Agriculture Production Differences from Maryland to the Mississippi

Image result for corn fieldPhoto credit: Inhabitat

At the discretion of the land

If a person were to get into a vehicle and start driving with a starting point at Ocean City, Maryland and start driving west, there would be many different observations made when traveling. One of the more obvious observations is the lay of the land. On the very east coast, the land is relatively flat. Then, when heading west the mountains start to become more apparent. Once one is over the mountains and into the central portion of Ohio, it seems to get flat again. From there it only seems to get flatter!

Another observation that can be made from Maryland to the Mississippi River is the agricultural demographic. There is produce, cereal grains, livestock, and seafood produced on the far east. Cereal grains, hay, and livestock become more of the top commodities produced when headed to the Midwest. I grew up in a town called Woodbine, Maryland. As a kid, I travel many times into the Midwest, mainly due to livestock shows. While driving the countless miles to and from the Midwest, many observations were made about the agriculture diversity that was involved between Maryland and Illinois.

Maryland

To start with Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay contributes to over 50% of the blue crab harvest in the United States. In Maryland alone, the seafood industry brings in over $600 million in annual income for the states economy. Commercial landings of seafood have averaged almost 57 million pounds in the past 15 years. Maryland Blue Crabs and oysters are among the crowd favorite when consuming seafood within the state.

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photo credit: The Crab Depot

Now Maryland isn’t known for just the seafood. Other agricultural industries in Maryland include the equine, poultry, beef, dairy, produce, hog, and cereal grain industries. Last year, there was an average of 164 bushels of corn harvested per acre, 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, 64 bushels of winter wheat per acre, and 69 bushels of barely harvested per acre. There was over 20 thousand pounds of milk produced per dairy cow annually last year also. Maryland.gov will tell us that there are more horses per square mile in Maryland than any other state in the nation! The Preakness Stakes is a highlight event in the horse industry that the state of Maryland hosts. Maryland.gov will also tell  us that “in 2015, Maryland ranked ninth among states in the number of broilers, or chickens raised”, what do all of these statistics mean one may ask? The numbers show how diversified the state of Maryland really is. There is not one industry that is of major focus, but there are many industries that really make Maryland agriculture and make Maryland so proud of what they produce.

Illinois

Now unfortunately for some, fresh seafood is non existent in the state of Illinois as it is in Maryland. Grain and livestock production is of a much larger scale though. On average there can be one cow/calf pair ran on about two and a half graze-able acres in Illinois. There are some parts of the state that 300 bushel an acre corn harvest is normal. At one point in time, Henry County, Illinois was known as the hog capital of the world because there were more hogs per square mile then there was at anywhere else. Now with the rise of new technology and different production practices, that is no longer the case, but there is still an extreme amount of livestock and grain production in Illinois when compared to Maryland. A very simple observation can be made by the soil color differences between the two states. On well maintained and highly productive Illinois ground, there is a very dark, rich, black dirt that covers the land. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois farmland covers nearly 75% of the states total land area. Illinois Department of Agriculture also states that exports from Illinois account for 6 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports. So even though Illinois may not host one of the largest race horse events in the country or have the delicious seafood readily at hand, the state is extremely important when pertaining to American agriculture.

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photo credit: Illinois Pork Producers

From Maryland to the Mississippi River, there are all different kinds of agricultural practices in place. From getting on a boat every morning in the Chesapeake Bay to go harvest that days catch of seafood, to getting in a combine to harvest 300 bushels of corn an acre on the rich black dirt of Illinois, and everyone between,  there’s a purpose behind everyone’s efforts. The purpose stands behind the red, white, and blue. The purpose is, American Agriculture!

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My name is Brandon Gruber and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University. I’m originally from Woodbine, Maryland, where I grew up raising hogs and was very active in 4-H and other national junior livestock associations. I am currently employed at Minnaert Show Cattle of Atkinson, Illinois, and now call Annawan, Illinois, home where I plan on building a competitive showpig sow herd and stay diversified within multiple species at the completion of my time here at WIU.

