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General Off-Topic Board / Creekstone Farms v. USDA
« on: April 23, 2006, 04:58:05 PM »
I am very curious as to what others think about this issue, particularly if you come from an agricultural background.  The following article is from the NY Times.  It is a little dated as Creekstone has now sued the USDA, but it does a good job of explaining the issues.

It isn't losing the Japanese market for filet mignon that bothers Bill Fielding most. It's losing the market for tongue.

Until a case of mad cow disease was found in the United States on Dec. 23, a tongue from his premium cattle fetched $17 in Japan. American wholesalers pay $3.50.

Asian buyers also paid more for the company's prime beef, but the real money was in the spare parts, said Mr. Fielding, chief operating officer at Creekstone Farms, a high-end beef producer with an ultramodern plant here in the flat Kansas corn belt. Mexico snapped up his stomachs and Russians paid 30 cents a pound for liver that goes for 8 cents domestically.

But after Dec. 23, foreign countries shut their doors. Creekstone lost 25 percent of its sales, laid off 45 of its 750 workers and idled its plant one to two days a week.

Japanese buyers assured Mr. Fielding that they would buy again if he tested his beef for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

In response, he built a laboratory five feet from the overhead chain that carries skinned heads through the plant. His staff was trained in testing for mad cow, using a machine that gives results in seven hours, while the carcasses are still in the cooler.

But on April 9, the United States Department of Agriculture forbade Creekstone to test its cattle, saying there was ''no scientific justification'' for testing young steers like those Creekstone sells. Certifying some beef for Japan as disease-free, the department said, might confuse American consumers into thinking that untested beef was not safe.

Calling those arguments ''ludicrous,'' Mr. Fielding has threatened to sue. He says he only wants the freedom to please a big, fussy customer, and he accuses the department of bending to the will of the big meat companies that control 80 percent of the industry.

[A department spokesman said no official could individually discuss Mr. Fielding's accusations. But in a telephone news conference on Friday, Dr. Ron DeHaven, the new chief of the department's health inspection service, reiterated that he wanted to ''focus our resources on a science-based plan,'' which in the long run, he said, would be better for exports.]

Mr. Fielding, 57, spent 25 years running divisions of three meatpacking giants, Cargill, ConAgra and Farmland Industries, and is a former chairman of the American Meat Institute, the slaughterhouse industry's trade group. ''So I understand big packers,'' he said. ''They're exerting all the pressure they can.''

Creekstone slaughters 1,000 cattle a day. Mr. Fielding estimates that exporting the premium meat, along with tongues and other offal, brought in $220 per steer. Giving up that revenue because it is not allowed to do a test that costs $20 a head ''comes out to $200,000 a day that we don't capture,'' he said. ''Our long-term viability is very much at risk.''

In Japan recently, he saw free samples of Australian ''B.S.E.-free'' beef in stores that once sold his. ''That just kills me,'' he said.

The giants use slaughterhouses that can kill 400 cattle an hour but work on thin profit margins, he said. They do not want to build laboratories, train technicians, slow down cutting lines to take brain samples or build more cold-storage space. Pork and chicken profits will see them through the crisis and they would be happy, he argued, to see a troublesome competitor close.

J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, which represents slaughterhouses large and small, said in a written statement that his group ''did not urge U.S.D.A. to respond negatively or positively to the Creekstone request.''

Top officials of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which represents 27,000 cattle ranchers, argued strongly in an interview that Creekstone should be stopped. Testing young animals, said Jan Lyons, the group's president, ''is like testing kindergartners for Alzheimer's.''

Terry Stokes, the chief executive, said, ''If you let one company step out and do that, other companies would have to follow,'' at considerable expense.

Mr. Fielding also argued that the decision contradicted a recent one on organic meat.

For nearly a decade, the department and big beef producers said in unison that the Europeans, who bar beef raised with hormones or antibiotics, were just being protectionist. American beef, they said, was perfectly safe but consumers would be confused if some was certified as hormone-free. Then, in 2002, the department reversed itself and began certifying organic beef.

