Celebrating Porktober; Getting to Know Pig Breeds

In case you haven’t heard, October is pork month! This is a great time to try a new pork recipe and get in touch with the pork industry. As with most industries, there are many things to learn about the pork industry. One fun thing to learn more about is breeds of pigs.

There are many breeds of pigs, with many different characteristics. Some breeds of pigs are known for their great meat quality. Others are known for superior mothering abilities. These breeds were domesticated in many different regions for many different purposes. Today, the Pork Checkoff recognizes about eight major swine breeds in the United States. Let’s walk through those, learn about their characteristics, and talk about why those traits are important.

As we talk about these breeds, there’s one cheat you can use to remember what they look like. If the name of the breed ends in “-shire” it will have pointy ears. All other breeds of pigs have ears that flop downwards.

yorkshireFirst, let’s talk about the Yorkshire breed. Yorkshire pigs are the most-recorded breed in North America. They are solid white, and have erect ears (did you catch the “-shire”?). Yorkshire pigs are known for being muscular, and for having lean meat.


The second most-recorded breed of swine in the U.S. is the Duroc breed. Durocs are solid red, and their ears droop forward. Duroc pigs have many good qualities, including the quality of their pork, fast growth, and longevity of females.

berkshireThird in the list of most-recorded breeds is the Berkshire breed. Berkshire pigs are black with white tips on their feet, nose, and tail. Berkshire pigs are known for high meat quality and flavor, as well as efficiency. The American Berkshire Association is the oldest swine registry in the world!


Hampshire pigs are the fourth-most recorded breed in the U.S. These pigs are black with a white belt across their shoulders and front legs. This breed boomed in popularity from the 1970s through the 1990s largely because of its lean meat. This is also the kind of pig I showed in the purebred classes when I was in 4-H!

landrace-1024x619Next, we have Landrace pigs in our 5th most-recorded breed spot. Landrace pigs are white and have droopy ears. They are known for being a great mothering breed. They are also fairly long in their body, and can contribute good carcass quality traits to a pig herd.


Chester White pigs are also white with droopy ears. Like Landrace pigs, they are also noted for their mothering abilities. These pigs originated in Chester County, Pennsylvania, hence the name!

poland_china-1024x619Poland China pigs ironically did not originate in either Poland or China. Instead, they hail from Ohio. This breed is notably long of body, and (like Berkshire pigs) is dark-colored with white points on the feet, face, and tail. A good way to tell the difference between Poland China pigs and Berkshire pigs is that Poland Chinas will have droopy ears.


Spotted pigs are easy to “spot”! As the name suggests, they have large black and white spots, and have ears that droop forward. These pigs are known to be feed efficient, as well as productive, docile, and durable.


That wraps up a quick summary of a few common breeds. But why do these breeds matter? For many producers, these distinct breeds will help them build a productive crossbreeding system for market pigs. When two animals of very different genetic backgrounds (in livestock, this means different breeds) breed, their offspring will perform better than either of its parents would suggest. This is a phenomenon called hybrid vigor, or heterosis. Producers want to use this to their advantage to produce the best animals possible.

Different breeds may also be more beneficial in different aspects of production. For example, we noted before that certain breeds of pigs are exceptional mothers, and other breeds are known more for meat quality. If a producer uses one breed of pigs to sire pigs, and another breed to mother pigs, the offspring can benefit from the meat quality of the sire and may perform better as a piglet because of the dam, plus gaining all of the benefits of heterosis.

When we talk about an animal performing better because of heterosis, what do we mean? Will they play better basketball, or be an accomplished dancer? Probably not. With pigs, when we talk about performance, we are largely talking about how well they grow. We want pigs to grow quickly, use their feed efficiently, and grow to a large size – at least in specific muscle groups. We also want our pigs to be physically sound. We want them to be healthy, and able to walk, move, and function without any difficulty.

