Food labels don’t have to be confusing. You just have to question enough to find out more and really understand which labels have serious meaning and which are marketing gimmicks to sell more product. This video will help!
June is Dairy Month and honestly, we haven’t celebrated it up like we should! So, in order of one of my favorite months (ice cream for dessert every night!) I thought I’d bring you some information about one of the most concerning aspects of milk for the average joe: hormones.
Reference these facts by South Carolina Dairy farmer Caci Nance:
- Milk has hormones because it is a product of nature. Hormones are naturally present in all milk, whether it comes from a cow, a goat, or even a human.
- Hormones are just proteins, and most–up to 90 percent of them, in fact –are destroyed through the process of pasteurization. The small amount of protein that may be left after pasteurization gets broken down through digestion in your stomach, just like protein in other foods.
- There are hormones in almost all of the food we eat. Lettuce has hormones, for instance, and cabbage actually has a very high level of hormones.
- Hormones are never added to milk. Most dairy farmers do not give their cows a supplemental hormone, called rBST, to increase milk production. The Midwest Dairy Association reports that only 30 percent of U.S. dairy farmers choose to use rbST with their herds, accounting for 20 to 25 percent of cows. Notably, rBST is not added to the milk itself, but rather is administered to some cows in some herds. Repeated studies by the FDA have found rBST to be a safe and effective way to increase milk production and ensure a plentiful milk supply.
- Farmers are consumers, too. We would never add something harmful to the food supply that is unsafe or dangerous because we eat the same foods that other consumers do.
Knowing this should help calm your fears, but what if you have more questions? Well, the comments in this original blog post are a treasure trove of answers. Go now. Read the comments. Add a question yourself.
And then put milk, cottage cheese, and ice cream back on the menu for tonight. It’s Dairy Month after all!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
As we officially head into summer, enjoy the recipes of grilling week! We’ll be featuring opportunities for you to get more delicious pork, beef, and chicken into your diet and sharing some fun facts about livestock farming in Illinois!
Fun Fact: Three out of four American grillers say they grill beef the most often (over chicken or pork)!
Today’s Tip: Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any bacteria). Your grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium and 250-300°F for low heat. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking.
Today’s Recipe: Flat Iron Steaks with Grilled Corn and Cumin-Lime Butter
What You’ll Need:
- 4 beef Flat Iron Steaks (about 8 ounces each)
- 6 ears fresh sweet corn, in husks
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 1 medium poblano pepper
- 1 small red finger chili (cayenne) pepper or serrano pepper
- Lime wedges
- Salt and ground black pepper\
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated lime peel
- ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
What You Do:
- Pull back husks from corn, leaving husks attached. Remove and discard corn silk. Bring husks back up around corn; tie in place with kitchen string or strips of corn husk. Soak corn in cold water 30 minutes or up to several hours.
- Combine rub ingredients. For Cumin-Lime Butter, combine 2 teaspoons rub mixture, butter and lime juice in small bowl; set aside. Press remaining rub evenly onto beef steaks. Cover and refrigerate steaks 30 minutes.
- Remove corn from the water. Place on grid over medium, ash-covered coals; grill, covered, 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. About 15 minutes before corn is done, move ears to the outer edge of the grid. Place poblano and finger chili pepper in center of grid; grill poblano pepper 10 to 15 minutes and chili pepper 5 minutes or until skins are completely blackened, turning occasionally. Place peppers in a food-safe plastic bag; close bag. Set aside.
- Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 10 to 14 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.
- Remove and discard husks from corn. Cover and refrigerate 2 steaks, 2 ears corn and grilled peppers to use in Steak and Grilled Corn Tortillas. Carve remaining 2 steaks into slices. Squeeze lime wedges over beef, as desired. Spread Cumin-Lime Butter over remaining 4 ears corn. Season beef and corn with salt and black pepper, as desired.
