The Truth about Ground Beef Temperatures

This weekend is Memorial Day, which means a time to honor the fallen that have protected this great country that we so love. It is also unofficially the start of the summer grilling season. National Hamburger Day also falls on Sunday. This provides us with a lot of different reasons to grill.

We all have our favorite things to grill, but I would argue that hamburgers are the most popular. But the proper cooking of ground beef is incredibly important to food and family safety.  All ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Grilling temps for steaks and ground beef

Photo courtesy of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Facebook page

Why can I have my steak medium-rare, but not my hamburger? Bacteria. Bacteria can only exist on the surface of the steak – and they get killed once it gets cooked. But Erin Beasley, who has a Master’s degree in Meat Science, explains how ground beef is produced differently.

“To make ground beef we begin with whole muscle cuts such as chuck meat and we place it into a grinder. Once we grind and mix it into ground beef, any bacteria present on the surface of that product will exist throughout the ground beef because of the grinding process.”

Beasley says that is why it is imperative to cook ground beef to 160 degrees and ground turkey or chicken to 165. Doing so will prevent food borne bacteria. Beasley is also the assistant executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and is affectionately known as the “Beef Girl.”
Another common issue that arises with grilling hamburgers is leaving them out on the counter or out in the sun for too long. Beasley’s suggestion is to practice the 40-140 rule.

Cheeseburgers on the grillThis means keep all products under 40 degrees or over 140 degrees. “Meat products that sit in the danger zone between 40-140 degrees can create an environment for bacterial growth and increase your risk of food borne illness,” explained Beasley.

If you follow the 40-140 rule and cook all ground beef to 160 degrees, then the odds of a food borne illness messing up your meal, family time or holiday weekend are much lower! And makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

If you’re at a loss for what to cook this Memorial Day weekend, then look into the “Beef Girl’s Special.” Erin pats out two thin burgers, and then places a large slice of cheese on one of the patty’s. She then places the other patty on top and forms the two to make a good size burger with cheese inside. Once it is grilled to 160 degrees she likes to top it with bacon and a fried egg. Top it with a good bun and you have a delicious and safe burger that supports a couple different animal agriculture groups!

If you are worried about hormones in your meat, then read this post. Happy grilling and remember the truth about ground beef temperatures!

The Truth About “Agvocating”

44f9172d1c2a1a2acfc895e2730594e6Four generations, two percent and fifty-eight. These are all numbers that apply to the agriculture industry. How so?

Four Generations: Most people are four generations removed from the family farm. This means they are not involved in the day to day operations of raising or growing food.

Two percent: Only two percent of Americans are farmers. This means that 98% use a farmer every day, but they probably do not know one. This combined with the average person being four generations removed from the farm raises issues where people could have unanswered questions about their food. But they don’t know how to get their questions answered because they do not know a farmer.

Fifty-eight: This is the average age of most farmers in the United States. While that is not old by any means, they are not the people most commonly sharing what they’re doing on social media.
These numbers are just a few of the reasons we should advocate for agriculture. Now what is advocating for agriculture? Well it might be easier to explain what it is not.

Agvocating is Not:

It is not bashing organic, conventional or even vegetarianism. It is not telling people they are stupid because they do not understand or agree with you. It is not just blindly sharing articles and statuses without reading or responding. It is not you marketing your farm, ranch or brand.

Agvocating Is:

Being open with your friends and followers about what is happening on your farm. Being willing and ready to answer questions about hot topic
issues (like subway’s antibiotic free statement). Being aware of what is being said about the industry and explaining why you do what you do. Untitled copy

How to Advocate for Agriculture:

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures better illustrate the truth of what is happening on your farm. A picture inside your hog barn, showing the cleanliness. A video of you moving cattle to show that it’s done humanely. Share a status about why antibiotics are used on your farm. Allow people to get involved in your everyday practices. I’ve seen farms ask people to name calves through social media, people love that because they feel important and valued in the process. Invite people to your farm, be willing to be transparent and honest.

“If you care about ag being accurately represented, know that we need every voice in the conversation.”

The most important part of advocating is like Nike says, to just do it. There are lots of anti-agriculture groups out there that are bashing agriculture. We need to start standing up for ourselves.

The next most important part of advocating is to not bash other farmers or non-farmers, we have plenty of others doing that for us. People are curious about where their food is coming from, be willing to intelligently, honestly and transparently answer their questions. Join the conversation and share the truth about the agriculture industry.

Chicken Growth Hormones

The Truth about “Hormone Free” Chickens

How many times have we gone to the grocery store to get food for dinner, and saw a label on our favorite protein, chicken, that stated “Hormone Free.” I hate to be the one to break it to you, but those labels are lying.

NO chicken, at all, no matter what, is completely “hormone free.” Chickens naturally produce growth hormones. Mississippi State University Extension explains this a little more when they said, “Progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen are naturally occurring hormones in both humans and animals. These hormones are necessary for normal development, growth, and reproduction.” As MSU Extension explains, hormones occur naturally in chickens so that is why the label, “hormone free” is incorrect.

Chickens Growth Hormones

Labels like these are misleading to consumers.