Crossbreeding animals can have many benefits, from heterosis to genetic variety within a herd, but there are many ways to attain the same goal. Some farmers might use a terminal two-breed cross system with Duroc sires and Landrace dams. Some farmers might use a three-breed cross system, with 50% Berkshire, 50% Hampshire sires and Chester White dams. Other farmers might use a sustaining system, with all animals being the same percentage of the same breeds to maintain a consistent level of heterosis.

Like many things in agriculture, many decisions really come down to what works best for the producer. Some producers value certain characteristics or systems more than others because of their environment, management style, and even local markets.

For more facts about Iowa’s pork industry, check out this resource!

Happy Porktober!


What’s Cookin’ ? Homemade Salsa

I love attending the Des Moines Farmers Market. There are only a few more weeks left to enjoy the food, music, and produce offered. This farmers market is one of the largest venues that I have had the opportunity to enjoy. There are close to 300 vendors that come from all over Iowa to share their products. My family meets together to eat fresh breakfast items and check out many of the booths. This past weekend provided beautiful weather for a trip downtown to find fall favorites. Our purchased items come together to create this week’s blog: Homemade Salsa.

Searching for tomatoes was easy, as there were several booths that offered variations of ripe Roma tomatoes. The Roma tomato is a thick-walled, meaty, egg-shaped Romatomato that is less juicy and has fewer seeds than other varieties. They have a slightly sweeter tomato flavor. Due to the meaty flesh, the Roma is an excellent choice for fresh salsa and it blends well with garlic, cilantro and other items used in the making of salsa. Roma tomatoes are high in vitamin A and C and is a rich source of lycopene.

Onions and garlic are mainstays in our salsa. In a previous blogs, we touched on information about onions and garlic. Garlic and onions have been around for more than 5000 years. China is the largest garlic producer. Onions are a root vegetable grown commercially in more than 20 states.

Tomatillos, also known as Mexican husk tomatoes, are a small fruit native to Central America. The small fruit that is used as a vegetable comes wrapped in a husk and resembles a small unripe tomato and is usually green in color. The flesh is acidic and has a hint of lemon taste. Tomatillos in the United States are grown mainly in Texas. We add tomatillos for the addition of acidity and lemon flavors.

Now for the peppers. We like using banana peppers and jalapenos. Banana peppers are a member of the chili pepper family and have a milder taste. These peppers can be green, red and orange in color. The ripest ones are sweeter, while the less ripe will be a bit 3tangier. Jalapenos are a chili pepper pod that is round, firm, about 4-6 inches long, and shiny green in color. With the jalapeno, it is important to Remember that they can carry a lot of heat inside. It depends on how hot you like your salsa when it comes to leaving in the seeds and membranes. The more left in, the hotter the jalapeno mixture. Color is another important measure to hotness for peppers. As the jalapeno pepper ages, it turns from green in color to red. A red jalapeno can pack a lot of heat inside.

Cilantro, also called Chinese parsley, is the leaves of a coriander plant. It is grown mainly in Texas. The flavor of cilantro is strong and pungent. Quite often used for the taste, as well as for the garnish appearance. Not everyone cares for the strong flavor, but this little plant is completely edible and used in many recipes.

Here’s the ingredients we used for some great homemade salsa

30 Roma tomatoes

4 Vidalia onions

4 banana peppers

3 jalapenos

2 tomatillos

3 diced garlic cloves

5 tbsp. cilantro

1 cup lemon juice

5 green peppers

3 tbsp. salt

4 tsp pepper


Depending on the amount you want to make, you will need to adjust the amounts of the ingredients listed above. We are making a big batch to share. Feel free to try adding some of your favorite things to make your version of homemade salsa.1

  1. Wear gloves while preparing salsa!
  2. Prepare tomatoes by soaking tomatoes in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to split and loosen skins. Peel and chop all tomatoes, drain excess juices off in a strainer or colander before adding extra-large bowl.
  3. Once all the vegetables are in the bowl, stir in the lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt and pepper.
  4. Taste to see if it is as hot as you would like it.  Increase heat by adding 1-2 more hot peppers, tasting after each addition. Keep in mind that as the salsa sits for a while, it will get a little bit hotter.
  5. Bring all ingredients to a boil in large pot & simmer for 15 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking.
  6. Fill clean pint jars with salsa, leaving about 3/4 inch at the top. Wipe off tops of the jars before putting hot canning lids on. Screw lids tight then turn back about 1/4 turn.
  7. Process jars in a steam canner or boiling water canner (not pressure cooker or vegetable steamer) for 15 minutes. (Recipe makes 12 pint size jars.)

