Tag Archives: USDA

Frequent Flyers

March 29, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

When the world’s elite horses (and riders) arrive in Omaha, an entourage of police and first responders—including mounted patrol—will escort them to the location of the Longines FEI World Cup. The international championship for show jumping and dressage begins March 29 and continues through April 2 at the CenturyLink Center.

European competitors depart from Amsterdam, Netherlands, aboard a chartered Boeing 777 cargo plane that takes more than nine hours to reach Omaha.

The flight requires horses to be loaded into specialized containers called “jet stalls,” which resemble an enclosed stable stall. Jet stalls can hold up to three horses. The charter flight includes a “pro groom,” nine shipper grooms, and a veterinarian—all provided by the company overseeing the transportation, the Dutta Corporation.

Horses at this elite level are well-seasoned air travelers, making the journey seem almost routine, says J. Tim Dutta, the founder and owner of the international horse logistics company.

“Horses are just like human beings,” Dutta says. “Some get jittery, some read the rosary, some like some gin and tonic, some go to sleep before the plane leaves the gate, and the rest are worried about life two days afterward. Everybody’s an individual, and we are ready for each and every situation.”

Any concerns or worries, he says, are the things that can’t be entirely controlled or predicted—such as poor weather conditions or a horse getting sick during transportation.

“You’ve got a couple hundred million dollars worth of horses on the plane, so that’s serious business,” he says. “You want everything to go smooth, and there’s always challenges. But for a guy like me who’s been at it for 28 years, and has done quite a few of them, it’s just another day at the office.”

Once the horses arrive in Omaha, they will be quarantined at the CenturyLink Center for up to three days while the USDA checks for diseases and other potential health concerns.

Veterinarian Mike Black—based out of his Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic just outside of Blair—says any adverse effects of a long journey would be the same for horses whether they traveled by trailer or airplane. It’s not unusual for humans and animals to struggle through temporarily weakened immune systems due to stress and long periods of confinement with other travelers.

“Whenever the animal is put under stress, it will compromise some of their ability to respond to infections,” Black says. “And a lot of horses are carriers of viruses and things. So, as they’re around other horses that they’re not normally around, then things can be spread.”

When the competition opens March 29, folks without a ticket will have an opportunity to get a closer look at all the horse-and-rider teams. The practice area will be free and open to all.

Mike West, CEO of Omaha Equestrian Foundation, hopes to create a fan-friendly and carnival-like atmosphere.

The World Cup is the first international championship of its kind to be hosted in Omaha, he says. Sure, there have been championship boxing bouts in the city. And the NCAA crowns the champions of college baseball in Omaha. But never before will so many world champions prove themselves on local grounds.

Back in 1950, when the College World Series first came to Omaha, nobody could have expected how the “Gateway to the West” would become a Midwestern sports mecca.

“They didn’t know about swim trials; they didn’t know about NCAA basketball or wrestling or volleyball and all the great events that we have now,” says West, a veteran Omaha sports-marketing professional. He previously held management positions with the Lancers, Cox Classic Golf Tournament, and Creighton’s athletics department.

The Omaha Equestrian Foundation is not only dedicated to putting on a good show. West and his colleagues are committed to continuing the city’s relationship with the FEI, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (aka, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports), the governing body for the sports of show jumping and dressage.

“We have an opportunity, but we also have an obligation as an organizer to do a good job. Because if we do a good job, we don’t know what it will lead to, but we know it will lead to something [positive],” he says.

A successful 2017 World Cup in Omaha could improve chances of the World Cup returning, along with its estimated economic impact of $50 million.

“We have to be better than anybody—by far—at listening and delivering on our promise to the fans of this sport,” West says. “And if we do, I think we’ll develop a reputation that if you want to be treated like a fan [of sports], go to Omaha, Nebraska.”

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Duck Call

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

To hear Omahan Dennis Schuett tell it, he has launched a new product that really is … all it’s quacked up to be.

It’s actually an old product—duck fat. The French have used the versatile, golden, subcutaneous deposit for ages, treasuring it for a dense, savory flavor and the crispy coat it adds to meats and vegetables.

What Schuett has done, though, is new. Until now, chefs scooped solid duck fat out of containers. Schuett has put it into a canister that delivers duck fat as a spray.

As far as Schuett can tell, no one else has done that.

“We have the only duck fat spray, we think, in the world,” Schuett says. “It’s pretty cool.”

