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UW College Of Agriculture Students Learn Hands-On Livestock Slaughter Skills

in Agriculture/News/University of Wyoming
6934

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Ditching laptops and donning rubber boots and coveralls, University of Wyoming students prep within five minutes for class.

This isn’t the standard dress for COVID-19 precautions but for class on the UW Meat Laboratory kill floor.

Two people in hard hats, masks, hairnets, gloves harvesting an animal

Instructor McKensie Harris, right, helps Grace Corrette of Brighton, Colo..

This is just one of the many courses McKensie Harris, assistant lecturer and internship program coordinator for the Department of Animal Science, teaches in fall.

“The livestock slaughter practicum class is just that,” said Harris, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “A place where students can develop skills in the animal harvest industry.”

During Phase 1 and 2 of UW’s approach to reopening this semester, the class was taught online with an academic focus providing students virtual lectures on principles of animal handling, food safety and meat science.

During Phase 3, when all students were allowed back on campus, the class went right to work in the UW Meat Lab.

“McKensie did a great job during those first four weeks to prepare us to hit the ground at full speed,” said Ben Herdt, a student in the class from Laramie and manager in the academic advising office with the Advising, Career and Exploratory Studies Center.

“When I went in that very first day of in-person instruction, I suited up and was on the meat lab kill floor within five minutes going to work, and that’s a tribute to the preparation we were doing in the weeks before.”

For three weeks the class will use hands-on learning to harvest a pig, then focus for three weeks of beef harvest and round out the class with two weeks of lamb harvest.

“The class has been one of my favorite courses I think because it’s so hands-on,” said Brittany Vogl, a sophomore in the class from Elizabeth, Colo. “The first day McKensie said, ‘We are going to be here, we are going to help you every step of the way, but we aren’t doing it for you.’”

Students work with the animal from the beginning – when it comes into the facility as a live animal and to the end – preparing and putting the carcass in the freezer.

For Herdt, as a UW staff member, he has the opportunity to take classes. A coworker who has kids in 4-H and raises animals recommended this course to him.

“I really enjoy cooking,” said Herdt. “I enjoy cooking meat, and I enjoy the idea that we need to become more connected to the food we eat. So that’s what really drew me toward the class.”

He also mentioned taking a variety of different classes helps him get better at his job. He generally works with first-year students who are either academically at-risk or undeclared and need guidance on courses to take.

“It helps me be better at my job if I take an undergraduate class because it keeps me connected to what they are experiencing,” said Herdt.

He explained his job requires him to be a great generalist, of knowing what is generally offered around campus because students often don’t know what’s out there until they talk to someone who has tried it before.

Two people in hard hat, gloves, mask, coveralls harvesting an animal

Graduate assistant Clara Ritchie, right, of Arvada helps Ben Herdt in the livestock slaughter class.

“It’s nice to find these little corners of campus where really great things are happening,” said Herdt. “I’m super impressed with what McKensie is doing and Kyle (Phillips, UW Meat Lab manager), who runs the meat lab, and Warrie (Means, associate dean and associate professor in meat science). Their whole corner of campus is very impressive.”

The class was required for Vogl’s major in animal science with a concentration in production, meat and food technology, but she wanted to step out of her comfort zone.

“I was intimidated but after seeing the process a few times, I feel way better,” said Vogl. “If someone were to approach me in the grocery store and say, ‘How could you eat meat? It’s unethical,’ this course will give me a stronger platform to combat that and have experience to back up my thoughts.”

Vogl shared that the class was a lot of hard work but with proper technique anyone can harvest an animal.

“Ag can be a very male-dominated industry but for a woman to take interest in it is a really big deal, because a lot of the practices we learned requires a lot of strength and you would normally associate that with a man,” said Vogl. “However, what McKensie has taught us is it’s all about technique. It doesn’t matter what you look like, who you are, what your gender is, it’s all about technique and how you do it.”

Both Herdt and Vogl believe they are gaining a greater understanding of the livestock slaughter process and would recommend the course to others who are interested in this area of study and like hands-on learning.