Here’s to chips and homemade salsa. Try it for yourself!


Prime, Choice, Grass-fed, Flank steak, Round roast….What does it all mean?

Standing at the meat cooler in a grocery store can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many options. And it is even more intimidating to talk to the butcher and ask for a specific cut of meat. How do you know what to ask for? There is so much lingo and jargon. All you really want is a delicious dinner for your family.

Let’s try to break it down and make sense of the word soup. Let’s be specific and talk about beef. Pork and chicken have some of their own terms.


Where the meat on the animal comes from and specifically how it is sliced or chopped, will determine the cut of meat. For beef, the animal can be broken down into four main quadrants. Cuts of meat from the hind leg are from the round. Cuts from the front leg are the chuck. The two middle sections are then the rib and the loin.

Different cuts of meat are better for different dishes that you may want to prepare. Briskets come from the chuck of the animal and can be very tough and dense meat. It needs to be cooked for a long time at a very low temperature so that the meat will break down and become softer. Briskets are perfect for corned beef. If you prefer to cook meat for a short period of time over high heat you want to start out with a cut of meat that is naturally tender. Filet mignon which is a cut of the tenderloin is known as being one of the most naturally tender cuts of meat.

If a recipe calls for a specific cut of meat, you could potentially make a substitution if you know what part of the animal it comes from. For example, you could interchange top sirloin steaks, New York strip steaks, and Filet mignons because they are all from the loin section of the animal. This video from Bon Appetit gives a complete breakdown of cuts of meat that butchers can get from a steer. Cuts from different parts of the animal can also have different flavors.


Within each cut of meat, we can assess the quality for the meat. Beef is evaluated by skilled meat graders and rated with a scale created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The meat is evaluated for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor as well as the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. The four grades are prime, choice, select, and standard.

8424794896_550f4beb1d_h.jpgPrime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling (fat interspersed in muscle tissue). It is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling.

Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised, roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.

Standard and Commercial grades of beef are frequently sold as ungraded or as store brand meat. Utility, Cutter, and Canner grades of beef are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and processed products.

Marketing terms

If you know the cut of meat and the quality you should be set for a high quality, delicious meal. Marketers try to help consumers understand the beef that they are buying. But sometimes it can actually muddy the waters.

One of the terms that is used is grass-fed. While this doesn’t have an official definition, it typically refers to cattle that have been raised on pasture their entire life. Many cattle spend the last two months of their life on a diet that is supplemented with corn and nutrients in addition to grass. This is called grain-finished beef. This diet of corn helps increase the marbling of the meat and can increase the quality of the final cuts. It is harder for cattle raised on only grass to achieve the Prime grade. In the United States grass-fed beef seems to have a perception of higher quality, in part because it isn’t as readily available. In other countries like Australia, grain-finished beef has a perception of being higher quality. Most beef sold in the U.S. is grain-finished.

Marketers might also use terms like hormone-free or antibiotic-free. Hormones occur naturally in the body and help the animal grow. The FDA regulates any artificial hormones that might be used. Meat raised with hormones have to be safe for humans to consume and can’t harm the animal or the environment. If hormones are used, they are usually synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones. So, the meat can’t be 100% hormone free, but it could be synthetic hormone free.

