A very important aspect of the beef community is found in all of the culinary wizards who prepare beef to serve to others. Cattle ranchers do all they can to raise healthy, high quality cattle that will produce high quality beef, and then, ultimately, it is in the hands of cooks and chefs to prepare a delicious meal. Meet Bruce Brown of Phoenix-based Bruce Brown Catering. The Arizona Beef Council has partnered with Bruce to serve beef creations at several events and we’ve also learned a lot from him about the world of catering. We visited him to share about the catering business and beef.
What brought you to catering and when did you start?
I have actually been in the food business my entire life. I grew up on the largest commercial hog farm in New York State. When I was seven years old, my mother started a frozen custard stand which also offered bbq, pork and beef burgers which were all produced on the family farm. Before I could see over the service counter, I was offering people delicious food. When I graduated from college, my father had progressed into the catering business, doing mostly bbq chicken, ribs and pig roasts. At that time, we worked together for a few years, and then, with his constant encouragement, I branched off with my own similar business in Upstate New York.
Have you always enjoyed food and preparing food for others?
As the story goes, at the age of eight, I made my first pasta sauce and dinner for the family. I am not sure how good it REALLY was, but, they told me it was and my culinary career was begun. So I have to say with an emphatic YES, I have always enjoyed preparing food for others.
What’s the most fun type of catering event?
Without a doubt, the most fun and rewarding catering that we do each year is the Arizona National Livestock Show (ANLS). We have been honored to be the caterer for the show since 2008. As challenging as providing many different types of services, serving approximately 4500 meals in four days is a lot of work, but rewarding! The people involved in the ANLS make this so rewarding and fun.
What cuts of beef are best suited to catering and are the biggest hits?
The cut of beef best suited really depends on the event and type of service needed. Our most popular and favorite beef item is hand carved, Arizona mesquite smoked, New York Strip Loin. We like the personal service offered through the carving station and everyone loves hand carved, medium rare beef! For an event which does not allow for a carving station, we like to offer braised short ribs with a California cabernet bbq sauce or smoked brisket with spicy horseradish sauce.
We’ve asked you to create some wild beef pairings (beef bacon and chocolate chip cookies, beef and beer chili, mini beef Rueben bites). How does the versatility of beef benefit your recipe creations?
One of the things I enjoy about catering is creating so many different items for people to enjoy. We offer everything from an upscale plated dinner with a filet steak to a backyard bbq with burgers. One delicious long and ongoing trend is the gourmet burger…we have had a call for a mixed grind including brisket with sirloin and short rib…a TRUE steak burger! For instance, for a buffet utilizing a chafing dish, we prefer to offer a braised beef. This prevents the concern of serving an over-cooked product. On the other hand, for a nicer offering, we will serve steaks directly from the grill or as a plated dinner where we control the temperature the meat is served.
What are some trends you’ve seen in the catering world?
The trends in the catering world seem to be set by “The Food Network,” celebrity chefs and their shows as well as Pinterest. They say the only thing constant is change and we certainly see that in our business. One of the main trends is Farm to Table and seasonal, local products. It seems like a pretty basic and simple concept, yet it has become a great marketing tool. Small plates and miniature desserts are popular. You see many passing trends such as molecular gastronomy. Happily for us beer lovers, beer and food pairing and gastropubs certainly seem to be a trend here to stay! We have always concentrated on our core value of serving delicious, simple food, prepared properly.
What, if any, changes have you seen in catering and what do you see for the future?
We have seen a great increase in fast/casual restaurants offering catering services. You also see people looking for healthier options to serve their guests.
What are the most common questions you receive about beef from your clients?
Mainly, our clients ask about the different preparations and which cuts of beef will work best with the menu they are offering. Many times people will want to offer a second protein option along with beef and we offer them a cut and preparation which pairs well together.
Lastly, what is your favorite cut of beef?
Tough question…I am definitely a steak-and-potatoes guy! It is a tossup between a perfectly grilled, medium rare Ribeye and thinly sliced Arizona mesquite, smoked New York Strip Loin with spicy horseradish sauce…sometimes a good grilled Tri Tip, thinly sliced. Maybe some smoked brisket with either tangy bbq sauce or my go to horseradish. I also like a good carne asada taco…sometimes a slowly smoked beef bbq sandwich. Then again…you just cannot beat a thick, juicy burger!
“Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” is turning 25 this year! And to celebrate being one of the nation’s most iconic food brands, we’re rolling out a brand new website, showcasing the pleasure beef brings to meals, the people who raise it and the nutritional benefits – like protein – that beef provides. Even the Wall Street Journal is helping us celebrate!
We especially wanted to point out a few new features we’re thrilled about – and we hope you are, too!
Learn the tools of the trade! Today’s cattle farmers and ranchers marry time-honored traditions with sophisticated new innovations to raise healthy cattle that produce the finest quality beef. In the Raising Beef section, you get to meet the families behind your plate who make beef more than a business. Play the Video.
Inspiration (x800!) The recipes section is the stop if you’re hankering for something different. Explore more than 800 beef recipes, from haute cuisine to backyard grill favorites.
A new way to master the meat case! With 126 cuts cataloged, along with all the right ways to cook each one, the new cuts section takes the guesswork out of choosing the perfect cut of beef.
Cooking lessons galore! Curious about the best way to grill a steak or braise a pot roast? Want to know how to make a delicious stir-fry or how to perfectly brown Ground Beef? The Cooking Lessons section has everything you need!
Raising cattle is a unique experience made up of many hours of hard work and dedication. It’s also a great way to sit back and observe how mother nature can teach you many of the major life lessons you need for a successful life. Enjoy our list of 10 lessons learned on the ranch.
1. Those who say only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain.
2. Water the grass on your side of the fence and then enjoy it.
3. Respect your elders. They have way more life experience than you do.
4. Break the rules sometimes. And then run like heck!
5. Trust the right people. Those who make an effort to show you how much they care are a good place to start.
6. Cultivate and care for your friendships. Your friends are some of the most important people on Earth.
7. Sometimes you have to walk a ways to get where you’re going. But don’t give up because the reward is worth the hard work.
8. Set boundaries with people in your life. And when they cross that line, don’t be afraid to let them know!
9. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
And finally, the most important lesson of them all…
10. If you’ve got to pick your nose, make sure no one’s looking.
We hope everyone has a great weekend full of laughs, friends and family, and a whole lot of beef!
Arizona summers are brutal, to say the least, with reprieve arriving only when you catch sight of dark clouds forming on the horizon, smell a hint of moisture in the air, and the mesquite trees start to rustle as a late afternoon wind tickles their branches. The afternoon monsoon has arrived and if you listen closely, you can almost hear the desert sigh in relief.
Monsoon season is a big deal in our state for the average person but proves essential to the cattle rancher. These life-giving rains replenish basin groundwater, recharge riparian areas, give life back to summer grasses, and fill dirt tanks essential for wildlife and cattle alike to survive. Once the rains hit, gone are the days of trucking water to the far reaches of the ranch, as mother nature lifts one small burden off the shoulders of hard-working cattlemen and women.
Enjoy this round-up of Arizona monsoon photos from ranches across the countryside in honor of another monsoon season.
Gaining knowledge and wisdom from an animal is a true blessing and not something every person gets to experience in their lifetime. These lessons are invaluable and often span the distance of a lifetime. This week, we are excited to welcome back a past contributor to the Arizona Beef Blog, Jolyn Smith of Arizona Ranch Reflections, as she perfectly sums up an invaluable relationship between Paco and her granddaughter, Morgan. Please be sure to visit Jolyn’s Facebook page as she offers beautiful photos of her ranch and words of wisdom we all need.
His name is Paco and he is my husbands “retired” ranch horse. They don’t get any better than this one! He is 29 years old this year and he is the best “teacher” anyone could ever have. To say that our oldest grandgirl loves this horse would be an understatement!
Oh, the lessons he’s taught her.
Morgan has learned to watch where he is “looking” because he always spots the cows first. Morgan has learned that she can trust him when he goes up and down the canyons and the mountain picking the best and safest way to go. She has learned she can trust him when they get in a “jam” (according to Morgan, not Paco) and he calmly knows how to handle the situation.
