Wisconsin’s “Brown Gold” Rush

Earth’s petroleum stores are dwindling, but a Wisconsin project aims to produce energy from a resource that’s in little danger of running low: cow manure, or “brown gold.”

The University of Wisconsin–Madison and several state companies, funded by a $7 million grant from the USDA Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), have partnered to pilot the conversion of dairy farm manure into useful product streams—a project that is expected to have significant environmental and economic benefits.

The Accelerated Renewable Energy (ARE) project is in progress at the 5,000-cow Maple Leaf Dairy in Manitowoc County, where animal waste is separated into different streams, or fractions, of processed manure.

After small plant fibers in the manure are separated and anaerobically digested to biogas, liquids from the digestion process are used to fertilize crops, while solids can be converted into useful chemicals and bio-plastics. Larger plant fibers make great animal bedding and mulch, not to mention a starting material for ethanol fermentation.

Meanwhile, at the new Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW–Madison, project co-investigator Troy Runge, a CALS professor of biological systems engineering, is analyzing the ARE project’s separation techniques to improve their efficiency. “We are performing many of the same separations that occur on the farm, but in the controlled environment of
the lab to both measure and optimize the system,” says Runge.

Tom Cox, a project collaborator and a CALS professor of agricultural economics, sees great potential for the initiative. “This is a triple-win situation; we would like to make money by doing the right thing by the environment and society,” he says.

Aicardo Roa-Espinosa MS’85 PhD’89, president of partner SoilNet LLC and an adjunct faculty member in biological systems engineering, developed the manure separation technology behind the project. Roa-Espinosa and Runge will monitor the quality, quantity and composition of biogas produced and analyze processed manure streams to identify chemical constituents. Student researchers will conduct life cycle assessments to evaluate the project’s environmental impact.

The goal for the four-year grant, researchers say, is to improve these manure separation technologies until their sustainability benefits can be realized on a broader commercial scale.

Runge notes that the public-private, multidisciplinary project exemplifies what the university hopes to do with the Wisconsin Energy Institute. “It’s also an example of a project that’s important to Wisconsin,” he says.

Indeed, the project may help farmers manage manure with benefits for both the environment and human health. A 5,000-cow dairy farm like Maple Leaf produces approximately 25 tons of manure per day, which require millions of gallons of water to manage. Although some manure may be used as fertilizer, nutrient imbalances and runoff can create environmental problems. However, manure processed using SoilNet’s technology yields concentrated, homogenized fertilizer that can be applied with greater control over nutrient content.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the cellulosic—or non-food—plant biomass derived from dairy manure avoids the conflict of “food versus fuel.”

That’s a promising basis for exciting innovations at dairy farms. For ARE project leaders, farms are not only the heart of agriculture. They also have the potential to serve as foundations for cellulosic biorefineries that could prove key in supporting a local green economy and a sustainable energy system throughout the region.

The Value of GMOs

For all the discussion surrounding genetically modified foods, there have been strikingly few comprehensive studies that put a numeric value on the costs and benefits.

Now there’s more to talk about.

By analyzing two decades’ worth of corn yield data from Wisconsin, a team of CALS researchers has quantified the impact that various popular transgenes have on grain yield and production risk compared to conventional corn. Their analysis, published in Nature Biotechnology, confirms the general understanding that the major benefit of genetically modified (GM) corn doesn’t come from increasing yields in average or good years—but from reducing losses during bad ones.

“For the first time we have an estimate of what genetically modified hybrids mean as far as value for the farmer,” says CALS and UW-Extension corn agronomist Joe Lauer, who led the study.

Lauer has been gathering corn yield and other data for the past 20 years as part of the Wisconsin Corn Hybrid Performance Trials, a project he directs. Each year his team tests about 500 different hybrid corn varieties at more than a dozen sites around the state, with the goal of providing unbiased performance comparisons of hybrid seed corn for the state’s farmers. When GM hybrids became available in 1996, Lauer started including them in the trials.

“It’s a long-term data set that documents one of the most dramatic revolutions in agriculture—the introduction of transgenic crops,” says Lauer, who collaborated with CALS agricultural economists Guanming Shi and Jean-Paul Chavas to conduct the statistical analysis, which considered grain yield and production risk separately.

