Articles tagged as: 12 Impacts for 2012
Twelve is a number rich in meaning for Texas A&M, as it symbolizes one of the university’s most defining and historic traditions: the 12th Man. And on Dec. 12, 2012, (12-12-12), Aggies everywhere will have a once in a lifetime moment to share this unique tradition with the world.
Texas A&M, in partnership with the The Association of Former Students, the Texas A&M Foundation, and the 12th Man Foundation, will spend the first 12 days of December celebrating the 12th Man tradition with the Aggie family — a celebration that will culminate on Dec. 12, 2012.
Beginning on Dec. 1 through Dec. 12, the university will showcase the depth and spirit of Texas A&M through the “12 Days of Texas A&M” campaign, a social media activation. The campaign will highlight the academic excellence, global reach, and traditions of Texas A&M on the university’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, which will also include daily giveaways, contests and more from the university, The Association, the Texas A&M Foundation and the 12th Man Foundation.
And on Dec. 12, Aggies will be asked to participate in the ultimate Aggie moment: playing the school’s war hymn at their place of work, home, or their chosen location. To help in this effort, at or near 12:12 p.m., Aggies in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or Bryan-College Station can tune into local radio stations to hear the The Aggie War Hymn, while files of the song will also be made available for Aggies wishing to download or stream at http://12thman.tamu.edu. Aggies are also encouraged to wear maroon and white on 12-12-12, which has been declared the “Day of the 12th Man” by Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin.
“The tradition of the 12th Man was born more than 90 years ago when an Aggie stood ready to serve. Today, this spirit lives on in Aggies who stand for service to their community, state and nation,” said Diane C. McDonald, Texas A&M’s executive director of marketing and social media. “The historic date of 12-12-12 provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate this special tradition.”
Along with Texas A&M’s daily giveaways, the university’s sister funding organizations will be sponsoring contests with prizes that any Aggie would love.
The Association of Former Students — which raises the university’s Annual Fund that supports both alumni and student activities, academics and traditions — is awarding an Aggie Ring Certificate, up to $1,200 in value, that a qualified student or former student can use toward the purchase of an Aggie Ring.
“We have much to celebrate as Aggies, especially in the year 2012,” said Kathryn Greenwade, vice president at The Association. “The once-in-a-lifetime date of 12-12-12 provides a special opportunity for the worldwide Aggie Network — students, former students, parents, faculty, staff and friends of Texas A&M — to join together in promoting the university and our unrivaled Aggie spirit.”
The Texas A&M Foundation plans to award one current student with the 12-12-12 Academic Award, a special $1,000 award that the winner can use to help fund their scholarly pursuits, a nod of appreciation to the generosity of Aggies, said John Zollinger, marketing manager at the Texas A&M Foundation.
“One of the key factors that make Texas A&M a world-class university is the support that thousands of Aggies provide each year through the Foundation. In celebrating the greatness of the 12th Man, we salute all of you who have given so generously,” Zollinger added.
Aggies will also have the chance to win the 12th Man Foundation’s Super Sports Package, which will provide one lucky fan with two tickets to all remaining home games for men’s basketball, women’s basketball, indoor track, baseball and softball.
“12-12-12 is tailor made for Aggies everywhere to show their pride in all things Texas A&M,” said Mark Riordan, vice president of marketing & brand management at the 12th Man Foundation. “This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make 12-12-12 OUR day.”
To keep up with all of the activities underway leading up to 12-12-12, as well as to find all contest links, rules and Aggie War Hymn resources, visit http://12thman.tamu.edu.
Media contact: Krista Smith, Communications Coordinator, (979) 845-4645
You might not see bugs and bacteria on fresh fruit and vegetables, but they’re there. Texas A&M food engineers are experimenting with new technologies to eliminate these threats to keep our produce safe and healthy.
Many Americans assume fruits and vegetables sold in supermarkets are safe, wholesome foods that are good for us and won’t make us sick. This can be a deadly assumption. Despite rigorous national standards, spinach infected with Escherichia coli and salmonella-tainted tomatoes have hit the market, in recent years, sickening more than 1,000 people in the United States.
