Beef Chat



Published by Heath Larson at 8:15 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

I clearly remember feeling completely out of my element when working my first non-farm job.  Each day began and ended at the time clock, punching my card so my hours could be tracked. 

Conversely, in a farm family, "work" is woven into every single fiber of family life.  Vacations happen when rain forces you out of the field.  Summers revolve around wheat harvest, while winters revolve around twice-daily cattle feeding, periodic cattle drives, and late-winter calving.  Fortunately, during the limited amount of down time, the rewards of farm life can't be topped.  Were it not for family farm ground, I probably never would have had the opportunity to bond with my close friends over duck and pheasant hunts.  I grew up picking and eating sweet corn all summer long, the perfect complement to a fresh grilled, home-raised T-bone steak shared in the company of family after a day of hard work.

Today, I still carry these lessons with me.  I don't have to punch a time clock anymore, but, consistent with what I grew up with, I know I will be at work until the job is done, however long it takes.  Meal time is truly a sacred time for our growing family to relax, re-connect, and enjoy a cut of lean beef that supports the farm culture for which we are so thankful.  Perhaps the greatest rewards come when we take the time to return with our children to the farm to help with day-to-day tasks.

Last week, I took my son Andrew with me to help my father out with hauling heifers out of their summer pastures and cutting milo.  While waiting for "Grandpa Craig" to dump another load of milo on the grain cart, I asked Andrew why he liked coming to the farm so much.  His response?  "I just like being with you, Dad."  Now that is a family work culture worthy of much thanksgiving.

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Take the WHO Report with a Grain of Salt

Published by Kassie Curran at 8:35 AM under

You’ve likely heard at least one headline about the recent World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report claiming that red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans. It hit the newsstands like wildfire, but the flames seem to have settled down a bit over the past week. I believe this is because consumers are smart enough to know that everything in moderation is a diet approach that has served us well for many years.

An important thing to consider when reviewing any report is how and what has been evaluated. According to the WHO website, the IARC evaluates cancer hazards, but not the risks associated with exposure. This is an important distinction as an agent is considered a cancer hazard if it is capable of causing cancer under some circumstances. Meanwhile, risk measures the probability that cancer will occur, taking into account the level of exposure to the agent. Ultimately, agents classified in the same group should not be compared as this can be misleading. “The types of exposure, extent of risk, people who may be at risk, and the cancer types linked with the agent can be very different across agent.”

The U.S. population, and the global population for that matter, is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of dietary and health needs – there isn’t one solution to any problem, especially when it comes to diet and health. There are many factors that influence our health and we each need to determine what diet suits us best. Following the IARC report, the WHO has since suggested, “Meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet.”

Ultimately, we have to decide for ourselves if we want to enjoy meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet. We can use recommendations from scientific bodies to guide us in these decisions, but they must be taken with a grain of salt as there is not one answer to the question of what is the right diet.

Remember that beef can be part of a healthy, balanced diet and we each get to decide what that looks like for us – for lots of great healthy beef recipes, check out the “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” website. < http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/recipecollection.aspx?id=10013 >

Eat Beef!


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Preparing for Winter

Published by Katie Sawyer at 9:48 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General

It’s still doesn’t completely feel like fall on the farm. Temperatures continue to hoover in the 70s and there is no sign of the hard freeze we come to expect as the sure sign of autumn. But the calendar says mid-October and that means it’s time for the cows to come home.


For the past six months, our mother cows and their calves have been grazing and growing in the Kansas Flint Hills. Because we don’t have enough suitable pasture ground near our farm to graze our cattle, we lease pasture ground throughout the Flint Hills to provide grazing resources to our animals.


But when the calendar reads October, we know it’s time to bring the animals home.

For my husband, that means lots of long days in the tractor-trailer loading and driving cattle from the pastures to our farm. The process isn’t over when the truck reaches the farm. The animals must be unloaded, reviewed and ensured all arrived safely.  Additionally food must be ready in the bunks and water flowing in the waterers.



