Farm Food Facts

Ep 15 Cattle Ranches and Supermarkets

February 20, 2019
Farm Food Facts
Ep 15 Cattle Ranches and Supermarkets
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Ep 15 Cattle Ranches and Supermarkets
Feb 20, 2019
USFRA
Our thought leader is Bridget Wasser, Executive Director, Meat Science & Supply Chain Outreach at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.Food News of the Week:•Polar Vortex Slammed mid-western Dairy Farmers and Beef Cattle Ranchers•Oregon Rancher is Building Soil Health—as well as a Robust Regional Food System•Has this Company Invented a Weed that could Save Farming (and the Environment)?•Producers design Angus herd Genetics for Better Beef.•A Major Beer offers a #ToastToFarmers as a way to Thank Crop Growers!Farmer of the Week: Kelsey Pope, Colorado cattle rancher & blogger.
Show Notes Transcript

Our thought leader is Bridget Wasser, Executive Director, Meat Science & Supply Chain Outreach at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

Food News of the Week: 
•Polar Vortex Slammed mid-western Dairy Farmers and Beef Cattle Ranchers 
•Oregon Rancher is Building Soil Health—as well as a Robust Regional Food System 
•Has this Company Invented a Weed that could Save Farming (and the Environment)?
•Producers design Angus herd Genetics for Better Beef. 
•A Major Beer offers a #ToastToFarmers as a way to Thank Crop Growers! 

Farmer of the Week: Kelsey Pope, Colorado cattle rancher & blogger.

Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts where every farmer, every acre, and every voice matter. This week on Farm, Food, Facts, it's all about beef, the trends, what's happening on cattle ranches and what supermarkets need to do. Welcome to the Farm, Food, Facts interactive podcast presented by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance for Wednesday, February 20th, 2019, and it's time to celebrate as today is National Cherry Pie day. Today, our thought leader is Bridget Wasser, Executive Director, Meat Science & Supply Chain Outreach at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Our podcast will then continue with a discussion with Kelsey Pope, a Colorado cattle rancher and blogger. Let's get started. So Bridget, your title intrigues me. What does a meat scientist actually do?:
Bridget Wasser:
0:52
I think my parents probably asked the same question when I started my degree program years ago. But there are actually many meat scientists working in the meat and the food industry from private companies, to academia or government, and to associations and groups like the one I work for. And the goal would be, of a meat scientist, to advance meat quality, safety, and other important attributes. And then at my role at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, we're responsible for the checkoffs beef quality research program and activities that aim to increase consumer demand for beef and optimized beef quality and taste. And that would include doing cutting demos and product education sessions. And then additionally, I lead the delivery of the "Beef. It's what's for dinner" brand to the supply chain. That would include some of our business to business efforts that support the brand across processors, manufacturers, distributors, retail and food service. And we've got a really talented group here of staff that bring the brand to the supply chain or the business audience.:
Phil Lempert:
1:52
So, let's get into the meat itself. Are you taking cultures of the meat, looking at the marbling of it, looking, you talk about quality. What is the quality aspect? How are you discovering that?:
Bridget Wasser:
2:09
Well, in terms of meat science, traditionally we speak to quality as the taste or the eating experience that you would get with a product like beef. And so, the most important attributes that we would work on from a science perspective for meat quality or taste, would be the specific attributes of tenderness, flavor, and juiciness. The beef checkoff funds research at meat science institutions, universities across the country to improve those attributes with a goal of improving the overall quality and eating experience and the consistency of beef.:
Phil Lempert:
2:45
And you're improving that how? By the feed that is given to the cattle? How can you, for lack of a better word, manipulate those three factors?:
Bridget Wasser:
3:00
Well, you're right in thinking about the pre-harvest approach, there's really a pre- and a post-harvest approach to meat quality. And then we can essentially research all the different touch points that we have throughout the pre- and post-harvest production system for beef and determine the impact of those inputs essentially on eating quality, and then work on ways to make recommendations to the industry to improve consistency of those attributes over time. So, you mentioned feeding, so it would be what we feed an animal, but also how long, genetics, even the environment and the handling of that animal. And then on the post-harvest side, things like proper chilling practices and aging. Aging is our best tool, really, post-harvest to improve and maintain a really good eating experience for beef.:
Phil Lempert:
3:48
