In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of something as simple as having ground beef at the kitchen table was recognized by so many. The inability to get vegetables and meat protein through normal market channels was challenging along with distribution changing rapidly to meet consumer needs.  

We heard the term “essential workers” constantly brought up throughout the workforce and industry. It was obvious that people in food supply are essential in times of crisis. The decreased capacity and distribution sent shock waves throughout the food chain. Consumers quickly reacted. Grocery stores couldn’t keep their shelves fully stocked. 

In the end, we re-learned what we had all known for some time. Farmers and ranchers are essential. Meat processors are essential. Truckers are essential. Grocers are essential. Extraordinary people doing ordinary things under extraordinary circumstances were realized. Farmers, ranchers, meat processors, truckers and grocers are essential to human health in the best of times, and all the more crucial in times of crisis. We all thank the people of Tyson Foods for their commitment to keeping team members safe, producing high quality food for our nation and the world, and leading the way in animal welfare every day.

Tyson also stepped up to not only keep the meat processing plant lines going but they partnered with the Iowa governor’s office to create a fund to provide beef for those in need. The Beef Up Iowa program was created as a part of the Feeding Iowans Task Force to connect beef producers with food insecure Iowans. This program was a collaborative effort between the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa State University Meat Laboratory, Iowa Food Bank Association, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation.

The cattle donated by Iowa producers to the Beef Up Iowa Program were processed at the Iowa State Meat Laboratory and distributed by the Iowa Food Bank Association. Having high quality protein available at the food banks and pantries has been a blessing to so many Iowans during these difficult times. The generous donation to the Beef Up Iowa program by Tyson Foods is a great example of Iowans Feeding Iowans and neighbors helping neighbors.

People and animals are essential. Food is essential. Feeding our neighbors is essential. You are essential.

Taking care of blessings left in our hands, we will continue to do ordinary things extraordinarily well to serve others.

Chair of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University