this fight? Why subject myself to psychological warfare with people who don’t fight fair, people that just spout out whatever they think is reality even though their perception of what they think is reality is often skewed by verifiable false and purposely mislead information?

Well the answer is yes, it is all worth it. See I am a consumer, we all are consumers, and even the farmers are consumers, so why not jump on board and help defend the very people that are growing the food we need? If you follow me on twitter you already know I enjoy things like cornbread with blueberries, and yes my wife gets mad at me for not having “just regular” cornbread and that’s what I get for marrying a true Midwestern meat and potatoes kind of gal, buy what if the farmers were to figuratively just dry up and blow away like a 1930’s dust bowl? Who is going to grow the blueberries and make the cornmeal? Who is going to produce butter for me to slather all over that warm delicious heavenly blueberry cornbread, and I don’t imagine I have to go into much detail about the divine intervention of maple syrup being poured over the top of blueberry cornbread?

So what about that cornmeal? Cornmeal does not start off as cornmeal, first someone who most likely is a farmer had to grow that corn, then it had to be shipped to a processing plant to be ground up and processed. The cornmeal is then packaged up and sent into the distribution chain to reach its end destination whether that be a grocery store or a restaurant or whomever has a need for some cornmeal.

Same goes with the meat industry, on platforms such as social media we often praise the producers who are raising the animals, and there are people who stand up to help protect that industry, but it takes more than just an animal producer to get that steak or chicken cordon blue on my plate, much the same as that cornmeal, there are several steps along the way to get that animal from the field to a dinner plate.

We should be rallying the troops to support all aspects of the food chain from start to finish, we need to take care of not just the farmers and the producers, but also the guy or gal working the floor of the packing house, or the person running the flour mill, and don’t forget those truckers, without trucks nothing is going to get shipped around. This worldwide pandemic has taught us a lot about the stability and weaknesses of our food supply chain and we definitely have some things that need to be reworked and or redesigned to further strengthen our supply and demand processes, but furthermore we need to learn to agree that every aspect of the food chain is important, that’s why the term chain fits so well, if you take one link out of that chain, the chain will fail to work as designed.

So again yes, it is important to help support and advocate for the agriculture industry as well as the other industries that are involved with feeding the world. It is important to learn and understand actual facts and not chase down false accusations or misleading information that is driven by someone who has an agenda to push, the only agenda there should be is how to make sure the world can be fed sustainably, responsibly and efficiently. Many farmers, producers, and food processors are ready to talk to you if you have questions, a majority of the food supply chain from start to end are willing to answer your questions, they would much rather provide you with the truth than to have someone spilling out false and harmful information that can lead to others misunderstanding where their food comes from. Don’t be afraid to venture out on your own and do a little research, don’t feel compelled to follow the extreme activist groups, especially if you feel something may not be right or maybe someone is not being up front and truthful to you, its always okay to question what someone tells you, the best way to learn the truth is to simply reach out to those who are in the trenches working day in and day out to help feed us all and then draw your own conclusions of what you believe from your own findings.