Pearl Snaps

Stories of a cowgirl living life by her own lights


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Food sermons by rich and famous include heaping helping of hypocrisy

On his recent trip to the U.S. to deliver the keynote address at the Future of Food Conference at Georgetown University, Britain’s Prince Charles warned, “We are pushing nature’s life support systems so far they are struggling to cope with what we ask of them … and the entire system is at the mercy of an increasingly fluctuating price of oil.”

“Penny wise and pound foolish” and “Do as I say do, not as I do” are adages that come to mind with the latest spate of media fawning over England’s King-in-Waiting Charles of Windsor and his crusade to save us from ourselves through organic farming, alternative energy, and more thrifty lifestyles.

This is the same Prince Charles who was skewered a while back by the snarky British press for chartering a luxury Airbus aircraft that could seat 156 passengers to take him, his wife, and 10 personal staff on a five-day 2,200-mile European jaunt. Prior to that, he used another giant Airbus for 14 people to tour South America so he could advocate against global warming (both trips generating a huge carbon footprint), and is reported to have spent almost $5,000 to fly into London to just to see a movie.

Well, gee, nobody expects a king-to-be to travel steerage, and when one has millions of dollars per year at one’s disposal, why not enjoy all the perks of royaldom?

For his recent trip to the U.S. to deliver the keynote address at the Future of Food Conference at Georgetown University, he is reported to have downsized, traveling on the private jet of an American financier. Cost unknown.

“In some cases,” Charles said at the conference, “we are pushing nature’s life support systems so far they are struggling to cope with what we ask of them … and the entire system is at the mercy of an increasingly fluctuating price of oil. One study I have seen estimates that a person today on a typical western diet is, in effect, consuming nearly a gallon of diesel every day.”

Further, he said, a fifth of all U.S. grain production is dependent on irrigation and “every pound of beef produced in the industrial system takes 2,000 gallons of water.”

“An agriculture dependent upon the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, and artificial fertilizers and growth promoters is not a genuinely sustainable agriculture,” Charles said.

There is “plenty of current evidence” that organic farming “can produce surprisingly high yields,” he said. “And yet we are told ceaselessly that organic agriculture cannot feed the world … Why is it that an industrialized system, deeply dependent on fossil fuels and chemical treatments, is promoted as viable, while a much less damaging one is rubbished and condemned as unfit for purpose?”

Farm subsidies in the U.S. and other industrialized nations are “geared in such a way as to favor overwhelmingly those kinds of agriculture techniques that are responsible for many of the problems,” he said, “and the cost of that damage is factored into the price of food production.

“Consider, for example, what happens when pesticides get into the water supply. The water has to be cleaned up, at enormous cost to consumers, but the primary polluter isn’t charged. Or, take the emissions from manufacturing and application of nitrogen fertilizer, which are potent greenhouse gases. They, too, are not costed at the source. This has led to a situation where farmers are better off using intensive methods and where consumers who would prefer to buy sustainably produced food are unable to do so because of price.

“There are many producers and consumers who want to do the right thing, but as things stand, doing the right thing is penalized.”

This, Charles says, “raises an admittedly difficult question: Has the time arrived when a long, hard look is needed at the way public subsidies are generally geared? And should the recalibration of that gearing be considered so it helps healthier approaches and techniques?

“Could there be benefits if public finance were redirected so subsidies are linked specifically to farming practices that are more sustainable, less polluting, and a wide benefit to the public interest, rather than what many environmental experts have called the curiously perverse economic incentive system that too frequently directs food production. The point, surely, is to achieve a situation where the production of healthier food is rewarded and becomes more affordable, and that the earth’s capital is not so eroded.”

There is more, much more. You can read the entire 34-page speech at wapo.st/princespeech.

To his credit, Charles is reported to have an organic farm on one of his vast estates — which, media sources say, has never turned a profit. But then, when one has millions of dollars in yearly income from royal holdings, one can jolly well grow all the organic parsnips and kale one wishes, and hang the cost.

