Black Ink: The Taste of Change

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Nicole Erceg. 

I don’t remember the first time I ate it nor the last, I just remember that it tasted terrible. My mother called it "Uschi’s Omlet," a nod to her mother’s German name, as she passed on the mushy, messy bake recipe.

Truthfully, none of us liked it, but we didn’t dare say so because serving it every Christmas made Mom feel connected to the ones who no longer sat around the table.

It was tradition.

In the cattle business, tradition is everywhere. It’s the fence posts put down by a generation before, the tricks dad taught of how to use baling twine to "fix" a farm truck door, and how to tell when a calf is sick. It’s in the whisper of the wind through the grass, knowing the ground beneath your boots is open with opportunity because of family members you never got the chance to meet.

The rituals of those before us are the harvest we reap today.

Mom caught us all one year scraping the bits we couldn’t choke down into the garbage and we confessed our disgust for the dish. It didn’t mean she stopped making it — change isn’t easy. 

Change disrupts the reliable good from the way things have always been. Sometimes, it can feel like we’re dishonoring the ones who have gone before by drifting from their trustworthy well-worn paths.

In 2020, change and disruption have been around every corner. Things look different in our newsfeeds, but the cattle in the pasture feel the same, undisturbed by the stressors swirling around us.

The cows may not know it, but it’s a different world we’re living in.

As the headlines fade into history, much will look the same on the ranch. But since change defines this year, let’s take a look at what should be changing in our businesses. 

This calving season, does the calving barn dad built in the ’50s feel nonfunctional with the cow size you have today? If you’ve always selected for maternal performance in the cow herd and carcass traits in the calves you’ll feed, is it time to select for both? Maybe this weaning season will be extended, presenting opportunities to change up your traditional 30-day program or explore different marketing avenues.

Looking for a chance to change can highlight the best traditions we need to hold on to. These past months have shown the U.S. cattlemen’s dedication to quality and consistency is still vital to future success. As restaurants reopen, they’re looking for points of differentiation, demanding Prime beef and branded programs that drive value back to the ranch. 

The ones whose legacy we carry were probably never dealt a global pandemic. They didn’t have to work to please today’s consumer. They didn’t have data and technology at their fingertips like we do today. 

The repeating rhythm of the seasons offers predictability, we know what’s up ahead. The heritage and tradition grounds us and though we’ve been dealt a different hand, those who play it smart will continue to carry on. It’s a careful balance of combining the best traditions of the past with innovations of today that result in a better product for our customers at the end of the value chain. 

Every year, Mom will still ask if we want her to make Uschi’s Omlet, though she knows our answer. I never met my grandmother, but the stories and the ability to sew are traditions from her that won’t die with me, though I hope the legacy of that recipe does. Now my family enjoys a holiday breakfast of cinnamon rolls, and the taste of change is sweet.

For Mom, it’s served with a small side of sadness, though she admits a better eating experience for all is worth embracing a little change. 

Next time in Black Ink®, Miranda Reiman will talk about not so trivial pursuits. Questions? E-mail


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