Exhibit Farm: The Leader in Agricultural Exhibits and Displays https://exhibitfarm.com Agricultural Exhibits and Displays Tue, 20 Oct 2020 18:39:05 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://exhibitfarm.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Exhibit Farm: The Leader in Agricultural Exhibits and Displays https://exhibitfarm.com 32 32 Corn for the Class: Lifelike Artificial Corncobs https://exhibitfarm.com/corn-for-the-class-lifelike-artificial-corncobs/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 12:00:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8531 It doesn’t get much better than fresh corn on the cob in summer. Sweet, juicy kernels...

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Brown graphic; text reads "Corn for the Class: Lifelike Artificial Corncobs"

It doesn’t get much better than fresh corn on the cob in summer. Sweet, juicy kernels covered in salt and butter, with juice running down your wrists…just delicious. That juice can be inconvenient, though, especially if you’re not actually eating the corn. That’s why the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council (aka North Dakota Corn) asked us if we could make some lifelike artificial corncobs.

(You can see the technical details of this agricultural education tool on our custom products page.)

Getting a Feel for Corn Facts

But we have to back up a bit. To understand why North Dakota Corn wanted artificial corncobs, you should know that they run an ag in the classroom program. That means visiting elementary schools to share facts about corn and let kids get a feel for corn. Literally, in most cases.

Part of the presentation involves letting the kids hold ears of corn so they can both see and feel the differences between different varieties. The trouble is, real corncobs tended to get damaged and messy by the time they made it around the class. All that delicious juiciness isn’t such an advantage when it just makes your hands sticky (and you don’t even get to eat the corn).

So, North Dakota Corn asked us to make some artificial corncobs that still had plenty of lifelike detail.

Creating the Corncobs

Sculpting the artificial corncobs was a bit of a trick. Suffice it to say, casting corncobs is a little different than casting sugarbeets. After a few trial runs, though, our workshop crew perfected their technique and started working on the client’s versions.

Photo of someone holding artificial corncob model to show lifelike size

We needed to make three different kinds of artificial corncobs. There’s sweet corn, which is the kind you eat on late-summer evenings. But since sweet corn accounts for less than one percent of the corn grown in the U.S., North Dakota Corn wanted to have other varieties represented too. So we also made a set of popcorn ears (yes, popcorn comes from its own kind of corn) and a set of field corn (a variety grown mostly for animal feed or industrial uses).

Although these artificial corncobs look almost lifelike enough to eat, that’s not possible (sadly). They are a win in the tidiness department, though. And maybe their realistic detail will whet your appetite for enjoying a real, perfectly-sweet, fully-juicy ear of corn.

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rbST and Milk: Answering Consumers’ Questions https://exhibitfarm.com/rbst-and-milk-answering-consumers-questions/ Mon, 12 Oct 2020 12:14:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8596 You’ve probably seen labels on milk jugs saying something like, “From cows not treated with rbST....

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You’ve probably seen labels on milk jugs saying something like, “From cows not treated with rbST. The FDA has stated that there is no significant difference between milk from cows treated with rbST and cows not treated with rbST”. Have you ever wondered what those labels mean? Or have you ever struggled to explain them clearly to a consumer? Let’s unpack them a little bit.

There’s a lot of questions you could ask about rbST and milk. Just like our article on raw milk, we’ll start with answering the basic “what is rbST?” question. Then we’ll dive into exploring what the specifics of the controversy about rbST and milk are.

What are artificial growth hormones?

First, let’s clarify what we’re talking about. rbST is an artificial growth hormone. All animals naturally produce hormones, which let them grow and develop; in and of themselves, hormones aren’t harmful. It’s having an imbalance of hormones (whether too much or not enough) that causes health problems.

In the U.S., some livestock can be given synthetically-produced hormones to increase their productivity. We say “some livestock” because the USDA prohibits giving artificial hormones to chicken or pigs. Thus, the controversy over artificial growth hormones centers on dairy and beef. Because rbST only applies to dairy production, that’s what we’ll focus on today.

How is rbST produced?

rbST stands for “recombinant bovine somatotropin” (you can see why they abbreviated it), which is “an artificial growth hormone that increases milk production”. It’s also known as “recombinant bovine growth hormone,” or rbGH. Cows’ pituitary glands naturally produce bovine somatotropin (bST), so rbST is simply the synthetic version.

Specifically, scientists make rbST by taking the section of cow DNA that tells cells to make bST and putting it into a bacterium. The bacterium then produces bST, much more efficiently than it can be extracted from other sources. Eventually, people purify the bacteria-grown rbST and administer it to the cows.

The process might sound foreign, but it’s actually the same way scientists produce synthetic insulin for diabetic people. And according to the FDA, rbST (or rbGH) is “essentially the same as (pituitary derived) bGH.”