It is one thing for Charles and assorted ultra-wealthy entertainment and sports stars for whom the cost of food has no relevance, to espouse salvation through a manure-fertilized, pesticide/GMO-free, windmill-generating world.

But to preach to the average working family that they should make do with less, while trying to stretch food dollars as best they can as supermarket prices continue skyward, is utter hypocrisy.


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Top Chef Canada to serve up horse meat

Top Chef Canada is set to air an episode tonight on Food Network Canada serving up horse meat.  The theme of the show is classic French cooking.  The announcement that horse meat would be used in cooking on the show has stirred up outrage and controversy.  A Facebook page, Boycott Top Chef – Protect the Horses, has even been created for viewers to voice their concerns and opinions.

Food Network Canada released a statement on their Facebook Page in response:

“Please be assured it is not our intention to offend our viewers. The challenge in this episode involves having the competitors create a truly authentic, traditional French menu. One of the most traditional French foods is horsemeat. Horsemeat is also considered a delicacy in many cultures around the world. While we understand that this content may not appeal to all viewers, Food Network Canada aims to engage a wide audience, embracing different food cultures in our programming.”

Though Canada plays a large part in the horse meat business, slaughtering over 90,000 horses a year, it is not widely consumed in the country.  Though it isn’t the most popular dish, it is still possible to purchase horse meat at some butcher shops and restaurants in Quebec.  Horse meat is considered very lean, low in fat and is popular in Japan, Brazil, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, but it is most popular in Belgium and France.

I for one am okay with all of this.  I don’t see the problem with serving up horse meat.  Just because we don’t consume horse meat widely in North America does not give us the right to say to another culture that what they are doing is immoral.  All of the anti-horse slaughter activists that have been protesting the airing of this show are being hypocritical and close-minded.  Though they don’t blatantly say it, I feel that they are clearly denigrating the French culture with their comments.  Whatever happened to cultural diversity and respect for others beliefs?  Guess it’s been thrown out the window with the rest  of their common sense.

Is horse an acceptable meat course?  Peter Smith, writer for Good Worldwide, LLC, stated that “Eating horse meat hasn’t always been a taboo in the United States. During World War II, it was sold as an alternative to meat rations, and, until at least 1954, a dedicated stall at Pike Place Market in Seattle sold horse meat.”  Maybe we need to look back at our own history to remember where we came from and also remind ourselves that just because we are Americans, it doesn’t give us the right to bash other people’s cultural practices, no matter how much we don’t like it.


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Beef cattle: Improving production efficiency and meat quality

via The Prairie Star

By SHARON DURHAM, ARS News Service

U.S. consumers love beef. We eat an average of about 63 pounds of it per person each year.

Producing enough cattle to meet that demand requires efficiency and innovation. Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory (LARRL) in Miles City, Mont., are conducting studies designed to make cattle production more efficient and to provide better beef products for consumers.

Attaining those goals has led to strategies and technologies for reducing the cost of beef production, including more efficient nutrient use and improved reproductive performance.

Reducing production costs hinges on maintaining high rates of reproductive success while reducing use of harvested feeds. A common problem that U.S. cow-calf producers face is low rebreeding performance among 2- and 3-year-old cows.

This occurs when the cows’ needs for additional nutrients during pregnancy and lactation have not been met. But rather than just feed young cows more, the LARRL scientists are attempting to make them more efficient so they’ll need less feed.

Reducing Costs: Feed and Reproduction

Animal feed is a large part of beef producers’ costs. Cereal grains – often used as a major part of heifer (young female cattle) diets – are becoming less abundant and more expensive because they are in higher demand for human food and ethanol production.

Feed represents about 50 to 55 percent of total costs of developing replacement heifers. According to animal scientist Andrew Roberts and colleagues, heifers they studied developed to target weights lower than those traditionally recommended, consumed 27 percent less feed over the winter months, and gained weight more efficiently throughout the postweaning period and subsequent grazing season.

