On May 4th and May 8th, the Wisconsin Beef Council hosted Farm to Fork Tours with Milwaukee Area Technical College students and the Milwaukee American Culinary Federation Chapter members. In total, 60 individuals engaged in an immersive, educational experience to uncover the truth behind raising beef in Wisconsin. Chefs and other culinary professionals work with clientele and their customers by advising them on the right choice to fulfill their protein needs. It is important that these individuals understand the benefits of beef as a quality protein source as well as the process of beef production.
Before we start the tours, we administer pre-tour survey to understand our audience’s knowledge and understanding of the beef industry and its producers. Based on the pre-tour survey, the culinary students and ACF Chefs had very little to no knowledge about beef production and the beef product they were purchasing for their restaurants and services. Only 15% of the attendees said they were knowledgeable about the beef industry and were comfortable describing the industry to family or friends. The topics of interest to this particular group of attendees included antibiotic use and residue in meat, what cattle are fed and how animals are treated. “How do I know I am getting real beef?” and “What will happen to farms if society alters their eating habits away from animal protein and into synthetic or plant based protein.” There were many misconceptions that the beef council and affiliate staff had to diffuse, but were excited to conduct a learning experience for the culinary professionals.
The first stop on both tours was Rosy-Lane Holsteins, LLC in Watertown, WI. Lloyd and Daphne answered various questions about the dairy industry while they showed the attendees a peak into their daily routines. Lloyd and Daphne spoke about their farm is continuously improve their sustainability efforts. Not only are they improving sustainability generically by reducing water, energy, and other natural resources, they also utilize superior genetics and nutrition to increase production per animal. “By each animal producing a little bit more and being more efficient in doing so, we play a vital part in reducing our environmental footprint while meeting the increasing demand for our product” Daphne explained. While at Rosy-Lane, attendees also had the opportunity to speak with the farm’s veterinarian, Dr. Rob from Jefferson Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Rob described his relationship with the farm and how he prioritizes cleanliness on each farm he works with. “Clean cows and a clean environment for them to live in is important for overall animal health” Dr. Rob says.
The next stop on the tour was with Moll Farm also in Watertown, Wisconsin. Les and Carrol Moll represent the feedyard sector of the beef industry in a very unique way. Where most consumers think of traditional beef cattle when asked about the beef supply, Moll Farm as well as many others across the state of Wisconsin utilize dairy steers as a beef product. Dairy steers contribute hundreds of thousands pounds of wholesome and nutritious beef to Wisconsin’s beef industry. Les Moll works closely with his nutritionist in order to ensure his cattle are receiving the correct nutrients to fulfill their dietary needs depending on their stage in life. Jim Greiling of Insight FS was also able to join us on the tour to describe the contents of feed and how the correct contents drive daily gain.
The final stop on the tours was with C&L Herefords in Ixonia, Wisconsin. Steve, Jill and their four children represent the cow/calf sector of the beef industry with their registered Hereford herd. With new baby calves on the ground, the attendees loved seeing the calves with their mothers on pasture. While at C&L Herefords, the attendees also had the opportunity to speak with a muscle ultrasounding technician, Mike Stanek, and participate in a friendly competition amongst themselves determining the muscle and fat composition of four heifers. Steve says, “We look for superior muscle composition when selecting animals for our reproduction plans. That is our duty in continuing to produce quality meat for the consumer.”
Before concluding the tour, we administer a post survey to understand the effect our tour has on the attendees. Based on the post tour survey, 100% of the attendees stated they felt they were very knowledgeable or somewhat knowledgeable about the beef industry and beef production. In addition to the increase in knowledge of the attendees, 87% stated they felt comfortable sharing their knowledge within their network and with their family and friends. One attendee said, “These tours really clear up the misconceptions I had about farming. I hope that the next time I hear a false accusation, I will be able to change their minds with the information I learned today!”