“The community the meat lab provides to those students is great,” said Herdt. “Those are the kinds of communities we need. That over there supports those students so much, and their persistence and retention is going to be so much better.”

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Gov. Gordon Launches Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program

in Agriculture/News
6131

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Gov. Mark Gordon has announced the launch of the Wyoming Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program to provide support for Wyoming meat processing facilities and Wyoming citizens impacted by supply chain disruptions and regional shut-downs of processing facilities resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Governor has appropriated $10 million in Federal CARES Act funds to the program, which seeks to strengthen Wyomings’ local food supply chain and address meat shortages at retail locations and food banks within the state.

Wyoming-based meat processing businesses and nonprofits may submit grant applications for capacity-related improvements made before December 30, 2020. .

“As anyone who has tried to get a beef cut up this year knows, processing in Wyoming is facing significant bottlenecks in 2020. The First Lady’s initiative has seen this across the state,” Gov. Gordon said.

“That is why we have set up the Meat Processing Expansion Grant Program, which will help improve our meat processing capacity and ensure our citizens have access to high-quality products,” he said.

Applications will open September 15, 2020 and be reviewed by a group from the Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and the Governor’s Office.

The grants require a portion of processed and retailable products to be provided to local food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, prisons, schools, or other charitable organizations to help feed hungry or underserved populations.

For additional information on the program, visit the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s website.

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Wyoming’s “Food Freedom Act” Featured on CBS Saturday Morning

in Agriculture/News
5768

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Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation Food Freedom Act was featured on CBS News on Saturday morning.

The legislation, championed by the late Rep. Sue Wallis and current State Rep. Tyler Lindholm, was passed in 2015 and made Wyoming the first state in the country to adopt legislation that deregulated many direct-to-consumer food sales.

In plain English, it means local food producers can take their products directly to market.

This was something CBS apparently found of particular interest in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Farmers markets have proved to be invaluable during the pandemic by offering fresh food often in open air environments. And in one state it’s becoming even easier to sell homemade locally sourced food, thanks to a law passed five years ago,” said CBS anchor Michelle Miller.

The segment featured many Campbell County residents selling their food products at a local farmer’s co-op including Jordan Madison who makes and sells his own peanut butter.

“Madison doesn’t need his jars inspected or weighed and they’re not subject to any government oversight. He just delivered it to this co-op, where customers buy it directly,” explained the CBS reporter.

Lindholm, contacted by phone on Saturday afternoon, said Wyoming’s “common-sense approach of producer to consumer sales is the envy of most states due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

“Wyoming continues to lead the nation and other states are starting to take notice,” Lindholm said. “We didn’t enact this legislation for emergencies though, we were just tired of arbitrary rules.”

“By removing government from the equation, we have opened the door for communities to thrive,” he said.

The video received attention from legislators on both sides of the aisle. 

State Sen. Tara Nethercott, a Republican from Cheyenne, posted the video on her Facebook page saying it was “exciting to see Wyoming featured on CBS.”

“The Wyoming legislature has continued to de-regulate and allow entrepreneurship to thrive. Representative Tyler Lindholm has been instrumental seeing this through! Proud to support these efforts,” she said.

State Rep. Stan Blake, a Democrat from Green River, posted the video as well.

“So proud to have been a cosponsor of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act. Started by Representative Sue Wallis continued by Representative Tyler Lindholm. This is great for Wyoming’s citizens. Buy Local,” he wrote.

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Gordon Upset By Closure Of Lamb Processing Plant

in Agriculture/Mark Gordon/News
5533

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The impending closure of the country’s second-largest lamb processing plant in Colorado is more evidence of unhealthy consolidation of the country’s meat packing industry, Gov. Mark Gordon said in a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gordon, in the Thursday letter, said he was distressed about the announced purchase of Mountain States Rosen’s lamb processing facility by JBS USA Holdings, a Brazilian company.

“This transaction marks the end of on-site lamb processing and represents further consolidation of the packing industry and increased foreign influence on American markets,” Gordon’s letter said.