And one of the things that I'm noticing in a lot of supermarkets, in particular Hy-Vee in the Midwest, what they now have is they have next to the meat department, they have an aging area where they're taking beef and they're aging it in the store for a month or two months. Is that something that you're seeing trending?:
Bridget Wasser:
4:13
I think there is a trending in interest in aging overall. Whether it's aging visibly like that in a retail setting where the shopper can really see and kind of almost have that interaction with the product as it's aging and that visual representation of that process happening. So, I would say we have seen a trend in kind of the interest and the amount of people who kind of just want to know a little bit more about beef aging. And that would work for wet or dry aging, wet being the most popular form of aging for U.S. beef and between retail and food service sectors. There have been people that have done open aging rooms in restaurants for a really long time. And so I think that trend has kind of carried over into retail and just really speaks to more people being interested in their food and where their food comes from. The story behind that.:
Phil Lempert:
5:01
Sure. And certainly gets that conversation going between the butcher and the consumer. I know that NCBA has a culinary center. I know you develop a lot of great recipes; I see them all the time. But does the culinary center actually work with retailers and producers as well?:
Bridget Wasser:
5:20
Yes, absolutely. And to your point, there are hundreds of triple-tested recipes developed in the recently renovated NCBA culinary center that's funded by the checkoff, and its located right here where I am in Centennial, Colorado, and the major point to make there, first of all is that all of those recipes are available for use and integration by retailers in that center. Our chefs develop, refine, and test delicious beef recipes. So, it's quite a perk to work here and hang around for the leftovers of that testing. But the kitchen's equipped, or the culinary center is equipped, with common consumer appliances and that helps us ensure recipes are easy to prepare in any shopper's home. So, those recipes also include detailed nutrition facts, high resolution images, so retailers can offer those recipes and their photos to their shoppers at the meat counter, share them on social media and their circulars or other publications, or their emails or apps for example. But then to your point, additionally in the culinary center, the team has helped several partners. We've helped retail partners test cooking recommendations for their labels, help ideate restaurant menu items and meal kits around innovative cuts or flavors, created training videos, and even educated companies' staff. So, we absolutely welcome be partners to the culinary center to work side by side with our experts.:
Phil Lempert:
6:40
That's smart, to actually bring those retailers in. Over the past couple of years, what I have noticed in supermarkets is that the consumer focus on the benefits of protein have really taken over the shelves. How is that affecting beef trends? Both in supermarkets and you mentioned food service?:
Bridget Wasser:
7:01
Yeah, I'd agree. I think protein is top of mind for many consumers, and I do think there's untapped potential to talk to the consumer about beef's protein story. And generally, we do see less protein messaging in the meat department than many other aisles in the store. I think that's a potential missed opportunity, given meat's inherent high-quality protein profile. One of the things that we do on behalf of the checkoff is regularly monitor consumer perceptions of beef. And we're finding as recently as last month, that 69% of our broad beef consumer target strongly or somewhat agrees that beef is a food that gives them strength. And we think that ties back to protein naturally. So for the industry side, we want to continue to leverage positive stories of beef as a protein source and a food that gives someone strength. And we want to continue to position positive influential messengers and members of the beef community and beef industry to help carry that message forward to consumers. But we'd also love to work with partners that are interested in telling a story like this to their customers. We have resources dedicated to dieticians and health and wellness professionals that can help tell the great overall nutrition story for beef.:
Phil Lempert:
8:15
So, I remember - I don't know how many years ago - but when I was a kid - and I grew up in the food business, my grandfather was a dairy farmer, my father's a food manufacturer - I remember that something happened where they renamed different cuts of beef for some reason. And I don't remember the reason. And boy, it was confusing. And I go to a supermarket now and I see so many different cuts, and frankly, I'm confused. When should I use certain cuts? Sometimes there's a meat manager that I could ask. Sometimes it's not, it's just a self service case. So what should supermarkets be doing to educate shoppers - at first, I guess my first question is how many different cuts of beef are there and what should supermarkets do to help educate shoppers?:
Bridget Wasser:
9:14