Morgan is learning how to “watch a cow”‘and know what it’s going to do before it does because Paco is a professional at this and she is learning to “feel” what his next move will be. Morgan is learning about obedience because Paco does what she asks of him every time. When she rides one of the younger horses, they don’t always pay attention to what she asks and that frustrates her. It makes for a great analogy to share when she is being “stubborn.” (Not that that ever happens with a 9-year-old!)
Morgan has learned to be comfortable with the silence they share, even when she is nowhere in sight of any one else and I worry she may be “lost.” Paco always knows the way and she knows there isn’t any reason to be afraid.
Morgan concerns herself with the fact that Paco is going to die someday. Truth be told, we all do. She gets tears in her eyes when she thinks about it or what she asks questions about him like “when he is going to die?” I often catch her just looking at him in silence, I know what she’s thinking. The thought causes her to pay better attention to him and what he’s all about because she knows we won’t have him forever. Not physically anyway; always in our hearts though.
This summer, I think Morgan will be ready to pass him on to the next one in line that needs a “teacher”, and trust me when I say there is a herd waiting.
Morgan doesn’t know this yet, but Paco will let her know when she’s ready to do so, that’s what good teachers do.
Thank you, Paco, for taking such good care of my littles, I wish you could live forever and teach them all.
Labor Day is an American holiday which is celebrated to honor the contributions that workers have made to add to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of our country. Here at the Arizona Beef Council, we prefer to celebrate by listening to the clicking of the lighter on the grill, seeing the flames jump skyward upon ignition and then slapping a few tasty steaks and beef hot dogs on to sizzle. Because beef is so often the center of our Labor Day celebrations, we are bringing you Arizona ranch mom-approved beef appetizers so your whole day is beefy!
Pam Turnbull, current Arizona State Cowbelles’ President and resident of Dragoon, AZ, shared with us her granddaughter’s favorite recipe for a cookout which could work as the main meal or something tasty to snack on while enjoying a cold one and conversation with friends and family. She said, “My granddaughter enjoys a simple beef kabob with pineapple in between the cubes of steak.” Here’s a similar recipe for your use. Just add pineapple to keep it up to par with the Turnbull family!
Sarah King, wife, mother, and rancher at the King Anvil Ranch, said “A seven-layer dip with ground beef as a layer is always a hit! I make it in a pie dish with ground beef, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese, beans, sour cream and some green onions sprinkled on the top.” Who needs a recipe when you get details like that but just in case you’re domestically challenged and like a recipe (like us) here you go.
Oftentimes, being a ranch mom also involves work in town. Adriana Arrington, rancher at the Mlazy J Ranch, is no stranger to this busy lifestyle, but loves it all the same! When asked what her favorite beef appetizer was she first asked her kids to vote on their favorite. The results are in: taco nachos made with their homegrown Arizona beef was the winner! Not only is this an easy recipe, but is super customizable and great to do when you need to use those random ingredients left over in the fridge.
“I admit, usually beef is the main dish for me so I’m really having to think for a beef appetizer! I keep thinking chili, especially for transportability, and if you served it in cups instead of bowls it could be an appetizer right? And at our house, it is always served with lots of cheese and sour cream or Greek yogurt. Yay protein!” said Lauren Kerr, of Kerr Dairy. We like the way she thinks as getting the appetizer to the BBQ is often half the battle not to mention all of the delicious topping suggestions. Lauren’s husband, Wes, was recently featured on our blog. To learn more about Kerr Dairy and Lauren’s family check out that post here.
Did these Arizona ranch and dairy moms inspire you to cook up one of these delicious beef appetizers? We don’t see how you could resist. As you celebrate your Labor Day, we wish you relaxation, delicious food, and great company. Keep those grills on and the beef sizzling!
This week we are excited to introduce to you Mark Rovey of Rovey Dairy. Mark is a current board member of the Arizona Beef Council and is the animal manager at his family’s farm in Glendale, Arizona. Enjoy learning about this unique farm!
Arizona Beef Council: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and about your dairy:
Mark Rovey: I’ve been managing the animals (this includes dairy cattle, beef cattle, dairy sheep, meat sheep, Watusi cattle, buffalo, llamas, and a donkey named Cinco) for 6 years. I gained experience in this role by helping my dad or other managers in the years prior. Basically, this is my life. I don’t really do anything else. This is what I do. Beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, something with the Watusis on the weekend.