Grain yield varied quite a bit among GM hybrids. While most transgenes boosted yields, a few significantly reduced production. At the positive end of the spectrum was the Bt for European corn borer (ECB) trait. Yield data from all of the ECB hybrids grown in the trials over the years showed that ECB plants out-yielded conventional hybrids by an average of more than six bushels per acre per year. On the other hand, grain yields from hybrids with the Bt for corn rootworm (CRW) transgene trailed those of regular hybrids by a whopping 12 bushels per acre. But even among poor-performing groups of GM corn, there are individual varieties that perform quite well, Lauer notes.

Where transgenic corn clearly excels is in reducing production risk. The researchers found that every GM trait package—whether single gene or stacked genes—helped lower variability. For farmers, lower variability means lower risk, as it gives them more certainty about the yield levels they can expect.

Lauer equates choosing GM crops with purchasing solid-performing, low-risk stocks. Just as safe stocks have relatively low volatility, yields from GM crops don’t swing as wildly from year to year, and most important, their downswings aren’t as deep.

GM crops help reduce downside risk by reducing losses in the event of disease, pests or drought. Economists Shi and Chavas estimated the risk reduction provided by modified corn to be equivalent to a yield increase ranging from 0.8 to 4.2 bushels per acre, depending on the variety.

Risk reduction associated with GM corn can add up to significant savings for farmers—as much as $50,000 for 1,000 acres, calculates Lauer. “It depends on the price that farmers can receive for corn,” he says.

But the two factors quantified in this study—yield and production risk—are just part of the overall picture about GM crops, says Lauer. He notes there are other quantifiable values, such as reduced pesticide use, as well as ongoing concerns about the safety and health of growing and eating genetically modified foods.

“There’s a lot of concern about this biotechnology and how it’s going to work down the road,” says Lauer, “yet farmers have embraced it and adopted it here in the U.S. because it reduces risk and the yield increases have been as good as—or some would argue a little better than—what we’ve seen with regular hybrid corn.”

“Highway Robbery” Has Far-Reaching Costs

In the busy port town of Tema, Ghana, the driver of a tanker truck of gasoline northbound for Bamako, Mali, loads a few dozen pineapples onto his rig and sets out for the distant capital city. His six-day drive will take him through 60 checkpoints, where he will pay about $200 in small bribes to police, customs and other officials, offering gifts of pineapples to speed his way through these delays.

In Madaoua, Niger, a southbound trucker bringing onions to the market in Accra, Ghana, will pay $580 in bribes along his 2,000-kilometer route and be delayed nearly six hours, adding $1,165 to his total transport costs.

Such stories are commonplace among thousands of drivers in West Africa for whom bribes are simply the cost of doing business. But taken as a whole, this form of petty corruption does a lot of damage to the region’s economy.

Professor and UW-Extension specialist Jeremy Foltz and professor Dan Bromley, both from the CALS Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, used a unique data set compiled by USAID teams to put some numbers on it.

Analyzing detailed surveys of more than 1,500 long-haul truckers in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana, including data on amounts and collectors of bribes, Bromley and Foltz estimate that corruption costs—focusing on losses from time delays and bribes paid—add 15 to 30 percent to the cost of transporting food
and other products to and from markets in the region.

Foltz became interested in the topic when his own car was stopped by bribe-seeking police during his Fulbright fellowship in Mali a few years ago. “Bribe-taking at highway checkpoints is widespread,” Foltz says. “Because it appears that the profits are shared all the way up the chain of command, it’s immune to quick policy fixes.”

Such corruption hurts the economy in far-reaching ways. At stake, Foltz and Bromley say, are prices paid to farmers growing products for export to distant markets. With increased transport costs eating into profits, farmers gradually abandon certain crops such as cashew trees that grow well on marginal lands and prevent soil erosion.

“The issue here is that net returns suffer, agricultural investments are necessarily delayed, yields fall, and soon attentive management is not worth the trouble,” they wrote in an article for Natural Resources Forum. “Fields and specific crops are left unattended. Tree crops are ignored or ripped out. Economic malaise sets in. Sustainability suffers.”

But the damage doesn’t end there. “Petty corruption of the type we are studying has a more deleterious effect on private investment than larger-scale government corruption,” says Foltz. “African countries have some of the lowest levels of foreign investment in the world and can ill afford to perpetuate a system that hampers growth even more than taxation.”