Dennis Schuett

Their thought is correct. This is not Schuett’s first foray into food. A Grand Island native who moved to Omaha 27 years ago, he once had a career as a food broker. He also has part ownership in the Coney Stop restaurant at Millard’s Boulder Creek Amusement Park, a couple of pizza joints around the metro, and (until this summer) Jackson Street Tavern in the Old Market.

Such experience gave the 54-year-old, self-described foodie a good idea he was onto something with his duck fat spray.

Vegetables sprayed with it, then roasted, “taste like candy,” Schuett says. It also “floats an egg across a frying pan.” Its high smoke point (meaning it doesn’t burn as easily as butter or olive oil), makes it a great searing agent. Schuett says he also has heard from meat smokers who say it creates great “bark” when used as a rub base.

Schuett touts benefits beyond taste. Duck fat has 20 percent less saturated fat than butter and contains unsaturated Omega 3 and Omega 6, two body-essential fatty acids. It’s also high in monounsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol, and vitamin E.

To get such wonders into a can as a spray, Schuett bought state-of-the-art packing equipment that forces the fat into a bag sealed inside a canister. Compressed air evacuates 99 percent of the product and precludes the use of fluorocarbon or additives. “Keeping it simple yet as pure as possible,” Schuett says.

Duck fat spray can be used to flavor, and add fat to, a variety of dishes.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Reducing Food Waste

October 4, 2016 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

The night of the Jimmy Buffett concert could not have been more perfect, weather-wise: a calm, near-cloudless 70-degree evening. Packs of Hawaiian-shirted Parrotheads meandered the Old Market’s cobblestone streets in search of 5-o’clock somewhere, food, and drink.

Major shows at CenturyLink are routine for downtown Omaha, but for the city’s restaurants, event schedules are just part of the unscientific guessing game to determine how much food to prepare for the nightly dinner rush.

Sometimes the indicators to make more food—a concert, a beautiful night outside, and an upcoming holiday—are the same indicators for restaurateurs to make less. Restaurants deal with this guessing game all the time. Wasted food impacts their bottom line. Any unused food usually means lost revenue. Environmentally, repercussions stretch across the entire cycle of food production.

Three restaurant owners gave their estimates on what they threw out each night: Ahmad Nazar, owner of Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine, estimates his restaurant fills a 45-gallon garbage can for a standard dinner service. Clayton Chapman, chef and owner at The Grey Plume, says his restaurant fills an 18-gallon garbage can per night. David Mainelli, co-owner of Julio’s, says his restaurant fills an entire dumpster in a week.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that 133 billion pounds of food went to waste in 2010. “The statistics are 40 percent of food that’s produced ends up in the landfill,” says Beth Ostdiek Smith, president and founder of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue.

Since its founding in 2013, Saving Grace has delivered more than one million pounds of food to local non-profits. The majority of the food comes from grocery stores, caterers, and convenience stores.

“When I started this, I thought that (restaurants) would be our top food donor. That’s not the case,” Smith says. “Our restaurants have learned to manage their food, and it’s more made to order, so there’s not as much waste from restaurants as maybe there once was.”

Different restaurants around town tackle the food waste problem with different strategies. At Ahmad’s, Nazar says his 26-plus years of experience have taught him about portion control. “I’ve learned how people want it, especially business people who travel. They don’t want too much food. It’s hard to judge, so I have a portion ready for everyone,” Nazar says.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that 133 billion pounds of food went to waste in 2010.

Mainelli says Julio’s kitchen staff tries to minimize waste by boiling the parts of the chicken that do not reach a customer’s plate and making it into a stock. Onion skins are used for barbecue sauces. Still, Mainelli believes his restaurant could do better in managing food waste. For example, cooked rice IS an item that has a short lifespan, as it cannot be reheated for a restaurant-quality dish. “Sometimes, we’ll throw out an entire batch that could serve 50 people,” he says.

The Grey Plume is renowned for being one of the most environmentally friendly restaurants in the nation. In addition to using recycled materials for their drywall and steel framing, Clayton Chapman says the restaurant uses a three-step process to reduce food waste. The first step involves using as much of the ingredient as possible (when carrots get cut up, the remaining carrot pieces get pureed into a base).

“Not everything has a second life, but most things do,” Chapman says. The second step includes composting any leftover and eligible ingredients. The final step is to prepare everything to order so that reheating isn’t necessary.