JBS was the winning bidder for the Greeley, Colorado, plant in bankruptcy proceedings. JBS, the largest importer of lamb in the country, said it has no plans to process lambs at the plant in the future.

The MSR plant serves sheep ranchers in at least 15 states, Gordon said, and the JBS takeover leaves sheep ranchers in Wyoming and elsewhere with nowhere to process their sheep.

Gordon said he is worried about what the closure will mean to the agriculture industry.

“As a businessperson, today I see a giant getting bigger; as a rancher, I wonder where my neighbors will take their lambs; as a father, I worry for those next generations; and as Governor, I worry about what this loss means to the state and our producers as a whole,” he wrote. “I do not believe there is any realistic way to avoid repeating what is happening today unless we set our eyes on the future.”

Gordon said MSR was itself created in an attempt to resolve the consolidation of the meat packing industry in the hands of a few large companies.

“They rose to become the second-largest lamb processor in the nation and yet, at the end of the day, they are trampled by a monolithic foreign corporation,” he said. “I question whether or not this becomes an antitrust issue. We can dismantle AT&T but cannot look at the companies that supply food to our citizens?”

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso in May joined members of Congress from other states in urging Attorney General William P. Barr to look into allegations of price manipulation and anti-competitive behavior in the beef packing industry.

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Burger King Removes Ad After Wyoming, National Protests

in Agriculture/News
5505

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Within days of protests from farmers and ranchers from across the country, including Wyoming, Burger King has decided to pull a recent ad that discussed methane emissions.

A national advertisement released earlier this month featured country singer Mason Ramsey, who talked about how Burger King plans to reduce methane emissions by adding lemongrass to its cows’ diets.

“Since we are a part of the problem, we are working on a solution,” Ramsey said in the ad.

However, a scientist’s tweets and protests from across the country got Burger King to reconsider the ad.

According to AgWeb, University of California-Davis animal science professor Frank Mitloehner tweeted that some of BK’s information in the ad was misleading or inaccurate.

“IT’S. NOT. THE. COW. FARTS. Nearly all enteric methane from cattle is from belching,” Mitloehner tweeted after seeing the commercial. “Suggesting otherwise turns this serious climate topic into a joke. Reducing methane is a HUGE opportunity. That should be a goal. But we shouldn’t trivialize it for trendy marketing. #COWSMENU.”

Mitloehner said in a podcast interview later that he doubted lemongrass, at the level the company will feed it, will have the desired effect.

BK officials contacted Mitloehner after seeing his response to the commercial, saying they were surprised by his reception. They also asked the scientist to work with them moving forward.

Protestors in Torrington last week also let their opinions be known about the ad, with one telling the Torrington Telegram that the campaign felt like a slap in the face.

Goshen County is Wyoming’s top beef producer, with Carbon County coming in second.

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Wyoming Ranchers Protest Burger King Ad Campaign

in Agriculture/News
5503

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By Tom Milstead, Torrington Telegram. Photo: Tom Milstead, Torrington Telegram

A recent ad campaign by fast food giant Burger King proved to be the last straw for a group of Goshen County ranchers.

Burger King released the Impossible Whopper in August 2019, a controversial to some product which features a meat-free patty made mostly of soy instead of beef.

The latest ad campaign features BK’s plan to introduce lemongrass to cows’ diets to reduce methane emissions.

In it, teen pop-country singer Mason Ramsey sings about how the new BK diet reduces emissions by more than a third and ends with plain text over a shot of a carnival, stating, “Since we are a part of the problem, we are working on a solution.”

That commercial was the tipping point, said Lori Shafer, one of the event’s organizers.

Local cattle producers decided to take a stand. They did so by lining the streets and adjacent parking lot near Burger King in Torrington on Friday with all manner and makes of pick-up trucks and trailers adorned with pro-beef signs and American flags.

“Our goal is to educate the public. We all know that agriculture is struggling right now,” Shafer said. “We need to bring visibility to agriculture in a positive light, the beef industry in particular is taking some really hard hits right now. Our message is meant to be positive to provide that much needed education for the general public to know that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in Goshen County, and has been for forever.”

