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Skaggs: Healthy diets include beef in June, and other months
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The Georgia Beef Board and the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association have proclaimed June as Georgia Beef Month. The proclamation honors Georgia’s 25,000 beef producers, who make up a significant portion of the state’s biggest industry — agriculture. Beef Month highlights the economic role of the cattle industry and focuses on beef as an easy and versatile meal.

Being the sixth largest cash crop in Georgia with cash receipts totaling more than $423 million, beef cattle are very important to the economic well-being of the state. Georgia cattle producers own more than 1 million cattle, having a direct impact of more than $1.5 billion on the state’s economy when land and equipment assets required for production are considered.

In 2007, Hall County cows, calves and finished cattle accounted for $5.1 million in farm gate value. Also, more than 9,000 acres of forages and small grains were harvested in Hall County in 2007 with a farm gate value of almost $1.5 million.

With the current emphasis on product safety, you can rest assured Georgia-produced beef is safe. The meat industry is the most regulated of all food industries. It has been described as the most regulated industry in the nation, second only to the nuclear energy industry. Physical inspections of meat are conducted by certified inspectors from Georgia and USDA.

For health and nutrition, beef easily meets the test of a nutrient-dense food: that is, it offers a high level of nutrients compared to calories. The high nutrient density of beef makes it an essential part of low-calorie diets, especially for women with greater iron requirements.

Beef is one of the best sources of iron, the single nutrient most often lacking in the diets of adult women, young children and athletes. It contains a high percentage of heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body and five to 10 times more available than nonheme iron from plant sources.

Beef is also a major source of zinc, a mineral that is essential for growth and metabolism, and, like iron, often falls short in diets of women, children and athletes. The protein in beef is nutritionally complete. It contains all the essential amino acids necessary for growth.

According to the USDA’s Agriculture Handbook 8-13, an average 3 ounce serving of today’s cooked, trimmed lean beef contains only 8.4 grams of fat.

Every day, 76 million Americans eat beef. Hamburgers and roast beef sandwiches comprise most of the beef servings consumed away from home.

For more information on Georgia’s beef industry as well as beef recipes, visit the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association on the web at http://www.gabeef.org/.

Billy Skaggs is a Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at 770-531-6988. His column appears biweekly and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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