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Iowa beef families share their stories

Iowa beef families share their stories

AMES, Iowa — The Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) announced the release of two beef farmer profile videos featuring Kennedy Cattle Company and Plowman Farms, Inc., aimed at helping consumers understand the production methods used to provide safe, wholesome and affordable beef.

Raising beef is a complex process. Throughout the process, one thing remains constant: the shared commitment to raising cattle in a safe, humane and environmentally sustainable way by using the latest technology and resources.

According to an IBIC news release, currently more than 700,000 cattle farms and ranches in the United States, with an average herd size of 40 head of cattle, produce 19 percent of the world’s beef. Iowa is home to almost 28,000 cattle operations.

In 2016, Iowa’s beef industry generated an estimated $6.30 billion in economic activity in the state of which $4.09 billion was the result of direct spending by the industry.

“In sharing with consumers the ways beef gets from pasture to plate, we hope to build consumer trust and confidence in our products,” said Steve Rehder, chairman of IBIC. “It’s important to us that our customers understand beef continues to be a safe, nutritious, and wholesome product.”

IBIC began their series of farmer profile videos in October 2016 with the release of the Flexsenhar, Hanrahan and Utesch families. Since the release of the videos, there have been more than 21,000 views of the videos on IBIC’s website and YouTube channel.

To watch the farmer profile stories and to learn more about the families, visit

This round of videos features Kennedy Cattle Company. Kennedy Cattle Company is located outside of Atlantic, Iowa, in Cass County, where brothers Zak and Mitch Kennedy share their family’s commitment to raising beef.

Zak, with wife, Emily, and Mitch are the fourth generation to own and operate the farm. They purchased the farm from their parents, who still live close by and are always willing to help when needed.

The legacy they are building for future generations includes safe animal handling, the use of vaccines, hormones and antibiotics when necessary. They are a diversified farm growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa in addition to raising beef cattle in their feedyard.

The family has several employees who assist in the

day-to -day operations.

“We strive for excellence every day and hold each other accountable within our business,” Zak said about the philosophy he shares with Mitch.

Cattle farmers and ranchers have many tools to keep the animals in their care healthy and safe, including nutrition programs, veterinary care, facilities that ensure comfort, and good management practices, such as low-stress handling, vaccines and antibiotics when necessary.

No matter the tool, the producers in the videos stress that when it comes to animal health, the practices are science-based, regulated and, above all, good for the animal and the consumer.

“Consumers hold us to a high standard and rightfully so. We are up for that challenge,” Zak said. “We eat the same product they do. We are very concerned our kids, and friends and family have a safe product and wholesome product to eat. We are going to do our best to make sure it’s a great product in the end.”

In regards to safe animal handling, a nationwide effort known as the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program helps to ensure the consumer, the animal, the environment and the beef community are cared for within guidelines and regulation. BQA is a program that provides information to U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers along with beef consumers on how common-sense husbandry techniques, like low-stress animal handling, can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under the best management and environmental conditions.

The family and staff at Kennedy Cattle Company are all BQA certified.

Plowman Farms, Inc. of Van Buren County, Iowa, is another family farm. Rick Plowman and son, Cale, are the fourth and fifth generations operating the farm along with their families. They share the importance of incorporating the farm to keep the business viable for future generations.

“The partners are all immediate family members working together for common goals,” Rick said.

Cale, working side by side with his dad, feels it is important for consumers to understand they are like most other family farms in how they take care of the livestock, land and family.

He said, “In actuality, our family farm is like most farming corporations. Just a small family that is incorporated to pass the farm down from generation to generation.”

The Plowmans have respect for the generations that came before them, while at the same time finding innovative ways to improve the farm. The values held by their family farm extend into how they care for their livestock every day, they said.

“There are no corners we are willing to cut in taking care of our livestock,” Cale said. “I take pride in my final product that ends up in the stores, and I know that our animals are well taken care of. And that’s what I believe gives the best product for the consumer.”

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