Along with internal quality control, Ahmad’s, Julio’s, and The Grey Plume have donated food and resources to charitable organizations like Siena/Francis Homeless Shelter and Youth
Emergency Services.

In 2012, after recovering from an undiagnosed lymphatic illness that left him bedridden, Mainelli was inspired to start Feedback Omaha, an organization that works with local restaurants and nonprofits to feed those in need. In addition to donating food to the needy, Feedback Omaha organizers also perform a standard restaurant-style dinner service.

In July, the organization provided its first service for YES, which featured a taco bar for about 100 kids. In October, Feedback Omaha served about 250 people at the Lydia House with Mama’s Pizza and All Inclusive Catering providing food for the event.

The standard for what can be donated is a simple (but inflexible) rule: whatever is cooked, but does not go out to a customer, can be donated. For example, a cooked pizza in a restaurant kitchen is ripe for donating. However, if it goes out into the restaurant dining area, it’s no longer a candidate for donation.

“If it’s in the buffet, it cannot be rescued. If it’s in the back, we can still rescue it,” Smith says.

Visit savinggracefoodrescue.org or facebook.com/feedbackomaha for more information.

Encounter

food-waste-illustration-copy

Fighting Childhood Obesity

July 22, 2013 by

Loving, affectionate, intelligent, and a bookworm—that’s how parents described their young teenage daughter. Weighing more than 200 pounds, she often hid behind her books because it helped her feel invisible, a feeling she preferred to the teasing she endured for her acne and weight.

When she first came to the Healthy Eating with Resources, Options, and Everyday Strategies (HEROES) program at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, staff saw a shy, withdrawn, and sad young lady who stayed mostly in the background. Slowly but surely, however, she began to emerge as a leader in the group. She lost more than 30 pounds and started to incorporate fitness into her daily life. She soon discovered a love for running. After completing six months with the program, this young lady had become an intricate part of the group. She talked about the newness of having boys notice her—something that had never happened before—and she gradually began to regain her self-esteem.

The staff at HEROES says scenarios like this are quite common among obese children, and, many times, parents don’t know how to help or change the situation.

These children are often caught in a vicious cycle, notes Cristina Fernandez, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of the HEROES program. “They are bullied and made fun of, which lowers their self-esteem and makes them depressed,” she says. “This then feeds into their eating and weight problem. One of our teenage girls told us her classmates were throwing food at her like they were feeding an elephant.

Cristina Fernandez, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of HEROES

Cristina Fernandez, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of HEROES. Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

“We can turn their lives around. These children need to know they can change, they can do better, and they can do it every day. We teach them how. The quality of life for these children improves significantly once they have been in our program for a while.”

Obesity is a growing problem in this country. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 20 percent of children in this country are overweight or obese. The problem may be even worse in the Omaha metropolitan area. A 2012 survey conducted by Children’s Hospital and Boys Town National Research Hospital found that 30 percent of children aged 5 to 17 years old were overweight or obese.

Obesity is a multi-factorial disease, says Fernandez. While genetics may play a role, the majority of children are overweight due to their environment and an unhealthy lifestyle. Lack of exercise, extra-large portion sizes, excessive snacking, and overconsumption of fast foods, as well as excessive time spent in front of computers and video games, are all taking a toll.

Minorities like Latinos and African-Americans have a higher rate of obesity than the Caucasian population, and this appears to be in large part due to their environment, notes Fernandez.

But obesity is about more than being overweight. It is a chronic disease and serious health problem that can lead to numerous health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, chronic headaches, venous stasis disease, urinary incontinence, liver disease, and cancer.

If the situation is not turned around, these children will begin having the types of health problems in their 20s and 30s that we normally see in people in their 60s and 70s, explains Fernandez.

Losing weight and maintaining an ideal body weight often requires a multi-faceted approach that includes medical management, nutrition counseling and education, exercise, behavior modification, and behavior therapy.

“Our goal is to help them work through their barriers,” says Martha Nepper, MS, RD, LMNT, certified diabetes educator and certified childhood and adolescent weight manager with Nebraska Methodist Health System. “It’s about getting accurate information about diet and nutrition and the proper support. For some children, that might be individual counseling, while others might benefit more from group classes and support.”

Martha Nepper, MS, RD, LMNT, Nebraska Methodist Health System

Martha Nepper, MS, RD, LMNT, Nebraska Methodist Health System. Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Nepper works with LifeShapes, a program sponsored by Nebraska Methodist Health System that provides nutrition counseling and support for overweight and obese kids and teens.