Sources:  http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/agri.html

https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/Ag_Overview/stateOverview.php?state=ILLINOIS

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A view of agriculture from a Minnesota Rancher

Background information

I did an interview with a young man by the name of Jared Seinola, Jared is a farmer on the eastern side of Minnesota. He lives in a small town called St. Charles, as a young kid Jared always had a passion for agriculture. In 1995 his family moved to a farm  and called it the 5 Star Ranch. The name generated from the 5 children that lived there, Jared being one of them. At first they began renting out both the pasture land and the crop land from the previous owners. In 2014 they began running all the pasture and hay land for production, and acquired some cattle over the years.

Picture taken by Jared Seinola, at the Five Star Ranch

 

Growing up

Jared was four years old when he moved to the farm, even though at this age he couldn’t really do much to help out he was always around the farm. Throughout his schooling Jared was involved with the FFA and showed cattle all over the U.S.. After high school he went on to North Dakota State University (NDSU), where he received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and minored in Agriculture Business. At 22, he started operating the family farm by himself. After graduation from NDSU, Jared now being 23, began as a beef cattle nutritionist for a larger scaled company, Benson Farm Service LLC. Here he works with 30 other full time employees but he is the only beef nutritionist on the staff. Benson Farm service sells feed to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota farmers, along with dairy and agronomy services. When I asked Jared why he got into agriculture he told me:

“I’ve always enjoyed raising cattle. I enjoy growing food for others. The different seasons and times of the year bring new challenges and opportunities. Whether it’s calving season or breeding season or fall harvest. It all takes a specific plan to be successful.”

On the nutrition side of things he said “I’ve always seen nutrition as a vital role in the health of animals. I’m in a position to help farmers maintain healthy productive animals to make them the most profitable and sustainable they can be.”

The Future

Currently, the Five Star Ranch has 30 calves from 30 cows, all of which are maintained and taken care of by Jared. He likes the way the operation is going right now and is excited for the future growth of the farm. The Five Star Ranch sells breeding stock year round, and is currently in the growth stage the operation.  I asked him what he plans on doing for the future and he told me that he wants to own up to 100 plus cow/ calf pairs at some point in his life but right now he is fine with where its at, especially with him starting a family of his own he can’t really expand the operation just yet.Displaying IMG_0256.PNG

Picture from Jared Seinola of a new born calf and its mother.

Working in Agriculture

I asked Jared whats the best thing about working in agriculture and he told me helping people and the challenges it brings. Jared also shared that ever since he was a little kid he loved growing food and helping out with the animals. He says that farming is a humble and noble occupation that requires a lot of work. He loves that about the job, he said that you carry around a sense of pride when working in agriculture. Where he is from he works with a small portion of the national population, and says that a lot of people think that their food comes from the grocery store, but it’s from everybody that works in the agricultural side of things and he loves knowing that.

In the end, I got that sense of pride as Jared was talking, just by listening to him in this interview. Jared is a very hard working, driven young man. He does what needs to be done not only for his family but for everyone that he works with. He loves helping others with his work and truly cares about what the future holds for agriculture.

Bio

I am Christian Melby I am a Senior at Western Illinois University from Platteville, WI. I am going to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Agriculture Science with an emphasis in horticulture. I have a passion for agriculture and horticulture, and hope to pursue a dream in landscaping after college.

 

5 Values Learned Growing Up On The Farm

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Being raised on the farm was the greatest gift my parents could have gave me. My unique upbringing taught me an unlimited number of valuable life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned growing up somewhere other than the farm. I truly believe that growing up in agriculture has made me a better person.

1. Responsibility- Before I was even big enough to help out with chores, I would tag along with my dad. I knew when things needed to be done and that usually meant taking care of the animals before taking care of myself. Cattle don’t care what day it is or what is going on, they still have to be fed and cared for. We do not get any “days off”.

