Behind the Scenes with a Local Beef Farmer

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“My ancestor’s life was tough, and their values of hard work passed down from generation to generation. We were taught to ‘stay by the stuff’ and keep a steady resolve to get through every major crisis that impacts your life. We have taught our children to wake up in the morning and do the very best job on the day they have been given.” 

– Dave Albert, owner of Misty Mountain Farms

Dave’s family has been farming the land for six generations, since his ancestor, John Wolfgang, first turned the soil in 1854. An immigrant from Germany, Wolfgang and his fiancé landed in Philadelphia. Once they married and acclimated to America, they pushed their few belongings in a wheelbarrow over 200 miles before settling on 110 acres in Trout Run. Clearing trees, picking rocks out of the soil, tilling the soil, and cultivating a crop was not an easy way of life in the 1800s (or even today).

Six generations later, the Alberts farm ~300 acres grazing multiple species of livestock, including Angus cattle, Texel/Suffolk sheep and lamb, and pastured poultry, including chickens and turkeys. To support this effort, they grow row crops of corn, soybeans, oats, barley, and canola. The main focus of tillable acreage is for forages and cover crops. The balance of their operation is dedicated to improving the pastures.

Soil Health Translates to Profitability

“A healthy soil will produce the same amount of yield, if not better, without any inputs such as pesticides and commercial fertilizer.”

Misty Mountain Farm is profitable because Dave believes that soil health is the foundation of any farming enterprise. With farm incomes generally down across the country, this is a big statement.

He utilizes no-till farming to grow corn, soybeans, and barley with limited inputs of commercial fertilizer. Imported poultry litter is readily available and he uses approximately 200 to 300 tons per year. When expanding his land holdings, it takes him about three years before the soil has enough organic matter to support the crops he harvests.

No-till means that Dave will simultaneously plant multiple cover crops such as rye, Austrian winter pea, eco-till radish, and multi-species clovers. These covers are planted post-harvest and stay on the fields until it is time to plant his corn and soybeans. He will plant the spring seeds right over the cover crops without turning the soil. The cover crops then turn into food for the trillions of soil microbiota and ultimately his row crops of corn and soybeans.

How does Dave know his soil is healthy? His definition is that he can achieve the same yield per acre as conventional farmers with little to no herbicides and pesticides.

The level of input determines soil health, which then allows the farmer to achieve target yields combined with optimal profitability. In addition, this summer was a drought year with only a couple of inches of rain a month. Yet his crops were healthy and strong because of the soil biodiversity. When it finally did rain, the ground absorbed the water like a sponge. He says you can tell a farm has unhealthy soil when there is a lot of mud on the road after a rain — a sign that the soil quality has deteriorated so much that it simply just washes away.

Organic or Conventional? Neither – Regenerative

“We live in a world where production and monoculture crops are the norm. To get the highest yield, you need the highest inputs but yet we have a market structure where profit is not there.”

Regenerative agriculture is when you not only protect the land but you make it better than when you first started farming. It enhances the ecosystem around the farm or ranch by enriching the soil, protecting and improving the watersheds, and increasing biodiversity — all while improving crop yields.

Dave is a student of agriculture. When Dave was a high school junior, he won first prize on a paper about cover crops at the state-level Future Farmers of America convention in Harrisburg. He then graduated from Penn State in 1984, with a degree in Animal Science. That is where he met Holly, who also grew up with an agricultural background.

In 2007, he was a participating member of a team of soil scientists who traveled to Europe to study organic waste recycling. Dr. Richard Stehouwer led this team, spending two weeks in Germany and Austria. While ferrying down the Rhine River on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Dave saw the town of Wiesbaden, Germany where his great, great, great grandfather, John Wolfgang Albert, was born. An unexpected highlight of the day for sure.

Dave spends his winter months reading and learning from soil experts such as Ray Archuleta, the founder of Understanding Ag, LLC, and Gabe Brown, a regenerative farmer from North Dakota, who has a 5,000-acre farm with 20% higher crop yield than the county average. 

Conservation: Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

Streaming right through Misty Mountain Farm is West Branch Murry Run, one of the five headwaters that ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay. One of the more pristine rivers, the Loyalsock was the 2018 Pennsylvania River of the Year.

However, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay was floundering under a high nutrient load from the hundreds of farms leaking their fertilizer, manure, and pesticides into the rivers that fall in the watershed area.

Recognizing this issue, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation set up a series of grants for farmers to keep the run-off clean by establishing buffer zones between the farm and the watersheds.

In 1999, the Alberts were the first in Lycoming County to fence an 80-foot buffer between their cattle and the stream. At this time, the stream was warm, semi-polluted, and had no trout. Instead of trout, which are an indication of cleanliness and purity, they found only a few chubs and crew fish.