Nepper says it’s a process that requires both the child and the parents to achieve the greatest success. “Parent involvement is extremely critical,” she says. “The parents are the gatekeepers—they control what comes into the house. The adoption of healthy habits, including diet and exercise, needs to start with them.”

Nepper adds that, oftentimes, just making small dietary changes can help decrease caloric intake enough to halt weight gain and allow children to grow into their weight. This includes steps like trading sugary beverages (like pop and Gatorade) with water, decreasing portion sizes, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, and having more family meals.

Some common things for parents to avoid include:

  • Pressuring children to clean their plates
  • Allowing children to have televisions in their bedrooms
  • Bringing too many energy-dense foods into the house, like cookies, chips, and toaster pastries
  • Not being a good role model by not exercising regularly or participating in activities that involve exercise with their children
  • Eating out too often and too much fast food

Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate is a great way to determine what should be on your child’s plate, says Nepper. With MyPlate, half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables with the remaining half split between proteins, whole grains, and dairy.

Even after completing an intervention program, these children do best when they come back for occasional follow-up visits. “It’s a lifelong battle,” says Fernandez. “A smoker or an alcoholic can stop using tobacco or alcohol; we can’t stop eating.”

Dan Susman

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Behind the glass doors and up the stairs at 2626 Harney St., Dan Susman sits tucked away from the world with just his computer equipment, morning coffee, and a big smile slapped on his face. The ambitious 25-year-old is at work on a dream project that emerged from a fascination with urban farming, and he’s hoping his work will inform and drive others to the trend.

Susman graduated from Central High School in 2006, then headed off to the prestigious Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he earned a bachelor’s degree with dual majors: biology and environmental studies.

After spending some time working on an urban farm in Portland, Ore., Susman’s passion for the farming practice and sustainable agriculture grew. Upon returning to Omaha in 2010, Susman got together with childhood friend Andrew Monbouquette and decided to make a documentary about the trend. Growing Cities has been over two years in the making. It’s taken the crew from Boston to Seattle and 19 other cities in between.

“I got the idea that I wanted to visit urban farms across the country, and Andrew was really more of the film guy at the time,” Susman explains. “He had made some short films, and I just kind of proposed it to him.”

That was it. With Monbouquette onboard, Susman felt confident moving forward with the idea. The partners raised $39,000 for documentary research and production expenses using Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects, and got to work.

“We took a giant road trip for about two months,” he continues. “On our trip, we visited everything from rooftop farmers to people with goats, bees, and chickens in their backyards. We have a scene in the film where a guy is walking across the street with his goat in Berkeley [Calif.],” he says with a laugh.

“We wanted to see how other cities were growing food, and we were really looking for positive examples across the country.”

Susman is not alone in his interest in the ecology trend. Urban farming—the practice of growing, processing, and distributing food all within a city—has exploded in popularity in recent years due to a downsized economy, a local food movement, and a greater push toward healthier eating.

According to the USDA, urban farming is taking off with around 15 percent of the world’s food now being grown in urban areas.

The reasons for the documentary film are several, Susman says. When he came home to Omaha, he noticed several giant billboards that said Omaha was one of the fattest cities in the country. He felt it was his obligation to do something about it.

“We wanted to see how other cities were growing food, and we were really looking for positive examples across the country,” he says. “We wanted to take those models and potentially apply them here. We wanted to show what you could do with very little space, such as your backyard or a window.”

Susman’s side project, Truck Farm Omaha, sprouted from the road trip the crew took while filming Growing Cities. Throughout his travels, he routinely discovered truck farms, which are little gardens planted in the flatbed of a truck. Once he was back in Omaha, he acquired a 1975 Chevy pickup truck, then planted a truckbed garden, and was soon visiting local schools. The purpose—to educate young people about where food comes from and the benefits of eating locally.

“If you don’t have space or time or tools or know-how to grow food, we want to say, ‘Here are some easy steps you can take.’ You don’t have to have a huge garden in your backyard,” he explains. “You could have a little pot and just have some basil or a tomato in there.

“We’re trying to educate people on the steps they can take to grow their own. That will make the biggest difference.”

Susman plans to finish post-production on Growing Cities in the near future and will be submitting the project to film festivals later this year. For more details on the film and its release, visit GrowingCitiesMovie.com.