There are a lot of different beef cuts here, it kind of depends. It's almost an endless number because to your point, they can be called by different names. We've got tons of those cuts available on our website, beefitswhatsfordinner.com, and descriptions of those cuts. And I know we're over a hundred just there. But I think you can witness that confusion if you do wander around the meat department. And even thinking back to the last Power of Meat study, shoppers don't have often have the patience to find someone at the meat case or they may not even want to interact with someone at all. Maybe that thought intimidates them, but we know they still want recipes and answers to questions they may have about beef cuts and preparation.:
Bridget Wasser:
9:59
You know, I think also we all get daily newsletters and we see that the way consumers shop and interact with food is really changing. Mobile devices, smart speakers, in-store monitors, apps, all those technologies are reality, but they give retailers cool new ways to help their shoppers. And because of this, the checkoff has invested in developing a new AI technology - artificial intelligence technology - that can help educate and really entertain shoppers right on their favorite device in the meat case. That AI technology actually has a name and it's Chuck Knows Beef and he's powered by Google's artificial intelligence and available on a Google home assistant, Amazon Alexa, and then easily at the meat case on any mobile device by visiting. ChuckKnowsBeef.com, or even maybe scanning a code that can be placed on a label or signage in the meat case to take someone right there.:
Bridget Wasser:
10:54
But, Chuck provides an easy way for shoppers to select the right cut and learn the right way to cook it. And then shoppers can also get handy shopping lists needed to create a full beef recipes sent right to their phones, hopefully compelling them to add more items to the basket while they're in the store. And he can also answer questions about things like nutrition and production. So, retailers, they could use Chuck or similar technologies as part of their meat team to really enhance shopper loyalty. By introducing shoppers to something like Chuck, they could help increase that shopper knowledge without increasing their training or their labor costs for their staff. We actually do have quite a few collateral pieces that are developed for retailers to help them introduce their shoppers to Chuck Knows Beef, that would be digital and physical creative that could be put behind social media signage in stores. We even have shirts, and aprons, and tongs to get people excited about it. So, that's one way that we are engaging from the industry side with retailers, and we were looking for partners who want to engage their shoppers with Chuck. And then beyond that, we've got a ton of complementary resources that are available to retailers. We've got Beef University, which is a online training program like a Beef 101 for for retail staff. We've got cutting resources and a whole lot more.:
Phil Lempert:
12:17
So, I'm going to put you on the spot. "Okay. Google. Chuck Knows Beef.":
Chuck:
12:27
Hey, I'm Chuck, your guide to all things beef. I can help with recipes, cuts, cooking tips in a whole lot more. How can I help?:
Phil Lempert:
12:35
What's a flank steak?:
Chuck:
12:36
Flank steak is on the right side of tasty. It's lean and boneless with lots of intense beef flavor. This cut is best when marinated and grilled, sliced thin, and stir fried, or oven broiled.:
Phil Lempert:
12:50
Bridget, you passed with flying colors. I love that. I'm going to use that. So, thanks so much for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts and looking forward to getting to know Chuck.:
Bridget Wasser:
13:04
Absolutely. Thanks so much.:
Phil Lempert:
13:06
And now the food news. Polar vortex slammed Midwest dairy farmers and beef cattle ranchers. When cold weather becomes this extreme, as it has for much of the Midwest, safety experts advise that we should not stay outside for more than just a few minutes at a time. However, most farmers don't have that choice, especially when caring for their livestock. "The first thing we do in weather like this is to protect our animals, "said Bob Roden, a dairy farmer from West Bend, Wisconsin. For his cattle, Roden uses water tanks that have submersible electric heaters to keep them from freezing and he also piles snow around the tanks for installation. In addition, Roden offers his cows extra feed because they need the calories to stay warm. His tractors are kept in the heated shed and he mixes kerosene with diesel fuel so that the tractors will run better in the frigid cold. "The biggest thing now is that we have all these extra costs to keep everything heated. It's kind of a bummer, but what else are you going to do?" he said. The extreme cold wreaks havoc on tractor batteries and causes diesel fuel to gel until it becomes as thick as Jello, which then causes clogs in the fuel lines and tractor tires are more prone to flattening as well. Ag producers continue to brace for more winter storms. What grocers need to know is that when it's 25 below zero, a lot of things can go wrong on a farm. And one of the biggest challenges farmer space in this situation is finding the funds for the unexpected costs that arise from trying to keep their farms running smoothly in this extreme weather. Thankfully, the USDA, he offers a variety of programs and services to help communities, farmers, ranchers, businesses that have been hit hard by winter storms. To find out how to get assistance, visit USDA's storm disaster page.:
Phil Lempert:
15:00
And although recent weather has been extreme, let's find out what we can do to build up our soil. Oregon ranchers building soil health as well as a robust regional food system. Civil Eats recently published a profile on Oregon rancher Corey Carman, who holistically manages 5,000 acres which serve as a model for sustainable meat operations in the Pacific Northwest. At her ranch, Carman constantly rotates the cattle while paying attention to the growth rate of the animals and grasses so that the steers select the forages they need to grow and gain weight, and the grasses get clipped, trampled down, and fertilized with manure resulting in fields that are vibrant. They retain water, resist drought, contain abundant organic matter, which contributes nutrients and carbon, and are highly productive without the addition of fertilizer, she says. Though, utilizing this system, Carman believes that cattle are a necessary component of fertility for every cropping system. When we harvest the cattle, we harvest the micronutrients out of the soil, and the model Carman has built so far has already proved to be an inspiration to other Northwest producers looking to scale up their businesses. What grocers need to know is that this innovative approach to soil health puts the focus on holistic management of one's farmland by instilling a commitment to soil, human, and animal health, as well as maximizing the value of production for the regional economy. It's these kinds of innovations and stories that grocers need to share with their shoppers so they understand just how the supply chain is transparent and helping the environment.:
Phil Lempert:
16:42
And in other creative innovation news: has this company invented a weed that could save farming and the environment? St. Louis-based Cover Cress, formerly known as Arvenix, has genetically engineered a weed - the spindly, flat-seeded penny cress - in order to create a new variety called cover cress. This new crop is capable of growing during winter time, which means that it can serve as a cover crop between and during growing seasons, and it produces an oil seed which offers an additional source of revenue. "In the economics of today, cover crops are a net expense," says Cover Cress CEO Jerry Steiner. "We're hoping to deliver cover crop benefits, while at the same time producing income." In a 2018 survey the company conducted, 80% of growers said that they're enthusiastic about trying this new crop. Of course, the real hurdle will be getting farmers to put their money where their mouth is and actually buy into the Cover Cress mission. So far, the company has yet to earn a dime of revenue, but nonetheless, Steiner remains confident. "When we go out and talk to farmers, they're very interested," he says. "But they want to be very sure that we can deliver on our product concept that the yield is there." What grocers need to know is that farmers are struggling to keep profitable, and in order for our agriculture system to survive and prosper, they must continue to innovate and find additional sources of income on the farm. What that means for retailers is to understand that they have to make sure that farmers receive their fair share. For every dollar consumer spend on food, the farmer receives just 14.8 cents, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.:
Phil Lempert:
18:24
And the science of genetics doesn't just apply to horticulture; it can also be applied to livestock. Producers design Angus herd genetics for better beef. Kimberly Walter, with help from her husband, Bradley, manages 160 head herd of pure-bred registered Angus cattle spread over two states. The goal is premium beef, achieved through superior genetics, good management and personal attention. "We're passionate about it," dhe said about her desire not just to raise quality beef, but to also improve the breed. "We decided to invest in Angus because, looking forward," she says, "we recognize that the breed was doing great things." Walter spends a great deal of her time on the vast paperwork required for genetics research, and also the couple works closely with an Angus genetics team. These animals are bred for several different traits, for example, low birth weight for ease in calving. The majority of the breeding is primarily directed at consumer demand and the objective is to produce high quality beef. Walter says, "we're looking at a large ribeye area and great marbling. That's our goal here. We've been able to tap a local market of people who want our beef." What grocers need to know is that innovative Angus producers can provide your store meat departments with a higher quality product for your shoppers, but you have to be sure to tell the story to merchandise it properly and offer your shoppers a taste sampling.:
Phil Lempert:
19:53