Just buffering the stream produced dramatic improvements. So much so that in 2017, they celebrated a 100-person ‘field day’ that included the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Conservancy, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and State Rep. Garth Everett. They enjoyed a Misty Mountain beef barbeque, talked about soil health and water quality, and examined the stream for a 9-year improvement.

Working with students from the Lycoming College Clean Water Institute, they shocked the stream, temporarily paralyzing the fish, to see what fish now inhabited the ecosystem. A brown trout popped up. Now, trout flourish in the cold, clear, and oxygenated water that provides not just places to hide but also clean gravel for their eggs.

How Dave Grows Beef

Dave’s proprietary cattle feed produces beef with such tenderness that ‘you can eat it with a spoon.’

The crops he grows feed his 150 head of cattle. In the summer, they graze on improved pasture and cover crops in his fields. For the wintertime, the cow-calf pairs are fed mostly forages and corn silage. The finished ration is fed year-round in a finishing barn post-weaning. Both spring-born and fall-born calves are weaned at 10 months of age.

Dave says the key to a high-quality eating experience is prepotent genetics for marbling, coupled with a consistent energy release in the rumen, to allow for a steady rate of gain and growth. Cattle are harvested at the peak of perfection in quality grade. Harvest weights average 675 lb. on the rail. Plating a ribeye steak that is manageable is key to his restaurant trade.

As we sat in the warm sunshine, his pregnant cows trotted over to see us and investigate if we had any food. We heard his bull over in the nearby field wanting to visit the cows. Dave is careful what breed he uses for his Angus cattle. When I asked him if he used antibiotics, he said, ‘sure’.

He continues, “the other day, I had a pregnant cow who was about to calve. She contracted pneumonia and was terribly sick. I gave her an antibiotic cocktail, she lived, and the calf lived. If I hadn’t, I would have lost both of them. It is inhumane to let them suffer.”

As a nice push to gain valuable nutrients on pasture, Dave raises poultry, including chicken and turkey.

Customer Transparency: Strong Local Market

“Consumers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

For five generations, the Alberts have been selling their beef into the local market in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area. They use three local USDA-inspected processing plants to turn their cattle into cuts for both the local restaurants as well as the farmer’s market. Since Covid, the local market has boomed! Per-month sales have doubled over the previous year. Slaughter dates are now being held for all of 2021 and into 2022.

The consumer wants to know their farmer. Misty Mountain Farms has long enjoyed a loyal following. But since Covid, more of the consumers who previously shopped in local supermarkets have bought his beef from the local market. Dave and Holly meet with consumers to inform them how they raise and feed their cattle from the time they are born. Customers love the taste and consistency of the Alberts’ meat.

Here’s how the farm prepares the cattle’s feed for winter…somewhat meditative to watch!

Their customers’ trust in Dave and Holly has placed the couple in the education business. Dave says, “we meet people where they are at. We don’t make a judgment on their knowledge, we just make a product that keeps them coming and we explain how we get there.”

This shows how important the farmer’s brand has become. The consumer wants great taste and flavor, but also to trust their food producer. Dave could just as easily sell his cattle to one of the ‘big four’ meat processors. It would be sold to the grocery store market and get absorbed into the retail system. There, the very same consumer would see the ‘generic’ beef and walk away not knowing the unique care that Misty Mountain Farm takes to grow their cattle.

5 Healthy Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Thanksgiving dinner is one of our favorite meals of the year! But, we always have so much food left over. And, with Thanksgivings being smaller this year due to Covid, there will probably be even more food to go around. We all know the typical turkey sandwich, but there are many other healthy ways to use these delicious leftovers. Here are some of our favorites!

5. Turkey Salad

This is one of the easiest ways to use your leftovers, and it can be more than just throwing sliced turkey on some greens!

Making a salad delicious is completely up to you, and with the amount of veggies eaten on Thanksgiving, there should be no shortage of toppings for this salad. Roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, leftover green beans – add them all! You can even make croutons out of leftover stuffing and salad dressing from cranberry sauce. The options are endless!

So, if you’re still feeling super full the day after Thanksgiving, this salad is the perfect light lunch!

4. Turkey and Vegetable Soup

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if we weren’t making some kind of soup!

Making turkey soup is very easy and creates a cozy meal. To season your broth, you can use a mixture of low-sodium turkey broth and the carcass. Let it all come to a boil then simmer with your turkey meat and veggies. After you remove the carcass, it’ll be full of flavor.

This can be eaten on its own or with some whole-grain biscuits for a hearty and nutritious meal!

3. Air-Fried Thanksgiving Leftovers Eggrolls

Yes, we said eggrolls!