Why is rbST controversial?

Concern over milk from rbST-treated cows is mostly concern over absorbing rbST from the milk when you drink it. People worry that consuming extra hormones from the milk would upset their own bodies’ chemical balances. But it’s not just unclear whether rbST would harm humans — it’s unclear whether humans can even absorb meaningful amounts from milk in the first place.

A number of studies on rats tried to determine whether eating rbST has any effects. One found “significant” effects when researchers administered rbST by injection (the same way cows receive rbST). However, it didn’t find major effects when they added rbST to the rats’ food. This was true even when the amount in the food was “fifty times greater than the injected dose.”

A different study showed that rats who received high oral doses of rbST produced antibodies in response. That implied both that they absorbed some rbST from the food and that their bodies perceived it as a threat. But on the other hand, the antibody levels were still “relatively low,” indicating the response wasn’t that strong. Furthermore, the lowest amount that caused an antibody response was higher by two orders of magnitude than the amount a person could expect to absorb through milk.

Three glass bottles of milk against blue background; used in an article about the rbst controversy
What about IGF-I and rbST?

As if we didn’t have enough acronyms to keep straight, you’ll also hear the term IGF-I mentioned often in these debates. IGF-I stands for another growth hormone, found naturally in both humans and cows, that’s essential for “growth, development, and health maintenance”. Several researchers have suggested it also contributes to cancer growth. That’s highly controversial, though; many groups (including the FDA) argue that there’s no “direct link” between IGF-I and cancer.

Some studies have found that cows given rbST had more IGF-I in their milk (for example, this study from Germany). However, other studies indicated that the levels of IGF-I in rbST-treated cows’ milk remain within the normal range for IGF-I levels in the milk of untreated cows. This is one of the reasons the FDA says there’s no “significant” difference between milk from treated and untreated cows. There might be a measurable difference, but in the FDA’s judgement it’s not a big enough difference to affect people. (Of course, whether or not people trust the FDA’s judgement in this case is the main disagreement in the rbST debate.)

What’s the importance of the rbST controversy?

In some ways, this is all a moot point. Why? Well, almost every brand of milk (including generic store brands) has simply chosen not to use milk from rbST-treated cows. Just because the FDA has approved rbST clearly doesn’t mean the controversy is settled. Because consumers prefer non-rbST milk, these brands voluntarily opted to supply it. Some other dairy products, like cheese and butter, use milk from rbST-treated cows. But again, many brands don’t. That’s something you’d have to look up on a brand-by-brand basis.

But now you know what rbST is and what the rbST controversy is about, even if it probably won’t make much difference in your milk-buying habits. It’s always worthwhile to know more about your food, how it’s produced, and what the details behind the buzzwords are. Each issue will be different, but knowing how to look at multiple sides of a food controversy and evaluate the research for yourself is a crucial skill.

As you might know, we create educational tools for the ag industry. Providing dietary or nutrition advice isn’t our area of business. Thus, don’t take this article as medical guidance — it’s for informational purposes only. If you’re thinking about changing your diet, check with your doctor (or another medical professional) first. And although we worked hard to find reliable information, it may have omissions, errors, or simple mistakes. So, if you rely on the information in this article, please be aware that you’re doing so at your own risk.

YouTube Video

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The World of Soy: A Soybean Standup and Photo Op https://exhibitfarm.com/the-world-of-soy-a-soybean-standup-and-photo-op/ Mon, 28 Sep 2020 12:10:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=7662 We don’t know what your soybean fields look like, but we bet you’ve never had a...

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Yellow graphic; text reads "The World of Soy: A Soybean Standup and Photo Op"

We don’t know what your soybean fields look like, but we bet you’ve never had a soybean plant with a face before. If you’ve always secretly wanted a soybean with a face, look no further, because that’s exactly what this soybean standup display gives you. It can even be your own lovely face.

Of course, the soybean standup has some other uses too. The opportunity to see a soybean with a face is just a fun perk.

(You can see more photos of this standup display in our portfolio.)

Designing the Soybean Standup Display

The Kentucky Soybean Board ordered this display as a way of promoting their favorite bean plant to consumers at fairs and other events. After all, soybeans have thousands of uses, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows the ways it touches everyday life. Introducing people to the world of soy takes creativity sometimes.

Our soybean standup starts with a simple, colorful illustration of a soybean plant. Showing everything from the purple flowers to the soybean pods, it’s both accurate and visually appealing. Once the illustration catches someone’s eye, the question across the top — “So you think you know soy?” — reels them in and nudges them towards the nine Q&A panels below. Those panels quiz visitors with soybean trivia covering everything from GMOs to biodiesel. They can find the answers to those intriguing questions by lifting the panels and reading the text underneath.

