WSU Showcases Science-Based Solutions for Beef Industry
Nearly 100 cattle producers from around the Pacific Northwest gathered on Washington State University’s Pullman campus Oct. 22 for “Beefing up the Future”, a showcase of science-based solutions focused on enhancing the future of the beef cattle industry.
“The goal is to give our stakeholders — cattle producers, allied industry personnel and students — an opportunity for insight into WSU animal science research. Participants saw how data are collected, they participated in evaluations, and they saw the tools, the nuts and bolts of research and how we get results,” said Margaret Benson, chair of the WSU Department of Animal Sciences.
The all-day event featured hands-on workshops that demonstrated WSU research, as well as several guest speakers. The showcase’s keynote speaker was Larry Corah, vice president of Certified Angus Beef, Manhattan, Kansas. Corah is a former Kansas State University Extension educator and is a nationally recognized expert on the beef industry and its future.
“When you consider all the things that we have been doing [in research], the beef industry has a tremendous future,” Corah said. “It is not without problems, but full of potential to grow.” He also urged cattle producers to use consumer preferences to set their industry standards to maximize profits.
Other topics covered at the showcase included beef palatability, genetics and reproduction, as well as the environmental impact of the beef industry and how that impact is measured.
“I think the quality of the people at WSU is amazing,” said Dick Coon, Jr., immediate past president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association. “I am grateful Dean (Dan) Bernardo is making the effort to put this kind of program on because there is nothing that can be substituted for direct interactions with these professors.”
Bernardo, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, said the college’s primary goal is to “take cutting edge research and place it to work in the cattle industry. There are a lot of people that perceive animal science by what they hear, but they should interact with researchers to translate that research into understanding.”
by Victoria Marsh
Marketing, News, and Educational Communications intern
WSU Economists to Map Food Deserts in Effort to Improve Access to Quality Food
Economic researchers at Washington State University are investigating ways to eliminate food deserts and to increase consumer access to fresh local produce.
Often located in impoverished urban neighborhoods, food deserts are areas with no grocery stores readily available. When compared with more affluent neighborhoods, these areas often have a high percentage of fast food outlets. The consumption of fast food is strongly correlated with increased diet-related health problems.
Working with the Wisconsin-based Institute for Research on Poverty, WSU economics Professor Vicki McCracken and doctoral student Jeremy Sage received nearly $40,000 to examine the inequalities of current food distribution methods.
“IRP published a request to look at different food issues revolving around poverty,” Sage said. “We had the idea to look at food deserts and farmers markets within Washington state.”
“In the past decade, there has been a growing interest in helping lower income areas gain access to fresh, local produce,” Sage said. “Our guiding question is how the location of the farmers’ markets affects consumers’ willingness to access.”
Co-sponsored by the USDA Economic Research Service, the project will also examine the effectiveness of various federal food assistance programs such as the food stamp program.
“Federal food programs often give lower-income consumers vouchers or coupons for farmers markets,” he said. “We want to know if they are accessing local markets.”
Sage and his wife, Rayna Sage, a doctoral candidate in sociology, jointly developed the proposal with McCracken.
“The massive diversity of agricultural produce in Washington state makes it excellent for a direct-market alternative study,” McCracken said. “There are over 200 major and minor crops produced in Washington which are directly marketed to consumers.”
Washington is the third leading state in the U.S. for organic food production and currently has over 150 farmers’ markets.
“It is important for each state to understand their own deficiencies and whether or not they are fulfilling their responsibilities,” Sage said. “Our research would show what Washington state is doing well and how we can improve.”
The WSU research team will map and geocode the locations of all supermarkets throughout Washington to identify the conventionally conceived food desert. Previous research indicates one to two kilometers is a reasonable distance for access to supermarkets in urban areas. The team will then locate food deserts based on distance from farmers markets in a similar fashion.
“After we have an idea of what the food desert map looks like, we will seek to understand how increasing distances from a farmers’ market influences redemption rates of food assistance programs at the markets,” Sage said.
The American Dietetic Association published a position statement in September 2010 expressing a need for increased action relating to food security and nutritional health. The article went on to state in 2008, more than 49 million individuals living in the United States experienced food insecurity.
“Federal food programs like SNAP and Senior FMNP are working on encouraging consumers to use farmers’ markets,” Sage said. “The more convenient and accessible we can make fresh produce, the more likely we will minimize food deserts.”
For Sage, the primary goal is to show how policy makers and managers can best serve consumers who live at different socio-economic levels.
“The results will be given to the National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research organization in a presentation at Washington DC,” he said. “Also, we hope to publish and present the findings to government officials, market managers, farmers and anyone else who has a role in ensuring food access throughout the state.”
by Nathan Tims
Marketing, News, and Educational Communications intern