As long as they’re not deep-fried, eggrolls can be a great way to use Thanksgiving leftovers. Buy some eggroll wrappers from any grocery store (they’re usually in the produce section) and add turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies – really any leftover you want! Roll it up and seal with water, and cook them in the air fryer at 350F for 6-7 minutes, flipping halfway.

For extra crispy eggrolls, spray them with cooking spray before air-frying them. Quick, easy, and delicious!

2. “Fancy” Turkey Sandwiches

Take a break from turkey on white bread with mayo and give these new sandwiches a try!

First, make some cranberry mayo using your leftover cranberry sauce. There’s a great recipe for it here. Warm up your turkey in the microwave and grab some multi-grain rolls. Spread some of the cranberry mayo on the roll and place your turkey on top. Now, you can just eat it like this and it will be delicious, but if you’re a toppings person, consider adding some avocado, lettuce, or brie cheese for extra flavor!

And, the best part about these sandwiches is that you can make them year-round by swapping out the leftover turkey with a turkey burger!

1. Turkey Stir-Fry

You’ve heard of chicken stir-fry, beef stir-fry, and shrimp stir-fry. Now, get ready for turkey stir-fry!

This is another super-easy way to use your leftover turkey. And, if you still go for a big turkey this Thanksgiving like we are, you’re going to need some recipes to use it up! Grab your fresh or frozen veggies and make the stir-fry just as you normally would. You can even add some leftover veggies if you have them. If you like rice in your stir fry, add some of that too, but consider using brown rice so you get your whole grains. Add the cooked turkey last and let it sit with the rest of the stir-fry until it’s warm and full of flavor.

There are so many ways to make stir-fry, so use your favorite recipe and just add some turkey at the end!

Epicor: Strengthening our Immune Response


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As you may know, we do not normally write about supplements, let alone tout a specific product. As we enter the winter season, we want to be sure to enjoy all the fun activities. Here is a product that the D2D team, our friends and families, and many of us have been successfully taking over the past few years to boost our immunity.

EpiCor, a supplement derived from yeast, is gaining momentum in the marketplace for its immune function benefits. Clinical trials show that taking EpiCor, a yeast-based supplement, can strengthen your immune system and support a healthy gut.

EpiCor has undergone eight human clinical trials, all of which have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and have used a standard dose of 500 mg per day.

Six of the eight trials conform to the “gold standard” of clinical design in that they were randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials.

Results show that EpiCor strengthens the immune system while it balances immune response.

What is Epicor?

Epicor is a postbiotic supplement made from fermented brewer’s yeast. This fermentation process creates metabolites, which include proteins, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, polysaccharides, and fiber.

EpiCor’s history began with Diamond V, an animal nutrition company located in Iowa. Embria Health Sciences, owned by Diamond V Mills, discovered the health benefits of EpiCor back in 1998 when farmers noticed increased animal health once they switched their animal feed to Diamond V’s products as part of their feed rations.

Simultaneously, the Diamond V employees manufacturing the yeast-based products also experienced improved health, simply from exposure. In fact, the employees’ health improved so much that their corporate health insurance company contacted management to make sure that they hadn’t switched health care providers because there were little to no healthcare claims.

Once this was brought to their attention, Diamond V management conducted a pilot study comparing workers exposed to the yeast and those who were not. Those exposed to the yeast had 65% more IgAs, antibody proteins that fight off antigens, in their saliva!

Sounds impressive, but what are IgAs, exactly?

This chart shows the difference in IgAs between the workers exposed to the fermented yeast while making the feed formulation and those working in the offices. Source: EpiCor.

IgA and Immune System Response

Let’s say you are at the grocery store, happily stopping your cart in the aisle to say hello to your neighbor. She smiles, her face mask slips, and then…. ACHOO! You have just been sneezed on. Now, what do you do? Of course, being polite, you find a way to gracefully end the conversation, all while frantically wondering if she is sick or was it just a sneeze.

Your body knows exactly what to do to protect you! We don’t think about it but, with every breath, we move large volumes of air through our nose and mouth. It is no surprise that we have millions of microbes (viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens) constantly entering our bodies. While no one likes to have a lot of mucus floating around in our head, the right amount of mucosal fluid serves as a ‘liquid wall’ between these outside invaders and your epithelial tissue, the protective lining inside our organs and glands.

Mucus lines our nose, trachea, lungs, esophagus, and intestines and serves as the first layer of defense to keep those pathogens out of our interior environment. As a point of interest, the entire mucosa in our body is about 400 square meters – about two times the size of a tennis court!

Floating through your tears, saliva, sweat, lungs, and gastrointestinal passages are antibodies called IgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) that help prevent the viruses from entering a host cell.

