The U.S. beef market is also flourishing overseas, despite growing health concerns at home regarding the dangers of cholesterol and red meat. There is a growing foreign market for high quality U.S. beef, making Minnesota's economy even more dependent on the cattle market. Beef exports now account for almost 13 percent of the value of U.S. beef production, compared to four percent ten years ago. U.S. exports of all cattle products, including beef, hides and other by-products, totaled almost $3.5 billion last year, not to mention the 135,000 American jobs directly related to that exporting.
Dan Olson, who with his wife Juanita, run a dairy farm southwest of Paynesville entirely with family help, was recently elected to a second three-year term on the Minnesota Beef Council's board of directors.
The Minnesota Beef Council is an organization under state statute, that was created to promote beef products, provide educational programs for school children and adults, and research how beef can be made into better products. One of the promotional campaigns they're responsible for is the television commercial, "Beef...it's what's for dinner." These projects and programs are chosen by the board, and are funded by checkoff dollars, a mandatory one dollar per head on every bovine animal that is sold at a sales barn.
The beef council is certified by the Cattlemen's Beef Board to collect the checkoff dollars. The board, made up of 16 cattle producers, are elected by Minnesota's other bovine producers through a one vote per beef herd system. Their job is to hear petitions from various scientists and researchers, and make the decision on which projects they will fund with the checkoff generated monies.
Olson, who also serves on the Dairy Council of the Upper Midwest ("Got milk?"), was elected to district five to represent several counties, including Stearns, the top cattle producing county in this state.
Olson, one of the first dairymen elected to the beef council's board of directors, became interested in serving on the beef council because of his desire to work together with, and on behalf of, other producers to promote and research the products their families depend on. Cull dairy cows represent nearly 50 percent of total cows that are processed into beef products. "We're in this boat together," he said. "If we can share expenses, the dollar goes farther."
Olson works specifically on the beef council's research committee, who has the responsibility of deciding which projects to fund. With a limited budget, making the choice between one worthy project and another is often a difficult task.
Most of the council's research is done by scientists and researchers at the University of Minnesota, and some projects can take up to three years to complete. One research project funded by the council found that adding wild rice to hamburger patties reduced the effects of cholesterol. A project the beef council is considering now is the use of flavonoids, a naturally occurring chemical found in plants, which would reduce, and possibly eliminate, pathogens and spoilage microorganisms without the use of chemicals derived from nonorganic or man-made processes. Currently, red wines and green teas are two sources of flavonoids. If successful, the project would provide a natural means of preventing unwanted bacteria, as well as improve color, shelf-life, resistance to rancidity, especially in precooked beef.
Three more years with the beef council will no doubt show many changes in the products and production generated from beef. With his work cut out for him, Olson commented, "I'm proud to serve."
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