Foltz and Bromley are now focusing on understanding the structures, incentives and constraints to corruption, with the goal of providing information to policy makers and others seeking to eliminate this important barrier to development.

The outbreak of violent warfare in the region has not made their work any easier—or less needed.

“We’re studying the impact of new anti-corruption policies in Ghana and also how civil conflicts affect corruption,” says Foltz. “For example, in the recent conflict in Ivory Coast, rebel militias funded their operations in part by extorting bribes that were three or four times higher than normal. In Mali, rebels have used kidnapping and drug smuggling to raise money.”

Getting to the heart of a problem

When Marion Greaser set out to study titin, the largest natural protein known to man, his goal was to answer some basic questions about its role in the body. A major protein of skeletal muscle that’s also found in heart tissue, titin gives muscle its elasticity and is known for its massive size, which ranges from around 27,000 to 33,000 amino acid residues in length.

“Initially we were just going to look at whether titin was related to muscle growth in animals,” says Greaser, a CALS professor of animal sciences.

Working in rats, his team looked at changes in the size of the titin protein over the course of animal development—and immediately came across something strange. In most cases the titin protein shifted from a larger form to a smaller form during development due to natural changes in protein processing known as alternative splicing. But in some rats the titin didn’t change. It stayed big.

The team wondered if they’d mixed up the samples. “But we’d kept good track of things and, in fact, all of the weird samples were from the same litter of rats,” says Greaser. “Then the light bulb went off: There must be some genetic reason why these samples are different. These rats had a genetic mutation affecting the alternative splicing of the titin.”

But where was the mutation? They first checked the titin gene itself, but it was fine. With hard work, they were able to pinpoint the mutation to a little-studied gene called RBM20, which had been previously linked to dilated cardiomyopathy and sudden death in humans.

Dilated cardiomyopathy affects approximately one in 2,500 people. Sufferers have enlarged hearts, with thin walls, that don’t pump blood very well. People with the RBM20 mutation need heart transplants and, without them, tend to die quite early: between ages 25 and 30.

Scientists first linked RBM20 to hereditary dilated cardiomyopathy in 2009, but they hadn’t yet figured out how a faulty RBM20 gene worked—or didn’t work—to cause disease inside the body.

Greaser’s accidental discovery, as described in Nature Medicine, filled in the blank. In healthy individuals, the RBM20 protein is involved in the alternative splicing that helps trim titin down to its smaller, adult form. Without it, titin doesn’t get processed correctly, and the presence of extra-large titin in heart tissue leads to disease.

“Now doctors can analyze people showing symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, see if they’re carrying this mutation and factor this information into their treatments,” says Greaser. That treatment would probably start with careful monitoring to catch any further deterioration of the heart condition, Greaser notes.

A Ringing Success

“They called my cow’s name and the place lit up,” says dairy science major Jordan Ebert. “It was an adrenaline rush—the coolest experience I have ever had showing.” That moment happened at World Dairy Expo last fall, when Siemers Goldwyn Goldie, a Holstein from his family’s 2,900-cow dairy farm in Algoma, was named the junior supreme champion.

Ebert started showing cattle at age 4, often working with his sister, Whitney. “Our county fair had a Kiddie Showmanship class,” he recalls. “Our first purchases of show cattle were Jerseys because my sister and I were pretty small people, so we started with smaller animals.” As he grew in size and ability he started presenting at bigger venues. By age 10 Ebert was showing Jerseys at World Dairy Expo and began garnering honors from shows large and small.

Alongside his work with cattle, Ebert was active in 4-H, FFA and, eventually, high school sports including baseball, track and basketball, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Ebert, now a sophomore, brought his love of sports to the UW–Madison campus. He spent his freshman year as a student manager for the men’s basketball team, working behind the scenes to help keep logistics and office work running smoothly for coaches and players. “It’s been an awesome experience,” he says. He’s also been involved with the Badger Dairy Club.

Ebert hopes to bring what he learns at CALS back to the family farm, Ebert Enterprises, which has nearly 30 full-time employees and up to 20 seasonal workers. “My plan is to work my way up through the ranks into a management position where I am making some decisions, learning what it takes to run the farm through my dad, and eventually take it over,” Ebert says.

Showing cattle has helped his professional development, Ebert notes, citing the value of networking and interacting with industry professionals. “My success in the show ring has gotten my name out there a little bit,” he says. “I have met people along the way and am a familiar face. I feel comfortable talking with them and introducing myself.”