2. Work Ethic- I never got those days that I got to sleep in until noon like most of my friends did. I had to be up every morning to do chores and I didn’t get to go hang out with my friends until all of my work was done. You learn to work hard and long hours at an early age. It is not always easy, but hard work always pays off.

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3. Respect- The farm life teaches you respect for so many things. Respect for your family, the animals, the land, Mother Nature, and for others.

4. Patience- Have you ever tried sorting cows before? If so, then you know what I mean by saying you learn patience. Some tasks need more time and attention than others, you cannot rush through things to get them done faster, something will always go wrong. Living on a farm is not just a 9-5 job. Checking cows at 2 a.m. may not be fun, but neither is losing calves. I have learned patience from being up all night waiting on a cow to calve and then getting the calf to nurse. Patience is key.

5. Passion- I grew up helping my dad take care of the cattle and I could see the passion in him. I acquired the same passion, learning how to truly care for them.  Living on a farm is more than just a job, and my passion for it has grown deeper throughout the years. “Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” – Donovan Bailey

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I am Sara Pieper. I was born and raised on a grain and cattle farm outside of the small town of Stewardson, Illinois, where I found a love for the Agriculture industry. I am a junior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Business and Animal Science.

Inside the Wildfires

As an aspiring cattlemen, the news of wildfires rolling through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas was very devastating. A total of 1.5 million acres, an area the same size as the state of Delaware, were burned. The amount of livestock whose lives were lost is even more staggering: 13,700 head of cattle and 8,400 head of hogs died as a result of the wildfires. It is estimated that $21 million worth of livestock, pasture, fence, feed and supplies were lost.

This disaster turned the lives of many ranchers upside down. Gardiner Angus Ranch, one of the most prominent Angus operations in the country, lost around 500 head of cattle to the wildfires in Clark county Kansas. With their production sale in April, the wildfires were even more detrimental. The sale went on, and the ranch was able to average $5,754 on 702 lots and gross $4,654,600. Luckily, Gardiner was able to save the lives of his donor cows, preserving generations of genetics. However, Greg Gardiner, co-owner of the operation, states that it will take three years to replenish their cow herd.

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The GAR crew leading up to the sale

Many other ranchers were forced to euthanize cattle that were in excruciating pain from injuries caused by the fires. When asked about what he had to do after the fires, Mark Kaltenbach, 69 year old rancher, stated “We did what had to be done, They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, Wow, I am sorry.” Mark was just one of the many families that watched their entire livelihood go up in flames. They had to bury hundreds of cattle, and watch even more burnt cattle stumble around, hardly able to see or breathe, just before they put them out of their suffering.

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This disaster also sparked a great deal of political debate. Most ranchers, along with the rest of the agricultural community are traditionally very conservative, however, they felt rather abandoned by President Trump in this time of need. He neglected to mention anything about the devastating fires on his ‘famous’ Twitter account, let alone go out and visit with the ranchers and see the damages for himself.

Aaron Sawyers, an agriculture extension agent for Kansas State University, was very disgruntled by our government’s delayed response to the fires.  “This is our Hurricane Katrina” Sawyers stated. He is now fully convinced that Washington is completely detached from production agriculture. Sawyer is quoted saying “None of them are worth a damn, Republicans or Democrats”

On the other hand, the ranching community is a very close knit family, and when one’s family is in trouble- they respond. The relief efforts put forth by cattle producers have been highly impressive. There have been countless Cattleman Associations, Universities, and other groups raising funds to help support fellow ranchers in such a devastating time. Breeders World hosted an online sale April 3rd that was able to raise $58,365 for panhandle fire relief, this is just one out of the many benefit auctions held to help ranchers in need.  Outside of shear money, many families from here in the corn belt have been headed west with round bales to feed cattle that survived the fires.  As of April 1st the affected areas have been completely stocked with hay and feed, but are still seeking out fencing supplies. You can contact your local cattlemen’s association for information on how to help!

