Have You Ever Thought About Your Food Choices?

Here in the United States we are spoiled on so many levels, but especially when it comes to our food. I stopped by the grocery store on my way home last night and started thinking about how our stores in the US differ from from groceries I have shopped abroad especially differences related to size and selection. We have so many choices when it comes to food:

Gluten-Free, Fat-Free, Sugar Free, Reduced Fat, Whole Grain,

Snack Size, Family Size, Bulk

Production Methods – conventionally, organically, grass fed, grain fed,

Cage-Free, Brown, Vegetarian, Pasteurized,

Grape Nuts, Captain Crunch, Wheaties, Chex (no less than 5 kinds), Cheerios, Fruity Pebbles,  Cheerios,

Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Fuiji, Gala, Yellow Delicious, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, Braeburn,

Not to mention we can buy fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.

Meat is much more affordable.

Most products you can buy multiple sizes, brands, flavors etc.

I think you get the picture, but have you ever really thought about it? Because of our abundant and affordable choices in this country we get worked up over food and people (especially moms) are often shamed because of the food they choose for their families.

I am so glad that I do not have to purchase the same food my neighbor, mother, or co-worker purchases, that is the beauty of it! I can choose how I want my food the be raised, fed, grown, packaged, cooked etc. and it is my decision. Just because I buy particular items doesn’t mean you have to, isn’t it great?

Let us strive to be appreciative for the many choices we have. Maybe you don’t like the abundance of choices big grocery stores provide, you can also be thankful to have options of CSA’s, independent stores and farmer’s markets during the the summer, we have choices even before we get ready to actually go and purchase.

Next time you’re in the grocery store looking at no less than 6 different types of apples, 35 different kinds of cereal, 21 types of fruit juice, 30 types of coffee I would encourage you to appreciate the choices. You don’t have to embrace all of them, but be thankful for to have the choice. d40ce-dsc_0820

Soybeans: What are they used for?

This year after harvesting my wheat crop in July I planted soybeans behind it.


One of my soybean fields in late August in North Alabama.

Soybeans are quite common in the United States, especially in the corn belt, but in recent years many farmers in the Southeast have began to put a large percentage of their acreage in soybeans.


Soybeans are typically harvested October-November

soybeans combine harvest

Soybeans are harvested by a machine called a combine

Soybeans originated in eastern Asia and is still part of the food in many cultures. Have you ever had edamane? You were eating soybeans.


A record soybean crop was planted this year in the United States totaling 77.728 million acres, keep in mind an acre is about the size of a football field. All these soybeans do not go to Asian restaurants, in fact few do. Soybeans are mainly grown for their oil.

I don’t know if you have every paid much attention at the grocery store, but there are a lot of different kinds of oil you can buy to cook with.


Some of the most popular are vegetable, canola, and olive. Depending upon the grocery store you visit you may find others like sunflower, safflower, peanut, corn, and even walnut oils. Each type of oil has its on flash point. The “flash point” is the temperature at which the oil ignites. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. It begins to burn at this point and it can be a fire hazard.


Vegetable oil is from soybeans. Soybean oil  was re-labeled when “all vegetable” shortenings in the 1960s which replaced lard and beef tallow-based shortenings. This continued when certain oils were perceived as healthy in the 1970s, and were promoted in advertisements and labeling. According to the US Soybean Board soybean oil is by far the most predominant oil of the food industry due to its versatility in foods.  More than 80% of cooking oil in commercial applications is soybean oil.

Other food products soybeans are used in are:

Baked Goods

Baked Goods

Non-dairy creamers

Non-dairy creamers

Salad Dressings

Salad Dressings

Soy Milk

Soy Milk

Whipped Toppings

Whipped Toppings



BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauces

Other products that soybeans are used for that do not involve food are:




Diesel Fuel


Animal Feeds- Especially poultry feed here in Alabama


Inks- both in ink pens and ink used in magazines and newspapers


Anti-biotics and other pharmaceuticals





These little beans may not seem like much, but they are the second largest crop in the United States behind corn and are found in many products we use everyday.


Arsenic in Your Chicken?

