If your family is anything like mine, you’ve likely heard of the infamous “five-second rule.”

With this rule, if food is dropped, there exists roughly five seconds before it can be picked up and consumed or else the food becomes “dirty” and should be discarded.

This was a rule my family and I lived by growing up. Obviously, this rule doesn’t hold up and has no scientific backing, but sometimes we still shout out “five-second rule!” when we see food fall to the ground.

Perhaps the rule started as a way to reduce food waste from a generation who went through the Great Depression. I would agree reducing food waste is important, but as a mom and grandma, I value food safety much more.

Safety starts on the farm

Food safety is also very important to me in my full-time role as a farmer. My husband and I farm northwest of Omaha where we care for cattle in the finishing phase right before they become beef on your plate.

Farmers and ranchers like us take very seriously the safety of our food supply in relation to how we care for our animals, land and water. We also constantly strive to provide high-quality and safe foods for our families and for yours.

Two of the most common consumer concerns about food safety from the beef perspective come from the use of antibiotics and added hormones.

As someone who takes tremendous care and pride in raising healthy livestock, I can tell you there are three important safety questions guiding our use of any product: Is it safe for the animal? Safe for the environment? And safe for people?

The truth about antibiotics, hormones

Antibiotics are an important tool to help us care for animals when they get sick. Veterinary oversight and direction are key to helping farms like ours make sure the correct antibiotic is used to treat each specific ailment and is administered in the proper manner.

Through intensive research, our veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies provide us with the direction needed to make sure an antibiotic is cleared from the body before entering the food supply.

Added hormones are safely used in cattle to help them efficiently turn the feed they eat into lean muscle using fewer resources. The added hormones are tiny pellets placed under the skin of the ear.

Over the course of several months, the hormones in the pellets work with the body to promote the development of more lean muscle. This increased efficiency of raising beef has allowed cattle producers, like myself, to produce more food for a growing population, while reducing our environmental impact, which helps the planet.

My family, and farm families like ours, take great pride in producing quality foods using the safest methods. While we make sure our animals receive the best care possible, we are always aware of the beef they will become.

While I cannot be there to make sure your little ones ignore the five-second rule, I can assure you that farmers like us have invested our own dollars for research and protocols to help us make sure the beef you enjoy is safe.

If you have any questions regarding food and the safety of our food production system, visit CommonGroundNebraska.com and follow us on social media.

Joan Ruskamp and her husband, Steve, farm near Dodge, Nebraska. Their farm includes a feedlot where their cattle utilize resources in a way that enhances the environment while producing tasty and tender beef and other useful items, such as leather, insulin and gelatin. It is important to the Ruskamps to protect the environment, show respect for their cattle and provide a quality product in the process. Joan and Steve have five adult children and seven grandchildren, are active in their local church and serve their community as volunteer EMTs and 4-H leaders. They welcome visitors for tours to gain an understanding of how beef goes from farm to fork. Joan has served as a CommonGround volunteer for many years.

Sweet Sour Meatballs 1

Sweet Sour Meatballs

Our family enjoys eating beef.

The Sweet Sour Meatballs recipe is a family-favorite. With this recipe you can get kids involved in helping to shape the meatballs. I like to remind our grandchildren about the ZIP — zinc, iron and protein — they are getting when they eat beef. I hope you enjoy the recipe. — Joan Ruskamp

Meatball mixture:

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 cup bread slices cubed

1 teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup water

Place ground beef in large mixing bowl, break apart, sprinkle thyme and salt over the hamburger. In a separate bowl, mix water with breadcrumbs. Then add moistened bread to the hamburger mixture. Mix well.

Form into golf ball-sized meatballs using a melon or large cookie scoop.

Heat in a large frying pan over medium heat until browned on all sides. Transfer to 9-by-13-inch baking dish for baking or leave in frying pan for stove top simmering.


2/3 cup water

2/3 cup vinegar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon flour

Whisk together all ingredients. Pour over meatballs in baking dish and bake for 1 hour at 350 F. If using stove top method, pour sauce over meatballs in large frying pan and allow to simmer over low heat until sauce is thickened.

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