The ad campaign was a national campaign, and not supported by the local Burger King franchise.

“As franchise owners, we stand with our ranchers and do not support the recent Burger King advertisement,” Tim Force, owner, said. “We are proud of our agricultural community.”

Goshen County is Wyoming’s top beef producer, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture. In 2018, Goshen County produced 115,000 head, 23,000 more than No. 2 Carbon County.

It’s the biggest game in town and it always has been. According to Hugh Hageman, who participated in the demonstration, the beef industry is the local economy’s main driver.

“When you get down to the North Platte Valley, you can start wherever, but if you just started at Whalen Dam, where the diversion dam is and diverts into the canals, and then you go from there and you head down the North Platte Valley and it widens out, and you go as far as you want to go in and everything you see on all sides. There’s a few beans, a few beets, and other than that, everything you see revolves around the beef industry,” he said. “The hay, the corn, all the feed that’s grown is, whether you have any beef cattle or not, our entire valley is totally for beef cattle. And we just feel like it’s time to start standing up for our industry.”

And for longtime producers like Linda Nichol, the fact a company like Burger King – which has made billions from beef products – would release ads that seem to target the very industry that made it is unthinkable.

“It’s like a slap in the face,” she said. “It angers me because Wyoming ranchers the ultimate conservationists. Ranchers produce more grass, more clean air, more wildlife, more water. They produce a better life. They stop the development of open spaces, which open spaces are disappearing and they’re very important.”

The ranchers weren’t alone, either. They held court in the former Shopko parking lot for around two hours, and the entire time cars and trucks blared their horns in a show of support for the industry.

“It’s very encouraging,” Morgan Cross-Shoults, one of the demonstrators, said. “It kind of counters what you see when, as a rancher and a producer, you first see the ad. All the honking and the support from us being out here captures those same feelings. It shows that people do support and people are standing with farmers and ranchers.”

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States peaked in the mid-2000s, but have been in decline ever since.

The Center for Climate Change and Energy Solutions reported that by 2025, US emissions would be 18% below the peak in 2005. According to the C2ES, agriculture accounts for 9% of the US’s emissions, and about a quarter of that is due to methane produced by cattle, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those numbers are small compared to transportation, which accounts for 28% of emissions, electricity, which accounts of 27% and industry, 22%.

The beef industry is shouldering too much of the blame, Hageman said.

“It’s been going on a long time, where the beef industry is being blamed for too much carbon footprint, global warming, climate change – whatever you want to call it,” he said. “Then, when these bigger corporations start going out and piling on, then when you have this pandemic just crushing the industry, as far as prices go, and you’ve got all that together and people really want to start standing up for the industry and start going out there. Basically, we’re going out there and telling the truth. We really need to get the truth out there about our product, about what we do.”

According to Cross, the attack on the beef industry is indicative of a further erosion of values.

“This shows so much of where our country has fallen to,” she said. “We see on the news every day that people are tearing down the statues of the people who made our country great, who made our country what it is. And that’s the same thing of America. They forgot who got them there, and that was the ranchers of America producing this amazing beef – and now they’re trying to sell lab-made beef. We’re forgetting the blessings that made us what we are.”

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Report: Wyoming Residents Receiving Strange Seeds From China

in Agriculture/News
5444

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of farmers from across the country, including Wyoming, have reported receiving strange seeds from China that they didn’t order.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture is warning anyone who receives seeds in the mail from China that they didn’t order to not open the sealed package or plant them and to report what they receive.

“Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock,” WDA wrote in its Facebook post.

If a Wyoming resident receives unsolicited seeds in the mail, they should keep the seeds and packaging and contact the local USDA-APHIS office at 307-432-7979 or Bruce.A.Shambaugh@usda.gov to get instructions on what to do next.

According to a Facebook post from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the seeds are sent in packages that usually state the contents are jewelry. This is known as agricultural smuggling.

Other states such as Virginia, Kansas and Utah have reported residents receiving similar packages.