When a virus enters the host cell, it sits on the cell membrane, unlocks a cell door, and drops in its own RNA to infect it. Once the cell is infected, it rapidly makes at least tens of thousands of infected copies. In turn, each one of those cells makes tens of thousands of copies, and so on, and so on. This is why colds and flu can come on so quickly and spread so rapidly through our bodies.

You basically want a lot of IgAs. EpiCor may help increase our IgAs, thus giving us a stronger defense to protect our cells from getting infected with virus-causing colds, flus, and other sicknesses entering our airways.

Antibodies 101

To help you understand antibodies, here’s a brief tutorial on how we are protected against millions of pathogens we encounter daily. Antibodies like IgA are a critical line of defense throughout your body. We have five different types: IgA, IgE, IgG, IgM, and IgD. Each of them has a distinct function and location, but all are made by our millions of B lymphocyte white blood cells.

Like law enforcement protecting our neighborhoods, our B lymphocyte white blood cells constantly patrol our blood and lymph nodes for destructive pathogens trying to enter a cell. But just as law enforcement would have one strategy for a bank robber and another for a drug dealer, B cells send out a different antibody depending on the toxin or pathogen. For example, an antibody that kills a cold virus is different from one that kills a staph infection.

B cells are incredibly adaptable. If our body needs more of a certain type of antibody to fight a specific virus, the B cell can change the genetic structure of an antibody and turn it into what is needed. Let’s say the body has received an onslaught of a cold virus. The B cell that recognizes a cold’s antigens will start producing more antibodies. Additionally, if the body’s defense needs more IgAs, the B cell can change an IgM antibody into an IgA antibody.

Do you know why you become immune to a disease after you have contracted it or received a vaccine? B cells have memory. If they see a familiar pathogen, they will send out antibodies to kill it. Even if they encounter a similar but not exact pathogen, they will make antibodies to kill that, too.

EpiCor and Cell Invasions

What happens if a virus enters the cells and begins to replicate?  What does your body do then?

Enter the T cell. Produced in the bone marrow and maturing in the thymus, one of their many functions is to attack a cell once it has been compromised by a pathogen. One subset of T cells are NK cells (Natural Killer cells), which comprise about 20% of our white blood cells and can react to a pathogen within hours. They are like sharks, constantly patrolling the body, looking for infected or cancerous cells, and then destroying them.

The Effect of EpiCor on Natural Kill Cell Activation. Source: EpiCor.

In vitro data suggests EpiCor can help activate your Natural Killer Cells. This is the second layer of added protection if the virus escaped the antibodies created by the B cells.

EpiCor and Allergies

There are times when our immune system overreacts, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Allergies are caused by an overreaction to an allergen, such as pollen or animal hair. An increase in the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody causes sneezing, itchy eyes, and inflammation.

EpiCor may help keep the IgEs in balance, helping to ‘up regulate’ and ‘down regulate’ your immune system faster so your system doesn’t become as allergic or inflamed.

Source: EpiCor.

EpiCor Protects against Cellular Damage

As we mentioned earlier, EpiCor is made with fermented yeast. Fermentation happens when yeast and bacteria break sugars into alcohol or acids. This gives us beneficial pre-, pro-, and post-biotics for our digestive health. Consuming these products can help our body have more antioxidants.

Yeast produces complex sugar molecules called polysaccharides. One of these is called beta-glucan which is known to increase our antioxidants to help prevent cell damage by eliminating free radicals. Eating fruits and vegetables also help boost antioxidants, delivering the same benefits.

EpiCor’s prebiotic effects increase ‘good’ bacteria (such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli), promoting better digestive health. But ‘good’ bacteria alone aren’t enough to help your intestine thrive.

An unhealthy diet of sugar, carbohydrates, and fats – without the right balance of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables – can lead to ‘bad’ bacteria overwhelming your microbiome. 

How to Take EpiCor

Each one of us has different genetics, epigenetics, immune systems, and lifestyles. Like a diet, your response to EpiCor will be different than mine. Similarly, the way that you administer it within your household may be different than ours. For example, at home, we take EpiCor every day. If we are around sick people or traveling, we double the dose. While it begins to work within two hours of taking it, effectiveness is best after 60 days. So it’s best to not skip a day!

If you’re looking for a bottle yourself, just know that EpiCor is a business to business company, so you’ll find several brands of supplements that include the recommended amount of 500mg in their products. As with any supplement, your physician can help guide you in this process.

5 Considerations for Your Thanksgiving Turkey

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When Covid swept through our nation, it took red meat, milk, and a lot of toilet paper with it — showing shortages of products across the supply chain. With Thanksgiving so close, can we expect the same thing with our turkeys?

