Iowa Farm Bureau and Best Food Facts invited me to spend a few days down in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to learn more about where our food comes from, how it is produced and the impact that has on people, animals and our planet. Through this immersive experience we were able to expand our knowledge of food production and the food system by participating in hands-on activities and conversations with experts in sustainability, beef production and nutrition. The first evening started with a hands-on experience where we learned more about beef nutrition from a registered dietitian and cooked a delicious meal led by a chef at The Kirkwood Center. We made a Bacon, Spinach and Onion Salad, Beef Tenderloin with a Buerre Rouge, Chicken Rockefeller, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Fresh Vegetables for dinner and it was absolutely INCREDIBLE! We also learned more about the importance of beef in our diets from registered dietitian Rachel Sweeney. Here are of my biggest takeaways:
The largest difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef is the omega-3 content and the overall flavor.
1, 3oz serving of beef will give you half of your recommended daily value of protein.
98% of farms in the US are family owned & farmers only make up 2% of our population.
Beef production, including the production of animal feed, is responsible for only 3.7% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States
Beef farmers are continuously improving the way beef is raised to ensure a sustainable supply & today they are able to produce the same amount of beef with 36% fewer cattle thanks to better animal health & welfare, better animal nutrition and better animal genetics.
The next day was a busy one! We began the day with Lillie Beringer-Crock - a third generation farmer from Cascade, Iowa. She is the only one carrying her family farm's legacy that started back in the 1950s - Beringer Family Farms. We spent the morning getting a full tour of her farm, feeding her calves, learning more about the specific diet she feeds her cattle, helping her move her cattle from pasture to pasture, among many other daily, weekly & monthly tasks around the farm that she is responsible for. Not only does she raise and care for her 1,000 head of Angus cattle, but she also manages a direct-to-consumer meat business where you are able to purchase the beef from the cattle that she devotes her life to care for. These cattle spend over half their life on the pasture and then have a corn-fed finish until market - I will link where you are able to purchase her beef here!
Although there were many, many things that I learned from my experience with Lillie, the biggest takeaway from my morning on the farm was seeing how much she truly cares for her cattle, along with the amount of heart and soul she pours into her business. From the diet that they consume to their living conditions, Lillie is intentional about it all. On top of providing top-notch animal care and selling quality beef, she is passionate about protecting the environment and evolving the way she manages her pastures. A few years ago, she started rotational grazing her cattle throughout her pasture to keep roots in the ground, holding both the soil and nutrients in place for cleaner water. I walked away from our experience more appreciative for our famers than ever before. The second half of the day was spent on the Hora Family Farm learning more about their sustainability practices. Mitchell Hora is a seventh-generation farmer from Ainsworth, Iowa, and a huge focus for him on his family's corn, soybean and rye farm is regenerative agriculture. We toured his family farm with him and his father where they educated us on how they are enhancing their soil by using cover crops. A cover crop is a plant that is used to slow erosion, improve the soil health, control weeds, increase biodiversity and can cut pesticide usage in half. One of the biggest learnings from visiting the Hora farm and conversing with Mitchell and his father was how innovative these farmers need to be in order to keep evolving their practices, but also how willing they are to help educate other farmers that are implementing or working on implementing these practices. I am so grateful to have had this immersive experience learning more about our food system, our farmers and our environment and I am walking away with a whole new appreciation for those who dedicate their lives to this industry.
The biggest thank you to the Iowa Farm Bureau, Best Food Facts, Lillie Beringer-Crock, Mitchell Hora, Morgan Hibbs and Rachel Sweeney for this once in a lifetime experience.