To prepare on gas grill, preheat grill according to manufacturer’s directions for medium heat. Place vegetables and steaks on the grid as directed above. Grill corn and poblano pepper, covered, 15 to 25 minutes, or until corn is tender and skin of poblano pepper is completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill finger chili pepper 5 to 10 minutes or until skin is completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill steaks, covered, 12 to 16 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
Throughout this semester, I have been exposed to a new perspective on food. I have always been interested in the health aspect of it, as well as what goes on inside our bodies after we ingest it, but this internship influenced me to focus more on the source of it, as well as the work behind the entire process.
While I had a decent understanding of common misconceptions, such as people being against biotechnology and food that is inorganic, I began to learn that many of us do not truly understand the reasoning behind making these food choices. Throughout the internship, I would talk to some of my friends, or catch them in moments at the grocery store when they would say “wait, but choose the organic one,” and after asking why, it typically resulted in an answer along the lines of “it’s healthier” or “I don’t know, it’s better for you.” There have been many examples of consumers purchasing an item merely because it contains the words “vegan, organic or gluten-free.”
My very first post on the Instagram Gate2Plate highlighted the craze about GMO-free water. After reading a few articles, it became evident that companies try to take advantage of the knowledge gap between consumers and their willingness to pay a higher price for a “premium” product. While the water bottle does look fancier and more official, in the end, there is no true difference in the quality or safety of that water, but there is in the price. Gate2plate contains a multitude of fun photos that include facts, tasty meals, artsy recipes, and more, and it has helped me and many others expand our knowledge of all the different realms of food.
Through my experience with this internship, I learned about food insecurity and programs created to fight it, such as Food Corps. I have also learned that there are so many fun food holidays, and they are almost every single day! I have also learned the details that go into many of the intricate processes of creating certain foods, such as whey protein, beef, and coffee. While I have always followed basic trends of eating in season, I learned a lot about why it’s important, such as more flavor and nutrition, the fact that it helps you save money since the food is at the peak of its supply, and it is also better for the planet because eating within the seasons helps reduce the number of miles our food has traveled, hence reducing amount of fuel used to get it to us! Overall, I have learned that the process that comes before our food reaches our plate involves so much dedication, knowledge, patience, and hard work, and it is a step in the process that should be known and recognized by everyone because we would be nowhere without it.
University of Illinois
What is “Farmers’ Share of Food Dollar?”
The Farmers’ Share of the Food Dollar is the amount of money out of every dollar that actually gets back to the farmer. The data quantifies how much of each dollar that you spend on food is paid to the farmer for growing that food. This data is tracked annual by the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.
The Farmers’ Share is at a record low?
Yes. In 2016, the farmers’ share of the food dollar fell to 14.8 cents, down 4.5 percent from the prior year and the lowest level since 1993 when this data began being collected and calculated. This means that when you spend $1 on food, on average, the farmer is only getting about $0.15 of that dollar and the rest of it is going to transportation, packaging, marketing, etc.
In this case, the opposite is also true: non-farm related marketing associated with the food dollar (transportation, processing, marketing, etc) rose to a record high of 85.2 cents.
Is this really as straightforward as it sounds?
Yes. In fact, if we adjust for inflation and alter all the numbers to 2009 dollars, the farmers’ share of the food dollar was just 12.2 cents. So the actual low of 14.8 cents is even a little optimistic.
But food eaten at home and food eaten out is surely different …
Yes again. Farmers receive more out of each dollar spent on food at home than they receive out of each dollar spent on food at a restaurant. This makes sense … the prepared food at Chili’s is more expensive than what you can prepare at home because Chili’s has to pay waiters, cooks, overhead and more.
And the trend is for Americans to eat more meals out than at home. So that drags the farmers’ share of the food dollar down.
What does this mean for farmers?
Pretty simply, it means that commodity prices are really low, food costs are growing, and when the general American wants to attribute that increased food cost to farmers or farm policies, they are incorrect in doing so. Farmers are receiving less and less of the money you spend on food. More and more of that cash is going to processors, marketers, restaurants, etc.