5. The Number of Turkeys Grown Did Not Change

Covid brought turkey production down a few percentage points this year by impacting supply and demand, thus slowing down parts of the supply chain. This created a back-up at the processing facilities in spring and early summer, which in turn did have an effect on the weight of some turkeys, however not enough for us to see any difference in the grocery stores.

When production slowed down, turkeys had to keep getting fed, so they gained more weight than companies originally thought they would, but it did not change the number of turkeys grown. We will still see the same amount of turkeys on the shelves at the same weights we usually see them.

4. Retailers Settled On Amounts and Prices Before Covid Hit

Every January, retailers negotiate with turkey producers on how many frozen turkeys they want to buy for the upcoming Thanksgiving and at what prices they will pay per pound. In late summer, they do the same thing for fresh turkeys.

This means that retailers will carry the same amount of turkeys, at a similar cost as they do every year since these decisions are pre-set.  Right now, frozen turkeys are already on the shelves and will continue to be stocked right up until Thanksgiving day. Fresh turkeys are just starting to appear now. So, there is no reason to go out and stock up on turkeys. There is plenty to go around!

3. Size May Matter

Many believe there will be a higher demand for smaller birds this year because Thanksgiving gatherings will be with immediate families rather than extended. Due to this projection, any families may keep dinners small to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Conversely, others believe that consumers will still get the same big turkey they normally do because they want to go all out this year due to a lack of normalcy. And, you know what big turkeys mean? More leftovers!

So, if you do want a small turkey or any of a certain size, it may be smarter to shop for one earlier rather than later. But, if you’re like us and still want that big turkey to have lots of yummy leftovers, shop as you normally would—both sizes will be available!

2. Frozen vs. Fresh

Like we said above, the amount of frozen and fresh turkeys hasn’t changed. Similarly, the window for producing fresh turkeys hasn’t changed either. The difference is that fresh turkeys have a limited shelf life. Between leaving the warehouse to being stocked at the grocery store and getting home to the consumer, there is a smaller window for fresh birds prior to needing to be cooked.

There is a common misperception among consumers that fresh is better. However, this is not always true, as there are definitely upsides to frozen. More nutrients may be retained in frozen birds, moisture is locked in so frozen turkeys tend to be less dry, and there is less of a chance for bacteria growth and food poisoning since the bird is stored in a temperature-controlled environment and the consumer controls the defrost process.

So if you’re thinking of getting a fresh bird this year, reconsider frozen. You may be surprised!

1. Do NOT Panic-buy!

The supply of turkeys from last year vs. this year has remained the same, so there is no reason to stock up on turkeys.

Both producers, processors, and grocery stores have done everything possible to make sure that every American has a turkey on their Thanksgiving table this year. Panic-buying will only cause local shortages — so shop smart, shop calmly, and make this holiday the best one yet!

For more information, check out the full article on Thanksgiving turkeys here. And be sure to safely cook your turkey with our tips here!

Sustainable Seafood & Healthier Oceans

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Wandering the seafood counter in the grocery store can be overwhelming. There’s a global map at your fingertips of Pacific cod, Ecuadorian mahi-mahi, U.S. Gulf shrimp, New Zealand mussels, and Chilean swordfish. For a healthy dinner, should you choose fresh or frozen, or farmed or wild-caught? Conversely, when ordering online, are specific items like frozen wild Icelandic ocean perch or ahi poke cubes tasty? And how do you navigate sustainability and eco-friendly labels?

In the U.S., the fall season is highlighted with October as National Seafood Month. And with the approaching holidays, what better time to eat healthy, sustainable seafood and learn how wild-caught seafood can help to meet global food demand? We can use this information to make a difference in improving the health of our global oceans.

Challenges facing our ocean and seafood supply

As our population grows, we are faced with an enormous challenge of meeting the increased demand for overall protein.

By 2050, projections for global population and income growth suggest a future need for more than 500 megatonnes (Mt) of meat each year for our consumption – a substantial increase from today’s needed volume of 360 Mt.

To put this in perspective, this increase equates to producing the weight of approximately 780 billion servings of salmon, or about 16 million school buses, each year.

Seafood can actually provide a solution to these protein demands — one that can have a much lower carbon footprint than land-based meat production and fewer impacts on biodiversity.

Making healthy seafood choices depends on being informed, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming – in fact, it can be simple.

Let’s start with a quick guide to define common seafood terms seen in our grocery stores:

  • Sustainable marine fisheries provide some of our best tools to ensure healthy oceans while producing seafood. For instance, U.S. marine fisheries are scientifically monitored, regionally managed, and legally enforced under strict sustainability standards.
  • Wild-caught, or wild capture, refers to seafood directly caught or “harvested” from the sea, rivers, or other natural aquatic habitats. This includes sustainable marine fisheries, like wild cod.
  • Farm-raised means that the seafood was not captured in the wild, but grown in a farm, pen, or other systems. These systems can either be on land or in water.
  • Aquaculture refers to the broader category of farming aquatic species (both fresh and saltwater). The use of the term “aquaculture” generally encompasses farming that occurs both on land or in the sea, such as land-based tilapia farms.
  • Mariculture exclusively refers to species farmed within the marine environment or saltwater, such as seaweed or mussels grown on ropes in the ocean, or salmon pens near coastal areas. Mariculture is the correct term for sea-specific farming, even though “aquaculture” is often used here.