Currently, on the dairy, we milk 2,000 Jersey cows. The dairy was started in 1943. It was a Jersey dairy when my grandpa owned and ran it. My father, Paul Rovey, bought the dairy from my grandpa in the 70’s and converted it to Holstein dairy cows. In the early 90s, late 80s, he then started transitioning back to Jerseys. This started as a rogue 4H experiment because my older sister was starting to show animals and he wanted something more manageable for her to handle. He kept a few in the milking herd and liked them so much he just kept buying more and selling the Holsteins. We’ve been back to 100% Jerseys for the last 6 years. We only have one token Holstein left.
Diversification is an important part of our farm which is easily seen as you walk around our property. One our newest projects is running a herd of milking sheep. Our goal is to turn the sheep’s milk into cheese and sell it at our upcoming local store and around the valley.
How does the technology you use now differ from the technology that was passed down to you or that previous generations may have used?
One of the most important technologies is we now use is artificial insemination. This practice allows us to make a better animal by selecting and using the best bulls from across the country versus being limited to the bulls who are nearby.
Another technology we harness is the power of cooling systems. As soon as the sun comes up, we have fans and misters in all pens and those go on. If it’s above 80 degrees, we’re cooling our animals. Genetics help us with this too as we can select for animals who tolerate the heat more efficiently. We can turn cooling on a littler later in the year because the Jerseys can efficiently handle the heat.
Record keeping is another important one. All the cows have an electronic identification tag in their ears which allows us to use a wand to scan each cow which transfers to a hand-held computer. The wand will tell us if we need to do something with that cow if she is in the wrong pen or many other useful bits of information. Once you scan an animal with the wand, a wealth of information appears on the hand-held computer such as when she was born, her mom, how much milk she is giving, how much milk her mom gave, health issues and so much more. This helps us to keep extremely accurate records and eliminates the chance for human error when recording this information.
What are some common misconceptions that you think people may have about the way your raise your cows?
One of the most common misconceptions I hear is there is a chance of antibiotics being in milk. Every single load of milk which leaves our place is sampled not once but up to five times for quality and measuring of antibiotic residue. We take two samples here at our farm before it leaves. Then when it gets to United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA – a milk marketing cooperative owned by Arizona dairy families) before it gets unloaded, there are least two more samples taken. All those samples are tested before it’s taken off the milk truck. Each tank of milk is tested for quality and somatic cell count to ensure the milk is of the highest quality. If there is one cow which was given antibiotics and her milk somehow gets into a milk truck, even if there are 50,000 pounds of milk in that tank, it still flags it which means the entire tank of milk would be dumped and not used. If there is any antibiotic residue in the milk, it will get dumped, and there is no way around it. So many great things have happened with regards to milk quality over the years to ensure it is an incredibly safe product. Milk is tested more than any other food product.
What is the most important thing that you do on your dairy and farm every day to make sure you are raising safe beef for the consumer?
The job I make sure I do every single day is ensuring all the animals we are responsible for having everything they need. If they need shade, feed or water, I make sure they have those things. If our animals are healthy, we’re not spending money to make them healthy. The easiest way to ensure they stay healthy is to give them a healthy, clean environment with good feed. It makes our whole world easier if they just start in a good environment where they are healthy.
Training is another important component. The training helps our employees to know what the medicines and protocols are if they need to use them. It’s only reasonable to understand there will be a few animals who need to be treated but we need to make sure the employees know how to deal with the illness to ensure a quick recovery for our cows. They are trained on how to give the right dosage and how that medicine should be administered.
We train all of our employees using the National Dairy FARM Program which is a quality assurance program to ensure the best possible care and handling of dairy cows. We hold meetings twice a month to keep up on the skills we’ve learned using this program. This is important to ensure everyone knows how to handle cattle in the best way possible.
What is the most important piece of information that you would want people to know about you and the work you do on your dairy every day?
We’re here to have a business and make enough money to live. But to be able to do that we must take care of the animals so they stay healthy, can produce wholesome milk, and stay happy all while still making a living. Sometimes it’s hard work, but it’s worth it. We work to keep the animals healthy, ensure the product is high quality, and to keep doing what we’ve been doing for a long time.
How do you interact with your community?