Meanwhile, folks looking for a fun photo (to preserve their discovery of a soybean with a face, of course) can hide behind the standup and smile through the face slots.

Full-length shot of Soybean Standup Display
Portable? Check. Easy to Use? Double Check.

Since the Kentucky Soybean Board planned to use the soybean standup display at a variety of events, we knew portability needed to be a priority. We designed it to disassemble easily, just like our other standups. The body comes apart into two pieces and the stabilizing feet can be stacked flat on top of it, making the whole thing easy to break down and transport.

Moreover, the display’s designed to be lightweight. Not lightweight in content, of course, but in literal weight. That way, it’s even easier to transport and set up.

Now, if you wanted to dig into the technical details of what real live soybean plants look like (as opposed to cartoony soybean plants with faces), we have some options for that too. But a standup like this is a great choice for sharing a few facts in a fun, low-key way. What’s not to like about silly photos? Especially when they come with a side helping of soy trivia.

YouTube Video

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Coffee Certification Labels: Answering Consumers’ Questions https://exhibitfarm.com/coffee-certification-labels-answering-consumers-questions/ Mon, 14 Sep 2020 12:20:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8468 Like last month’s topic in our series on common questions about food, September’s question also deals...

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Green graphic; text reads "What do different coffee labels mean?"

Like last month’s topic in our series on common questions about food, September’s question also deals with sustainability. Consumers’ interest in ethically-produced coffee has grown over the last several decades. And there’s a number of certifying organizations out there, each promising that you can consume coffee bearing their certification labels with a clear conscience.

With so many different coffee certification labels, though, it can be difficult to know what exactly each label stands for. So we looked up the standards of five major coffee-certifying groups and complied the results here. Feel free to pass them along to your consumer audience, or use them yourself to become a more informed coffee drinker.

Fairtrade

Fairtrade is one of the most recognizable coffee certification labels. Several groups (producer networks and Fairtrade organizations) representing different sectors of global trade make up the Fairtrade system. Producer networks are “regional associations” made up of the farmers who produce commodities, along with their representatives. Fairtrade national organizations oversee companies selling Fairtrade products in their country.

Both these types of groups fall under Fairtrade International, the Germany-based body that sets Fairtrade standards and oversees the lower-level groups. There’s also an independent certifying body that makes sure Fairtrade’s standards are being followed.

We won’t blame you if that gets confusing. The bottom line is that Fairtrade is both a certifying body and a way to coordinate the lifespan of a commodity from its production to its sale. The system focuses on “small scale farmers and workers” in three regions: Africa, Asia, and Central/South America.

Fairtrade International sets a minimum price for each commodity based on the cost of producing it. If the market price is higher, obviously farmers can sell at the market price instead. Besides the minimum price, there’s also a premium (for coffee, it’s 20₵ per pound) that goes to the producer organizations to fund longterm community-improvement projects.

Closed burlap bag of coffee; used in article about coffee certifying labels

Here are the main emphases of Fairtrade’s standards:

  • restricting which agricultural chemicals farmers can use and setting standards for their safe use
  • guarding against erosion
  • encouraging biodiversity and discouraging deforestation
  • prohibiting hiring discrimination and forced or child labor
  • requiring farmers to “gradually increas[e workers’ salaries] above the regional average and the official minimum wage”
  • establishing safe working conditions
  • making sure the community-improvement goals are appropriate and that the process of implementing them includes financial accountability and democratic decision-making
Equal Exchange

You might see the red Equal Exchange label and assume this is another certifying body. It’s actually not; it’s a coffee company that sells Fairtrade-certified coffee. In fact, all of its coffee is Fairtrade-certified. Moreover, Equal Exchange is organized as an employee-owned co-op in line with Fairtrade standards. It was the first company to sell Fairtrade coffee in the U.S., back in 1991, and currently it sells both to retailers and individual consumers. But it’s not a certifying group with standards of its own.

Fair For Life

Fair For Life is another organization that’s largely based on Fairtrade but is independent from it. Unlike Equal Exchange, though, this one is a certifying organization. It uses Fairtrade standards, but applies them to “previously excluded products” and to producers in regions where Fairtrade doesn’t license producers (like Europe and North America).

Rainforest Alliance

Although Rainforest Alliance’s standards are similar to Fairtrade’s, the two groups aren’t affiliated. Rainforest Alliance’s messaging focuses more on environmental protection and sustainability than on producers’/workers’ rights, even though their standards do include worker protections. Also, “only 30% of… coffee beans [in a bag] must meet Rainforest Alliance conditions for the [RFA] seal to be used.”

