The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Cattle Farmer

Cattle Farmer

From the Farmer's Tractor

March 27, 2011

Debbie Lyons-Blythe, 42, is a rancher in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Her ranch has approximately 3,500 acres of grassland, 1,000 acres of crops and hay, and approximately 500 head of cattle. Lyons-Blythe’s family lives on the land that her husband’s family homesteaded in 1890. Lyons-Blythe is in charge of the day-to-day care of the cattle as her husband works off the farm. The Lyons-Blythe’s also have five kids between the ages of 15 and 20.

How did you get into cattle farming?

I was raised on an Angus ranch not far from where I live now. My mom is the rancher in our family, and my dad works off the farm. My sister and I grew up feeding cattle and helping to care for them. I learned at an early age that ranching is not an easy way of life, but it is honest and satisfying. I wouldn’t change a thing!

How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?

In the past 10 years, the technology available to evaluate the quality of cattle has changed dramatically! We now use DNA testing to predict the type of calves that each cow and bull can produce. We can project what their calf will look like and how well he will grow out, based on DNA evaluation. This is so important as consumers demand a slightly different product. Thirty years ago, we produced the calves, and the consumer had to buy what kind of beef there was in the store. Any progress to respond to consumer demand took many years and many generations of selection to create the desired product. Today, we can produce a leaner, higher quality beef and very consistently because of DNA selection.

How will cattle farming evolve in the next five years?

I believe that one of the important desires of the consumer is freedom of choice. Today we have many different products that may be offered in the same market. From grass fed to organic and from natural to traditional, there are many different products for the consumer to select from. I think that will only be enhanced as time goes on. In addition, it is important to remember that not everyone can afford a “niche product” and many are very happy with traditionally raised beef. 

What is your greatest challenge as a cattle farmer?

My greatest challenge is helping to communicate what we do every day to people who want to know where their food comes from. In addition, the legislature and other regulatory arms of the government are working to protect the environment as well as food safety. It is my responsibility to open my ranch to those who want to see what we do for the environment and for livestock. We make decisions every day that affect the health of the Earth. 

How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?
I don’t know that I can predict exactly what consumers will want a year from now, but I know what I want. Remember, I feed my family the same beef that I am producing for you to feed yours. I want nutritious, safe beef to feed my kids so that they can grow to be healthy, intelligent adults.

What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?

It is important to me to have a sustainable and profitable lifestyle, and to protect the land that I hope one day my children and grandchildren will own. We must continue to work to raise more food with the same number of acres and same amount of natural resources. That also holds true with cattle ranching. In order to feed a growing population we must continue to adhere to safe, healthy practices to continue to enhance our product and encourage greater production.
Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?

We do sell a little beef locally, but most of our beef is marketed through the Certified Angus Beef program. Look for it in restaurants and grocery stores that are licensed to sell it. CAB is always good beef – you can count on it!

What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person? 

I love sharing stories about my life with people who do not live on a farm or ranch. I have met many people in grocery stores and other events as well as online through my blog ( and my Facebook ranch page, and I have always had a positive reaction. I think people are doing their best to feed their families what they think is nutritious and cost efficient. I want to make sure they know that I am doing my best to supply that beef for them. I am not unique – every rancher I know does things the same way, and we all work to do what is right for livestock and the environment so that you can buy a delicious, nutritious package of beef every time.