My cousins started showing cattle back in the 80s and my dad noticed most people had to go out of state to buy their steers. They were spending a lot of money and not making anything back after the fair was over. He started buying beef cows and breeding them for show cattle. My cousins, siblings, and even kids from the surrounding neighborhood and schools benefited from this decision. A lot of the kids from the surrounding neighborhood didn’t have any sort of agriculture background. In fact, many of them lived in apartments and had never even owned a cat or dog. My dad would get them a steer, allow them to raise it here at the dairy, and teach them how to do the work required to prepare a steer for the show ring. Through this process, these kids would get an experience in raising and showing an animal while being surrounded by all sorts of agriculture. Some kids couldn’t afford this project so he would give the kids the steer and let them raise it on the property. Then after the fair, the kids would pay back the price of the steer and feed. They would make a little bit of money and leave with a good experience of agriculture. That was his goal. He figured these kids would end up being doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc., and they would have a good, firsthand experience with agriculture with the hope that they would come back to him with questions in the future instead of just looking it up on the internet.
In 2007, I took over the beef cows. I bred differently and kept more heifers back. In the last ten years, our show cattle program has come a long way. We still work with kids on payment plans and paying after fair, but those kids who also want to be competitive, can still come and buy something they can do well with here. It’s just getting better and better but still with the idea of helping kids out. What really matters to us is they can get a good project and learn something about animal agriculture from that animal.
If you could describe in one word the life of a dairyman, what would it be?
Interesting (he said with a chuckle).
Lastly and of course most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef and how do you like to prepare it?
My favorite beef is anything directly off the grill. No plate or anything. Just standing next to the grill, grabbing a piece and eating it right there. It doesn’t matter what cut of beef it is as longs as it’s fresh off the grill. Carne Asada directly off the grill is perfect. It’s the whole atmosphere of a cookout with friends and family that makes it even better.
The smell of beef cooking filled the meeting room at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort as teachers bustled about, working to prepare the perfect beef sausage. The 2017 Career and Technical Education (CTE) conference was underway, and the Beef Sausage Making course was the highlight of the schedule. Annually, teachers gather from across Arizona to participate in learning opportunities in order to bring more knowledge back to their classrooms to extend to their students. These CTE teachers were from the culinary, food service and family and consumer science departments of their respective high schools.
In July, Tiffany Selchow and Lauren Maehling, Arizona Beef Council (ABC), with Shayla Hyde, ABC intern, along with University of Arizona Food Product and Safety Lab Director Dr. Sam Garcia led a group of 30 teachers in a three-hour-long session. They presented a lesson on Beef 101, as well as a section on processed meats: where it comes from and how it is made. Following the lesson, Dr. Garcia led the teachers in making their very own beef sausage. In this session, the teachers also received the first opportunity to apply for the Beef Up the Classroom grant which reimburses teachers for beef purchases.
The teachers were split into groups of three with access to an array of spices and ingredients for flavoring and about an hour and a half to do it all. The teachers collected their beef trimmings and Dr. Garcia, along with two of his students, ground the meat. The teams created a recipe and mixed in their seasonings. It was all stuffed into casings and then cooked to be presented for sampling and judging. The sausage was judged and enjoyed, and the winners were announced.
The winning teachers were Pattie Pastor and Catherine Marshall from Flagstaff High School and Stephanie Adams from Casa Grande High School. They each were awarded a griddle, hand-grinder, and stuffer for their classrooms.
With this experience fresh in their minds, the teachers could incorporate their learnings into their lesson plans and even build a curriculum around the outline of the workshop. The teachers left with extra sausages and smiles on their faces.
The summer of 2017 had been one for the books. I ended the hardest semester of my life in Spring of 2017 and then dove into the Arizona Beef Council internship shortly after.
I heard about the internship through my high school agriculture teacher. I thought I would apply along with a few other internships but this one stood outs as it looked like a great learning opportunity and a chance to broaden my horizons. I was sure I would get one of the other internships but was not as confident about this one. A stream of doubt ran through my head. “How, out of all the animal science majors and agriculture giants, would I, a journalism major at Arizona State University, land this internship?” Well, I did, and I can say it had been the best internship of my college career.
