Dust In My Coffee

My life as a woman in agriculture

Let’s talk about hormones.  A few years ago I put together a little demonstration for moms.  I used M & M’s for the purpose of discussing the added use of hormones in cattle.  The image (below) shows the comparison in the levels of the hormone estrogen found in different foods we eat.  Many light bulbs went on and I overheard things like:

  • “Who put the hormones in my cabbage?”
  • “I thought for sure the full jar was going to be one with the beef label!”
  • “Oh yeah, I remember learning about hormones in biology class. How do they work again?”

This important shift in the conversation from one of doubt and fear to trust and transparency is the reason I am involved in sharing the story of what Steve and I do on our farms.  Concerns about how food is grown and the increased use of food labels “free of this” or “no added that” make grocery trips more stressful than they should be.   The label “hormone free” has created unnecessary fear and a lot of misunderstanding.

Fortunately, the past thirty-six years of living as a cattle and row crop farmer, have given me the opportunity to learn the terminology,  utilize the science-based research and understand the newer technologies farmers use such as added hormones in beef cattle.  In this blog post I will share what I have learned about how hormones work and why farmers like Steve and I use added hormones in our cattle.

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This little demo has sparked hundreds of conversations as farmers and ranchers seek to help consumers understand the science behind using added hormones.  The foundation of the conversation is based on science but our engagement is based on shared values farmers and consumers share like honesty and transparency.

Hormones naturally occur in all living things.  Why?  Dr. Terry Etherton, distinguished professor from Penn State, writes in his blog Hormones, Hormones, Hormones:

“A hormone is a substance that sets in motion a set of metabolic events  that would otherwise lie dormant.  All of the hormones together form a communication network in the body that is called the endocrine system.  Another way of viewing the endocrine system is to imagine at any given moment the circulatory system (the blood) of animals and humans is literally packed with thousands of these chemical messengers moving about the body sort of like an urban freeway on a late Friday afternoon.”   

Dr. Etherton continues to write, “Hormones act as ‘messengers,’ and are carried by the bloodstream to different cells in the body, which interpret these messages and act on them.  Without hormones and the endocrine system, humans and animals would not survive.”  We need hormones to live!

Hormones are not limited to humans and animals.  Plants have an estrogen-like compound called phytoestrogens.  As explained in an article from Tulane University, “In general, phytoestrogens are weaker than the natural estrogen hormones (such as estradiol) found in humans and animals or the very potent synthetic estrogens used in birth control pills and other drugs.”  Plants have additional hormones that are responsible for all sorts of functions like helping the plants sense light, forming lateral roots, and triggering flower development and germination, just to name a few.  

stevecheckingcorn

Healthy soil makes healthy plants makes healthy animals and healthy humans.  Farmers like Steve and I understand the importance of making decisions for the good of the entire cycle of life

Plants, animals and humans need hormones to exist.  Hormones naturally exist.  They have an important purpose.  Understanding the role hormones play in our human development and the foods we eat can help us understand why farmers like Steve and I would use an added hormone for beef production.  We use an added hormone on the steers in our feedlot because it:

A) Helps the animal convert feed to protein more efficiently.

B) Is safe for the animal and human consumption.

C) Is safe for the environment.

You can learn more about all growth promotants used in cattle and the impact those promotants have on safety and sustainability here.

without growth promotants

The safety of consuming beef with added hormones has to remain front and center of our discussion.  Dr. Jude Capper explains in her blog post about hormones:

“Yes, an 8-oz steak from a steer given a hormone implant contains more estrogen than a  steak from a non-implanted animal. 42% more estrogen in fact. That’s undeniable. Yet the amount of estrogen in the steak from the implanted animal is minuscule: 5.1 nanograms. One nanogram (one-billionth of a gram or one-25-billionth of an ounce) is roughly equivalent to one blade of grass on a football field. 

By contrast, one birth-control pill, taken daily by over 100 million women worldwide, contains 35,000 nanograms of estrogen. That’s equivalent of eating 3,431 lbs of beef from a hormone-implanted animal, every single day. To put it another way, it’s the annual beef consumption of 59 adults. Doesn’t that put it into perspective?”

cattle_hormones

This chart is an example of what farmers and ranchers like myself use to kick start a conversation about hormones in our food.

Are there hormones in your cabbage? Yes, and there are hormones in every living thing we eat.  Our ability to help cattle convert grass and grain to protein using less resources while producing a wholesome, tasty food for people to enjoy is dependent on science-based research.  Beef producers like Steve and I count on quality research to help us continually seek ways to improve our impact on the environment while maintaining the highest levels of care for our animals and the safety of the beef we produce.

cattle bedding

During the coldest days of winter, cattle can thrive with a nutritionally balanced diet, bedding to rest on and the thick winter coat Mother Nature gives them to live comfortably outside.  Farmers like Steve and I cannot control the weather so we do our best to manage the conditions the weather can bring with cattle comfort our main objective.

 

Hormones are truly a gift from God in helping plants, animals and people thrive.  Understanding how hormones work has helped farmers partner with nature to produce a healthy, sustainable food for people to enjoy.  When you serve beef to your family you can be confident they are receiving ten essential nutrients to help them thrive.  Beef does give you ZIP!

ruskamp family supper

Eating together is nourishing to the body and the spirit! This picture was take a few years ago and includes our five children, our first son-in-law and our first grandchild.  Beef is the center of the plate for most of our meals.  Our children currently live across the country and in one foreign country.  From California to Peru our children choose to include beef for dinner whenever they can.  You can find beef recipes to fit your life style and family needs here.