Better Barns for Dairy

Gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 left the tiny nation of Moldova with plenty of barns and other structures from former collective farms—but not enough money or expertise to catch up with modern agricultural practices.

In recent years, however, capital has been flowing into Moldova’s dairy industry—and with it, a desire to upgrade old Soviet facilities. Most of them consist of tie stall barns housing a maximum of about 100 cows each, and milking is done with bucket milkers. Between securing, feeding and milking the cows, such facilities require significantly more labor than the freestall barns and milking parlors commonly used in the United States and elsewhere.

That’s where CALS can help. Biological systems engineering professor and UW-Extension specialist Brian Holmes recently spent two weeks in Moldova under the auspices of CNFA, a nonprofit that focuses on rural economic growth in developing countries. Holmes visited four dairy farms and provided hands-on training and presentations on everything from building ventilation, freestall barn arrangements and milking parlor design to feed
storage and manure management.

Because capital is still limited, dairy farmers often have to make decisions based on thriftiness rather than on labor efficiency or the benefit of the cow, Holmes says. Upgrades often come through remodeling existing facilities rather than building new ones—and therein lies the challenge.

But Holmes was able to provide options that farmers can put into practice even under resource constraints. “Producers who implement these recommendations should expect to see improved animal performance, reduced labor costs, improved profits and improved environmental protection,” Holmes says.

Sudden change in how a society is governed does not necessarily result in sudden change in how people behave, Holmes observes. “The old ways and ‘the way we’ve always done things’ persists for extended periods,” he says.

For example, some of his recommendations require farmers to think in new ways about animal care.

“A classic situation is to convince the dairy operator that the prefabricated concrete sidewall panels should be removed for good summer ventilation and to use curtains to close the sidewalls in winter,” says Holmes. “There’s a strong belief that cold temperatures are detrimental to cows and that they should be kept warm in winter.”

There’s still much work to be done in the former Soviet Union, and not just in Moldova, Holmes says—and he’s ready to keep doing his part. Earlier this year he traveled to Belarus and worked with dairy farmers who had very similar needs and goals.

Happy Cows Everywhere

AMY STANTON joined CALS and UW-Extension in 2012 as a dairy science professor with particular expertise in animal well-being. Prior to joining CALS she was a post-doctoral fellow in the department of population medicine at the University of Guelph in Canada, where she also had earned a BS in agriculture and a Ph.D. with a dual emphasis in epidemiology and animal welfare. Stanton started off her academic career as a farm kid from a large dairy who was determined to work with animals, specifically dairy cattle. She thought she’d become a veterinarian until the science of animal welfare caught her eye. “It was really then that I found my passion,” she says. “Rather than treating individual animals I could start to look at the big picture. How could we change dairy cattle management practices and improve well-being for all animals rather than just treating the sick ones?”

Can you describe to us what you mean by animal well-being?
Animal well-being, or animal welfare science, is basically evaluating how an animal is performing in its environment. We take three basic principles: one is, how is the animal feeling? Is it hungry? Is it thirsty? Is it frustrated? The other principle is, how are the animals functioning? Are they growing, are they healthy, are they productive? The third is the animals’ ability to express important behaviors. What behaviors are very important to them? Are they able to groom if grooming is important to them? Are they able to escape if they’re in a fearful or stressful situation? By looking at these three factors we can evaluate if an animal is in the best possible situation for itself and how we could potentially improve it.

How do you determine what’s important to a cow?
One way is to force them to make a choice. We do what’s called a preference test. An example for a cow would be if we wanted to see which was more important—feed or the ability to rest. We might restrict the cows’ ability to lie down and eat for a few hours and then give them an option where they must choose one or the other. What we’ve found is that cattle actually prefer to rest rather than eat. So if you keep the animals away from their home space, perhaps going to the milking parlor for an extended period of time, you will actually reduce their feed intake because they have a limited amount of time in which to feed and sleep and they will choose to sleep.

How might we apply this information? What are some goals you’d hope to achieve?
Our overall goal is to get the animals to be comfortable and feeling very happy so that they are productive in such a way that they are sustainable for the dairy industry. By providing this information we can alter the cows’ environment. Taking the example of feed and rest, we know that we cannot keep them away from their home pen for long or we’re going to compromise their feed intake, and that is a big driver for milk production. We need to know where these trade-offs are, and through that we can improve their productivity and well-being.

