Today I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Wedowee, Alabama to give a talk at a farm tour and luncheon hosted by the Walker family. A little torrential downpour didn’t stop us! We began the festivities with lunch which included brisket sandwiches served up by the Auburn University Collegiate Cattlemen and Cattlewomen. (They were delicious by the way!!) Then I talked to the group about how what they are doing on the farm affects what I see when animals arrive at the harvest facility.
The first thing on my list to discuss: food and water, it’s just the right thing to do. (At this point every head was nodding in agreement.) We have taken responsibility for these animals and it is our responsibility and obligation to provide feed and clean, fresh water for them. It is as simple as that.
Next we talked about vaccination programs and how they are a huge benefit to producers in keeping animals healthy. With vaccination programs come needles, and needle can affect meat quality. Some general things for producers to think about include broken needles, needle track marks creating scar tissue, any stitches an animal may be given, and needle site infections. This cannot enter the food supply because it is a potential danger to the consumer. Though these may occur for a variety of reasons, the bottom line is that when we see it on the carcass we have to cut that whole area around the stitch or broken needle out and throw it away. Basically, we are cutting money off the carcass and throwing it away.
We also talked about some general handling, mainly keeping animals calm when working with them and during transport. There is a time and place for devices such as hot shots or electric prods to be used but it is a rare instance. Further, stressful handling of beef cattle can result in dark, firm, and dry (DFD) beef. This is a steak that is dark purple in color, very firm to the touch, and dry. Think boot leather because that is pretty much what you’re going to end up with. More importantly, we want to keep the animals clam because they are less likely to injure themselves or us.
A very special thank you to Mr. Rodney Walker and Mrs. Crystal Walker for inviting me to talk at their farm today!!