Antibiotics are an essential strategy to help animals get healthy if they get do get sick. Just like a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic for a sick human, a veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic for a sick animal. The important thing to know is that antibiotics have a withdrawal period before that animal can be harvested. Many antibiotics have a 60 day withdrawal period. That means that the animal waits 60 days or more before it is slaughtered. The animal won’t have antibiotics in its system or in the meat. If the meat is being sold, it is required by law to be antibiotic free. The label ‘antibiotic free’ doesn’t mean much.

beefcow34.jpgYou might also see beef labeled as 100% Black Angus. Black Angus is a great breed of cattle. There is a certification process to guarantee that it is Black Angus. However, is Black Angus better than Hereford, Simmental, or even Holstein? Some might argue that it is, but all three can grade the same and be Prime or Choice. If looking at two steaks right next to each other you, probably couldn’t tell the breed of the animal or which one is a Black Angus steak. And both steaks are going to taste great.

So the next time you are at the grocery store, stop and look at all of the labels. See if you can decipher the code and pick the best cut of meat for your next dinner.


Hey, That’s Not Hay!

759-pumpkins-on-straw-bales-pvI recently saw a sign at a local store advertising hay bales for sale. I looked around and didn’t see any. There were pumpkins, potted mums, gourds, Indian corn, and baled straw— but no hay.  It took everything in me to keep from shouting out, “Hey, that’s not hay! It’s straw.”

I see this mistake often in children’s books, on crafting and decorating blogs, and at craft stores and garden centers. Calling hay straw irritates me. It’s like calling a soccer ball a volleyball or dish soap shampoo. They may look similar at first glance, but they have very different uses.

So, what is the difference between hay and straw?

First, let’s talk about the similarities. Hay and straw are both agriculture products made from plants. They are both cut and formed into big round, big square, or small square bales. But that is where their similarity ends.

The biggest difference between hay and straw is their indented use. To put it simply, hay is food for animals and straw is bedding. The cartoons below illustrate this point well, and should ingrain the difference in your mind forever.

What they are made from is extremely important, too, and explains why each serve a different purpose. Hay is made from the entire plant; leaves, stems, flowers, and sometimes immature seeds. The whole plant has a much greater nutritional value than just dried stems. Hay is cut before the seeds have matured. This keeps valuable nutrients in the stalks and makes a nutrient-rich feed for horses, cattle, and other ruminant animals.

hay in fieldThe nutrient and protein value of hay will vary depending on what plant it is made from and when it is harvested. The fiber content of hay increases as it grows, while the protein content diminishes. Most of the protein in hay is in the leaves, while the stocks are richer in fiber.

Plants grown for hay can be divided into two categories: legumes and grasses. Legumes generally have a higher protein and calcium content than grasses because they have a higher leaves to stalk ratio. Alfalfa and clover are the two most common legumes grown for hay. Grasses used for hay include rye, timothy, orchard, and fescue. Farmers specifically plant these crops to make hay, and usually get about three cuttings of hay off one field per year.

baling-straw-360x238Straw, on the other hand, is a byproduct of cereal grains like wheat, barley, and oats. When the seeds of these crops are harvested the stems, or stalks, are left behind. Most of the stalks’ nutrients were depleted while producing seed, leaving little nutritional value as a feed source. The stalks can, however, be baled and used for straw.

Straw makes a good, inexpensive bedding for livestock. The dry stalks absorb moisture from manure, and provide a soft, clean place for animals to rest. Straw is also commonly used as garden mulch, to help establish new grass, and for outdoor décor.

If you are shopping for straw, be sure to look for golden yellow-brown bales made of stems only.  Hay is light green and include leaves and dried flowers or seed heads.

I highly recommend checking out Lucus County’s Hay Bale Art Contest to see a creative and entertaining use of bales. This annual fall event in south central Iowa includes more than 20 giant sculptures made of bales of all shapes and sizes. My kids and I visited a few years ago, and they are still talking about it.





The Story Within the Hands of Agriculture

A couple of weekends ago, I went home to de-stress a bit after the first week of classes started up for the fall semester. Nothing beats coming home for a weekend to relax, but this weekend was even more exciting because my dad found out about a farm auction that was going on.

drill handI absolutely love auctions; from the atmosphere, to the unknown treasures that are being sold, to the sweet musical sound of the auctioneer rattling off numbers and taking bids. It’s music to my ears. I’d have to say they are one of my favorite events to attend with my parents, not only because of the atmosphere, but also because of the stories that lie within the items being sold. Not just that but I love to think about the stories of the people who used these items before they were placed on the sale rack too. It’s history first hand. At this sale there were items from old cream separators, to feed sacks, to bushel baskets, to tractor seats.

