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May is Beef Month

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Whether it's the All-American hamburger or a thick steak fired up on the grill, Iowans have a love affair with beef. And with the coming season of outdoor activities and backyard barbecues, that relationship grows even stronger. In honor of this, May has been declared "Beef Month" in Iowa. This unique celebration began more than 45 years ago and recognizes one of Iowa's largest industries. In addition, it honors the dedicated men and women who produce the high quality, nutritious beef that Iowa is known for around the world.

But there's more to the story. The beef industry also plays a crucial role in Iowa's overall economy. From cattle producers and feed manufacturers to equipment dealers and food marketers, thousands of Iowans play a role in bringing beef to the plates of consumers. In fact, cattle generate $5.1 billion in total direct and indirect economic activity to Iowa's economy. The cattle industry also supports Iowa's corn and soybean producers--148 million bushels of Iowa corn and over 78 million bushels of Iowa grown soybeans were fed to cattle in 2006.

"There's no doubt that one of Iowa's greatest treasures is its beef industry," said Dan Cook, Chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) and beef producer from New Providence, Iowa. "Iowa is unique among beef producing states. With abundant feed, rolling hills and green pastures, Iowa is one of the few states with all the resources necessary to grow high quality cattle. Without question, Iowa is one of the premier beef producing states in the country."

Cook also pointed out that Iowa's beef producers are passionate about caring for the environment. "We (cattle producers) depend on the land and its resources for our livelihood. Good management demands that we care for the environment, not only for our own welfare, but for the welfare of future generations. I can say with complete confidence that beef producers, as individuals and as an industry, are actively working to protect and improve the environment. Let's face it, environmental stewardship is socially responsible and makes good business sense."

According to Brian Waddingham, Director of Industry Relations for the IBIC, Iowa's beef producers are committed to providing wholesome, safe and delicious beef for consumers throughout the world. "Iowa cattle producers are proud of their role in feeding our world and we, as Iowans, should be proud of that too. Let your local producers know they are appreciated by enjoying a juicy hamburger or a thick steak today."

Beef Quality Assurance

American families expect quality beef, and United States beef producers work to provide it through programs like the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. According to Brian Waddingham, Director of Industry Relations at the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the BQA program was created more than 20 years ago by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and aims to bring together beef producers with one strong goal: to produce safe, wholesome beef that provides a great beef experience every time.

In Iowa, the BQA program is sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) and is funded through the $1-per-head beef checkoff. Nearly 6,400 Iowa beef producers have been BQA certified since 1999. "The BQA program's mission is to maximize consumer confidence in beef while exceeding their eating expectations," said Waddingham, who administers Iowa's program.

According to the IBIC, the BQA program is a two-year certification process in which anyone directly responsible for beef production and the handling or administration of pesticides, feed additives, pharmaceuticals or vaccines can be certified. Waddingham says that the BQA system works to prevent defects in the end product and evaluates beef production from start to finish.

"Beef Quality Assurance emphasizes the day-to-day management practices that influence the production of safe, wholesome beef. The program also instructs beef producers on the proper use of animal health products, environmental management, record keeping and sampling procedures for feed and feed ingredients. In today's environment, all of these elements are extremely important to consumers," said Waddingham.

Waddingham also added that the program is continually being improved and enhanced. A new component of the BQA program, according to Waddingham, is an increased emphasis on cattle care and handling and how low-stress management techniques have a positive impact on cattle performance.

Waddingham said he is often asked why it is important for producers to become certified. In answer to that, he says that state and national industry organizations believe it's important for beef producers to maintain and build consumer confidence in purchased beef. He also pointed out that producers will benefit from the required record-keeping. These records can be passed on with the cattle from owner to buyer, resulting in more informed business decisions.

To become BQA certified, contact Brian Waddingham at the Iowa Beef Industry Council (515-296-2305), or contact your local veterinarian.

The Strength Protein Provides

Emerging research is indicating that increasing daily high-quality protein intake can not only optimize muscle strength and metabolism, but can ultimately improve overall health. A 2006 research review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that increasing daily high-quality protein intake may optimize muscle strength and metabolism, and ultimately improve overall health. A growing body of evidence suggests muscle metabolism may also play a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Eating at least four ounces of a high-quality protein at each meal may help maintain muscle mass, and provide energy to lead an active lifestyle.

Food for Thought:

Beef is a nutrient powerhouse, providing less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet per 3-ounce serving, and is an excellent or good source of nine essential nutrients.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to first choose nutrient-rich foods and beverages from each basic food group. These foods deliver the most nutrients in the fewest calories.

Emerging research suggests that high-quality protein, such as lean beef, plays an increasingly important role in muscle maintenance, weight management and disease prevention.

Consider that a 3-ounce serving of lean beef (179 calories) contains about the same amount of protein as 1 cups of legumes (an average of 360 calories) but in half the calories.

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