One of the most important aspects of bringing our cattle back to the farm is the transition from grass to a diet that includes grain. The change is made slowly and for the calves, which have never experienced grain in their diet, it’s a process we take time to review and perfect to ensure the new meal plan is meeting their nutritional needs and working with their still-developing digestive systems.


My husband and his father walk among the cows a few times each day to look for signs of sickness, discomfort or other health-related issues. When an animal does appear to be ill, we administer a dose of antibiotics to help them return to full health. The shot is documented and kept on record.


Finally, we update the cattle on all of their vaccines. Just like in humans, different vaccines are necessary for combatting illnesses that seem to strike at different times of the year. We work with our local veterinarian to provide a comprehensive vaccination program that ensures we are doing our part to keep our animals healthy and keep unwanted diseases and illnesses at bay.


Over the next few weeks, all of our animals will be back home on the farm and will have settled into their new environment and meal plan. When the weather finally turns cold and winter hits the Plains, our cattle will be ready to battle the elements and endure another winter season. Until then, we are all ready for some crisp fall weather and happy to have our livestock back home.

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How We Roll

Published by Heath Larson at 7:08 AM under Coffee Shop Talk | General | Nutrition

During September, I used up some vacation time in order to spend more time at home with my family than ever before.  For many people, vacation is a welcome respite from the "grind" and a much needed chance to slow down a bit. 


But in the Larson household, that's just not how we roll.  We didn't just go camping, we went primitive tent camping for multiple nights, during the hottest weekend of the year.  We didn't just have friends over, we had a whole crowd of friends over, as well as a longtime friend visiting from out of state.  We didn't just watch a football game, we drove across the state to attend the Kansas City Chiefs home opener vs. the Denver Broncos, with our youngest child.  In between, there were birthdays, a baptism, and board games.  Yard work, house work, and homework.  The State Fair, corn harvest, and trail runs.  To say we went "all out" is a massive understatement.


In fact, by the time vacation was nearly over, we were completely exhausted, and more than ready for a return to our normal, (slightly) less hectic routine.  However, with our friend coming to visit from out of town, we needed to come up with a top notch meal that was good enough to be "special," but not a complicated, messy chore to prepare.  Beef to the rescue.  We pulled out a 9x13 pan of homemade ground beef enchiladas from the freezer, along with two lean beef steaks, and served a basic salad and some fruit as sides, and cooked both the enchiladas and the steaks on the grill.  The result?  Predictably perfect.  More time spent sitting by the grill catching up with our friend, less time prepping and cleaning.  And when the steaks come off the grill in our house, they don't last long.  We went from too exhausted to cook to an "all out" celebration (that the kids would still eat) quicker than you can say "tenderloin." 


Now THAT is how we roll.

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Would you pay a premium for omega-3 enhanced beef?

Published by Kassie Curran at 9:39 AM under Agriculture | Coffee Shop Talk | General | Nutrition

I recently completed my master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Kansas State where I was able to work on a research project that is very interesting to me so I wanted to share with you a little bit of what I found. Don’t worry, I won’t get into the econometrics with you, but the title, “Consumer Acceptance of Omega-3 Enhanced Beef in Surveys and Retail Trials” should give you an idea about what I was working on.


Motivation for this research stems from the fact that the retail beef industry will continue to be shaped by changing consumer demand for meat products and their increasing awareness of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as demand for healthier food. Meanwhile, the beef industry and its stakeholders continue to pursue improvements in cattle production practices, beef processing methods, and marketing strategies. One of the opportunities for the beef industry to have a more positive role in the “health and nutrition” foods sector is through further nutrient enhancement with various feeding methods, which can help to meet the increasing demand for healthy foods. In particular, by feeding cattle an algae supplement, in addition to a conventional feed ration, the level of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, can significantly increase (from 16 mg/4 oz. serving for conventional beef to 400 mg/4 oz. serving for enhanced beef in this study). However, the extent to which consumers are willing to accept and pay for the nutrient enhancement can either delay or propel the advancement of this practice.



