I guess you could call Anne Burkholder an overachiever in the beef industry. Aside from being a wife and mother of three daughters, the first NCBA National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Cattle Producer of the Year (2009) and the owner of Will Feed Inc., a 3,000-head feedlot in Cozad, Neb., Burkholder has just launched an excellent blog aimed at consumers that talks about life on the feedyard and doing a job she loves. The blog, sponsored by the Beef Check Off, can be found at http://feedyardfoodie.com, as well as on Facebook under Feedyard Foodie.
“This is my personal effort to ‘put a face’ on the cattle feeding industry,” Burkholder says. “I am trying to positively educate the public on where their beef comes from and what production practices are used in that production and why they are used. Together we can positively and proactively make a difference: one consumer at a time.”
Burkholder loves to write and loves what she does every day to care for animals. “I have been thinking for quite a while about the best place for me to share my story and I settled on blogging because it allows me to really share good quality information in a format that many people are open to. I understand the consumer with no ties to agriculture, because I used to be that person,” says Burkholder who grew up in Florida, met her husband – a third generation farmer – and came with him to Nebraska to join the family feedlot. “This is my way of trying to close the gap that exists between rural America where we make the food, and urban America where our food is primarily consumed.”
Blog targeted to urban “foodies”
Burkholder’s blog is primarily targeted to consumers outside of agriculture. “I am hoping to attract the ‘foodies’ of the world,” she says. “The intellectuals who are concerned about where their food comes from. I would like it to be a source of information to juxtapose against Michael Pollan's movement.
Burkholder is a firm believer that consumers have a right to know where their food comes from, and believes it is part of her job to provide that information. “That being said, there is quite a bit of education that still needs to be done within agriculture regarding animal welfare so if I can accomplish some of that in addition, that is wonderful. I tell my children that it does not matter how good you are, you can always get better. And, I truly believe that the beef industry needs to internalize this philosophy. I hope that my blog will inspire others within agriculture to constantly work to improve their animal care and the safety of the food that they are growing.”
Burkholder’s main goal is to share her story and to put a face on the beef that she produces. A big component of that is going to be explaining to the consumer the technology that she uses and why. “I believe that modern technology is misunderstood and as a result is feared and/or viewed pejoratively by many consumers,” she explains. “My goal is to provide good, practical information about what it takes to care for cattle that will be harvested to feed to my family and yours. Technology plays a large role in that. But, I also want to emphasize that it is people who care for cattle.
"I care deeply about what I do every day. I care about my animals, I care about the environment, and I care about the beef that my animals produce. I believe that it is an honorable vocation to care for animals that will be harvested to provide a high quality and safe human protein source.” Burkholder will be blogging a about animal care, animal psychology, and Beef Quality Assurance, and will also touch on the many issues that she faces each day managing a feedyard.
Lastly, Burkholder wants to share a piece of the journey that she has made over the last 15 years -- a journey from a well-educated urban woman to a rural-minded and savvy animal caregiver. “It has been an incredible ride!”
I encourage all veterinarians and producers to check out Burkholder’s blog and forward this link (http://feedyardfoodie.com) to colleagues, friends, relatives and even strangers who need to learn about the beef cattle industry from someone who lives it everyday.