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Beef Up Your Knowledge: Meat Marbling 101

An infographic illustrating beef marbling. Selecting the right USDA grade of beef for your dish will help guarantee culinary success. Click to see a larger version.

An infographic illustrating beef marbling. Selecting the right USDA grade of beef for your dish will help guarantee culinary success. Click to see a larger version.

Grilling season is upon us.  It’s time to enjoy that wonderful smell of meat cooking across neighborhood backyards. With so many choices available at your store and meat counter, choosing the best cut of meat for your dish can be overwhelming. With a bit of beef knowledge, you can avoid that problem, and be the king or queen of the barbeque.

We’ve covered the basics of USDA beef grades, explaining the difference between USDA Prime, Choice or Select. This time around, we’re going to look at the marbling – or fine threads of fat – within different grades of meat.  Marbling is what gives beef its flavor, juiciness and tenderness.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) employs 200 highly-skilled beef graders who, sometimes with the help of electronic monitoring, evaluate several factors that determine the grade, including the amount and distribution of marbling. Read more »

Innovative Approach to Feeding At-Risk Children during Summer Shines in Florida

Mobile unit programs in Florida feed thousands of summer meals to children in need.

Mobile unit programs in Florida feed thousands of summer meals to children in need.

With summer approaching, many of our nation’s students will soon be out of school enjoying their break.  However, too many of these children may miss out on a meal they normally would receive through USDA’s school meals programs.  Thanks to an innovative approach, Florida’s at-risk children can now have meals brought to them through the Summer Food Service Program, by way of a very creative partnership.

Florida’s Mobile Summer BreakSpot Program (a collaboration of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the childhood hunger group Florida Impact) has developed a way to renovate school buses to transport summer meals to neighborhood children in need. Read more »

See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch

Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.

Click to visit the USDA's 24/7 bee watch camera.

At the ribbon cutting of the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden in April 2010 plans were already in place to install a beehive on the roof of the Whitten Building as well as a “bee-cam” so anyone anywhere could learn about bee activity. USDA’s newest ‘buzzing’ residents were welcomed on Earth Day but the bee cam was put on hold. 18 gallons of honey later, that idea has finally come to bee. You can now #USDABeeWatch 24/7 at www.usda.gov/beewatch.

So what will you see on our bee cam? This time of year, the camera – placed several feet from the entrance of the hive – shows female worker bees entering and exiting the hive gathering nectar and pollen (both collected from flowers) to convert into honey. Be on the lookout for bees carrying a load of pollen on their hind legs. As bees groom, they’ll move the pollen onto their back legs creating a pellet of pollen. A small amount of nectar is used to stick the dry pollen together. Read more »

Hawaiian Agriculture Remains Unique

NASS launches its weekly state spotlight series today with Hawaii – where more farmers generate their own electricity than in any other state.  Check back next Thursday for more highlights from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

NASS launches its weekly state spotlight series today with Hawaii – where more farmers generate their own electricity than in any other state. Check back next Thursday for more highlights from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Hawaii may have only 7,000 farms, but our farming community is truly special and unique. For example, it is the only state in the United States where farmers grow taro, pineapples for commercial sales, and coffee. And if having such unique commodities isn’t enough, it is also the state that has the largest percentage of farmers and ranchers participating in renewable energy projects, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. More than 18 percent of our farms produce their own renewable energy on their farms.

The island environment is conducive to renewable energy production. Hawaii has abundant sunshine and steady trade winds which are favorable for investing in renewable energy systems.  As a result many farms can set up photovoltaic panels and windmills to convert the sun and the wind to electricity. Read more »

Starting from Scratch

(From left to right) Dan Whetham, FSA district director, Scuse, Rausch and Della Meder discuss the hardships faced by ranchers who were hit by the Atlas blizzard.

(From left to right) Dan Whetham, FSA district director, Scuse, Rausch and Della Meder discuss the hardships faced by ranchers who were hit by the Atlas blizzard.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Richard and Susan Rausch lost nearly 70 percent of their cow-calf operation when Winter Storm Atlas dumped three feet of snow on the western part of South Dakota, killing thousands of cattle across the region. The Rausch’s 300-head of cattle dwindled down to about 90.

“You just can’t put into words what the devastation was like following the blizzard,” said Richard. “The roads were closed from snow drifts, but once we were able to get out with the tractor, there was dead livestock wherever you went. Our neighbor’s livestock was found dead in our yard and our cattle took cover in rough country at the start of the blizzard and they ended up drifting five to six miles away.” Read more »

Western USDA Water Supply Forecast Tracks Melting Snowpack

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

Snowmelt on Mount Hood sends ample water down a stream in Oregon. NRCS photo.

April storms delivered a mix of rain and snow to the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to the latest USDA water supply forecast.

Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah, are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC).  Streamflows that are far below normal are forecast for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada. Read more »