Open burlap bags of coffee beans; used in article about coffee certification labels

Rainforest Alliance standards emphasize:

  • managing farms “more efficient[ly]”
  • taking measures to prevent erosion
  • controlling “all sources of [water] contamination”
  • composting and recycling
  • making sure farmers earn “increasing”profits
  • protecting wildlife habitats
  • controlling “agrochemical use”
  • conserving water
  • establishing worker protections (including minimum wages, safe living/working conditions, and “access to schools [and] healthcare”)
  • encouraging “collaboration between farmers and conservationists”
Smithsonian Bird Friendly

This last standard is primarily designed to protect the migrating birds in coffee-growing regions. It has the “most robust shade and habitat standards” of any group. Although the Smithsonian hasn’t published the full list of standards, its website explains that they apply to coffee grown under shade trees in tropical forests. The standards regulate the height of the tree canopy and set standards for things like insect biodiversity. They also require that coffee with the label must be organic. 100% of the beans in a package must meet the Smithsonian Bird Friendly standards in order to receive the certification label.

YouTube Video

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Our Sweet Sixteen (Plants): The Planting Errors Display https://exhibitfarm.com/our-sweet-sixteen-plants-the-planting-errors-display/ Mon, 31 Aug 2020 13:55:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8535 Precision agriculture’s been around for several decades, but it really took off in the 21st century....

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Orange graphic; text reads "Our Sweet Sixteen (Plants): The Planting Error Display"

Precision agriculture’s been around for several decades, but it really took off in the 21st century. With that expansion came lots of new agritech companies. And that presents a challenge: how can you make your technology stand out in a large pool of precision ag equipment?

When our clients at Precision Planting faced that question, they opted for investing in a custom display. Not just any display, though: a educational display about planting errors featuring over a dozen life-size artificial corn plants.

(Check out extra photos of the Planting Errors Display on our custom products page.)

Visualizing Planting Errors

Precision Planting focuses on helping farmers handle everything from planting to fertilizing in the most efficient way. Some of their equipment helps eliminate planting errors. As it turns out, there’s a lot of ways planting errors can happen. Seeds planted too close together, seeds planted too deep, seeds planted in the side of a furrow, rather than in the bottom — in every case, the planter might miss the right spot by only a little bit, but the impact on the plant can be huge.

It can also be hard to visualize that, though. After all, misplacing a seed by an inch or two might not sound like it makes much difference. That’s why Precision Planting wanted us to make a display about planting errors, to show people what the impacts are. And they wanted to be thorough.

All told, the Planting Errors Display contains sixteen sweet corn plants. Eight are just seedlings, and eight are harvest-ready cornstalks. In each bunch, there’s one healthy plant and seven less-healthy plants showing the effects of different planting errors. We’ve made plenty of corn plants before, of course, but none quite like this.

Crafting the Planting Errors Display

In the first place, Precision Planting wanted the harvest-ready stalks to include exposed corncobs, to show how planting errors affect the plant’s yield. That was a new one for us. Nevertheless, our craftsmen figured out how to sculpt the cobs, attach some “silk,” wrap the whole thing in leaves, and secure it to the plant.

Closeup showing the exposed roots of three vegetative stage corn planting error examples

With that engineering challenge down, they turned to the roots. Many planting errors impact the root system, so it was important to show them clearly. We’d never made roots before, but that didn’t stop our craftsmen from developing a solution. They created individual roots in different sizes (based on a diagram of real corn roots) and then attached them together to create a realistic bunch. Even our office people got to participate in the fun — at one point, we called all hands on deck for a day-long root-making intensive. It paid off with dozens of roots ready for bundling into complete systems.

With every element in the Planting Errors Display made by hand (the roots, the corncobs, the stalks, the leaves), you can imagine how big an undertaking this was. But eventually the displays were assembled and every lifelike detail was in place, right down to using real dirt for texture in the “soil” (protected under a layer of clear acrylic).

As we thought about the job afterwards, we realized it hadn’t just been a big project tackled successfully. Engineering the corncobs and roots gave us the skills to make our corn plant models even more lifelike and realistic. That meant we could offer our clients more options going forward (such as a standalone corn plant with exposed roots). Now that’s a sweet outcome, for sure.

YouTube Video

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From Farm to Store: The “Make the Match” Display https://exhibitfarm.com/from-farm-to-store-the-make-the-match-display/ Mon, 17 Aug 2020 12:01:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=7944 Take a look around you: how many objects in the room come from a farm? Unless...

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Pink graphic; text reads "From Farm to Store: The Make the Match Display"

Take a look around you: how many objects in the room come from a farm? Unless you’re in your kitchen, you might think “none.” But think again. Do you have books or maybe pads of sticky notes nearby? Trees have to grow somewhere before they can be made into paper. Are you wearing clothes made from cotton or wool? Those are ag products.

