A group from Hedgeapple Farm participated in the "Raising the Steaks" tour on Sept. 9.
A group from Hedgeapple Farm participated in the "Raising the Steaks" tour on Sept. 9.

As part of its Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative (NEBPI), the checkoff recently hosted a “Raising the Steaks” immersion event for eager health and nutrition professionals at Hedgeapple Farm in Buckeystown, Md. The tour was Sept. 9, with more than 16 highly influential Registered Dieticians, college professors, dietetic interns and wellness coordinators in attendance for a day of nutrition education and farm exploration. Participants traveled from six different states across the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The tour began with a look at Hedgeapple’s retail market, and farm employees talked through their initiatives to direct-market their product to local consumers. Tour participants then got an up-close look at today’s cattle production from the seat of a hay wagon as Dr. Scott Barao, executive director of the Jorgensen Family Foundation, explained how cattle are cared for throughout their lifecycle.

After lunch, participants heard from distinguished speaker Mike Roussell, Ph. D., head of nutrition at PEAK Performance, who discussed the BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) research, showing that a heart-healthy diet that includes lean beef, even daily, can improve cholesterol levels. Nikki Richardson, associate director for reputation management for the checkoff, also spoke with participants about the exciting, new findings about beef’s sustainability. After Richardson’s session, Registered Dietitian Carlene Thomas said, “More than anything, I am walking away with the knowledge that it largely depends upon the consumer to waste less, is aware of fertilizer use in their own homes and eating correct portion sizes, to improve sustainability.”

The day ended with a panel discussion for open questions relating to cattle production and the beef community. The panel was hosted by industry experts including Jim Hogue, nutritionist, Agri-Basics; Ben Williamson, instructor of animal science at Pennsylvania State University; Dr. Scott Barao; executive director of the Maryland Beef Council and Jorgensen Family Foundation; and Dr. Elizabeth Santini, state veterinary at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. At the start of the discussion, participants also had the chance to hear from Jim Hogue about uses of feedstuffs and byproducts to raise cattle conventionally.

“It is very encouraging to interact with a group of health professionals who are so enthusiastic to learn more about the true story of cattle production and the nutritional value of beef,” said Dr. Santini, who works to provide education for producers and consumers across the Commonwealth. “For the relatively few of us involved in agriculture, it is important we make the effort to reach out and tell that story. It is a victory for the entire beef community when we can equip influencers with clear and accurate information to help guide healthy food choices that include wholesome, safe, nutritious beef!”

Tour participants walked away with a broader look at how cattle are brought from pasture to plate, with highlights on beef’s nutritional profile and the role the beef community plays to become more sustainable. The event provided learning and networking experiences for participants.