I can’t believe I’ve let a month go by and haven’t updated the blog on my travels in and around Montana. (So I better catch up!) Work has definitely kept me busy and on the go. But I guess that is a good thing!
In early November, I had the great opportunity to travel to Sun Valley, Idaho to speak at the Idaho Cattle Association’s annual convention. Sun Valley is an extremely nice place in the mountains and home to folks like Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Tom Hanks. I certainly couldn’t afford to stay there long, especially during ski season.
The Idaho Cattlemen and women were great hosts as Lauren Chase and I presented 2 different workshops on the value of social media in the cattle community. One of the big questions we address is “Why do ranchers need to be on social media?” There’s a lot of value to being involved in the conversations that are already occurring, both on- and off-line. We would love to be able to direct folks who have food questions to the farmers and ranchers who have the most experience with the issues at hand, but it is kind of difficult if those farmers/ranchers are not making themselves more available to the conversations.
We had a great turnout to our workshops, standing room only both days. It was great to see such interest and interaction with the Idaho ranchers. While at the Convention, we had the opportunity to pull a few folks aside and ask their perspectives on why social media is important in the ranching community. Lauren captured their thoughts in this video.
So I ask you the same question. How can ranchers utilize social media to reach out to consumers who want to engage in conversations about how their beef is raised?
The trip also marked the first opportunity for me to board a plane by walking out on the tarmac. Good thing it was decent weather! (I may not have such good luck for this week’s trip, but more on that Thursday.) But it’s something I better get used to here in Montana. Alaska Airlines was great and the boarding process was much easier than the normal jetway on larger planes. I got to fly into Seattle, then to Boise. Both great airports, but I think my favorite part was watching the changes in landscapes. The drive from Boise to Sun Valley was really neat. I’m very glad I got to make the trip and hope to make it back to Idaho sometime. But I was definitely glad to make it back on the ground after an expected windy landing back in Great Falls.
Check out more photos from our #SocialBeef workshops on Facebook! Lauren and I look forward to more opportunities like these workshops in the future!
- #SocialBeef Workshop at Idaho Cattle Convention (mtstockgrowersblog.wordpress.com)
Over the past several years, I have been engaged in several conversations about transparency, animal welfare, and requests for more information about how livestock make it to our plates. Recently, American Meat Institute has teamed up with Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-know animal scientist who focuses on improving animal welfare practices, especially during slaughter. The group has put together a series of videos that explain what happens prior to and during the slaughter process and shows views what Best Management Practices look like in this process. I think these videos are a great insight to help us visualize how livestock are turned into the meat on our plates.
From a Turkey Farmer: Everything you wanted to know about Turkeys
Previously I have shared videos from AMI that walk us through the Beef and Pork slaughter processes. Just in time to learn more about the food on our tables for Thanksgiving, AMI and the National Turkey Federation released a video where Dr. Grandin walks us through the process of getting turkeys to the slaughterhouse and shows us how that happens. Take 13 minutes to watch the video.
Grandin guides the viewing public with an expert eye on the growth and delivery of 253 million turkeys each year. In the video, the viewer gets an up-close look as Grandin interacts with a flock of 15,000 birds roaming easily down the football-field length of a climate-controlled turkey house. When readied for market, those turkeys ride up into conveyor loading trucks and to an orderly delivery at the processing plant.
There, the process of humanely stunning the birds renders them unconscious before processing under the watchful presence of USDA government inspectors enforcing safe and sanitary preparation. At each step along the methodical movement of rinsing, cleaning and separating the meat from the carcass, Grandin provides context and common sense explanations. The reality of raising and preparing turkeys for market is revealed in the video for what it is: a modern process that is humane, safe and efficient. — from National Turkey Federation
This video is a part of the Glass Walls Project from AMI to improve transparency efforts from large-scale animal processors. For more information on animal slaughter, AMI has this PDF available. There are also many great resources related to animal welfare and handling at animalhandling.org.
We may not all be able to visit slaughter houses, and I don’t expect these videos to make people remove their distrust of meat industries, but opportunities to learn from a distance are extremely important. I do hope folks will receive them as a move toward better transparency.
Want to connect with a Turkey farmer? Check out these pages
#1: Winter actually happens. My #BigSkyMove kicked things off right with a little snow and ice. Might as well get the first one out of the way so I can move on with things.
#2: Flights out of Helena aren’t that out-of-this-world expensive, except for when I’m trying to fly home. I could buy a flight to England cheaper. But I did manage to find an affordable flight home for Christmas by flying on the holidays (Christmas Eve and NYE) and switching from Little Rock (Hill Billy National) to Memphis destinations.
#3: Distance to any town is measured in hours driving at 75 mph. And you are expected to maintain that speed by other drivers on the road. And yes mom, I do take it easier when there is white stuff on the road.
#4: 30% chance of snow showers means you just might wake up to everything covered in white. But it’s not really that bad because Montana actually has the equipment to move that stuff off the roads quickly.
#5: Not only is sweet tea not served here, I have to be careful to clarify that I want ‘iced’ tea, not hot. Learned that lesson the hard way.
#6: Be careful who you say ma’am or sir to. Not everyone responds to it as well up here. Apparently people don’t take to kindly to it if they assume you’re inferring their old. To me, it’s a sign of respect. Can’t help I was raised that way.
#7: Get used to walking out on the tarmac to board planes with propellers on the side. But on a good note, Alaska Airlines allows me to book with Delta SkyMiles!
#8: I will survive. With a low so far of 3 and a wind chill as low as -8 at one point in the day, this was officially the coldest day I’ve ever seen in my life. And it wasn’t that bad. It could have been much worse with the snow and wind. A humid cold feels much colder. (Update: My phone said -6 when I woke up this morning.)
#9: Driving a little white Ford Taurus across the state in all sorts of weather (even ice and snow) makes you realize you’ve really made it in life. (My boss actually said something to that effect.) On the bright side, I made a few hours round trip to a meeting and only spent $20 in gas.
#10: Montanans are very hospitable. I have had more than a dozen requests from folks that I join them for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone wants to make sure I am fed. I should have started taking notes from the beginning on which one had the most beef at the table. But no, really. I am very thankful for that.
After only 3 weeks of living in Helena, I can honestly say driving home last night after a day of cold and ice, it really felt satisfying to be driving home. I think this place might be growing on me rather quickly…
- #BigSkyMove – Cross Country Trip – Part 2 (agricultureproud.com)