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A burger with cheese and bacon

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – What do you think of when you hear the word burger? The beef patty? The tomato? Maybe even a few strips of bacon? All of these items are certainly the makings of a great burger. However, each ingredient would not be possible without America’s farmers. From the bun to the packaging, the handiwork of farmers is evident in each bite.

Let’s Build a Burger

Depending on an individual’s preferred burger ingredients, the work of four, eight or more farmers is likely represented. Becky Barlow, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System assistant director for agriculture, forestry and natural resource programming, said farmers consistently provide everyday items through their hard work and it can be easy to take those items for granted.

“People might think about how livestock producers contribute to meat and cheese and maybe how farmers grow things like lettuce and tomatoes,” Barlow said. “However, other aspects–such as farmers’ contributions to making the hamburger bun or the forest products used to make packaging–might be less obvious. Also, we can’t forget food safety. Work done by professionals in this field keep the food we eat safe.”

Read more about some common burger ingredients along with quick production and usage facts about each.

Build a Burger posterBun

  • Wheat is the main food grain that farmers produce in the United States.
  • Among U.S. field crops, wheat production ranks third–only behind corn and soybeans–in planted acreage, production and gross farm receipts.
  • In 2021, Alabama wheat farmers harvested 110,000 acres of wheat, with an average of 83 bushels per acre. One bushel is equivalent 60 pounds of wheat.
  • The retail price of fresh bread is $1.30 per pound, of which farmers receive 6 cents.

Meat

  • U.S. beef producers are efficient. They produce 18% of the world’s beef with only 8% of the world’s cattle.
  • Beef is an important dietary source of iron. Three ounces of beef has the same amount of iron as 3 cups of raw spinach.
  • Alabama ranks eighth in the U.S. for the number of farms with cattle.
  • The retail price of choice beef is $7.66 per pound, of which farmers receive $1.02. 

Cheese

  • Each year, approximately one-third of the milk produced in the U.S. is used to make cheese.
  • The average American eats 23 pounds of cheese each year.
  • The retail price of cheddar cheese is $5.44 per pound, of which farmers receive $1.57.

Vegetables

  • The average person consumes approximately 20 to 24 pounds of tomatoes every year. In Alabama, 5,226,000 pounds of tomatoes are produced in hydroponic systems. The retail price of vine-ripe tomatoes is $1.85 per pound, of which farmers receive 56 cents.
  • In Alabama, 820,000 pounds of lettuce are produced in hydroponic systems. The retail price of iceberg lettuce is $1.85 per pound, of which farmers receive 56 cents.

Packaging

  • Many items associated with a burger–such as napkins, bags, wrappers, packaging and even toothpicks–all come from managed forests.
  • Each year, the average person uses approximately seven trees worth of paper, wood and other products.
  • Forestry is one of Alabama’s largest industries with a value of over $4 billion.
  • In the U.S., Alabama is the second largest producer of pulp and paper and ranks number seven in lumber production.

2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo

Each year, Alabama Extension professionals set up an educational exhibit at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia. For the 2022 expo, the Extension team chose to center the exhibit around the burger.

“The idea came from several Extension employees discussing how we could include each agriculture, forestry and natural resources team in the 2022 exhibit,” said Lucy Edwards, the Alabama Extension coordinator for Chilton County.

Just like the ingredients that make up a burger, the employees of Alabama Extension all bring their own ingredient to the mix when it comes to educational programming. Edwards said the burger is the perfect vehicle to display this.

“A burger–including a veggie burger–requires every facet of agriculture to make it to your plate,” Edwards said. “Alabama Extension professionals provide education pertaining to each area, so it was easy to receive support from each team to help us Build a Burger.”

Barlow said events like the Sunbelt Ag Expo are so effective because they allow Extension to reach a broad audience with science-based information about agriculture.

“In this project, we showed how agriculture touches every part of something as commonplace as a hamburger,” Barlow said. “It was great to see those aha moments on people’s faces when they were playing our Are You Smarter Than a Farmer? game, learning about growing lettuce or talking with our food safety and quality team about how they build a hamburger.”

More Information

To learn more about agriculture’s impact on the burger, visit the Build a Burger web page at www.aces.edu. There, you can view and download the materials created by Alabama Extension for the 2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo.

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