Meat Picks | 4.5.13

Restaurant Social

There was an insightful article earlier this week posted on Sysomos about a Toronto area restaurant that works their digital marketing without an anchor website. Using Tumbler as their primary information resource, the FARMHOUSE Tavern, works the free social/blog platform as a base for their PR and promotional efforts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

FARMHOUSE says they like these platforms not only because they are all free to use, but also because they feel the value of letting “people directly engage – be it through follows, tweets, likes and shares”, have allowed them to build a successful word of mouth network they couldn’t have achieved without them.

The Yoke’s on You

NRN recently reported the Egg White Delight McMuffin will make its national debut on April 22nd. This version of the iconic fast food breakfast will be made with a whole-grain English muffin, egg whites, Canadian bacon and a slice of white Cheddar for 260 calories. (A regular McMuffin has 300.) Egg white alternatives are also going to be made available for all of McD’s breakfast sandwiches.

Hands On Learning

My business partner Darren Benson and I recently attended a two day short course on Sustainable Agriculture at Colorado State University sponsored by Niman Ranch. We literally found ourselves back in school for an intense dose of actual curriculum taught by leading professors and scientists in the field.

One of many lessons learned: the best sustainable development practices plan ahead for seven future generations. Read on at: Sustainable Agriculture: The Short Course.

Bayless Beer

If you missed the recent news about Rick Bayless’ new deal with Crown Imports, check the full read here. Chicago’s own is set to partner with “the nation’s largest” beer importer (i.e. Corona, Modelo) to develop a new craft beer. Congratulations, Chef B.!

Taste On Its Way Out?

Last month Chicago Magazine published a piece entitled, 5 Reasons We Wouldn’t Be Sad To See Taste of Chicago End. Adding to the fact that the City lost over a million on the festival last year, editors added why they think the Taste just ain’t what it use to be sighting lack of food quality and diversity, among other things. Do you agree?

This year’s fest is scheduled for July 10-14.

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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Sustainable Agriculture: The Short Course

I recently had the opportunity to escape the daily responsibilities of adult life and go back to college for a couple of days. My business partner Darren Benson and I attended a two day short course on Sustainable Agriculture at Colorado State University sponsored by Niman Ranch.

Sustainability is a buzzword in everything from company mission statements to t-shirts these days. When we first learned about the opportunity, we thought the trip would be a fun escape from our daily grind where we could learn more about a social topic that seems to be of growing importance in the meat business.

We expected the typical business event: show up, listen to presentations, gain a few pearls of wisdom, network over dinner and have some fun. Quite the opposite was true. For industry leader Niman Ranch, educating others on topic and how it directly relates to our businesses meant presenting an intensive two day Masters level program covering sustainability from the eco-system to animal production systems. We unequivocally felt like we were back in school!

Staffing UpColorado State

Topics were approached from an academic perspective, in collaboration with Kraig Peel, PhD., Professor Animal Sciences Department at CSU and director for the Western Center for Integrated Resource Management. Dr. Peel engaged experts from the CSU staff to develop the curriculum which included a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on lab experiences. Dr. Robert G. Woodmansee, Professor at the Department of Rangeland Ecosystem Science, Senior Scientist – Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Dr. Joe Brummer, a soil and crop sciences specialist and  Dr. Jay Parsons, an agricultural production economist and risk management specialist were all part of the teaching team.

We were also given homework in preparation for the event. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World by Brian Walker and David Salt and numerous other pre-course white papers were assigned for reading.

Day One

The first day we learned about the scientific basis of sustainability which in essence revolves around interacting ecosystems made up of people and communities; land and water and plants and animals.

A group of parts that operate together for a common purpose or function is an ecosystem.  For example, a football team has many players each with a specific role that all must work together to win the game.

In agriculture, a farm is an ecosystem that provides a living to the farmer and her family.  In order for the farm to persist, the farmer must preserve the capability of the land he/she depends on to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Ecosystems are all around us, from microbiology to the Earth itself.

We learned that many of the problems we have today with greenhouse gasses, global warming, extreme flooding and vaster wildfires are largely due to a lack of sustainable resilience thinking in historical ecosystems. We also learned these types of problems are all solvable. Desired sustainable ecosystems can be created through coordinated efforts between science, management and policies. In other words, getting people with diverse self-interests to talk to each other is key.

Governmental policies are often made to solve an immediate problem for society by politicians solely interested in re-election by that society. When these policies are made without regard for the larger societal landscape, undesired future problems can occur.

An example of this can be made on the water management policies in the Florida Everglades. While their policies were put in place with good intentions to solve one problem, they unexpectedly created a new problem of cattails taking over the natural flora, which ultimately harmed the wildlife and food chain several years later. Other examples include the Farm Bill and government subsidies designed to help one group of society yet negatively impacting other parts.

It will be interesting to see how the governmental polices related to Fracking will play out with regard to our needs for oil versus food. Hopefully, there will be earnest coordination between the political, governmental and social communities to develop sustainable and resilient policies with regard to fracking.

The best sustainable development practices plan ahead for seven future generations.

Day Two

The second day we went to the CSU Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center (ARDEC) to study animal production systems in the U.S. and how Risk Management strategies in agriculture are employed.

The facility provides a wealth of opportunity to conduct investigations on agricultural problems using a coordinated and integrated approach of multi-disciplinary expertise. Such problems may include the entire system of agriculture from inputs (land, water, genetic materials) through production, to value added processing.

CSU's ARDEC

On site at ARDEC

ARDEC provides faculty, staff, students, agricultural producers, processors, agribusiness representatives, natural resource managers, governmental agencies and others with the opportunity to participate in work conducted on-site with live systems. We toured live animal operations and learned about the ways family ranchers can employ the sustainable thinking concepts on their own family farms.

Our program concluded with the Risk Navigator simulator – it was like a flight simulator for farming. We broke up into groups, and each group had to run a simulated farm for five years. We made simulated production decisions and then saw the impacts of our decisions extremely quickly on the ecosystem, animals and ultimately, the bottom line.  We had to raise cattle, grow hay, corn and other crops, practice crop rotation to preserve the soil, and cow/calf operations to preserve the herd. The simulator also threw us unexpected curve balls like drought, too much rain and disease throughout our simulation period.

It was just like being in a flight simulator. Some of us crashed and burned our farms, making fast money in the beginning but ultimately losing money or going bust in the long run by consuming the natural resources to fast. Others did exceptionally well by taking advantage of sustainable concepts and risk management strategies.

I’m proud to say that my group’s simulated farm survived and made a small profit, but I think it was mostly by accident. I personally gained a new appreciation for farmers’ life work, and just how hard they have to work make a living and preserve the farm for future generations.

Final Exam

Going back to college made me realize several things. First, how much I miss it! (How great would it be to have the priorities of a twenty year old again – just going to class and parties?) I also realized how much we take our natural resources for granted in today’s world of immediate gratification, quarterly earnings and politics.

I wish everyone could have the opportunity to fully understand the scope of sustainability and see it for more than just a buzzword.

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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