Sailing uncharted waters is how ranch-management guru Harlan Hughes characterizes this new biofuels economy. Fueled and protected by ethanol mandates and tariffs, the price of corn, which underpins all of U.S. agriculture, won't be coming down anytime soon, he says. In “The changing corn environment,” on page 10, Hughes provides the first in a series on dealing with the new realities.

If you're not hungry for a steak before reading “The Taste Of Protein” on page 16, you will be afterwards. Contributor Diana Barto provides a mouth-watering report on umami, a distinct fifth taste — along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter — that characterizes the essence of beef's gastronomic appeal. The foods you love — the foods that you think of as comfort foods — more often than not are loaded with umami.

Despite a setback in 2007 that saw beef recalls of more than 30 million lbs. — mostly due to questionable company practices and recordkeeping, however — the U.S. beef industry is winning the safety war, writes contributor Walt Barnhart. In “Getting The Upper Hand” on page 28, he details the efforts, technologies and payoffs of checkoff-funded research and programs that have helped boost product safety.

It's estimated that undocumented workers in U.S. agriculture account for 45-47% of the workforce, about 2.2 to 3.1 million folks. Long the backbone of American agricultural production, what happens if the federal government is successful in shutting down the Mexican border? In “Losing Immigrant Labor,” on page 38, Senior Editor Burt Rutherford looks at the fallout on the U.S. beef industry.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, the old saw goes. And nowhere is that more true than in the 20-year-old trade dispute between the U.S. and Europe over the use of growth implants in beef production. In late March, the World Trade Organization once again ruled against the European Union ban. On page 54, Belgium-based BEEF correspondent Meghan Sapp provides the details in “Running The Stall.”

If concern about mold and spoilage of wet distillers grains (WDGs) has limited your use in cow diets of this nutrient-rich byproduct of the ethanol industry, it may be time to give it another look. In “Storing Distillers Grains,” on page 56, contributor Kindra Gordon says Nebraska research indicates that storing and feeding WDGs can be quite simple and really stretch an operation's winter-feeding dollars.