We could keep going, but you probably get the point: the journey from farm to store involves a lot more products than just food. That’s what the Make the Match display is all about.

(You can find more photos of this agricultural exhibit on our custom products page.)

Three sides, three wheels…

We’ve written before about the problem of consumers not recognizing their connection to farming. It’s been the focus of a couple of our other displays, too, like the Soybean Life Cycle display. But for this display, our clients at Indiana Farm Bureau wanted to go all-out. Instead of concentrating just on one ag commodity and how it impacts daily life, they wanted to show the impact of a whole host of commodities. Twenty-seven, to be precise.

In order to do that, we built a display with three sides, and with three wheels in each side. Each wheel included three different commodities. Then, each wheel was subdivided into three independently-rotating segments. What’s the point of all those threes? They’re how folks get to learn about the surprising connections between a farm and products at the store.

The first segment of each wheel has photos of its ag commodities in their unprocessed form — for instance, a blueberry bush or a woolly sheep. The other two segments of the wheel show two photos (per commodity) of everyday products that use that commodity. So when you’ve lined the wheel up correctly, you can look at the photos from left to right and see first the ag commodity itself and then two common products made from it. You’ve made the match.

View showing two of three sides on the Make the Match display, showing two sets of wheels with photos of ag commodities and products
A Fallback Method

All very well and good, you might say, for something familiar like dairy. It doesn’t take too much ag knowledge to match the cow with the photos of milk and ice cream. But what about the duck, for instance? Many people may not even think of ducks as a farm animal. Knowing that eiderdown comes from ducks and then matching the eiderdown pillow and down-filled coat to the duck photo is a whole other challenge.

Well, for those situations, we have a backup. Each photo has a colored border, and the borders of the photos that go together are all the same color. With this little bit of color-coding, you get some extra help on the tougher matches. It makes it easier for consumers to learn about the products they wouldn’t have guessed have a connection to the farm, and that’s the whole point.

The perk of an interactive display like this one is that both adults and kids can get into it. (We made the size suitable for both, too.) The more consumers who can make the match from a farm to a store they shop at every week, the better. There’s nothing like recognizing agriculture’s impact on everyday life to help people appreciate a farmer.

YouTube Video

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Wild-Caught vs. Farmed Fish: Answering Consumers’ Questions https://exhibitfarm.com/wild-caught-vs-farmed-fish-answering-consumers-questions/ Mon, 03 Aug 2020 12:00:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8176 We’re afraid we have to apologize: the title is somewhat misleading. Comparing wild-caught vs. farmed fish...

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Brown graphic; text reads "Which is better: wild-caught or farmed fish?"

We’re afraid we have to apologize: the title is somewhat misleading. Comparing wild-caught vs. farmed fish as blanket categories isn’t really accurate. Don’t leave, though! We’ll explain.

When people contrast the two, they’re usually thinking about differences in healthfulness and environmental impact. The difficulty with talking simply in terms of “wild-caught” vs. “farmed” is that so much depends on the specific situation.

A particular species of farmed fish, farmed in a certain country, may be healthier and more eco-friendly than its wild-caught equivalent. The reverse can just as easily be true for a different species. Things can even be different for the same species caught in different places. And then there’s the whole wrinkle of wild-caught fish and farmed fish impacting the environment in different ways. So even when discussing a single species, it’s hard to say which has the greater overall impact.

We simply don’t have space to research every species in-depth. But nearly 50% of the consumers in a 2019 survey said there wasn’t “enough information available…about seafood.” With that much demand, we want to supply something on the topic.

So hopefully our overview gives you ideas for more specific questions to ask (or answer, as a producer). We’ve listed more resources at the end, too. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Is Wild-Caught Fish Healthier than Farmed Fish?

Fish in general is pretty healthy.  Although the numbers vary by species, some types of fish have protein contents close to that of chicken or turkey. In a 100-gram sample of each meat, the poultry options have 31 and 30 grams of protein, respectively. The same amount of halibut has 27 grams of protein, while tilapia has 26 grams.

Fishing boat on the ocean; used for article on wild-caught vs. farmed fish

Most people know seafood is probably the best source of omega-3 fats (which are linked to heart health). Even besides omega-3s, though, the fats in fish tend to be healthier than the fats in other meats. Moreover, fish usually has much less fat overall than other meats.

Are there differing levels of healthiness between wild-caught and farmed fish, though? It’s hard to generalize, but wild-caught fish tends to be “slightly lower” in saturated fat than farmed fish. However, it’s also slightly lower in omega-3s.