That doesn’t make any of this inherently bad, but it is important to understand the reality of our food system if we want to change farm policies or try to impact food prices.
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
With spring in full swing we now finally have some of our favorite vegetables back in season. Mine happens to be asparagus, which means I can cook it fresh from the garden. Instead of a traditional chicken and asparagus dish, I enjoy this one because of the complex flavors it introduces. Savory yet still simple to make. This recipe serves three to four people and is very filling.
For this recipe you will need:
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup of chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- Lemon zest
Now to the best part, how to make it!
- Cook asparagus and oil in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. When 1 minute remains, add garlic. Set asparagus and garlic aside.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and cook chicken until browned.
- Set chicken aside and add soy sauce and chicken broth to the skillet. Bring to a boil for about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, water, and cornstarch and stir for about 1 minute.
- Return chicken and asparagus to pan. Coat with sauce, top with lemon zest and serve!
This is a quick family recipe that all are sure to enjoy!
Southern Illinois University
Did you know that all farmers must learn about and abide by a host of federal and state environmental regulations? Pig farmers are no different. They use research to understand and address the impact that large amounts of manure and using land to raise pigs can have on:
• Groundwater and surface water
• Air quality
• Animal manure management
• Land and soil quality
• Land use
Farmers are using all this research and the regulations they must abide by to fuel creative solutions to environmental concerns and to keep growing more pigs to feed more people.
American pig farmers are working hard to understand their carbon footprint and watching for opportunities to raise our food smarter. According to the EPA, only 2.8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in 2007 came from animal agriculture. Of that percentage, pig farming contributes just a little more than one-third of 1 percent (0.35 percent) of total U.S. GHG emissions.
Right now, a tool is in development to help pig farmers better understand air emissions from their farms and how they can make improvements.
Most of the water used on pig farms is either to irrigate the crops the pigs will eat (90%). The rest of the water is used to give the pigs something to drink. The best way farmers are looking to get more control over that water use is to use science and technology to evaluate animal drinking systems. If we can water our pigs better, we can waste less.
Improvements to our farming methods are the name of the game and we are always trying to do better and trying to find small (and big!) ways to change the way we raise pigs to make less of an impact on our earth.
Thanks to https://www.pork.org/ for this important information on pig farming!
If you drink milk, and you’d like to know what dairy your milk came from, there’s a new website that can help.
Using this website is actually really easy with only a few little pointers. First, find the code on your dairy product carton or container. The code is usually near the top of the container (or printed on the label), begins with two numbers, and ends with 1-5 digits.
After locating the code on your dairy product, visit http://whereismymilkfrom.com and type your code into the small box at the top left of the website.
Go learn more about your food and the farmers that grow it today!
It’s been awhile since we’ve chatted about food product labels and what they mean. As we prepare for our favorite Easter Sunday meal, let’s refresh our knowledge and chat about the different labels we see on our food.
GMO: This term, often tied to negative feelings, stands for a genetically modified organism. Essentially, this means the genetic makeup of product has been altered to better the product for us, the consumers. We have the capabilities to pinpoint the exact gene we want to be changed, to help ensure our food is healthy and grows correctly. This opportunity has been ground-breaking for agriculture and is imperative to providing a safe and sufficient food supply to our growing world population.
Check out this video from our neighbors in Iowa and see real farmers’ perspectives on GMOs!
As shared in the video, GMOs have been in our food supply for 25 years. These products don’t just appear out of nowhere – each genetically modified item goes through a rigorous series of tests to meet approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By testing these products, we are ensuring they are indeed safe for consumption. Farmers feed their children the same food we as consumers buy at the store. They want a safe and healthy food supply for their families too. That’s why GMOs are such an important part to our food supply.
So what about labels? As many of us may have seen, labels on food products are now changing. This is part of a movement through the FDA to ensure consumers understand what they are eating and the science behind it. It is extremely important to be educated on what we eat and why we eat it. The FDA explains why genetically modified foods are safe to eat in a factual article here, check it out!