Aquaculture is a fast-growing part of our food system that can provide increasingly sustainable options for consumers and – when done right – can offer ecosystem restoration benefits for the planet. The below chart shows wild-capture fisheries as relatively stable when compared to aquaculture’s increase in supply, as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Sustainable wild-capture marine fisheries

Globally, wild-capture fisheries are unbelievably unique in that no other large-scale food sector continuously removes a comparable sheer volume of wild animals from any natural habitat on earth. This demonstrates the incredible capacity of our oceans to regenerate so future generations may reap its benefits.

Wild-caught seafood holds enormous potential for increasing food supply, yet is heavily dependent on improving management practices in the ocean. Wild-capture provides both an opportunity and a threat to our oceans. Threats include overfishing, unsustainable labor practices on ocean vessels, throwing away bycatch, destruction of habitats (e.g., coral reefs), and ocean pollution.

Although these challenges exist, the status of world fisheries is far from a completely “doom and gloom” situation. Sustainable interventions provide our best opportunity to reform our global seafood system and create thriving, healthy marine ecosystems. If we effectively manage fisheries, marine ecosystems and species can recover.

Recent research supports this good news for well-managed global fisheries. New research published in early 2020 examined the status of 882 global fish stocks (the term for defined populations of fish) and found big improvements, especially in developed countries.

There are also bright spots in smaller-scale fisheries around the world. For example, Kenyan fisherwomen recently closed nearshore reef areas with the goal of helping octopus species recover. Upon returning to fish, the women caught far more octopus, leading to greater sales. Community-based interventions like this can support population recovery, protect valuable habitat, and even improve the livelihoods of coastal fishermen and women.

“Effective fisheries management is actually one of our strongest tools to conserving the health of our oceans,” says Carmen Revenga, who leads the Global Fisheries Strategy at The Nature Conservancy. “Science-based fisheries management and direct engagement with fishers, industry, and governments produce not only sustainable seafood, but benefit marine habitats and species while maintaining coastal communities and fishing-dependent jobs worldwide.”

Who monitors sustainable fisheries?

Before being sold at the grocery store, seafood is produced and regulated by a diverse group of fishermen and women, scientists, fish processors, lawmakers, technology providers, and NGOs. Each group tackles ocean challenges and drives seafood products towards sustainability.

Seafood eco-labels are one mechanism to ensure sustainability – and they can help guide you at the grocery store. For example, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) provides third-party assurance of seafood sustainability and supply chain traceability. Look for the MSC blue fish label to feel confident that your seafood purchase comes from sustainable sources. In addition, large retailers have made seafood and fishery sustainability commitments, from Whole Foods to Wal-Mart, which can help drive improvements down the supply chain.

Let’s look at the details of how MSC certification can spur action that benefits communities and the ocean ecosystem. The spiny lobster in the Bahamas is one of the island nation’s most important fisheries. Each year, around 6 million pounds of spiny lobster tails are sold in the $90 million fishery. Through a collaboration of stakeholders determined to ensure the sustainability of the fishery, the spiny lobster fishery became the first Bahamian, Caribbean fishery to obtain the recognized MSC seal of sustainability. Even after certification, this fishery must demonstrate continual improvements to ensure sustainability, such as refining the assessments of lobster populations and continuing to work on decreasing illegal fishing.

© Jeff Yonover / TNC

On the other hand, another important fishery in the Bahamas, Queen Conch, is experiencing a decline. Conch not only supports thousands of Bahamian fishers but is a national cultural emblem. It is featured in typical dishes and even displayed prominently on The Bahamas coat of arms. Bahamian conch is in decline due to overfishing, which has led to fewer individual conch in the water that can reproduce. A music video called “Conch Gone” draws attention to the plight of conch and the need for conservation measures – and what may happen if we aren’t careful. Today, scientists, fishermen, and government officials in the Bahamas are working to address challenges in the conch fishery.

Eyes on the ocean to ensure sustainability

Seafood certifications and regulations such as the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program or E.U. Catch Certification Scheme provide mechanisms to reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. And new technologies are revolutionizing the ways we monitor compliance on the water and collect information.