Do Wild-Caught or Farmed Fish have More Contaminants?

Fish can ingest pollutants from the water, and those pollutants then wind up in their meat. Thus, many consumers are concerned about ingesting these contaminants themselves. However, Washington State’s Department of Health (WSDOH) goes out of its way to emphasize that people shouldn’t stop eating fish. We should try to reduce our exposure to contaminants, certainly — by preparing the fish differently, for instance. But eliminating fish won’t actually eliminate your exposure to contaminants, so WSDOH encourages people to eat it nonetheless.

With that established, you might be wondering whether there’s a difference between differently-sourced fish here. Unfortunately, researchers haven’t reached a consensus. Some studies found that farmed fish can be “higher in contaminants.” On the other hand, WSDOH references studies that couldn’t confirm higher contaminants in farmed salmon. Without more clarity, the best conclusion seems to be that the choice between wild-caught vs. farmed fish probably shouldn’t come down to this particular area.

Aerial view of a fish farm's ponds; used for article on wild-caught vs. farmed fish
Are Wild-Caught or Farmed Fish Better for the Environment?

We’ll just tell you up front: there’s really not a clear answer to this one.  Both methods have pros and cons.

Water pollution (from fish wastes and uneaten food) is one concern with farmed fish.  WSDOH reports that “pollution…occurs regularly under net pens [of fish],” but also says “the effect is temporary and…habitats recover during inactive periods.” And in fact, mollusk aquaculture can actually remove pollutants from the environment.

Wild-caught fish doesn’t have the same problems with pollution and tends to use less energy overall.  But it risks depleting the wild fish population and can harm species that are caught accidentally.  Aquaculture reduces those problems by reducing the need for wild-caught fish.

The University of Washington (UW) has measured four types of environmental impact across multiple kinds of livestock. They found that some aquaculture products (like shellfish or salmon) had a low environmental impact compared to the other meats. So did some wild-caught fish (mostly whitefish like pollock or cod).

Complexities

Hopefully you see what we meant about the trickiness of comparing wild-caught vs. farmed fish as a whole. We’ve given you the best general info we could find, though. And here’s those extra resources:

  • WSDOH published a handy chart showing which species have the least mercury contamination. For bonus usefulness, it also notes what areas overfishing occurs in for each species.
  • Sustainable Fisheries (connected to UW) publishes articles on a variety of seafood topics — sustainability, legislation, workers’ welfare, recent research, and more. They’re comprehensive and pretty balanced.
  • Seafood Watch is probably the best-known guide to buying sustainable seafood. Their website also discusses the complexities of aquaculture and commercial fishing.

Should you tackle more research, we suggest keeping it as specific as possible. Maybe pick your favorite kind of seafood to start with. If you’re involved in the industry as a producer, try researching your most popular kind of fish first. Share the information with your customers, then repeat the process for the other seafood you supply.

We specialize in creating educational tools for the ag industry, not providing dietary or nutrition advice. Thus, don’t take this article as medical advice — it’s for informational purposes only. If you’re thinking about changing your diet, check with your doctor or another medical professional first. And although we worked hard to find reliable information, it may contain omissions, errors, or simple mistakes. So, if you rely on the information in this article, be aware that you’re doing so at your own risk.

YouTube Video

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The Human-Sized Milk Bottle: Teaching about Dairy https://exhibitfarm.com/the-human-sized-milk-bottle-teaching-about-dairy-2/ Mon, 20 Jul 2020 12:00:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=7653 As a representative for the dairy industry down south, the Dairy Alliance does a lot of...

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Milk Bottle Display Promo, showing three of the standup dairy displays in a line

As a representative for the dairy industry down south, the Dairy Alliance does a lot of teaching about dairy. To help their team present information, they wanted a fleet of displays for multiple fairs and events strewn through several southern states. So they ordered not one, not three, but five milk bottle standups to share dairy facts with the consumers in those states.

(Purchase this product from our online catalog. You can also discover still more about this agricultural exhibit on our custom products page.)

Going Retro with Dairy Education

Remember those retro glass milk bottles that you see in photos from the 20th century? The ones that the milk man used to deliver to the front door when your grandparents were still kiddos? The Dairy Alliance wanted to bring these retro bottles back and integrate them into their education efforts. So they ordered a set of human-sized standups featuring a large cartoonish graphic of these classic milk bottles.

Besides being a pleasing sky-blue color and borrowing the old-fashioned vibe of those vintage bottles, these standups are just as practical as their glass predecessors. (In a different way, though.) Each standup bottle is loaded with educational facts about the dairy industry. Through a collection of nine magnetic panels, the one-sided display quizzes users with questions about cows and milk. When lifted, the panels reveal the answers hidden underneath.