And if you're a fan of pairing your juicy steak with a frosty called mug of beer, you may especially appreciate this next story. A major beer offers a #ToasttoFarmers as a way to thank crop growers. Coors Light wants to thank the growers of barley, hops and corn - the crops utilized in beer production - with a social media campaign using the #ToasttoFarmers. The popular beer producer is urging beer drinkers to raise a glass in honor of the hardworking farmers who help make popping a cold one possible. This effort in farmer appreciation is inspired by and in response to Bud Light's recent Superbowl corn yyrup ads, which pointed out that both Miller Light and Coors Light use corn syrup in their brewing processes. Many farmers felt apprehension in regards to negative connotations consumers might garner from the Bud Light ads. Miller Coors was quick to reassure ag producers that their efforts are both respected and appreciated. "ABI didn't just attack our flagship brands, they attacked hardworking American farmers who grow our great ingredients," Ryan Reese, Vice President of the Coors family of brands stated. "We're standing up for our beers, our ingredients, and the farmers who grow them." What grocers need to know is that Miller Coors has been brilliant in their proactive response, and by honoring the farmers who supply the ingredients in their brews, they're building a stronger and more long-term relationship with their - and your - customers, much more than a single Superbowl ad could ever do.:
Phil Lempert:
21:27
And now it's time to head to the farm. Kelsey, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.:
Kelsey Pope:
21:32
Thanks for having me.:
Phil Lempert:
21:33
You're a self described ag gal, with the blog Ag on the Forefront. Clearly, in addition to being a cattle rancher, you're passionate about getting the ag messaging to consumers, you also served on USFRA Digital Voices Council. Why is it so important to you to share your personal stories?:
Kelsey Pope:
21:52
So, I started my blog Ag on the Forefront when I was actually in college. My freshman roommate was a city girl. She knew nothing about agriculture, but she had a lot of questions. She was really curious to know more about farming and ranching. And so I thought, if she has all these questions about agriculture, then I'm sure that other people might as well, so I should blog about them. So, I really just started my blog kind of based on that, and it's really evolved over time to share about current issues that are important to agriculture, how to engage with consumers. And now that I'm back actively working on my family's ranch, it's more about life on the ranch, what we do to care for our cattle, and really family life. Because as a mom to a young child, and also rancher, I really want to connect with other moms where I can share what we have in common, because I know that's really how we build trust with our consumers.:
Kelsey Pope:
22:48
If they know, if they know me through my blog, then they'll hopefully learn to trust me and in turn trust what we do on our ranch to care for our cattle and then hopefully allow them to just trust agriculture as a whole. So, I really feel that we can better connect personally with people outside of agriculture and, if we can help them to understand the issues that we have surrounding the food industry, and hopefully if they can understand that and get to know us - and that's kind of the goal with my blog - then hopefully some of these issues will become a non-issue because they already trust their food and they don't have to have fear in their food.:
Phil Lempert:
23:21
So, did you ever get your roommate to come to the ranch?:
Kelsey Pope:
23:24
Yes, I did. I got lots of pictures with her and we've stayed best friends and she's a great advocate for agriculture now as a city girl.:
Phil Lempert:
23:34
That's great. But, you didn't have her work on the ranch at all?:
Kelsey Pope:
23:39
Well, you know, she put on boots and she was all excited to get out there and get dirty.:
Phil Lempert:
23:42
Oh, that's great. So, let's a bit about the role of influencers. Because of social media today, your voice, along with other farmers and ranchers, is amplified more than ever, as you described with your blog. How can the farming community be more effective with their voices?:
Kelsey Pope:
24:02
Yeah, that's a great question. We hear about the power of social media, and it really is an incredible thing, and we've seen that in agriculture and even outside of agriculture, unfortunately when people are talking and sharing myths in agriculture that aren't true, and seeing how fast that spreads. And so, that's why it really is so important that farmers, ranchers do share what we do. And really more importantly, why we do what we do, to really build our voice and work on earning trust with our consumers. We know that videos and pictures are really more effective on social media because it draws attention. Most of us that are in ag live in great, beautiful places. We're fortunate we can share these pictures first hand and a lot of people want to see that and want to experience that.:
Kelsey Pope:
24:47
