Beef Leaders Institute

The cattle and beef industry has such an incredible base of leadership programs for all ages and geographical locations.

I was honored to be a part of NCBA's Trailblazer program last year 2023, which really sparked a flame for continuing sharing my story as a cattle producer. This program allowed me to learn everything I could about the industry and I used that knowledge I gained to share with consumers and people outside of the industry. 

My husband, Bryce and I got into Black Angus genetics back in 2020 to improve carcass quality, maternal traits and longevity in our small Southern California herd of beef cattle. We noticed a significant difference with our beef we sell direct to consumer after we made the switch. Not only has the beef improved drastically, but the phenotype and longevity of our herd has also made big improvements. This transition has led us down the road of obsessing over genetics in the breed to improve the lives of our animals and our business. 

The American Angus Association and Certified Angus Beef offers an annual program called "Beef Leaders Institute" which is a resource to provide insight to all segments of the beef industry. Our group of about twenty attendees were exposed to different parts of the industry to become stronger, more effective leaders for the Angus breed, now and in the future.

I flew out of San Diego on the 9th of June and headed to Kansas City, Missouri to get picked up along with several other people who were in the program. We started the week in Saint Joseph, Missouri at The American Angus Association. Our group learned all about the association, the breed, what happens behind the scenes and we met the people who work for breeders across the nation. We got to tour the beautiful facility and learn all about the history and work that has been put into the Black Angus breed. 

A few highlights for me was learning more about all the resources and programs breeders can use to make life a heck of a lot easier on the ranch and to collect better data on our cattle to improve the breed as a whole. 

Additionally, I fell in love with all the art surrounding the building. Frank Murphy was an artist that did a lot of work for the association in the early years and his art is all over the walls at AAA. Each piece was amazing. I have a passion for art and used to do a lot of oil paint classes college, so I have a deep appreciation for it. I need some of this Angus masterpieces in my house one day!

After a few days at American Angus Association, we traveled to South Dakota/Nebraska and visited Tyson Packing Plant and Weborg Feedyards.

Tyson was super interesting to tour. We were able to go through the entire processing plant and see carcasses get graded, processed, cut/wrapped and packages getting ready for shipment. It was amazing to see the coordination and organization that went into the plant. It reminded me of Santa's Workshop with meats flying around on conveyer belts and lines of people cutting beef in an organized fashion. That experience was very unique and interesting to see in person. 

I know that many of my customers want to support locally raised beef from a rancher like myself. However, I like to remind my audience that not all families are able to support their households with ranch raised beef as it comes with a higher price tag. Rather, they are shopping for their meat at their meat counters in grocery stores like Walmart and Costco. I encourage all people to get their beef and other meats however they can to create a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Bonus points if you can get meat from your favorite local rancher!

After Tyson, we traveled just down the road to Webord Feedyards where we got to see a family owned and ran feedyard. I loved the tour and really saw the attention and care that went into keeping these animals safe and healthy. I liked that the owners also farm soy beans, corn and hay for their livestock and they also had a grain mill that processed the grains for feed. There were shade structures in each feeding pen and all the cows came up to say "hello" when we got out and walked around. This is the second feedyard I have toured in the past couple years and it has given me a greater appreciation for feeders and the important and under-respected jobs they hold. They are essentially feeding our world. 

After Webord, we had a 3 hour flight to Detroit. I sat with my new friend, Robert who also raises Balck ANgus beef direct to consumer in Southern Ohio. We shared pictures of cattle and beef the whole flight and talked about how to elevate our businesses to the next level. Once we landed, we drove down to Ohio for another hour and a half or so. We got to the hotel at around 11pm after having a slight delay in our flight.. We stayed up in the lobby having some pizza and good conversations with the entire group then headed to bed for another exciting day in the world of beef!

Next day, we went to a larger scale butcher shop, called Buckeye Meats that sells meat to grocery stores and restaurants. They guys at Buckeye are so passionate about what they do and I loved watching them talk about their craft and show us what they do. I learned a lot about how to elevate certain cuts for retail purposes and the quality control that in performed everyday to get meat into the kitchens of restaurants and grocery stores. There was a ton of enthusiasm in the room which really got me excited to bring home for our retail beef!

We left Buckeye to head over to ST Genetics to learn more about genetics, breeding, semen collection, semen storage, sexing semen and so much more. This was fun for me because learning all about EPDs (expected progeny differences) is something I want to get better at. These are numbers used to determine the performance of progeny of sires and dams. I used to work for a canine reproduction clinic so I knew a little bit about semen collection, handling and freezing. However, it was super neat to see how they sex semen and separate it so you can get cows pregnant with a certain gender. Bryce and I have used ST Genetics semen in the past with success getting heifers from bulls we love. After the lab tour, we got to view a few bulls in person. I have my eye on a couple bulls I now want to use for furture breedings. It was like watching a Thunder Down Under fashion show for bulls. 

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a local grocery store to check out the Certified Angus Beef meat cases. It was fun because during the tour, the local people were actually shopping and we helped a lady pick out a few steaks for her and her husband to cook up for dinner. It was a full circle moment after all the touring we had done the previous days. 

The next couple days were spent at Certified Angus Beef HQ in Wooster, Ohio. We learned all about the history of CAB and why this organization came to be. Essentially it was developed after a bad eating experience. From that point forward, it became a mission to create the best eating experience possible. "If it's not certified, it's not the best."

We learned about the different programs CAB offers, like Ranch to Retail program. Bryce and I are working on this certification for our own beef that we will be selling direct to consumer! We also got insights on marketing and the value that CAB brings to consumers and ranchers alike. 

Later in the day, we got to get white coats on and learned from Dr. Daniel Clark, Meat Scientist, all about meat science, carcass breakdown, retail values and cooking techniques. This was so much fun for me! I love whole animal breakdown and learning more about elevating the end product of beef and different methods to prepare it. 

We also had a cooking competition with our group and had to create a meal with the pichana and sirloin steaks we cut in the meat lab. Our group made a mix of both grilled pichana and sirloin steaks, with garlic mini potatoes, fried lemon pepper brussel sprouts and a creamy mushroom sauce. It was delicious!

The dining room at the CAB HQ reminded me of a Harry Potter scene as food, drinks and desserts just kept showing up and disappearing while deep in conversation with the people surrounding me. 

Before I knew it, the week was over! I enjoyed my time in the midwest so much and really value the new connections and friendships I have made during that week long journey. I had the best room mates for our hotel stays, really fun and energizing conversations at dinners and bus rides and great memories to hang on to for the years to come. 

Thank you to the great people of the American Angus Associtaion and to Certified Angus Beef! This was a life changing experience and I will forever be grateful for it!

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