At his blog, Meat of the Issues, Travis is dedicated to helping consumers better understand the science behind the meat industry.
1. Tell a little about your ag background.
I grew up on the University of Wisconsin Beef Research Farm, which my father manages. They conduct all of their feeding trials at this farm
, and was exposed to academic agriculture research at a very young age. In addition, Arp Family Farms has been in existence for nearly 125 years. It has always been a diversified livestock and crop operation, raising hogs and cattle as well as raising corn, soybeans, and hay. In the early 90′s, my dad bought our first group of purebred Gelbvieh cows and we started Arp Gelbvieh. This got my siblings and I involved in 4-H and FFA at a young age, and we grew up showing purebred heifers and steers, as well as the occasional market hog and lamb. My family currently runs all of our cows at my grandparent’s farm in north-central Missouri, where we have about 75 head of purebred and commercials cows. I have a small group of cows that I own and market the bulls and heifers born annually.
2. What made you want to start your blog?
I really saw a need for science based ag information. I was friends and colleagues with Dr. Chris Raines at Penn State University and really admired the creative work that he did with www.meatblogger.org. He and I discussed frequently ag, specifically meat science, blogging and had always encouraged me to give it a try. With is passing, it really inspired me to charge ahead with it and pick up where he left off.
As much as anything, though, being involved in the meat industry, I’ve noticed the disconnect between what we do and what the consumer perceives or thinks we do. As a whole, our industry isn’t the best at consumer relations, and I hoped that by starting this, I could shed some light to meat science practices in a consumer friendly medium that would hopefully open some eyes to the quality product farmers, ranchers, packers, and processors produce.
3. What has been the biggest surprise since you started? or something you didn’t expect:
To this point it has been the overwhelming response from my readers. I have written posts that could be controversial, and not all of my opinions are going to align with those of my readers. But its a vote of confidence for me that people can get on my website, share their comments and opinions about my writing, and we can have some really great discussions. Moreover, I developed a good following fairly quickly that I never anticipated. After only a few weeks I was getting very good, regular traffic to my posts, and I’ve appreciated the folks in the ag-social media community sharing my posts and encouraging my writing.
4. What is your favorite post and why?
It would probably have to be the You Put What In My Burger?
post. That was really a jumping off point for me that I could produce very science based information that was reader friendly, and got great feedback from it. Two days after I wrote it, Beef Magazine had shared the link on their facebook page, and I ended up having a record day with blog traffic. With the pink slime debacle, it still gets view nearly daily. Also, I really enjoyed writing the The Real Message Behind the NY Times Meat Ethics Contest
because it was one of the first times I’d really just wrote what I was feeling and didn’t try to be too PC. I feel the best about those after I write them and hope to do more in the future.
5. What do you see for the future of your bog? Where do you plan to take it?
Hopefully I can keep writing about pertinent ag issues and become a reliable source for consumers questioning where their food comes from. People question science constantly, but I’m hoping my blog can eventually be a partial bridge to that gap between industry and consumer. I would of course like to write more, but the schedule of research and writing my dissertation are a little inhibitory to that. I’d also like to update my format and customize it a little more to make it more user friendly and look a bit more polished. I’m very new to the blogging game and threw my site together rather hastily. Hopefully I can dedicate more time to changing the format. But as always, I just want to write meaningful posts that readers will enjoy, discuss, and share with everyone else.
I think Travis’ blog looks pretty darn good for just throwing it together. What do you think? Do you have any questions for him?