While looking at these treasures, I started looking at the people at the sale who were bidding. Most were farmers both young and old, some were Amish families, and there were many others that love farm auctions, like myself. But where this story begins is when a gentlemen farmer picked up an old tractor seat. It wasn’t the seat that attracted my attention, it was his hands that did.kedric hand

They looked very similar to my dad’s, and I’ve always thought my dad has had very unique hands. You see my dad has very large powerful hands like a bear, with thick muscular fingers. There are a lot of cracks and creases and usually when I see him his hands are very dirty because of the work that he is doing on the farm, whether it be fixing tractors, working with animals, or working out in the field.

After this farmer’s hands caught my attention, I began to look around and observe everyone’s hands including my dad’s and my own. I noticed that many of the farmers that were at this auction all had hands similar to my dad’s. And then I remembered thinking back to a time when my dad and I were practicing handshakes. I remember he told me that my hands were a lot like my mothers. I never thought anything of it. I just always thought I inherited hands like my mom’s instead of my dad’s—it never struck me though that the type of work could define someone’s life through their hands.

corn shellsSo amongst my observations, I leaned over to my mom and mentioned my thoughts to her. She looked around and commented back, “Well they’ve got the farmer’s hands.” Still trying to comprehend, I questioned back and she replied, “The work that they do requires a great deal of manual strength. Their hands are muscular because they have had to adapt to the physical work they are putting in. Their hands are proof of the amount of strength needed to be a farmer.” I let that sink in a bit and then started looking around at all the items that were being auctioned off. All these items were huge advancements in their day. They were created to make farming and living easier for the ones that were using them. Even though they were considered advancements, they still required a great deal of manpower to run efficiently. The same can be said for the agriculture advancements of today. Even though we use a lot more technology and innovative farm equipment like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and combines and planters, the equipment still requires a great deal of physical labor to be put in. The equipment won’t work unless those hands do. The work can’t be done unless those hands get to work.water handle

Now just because farmers might have larger and stronger hands than some does not mean that anyone else’s work is not successful or as hardworking. The hands of a farmer just reflect the work they do everyday. They tell a story of the trials they’ve faced and the accomplishments they’ve won. I guarantee if you sat down with a farmer and looked at his or her hands, you could see the scares, the cuts, the missing fingernails, and the burns and ask them about it and get a story to go along with it. It could be a story of the lesson they learned while fixing fence, a memory of bringing a calf into this world, or a story of the hands they’ve shook along the way. Whatever it is, these hands have experienced a great deal of trials and lived to tell a tale of it. They are unique to the agriculture industry, and a symbol of the work that is done here. Without these hands, we would have no food, no clothing, and a great deal of more work thrown on to our own shoulders. So the next time you see a farmer, shake their hand and ask for the story that is held within.


What’s in a Name? GMOs

At this year’s Iowa State Fair, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation hosted a screening of FOOD EVOLUTION every day at 1 p.m. If you are unfamiliar with FOOD EVOLUTION, it is a 90-minute documentary (soon to be available on iTunes and Hulu) that essentially outlines modern uses of genetic engineering and the scientific consensus about their usefulness, oversight, and safety.

This documentary brought forth many conversations about genetic engineering and food issues as a whole. While I always try to encourage open dialogue and a healthy level of skepticism, I soon noticed a pattern. Genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) tend to get jumbled up with a plethora of other perceived issues. Upon noticing that, I thought I would try to separate and define those issues via blog post.

O.K., folks, here we go.

Before we can really talk about GMOs, we have to understand a small bit of genetics – the root of the G in GMO.