Recent advances in electronic monitoring (EM), essentially video cameras, sensors, and GPS on fishing vessels, can provide verifiable data on where and how fish are caught and what types of fish are brought on board, including bycatch of unintended species, like sharks or turtles.

“Sustainability can’t happen without transparent supply chains – and this has to start right at the point where fish are caught,” says Mark Zimring, who leads The Nature Conservancy’s Large-Scale Fisheries Program. “Electronic monitoring provides a mechanism for transparency and accountability, while also providing better data so we can improve management of our fisheries”.

An example of EM in action can be found in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, a region that produces approximately 60% of the world’s tuna. This region also harbors incredible marine biodiversity, including sharks, turtles, and many fish species.

© Tim Calver / TNC

EM data from fishing vessels can be combined with data on locations of protected animals, such as sea turtles, to identify hotspots where fishing may threaten them. This information can be used to avoid certain areas while fishing in others – a win-win for sustainable tuna fishing and marine conservation. In addition to Western and Central Pacific nations, more and more countries are adopting EM at scale, including the Seychelles and New Zealand.

What you can do

The future of seafood can be bright if we acknowledge the challenges instead of shying away from them. Educating ourselves and purchasing seafood from sustainable sources supports businesses that are doing the right thing and can contribute to ensuring healthy oceans. Our choices directly impact the future of sustainable seafood and our oceans.

Here are a few ways we can make a difference:

  • Diversify your plate! Branch out from the familiar salmon and shrimp with other choices that are lower on the food chain, such as sardines, or bivalve shellfish such as clams or mussels. These less popular species can be really good for the ocean and good for you – and may often be more friendly on your budget. Friendly new recipes and seafood health tips can be found in the #EatSeafoodAmerica campaign by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership.
  • Find a local seafood supplier. To support local businesses and get fresh or frozen seafood delivered to you, check out Local Catch, an easy-to-use seafood finder to help you find local seafood in your area or learn about community-supported fisheries (or CSFs, a similar concept to a CSA produce box, but with seafood).
  • Order seafood online. Many seafood businesses have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 but are adjusting to online ordering when restaurant demand is lower. Look for websites that offer pick-up or home delivery, and help support their businesses during these challenging times. You can check out sites like Vital ChoiceMonterey Abalone Co., and CrowdCow
  • Look for eco-labels or use a guide. Look for the Marine Stewardship Council blue fish label to ensure sustainability. Or, when considering new seafood choices, Seafood Watch has a user-friendly app to use at restaurants or the grocery store.
  • Learn more about the connections between seafood, healthy oceans, and the science behind wild-capture fisheries. Scroll through this interactive publication by the FAO about the global state of fisheries and aquaculture. Follow work by The Nature Conservancy and its partners to implement sustainable fishery management reforms around the world. For science updates, check out this Sustainable Fisheries blog by scientists at the University of Washington.

Will We Still Have A Thanksgiving Turkey This Year?

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Thanksgiving is a day filled with gratitude and togetherness, with dinner as its crowning symbol of deep appreciation and thankfulness – for our family, our friends, our health, or all of the above mixed into the perfect holiday bite. Whether baked, grilled, smoked, or even deep-fried, you will find a big, delicious turkey on almost every table in the U.S.

So, with the upcoming holiday as important as ever while COVID-19 looms overhead, will we be able to get our hands on our table’s delicious centerpiece this year? We decided to find out.

The U.S. Turkey

Every year, a whopping 88% of Americans have turkey on Thanksgiving, accounting for 46 million turkeys consumed on this one day. All these birds are produced domestically which, when you think about it, seems completely appropriate.

In 2018, the U.S. produced 245 million turkeys, the equivalent to almost 8 billion pounds. That is about 15 miles of rail cars! Almost 20% of these turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving.

In 2016, two-thirds of all turkeys produced in the U.S. were from just six states. Minnesota leads the way with the production of about 44 million turkeys, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, and Virginia.

When I think of Thanksgiving turkeys, the first brand I think of is Butterball. That’s probably because Butterball leads the country in turkey production, producing about 1.3 billion pounds of turkey in 2019. Jennie-O Turkey Store, Honeysuckle White, and Stony Brook Farms round out the top four producers. Will these producers still be able to get us our turkeys this year?

We talked to a leading expert in the field, Thomas Windish from Cargill Protein, and here is what we know…

How has Covid changed turkey production?

Turkey production is down a few percentage points from last year. A small part of this is attributed to Covid’s effect on the entire supply chain, not the number of turkeys grown.

But this downward trend wasn’t unprecedented — total turkey production has dropped 15% since 1999. Whole-turkey consumption was already in decline because cooking a whole bird is a daunting task, especially for the younger generation of food buyers. These consumers want modified turkey products, such as boneless or ground turkey breasts, which is why these easier-to-cook, value-added turkeys have experienced such growth.

