Celebrate May Beef Month with a burger – or two

May 4, 2012

May is Beef Month in Iowa, and we’re sharing our top five ways to celebrate like a real cowboy or cowgirl. After all, Iowa’s beef industry contributes more than $5.1 billion to the state economy and creates nearly 40,000 direct and indirectly related jobs. So pass the steak sauce and dig into these fun May Beef Month ideas:

1. Enjoy Iowa’s Best Burger. The Coon Bowl III, a bowling alley in Coon Rapids, was named the 2012 winner of Iowa’s Best Burger Contest by the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The Coon Bowl III uses an 80/20 blend of ground chuck, one of the most popular blends for tasty burgers. Customers can ask for any extras, whether that’s “running the burger through a garden” by requesting lettuce and tomato or adding cheese, bacon or mushrooms as toppings.

2. Join Team Beef. Do you plan to run a 5K, half-marathon or marathon event, or bike the RAGBRAI route this summer? Then become a member of Team Beef, a group of Iowa athletes who promote the benefits of consuming lean, nutrient-rich beef in boosting their performance. Team Beef members participate in popular events, such as the Dam to Dam race in Des Moines. They also receive a free Team Beef T-shirt to wear on race day. To sign up, visit http://www.iabeef.org/teambeef.aspx.

3. Try a new beef dish. Break out of the suppertime rut with creative, easy beef recipes. A few new favorites:
- Steakhouse pizza, http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/09/steakhouse-pizza/
- Steak carne asada tacos, http://picky-palate.com/2011/05/02/restaurant-style-carne-asada-soft-tacos-with-guacamole-and-corn/
- French onion soup sliders, http://iowagirleats.com/2012/05/02/stuffed-french-onion-soup-sliders/

4. Know your cuts of beef. One of best ways to save money on groceries is to take advantage of sales at the meat counter. Learn more about the different beef cuts and how to cook them with the Interactive Beef Case (http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/meatcase.aspx).

5. Get educated. Ever wonder about the difference between corn-fed and grass-fed beef. What about beef safety? Here’s where to find answers from the experts:
- Grass-fed vs. corn-fed, http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/main/food_for_thought/0/30
- Cow-chow, an interactive game exploring what cows eat, http://www.explorebeef.org/cowchow.aspx
- Safe handling tips for cooking beef, http://www.iabeef.org/SafeHandling.aspx

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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The pursuit of bacon

February 21, 2012

This past weekend, I discovered that there is no such thing as too much bacon.

I quickly lost track of how much bacon I sampled at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival Feb. 18 in Des Moines (or to be more honest, I stopped counting after the sixth piece of bacon). Yet I kept standing in long lines waiting for more, amazed at the endless variety of bacon-inspired dishes.

In its fifth year, the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival attracted national attention and has become the must-eat event for Iowa foodies. It was my first visit to the festival, and I was lucky to get a ticket. The 4,000 available tickets were sold out in less than 20 minutes.

The fun-loving crowd arrived with hearty appetites as they gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to celebrate all things bacon. Banners hanging from the rafters of the Varied Industries Building proudly declared, “Ohhhh, bacon!” Attendees donned plastic pig snouts, bacon costumes and humorous T-shirts, many paying homage to the actor Kevin Bacon.

The lines at the vendor booths were so long it was hard to tell where they began. Often, I didn’t know what bacon concoction the vendor was serving until I got to the front of the line.

I ended up sampling bacon sausages, bacon and blue cheese appetizers, and bacon gumbo. I gobbled up a quesadilla filled with bacon, grilled pineapple and melted mozzarella cheese. I watched while a restaurant vendor stuffed bacon inside a soft corn tortilla, then topped it with hot sauce, onions and cilantro, for a twist on the traditional BLT.

And who would have guessed that I would fall head-over-heals with “The Elvis” – a bacon, honey, peanut butter and banana pizza. The bacon cheesecake and caramel bacon gelato were life-changing. I may never eat ice cream without bacon again.

Of course, I also found plenty of vendors offering just plain ol’ bacon. Often, the farmers themselves were serving up the bacon slices, hot off the frying pan. I walked around the festival with bacon grease dripping from my fingers. Thankfully, the napkins were plentiful.

It only makes sense that Iowans celebrate their love of bacon. As the top pork-producing state in the nation, bacon is part of our heritage. Nearly every Iowan has a connection to the pork industry, either directly or indirectly.

Iowa farmers are known for raising the best pork in the world, and we should be proud of their accomplishments. After all, could you imagine a world without bacon – on your burger, your omelet or even your salad? So whenever you hear bacon sizzling in a pan, feel free to shout out: “Ohhh, bacon!” You’ll be in good company.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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