Gary Weber, vice president for regulatory affairs at the cattlemen's association, said the difference was that organic beef producers were not legally allowed to imply that their beef was safer.

Creekstone Farms specializes in black Angus beef, and ships semen from its prize bulls in Kentucky to ranchers it buys from.

Its $200 million plant has what Mr. Fielding said were the nation's only indoor pens. Fans keep cattle from smelling blood, and they are urged forward to slaughter by long paddles, not electric prods. The plastic-coated sides of the ''kill box'' move in to hug them, so they do not collapse as a bolt is shot into their skulls.

Humane treatment of doomed animals may be an oxymoron, but it keeps the steaks tender.

''If you know you're going to be zapped, you tense up,'' Mr. Fielding explained. ''It changes the quality of the meat.''

Workers still on the line at the four-year-old plant are worried about their jobs.

''We always get fewer hours from Thanksgiving on because people are eating turkey and ham,'' said Alva Garcia, 38, who folds boxes for boxed beef. ''After New Year's, it usually picks up. This year, it didn't.''

She lost her house when her previous employer, another meatpacking company, closed. ''A lot of people gave up their homes, their cars, or moved to other states to look for work,'' she said.

Support for Creekstone is emerging from some Kansas Congressional representatives, state agricultural officials and small cattle ranchers. On Wednesday, former Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, who is married to Howard Baker, the ambassador to Japan, backed the company in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. Ms. Veneman, a former food-industry lobbyist, has exchanged increasingly tense letters with Japanese agriculture officials, who expressed disappointment at her Creekstone decision.

Particularly galling to Mr. Fielding is this: In Japan, because of the shortage, Australian producers are getting up to $42 a tongue.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: NFL Draft Thread
« on: April 23, 2006, 04:04:40 PM »

I think Vince Young will be better than Michael Vick within a few years.  He has deceptable speed and finds a way to win games.

MV found a way to win games in college too.  He was more successful, spent less time developing in college, and didnt have the luxury of the best OL in the country in front of him.

I think Young has more touch on his passes.  I believe I read in another thread that you are an OU fan.  Are you sure your hatred of UT is not clouding your judgment?  I hate UT as much as the next guy, but I do think Young is going to be an awesome QB. 

If you cannot afford a tuition deposit you should not go to law school.  It is time you realize that you will not amount to anything in life, and should just accept the trailer park and 1983 Iroc-Z as the good life.

I say this in jest as I had to borrow money from my parents for the tuition deposit.  I just feel fortunate that my parents are in a position to help. 

JD, I thought your post was well said and insightful.  The money I borrowed was sent to Duke so I will probably see you in the fall.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: NFL Draft Thread
« on: April 22, 2006, 04:46:52 PM »
My favorite draft memory of course is Bill Tobin's rant against Mel Kiper..."Who the hell is Mel Kiper?!?!?!"

Yeah, that one is classic.  The whole Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf debate is pretty laughable now, too.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: NFL Draft Thread
« on: April 22, 2006, 04:15:50 PM »
I love draft weekend.  Everyone, no matter what team you follow, has hope.  I am a Chiefs fan, and they desperately need a cornerback.  This year is pretty deep with cornerbacks (a lot of talented guys, but no one that really blows your socks off), so as long as they get one in the first round, I will be happy.

A few thoughts:

Reggie Bush is a great player and if he doesn't go #1, the Texans will deeply regret choosing someone else.

The Packers are going to suck for years to come.  They really need a quarterback, but they won't draft one because of Aaron Rogers.  I never thought he was that impressive in college (he also played at a juco, which should say something about his natural abilities). 

I think Vince Young will be better than Michael Vick within a few years.  He has deceptable speed and finds a way to win games.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Who is the hottest porn star?
« on: April 22, 2006, 03:50:06 PM »
I like to think of myself as a porn connoisseur, and my votes would go to:

Two that have already been mentioned: Tera Patrick and Jenaveeve Jolie
Two new votes: Tia Bella and Sunrise Adams

Jenna Jameson is O.K., but I think she is very overrated (if it is possible to "rate" porn stars).  

