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My Beef with Beef

T-Bone and Dakota Dogs from Wall Meat

I'm jumping on the beef bandwagon.

I am annoying when I go out to eat or am invited to dine at a public function. So much so that I frequently avoid it. I don't talk about this often, but I am the person at the restaurant engaged in the following...

"Is there soy in this?"

"Where do you get your meat from?"

"Can I get that without the bread?"

"Are there any nuts in this- tree nuts or peanuts?"

While I ate anything as a kid, I developed severe allergies after becoming a mother. The theory here (so I've been told) is that the immune system can get out of whack during pregnancy and cause intense, bizarre, allergic reactions. The list of what I am supposed to eat is easier to name than what I can't. If I don't follow my diet, I can have not only adverse but sometimes life-threatening reactions. I don't talk about my allergies often. I'd rather say I ate before an event and be known as the woman with the innovative ideas about public policy than be the woman known for poking at my plate asking, "What's in my food?" or the woman that exits said event in an ambulance.

You may ask, "What does this have to do with beef?"

First, local producers being pushed out of their livelihood by monopolizing packers, risking our access to quality meat; second, the need for Country of Origin Labeling to ensure the consumer knows the true source of their food; and third, the movement for plant-based meat alternatives that could be affecting your health more than you realize. And they're all interrelated.

We've all been hearing the much-needed buzz around Senator John Thune's call on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the meatpacking industry – with four companies controlling more than 80 percent of the market. There is a significant potential for market manipulation. We can see this on the local level, too- where even local packers will sit together at the sale barn visiting intensely about bids (called price-fixing in some circles, but I'm no expert). We also fall into the round and round discussion regarding COOL/ mCOOL. Current labeling policies aren't just confusing; they also cause financial harm to American farmers and ranchers because processors who import cheap meat and sell it as a domestic product have the power to force down American cattle prices. Beef imports are skyrocketing, and our producers at home are suffering.

Meat alternatives can be a way for vegans and vegetarians to enjoy a quasi "taste" of meat while receiving some protein; however, it's not the answer for everyone. Many meat alternatives are loaded with chemicals, preservatives, dyes, and SALT. Additionally, for someone in my predicament, they are generally made with soy, wheat, corn, or peas. All top allergens in my case, literally not worth the risk. Additionally, did you know most meat used commercially when you eat out has soy added for filler to make them less expensive? Take a look at frozen patties the next time you're in the grocery store, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any that don't. The majority of our restaurants in South Dakota source frozen food right off the delivery truck, loaded with soy.

I have to eat meat. Real, organic, preferably grass-fed meat. Not meat from outside of the US pumped full of antibiotics, and red dye #40, or frozen processed beef patties with soy added. Not meat alternatives made with allergens. Real, natural, meat.

In America obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues and cancer are soaring. Let's get back to basics. We need to support our local producers and packers, remove red tape for ranch and farm to table food products, and put clean, local, healthy foods back into our diets.

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