But food engineering researchers at Texas A&M are perfecting several methods to ensure the safety of fresh produce: electron beam, or e-beam, irradiation, which kills disease-causing organisms that survive conventional decontamination methods, as well as several advanced packaging techniques.
“Irradiating produce reaches bacteria inside the vegetables, not only the organisms that are on the surface,” says food engineer Rosana Moreira, professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. “Irradiation kills bacteria without damaging produce or making the product unsafe to eat.”
The Centers for Disease Control says that food irradiation holds great potential for preventing many foodborne diseases in meat, poultry, fresh produce and other foods without harming the nutritional value of food or making it hazardous to human health.
Moreira, Elena Castell-Perez and Carmen Gomes are working to calculate the best methods of using electron beam irradiation to eliminate dangerous bacteria and maintain the nutritional content of fresh produce.
Electron beams are streams of high-energy electrons. The beams are not radioactive, and they can be turned on and off like your TV or a flashlight. Applying ionizing radiation to food was introduced more than 100 years ago. Food processors in 50 countries rely upon irradiation to make their food safer, but it’s fallen out of favor in the United States — believed largely the result of consumer fear and lack of understanding of “radiation” and its diverse applications.
“The idea of eating food that has been irradiated concerns some consumers,” Moreira says. “But irradiated food is completely safe, and in some ways may be better than food that has not been irradiated.”
Almost all fresh fruits and vegetables sold commercially in the U.S. are treated with chemicals before reaching grocery stores. Although beneficial for eliminating many contaminants, some of the chemicals used have been found to leave residues that can become harmful once in the consumer’s hands — for instance, when cooking fruits and vegetables at high temperatures, common in the home canning process. And chemical cleaning reaches only bacteria on the surface of the produce, and it may not even eliminate all of that.
But Gomes says food irradiation has several advantages over chemical decontamination methods.
“When we treat with chemicals, we just treat the surface of the produce,” Gomes says. “Irradiation penetrates the product and helps decontaminate it from harmful bacteria that may have found its way inside lettuce, for instance.”
Irradiation also eliminates problems associated with other food safety treatments such as nutrient degradation or changing the produce’s color, texture and flavor. The researchers are now working to determine precisely how much irradiation is enough.
“Quality is very important,” Castell-Perez says. “We want to maintain everything there — vitamins, color, shelf life — but get rid of things like Salmonella.”
Computed tomography, or CT, scans can help to map produce to calculate the dosimetry, the absorbed dose of ionizing radiation, for certain fruits and vegetables. Using computer simulation, they can cut a cantaloupe, for example, into thousands of layers to create a model that enables the researchers to calculate the smallest dose of radiation needed to reach every part of the product.
But because no fruit or vegetable is exactly alike, mapping out a standardized dose is a sizable challenge.
“First, as engineers, we need to understand how to make the energy distribution uniform,” Moreira says. “Once you understand the uniformity, which is a big issue, we need to know how much energy to put in the fruit or vegetable to make sure there is no degradation of quality.”
The researchers’ work has shown that irradiation can slow down ripening and spoilage to extend shelf life. Recent studies on mushrooms have shown that when mushrooms are impregnated with calcium lactate or ascorbic acid, the fungi’s shelf life increases. The team is also exploring how irradiation can actually increase nutritional value of fruits that are high in antioxidants, such as blueberries.
And yet another challenge is reducing pathogen contamination in raw nuts. The high oil content in nuts makes irradiation treatment challenging because the energy accelerates fat degradation, which affects the taste and quality of the nuts. Irradiation combined with advanced packaging methods reduces this radiation sensitivity to oxidation while assuring decontamination.
In fact, developing new and improved packaging for produce is another major area of focus for Castell-Perez, Moreira and Gomes.
The team is working to improve the sheet plastic that wraps much of the fresh produce found in supermarkets by adding a combination of techniques — radiation physics and biology, food science, packaging materials, and computer methods — to enable the plastic wrap to fight off unwanted germs.
