Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Baconmania Goes Global

The recent Blue Ribbon Bacon Fest in Des Moines, Iowa, confirmed old obsessions but added a new flavor. The event continued the proliferation of bacon gatherings in this country, but this year's theme included a "sister state connection" that means bacon fests have gone international.

A Japanese contingency joined the party--to gain insights about hosting their own festival and to celebrate the bond between Iowa and Japan when it comes to hog production. 

In 1959, Yamanashi Prefecture--Japan's major pork center--was devastated by typhoons. Hog production was wiped out. Within a year, the Iowa Hog Lift organized a rescue effort. Farmers donated 36 lean-meat hogs, and the animals started a three-day flight that included several stops. The porkers were even bathed along the way to prevent overheating, and the care paid off--the pigs multiplied into a burgeoning hog industry in Japan.

The people of Yamanashi sent Iowa a "Bell of Friendship" in 1962, and the prefecture sent $300,000 to Iowans in aid relief during the Great Flood of 1993. The tight "porcine connection" between the two states is celebrated in a clever, bilingual book called Sweetcorn and Sushi

The first Yamanashi bacon festival occurred in November 2017, with 12,000 pork-loving attendees. This does not surprise me. In the late 1980s, I was working in Tokyo, and I saw a row of "Iowa Chops" in a local grocery store. The pork chops were thicker than the cuts usually sold there--meat portions were generally thin sliced and expensive in Japan at that time. But the red, white, and blue display was part of the trade that has made the Land of the Rising Sun America's number one pork importer.

I'm not sure the Japanese will become quite as bacon obsessed as Americans, where you can order everything from bacon-flavored lip balm to soap to kids' toothpaste. When I was doing pig chores as a junior high kid on a Midwest farm, the last thing I wanted to smell like at school was a pig I had just fed or chased back into a pen. But as Homer Simpson said, "Pigs--a wonderful, magical animal." Considering the popularity of bacon, he must be right.

by dan gogerty (graphic at top from; top pic from and bottom from japan.jpg)



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Unscrambling Recent Egg Research

The future looks promising for egg farmers as this small, but mighty, source of protein drives strong growth in egg exports and research advancements. The following links provide a brief overview of industry updates.

Although there are currently 27 countries consuming 250 or more eggs per person annually, the global appetite for U.S. eggs is growing and egg farmers are seeking to expand their market, according to a recent AgriPulse article. Maybe you are wondering, "why U.S. eggs?"--the answer is simple. They are subject to the highest standard of quality and safety while being monitored by multiple U.S. government agencies. Table eggs are washed, sanitized, packaged, and shipped all within hours of laying. A similar process is given to egg products. They are pasteurized and refrigerated throughout the supply chain to ensure they maintain their quality during their entire shelf life. Therefore, consumers in other countries are increasingly discovering a safe, nutritious, and versatile food and ingredient. 

The Egg Industry Center (EIC) at Iowa State University has recently released their first year-in-review research report. Featuring 22 new, ongoing, and completed research projects, their report provides brief overviews for egg farmers and others on center research. Additionally, it points readers to online resources that feature additional research details and media coverage of each project. More information on the EIC's research grant program can be found here.

Continuing their focus on the mission at hand, the EIC launched their newest initiative to expand coverage of nationwide egg industry research issues in December in hopes of capitalizing on their attendance at various industry events. Their goal is to help provide the information obtained at such events to a broader producer and allied industry audience--as they know the challenges associated with finding an opportunity to leave their responsibilities on the farm.  

In international news, the Australian government has announced new guidance for free-range egg producers prior to the April launch of their new National Information Standards rules. For a closer look at Australian free-range requirements, visit this recent PoultryWorld article

Related sources of egg industry information:

American Egg Board--The U.S. egg producer's link to consumers in communicating the value of the incredible egg. Their mission is to increase demand for egg and egg products on behalf of U.S. egg producers. 

Egg Industry Center--Works to add value to the egg industry by facilitating research and learning for egg producers, processors, and consumers through national and international collaboration. 

Egg Nutrition Center--A credible source of nutrition and health science information and the acknowledged leader in research and education related to eggs. 

Egg Safety Center--A resource about egg production on farms that follow the FDA Egg Safety Rule for eggs available in stores and to foodservices. 

United Egg Producers--A Capper-Volstead cooperative of U.S. farmers working collaboratively to address legislative, regulatory, and advocacy issues impacting egg production.

U.S. Poultry & Egg Association--A nonprofit organization that progressively serves its poultry and egg members through research, education, communications, and technical services.

By: Kylie Peterson

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Facial Recognition Tech Goes Bovine

Let’s face it, in the stare-off between humans and technology, we blinked again. Many countries are using facial recognitionin some parts of China, the technology is used to enter university dormitories, withdraw cash from ATM machines, and even buy a KFC meal. 