Another label that is misleading is “No Hormones Added.” Additive hormones are banned by the FDA and have been for the past 50 years. So no growth hormones are added to the chicken we eat, because they are illegal so when companies market their chicken as “No Added Hormones” just realize that this label applies to all chicken eaten in the United States.

This video from the USPoultry Association featuring interviews with professors and extension specialists from the University of Arkansas does a great job describing that hormones are not used in the poultry industry, and why they are not used. It also shows how chickens are raised, showing the housing, feeding operations, and overall care of poultry in the United States.

Chicken Growth Hormones

The left-hand chicken is a breed from 1957. The middle chicken is a breed from 1978. The right-hand one is a breed from 2005. They were all raised in the same manner for this paper and were photographed at the same age.

Poultry Science, a scientific journal, recently did a study on the effect of selective breeding on growth, efficiency, and yield of broilers, or chickens produced to be eaten. The study took mixed-sex chicks and grew them according to a current nutritional program to 56 days. They took front and side portraits of 8 birds per strains. They also measured growth rate, feed intake, and measures of feed efficiency including feed conversion ratio, residual feed intake, and residual maintenance energy requirements.

This study says that, “From 1957 to 2005, broiler growth increased by over 400%, with a concurrent 50% reduction in feed conversion ratio…” This study proves that the size of broilers has increased over time because of selective breeding that has consequently increased feed conversion ratios.

Another reason, besides legality that chickens are not given growth hormones is that they are not effective. Dr. Berry, a poultry science professor from Auburn University explains why, “Growth is complex; no one hormone can affect it. The hormone everyone considers a growth hormone is a protein hormone that is in all vertebrate. It cannot be taken orally, because it is digested normally, to be effective it would have to be injected. The injections would have to be given every 90 minutes to be in correlation with the pulses of the natural hormones in the chicken. We have 110-120 million birds growing in Alabama at any given moment, so 120 million birds would have to be given an injection every 90 minutes; obviously that is not economical at all.” This is a reason that surprises a lot of consumers, but it is another main reason that hormones are not used in the poultry industry.

So the next time that you hear that chickens are larger than in the past because they are fed growth hormones, just realize that is actually not true. Chickens are not fed or injected with growth hormones, they just have naturally increased size over time. So when you see a label that has “No hormones added” or “hormone free” just remember that NO chicken, at all is hormone free,  and no chickens have hormones added to them. So feel confident when buying chicken from the store or from Chick-Fil-A by realizing you are not eating something with growth hormones.

The Truth About Antibiotics and Hormones in Beef

The use of hormones and antibiotics in the beef we eat is being questioned individually and on a large scale. An example of this is Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder, chairman, and co-CEO, who stated the chain was going to import beef from over 8,000 miles away in Australia, because the supply of antibiotic and hormone free beef has dwindled recently. That is his opinion, and he is entitled to it, but I just wanted to help spread awareness about how antibiotics and hormones are used in the beef industry.

The different antibiotics used in humans and beef cattle

Top antibiotics in humans vs. animals

Most people do not realize that the main antibiotics used in production agriculture are different from the main antibiotics used for human treatment, so the formation of “superbugs” from agricultural use of antibiotics is unlikely. This is helped by farmers following the prescription regiment better than human patients do (mostly because the cattle can’t tell us they “feel fine, they don’t need anymore medicine.”)

People that do not take/finish their antibiotic prescriptions from the doctor are more likely to contribute to the formation of “superbugs” than farmers who administer antibiotics to their sick cattle to prevent a loss.

Another protection protocol is that all antibiotics come with specific labels about the length of time (between 14-22 days) from the final administration of the antibiotic and harvest of the animal. The time span provided depends on the antibiotic, the dosage, and the length of the prescription; this time frame allows for enough time for the antibiotic to leave the animal’s system.

Now for the next thing Steve Ells said that US beef couldn’t provide, hormone free beef. The US can’t provide it because it is impossible, all living things have hormones so there is no such thing as “hormone free” beef. But we’ll just assume he meant no added hormones. It is true, some farms use added hormones to aid in raising their cattle, this is perfectly legal unlike in the poultry and pork industries. Hormones in cattle are administered through an implant under the skin on the back of the ear and are released slowly over time. Since the ear is one of the few parts of the beef carcass that we discard the implant never enters the food industry.

Now for the part everyone is worried about, the amount of hormones that actually end up in our food. Research has shown that a 3 oz natural, non-implanted steak has 1.39 nano grams of estrogen. A 3 oz hormone implanted steak has 1.89 nano grams of estrogen. In comparison 3 oz of cabbage has 2,017 nano grams, one birth control pill has 34,000 nano grams, and a normal adult male has 136,000 nano grams of estrogen. All of these numbers are well and good, but how much is a nano gram? It is one-billionth of a gram, in other words not a lot! To put that in a visual perspective if you took a paper clip and then tore it into 1 billion pieces, one of those pieces would be about equal to a nano gram.

While Steve Ells and Chipotle choose to source beef from over 8,000 miles away, I am perfectly satisfied with my American raised beef, because I know the truth about antibiotics and hormones in beef.