My first impression
First, I didn’t realize there would be two interns, and I was a little intimidated by the idea of my counter part; a University of Arizona student majoring in animal science. Was she mean? Did she buy into the rivalry between the UA and ASU and would that affect our relationship? I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, all of my worries were blown out of the water when I meant my colleague. She is a hard working and committed individual whom I have grown to love and call my friend over the past two months.
Then I met my bosses. While I was under the guidance of the Arizona Beef Council staff, I was fortunate to interact with folks from the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, and they all have taught me more about the beef community in two months than I have learned in my 20 years on this earth. They also taught me the importance of effective communication and building relationships with consumers and growers alike.
The Field Trips
Sometimes I still can’t believe was part this internship paid me to go out with my intern compadre, to meet new people and learn more about the beef world in a real-life setting.
First, we went to the Bill Kerr Dairy and visited with Wes Kerr. He explained that just like so many before him, he is using the latest methods and technology to have a successful dairy business. We were lucky enough to see the process of collecting milk from the cows and even go to the barn where the calves reside.
Next, we went all the way down to Nogales, AZ where Dan Bell and Dean Fish took us in and showed us their worlds. We spent half the time on the Bell’s ranch, helping round up cattle, branding, vaccinating and gathering some less-than-compliant horses. Mr. Fish took us horseback to see the Santa Fe Ranch with the bonus of an explanation of the mysteries of life. He also explained how every rancher has different methods of raising cattle, but the goal is still the same: raising cattle in an efficient and safe way to make consumers feel good about what they are eating and to have happy cattle. We left with words of wisdom in our pockets for our future careers.
I grew up farming with my dad and other members of our family. The sights and smells of alfalfa and cotton were the norm, along with the sounds of squealing pigs coming from the show pig barn at my house. I never really considered myself as a cowgirl mostly because I didn’t know what that really meant. I was a farm girl and a pig girl but not a cowgirl. Thanks to the efforts of Dan and Dean, I was able to discover who cowboys and cowgirls are. They are not just individuals who buy a pair of boots and a felt hat, walking with some sort of saddle swagger; they live and breathe cattle. It’s a way of life and a source of income. I will be forever grateful to have had the honor to live in that world for the short time that I did.
Then, we came back up to Pinal Feeding Co. in Maricopa, AZ. Our fearless chauffeur, Caline Gottwald, showed us the ins and outs of running a feed yard. It was incredible to see the sheer number of bovine on the property and the massive amounts of feed rations it takes to feed them. Feedlots may not be as glamorous as the dawn rising over the hills of a cattle ranch, but their role in raising beef for consumers is just as important as any other part of the beef life cycle.
It was fascinating to see how well kept the facilities are and the amount of care paid to all the cattle. Feedlots generally have a vet on staff and a nutritionist who make sure the cattle are kept healthy and thriving. Of course, life happens and sometimes it can be hard to work on a feedlot when things are not going according to plan, but I am confident that these devoted individuals do everything they can to prevent and protect their animals.
Lastly came the tour of the JBS Beef Plant in Tolleson, AZ. Our energetic tour guide, Maria, took us through the various stages of meat processing and explained to us the importance of handling the meat safely as well as treating the cattle humanely when they come to their facility. It was an eye opening experience where I learned how my beef came to be from the farm to the table, and I can confidently say I am proud of where my beef comes from.
Convention and Other Fun Events
I had the opportunity to serve as an intern at the Arizona Cattle Growers Association Convention in Prescott, AZ. There, I talked with cattle ranchers from all across Arizona and learned a bit more about how beef is raised in my home state. It was an amazing opportunity to network and connect with the dedicated ranchers in the Sonora desert.
I also went to the Arizona Academy of Dietetics and Nutritionist Conference in Phoenix, AZ with Lauren. I was a little unsure how beef promotion would go over in a room of nutritionists, but the results were pleasantly surprising. I was able to communicate my love of beef and its nutrient value to many people and I was able to learn about their health concerns as well.
We also went along on the Summer Agriculture Institute where teachers came to learn a little more about where their food comes from and how they can bring that knowledge into their classrooms. Coming from a strong agriculture background, I sometimes forget how little those who do not have the opportunities I have had know about animal and crop production. It was neat to see the important messages cattle ranchers like Andy Groseta had to share about the hardships of raising cattle but that it was worth the end result: food on the table.
