Two roads diverge in the U.S. beef industry. Americans are buying more alternatively raised meat — organic, natural, grass-fed and the like – but most large-scale cattle producers in the Midwest are not cashing in on the trend.
Kansas farmer Jason Ochs still has to man his tractor to plant winter wheat. If an autonomous tractor were planting the wheat, Ochs would be free to attend to his corn and sorghum, and prepare for the winter freeze.
Efficiency is the name of the game these days in agriculture: conserving money, time and manpower. But taking the farmer out of the tractor? Though it sounds like something out of a science fiction cartoon, it may be coming.
A robot tractor doesn’t quite have the same allure as the Jetsons’ flying car, but it’s likely to be more practical for everyone involved.
A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report says sales of "local foods," whether sold direct to consumers at farmers markets or through intermediaries such as grocers or restaurants, amounted to $4.8 billion in 2008. That's a number several times greater than earlier estimates, and the department predicts locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales this year, The Associated Press reported.
Meat that’s raised with antibiotics, growth promoters, and fed animal by-products could be labeled “Natural” under the current USDA definition of the term. That’s because the label only refer to how the meat was processed after slaughter.
Credit Blue Bunny Ice Cream / Flickr
You can find the word “Natural” on more than just meat packages these days — it’s used on everything from granola bars to dressings, and even soda.
At a grocery store in Ames, Iowa, Lavern Ackerman peered at a package of ground beef. He was mostly interested in the percent leanness, but he took a stab at deciphering what the big "Natural" sticker on the package meant.
"I thought it was that they just grass-raised them," Ackerman said.
Most farmers in western Kansas can’t just look to the skies for water to nourish their crops -- they have to dig down to the Ogallala Aquifer to supplement Mother Nature. They use an impressive amount of water, with irrigation often accounting for 85 percent of the water used in the entire state.
Phillip Brasher, reporter for the Des Moines Register, reports that the failure of the congressional super committee to come up with a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit throws in doubt the future of federal crop subsidies after next year.