Most of us are aware that genetically engineered products are a hot topic and have been promoted, both positively and negatively, over the news and social media. How can we know if you are eating food with genetically modified contents? Some producers have voluntary labels sharing this information. Despite the labels, it is important to educate ourselves on the importance of a sustainable and healthy food supply, and how producers are working hard to feed our growing world. Different tools producers use include GMOs because it’s a way for farmers to grow more on less land. Therefore, more food can be produced to help feed us, the consumers.
So on Sunday, while making Easter dinner, ask a family member what they know about GMOs Maybe they haven’t heard anything, or maybe they’ve kept up with this hot topic via social media. In either situation, take a minute to find authentic and scientific facts, such as the article from the USDA. Sharing education means sharing a wealth of knowledge. By doing this, we can share the scientific facts about GMOs and ultimately continue to support our farmers.
Illinois State University
In our fast-paced society where options are plentiful, time is sparse, and the day-to-day grind can really wear a person out, there’s one daily constant that brings me some amount of joy — or at very least, satisfaction… Food. Luckily for me, life on the farm, in conjunction with my career in corn/agriculture advocacy surrounds me with opportunities to think about where food comes from and what we can do with it. Follow along throughout the spring, summer, and fall as I share my food-related thoughts here on Corn Corps.
Let me start by saying: I love GOOD food. Specifically: fresh, flavorful, home-grown, made-with-love, not-always-healthy, much-anticipated, home-cookin’! Though I grew up surrounded by farming in Northwest Illinois, I’ve only lived on a farm for about 7 years. In that time, I’ve come to understand why March is a love-hate time of year for My Farmer. Depending on the weather (a phrase that’s thrown around A LOT at my house) there are a plethora of things that could go on in March. If the fields are still frozen, cow manure can be spread. If the frost is out, you can think about applying ammonia. We’re likely still expecting the last few baby calves to be born, and in just a few weeks we’ll begin artificially inseminating next year’s calf herd. The numerous babies that have already been born will be exploring the area between their barns and pretty soon they’ll be turned out to pasture for the first time. For me, it’s a genuine springtime feeling of new beginnings! For My Farmer, it’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants work schedule.
For my kids, between afternoon visits to the barn to see the new babies, and suppertime around the table, we have some pretty frank conversations. Our four-year-old understands that the meat we’re eating is beef. Beef comes from cattle. The cattle right outside. Every so often we load a couple cattle into our trailer and take them to the butcher. (–Insert gray area here–) …And the beef comes back home and we cook it and eat it for supper. So far, there haven’t been any questions about what exactly happens at the butcher – but when he asks, I’ll explain it to him. We have similar conversations about vegetables. I’m no gardener, but we have a few vegetable plants outside. He watches those grow over the summer and helps harvest the produce. My little guy understands that what we buy in the store comes from a farmer somewhere. Last week I asked my little guy “where did this potato come from?” to which he shrugged and responded, “a farmer market – like both a farmer and a store”. Technically, he was right, despite the fact that I bought it at Walmart. He actually grasps the idea that numerous people worked hard for those mashed potatoes to end up on his plate. I like to think that this framework we’ve laid will result in a lifelong appreciation of both food and the effort it takes to produce it.
The lifecycle of our livestock truly makes a full circle, and that’s one of the coolest parts of farming. We grow corn, in part, to feed our livestock. We breed our livestock to have more livestock. We care for them by keeping them fed, doctored, safe both in the pasture and the barns, and then use their manure to fertilize the fields which will grow to feed them later. At some point along the way, some of them leave us only to return a few weeks later wrapped in white paper, ready to feed our family, which allows us to keep doin’ what we do!
This spring, as you feel the days grow longer and observe life coming back to the land, I hope you enjoy some fresh fruit and vegetables, along with a big, juicy, well-marbled, steak, and feel gratitude for the numerous hands it took to prepare it!
IL Corn Membership Assistant