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One of the countless loads of hay being delivered in Kansas

 

My name is BFullSizeRreck Debnam and I am currently a senior majoring in Agriculture Business at Western Illinois University. I am from Damascus, Maryland where I grew up on a grain and cattle operation. I am currently employed at Lowderman Cattle Company in western Illinois and hope to manage a purebred cattle herd here in the Midwest when I finish my education.

 

Sources

http://www.agweb.com/article/gardiner-angus-ranch-loses-500-cattle-in-wildfire-resilience-prevails-naa-betsy-jibben/

http:/www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/us/burying-thier-cattle-ranchers-call-wildfires-our-hurricane-katrina.html

FCF, Its a Family Deal

“I will never forget the smiles that matched mine from the whole FCF crew when I came out of the ring and went back to the stalls” -Sierra Day.

For the past two and a half years I have had the privilege of working with the entire Four Corners Farms crew and their juniors that show for them. It did not take me long to see that their show cattle business was not just a business, but a “family deal”. We all know the livestock breeders who are in it for the money and will sell the animal to a customer and never see them again, that is where the FCF crew is different. From the day the cattle are sold, the McClure’s are constantly checking in with their customers and making sure the animal is at its highest potential and that the families are happy.

Interview with Eric McClure

“Be a step better, makes cows better, hair better, fit job better, and customer relations five steps ahead of where we think they should be” -Eric McClure

Eric McClure is the show barn manager of the Four Corners Farms operation and I asked him a couple questions regarding the kids and why he loves doing what he does. After hearing his answers, I truly see why customers continue to come back and purchase cattle with Four Corners Farms each year.

-Memories-

I have a couple memories that stick out in my mind. They aren’t winning the big shows or the highest seller in our sale. One memory that comes to mind in when Cody York had Champion Angus at the Gibson County Preview show. Though this is not the biggest show we go to in a year, seeing how happy Cody was, is what made it stand out to me. He had been working his butt off to get his heifer shown and it finally paid off.

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Picture taken by Lindsay Hanewich

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another memory that I will never forget was this year in Denver at the National Western Stock Show with one of my juniors Craig Allen Becker. He took his heifer by the halter and showed her who was in charge. His heifer named Boots is not the most friendly heifer on the FCF farm, and on this day Craig Allen showed her he was not scared of her. I was so proud to see him take all his nerves away and bond with her. I had been trying to show Craig Allen that he does not have to be scared of her, she just has to get used to him. Seeing how Craig Allen just went right up to her without being scared at all, really showed me that my work is paying off. These types of memories are so simple but mean the most to me.

-Best part of working for FCF-

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Photo taken by Sierra Day

The fact that I get to teach kids work ethic and the principles that made me successful. Growing up showing cattle is what I loved to do most. I learned from so many great mentors and now I get to do just that for the young kids showing for me. I want to see my juniors being just as successful as I was at their age.

 

 

 

 

 

-What do you believe keeps the customers coming back-

 

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Bottom line taking care of the kids. I keep a good relationship with the parents and try to be a good role model for their kids. I want the parents to see I truly care about what their families are doing even outside the show ring. I like to know how their baseball or volleyball games went, or make sure to call them on their birthdays. Customer service goes way beyond making sure the animal they purchased looks right.

Interviewing the kids

-Sierra Day- Age 19

I asked Sierra what keeps her and her family coming back each year to buy show heifers from FCF.

“I truly believe that what makes FCF stand out from other breeders is that they aren’t just focusing on producing high-quality cattle, but they are also focusing on helping youth like myself grow into the next generation of industry leaders.” -Sierra Day

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Photo taken by Cheryl Day

-Lauren Wolter- Age 12

I asked Lauren what her favorite memory was while being with the FCF crew. She talked about a time when she was being interviewed in the show ring.