The research in my thesis measures consumer acceptance and willingness-to-pay (WTP) for enhanced omega-3 steak and ground beef products compared to conventionally raised and grass-fed beef. Data was collected from a retail trial with a small retail outlet in Colorado, and a nation-wide survey which included a choice experiment. The analysis of this data provides a better understanding of consumer acceptance and willingness-to-pay for the omega-3 enhanced ground beef and steak products.


While the retail trial did not provide significant results due to inconsistent sales we did find that for omega-3 enhanced ground beef and steak, higher income is associated with a higher probability of purchase and that males are less likely to buy omega-3 enhanced product than females.

Results from the nation-wide survey indicate that overall acceptance and willingness to pay for omega-3 enhanced beef was below that of grass-fed beef, but above that of conventional beef. When additional information about omega-3s was provided, it increased willingness-to-pay for enhanced omega-3 enhanced ground beef, but had no impact on willingness-to-pay for enhanced omega-3 enhanced steak. Still, grass-fed beef was most preferred. Additionally, there was an evident preference for locally raised product, guaranteed tender steak, and 90/10 ground beef. Regarding food safety interventions with ground beef, steam pasteurization was associated with a higher than average utility, while irradiation was lower than average as expected.


The analysis showed that higher prices are associated with lower utility, which was expected, and females had a significantly higher WTP for grass-fed ground beef than males.  The average willingness-to-pay for grass-fed steak was estimated at $3.69/lb above conventionally raised product, compared to an estimated premium of $1.86/lb for omega-3 enhanced steak.  For ground beef the average premium for grass-fed product was estimated to be $1.27/lb compared to $0.79/lb for the omega-3 enhanced product. 


Though WTP premiums were found for omega-3 enhanced ground beef and steak, the estimates found are not necessarily high enough to justify the implementation of the enhanced omega-3 diet for cattle producers. If it costs less than these willingness-to-pay estimates to produce and market the omega-3 enhanced beef product, then this could be a viable production option for the beef industry. However, further research must be done to come to this conclusion.*


Remember, this is a brief overview of my research so if you are interested in learning more about the study, you can contact me with questions or view the complete document here: http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/20413


Eat Beef!

*Research on cost of production is currently being conducted at Kansas State University.

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What is Conventional Beef?

Published by Katie Sawyer at 3:21 AM under Agriculture | General

Over the past few years, the idea of conventionally raised beef has come under scrutiny as new forms of beef product gain popularity. However, the practices employed by cattle owners who claim to have grass-fed or antibiotic-free cattle are all part of the conventional cattle growing process.


My husband and his father will care for several hundred cattle during the course of a year. The time of year and age of the cattle will determine their location, feed plan and overall care plan. Our cattle spend a majority of their lives grazing on grass in pastures located both at home and in the Kansas Flint Hills. But during the winter months, when green grass is hard to find and the harsh Kansas cold demands more of new mother cows and small baby calves, we provide a well-rounded meal that meets all of our cows’ and calves’ nutritional needs.


We also practice a very as-needed approach to antibiotic use. We don’t dispense antibiotics to our animals unless they show signs of illness. And through diligent record keeping, we ensure that all antibiotics are out of an animal’s system before they are processed for beef. Regardless of whether it’s conventionally or naturally raised, antibiotics are not allowed in any type of beef sold to consumers.

Allowing our cattle to suffer from a curable condition is simply inhumane and runs contrary to our belief of providing proper care for all animals.


When our cattle enter the feedlot, they are fed a ration of grains with nutritional supplements. Much of the grain fed in feedlots is grown right here in Kansas. There are no “foreign substances” or animal waste in the feed – just grain and hay to provide energy and protein.


Conventional cattle feeding practices allow us, as cattle owners, to use all of our resources, both land and crops, and enables us to raise cattle more efficiently, creating affordable beef products for consumers.