Such a comprehensive approach to enhancing plastic packaging for food safety has not been done in quite this way before, where an emphasis on irradiation combined with several other technologies is producing a new generation of protective packaging.
“The idea to improve effectiveness of packaging came to us when we first irradiated a bag of spinach,” Castell-Perez says. “The applied dose was too much for a food sensitive to radiation and though the process eliminated the pathogens, it also destroyed the food. So we thought, can the package be ‘active’ and help maintain the quality as well as the safety of the spinach?”
To do this, researchers apply natural enzymes and natural extracts, such as cinnamon, garlic, clove, thyme and rosemary, into plastic films used for food packaging. These spices have shown to be powerful antimicrobial substances, Gomes says.
A major challenge is making sure the spice used for protection does just that, without leaving anything behind — like its flavor. While garlic may enhance the bacteria-fighting ability of the plastic packaging, garlic’s distinctive flavor would not be a good addition to berries, for instance.
These extracts are embedded into a basic FDA-approved plastic film coating and then the extracts are mixed with a natural polymer.
“We use microencapsulation,” Gomes says. “We coat our compound with another substance, making a capsule, and when it’s in contact with the food, the compound migrates to the food.”
This effect must be carefully designed so that the exact amount of the extract at the desired rate is released into the food.
In addition to experiments with natural extracts, the researchers are evaluating the feasibility of using the plastic film in combination with certain gases such as air, 100 percent oxygen, combinations of nitrogen and oxygen, and ozone.
When a bag of spinach is irradiated, the air inside the bag is also exposed to ionizing radiation. This creates active radicals, meaning they are ready to react with another compound, such as ozone, hydroxide ions and even carbon dioxide. Reactions between these compounds are harmless to the consumer, but they destroy unwanted bacteria.
Moreira and Castell-Perez are taking a new approach in the field of packaging. Combining the antimicrobial packaging with atmospheres, an application of modified atmosphere packaging, could increase the radiation sensitivity of the pathogen in question, thus requiring a smaller dose while ensuring wholesome, safe and long-lasting spinach.
“When you talk about using those gases in combination with irradiation, then there is a synergistic effect so that the irradiation converts that gas into some compounds that will be antimicrobial,” Moreira says.
The Texas A&M researchers are working toward a common goal: improving packaging safety. As they work through these challenges, they’re also building synergy that has fueled innovation for attacking the challenge from all directions. Among them: applications including extracts, different types of atmospheres, and irradiation treatments that are leading to new discoveries in the packaging world.
“Irradiation and better packaging do not excuse dirty or mishandled produce,” Castell-Perez says. “But these are preventive steps and we are collecting scientific data that proves this point.”
For more than 40 years, Gary Graham has sought to keep the commercial shrimp fishing industry viable while also keeping the fishery sustainable. His success is both tangible and unfathomable.
Graham’s research into more hydrodynamic fishing gear helped Texas shrimp fishermen save about 9.8 million gallons of fuel valued at $25.7 million during the past four years. The industry realized additional savings through the less frequent need to change oil or complete major engine overhauls. Had this gear not been utilized, many vessels would have been tied up at the docks because they would have been too expensive to operate, costing about 260 people their jobs.
Graham, the Texas Sea Grant College Program’s (TXSG) Marine Fisheries Specialist, is also part of a TXSG team that has helped Texas shrimp fishermen earn $9 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA). TAA provides money to participants in industries that can document that they have been injured by imports. The amount of money per fisherman is relatively small, up to $12,000, but the program requires that the fishermen participate in training that teaches them how to make their operations run more efficiently. For its work, the TAA team won the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Region’s Superior Outreach Programming Award for 2010-2012.
Graham’s reputation and expertise has earned him as much respect in academia as it has in the commercial fishing industry. As far as anyone can determine, he is the only full professor (Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences) in the Texas A&M University System who holds just a bachelor’s degree.
Not bad for a man who says he wanted to be a cowboy.
“I wanted to manage public lands. That’s why my college work was focused on rangeland management,” says Graham, who funded his education by working as a commercial shrimp fisherman. “When I got out on the water in a shrimp boat, that was as close to the old west and the open range as anything you could find. But the fences started coming up as my career progressed. It went from open range to fencing in the form of regulations and rules.”
