Of new steaks and tough moles


It’s time for a potpourri of issues/news floating in my files.

At last week’s National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Denver, lots of attention was focused on the new “beef value cuts,” a line of 13 new cuts that came out of checkoff-funded research.

The industry’s muscle profiling study analyzed 39 individual muscles from the chuck and round cuts and learned more than you’d believe about each muscle, including palatability and function, and how to get the most from these muscles. The new cuts were created from the research. The hope is that greater demand for the underutilized chuck and round cuts will boost cattle producers’ overall carcass value.

The beef industry is finally getting its act together after losing market share spending to poultry from 1980 to 1998 – partly because the poultry industry was better at developing and merchandising convenient processed or prepared products that consumers wanted.

“People don’t know how to cook any more,” said one industry insider. “To prepare a meal required time and knowledge, both of which have disappeared in the last two years.”

“Home cooked” no longer means “from scratch,” as 44 percent of weekday meals are prepared in 30 minutes or less. Tapping into consumers’ need to save time and eat on the run will be a huge boost to demand – and hopefully, producers’ pockets.

Can’t have your cake. One of the more ironic articles in the news last month came from the state of Washington, where voters in the November 2000 election banned the use of “body-gripping traps” on nonhuman vertebrates, with the exception of mice and rats. The ban on fur trapping was pushed by those who wanted to prevent animal cruelty, but, as in many instances, be careful what you ask for…

It turns out that moles are now destroying parks and yards without class distinction – one homeowner in a well-to-do area now has 60 molehills pushing up in his previously well-groomed lawn.

Desperate homeowners, reports the Jan. 22 Wall Street Journal, are tossing smoke bombs and even road flares into the mole tunnels. The newspaper reports one man ultimately set fire to his lawn after pouring gasoline down the mole holes and lighting it. Another homeowner piped his car exhaust into the holes. Others are flooding water into the tunnels through garden hoses. So much for prevention of animal cruelty.

Similar misguided anti-trapping legislation in Massachusetts in 1996 led to the overpopulation of beavers, from 22,000 in 1996 to an estimated 63,000 in 2001. You can imagine the resulting flooding damage because of all those little critters’ dams.

The state legislature finally amended the law to allow special trapping of “problem” beavers.

Washington mole-haters are pushing their legislators to exclude moles from the law, but rural landowners say that’s not fair because they can’t trap coyotes that are killing livestock and they should be excluded too.

A wise man once said, “Every action has intended and unintended consequences.” I guess we’re slow learners.


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