Similar to the other meat processing facilities, Covid changed the speed at which turkeys could be processed. This caused a backlog of supply, especially in spring and early summer. This also affected the weight of the turkeys – it’s a complex supply chain where companies can anticipate the weights of their turkeys.

But when production lines were disturbed or couldn’t run at all due to Covid, turkeys were fed more and they kept growing, giving companies larger birds than what they anticipated. However, it wasn’t enough to cause a change in the sizes of birds we’ll see this year.

This is something all companies had to work through, especially with decisions about turkey production being decided last September for this Thanksgiving. It’s all about adjusting to what’s happening in the world around us—flexibility is key.

Bigger turkeys are great, but will there be enough?

Every January, most retailers negotiate with turkey companies on how many frozen turkeys they will be ordering for that upcoming Thanksgiving and at what price. In late summer, retailers do the same for fresh turkeys. In fact, the set price and pound of turkeys being produced for Thanksgiving 2020 were set before Covid had much of an impact on the U.S.—good news for us!

Whether we run out of turkey or not will all depend on the retailer and their pricing strategies. In past years, grocery stores would have Thanksgiving marketing deals, decreasing the prices of turkeys per pound or even giving them away depending on how much money the customer would spend at the grocery store in preparation for the holiday. This strategy was great in year’s past; however, low prices on essential, or iconic, items during a pandemic where panic buying is the norm may cause areas of demand outstripping supply, leading to empty shelves in our supermarkets.

Experts don’t think retailers will be as aggressive to give away free or low-priced turkeys this year. However, a mid-November spike in Covid cases could change all that.

Right now, frozen turkeys are beginning to hit the shelves at grocery stores and you’re going to see a lot of them—but don’t run out and buy them all up! Shop as you normally would to avoid shortages and ensure everyone has a chance to have Tom Turkey grace their tables.

What can we expect when buying our turkey this year?

Many believe there will be a higher demand for smaller birds because of the pandemic, as Americans won’t have as big of a Thanksgiving this year due to social distancing and difficulty traveling. However, some experts believe that because our country has been faced with a total lack-of-normal life, they will go all-out for Thanksgiving this year, including buying the same-sized turkey they typically would and just having lots of leftovers.

“Our consumer research suggests that consumers are keen to make the holidays special this year in the face of Covid and with the impact it’s had on families. It also suggests that traditions and foods are the comforts and areas where consumers will not be making trade-offs or cuts to the budget.”

– Thomas Windish, Retail Channel President, Cargill Protein

Grocers may request smaller birds in their freezers, but not many turkey companies can accommodate these requests this late in the game. So, if you want a small bird, shop early! Sidenote: we’re big fans of leftovers here at D2D, so we will all continue to find us the biggest bird we can!

What’s the deal with fresh vs. frozen birds?

The window for producing fresh turkeys remains unchanged. They are headed to the grocery store about three weeks in advance of Thanksgiving. This is because fresh turkeys can only last so long until they have to be cooked.

Even though one out of six turkeys produced is sold as fresh and not frozen, consumer preference for fresh has increased over the last few years, mostly due to the popular saying, “fresh is best”. But does this hold true for meat? Surprisingly, for meat, this is simply not the case. There are a lot of benefits to frozen meat, in general. Fresh just sounds better to a consumer.

When you freeze beef or poultry, an intercellular breakdown occurs, making the meat more tender. And when you freeze fruits and vegetables, nutrients are better retained, making the levels higher than their fresh counterparts. Although no study has been done on frozen turkeys, we can assume the same may be true. However, we do know that moisture is retained far better in frozen turkeys than in fresh ones, leading to a more tender turkey dinner. Yum!

Companies take extra special care of frozen turkeys, too. They freeze them right away after the bird is harvested, cleaned, and packaged, and then store them in a temperature-controlled environment. This allows the consumer to control the thawing process at home.

With a fresh bird, the clock is ticking: by the time the retailer sells the turkey, it is crunch time. Companies have a lot more confidence in the safety of frozen birds because if fresh turkeys aren’t properly stored, handled, or cooked, they’re more prone to pathogen growth, causing a lovely family dinner to turn bad very quickly.

With that in mind, don’t forget to check out our guide on how to cook and handle your bird this Thanksgiving!

Turkey-shopping Take-aways

  • Do NOT panic buy!!! There are more than enough turkeys to go around. Stocking up on turkeys will just ruin Thanksgiving for other families.
  • If a moist turkey is top priority, buy a frozen bird
  • If you are looking for a specific size turkey, consider buying sooner. If you’re ok with any size, then proceed as you normally would.
  • And be sure to read about safe prepping and cooking practices so everyone can enjoy a delicious and healthy turkey this year!