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Residential Use Of Herbicide Reason For Laramie Brown Trout Deaths

in Agriculture/News
5058

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The use of herbicide on home lawns and gardens was the likely culprit in a number of brown trout deaths in Laramie’s Spring Creek in late May, according to the state Game and Fish Department.

According to a news release, Laramie residents contacted the regional office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on May 26 after finding several dead brown trout in Spring Creek.

Fisheries biologist Steve Gale conducted an evaluation of Spring Creek from 15th Street downstream to Eighth Street and observed numerous dead trout within that section. Multiple size classes of brown trout were affected, but no other species of fish was found dead.

Brown trout are the most abundant fish species in Spring Creek.

Gale’s tests of the creek’s water quality revealed no problems, so he sent more than 20 of the dead fish to the department’s laboratory for examination.

“Our meter measures the quality at the time of testing, so whatever had happened had already gone through the system,” he said.
  
Brandon Taro, coordinator for the department’s Fish Health Program, said an examination of the fish indicated that herbicides were responsible for the deaths.

“All the fish had enlarged livers, which is consistent with the effects of herbicides on fish,” he said.

Laramie regional fisheries Supervisor Bobby Compton told Cowboy State Daily that a heavy rain in late May caused runoff tainted with herbicide to enter the creek.

Gale said algae were dead from where a storm drain empties into the creek below the 15th Street Bridge downstream to the Ninth Street Bridge. The algae above the storm drain were still green and apparently unaffected.

Compton noted that while this type of poisoning isn’t common, it does happen every two to five years when the city experiences a heavy rain. While he doesn’t expect any long-term effects from the deaths, he did point out that the incident could be prevented.  

The department’s news release included recommendations for how Laramie residents can safely use herbicides to avoid such poisonings in the future.

“Proper application, storage and disposal would definitely eliminate this type of situation,” Compton said.

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Enzi, Barrasso Call For Reform In Meat Processing Industry

in Agriculture/Business/Food/News
5017

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyoming, called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday to look into reforming the meat processing industry.

The two joined a bipartisan group of legislators in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to consider areas for regulatory and programmatic reform in the industry.

“When high-capacity processing facilities experienced (coronavirus) outbreaks amongst employees, operations were forced to shut-off or slow down production, leaving the rancher with livestock they could not move and the consumer with either empty grocery shelves or overpriced products,” the senators wrote. “These pitfalls can be avoided in the future if we take action today to promote a diversified food supply chain. Regulations must be streamlined to remove barriers impeding small and medium-sized meat processors.”

The legislators included Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In April, Wyoming legislators Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, called for an investigation into meat processors, accusing them of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make record profits.

They both criticized the four major meat packing companies, Tyson, Smithfield, JBS and Cargill for creating a monopoly that hurts ranches and small cattle producers.

Driskill recommended the public call for an investigation into these companies and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in livestock, dairy, poultry and related products.

Lindholm blamed the companies’ misuse of the Federal Meat Inspection Act as one of the problems behind rising beef prices for consumers, but not ranchers. 

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Rancher Videos 2,600 Sheep Crossing Bridge By Drone

in Agriculture/News/Transportation
4614

2600 sheep crossing Ten Sleep Creek, but don't try to count them…you're liable to fall asleep. No sound…double-time.

Posted by Don Anderson on Saturday, May 2, 2020

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Our friends over at the radio station 95.5 My Country, spotted something pretty interesting the other day: an aerial view of 2,600 sheep crossing a river in Wyoming.

Seems like a rancher up in Ten Sleep got the idea to launch a drone above a bridge over Ten Sleep Creek and then began moving the sheep across the bridge.

What’s it like? It’s popular. Don Anderson said the video has been viewed more than 10,000 times now.

We think it looks a little like driving down to Denver International Airport on I-25.  It starts off at a good pace. Someone gets confused or drives slowly in the passing lane (which should be a felony) and all of a sudden, there’s mass confusion followed by a pileup.

Thanks to sheepdogs (and they are amazing to watch in this video) and a few cowboys, the traffic gets going again.

The Colorado Highway Patrol could learn something from this video.  Enjoy!

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