I recently had the privilege of joining a chef, some dieticians and leaders in agriculture for a day of touring different livestock farms, hosted by the Alliance for the Future in Agriculture (A-FAN). We had a beautiful fall day to enjoy the outdoor weather with a little Nebraska wind to keep us cool.

My role in this group was to share the feedlot piece of the puzzle in food production. It is nice to see for yourself how animals are housed and cared for but due to time constraints the group could only visit so many places in one day. I had video footage of different activities we do on our feedlot so I put together a few clips that I thought would most interesting to them so we could watch it between farm stops.

On our beef stop everyone could see a cow/calf herd and ask questions about raising calves. This farm also had soybean harvest underway so questions were also asked about raising corn and soybeans. This farm, as well as the others we visited, discussed the benefits of livestock in providing organic material-manure-for fertilizer which met much approval from the group.

As we journeyed from that farm to the hog farm, I talked to the group using the DVD about finishing cattle in the feedlot. The questions were friendly and sincere. I found that until you have to explain a ration, bunk reading, pen walking, doctoring and processing you just don’t realize how easy it is to misunderstand how cattle are cared for.

There was concern about the hormones we implant our cattle with. The perception for many people is that we are out here putting cattle on steroids like you would an athlete and that it all ends up in the meat and on your table. The fact is, the hormone implant goes under the skin in the ear where it is slowly released over several months of time. The hormone level in the meat could be compared to a blade of grass in a football field-very hard to even find. The group also seemed to appreciate the extra measures we take for extreme heat and cold to provide more comfort as cattle don’t laugh and cry but they do seek comfort from the extremes.

We were very fortunate to visit small and large farms with top management skills. While many people refer to larger farms as “factory farms” we could easily see how well-cared for the animals were at the large hog and dairy farms we visited. The concern for food safety and animal welfare was well addressed by all of the producers and veterinarians involved with the tour.

This was a great opportunity for dialogue between those of us raising food and those helping the consumer make food choices.

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