There is no better or worse way to raise cattle, there are just different practices to meet different needs of different farms. We care for our animals, provide safe and nutritious feed and provide consumers with safe and affordable beef products.


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Time Well Spent

Published by Heath Larson at 5:34 AM under Coffee Shop Talk | General | Nutrition

We are beginning our favorite time of the whole year in the Larson household.  For us, the months of September and October not only mean relief from the summer heat, but they also mean much more.  Fall is Church picnics, planting flowers and grass for spring, and football tailgates.  Fall is the State Fair, the first day of school, and carving pumpkins.  Fall is cross country running, our wedding anniversary, and honey crisp apples.  Each year we seem to get a little busier during this season, but each year, we look forward to it even more.  With all this fun and tradition wrapped up into just a few short weeks, our time is a very valuable commodity.


My favorite 10k race of the entire year is held in the middle of September.  The awards are handmade, the mountains of post-race cookies are homemade, and you can even bet a six-pack of your favorite beverage against the race director on how fast you finish the brutally tough course.  Much of the race is run in deep sand, and what isn't sandy is usually steep and rocky!  In between the sand and rocks are 4 water crossings, two of which are deep enough to swim in.  This is not a course where you go to set records!  But afterward, sharing "war stories" from the course over a cookie or two with the other finishers, you realize that you enjoyed every brutal minute in a way that's completely different from your plain old road race.  It's a truly eclectic, yet competitive group of runners that shows up to this race, so you never know who you're going to meet or what story you will hear!  Time well spent.


While we grill at least once per week year round, we especially love grilling during the fall.  Growing up, one of the reasons I loved seeing my father fire up his black Weber charcoal grill was that it took a while to get the coals started and the cooking done.  Why?  Because in those minutes, a game of catch in the yard was easy to squeeze in.  Today, we try to do the same thing with our children while heating up the grill.  There's bubbles to be blown, tag to be played, and some late tomatoes to be picked.  Those precious few minutes of truly slowing down and connecting are what make us who we are as a family.  And the food can't be beat, either!


It takes a great deal of time and sacrifice to train for my favorite race of the year, and there are easier, more accessible races out there, but the reward of camaraderie and challenge is too much to pass up.  On a similar note, it would be easier for us to look for a quick, less healthy, more processed food option for our family meals...but it wouldn't be any tastier, nor would it bring us together in the same way.  Lean beef on the grill is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, a welcome reward after a hard day of over seeding the lawn, and a satisfying, nutrient packed recovery meal after a brutal 10k run.  Now that's what I call quality time.

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Summer Heat Makes Winter Feed

Published by Katie Sawyer at 2:34 AM under Agriculture | General

According to the Weather.com app on my phone, it’s 102 degrees F on our farm and feels like 108 degrees F. That’s hot by anyone’s standards and when it comes after almost a week of 90-plus-degree days, the app should just state “oven-like conditions outside.”


In addition to our Angus cow herd, we raise crops on our farm outside McPherson, Kan. About half of our acres are irrigated, which means other half are at the whim of Mother Nature. Unfortunately this summer, she hasn’t been too giving with the rain. For our non-irrigated (or dryland) crops, high temperatures and little rain is a recipe for disaster.


But as the heat continues on, we are thinking cool thoughts, specifically about our mother and baby cows who will be home this winter and in need of quality, hearty feedstuffs to thrive during the cold winter months.


One of our successes in raising quality beef is the ability to use feed from our own farm. Outside of any dry distillers used, we grow all of the feed for our cattle on our farm. We control the quality and the nutritional value of that feed and can trace it from the field to the feed bunk.


Our cattle, therefore, have gained a reputation for being not only locally born and raised, but also grown on a diet of local crops, grains and grass. We love watching our cattle grow and thrive and its even better when you know exactly what’s going in the bunk.


Later this week, we will start chopping our dryland corn to create silage. The end product is a mixture of every part of the corn plant, from the stalk to the ear. The cattle end up with an energy-rich meal. In the past, we’ve also created silage from our milo and soybeans that have suffered from a lack of moisture.