Are cows happier in California than in Wisconsin?
No comment! [laughs] No, regardless of whether a cow is in Wisconsin or California, what it really comes down to is how we manage the animals. It doesn’t matter what size or what type of farm you have. It’s the human-animal interaction that seems to be the biggest driver. The farmers who are very dedicated to cow comfort and cow management—that’s where you see the really good and happy cows.

Is there any relationship between how humans feel and how the animals either feel or are treated?
That has a huge impact, and there actually have been studies to show that really we feed off of each other. When you have a really close working relationship, which is what farmers and their cattle have, you see that how the producer feels will impact the cattle and their productivity. So, if a producer has very negative interactions with his animals you see that they are less likely to let their milk down in the parlor and that decreases their productivity. On the other hand, you can also have feedback the other way; if you have sickness and a disease outbreak, and I often see this with many farmers, there’s concern about depression and anxiety in the producer because these animals that many of the farmers are quite closely bonded with are sick. They don’t enjoy going to the farm as much and it’s very upsetting for them to have their livestock ill. You can have feedback both ways.

Can you tell us a bit about your research priorities?
One of my first priorities is to look at sickness behavior. My research project is twofold. One aspect is to try to identify when is the optimal time to look for sick animals, and two, what are their behaviors and how can we train people who are not familiar with dairy cattle to identify sick calves.
What we really find in the changing dynamics on farms is that there are a lot of people who have not grown up on a farm who are handling the animals on a day-to-day basis. If we can move beyond, “Look at that animal. Can’t you tell she’s sick?” to “Okay. Look at this animal. Perhaps her back is arched, she is lying down, she’s slower to get up.” What are some behaviors where we can say, “This is what a sick animal is doing very precisely.” We can then improve disease detection and prevent disease outbreaks by identifying the sick animal early to prevent the spread of disease.

You want to put some very objective measures on what that looks like.
Yes, exactly, and perhaps developing a score sheet so we can say, “Okay, if you see these one, two or three behaviors in dairy calves, go and take a closer look at them and do a physical exam.”

One of your colleagues, dairy science professor Pam Ruegg, took pictures of dirty cows. They’re the most remarkable four pictures: here’s a very, very dirty cow, here’s a somewhat dirty cow, here’s a somewhat cleaner cow, and here’s a clean cow. It’s as simple as it could be.
Yes, and that’s really the simplicity that I’d like to develop for identifying sickness behavior. This is what a sick cow looks like—and surprisingly, for people who haven’t grown up around cattle, and even for some people who have grown up around cattle, that’s a very difficult thing to identify. You start to see them as a whole group rather than the individuals and how those behaviors are different.

We’ve just opened a remodeled, state-of-the-art Dairy Cattle Center here on campus. What excites you the most about this facility?
In terms of cow comfort, I’m really excited about the changes in stall design. The previous barn was built in 1956 and our knowledge of what cows need and want for their comfort has advanced substantially in that time. An example is the size of the stalls, which have been considerably enlarged to accommodate the larger Holstein cows we are using today compared to the smaller breeds used in the 1950s. We have also improved our handling facilities so that they are designed with cattle behavior in mind. This allows for lower stress and safer handling of cattle for both people and the animals. In the summer months, the cows should be much more comfortable as we have also focused on cooling the air in the summer. Cattle prefer cooler temperatures and during the summer they can experience heat stress. The new ventilation system will allow us to keep the cows much more comfortable.

Five things everyone should know about… Hazelnuts

1   They’re crazy nutritious and gluten-free. Hazelnuts are rich in vitamins (particularly vitamin E and B-complex groups of vitamins, including folates, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin) as well as dietary fiber. Like almonds, they are gluten-free. They also are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid and linoleic acid, which help reduce LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

2   An exciting market beckons. Hazelnut oil serves various purposes in the kitchen (most notably as salad and cooking oil) as well as in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Kernels can be eaten fresh; used in baked goods, confections and other edibles; or ground for use in nut flours. An appetite is growing for spreadable hazelnut butters (Nutella, anyone?). And then there’s biofuel—the high oleic acid content makes hazelnuts an excellent feedstock for biodiesel and bio-industrial products.

