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Where Beef Comes From

Did you know that a cow may spend up to eight hours every day chewing her cud for as many as 30,000 chews a day? Or, that all of the nutrients that the calf worked so hard to digest make the meat full of ZIP — zinc, iron and protein?

If you are involved with the beef industry in any way, these interesting facts from a new children’s book, WHERE BEEF COMES FROM, may seem like common sense. For families with no connection to farms and ranches, the book opens a whole new window on the real world of beef production as viewed through Sherri Grant’s camera lens and the words written by her daughter-in-law, Avery Grant.

The book was designed as a teaching aid for elementary school teachers and has been independently leveled based on the standards set out in GUIDED READING: GOOD FIRST TEACHING FOR ALL CHILDREN. It compliments resource material about the Canadian cattle industry already on the Beef Educational Resources website

www.beef-cattle.ca — maintained by Sherri with support from the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) and contributions from a number of teachers who have developed or adapted resource materials for classroom use. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the SSGA and be used to develop related teaching aids to enhance the website resources. The SSGA financed the publishing with assistance from the Saskatchewan Cattle Marketing Deductions Fund.

Sherri’s interest in helping students understand the beef industry stems from her work developing a pasture-to-plate presentation delivered at schools and subsequent 15-year involvement with Canadian Western Agribition’s Agri-Ed Showcase, and, of course, her own background in agriculture.

She grew up on a mixed farm near Edam, Sask. and obtained her degree in home economics before marrying Lynn Grant and moving to the family ranch near Val Marie. The Grants run a cow-calf, backgrounding and yearling operation on 20,000 acres of native grassland with another 6,000 acres of dryland and irrigated land for hay, greenfeed and annual cereal crops.

One only has to visit the Agri-Ed Showcase to realize how exciting the world of agriculture is for children. That’s where the idea of creating a children’s book as a way to connect with teachers first came up at the close of the 2008 show. It’s not that teachers aren’t interested in agriculture, Sherri explains, but more so that they don’t have the background to feel comfortable discussing agricultural topics or incorporating agriculture concepts into other subject areas. Having interesting, factual and well-designed resource material at their fingertips gives teachers that option and makes it much easier.

“We went back to the drawing board many times,” Sherri says of the book-designing process. “There was the message the industry wanted to get across, but we also had to consider the level the students were at and what had to be explained before the message.” Many of the words and concepts commonly used in the beef industry had to be defined to give the message context.

The family team proved to be a great combination. Avery, a Grade 2 teacher, doesn’t have a ranching background, so she had a clear idea of how to tell the story of beef in a down-to-earth manner and terms that youngsters understand. Her first introduction to agriculture was two years ago when she moved from Medicine Hat to the grain farm near Aylesbury, Sask.

Sherri’s collection of photographs taken on the ranch was the starting point for many discussions about what the book could and should include. Avery then wrote the draft and more photos had to be taken or obtained from other sources to illustrate specifipoints in the beef production cycle.

Not only did they receive very encouraging feedback from reviewers and teachers who piloted the book in their classrooms prior to publication, Sherri comments, but it created excitement about many aspects of agriculture and a flurry of suggestions for future books that would be welcome resources.

Readers journey through time on the ranch from the birth of a calf and a summer on pasture to learn how cattle convert the grass they eat into meat, all the while helping to keep the land healthy. It touches on animal health and the ear tag that each animal wears like its home address. Then it’s on to weaning and the backgrounding lot where the calves are cared for through the winter before going back to the fresh spring pastures. The book illustrates how the yearlings are transported to the finishing feedlot then to the processing plant, a beef carcass breakdown, and how the meat is prepared before it arrives at a store or restaurant, and finally as a delicious and nutritious steak on your barbeque or hamburger on your plate. The story of beef ends with additional interesting facts and comprehension questions.

Response has been overwhelmingly positive since the book was launched at the SSGA annual meeting in the middle of June. By the time you read this, the first printing of 1,000 books will be nearly depleted and it will be going into its second printing. Individuals, teachers, beef industry businesses and organizations, people in the tourism industry and business owners wanting to distribute the book have been among the purchasers. The Grants and the SSGA were honoured to have the book presented to the ministers attending the federal-provincial meeting in Saskatoon and it was also unveiled to international guests at the International Livestock Conference in Calgary on August 11.

WHERE BEEF COMES FROM is available through the website ( www.beef-cattle.ca) or by contacting the SSGA office at 306-757-8523.

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