“Beef'n Up The Troops” is Iowa's way of thanking home-state troops serving in Iraq with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Iowa beef producers are busy this summer putting together packages of beef jerky for troops overseas.

For two months the Iowa Cattlemen's Foundation (ICF), with the help of the Iowa Bankers Association and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, collected money to make and ship beef sticks for Iowa troops overseas.

Several Iowa businesses are also lending support. Iowa Quality Beef, Tama, is providing the beef; Triple T Specialty Meats of Ackley is processing the beef sticks; W&G Marketing, Ames, is coordinating the production and delivery of the sticks; and several banks are accepting contributions for the fundraiser.

“Every $1 contributed puts two, 1 oz. sticks of beef jerky in the hands of soldiers,” says Dave Nichols, a beef producer from Bridgewater. “We just wanted a way to say thanks for what they are doing.”

Making Beef Sticks

Nichols and Ken Hykes, a cattleman and banker from Adel, IA, are credited with brainstorming the fundraiser. They developed the idea after hearing from different sources how soldiers in Iraq enjoyed beef jerky rather than sweets and cookies sent in care packages. Beef jerky is light, easy to carry and adds much-needed salt to their diets, since soldiers must take salt pills to prevent dehydration in the desert.

“Every night I watch on television these brave, young men and women who represent, in my opinion, some of the best citizens our country has ever put forth, risk their life and limb,” Nichols says, explaining why the project is important to him. “I don't know how to say thank you, because I don't know any of them personally.”

The fundraiser was originally to end at the end of May, with a goal to raise enough money to send 12,000 beef sticks to the Iowa National Guard and other Iowa reserve units.

Michelle Baumhover, ICF director of consumer promotions, says the response was so great that the promotion was extended through the end of June and raised enough money to send at least four batches of 12,000 beef sticks.

“At the end of June, we discontinued our active promotion for the fundraiser, but we will certainly accept donations as long as people want to continue to contribute,” Baumhover says.

Thanks From The Troops

The beef sticks are shipped in 20-lb. boxes, each containing 320 beef sticks, to company commanders of the Iowa National Guard and Iowa reservists. Shipped by parcel post, the boxes take up to 10 days to arrive at their destination.

There is also an option of shipping a 5-lb. box to enlisted military if personal mailing information is provided.

The first shipment was mailed June 15 to soldiers primarily stationed in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. But, before any meat had even been processed, Baumhover was already receiving e-mails from soldiers who had heard about the project.

One soldier wrote in an e-mail, “My wife told me she saw where cattlemen are sending some beef jerky to soldiers in Iraq. I work with 72 soldiers from Iowa who would love to receive some jerky from home. Once you've had the best, nothing else quite measures up to the standard.”

Ty Bauman, a soldier from Adel, who recently returned home, adds, “It's hard to put into words how much we troops appreciate receiving a package from home. This effort by our fellow Iowans is important to us. It means so much to know that the folks back home support us. We simply want to say — thank you.”

For more information on the program, call the ICF at 515/296-2305, or visit www.iacattlemen.org.