Arsenic is harmful and has been known to cause cancer. Arsenic is an element in the environment that can be found naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, and in plants and animals. When I had seen several articles floating around this week saying that it was in chicken I had to do a little digging. Many times when stories like these surface there is a good explanation behind it or a misunderstanding. I called on Dr. Wallace Berry one of our poultry science professors here at Auburn and asked him for his expertise.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced it will remove three arsenic-containing drug types used to treat food animals, including chickens. Altogether, the three drugs were used in formulations as feed additives, the most common being Roxarsone. Many think of Roxarsone as a way to “pump up chicken”, but according to Dr. Berry that is not the case.

Berry says that Roxarsone is made from an arsenic compound and some companies do use it as an anti-coccidial drug in chickens ( not to “plump up” chicken as the media portrays). When I researched coccidia I found that it is an internal parasite that if coccidiosis occurs that it causes diarrhea with weight loss, dehydration, and (rarely) hemorrhaging  Animals who have bad cases may have problems with  anorexia, vomiting, and depression. Death is a potential outcome. It was used to keep animals healthy, farmers go to great lengths to care for their animals and this is why the additive was used.

ImageCoccidia magnified at 400X

According to Berry we use similar arsenical drugs are used in far higher doses to treat heart worms in pets. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element so traces can be found in all living things. Chickens who are given Roxarsone go through a withdrawal period before they are harvested just like with any other drug or antibiotic the animal might have been given. Arsenic is cleared from body tissues rapidly so only very low levels, about like normal background levels can be found in chicken. Berry pointed out that even when people are intentionally poisoned with arsenic, it takes a high continuous dose to kill and arsenic traces are usually only found in hair and nails because so little accumulates.

When it gets down to the “meat” of the matter Berry stated that Roxarsone is being withdrawn, not because it is dangerous, but mostly because it is an old drug that is not very profitable and because of poor public opinion. There are newer anti-parasitic  drugs without arsenic that the public is more comfortable with and that keeps our animals healthy. Do not be alarmed not every poultry company uses Roxarsone, and the ones that do use it don’t use it all the time. It is rotated with other anti-coccidial drugs to prevent the coccidia from developing resistance. Since the three will be no longer used in food thankfully we will not have to worry bout animals suffering from coccidia because a vaccine for it was actually developed at Auburn by Dr. Allen Edgar in 1952! The anti-coccidial drugs are not related to any human antibiotics so there are no worries about antibiotic resistance transferred to human.

So as I get ready to decide on dinner tonight, I am not going to shy away from chicken in the cooler at the grocery. I’m very thankful Dr. Berry was able to answer my questions and I hope if you hear about arsenic you will now feel more informed. Eat More Chicken!

Tailgate Treats: Week #2 “Zesty Pizza Casserole”

It is week 2 of the college football season and my Auburn Tigers are taking on Arkansas State this Saturday  This week we have another night game which are my favorites because it allows more time for tailgating. Last year our first 3 games were at 11am, which was rough, because students have to be at the gate typically 2 1/2 -3 hours before the game and who wants to tailgate that early?

This week’s tailgate treat is a great go-to dish when you need something fast and are possibly limited on kitchen facilities. This recipe can easily be made in a dorm room, or anywhere you have a microwave. I recently made it when I had friends over for dinner, when I made it again a day or two later I gave some to my brother Brady and told him to put it in the microwave to cook it. He asked “can’t I just put it in the over” I told him he could, but I always made it in the microwave, and he couldn’t believe it!

First thing you do is bring 6 ounces of elbow macaroni to a boil.

pizza casserole recipe tailgating macaroni

While your macaroni is cooking, be cutting into halves or fourths 4 oz of pepperoni slices, or if you would rather you can buy the mini pepperoni from Hormel.


After you chop up the pepperoni into pieces combine the pepperoni with 8 oz. of pizza sauce, 8 oz. of cottage cheese, 4 oz. of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup onion chopped, and 1/2 t. dried basil.

pizza casserole recipe tailgating

Then after you noodles are done cooking combine them with your cheese/ tomato mixture.

pizza casserole recipe tailgating

pizza casserole recipe tailgating

After you combine the noodles and sauce, pour into a 2 quart casserole dish, cover and microwave for 7-9 minutes and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Then it is time to enjoy!

