These days it's impossible to find an animal or vegetable that scientists haven't messed with." So says the lead in a feature about bioengineered food published in the January/February 2001 issue of Sierra, the official magazine of the Sierra Club. Author Vikki Kratz' view of biotechnology is obvious from the tone her story uses from the outset.

Unfortunately, Ms. Kratz and Sierra aren't the only ones using scare tactics and sensationalism to heighten America's fear of unsafe food. Even for those working in the mainstream consumer media, playing on human fears about food seems to be a popular method to sell newspapers and increase television ratings.

More than ever, beef producers, and everyone associated with agriculture, must be conscious of the fact that you're no longer producing beef, or corn, or apples-you're producing food. And as a food producer you must now strive to produce cattle that fit specific product lines that provide meal solutions for modern consumers. Additionally, you're asked to produce cattle for such programs while increasing quality and eliminating any possible food safety concerns. Quality in this instance, does not necessarily relate to Quality Grades such as Choice and Select, but more to the consistency of portion size, flavor, tenderness and the lack of defects such as bruises and injection site damage.

It's a tough job, but one which will prove rewarding for those willing to accept the challenge.

In Vance Publishing's on-going efforts to provide you with useful information that will help you prosper in this new era of agriculture and beef production, we're excited to deliver the premier issue of Food Systems Insider, attached to the center of this issue of Drovers. Food Systems Insider is a collaborative effort of Drovers editors and those of its sister publications-Pork, Dairy Herd Management, Bovine Veterinarian, Swine Practitioner and Meat & Seafood Merchandising.

We'll publish Food Systems Insider four times each year, providing you with features and information about how all segments of the animal protein food system are striving to respond to consumer demands for better, safer, more convenient food. And we believe you'll find new ideas and solutions for your beef business through stories that include other animal protein industries such as pork and dairy. Just as important is the insight brought to Food Systems Insider from the editors of Meat & Seafood Merchandising through their knowledge of the retail meat business.

Each issue of Food Systems Insider will be delivered to all readers of the six publications listed above, a total of 240,000 subscribers. We also have established an advisory board, composed of experts from various segments of the food industry, to provide insight and guidance.

We hope you'll enjoy and benefit fromFood Systems Insider, and that it helps you better understand and respond to the rapid changes influencing your beef business. We're also anxious to hear from you about how you like Food Systems Insider, or about any subjects or issues you believe might be valuable to other segments in the animal protein food system.

Please send your responses to me via fax at (913) 438-0695, or via e-mail to ghenderson@drovers.com. Of course, we still accept regular mail at: Drovers, 10901 West 84 Terrace, Lenexa, KS 66214.