Takeaways and Thank Yous
From knowing little about the beef community in Arizona to annoying my family friends with the copious amounts of knowledge I have gained over the summer this experience is something for which I will forever be grateful. I feel I am more educated and can address more consumer concerns about how beef is raised.
I have never felt more welcome and appreciated for my efforts as I have at this office working with Lauren, Tiffany, Heidi, Maria, Kim, Patrick, and Bass. I have made unforgettable memories which I will cherish through the years. From porcine to bovine, I love all meat; but remember Beef…It’s What’s For Dinner.
In March of 2017 I was just your average college student: persistently bugging my professor for more work with cattle out at the feedlot, telling every high school student (and even some 10 year olds) how amazing college (the University of Arizona, of course) and Animal Science is, working at a cattle sale barn, spending every paycheck on my horse’s never ending credit line, dreaming of being back out on the ranch, and making plans for graduate school and a future in the beef community… ok, so maybe not your average college student. But, I was just going through my spring semester with a page long list of all the possibilities for my rapidly approaching summer when my old agriculture teacher, my boyfriend, my best friend, a professor, and several others all told me to apply for the Arizona Beef Council Internship. I looked it up, saw social media, and closed the screen. But after thinking, praying, and, I admit, mostly persuasion, I applied. A phone call interview, follow-up with references (the plus of working for cowgirls in high school is they are very stubborn, very persuasive, and thus the perfect reference), and a few months later, I arrived at the office in downtown Phoenix. Yes, DOWNTOWN PHOENIX! I said a quick farewell to dreams of cool weather and countrysides, then quickly smiled with astonishment and excitement that it was honestly me being blessed with this incredible opportunity to intern for the Arizona Beef Council. This is how the next nine weeks went; well, a very condensed version anyway. (I invite you to read the past AZ Beef blogs to learn more!)
The first week, Shayla and I were able to join other agriculture leaders and 30 teachers for the Summer Agriculture Institute, a program that teaches kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers about agriculture in Arizona. The intent is to provide the educators with information and resources on how they can incorporate agriculture into their curriculum to educate today’s youth. While I do work with Ag in the Classroom, teaching kindergarten students is very different than teaching adults, and this week further developed my passion for educating Americans about the truth of agriculture and the beef community. Some of the stops included Andy Groseta’s ranch where teachers learned the importance of the relationship between cattle grazing and the health of the environment, a discussion with a forest ranger on the health of our forests, and a dinner with representatives from the Diablo Trust. It was a rewarding experience as we witnessed many of the teachers transform their opinions about agriculture and clear up misconceptions.
In the following weeks, we worked in the office with amazing members of the beef community. We gained knowledge in communication, including how to utilize social media and online applications to create graphics, find the correct information, and interact with consumers both online and in person. We developed an understanding of the importance of selecting proper word choice and facts to tell the beef story in an honest yet non-offensive way. It was an eye-opening education. I have been involved in the production side of the beef community, including courses at the University of Arizona taught by esteemed professors, and while I continually interact with people not familiar with agricultural production (including my family), I had not realized the importance of reading one’s audience, selecting proper words, and being transparent and objective in telling the beef story. I also was unfamiliar with the full expanse of misinformation, biased articles, anti-agriculture organizations, and other information that is readily available and promoted to lead consumers astray. My passion for the beef community and telling its story continues to grow every day.
In addition to working in the office, Shayla and I were fortunate to attend different events as interns including the Women in Agriculture Conference and the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association (ACGA) Convention. At the Women in Agriculture Conference, we learned more about future challenges that the agriculture community will face, the importance of women’s roles both in the family and in production, and how to reconnect with consumers and producers not involved in organizations. One highlight was an inspiring presentation by a couple who were refugees from Africa and now own a farm in Arizona.
At the ACGA Convention, we were privileged to join many individuals involved in the Arizona beef community. As policies were re-evaluated, current issues were tackled, and connections were made, we saw firsthand how the beef community works to ensure its success along with everyone involved while working to continuously improve how cattle are raised and how we care for rangelands. It was beneficial to hear diverse opinions and explanations for why certain practices are done the way they are done. I also enjoyed seeing current issues that the beef industry is facing and how they handle them. I am very passionate about being involved in, and educating consumers about, the beef community, and this opportunity to work for and interact with numerous individuals in different aspects of the beef community was inspiring and extremely informative. There was a lot of fun, and a lot of education and this experience truly attested to the diversity and team work incorporated into the beef community. I was honored to help contribute to making convention successful.