Zesty Pizza Casserole


6 oz. shell macaroni cooked (I typically do it on the stove top but I am sure you can do it in the microwave as well)

8 oz. jar pizza sauce

8 oz. cottage cheese

4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

4 oz. pepperoni’s halved or quartered (I usually use my kitchen scissors to cut them, much easier)

1/2 cup onion chopped

1/2 t. dried basil (you can also use Italian seasoning, pizza seasoning, garlic etc)

Parmesan Cheese

Steps: In a 2 quart microwave safe dish, combine all ingredients except parmesan cheese. Mix well and cover and cook in microwave for 7-9 minutes. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. This serves 4-6 people, I usually double the recipe. No one will ever know it was cooked in the microwave!

Tailgate Treats – Week #1 “Crazy Good Dip”

It is finally here! In less than 24 hours my friends and I will be in Jordan Hare stadium cheering on the Auburn Tigers. Each home game weekend this fall I  plan to share one of my favorite tailgate recipes. This week has been a hectic one, the first full week of classes and we were having a nightly gospel meeting at church so this week’s recipe is one of the quickest and simplest ones I have. I discovered the recipe a few years ago on an online blog (I do not even remember which one it was) it is popular on Pinterest and popular in my kitchen. It is great if you need a quick tailgate food or even if company is on the way. So regardless of whether you are watching the game from home or traveling to your school to tailgate this recipe is always a crowd favorite.

All you need are 4 simple ingredients.


1 Packet of Ranch Dressing Mix

1 Cup Cheddar Cheese (I prefer finely shredded)

1 3 oz. pack of bacon pieces (if you are feeling fancy you can cook your own and crumble it)

16 oz. of sour cream

First mix your sour cream and ranch seasoning, then add the bacon, and cheese. It tastes better if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. Even if you don’t it still tastes good!  You can make this  “healthier” if you choose to use  low-fat or fat-free cheese and sour cream.

DSC_1090 DSC_1093 DSC_1095 DSC_1102

It is VERY simple, quick and does not require many ingredients. I like to buy a aluminum loaf pan that I can pour the dip in and that way instead of having to deal with a dish when it is time to go to the game I can just throw the pan away.

It tastes great with chips, crackers or even vegetables!

They Call Me: "The Chicken Whisperer"

Being part of the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador Team requires me to do so many hours each year of presentations on agriculture. These presentations can be to groups of all ages and sizes. Usually the two main groups I speak to are schools groups and civic groups. They are the most abundant and the most accessible. However this semester finding time to get in schools has been a challenge since I am taking 17 hours of classes and working 18-20 hours a week. So this spring break I asked a friend from church back home if I could come to her kindergarten class at Athens Bible School to do a presentation, this ended up leading to 4 days,10 presentations about 8 different topics. It has been a busy week to say the least.

Its been a good experience having to study up on some topics I am not as familiar with. Since it has been a few months since I have been in the classroom I had forgotten how much fun it can be, how talkative kids can be, and what interesting questions they ask.

  • How old are you?
  • Can you drive?
  • Are you married?
Not only am I surprised at the things kids do and ask, but I’m also still caught off guard by how little they know about their food. With the average American being three generations removed from the farm I have come to expect each person I come in contact with as having little to no agriculture knowledge. Although I I live in rural Alabama and go to a Land-Grant institution people are still clueless. Being in schools is an excellent reminder how clueless people/kids can be. A few things that stick out in my mind: 
  • When shown a picture of Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets one girl said they came from cows (thanks to their marketing campaign).  
  • When asked what do we get our jelly from for our PB&J sandwiches one boy said jellyfish (thanks Sponge Bob)
  • When asked the age old question if brown cows produce chocolate milk…responses of yes

Just assuming people know information because of living in Alabama or going to an “ag school” is dangerous. If we assume people know the facts they will keep believing the same  false information. Some misconceptions aren’t necessarily dangerous, but others are more weightier manners and should definitely be explained when the opportunity arises. (ex. the “if its not organic its not healthy” belief,  hormones etc.)  

At the end of the day of presenting you hope each child has learned something that they can not only use themselves, but can go home and share with parents and siblings. My job is to plant those seeds of knowledge in their mind and hope that as the child grows older they continue to cultivate and grow those seeds. 

The last group I had today at ABS was Mrs. Adam’s 2nd grade class was extremely enthusiastic when I arrived. They were all excited and asked their teacher if I was “The Chicken Whisperer”. So I have officially been dubbed the Chicken Whisperer, now my only question is can I have my own TV show?