I had gotten in the top half of my class at my first year of NJAA and was really excited. When I walked out I was beaming! The camera managed to catch the moment when Greg gave me a high five.” -Lauren Wolter

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Greg McClure -FCF owner and Lauren Wolter. Picture taken by Kimberly Wolter

-Cody York- Age 12

I also asked Cody what his favorite memory was over the years of working with the FCF crew.

“Justin Lillesand and Eric McClure teaching me how to fit and get the heifers ready to show.”- Cody York

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Picture taken by Missy York

-Craig Allen Becker- Age 13

I asked Craig Allen what keeps him coming back each year to FCF.

“With each year comes a bigger bond. Sure each year brings stronger business partnership, but why do business with a family you don’t enjoy? It’s a blast seeing you guys and buying the amazing cattle that dominate in the show ring and keep getting better and better each year.”  -Craig Allen Becker

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Picture taken by Abby Becker

It truly is a “family deal”

After talking with both the FCF crew and their juniors, it is not hard to see why they are so successful at what they do. Now that you have read what Eric and his juniors believe, I am going to tell you what I have learned over the past two and a half years.

1. Work comes first

Days are made up of feeding, washing, and clipping upon a list of other tedious tasks that need to be done. Tasks that can not be skipped for a week to go on vacation or to take a night off to go to the movies. Work always comes first to these guys. Without this dedication to the animals and the juniors that show for them, the Four Corners Farms crew would not be as successful as they are today. Don’t get me wrong, when the work is done these guys can have as much fun as the rest of them, but they will always be up the next morning at the barn making sure the cattle are fed and taken care of.

 2. When the kids want to learn, they are ready and excited to teach them.

Many weekends are spent with the FCF crew juniors and families having showmanship practice, washing their calves, and spending time together. If a family wants to work with their animals, they will never hear the word no. The McClure’s will be there ready to give any helpful advice and teach the kids how to be successful in their show careers. These are my favorite times to be around. I get to see the kids get better and better each time they work with their animals. The next time they are around, I am able to see the improvements that have been made and I get to see the smiles on their faces knowing their work is paying off. I also grew up showing livestock and I know for a fact I would not have been successful without the guidance of many mentors I was lucky enough to have. Now that I have gotten too old to show as a junior, being able to be around the FCF crew and their juniors I am able to see how these kids look up to them as mentors just as I did when I was their age.

3. Last but not least “it’s a family deal”

Every single family that purchases a show calf from Four Corners Farms will be treated as family. If the junior that is showing the animal is willing to learn, I promise you they will learn from some of the best in the business. In the words of Eric McClure,

“The FCF crew and McClure family will always strive to make sure that nobody is just a “customer” the people who do business with the McClure’s are family.” -Eric McClure

Four Corners Farms is located in St. Francisville, Illinois. I have attached a link below that will take you directly to their personal website.

Four Corners Farms

FullSizeRender (6) My name is Maisie Langholff and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Science. I grew up in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. I have been involved in the livestock industry for as long as I can remember. I grew up showing pigs and eventually started showing cattle with my family. I can not speak high enough of Western Illinois University and all the things it has done for me. I have met some great people while attending this university and learned a great deal about agriculture and the livestock industry. I will be graduating this May and hope to find a career within the agriculture field doing what I love to do. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

 

 

A girl in a guys work world

Farming. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “farming”?  Most people probably think of cow manure, dirty boots, and hard work that never ends.  When I think of farming I think about endless opportunities the industry can offer me.  When I was eight years old I became a Jolly Workers 4-H club member. I showed cattle for 10 years and participated in various activities throughout my 4-H career. Growing up in a small farming community I have always loved working on the family farm.  The farm life has taught me how to become a responsible adult, I have gained many life-long friends and have experienced so many great opportunities.