The display encourages visitor interaction in several ways. Besides the trivia questions, there’s also the little hole just above the first row of questions. Folks looking for a cheesy photo can step behind the standup and smile through this face slot for a quick picture. Since the display is six feet tall, even most adults can fit comfortably behind it.

The Technical Specs

These questions and answers, by the way, are fully customizable. We’ve got a store of dairy trivia on hand, but we know that different audiences have different levels of dairy knowledge. The kinds of questions that might stump general consumers wouldn’t be as intriguing to someone who works in the dairy industry. So, if a commodity group decides their audience needs some tougher questions, they can send us their own trivia and we’ll put it on the display instead.

Three standup milk bottle displays, used for teaching about dairy products

We designed the standups to be taken to ag events, so they needed to be portable. Fortunately, by using a hollow aluminum frame, we were able to keep the total weight under 35 pounds. And the whole thing comes apart into four mostly-flat pieces, making it easy to tuck into a car.

Clearly, the standups are bigger than the glass bottles that inspired them, and unfortunately you can’t use them to hold delicious dairy beverages. But these ”bottles“ are certainly superior when it comes to teaching about dairy, catching eyes, and commanding attention. Being six feet tall will do that for you.

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“Do Fortified Foods Work?”: Answering Consumers’ Questions https://exhibitfarm.com/do-fortified-foods-work-answering-consumers-questions/ Mon, 06 Jul 2020 12:12:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8435 After last month’s discussion of synthetic and organic fertilizers, we’re turning again to a question about...

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After last month’s discussion of synthetic and organic fertilizers, we’re turning again to a question about a specific kind of food: Do fortified foods actually work? Fortified foods are so common that most people eat them without even realizing it. But some people still wonder whether getting nutrients that were added to a food is really as good as getting them from foods where they occur naturally.

Fortified foods attempt to eliminate health problems caused by insufficient vitamins (aka micronutrients). Fortification programs started with staples like salt and flour. Nowadays, you can find products like calcium-fortified orange juice or Vitamin-D-fortified milk in any grocery store. All those odd vitamins like thiamine or riboflavin you often find on cereal boxes’ nutrition panels? Those are examples of fortification too.

Do Fortified Foods Actually Work?

In general, fortification succeeds at increasing people’s vitamin and mineral intake. Diseases like rickets, pellagra, and goiter (all caused by lack of micronutrients) have largely been eliminated in America (and other countries with similar fortification efforts). Furthermore, children who don’t eat as many fortified foods are much more likely to be nutrient-deficient.

There’s been debate over whether fortified foods always work, though. One meta-analysis (a scientific study of the data from many other studies) evaluated iron-fortified cereals intended to combat anaemia. It found that the fortified cereals seemed to raise people’s hemoglobin, but not to a significant or “clinically relevant” extent. They didn’t seem to lower the risk of anaemia in general, although they may have lowered the risk of anaemia caused by iron-deficiency.

Bowl of dried macaroni, used in article about fortified foods

To be fair, the meta-analysis also acknowledged that the studies it found had many limitations. Most didn’t study long-term effects, and they studied third-world areas where people weren’t necessarily healthy to begin with.

Fortified Foods for First-World Consumers

So what about people in first-world countries? Do fortified foods help them all that much? Well, as we mentioned, fortification has dramatically reduced certain nutrient deficiencies in the U.S., even as recently as the 1990s. Moreover, many older adults don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. For them, fortified foods or dietary supplements are often “vital.”

Unfortunately, getting too much of a micronutrient can prove harmful. Calcium supplements, for example, can reduce people‘s risk of fracturing a bone. But taking too much calcium can actually increase people‘s risk of fractures. (Dietary supplements also contain far higher concentrations than fortified foods; we mention them only as an example of what can happen with too many micronutrients.)

It can be a “challenge” to find the right balance in fortification. The goal is to add enough to help nutrient-deficient people without adding too much for healthy people. In general, though, our sources expressed more concern about people over-using dietary supplements (like the calcium example) than about people getting too much through fortified food.

Are Fortified Foods Necessarily Healthy?

The question, we found, isn‘t so much “do fortified foods work?” Practically every source agreed that yes, eating fortified foods can improve your micronutrient intake. The question that seemed to generate more interest is, “are fortified foods helpful?” The answer to that one is a little more complicated than you might expect.

Bowl of frosted wheat cereal and banana slices, used as an example of a fortified food

Many fortified foods have high levels of unhealthy things like fat, sodium, and sugar. The foods that are highest in fortified micronutrients include things like pizza and pastries — the same highly-processed foods people generally shouldn’t eat often. As one nutritionist argued, people need to choose fortified foods as carefully as they choose any other food. Just because a food is fortified doesn’t mean you can ignore the rest of its nutrition info.