Other thoughts:
I really hate tattoos.  One is tolerable, but any more is overkill.  These days, everybody and their dog has a tattoo, so I think it is actually more "rebellious" to not have one at all.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Whats your MOST contraversial POV
« on: April 20, 2006, 09:57:50 PM »
WTF?  That is what I was saying.

General Off-Topic Board / Re: Whats your MOST contraversial POV
« on: April 20, 2006, 09:10:31 PM »
Those who cannot do, teach (or something close to that; probably more true of juco professors than kindergarten teachers)

I know several people who have gone into teaching because they had no idea what else to do and having the summer off seemed pretty great.  There are some really horrible teachers in the world, but I do not believe taking government out of the equation would solve the problem.  Teachers should be paid more in order to draw more qualified people into the profession.  However, a probationary period (maybe 3 years) should be required before teachers are eligible for the big bucks.  A test should also be administered that places the teacher into the grade level most suited to the teacher's intelligence and skill.

Other thoughts:
World hunger is a tough issue that is definitely more related to economics and logistics than to lack of supply.  If it was economically beneficial to producers, I believe the entire world's food needs could be met relatively easily.  For instance, and I am too lazy to check for 100% accuracy, but I believe Sudan once turned down a large shipment of grain from the US (at the urging of some European countries) because the grain was genetically engineered.  This shipment of grain was then dumped into the ocean. 

But here is an overly utopic idea:
Double taxes from the present rates.  Basic procedures and rules will be determined, if someone wishes to become exempt from the tax hike, he/she can do so by performing worthwhile tasks to help mankind.  It's kind of like forced charity.  Those who do not wish to participate can pay the increased taxes and these funds will be used by the government in charitable enterprises across the world.  As a bonus, defense spending could be cut due to improved international relations.

In my opinion, the difference prestige between KU and IU is not near as big as the difference in ranking would indicate.  For example, look at SCOTUS clerkships since 1991, three from KU, zero from IU.  I also agree with the previous post that you can't bank on ranking higher at one school than the other.  Perform well at either school, and you will likely land a very nice job. 

I would advise you to choose the place that seems to be the best fit.  Also consider that most KU grads work in Kansas City while I would guess most IU grads work in Indianapolis.  If you find one of those cities more attractive than the other, factor that into your decision.

Regarding Georgetown:

Class size:

Are you referring to the total number of students?  If so, I don't see that as a valid concern because the total class is broken down into smaller sections (roughly 100 students per section), and I believe this is common at every law school.  I also believe students are only ranked within sections, so you would not have to worry about sections with easier professors and such (I cannot say this is completely accurate, but I seem to remember reading something to this effect).

Are you referring to the student:faculty ratio?  This is a more telling statistic but is also highly variable, depending on the interest in each specific course.

Are you referring to the actual class size in courses that draw your interest?  If so I would like to know where you acquired the information, as I would be very interested myself.

Summer living:

I am not sure if you have considered this because you do mention DC connenctions as a pro for Georgetown, but it seems as if you would have a great interest with summer employment in D.C.  Already living in D.C. would eliminate the hassle and additional debt (assuming you are have a 12 month lease at Penn or UVa) of finding a place to live during the summer.

Regarding Virginia:

You mention a high school like feeling at UVa.  I have not visited the campus, so I may be speaking out of my ass on this one, but will throw my two cents in anyway.  Charlottesville is definitely the "college town" of the three.  Don't forget that you are likely going to have a demanding job in a city for the rest of your life.  It may not be so bad to live in a more laid-back environment for three years.

Final thoughts:
Based on the information you have supplied, I would say the choice is between Georgetown and Virginia.  Georgetown is probably slightly less prestigious, so if that is a factor for you, go with UVa.  If not, Georgetown may offer some unique opportunities, especially during the school year.

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