And now cameras are looking into bovine eyes. New software provides analyses of both dairy and beef cows in facial/body identification, lameness detection, livestock activity, and feed intake. The video images are used to identify individual animals based on hide patterns and facial characteristics. Farmers can track key data such as food and water intake, heat detection, and behavior patterns. 

Actually, cattle joined the "fitbit craze" a few years ago, and as this blog points out, fitness monitors have been tracking the health, movements, and even the "sex life" of cows for some time now. 

No Tech Needed to See That Look in Their Eyes

I like cows, but my images of them include more than tail flickin' and cud chewin'. As a boy on a Midwest farm, I matched wits with a cantankerous milk cow, and on several occasions, my siblings and I had to round up escapee steers. But my most haunting memory comes from when a herd "attacked" me. A hot summer day, steers milling about in the pasture, and a ten-year-old boy invades their space--click here to see what happened when the gleam in those bovine eyes didn't need any software to convey their intentions. 

by dan gogerty (top pic from and bottom from premiumtimesnq.jpg)


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

CAST Gains Global Perspective

Caryn Dawson joins CAST staff

Pursuing a major that requires a backpack and a suitcase at Iowa State University, Caryn Dawson is working toward a bachelor's degree in global resource systems and horticulture with a minor in animal science and Spanish. Her interest in traveling was sparked by a Rotary International cultural exchange to Argentina for ten months after graduating from high school. During her trip she learned a new language and was immersed in a new culture.

Caryn's connection with CAST happened long before she even realized it. Prior to her freshman year at Iowa State, a 4-H mentor encouraged her to attend a luncheon and an ISU women's basketball game on campus. It was during that visit that Caryn received a personal introduction to Wendy Wintersteen (former CAST Board of Trustees chair and current ISU president). "After telling her about my trip to Argentina, Wendy encouraged me to look into global resource systems. If it weren't for her input and guidance, I don't believe I would be where I am today."  

Caryn exploring Argentina during her cultural exchange trip.
Despite the fact that Caryn's journey didn't start on a farm, she got there as quickly as she could thanks to the support of her grandparents and opportunities like 4-H and FFA. During her junior year of high school, she set out to convince her family that she should have the opportunity to show pigs at the Webster County Fair. With the help of a little luck and persuasion, her dreams came true. Though her parents and four siblings now live on an acreage of their own, some of Caryn's fondest memories are when she was six years old selling butternut and acorn squash alongside the road with her grandpa.

When Caryn isn't busy finding an excuse to travel someplace new, she enjoys hiking, being outdoors, speaking Spanish, and shopping for antiques. Aside from her studies, she spends a lot of her time becoming an active member of OxFam of America--this university club advocates for poverty, environmental issues, and world hunger through campaigns on campus. Following graduation in 2021, Caryn wants to travel to different countries in Latin America helping farmers with the establishment of new technologies that can improve their production practices and way of life.

As an administrative assistant intern at CAST, Caryn is hoping to gain knowledge and expertise on a wide variety of issues in agriculture. "I am excited to have the opportunity to gain experience in various aspects of finance, not only to help me in my personal endeavors but also in my future career." We welcome her to the CAST staff.

By: Kylie Peterson

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Latest Consumer Trust Research Revealed

Consumers want permission to support today's food system. 

We are all aware of the disconnect between consumers and farmers. "The average consumer is three generations removed from the farm." That is old news. But what I bet you didn't know is that a recent study was conducted by The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) that shows farmers now rank third on the list of people consumers trust to inform them about where their food comes from and how it is grown. What an opportunity we have as agriculturalists and scientists to continue to be more engaged in conversations concerning food!

Although we have gained ground toward bridging the gap, we can't stop now. We must continue to serve as an active part of the conversation and not take the trust we have been given for granted. The challenge is people trust farmers, but they do not necessarily like or understand the way we farm today. I encourage you to continue to be that source of credible information, be approachable to consumers, and engage and connect based on shared values. 

Here are a few additional articles relating to consumer trust and transparency within the food system:

Additional research by CFI shows that food companies, federal agencies, and farmers are all held responsible for ensuring the health and safety regarding our food system. Their research illustrates a dangerous trust deficit that breeds increased public skepticism and highlights the need for continued consumer engagement. 

A surprisingly durable lament in ag media is our frustration with consumer ignorance of where food comes from. Our favorite target is the female grocery shopper. Our game plan is to show how to persuade her to our position on issues like animal welfare and GMOs--but do we really know where our consumers are coming from? This article shows several strategies that might work better when appealing to the consumer's desires. 

In this Drovers article, Jude Capper states that we have to listen to the consumer voice--the majority, not the (very vocal) activist minority. She points out that changes have occurred in every food industry over the past decades in order to fulfill consumer requirements and that this is not something that will go away in the future.

This slightly controversial article outlines four food trends to look for in 2018. It is worth taking into consideration because they could directly impact your business in particular. Whether you agree or disagree is not the issue--what's important is that you know what people are thinking and will take the necessary steps to prepare and adapt as necessary. 

By: Kylie Peterson (image from