Genetics is the study of heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics. So at the basic level, we know that organisms tend to look or behave like their parents, because they inherit those traits. The thing that codes for those traits is DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. All living organisms – plants, animals, and microorganism included – have DNA.

The cool thing about DNA isn’t just that everything has it, it’s that it’s all made of the same stuff. DNA is made up of four nitrogenous bases (chemical compounds containing nitrogen) called adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine, or A, G, T, and C for short. These bases are then lined up in specific orders, and groups of these bases will code for a specific protein to be made. Those proteins are synthesized and sent on to a specific place where they are necessary. It’s like computer coding, but biological!


This can sometimes be hard for people to wrap their minds around. How can we be made of the same stuff as potatoes or rattlesnakes? While that is pretty crazy to think about, it is just nature, and isn’t necessarily something to be worried by.

So now that we have the first letter of GMO down, what’s the rest all about?

GMO may stand for “Genetically Modified Organism,” but GMO itself doesn’t have a really concrete definition. Some folks say that only things that have had their DNA altered in a lab are genetically modified, while other folks say that by artificially selecting for better crops or fruit or health, you are genetically modifying that plant.

Personally, I tend to favor the term genetic engineering, because it seems more specific. Genetic engineering, engineers the genetic code to solve specific issues.

But wait, there’s more! Genetic engineering still isn’t completely specific, because there are multiple ways to change genetic code! Genetic modification then becomes an umbrella term that includes genetic engineering, which then becomes an umbrella term including specific methods, like CRISPR-Cas9, agrobacterium-mediated transformation, and particle bombardment. The variety of genetic engineering methods can help scientists insert a helpful gene, remove a problematic gene, or even turn off production of a specific enzyme.

Concept map

The thing about talking about GMOs in terms of how they’re produced, though, is that most people don’t see that side of it. Instead, they will hear about a specific crop or trait. This can cause confusion, because scientists can look more at the accuracy and ease of use of the specific method; whereas the public may look more at the traits that are expressed or where those traits came from, which we now know doesn’t matter much, since all organisms share a similar genetic code.

One well-known trait is the Bt trait. Bt crops are named after Bacillus thuringiensis, the naturally occurring soil bacterium a specific protein was taken from. This soil bacterium is common, but when specific kinds of insects eat it, a protein within the bacterium causes complete failure of the insect’s digestive system. The protein only affects certain kinds of insects, and does not harm humans. This protein is used on many farms as an insecticide to spray on the crops. However, with the trait is inserted into the plant’s genetic code, producers don’t have to take the extra step.

This can provide many benefits, including saving time and money, as well as protecting producers from being impacted by too many pesticides. The problem, however, is that it often gets confused with another common trait, which is the Roundup® Ready trait.

Roundup® Ready is the brand name for crops that are tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. Monsanto’s brand name for glyphosate is Roundup®, therefore, Roundup® and Roundup® Ready can be used together. Herbicides have been used for a long time, and different herbicides might target only broadleaf plants or only grasses, and some are nonselective, meaning they will kill all plants. Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide, is very effective, and has a toxicity less than that of caffeine or salt. Really, it’s quite an amazing piece of technology.

Basically, the Roundup® Ready trait enabled farmers to spray for weeds while their crops were in the field. Prior to this, farmers either had to pull those weeds by hand, or use tillage to dig the plants up. Herbicide tolerant crops meant that farmers could spend less time managing weeds, while being able to drastically slow soil erosion by practicing no-till and conservation tillage. No-till farming is also being shown to improve other things, like soil structure and health, decrease soil compaction, and improve nutrient and water-holding capacities of the soil.

Let’s review. Bt and Roundup® Ready are two of the main traits people think about when discussing GM technology, especially in Iowa. Bt means that the plant will kill harmful insects without extra pesticides. Roundup® Ready means the crop won’t die if glyphosate is used on it. There are only a select few species of plants that have these technologies, including corn and soybeans, but because of the types of crops associated, they are the most commonly talked about in Iowa.

weekly food menu

Sometimes these two can get mixed up with each other, which can be easy to do since genetic engineering is a complicated topic. However, it is important to understand the differences in certain things to be able to discuss them well. Especially since these are only two of the applications of genetic engineering. Some others are papaya trees resistant to the debilitating Papaya Ring Spot Virus; potatoes resistant to bruising, which reduces food waste; bananas that are resistant to the Banana Wilt Disease; and rice fortified with beta carotene, which can keep children from developing blindness due to vitamin A deficiencies.