This amazing internship also gave us the opportunity to meet influential and successful individuals and families in the beef community, which included working tours at beef facilities as well as the rewarding task of representing these families and their stories in Arizona Beef blogs. The first stop on our industry tour was the Kerr Family Dairy in Buckeye, hosted by Wes Kerr. Wes amazed us with his focus on animal welfare and a progressive mentality. He described how his grandfather never imagined the day when all dairies would have shades, and now technology has come so far to include Wes’ work with progressing genetics to have all polled (hornless) dairy cattle. Wes’ dairy was a beautiful example of superior animal care, attention to consumer demands and industry needs, and a progressive mentality. Thank you, Wes!
The next stop was a week-long vacation (err, long, grueling work week? In case Tiffany is reading this maybe I shouldn’t brag) down in Nogales with cattlemen Dan Bell and Dean Fish. We were blessed to join them in their daily ranch life, including the opportunity to gather cattle; brand, vaccinate, test, ear tag and castrate calves; ultrasound and palpate cows to check pregnancies; and perform other cattle management practices that ensure proper cattle records, health, and care. We also experienced monitoring and caring for the rangeland including proper fencing and cattle grazing rotation systems. We heard incite on the different ways of handling cattle to match individual ranches, including how to reduce stress for maximum productivity. We also attended the Southern Arizona Cattle Protective Association (SACPA) meeting and learned about current issues facing the beef community including the US-Mexico border, disease, and water regulations. It was an insightful opportunity to learn about different ranches and their management plans, and a refreshing break to be back out on a ranch. Mr. Bell and Dr. Fish were inspiring resources, sharing every detail of their work, showing us their challenges and successes, and giving us wisdom and advice for a joyful life. Thank you, Dan and Dean!
Our next stop on touring the beef community was at Pinal Feeding Co in Maricopa. From the cow-calf ranch to the feedlot, this transition helped us learn about feeding cattle and the details involved. We learned more about cattle nutrition and how rations are made and delivered to provide the best care and results from cattle, including the importance of feeding at the right time of day. We learned about the complexity of technologies in managing and keeping records of cattle, as well as caring for sick cattle. Thank you, Bass and Caline! Afterward, we were privileged to tour the JBS Beef Processing Plant in Tolleson where we saw the care that workers take in supplying us with wholesome, safe, and healthy beef. I was impressed by the information our food safety tour guide explained to us. Every step of the process is carefully monitored with safety procedures, health and quality tests, and employees passionate about their jobs and the positive difference they make. Beef truly is a product we can feel safe, and good, about eating, knowing that it is raised with continuously improving sustainable practices, provided to us by families who care and is a delicious and nutritious source of food for ourselves and our families. Thank you, Maria!
The beef community tours were not only enjoyable but also an educational look into the Arizona beef community and what the beef story truly is. From the promotion aspect in the office, to a dairy, to a cow-calf ranch, to the feedlot, to the packing plant, and with several stops to look at policies, regulations, issues, and development, I loved experiencing every piece of the beef story and hearing insight from a variety of farmers and ranchers with different backgrounds, scenarios, and ideologies. This experience increased my ability and desire to share the beef story and how cattle are raised by families, for families, in the most sustainable way, ensuring the health of cattle, the environment, and families.
Overall, I cannot begin to express how rewarding my internship with the Arizona Beef Council was. I am incredibly blessed not only to have the amazing experience to learn from and interact with numerous individuals, families, and businesses in the beef community but also to be able to give back and assist in outreach and education to consumers. I gained endless skills and fueled my always growing passion for the beef community. And to top it all off, I was able to work with some of the nicest, most intelligent women in the beef community. One final thank you to everyone who encouraged me to apply for this amazing internship, to the committee who selected me, to my fellow intern and partner in crime Shayla, and to Tiffany and Lauren, my outstanding leaders, who I had seen present several times and never could have dreamed of the amazing opportunity to work with. And of course, thank you to the beef community. Eat beef, it’s what’s for dinner.