Here's further documentation that beef, a top source of dietary iron, is a brain food. New research published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics indicates that even a mild iron deficiency can reduce youngsters' math capability. The difference was most striking, researchers found, in adolescent girls, a group that had the highest prevalence of iron deficiency.

The University of Rochester study involved nationally representative data on 5,398 children, ages 6-16. Overall, iron deficiency was found in 3% of the children, and 8.7% of the girls aged 12-16.

The average math scores of iron-deficient kids were six points lower than kids with normal levels. That difference was more than eight points for adolescent girls.

Study leader Jill Halterman says girls traditionally are superior to boys in math achievement in elementary and middle school years. That trend reverses, however, in high school and college. She says iron deficiency may explain the discrepancy for girls, a gender prone to iron deficiency due to menstruation and low-iron diets.

The Death Tax is dying, thanks to the 10-year, phase-out passed by Congress in late May. Passage represents the success of a 15-year effort by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to repeal the tax, which often forced heirs to sell assets to cover the estate tax obligation.

In addition, President Bush signed the Mad Cow and Related Disease Prevention Act. It creates a massive interagency task force to coordinate government efforts to prevent outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the U.S.

Beef continues its upward demand growth. Preliminary data from the first quarter 2001 indicates a 2% increase over the previous year's first quarter. Beef demand figures have increased nine out of the past 11 quarters, compared to the same quarters the previous year.

In addition, surveys indicate that beef's nutritional benefits continue to earn consumer recognition. A consumer attitudes study of 1,300 adults found 54% agreeing beef is an important part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, compared to 51% in 1999.

Learn how to handle sticky human resource issues brought on by today's tight labor market and more demanding jobs. The Employee Management for Production Agriculture Conference is Aug. 2-3. Sponsored by Kansas State University Extension, the conference will use a team of seven human resource management experts and consultants to focus on a variety of everyday work and family challenges.

Set for the Embassy Suites-Airport in Kansas City, the registration cost is $150 before July 11 and $200 after that date. For more information, contact Sarah Fogleman at 620/431-1530 or check out the program at

Ranch to Retail is the new name of PM Beef Group's source-verified production system. The program promises retail grocers, wholesalers and consumers “tender, tasty and consistent beef cuts with safety in mind.” It's the first gate-to-plate program following the USDA Process-Verified System.

Every steer in the system is tracked from birth at PM Beef cow/calf operations by producers using a “ranch portfolio” and carries a “health passport” with all health information. Cattle in the program are marketed through retained ownership and sold on a value-based grid. The cattle are fed vitamin E to lengthen product shelf life, and they must be less than 24 months of age at harvest.

The product is currently available only in the East and in Cleveland, but Western expansion is expected this year.

The U.S. lost 20,000 farms and ranches and 4.4 million acres of farmland in 2000. It's the largest loss since the 1991 total of 29,000 farms. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates there were 2.17 million farms and ranches in the U.S. in 2000, down almost 1% from 1999. The decline, occurring mostly in operations of less than $10,000 in sales, was attributed to the impacts of adverse weather, lower commodity prices and competition for land.

For weekly updates on the FMD outbreak in the U.K., visit BEEF online at British journalist John Gadd is providing a first-hand perspective on the impact of the disease to that country.

Anthropologists think humans are meat eaters by nature. The TCFA Newsletter reports that experts believe humans spent 2 million years as hunters and scavengers, eating meat-oriented diets that were 65% livestock calories and 35% plant calories. That contrasts to today's animal/plant balance of 38% livestock calories and 62% plant calories.

After humans began growing crops 10,000 years ago, the plant-only diets produced poorer health, says Arthur de Vany of California State University, an expert on Stone Age diets. Adds Colorado State University's Loren Cordain, early people who ate mainly plants lacked key vitamins, minerals and amino acids. This led to higher infant mortality, shorter life spans, more infectious diseases, widespread iron deficiency and bone mineral disorders.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail

Registered cattle account for less than 1% of the 99 million beef animals in the U.S. However, these 696,336 cattle are the genetic base of the industry.

Breed Registrations
Angus 260,907
Hereford 84,989
Limousin 48,825
Simmental 43,073
Charolais 42,738
Red Angus 39,639
Beefmaster 32,263
Brangus 26,898
Gelbvieh 26,265
Shorthorn 18,579
Brahman 18,000
Maine-Anjou 12,219
Santa Gertrudis 10,500
Salers 10,286
Longhorn 6,300
Chianina 6,280
Braunvieh 3,500
Tarentaise 2,000
Highland 1,500
Blonde d'Aquitaine 625
Red Brangus 550
Belgian Blue 400
Total 696,336
Source: 2000-2001 National Pedigreed Livestock Council Annual Report