“The strategy of providing less feed may reduce costs of developing each replacement heifer by more than $31 and extend their life span, with important ramifications for lifetime efficiency and profitability,” says Roberts.

“For the last 3 to 4 decades, the mantra has been ‘feed them to breed them,’ which means providing enough feed during the first year to ensure that young heifers reach puberty to start reproducing,” he says. “But our studies indicate this doesn’t seem to be optimal in the long run. Our research shows that by feeding to get all the animals bred, you are also propping up the inefficient animals – those that won’t consistently produce calves when put in nutrient-limited environments later in life.”

In their study, heifers (50 percent Red Angus, 25 percent Charolais, and 25 percent Tarentaise) were divided into two lifetime treatment groups: The control group was fed according to industry guidelines, and the restricted group was fed (on a body-weight basis) 80 percent of feed consumed by their control counterparts for 140 days, ending when they were 1 year old.

The restricted heifers grew slower and weighed less at any point in time as a consequence of less feed. The actual amount of feed provided to restricted heifers over the entire feeding period was about 73 percent of that provided to the controls.

Final pregnancy rates were 87 percent for restricted heifers and 91 percent for the controls.

“Our results indicate that restricting feed is a matter of economics for farmers,” says LARRL geneticist Michael MacNeil. “We have also found that other strategies, such as crossbreeding and providing early calving assistance, can increase rebreeding performance of young cows.”

Feed restriction improves efficiency

From breeding through late fall, the heifers were managed as one group. Each winter, the pregnant animals were again separated into two groups-restricted feed and control. The restricted cows were fed 20 percent less supplemental feed during the winter months than the controls. The scientists predicted that these treatments would allow nature to decide which heifers were reproductively efficient: Less efficient heifers would eventually fail to reproduce and be culled if restricted, whereas feeding more would keep them in production but result in more expense for the producer.

“Early elimination of inefficient breeders allows them to be harvested for the high-quality meat market,” says Roberts.

Roberts and colleagues also found that restricting the cows at a young age might improve their efficiency throughout the rest of their life.

The restricted-feed study has been ongoing since the winter of 2001, and the researchers are now looking at the second generation-those that were born from cows on restricted diets. “An interesting thing occurred: The feed restriction seems to have made the second generation able to withstand restriction with greater efficiency,” says Roberts.

In cattle, maximum production (measured by weight of calf at weaning) doesn’t peak until 5 years of age. In the study, the proportion of cows that became pregnant each year and stayed in the herd until age 5 was greatest for restricted cows out of restricted dams. Restricted cows from control-fed dams had the lowest rate of survival to age 5.

The researchers found that the third-generation feed-restricted calves are lighter at birth and at weaning than those calves from cows fed at the industry standard, but the feed-restricted cows themselves are slightly fatter and heavier at the calves’ weaning. “Physiologically, the second-generation restricted cow is conserving some of the nutrients taken in for body reserves, which may result in more efficient reproduction and better survivability in the herd,” says Roberts.

Getting high-quality, great-tasting beef

Improving beef quality is another priority for LARRL scientists. Marbling-the streaks of fat in lean meat-has long been an indicator of palatability, and it serves as one basis for determining the price of beef. Marbling is an inherited trait and thus amenable to genetic improvement. Marbling is measured either at slaughter or by ultrasound of the live animal.

Says MacNeil, “Cattle breeders would benefit greatly from having genetic indicators of superb marbling and other sought-after traits.” This is where geneticist Lee Alexander steps in. Alexander and his colleagues used a panel of molecular genetic markers to locate specific places in the genome that contain genes that influence traits such as marbling and fatty acid composition. They looked at the genome of a Wagyu-Limousin cross population. These breeds were chosen because Wagyu is a heavily marbled beef, and Limousin is leaner.

“Genetic markers successfully identified a region of the genome associated with the amount of marbling and relative quantities of saturated and monounsaturated fats,” says Alexander. Beef with the best flavor has a higher percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids.

These results may lead to a better tasting and healthier product for consumers through breeding systems that lead to an improved fat profile in beef.

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