3   They’re good for the environment. As a long-lived woody perennial, hazelnut bush plantings can be used to stabilize sensitive soils and erodible sites. Plantings do not have to be reestablished for decades. They can be closely associated with other high-diversity approaches to agriculture, including agroforestry and multicrop plantings. Since American hazel is a prominent native, there is no risk of invasiveness, and interrelationships to support Wisconsin wildlife are well established. In addition, hazel production readily integrates with small and medium-sized farming operations and family/cooperative farm unit organization.

4   Growers are emerging in the Midwest, including in Wisconsin. Southern Europe is still king in world hazelnut production, with Turkey leading at 75 percent. In the United States, commercial hazelnut production is still limited to the Pacific Northwest, where the climate allows for growing European cultivars. But a number of Midwestern farmers are trying their hand with two species, American (Corylus americana) and beaked (Corylus cornuta), that do well in cold climates and sandy soils. Surveys have identified about 130 hazelnut growers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, with nearly 135 acres in production.

5   Important genetics work is underway. Farmers now growing Midwestern hazelnuts are also growing important data as there are, as yet, no commercially proven cultivars of hazelnuts in this region. Breeders are working to develop genotypes focusing on both pure lines of native American hazel and on hybrid crosses between European and American. By selecting from the very diverse native populations and by crossing European with American, they hope to develop a hazelnut shrub with the nut quality and yield of the European and the cold-hardiness and disease tolerance of the American.

 

The Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI, midwesthazelnuts.org) is a regional collaboration that includes representatives from UW–Madison and UW-Extension.

Jason Fischbach, an agriculture agent with UW-Extension and a program partner with UMHDI, contributed to this piece.

Erin Crain

Erin Crain MS’99 Landscape Architecture • Whether she’s hiking, gardening or hunting for turkey, Erin Crain has a passion for the outdoors, so it makes sense that she found her professional calling with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She serves as director of the Bureau of Endangered Resources, where she is responsible for inventory, monitoring, research and management of rare and non-game species in Wisconsin. “I’m able to make a difference in protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources as well as supporting the people who work in our program. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything,” says Crain.

Brian Fluno

Brian Fluno BS’97 Landscape Architecture • Brian Fluno was drawn to landscape architecture because of the discipline’s blend of science, horticulture and art, he says. As a licensed landscape architect, Fluno has worked on the design, drafting and supervision of many corporate, business, mixed-use and residential projects. He joined The Brickman Group, Ltd., where he currently works as an account manager, upon graduating from CALS. “I liked the creative aspect of the profession and also the forward-thinking aspect of planning for how a space will be used in the future,” Fluno says. He remains deeply committed to the CALS community. Recently Fluno completed a six-year term on the board of the Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association (WALSAA), including one year as board president.

Paul Gobster

Paul Gobster MS’83 Landscape Architecture • As a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Evanston, Illinois, Paul Gobster examines how people perceive, experience and value nature in urban settings, providing environmental managers with the information they need to optimally serve a diverse range of city stakeholders. In his last year at CALS Gobster helped organize a forum on the Wisconsin Idea, a concept that has influenced the way he works. “My UW experience taught me the value of interdisciplinary learning and the importance of linking knowledge to practice in solving real-world problems,” he says.

Gobster serves as co-editor-in-chief of Landscape and Urban Planning, a leading international scholarly journal of landscape science, and as an adjunct lecturer in the environmental policy and culture program at Northwestern University. This past spring Gobster was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the Department of Landscape Architecture in recognition of his contributions to the field over the past 30 years.

Yummier Burgers

Who appreciates burgers more than a college student—particularly if the student is interested in meat science? It made sense that Gilly’s Frozen Custard would turn to enthusiastic young people—led by CALS/UW-Extension meat expert Jeff Sindelar, CALS food science lecturer Monica Theis and UW executive chef Jeff Orr—in a quest to create a better burger for their restaurants. Eighteen students and one staffer split into teams and created their own blends of ground beef, combining such types as flank, brisket, sirloin or chuck within a certain price point. They presented their formulations to members of the Gilly’s leadership team, who judged them for overall beef flavor, bite/texture and juiciness. The winner was  “Burger E” by Seth Schulz, an outreach specialist in CALS’ Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory; food science undergrad Abbey Thiel; and food science graduate student Cherry Lam Wing Yu. Their creation is already being sold at two Gilly’s locations.