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At the career fair held at WIU last fall, I had come across the greatest opportunity yet.  I had introduced myself to Larry Joe O’Hern and Matt Taylor.  I knew who Mr. O’Hern was at the time, so I went and spoke with him for a while.  It wasn’t until I sent a follow-up thank you letter to O’Hern Stockfarms that is when I was asked to go out for an interview.  I started working at O’Hern Stockfarms in Vermont, IL in late October of last year, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work on the ranch.  Honestly I was not expecting to get hired because I am female and they were looking to hire on a full-time barn manager.

After working with a bunch of men for about six months I have learned that I am no different than one of the guys.  That is what I love most about my job, they do not treat me like a little girl.  I feel that my dedication and passion for the cattle industry has helped me everyday out at the ranch.  I do not think of my occupation as a farm hand, work, I like to call it a lifestyle.  I have learned not to be nervous working with the guys’ they have taught to be more confident in myself and that I can do anything.

Since being there I have been told that there were second thoughts about hiring me, they did not think a girl would be a good fit for the job.  So far I think I have proved to them that a girl can work just as hard as the boys.  We work together on the majority of the projects, but I feel I bring a few extra things to the farm by being a female.  For instance, I would like to think I am more nurturing towards baby calves than the men are.  I spend more time taking care of the bucket calves.  I spend extra time brushing the horses out when I feed them.  I feel that the caring aspect from a female and male are different, I care about all the animals at the farm.  I like to take extra time to ensure that all the animals are happy and healthy before I end my work day. I am so thankful to have had the chance to work with the guys, I have learned so much from them about cattle farming and just everyday life.

“The most important thing people did for me was expose me to new things”-Temple Grandin

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Photo Credit Presley Barr
I am Presley Barr currently a senior at Western Illinois University, I will graduate in May of this year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture with a focus in Animal Science. I am from Lewistown, Illinois. I live on 600 acres of Spoon River bottom ground where I have grown up in the livestock industry and will continue to grow and gain more experience and continue to learn about livestock.  I plan to manage my family’s farm one day.  I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

What’s the Beef with Hormones?

By now most everyone has heard about hormones used in the beef industry. Producers have been using these hormones since the 50’s to grow cattle faster and larger for market. This went on fine for years until the  European Union (EU) had decided to not allow beef treated with hormones to be imported into their countries. This started to have consumers in the US questioning why they would do this, asking themselves “are hormones dangerous? ” This lead to blogs, articles and other forms of media attacking the beef industry asking for “safer” meat or abandoning the products all together.

These opinions sprouted new products and labels that would include hormone free beef, organic and grass fed. These labels although seemingly harmless furthered the scare of hormones and had people questioning the very food they eat. It has since been a big issue to have hormones in your meat even though you can find as much if not more hormones in such foods as vegetables. As shown by the figure bellow. As you can see from the graph estrogen one of the hormones used in raising cattle does not even show up  in the end product of beef  in much lower levels than in things like soybean oil.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-04-at-10.27.38It is studies like these in the early 2000’s that lead the European Parliament to amend the bill and allow hormone treated beef into their country but, at this point the damage had been done and many large groups of people feel that hormones should be regulated if not banned from beef production all together.

The loss of the use in hormones in the cattle industry would be a very big loss to the industry. These hormones are a cost effective way of growing bigger cattle faster. This provides you the consumer with a safe, good quality product, that is regularly inspected and tested by the FDA. These hormones allow for more beef to come out of less cattle costing less and allowing for cheaper beef at the super market.

The interesting thing about this subject in all is the fact that there is no signs that hormones are harmful especially seeing as these hormones can be found in your own body along with in any foods you eat. The only evidence to detour one from theses products in blogs such as this one along with media cartoons and pictures giving the beef industry a bad image. This image has been painted by nothing but fear and accusations that have little to know footing.

In the end I leave it up to you who you may believe. The meat that you eat being grown by a practice  that allows for safe and economically stable product or to be scared  by people who are scared themselves into not trusting what should be trusted.

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My name is Eli Weller. I am a junior Agriculture Science Major at Western Illinois University. I grew yup in a small town called Palmyra, Illinois where my family raise beef cattle and growing crops.