We’re never happy to miss the rains but we’re fortunate to be able to put our failed crops to good use in feeding our growing cows. 

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Brain food

Published by Heath Larson at 4:30 AM under Beef Team | General | Nutrition

It has been a notably less active year thus far, in terms of my running.  Even though I've been able to squeeze in short runs 3-4 times per week, I haven't entered a single race.  Our family is definitely in a period of transition, as we welcomed our third child about six months ago.  Career wise, I have spent substantial time preparing for several important tests that are coming up this fall.  Our oldest child will be attending her first and only year of pre-kindergarten classes in six weeks.  From top to bottom, we are all learning about tasks and life experiences that we have never attempted before.  Mentally, we are all stretching to accomplish more than ever before!


No matter how busy we are though, we have to take a pause to eat.  Of course, this is especially true for our growing, perpetually-hungry children, but it's also true for me.  Whenever I've tried to "power through" without a solid meal, I find myself quickly falling flat.  My mood falls apart, my focus is gone, and my motivation falls to nil.  This is especially true if I haven't been able to squeeze in a satisfying meal featuring lean beef for some time.  Why is this?


First off, our brain uses 20% of the energy we put in our body.  That's amazing, considering it only accounts for 2% of body mass!  Our brain truly needs food.  But what kind of food?  A hugely important nutrient for brain function is vitamin B12.  Some proven symptoms of a small deficiency in B12 are fatigue and and poor memory.  Vitamin B12 deficiency has even been linked to depression and Alzheimer's.  Yikes!  So where can we find this all-important nutrient?  Interestingly enough, there are virtually zero plant sources of B12.  Now, for the good news!  Lean beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12, providing well over 30% of the recommended daily allowance per serving.  Therefore, in addition to the hunger-crushing, muscle-building benefits of protein, beef also helps fuel our most important muscle:  The brain!  So, whether you're crunching numbers for a new business venture, or trying to prepare your children for success in school, reach for lean beef.  Your brain is hungry!

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Celebrate Our Freedoms

Published by Kassie Curran at 4:51 AM under Coffee Shop Talk | General

With the 4th of July this week, many of us are gearing up to celebrate our country’s independence with friends and family. We see lots of “Red, White, and Blue” foods, crafts, clothing, flags, and more whether on Pinterest, in our communities, or in our homes. While I am one of those preparing to celebrate our great country with all the patriotic décor and fun foods, it is especially important for us to remember to celebrate more than just the commercial aspect of the 4th of July.

As Americans, we are lucky to have many freedoms that others around the world do not get to enjoy. This 4th of July I challenge you to be more aware of those freedoms and celebrate what they provide for us when you gather with friends and family.

Under the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of the Declaration of Independence we have the following freedoms:

Freedom of Religion – All Americans have the right to practice any religion they choose or to practice no religion at all. Congress is forbidden to establish any religion as our nation’s official religion and cannot favor one over others.

Freedom of Speech – All Americans have the right to express our thoughts, ideas and opinions (without hurting others). We also have the right to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others.

Freedom of the Press – All Americans have the right to freely express our ideas and opinions in writing. We also have the right to freely read what others write, which allows us to become better-informed.

Freedom of Assembly – All Americans are free to peacefully hold meetings where we can discuss problems and plans of action.

Freedom of Petition – As Americans, we have the right to petition our government to do something or refrain from doing something. We are able to write to our Congressmen and women to ask them to work on our behalf towards passage or changes in laws.

These freedoms allow us to live our own lives the way we choose every day. I believe we get to choose to make our lives better because of these freedoms and am incredibly grateful for them. I hope you will take time to think about these blessings of freedom that so many Americans have and continue to fight for so that we may enjoy them each day.

And of course, I hope you will enjoy some delicious beef as you celebrate America and our freedoms!   

Eat Beef and God Bless America!


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