I enjoy sharing pictures on my blog and on social media. And I recently shared a picture on Instagram of my son feeding a bottle to a bottle calf, and that got a lot more interaction than most of my other posts because that's the social part of social media, right? It's a human element that people really can connect with. And, not only was it just a cute picture, it really had the story behind it that we could share that we care about our animals. So, when I have a chance to talk to other producers, I really encourage them to share why they do what they do. Include pictures and videos, include your family and yourself, because that's really the human element and allows people to connect with us. And that really helps us to continue building trust with our consumers.:
Phil Lempert:
25:34
And that's so important because most people have no idea where their food comes from. So, the more that we can humanize it, to your point, the better. Now, I was taking a look at your blog and I know you love to share beef recipes. How do you develop them? I mean, if you look at me and I grew up in a city, for me, it's just going to the supermarket, getting a great steak, and throwing it on the grill. You go a lot further than that.:
Kelsey Pope:
26:07
Most of my recipes are just tried and true recipes from either family cookbooks or church cook books, cook books that I was raised on. One of those things that kind of brings you back to your childhood when you have a certain recipe, so I like to share those things. And then others are ones that I've found from other bloggers that I follow, or Pinterest, right? Pinterest for recipes. And I make sure I always try them, first and then I modify them and then I share them. But really as a busy mom myself, I value those really good, easy to follow recipes. And I feel like there are others out there like me that are looking for that same thing. So if I share easy, delicious recipes, and also include some of my life on the ranch stories, or maybe talk about the health qualities of beef, then I'm helping to share ag's story to others who may not otherwise read my blog. And again, that's where the power of social media really comes in and how we can have a bigger impact in agriculture by reaching others. Even if it's just the content, my blog or with recipes that they're looking for, that gives them a person behind the food. Like we talked about, the person that's raising the food and that's what we really need to help people understand.:
Phil Lempert:
27:19
What's your favorite recipe?:
Kelsey Pope:
27:21
Oh Gosh. You know, I love a good pot roast and you can't go wrong with putting that in the crock pot. And I changed my notes. Sometimes I'll make it more of an Italian pot roast or a traditional pot roast and, you just put them in the crock pot and it's cooking all day and that'll have it.:
Phil Lempert:
27:40
Got It. Last question, Kelsey, what would you like our retail partners, supermarkets, to be doing to reinforce your messages as a cattle rancher?:
Kelsey Pope:
27:53
Yeah, that's a really great question. And I really feel that retail stores can be a great point of education for consumers or food eaters, right? We all eat, we all care about the food that goes into our bodies to stay healthy, and people are looking for that when they go to the store. I've been into several supermarkets that feature education and promotional materials about real farmers and ranchers that raise the food and maybe they're just produce growers or they're beef ranchers, whatever they are; it puts a face with the food and that way the people know that it's raised by real people. And that disconnect can be hard between the producer and the store that's selling the food, because as a producer, I appreciate it when the stores go above and beyond to feature people that raise food.:
Kelsey Pope:
28:41
They don't have to, right? They just there to sell food. But it really is what food eaters want to know about and when they walk into a supermarket, food's on their mind. So, I think it's a great place; we have a captive audience to share our story about how and why we raise food. We also know that that people's time is limited. I know when I go to the grocery store, I'm running in and out. So, if there's a way that we can capture them, capture the consumer or the little soundbite or an image that will click with them, then hopefully that they'll want to search more and know more. And that's when it comes back to the blogs or whatever. The people will want to look for more information. I think about another way that supermarkets really can connect with producers is having producers in the store - or sorry, connect with consumers of having producers in the store. I've done some beef promotion, just promoting beef, and been into the store and give samples and it's just a fun experience. I was all prepared for people to ask me all these difficult questions, but they didn't. They just wanted to know me as a person and it comes back to that human connection. It puts a face with the food. And I would really love if more supermarkets could feature the people behind the food. And that's really how we can build trust in our food system.:
Phil Lempert:
29:54
Kelsey, you're doing a fabulous job. Thanks for joining us, sharing your important insights, and keep up the good work.:
Kelsey Pope:
30:01
Great. Thanks for having me, Phil.:
Phil Lempert:
30:04
And thank you for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts. For more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media tab, and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next week.:
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