 

 

 

 

happynewyear18

We are at the beginning of a brand new year and I want to extend my sincere wishes to you and your family for a very blessed, joy-filled and peaceful year ahead.  Turning over the calendar to a new year is a traditional time to reflect on the past with new hopes and dreams for the year ahead.  What are you bringing into the new year?  For some of us we are bringing aches from losing a loved one.   Reflecting on my experience of losing my dad has given me renewed hope for 2018 as I seek to grow in faith, hope and charity.

In February of 2017 my family went through the experience of losing a close family member.  My dad had been living with Alzheimer’s making a sudden turn for the worse requiring a move to intensive care and then hospice.  Even though doctors gave my dad hours to live, he chose to give us days.  In a period of time where people choose to end suffering, my dad blessed our family with his.

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When we moved Dad to skilled care we tried to visit as often as we could never knowing when he would stop remembering who we were.  On my last visit to see dad he was not eating very well and looking downward most of the time.  I got down on my knees and looked up at him with a smile and he gave me the biggest smile back with a little chuckle.  It is a treasured memory.

I won’t minimize the pain watching someone live with Alzheimer’s or any other disease involving suffering.  It’s hard to accept the prognosis.  It’s not easy to watch someone die. Why, then, am I telling you my family was blessed through my dad’s suffering?  He gave us the opportunity to grow in virtue while we reflected on his.  As we prayed together, sang songs to dad, shared familiar stories and learned new ones, we grew as a family in faith, hope and charity.

I was reaffirmed of the power of those virtues when attending a recent funeral for a woman I admired and loved for many years.  The family members shared family experiences and final experiences they had with their mom.  Even though Alzheimer’s had taken her memories, the disease had not take her virtues of faith, hope and charity.  What a powerful witness, again, of how these three virtues can shine like gold even as we die.

Would you like to join me in growing in faith, hope and charity?  What is faith, hope charity?  I would like to share with you some teaching from Fr. Jacques Philippe.  In his book “Interior Freedom” he teaches us:

“Faith is the root of our cure and our liberation, the start of a life-giving process that heals the death engendered by sin.”

“Hope is a choice that often demands an effort. It is easier to worry, get discouraged, be afraid. Hoping means trusting. When we hope we are not passive: we are acting.”

“There can be no charity without hope. Love needs space to grow and flourish; it is a marvelous thing, but in a sense, fragile. The special “environment” it needs is made up of hope. If love does not grow or turns cold, very often that’s because it is stifled by cares, fears, worries, or discouragements.”

“Love is also a decision. Sometimes it comes spontaneously, but very often loving people will mean choosing to love them. Otherwise love would be no more than emotion, even selfishness, and not something that engages our freedom.”

And from his book, “Charitable Life”,  Fr. Jacques Philippe writes “The greatest act of charity one can do for others is to encourage them to live in faith and hope. To praise God is a veritable food for the soul.”

As I seek to grow in the three-legged stool of the virtues faith, hope and charity I believe I will begin with praising God more often.  I will praise Him in the morning for a new day, I will praise Him in the noontime for the food, farm and family I have and I will praise Him in the evening for the gift of life, love and laughter and I will praise Him as I sleep for the wise men and women have taught me the value of faith, hope and charity.

wise men card

Many thanks to my Aunt Juanita and Uncle Paul for this beautiful Christmas card.

If you would like to follow me on my journey you can sign-up to receive email notifications when I write a new post.  I seeking to write at least bi-weekly and if possible weekly.  Your comments are greatly appreciated!

 

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Yes, just as the song goes says I would like to extend my warmest thoughts and prayers to you and your family this Christmas and throughout the new year.

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If your house is anything like mine then I bet you still have a few presents to wrap,  goodies to bake and some last minute shopping to finish. I can’t help you with those tasks but I can help if you are still working on any of your holiday dinner menus.  Beef is a great choice for any meal and this recipe for prime rib will make you look like a top chef!  This recipe comes to you from my husband, Steve, and has been tried by many of our friends with a five star rating!  Here it is:

steve slicing prime rib

Best Prime Rib Ever

Ingredients

Beef Rib Roast– 12 lbs. serves 15 people or so
*Mike’s Seasoning (sold at Graybeal’s Grocery store in West Point, NE 402-372-2333)
Olive Oil
Garlic Salt
Accent
Meat Thermometer (the best ones have a digital readout that sits outside of the oven)
Rack in pan to bake on
Au jus

Directions

  1. Take meat out of bag and wash off with cold water.
  2. Rub olive oil all over the roast.  Season the meat by sprinkling Mike’s, garlic salt and accent generously all over the meat and rub it in using your hands.
  3. Place meat on a rack with drip pan underneath.
  4. Place uncovered in 450 degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (puts a nice crust on the meat).
  5. Put meat thermometer in center of roast.  Turn oven down to 200 degrees and cook until meat thermometer reads 140 degrees (takes 3-4 hours).
  6. Remove from oven and slice.  If you need to wait for other dinner items you can cover the meat with foil if it is sitting out.
  7. Make au jus according to package instructions and serve with sliced prime rib.

Tips: Make sure roast has 3-4 weeks of age in a vacuum sealed bag. The key to having good prime rib is to cook it slow and don’t overcook it.

*If you don’t have Mike’s seasoning then add salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder to seasonings

 

 

sliced prime rib

Some of our favorite sides to serve with Prime Rib include Hashbrown Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Broccoli Salad and Cream Cheese Corn.    The better part of any meal is the people you get to share it with.   My hope is you will find yourself surrounded by people you love, food you enjoy and and enough Christmas goodies to remind you how very blessed you are!  Merry Christmas!

nativity wise men

“So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line,  in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night.  An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:  Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

Now it happened that when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.’

So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him,  and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them.

As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.”   Luke 2:4-20