Hard Work, Trust, & Faith: A Beef Farmer on the "Pink Slime" Controversy
Archie Curtice is one of my favorite people. He was the feed yard manager when I moved to Central Nebraska and went to work on the cattle farm as a 22-year-old “green horn” the summer of 1997. He has loved me, mentored me, and enriched my life for the past 15 years. Archie grew up on the land where our feed yard is located today, and I love to listen to his stories about the early years of agriculture in Dawson County. Archie has more common sense and humor than any other individual that I have ever known. He is a natural problem solver and, although his formal education ended at age 16, his innate ability to figure things out constantly amazes me.
Although I have five more years of formal education, culminating in a cum laude degree from an Ivy League Institution, Archie is the one who taught me how to raise cattle and grow food. He taught me how to roll up my sleeves and quite literally go to work. He taught me the ability to look at a particular situation (no matter how challenging) and figure out how to make it work. Some days, the lives of my animals and the safety of my crew rely on these decisions, and there is little room for error. Archie excels at problem solving because his life experiences have tenaciously honed this skill.
As I read articles and researched the topic of Lean Finely Textured Beef last week, my mind kept coming back to Archie. Those of you that read last Tuesday’s post, Hamburger: It’s What’s For Dinner In The Feed Yard Foodie House, might remember a gentlemen by the name of Eldon Roth. Mr. Roth is the founder of the company Beef Products, Inc. Although I have never personally met Mr. Roth, from what I have learned of him in the past 10 days, he reminds me of Archie.
Roth grew up on a farm until several years of droughts forced his family to migrate to California when he was a teenager. He then went to work cleaning milk and ice cream factories. From there, he transitioned over to meat packing plants, and began a long career searching for ways to improve the safety of beef. He, like Archie, used hands on experiences and hard work as a basis for his education.
Mr. Roth has provided a revolutionary presence in the creation of safe hamburger. Quite honestly, it appears to me to have been his life-long mission. In addition to his innate intelligence and ability to engineer ways to increase the safety of beef, Mr. Roth seems to possess an attention to detail and impressive work ethic that dates back to his upbringing. Mr. Roth’s accomplishments leave me both humbled and immensely thankful. From this day forward, I will issue him a silent thank you every time that I serve hamburger to my family.
Perhaps I feel this connection and appreciation toward Mr. Roth because he reminds me of Archie. Perhaps it is because I have had to learn on my own farm to constantly strive to be a better problem solver. Perhaps it is because raising food animals leads me to constantly think of daily production practices that impact food safety. I do not know for sure which it is, but I do know that I trust him with my food. His innovations and hard work (for which he has received many awards and which spans several decades) make me proud to supply him with my beef.
It is hard to trust someone or some process that we do not personally know. It is especially hard when emotional journalism repeatedly reports inaccurate information regarding the person or the process. Quite frankly, I believe that the Pink Slime Media Craze of the last two weeks brings the term March Madness to mind.
Much more importantly, however, I believe that if we invoke a little bit of trust and look at the solid science that is behind the technology of creating Lean Finely Textured Beef that we will realize that Mr. Roth has done something that should make us all proud. He has used his experience and his problem solving skills to create a healthy and quality product that we can feel good about feeding to our families. I hope that one day I will be lucky enough to meet Mr. Roth so that I can thank him in person. Until then, I will leave you will a final few thoughts…
In order for our country to prosper in 2012 and beyond—
We must trust that scientific advancements are tested to ensure that they are safe…
We must trust that farmers are providing good care to their animals and doing their best to provide safe food…
We must trust that we are all on the same team, and that together we can work to make the world a better place…
Without that trust, we will never reap the benefits that we continually seek with new technology. Today, I am thankful to be a part of a group of people that plays a pivotal role in the survival of our country. I grow animals that feed people. Mr. Roth both helps to improve the environmental footprint of my farm by ensuring that no nutritious lean beef is wasted when my animals are harvested, and he ensures through remarkable food safety measures that the beef that I feed to my children is as safe as possible.
The bottom line is that I have faith in my food supply—Do I have absolutely every answer about every process that is used to grow and prepare my food? No, but I have faith in my fellow Americans who partner with me every day to ensure that the country that I love so much prospers.
Take a moment to watch this YouTube clip that Mr. Roth's company put together to help us all understand what he is doing…
Read this article to hear the thoughts of a mother turned food safety advocate on LFTB and Beef Products, Inc.