Each one of these applications is tested vigorously by the group creating it, as well as specific government agencies. In the U.S., GMOs are overseen by the USDA, EPA, and FDA to ensure safety to humans, to the environment, and other factors. This testing and approval process can take 7 to 20 years. Each application has different nuances that need to be analyzed. But to reiterate, each application only has a small change in one or a very few number of genes. These genes are made up of a common genetic code across all species. Modern technologies for editing these genes are precise and accurate, and testing of these organisms costs an average of $130 million.

In the film FOOD EVOLUTION, the scientists make it clear that they want the data to help them form their opinions. Currently, there is no evidence that shows any negative health effects of consuming GMOs, but many still agree that testing needs to continue to happen with every application to ensure that no mistakes happen in the future.

If you still have questions about GMOs, or are interested in learning more, I’ll put below some good resources to check out. If you have some other favorite resources, please put them in the comments below!

Happy learning!

GMO Answers

What is CRISPR-Cas? Video

How does Agrobacterium-mediated gene transfer work? Video

How are GMOs Created? Video



Break The Fast

Whether you are young or old, you have probably heard or said “Eat your breakfast- It’s the most important part of the day.” Why is it so important, and what kind of food is best 146807105_4x3to start the day with? My daughters are now grown and I still tell them how important it is to feed your body in the morning. I would say, “You have to break the fast – eat a healthy breakfast!” But as young kids, my girls didn’t want to eat breakfast. I had to be creative at times to get them to eat. It can be fun to create new and crazy things that are healthy to eat. (Like a mock pizza for breakfast – English muffin with a little pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese.)

Eating healthy food in your breakfast meal helps fuel the body. Eating foods that are rich Capturein whole grains, fiber, and protein and low in sugar helps to enhance a child’s ability to concentrate and focus for better learning in the school day. Foods high in fiber are things like apples, bananas, berries, as well as bran cereal, oats and English muffins. It is easy to link healthy food to the foods that farmers provide to us throughout the year. By adding a glass of milk, you also supply the child much needed calcium and protein. Finding foods that are nutritious and not packed full of sugar can be easier if you concentrate and try to provide something from at least three of the five food groups which consist of vegetables, fruits, grain, dairy and protein. It could be as easy as a piece of toast with peanut butter and bananas, along with a glass of milk or juice.

Teachers should watch for signs from children that come to school hungry. They might be sluggish, less alert, and have difficulty concentrating. Schools face problems of children coming to school hungry and because of this many are serving free breakfast. Some schools are serving breakfast in the classroom, so that there is no shame in not being able to afford the food. As parback to schoolents, we don’t want our kids’ grades to falter because they can’t stay focused. There is reason to believe that eating well does help performance of students. Many studies have been done and they all express the same results that those who eat breakfast perform better than those who do not.

It is important to provide kids healthy options. Sugary food is nice and sweet and spike the blood sugar levels, but then in just a couple of hours the levels fall and kids are hungry. Foods that are absorbed slower into the body provide energy that can last until lunch time. This would be the difference of a sugary bowl of cereal or a bowl of granola. Food is fuel for kids. As parents, we need make healthy choices as well as teach our children how to eat healthy. Food gives the body energy, as well as works throughout the body healing and helping bones and muscles to grow strong and healthy

Now that I am a grandma, I try to be even more fun with the breakfast options. It doesn’t have to take a long time. Many things can be prepared the night before to lessen the stress in the morning. Try prepackaging fruits and nuts into mini baggies. Prep fruit the night before for a fruit smoothie they can drink on the way to school. Go ahead, be adventurous and get your creativity going. Have fun making great things for breakfast!