And as we mentioned, many nutritionists showed concern about people overusing supplements. Obviously, in many cases supplements make the difference in allowing people to get enough of certain nutrients. However, the recommended daily amount of many micronutrients is often already present in common foods. A single serving of (fortified) Total Raisin Bran, for example, contains all the iron you need for the day.

A Balanced Perspective

In general, it’s important to remember that “you can’t cover poor nutrition by adding extra vitamins.” The International Food Information Council argues that “it’s important to seek nutrients from food first.” At the same time, it acknowledges that “some nutrients [like Vitamin D] are harder to come by than others.” It recommends using fortified foods to get nutrients that rarely occur naturally, but not relying on fortified foods exclusively.

Fortified foods can certainly help prevent widespread nutrient deficiencies; in terms of accomplishing their stated goal, they work very well. At the same time, most of the scientists our sources quoted agreed that an “overall healthy eating pattern” is the most important thing for consumers to focus on. One study’s conclusion about supplements could sum up the common take on fortified foods as well. The study’s authors said: “Multivitamin and mineral supplements [and fortification] are not intended to replace food, but should…help bridge the gap between inadequacy and sufficiency.”

We specialize in creating educational tools for the ag industry, not providing dietary or nutrition advice. Thus, don’t take this article as medical guidance — it’s for informational purposes only. If you’re thinking about changing your diet, check with your doctor or another medical professional first. And although we worked hard to find reliable information, there may be omissions, errors, or simple mistakes in it. So, if you rely on the information in this article, be aware that you’re doing so at your own risk.

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How Does Your [Soybean] Grow?: Soybean Growth Stage Display https://exhibitfarm.com/how-does-your-soybean-grow-soybean-growth-stage-display/ Mon, 22 Jun 2020 12:00:00 +0000 https://exhibitfarm.com/?p=8529 “Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Did you ever hear that nursery rhyme?...

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Green graphic; text reads "How Does Your Soybean Grow? Soybean Growth  Stage Display"

“Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Did you ever hear that nursery rhyme? The answer is ”With silver bells and cockleshells, and pretty maids all in a row.” Explanations for the rhyme’s meaning vary, but they seem to agree that the rhyme isn’t talking about a literal garden. Which is kind of a pity, because some people actually want to know how gardens or plants grow.

Our clients at the Missouri Soybean Association knew this. They wanted to help people visualize the development of a soybean, so they commissioned us to create a dozen artificial soybean plants showing the soybean’s growth stages.

(You can see more photos of this agricultural exhibit on our custom products page.)

What are Soybean Growth Stages?

Soybean fields are common in the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean passerby understand them. It’s awfully hard to get a good look at plants as you’re driving by, after all. But since soybeans have so many uses in everyday life, they’re worth knowing more about. And that’s why Missouri Soybean opened the Center for Soy Innovation, a facility designed to show people all the ways soy impacts their lives. They wanted to have a display in the Center explaining just how soybeans mature, using lifelike artificial soybeans that captured each of the soybean plant’s growth stages.

Soybeans go through precise growth stages as they develop. The initial stages are called the vegetative stages. This is when the plant’s focusing on growing bigger and putting out more leaves. Once the first flower appears, the soybean has entered the reproductive stages, where it’s focusing on producing those oh-so-useful soybeans.

That’s a slight simplification, but you get the impression. Each growth stage is defined by a set of specific standards measuring the development of leaves or seed pods, which means we knew exactly what features our soybean models needed to have.

Two display cases showing lifelike models of R6 and R8 stages of soybean life cycle
Crafting the Soybean Growth Stage Display

We’ve made soybean growth stage models before, but never as many as the display Missouri Soybean wanted. They imagined a growth stage display that would show the soybeans’ development all the way from seedling to harvest-ready plant. That meant no fewer than twelve artificial soybean plants, each crafted with meticulous detail.

Our first challenge was the sprouts. We hadn’t made soybean plants that small before, and the leaf structure for seedlings is different from more developed plants. But our plant artists figured out how to make it work. Then they tackled the problem of creating a lifelike color for each stage of development (there are slight differences there too). Their hard work paid off with twelve museum-quality artificial soybeans.

And then, on top of the soybean growth stages display, Missouri Soybean asked for three other artificial soybeans. These ones would stand alone, and, like one display we made with corn plants, they’d have exposed roots. The exposed roots were another first for our team, but we successfully replicated them — right down to the distinctive nodules.

Since the Center for Soy Innovation opened, Missouri Soybean reports that the soybean growth stage display has gotten a lot of traffic. Like we were saying, crop fields may not be quite the same as gardens, but people still ask how they grow.

YouTube Video

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