Graham has made his reputation building gates through these regulatory fences so shrimp fishermen could continue their way of life. He led shrimp fisherman across the Gulf of Mexico in the late 1980s to develop, test and adopt their own turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in the face of a federal mandate that would have forced them to use government-designed gear — TEDs that would have been more cumbersome and expensive. He similarly led the effort to develop and test the most efficient bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) when federal law required them in shrimp nets about five years later.
These days Graham finds himself again working with TEDs. For the past 18 months he’s been visiting shrimp fishermen on their boats to make sure their TEDs are properly installed and comply with federal regulations.
Graham says recent data from federal fisheries enforcement officials shows a dramatic improvement in TED compliance. “We still have a ways to go, but compared to the data from a year ago, we have made significant progress,” Graham says emphatically.
The penalties for non-compliance run the gamut from a slap on the wrist to large fines, loss of catch. If the violations are detected in state waters, the boat captains can be ordered to pay restitution for the value catch in addition to having the catch seized.
“I heard of a boat here a few months back that lost a catch worth $40,000 to $60,000,” Graham says.
Even a minor violation — one that does not result in a citation — can result in lost time and production if a boat is forced to return to port to fix the problem.
There is no way to estimate how much money Graham has saved the shrimp fishing industry through his compliance checks and, for him, the dollars and cents are just part of his motivation for going to work each day.
“Something about the water gets in your blood. The work is challenging and the results are beneficial to people and beneficial to the environment,” Graham says. “I spend a lot of time in the field. I like that. My office is the road. After 41 years, I still get excited about the people I work with.”
Media contact: Jim Hiney, Texas Sea Grant, at (979)845-3854
Kelly Haws has keener insight into the world of marketing than most, with a job as an assistant professor of marketing at Mays Business School and a reputation as a top researcher of consumer behavior.
Yet, making the right choices when shopping for her family – especially for her young children – can be tricky, even for Haws.
She dons her marketing hat to read labels and determine if the advertising is accurate, but still feels instinctually attracted to the items she knows are not the healthiest, and is confused by claims that foods are healthy, when clearly there are better choices. Fat free? Sugar free? Zero trans fats? The claims seem endless, and are becoming more and more prevalent on supermarket shelves.
So what is a good researcher to do?
Haws is one of a small but growing number of marketing professors worldwide who study food-related decision making and the role that marketers and public policy have in influencing these important and common decisions. She researches consumer behavior, with specific focus on issues relevant to consumer welfare, and teaches consumer behavior at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
A paper she co-wrote, “Eating with a Purpose: Consumer Responses to Functional Food Health Claims,” was published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. It says although marketers of food products claim their products provide more than basic nutrition, very little is known about consumer responses to these claims – particularly when inconsistent information is available about a particular ingredient. For example, if a consumer doesn’t know what “gluten” is, how can he/she make a decision about whether an item that is “gluten free” is a smart food choice?
Over two studies, Haws and her fellow researchers demonstrated that consumers with lower health consciousness are particularly sensitive to conflicting information about the validity of functional food health claims; the presentation of conflicting information significantly lowers their likelihood of choosing a functional over a nonfunctional food. Thus, if a consumer with low health consciousness becomes confused by the claims made by food marketers, or if they feel the claims contradict each other, they are less likely to purchase that product.
Consumers with higher health consciousness, though, are not as subject to the same phenomenon. When a consumer with high health consciousness is confronted with conflicting information about the function of a food, their likelihood of purchasing the food is not reduced.
This seems contradictory. The more a consumer knows about health, the more likely they are to purchase a food that is marketed as “healthy,” even if the claims conflict. The reason? The study shows consumers with high health consciousness are driven by a confirmatory bias to believe the functional food health claims. They want to believe the foods are healthier – so they are more likely to be swayed by health claims on food products.
This is a critical finding for food marketers, policy makers and consumers. Food marketers are interested in understanding the bias of consumes so they can more effectively market their products. Policy makers are tasked with analyzing if practices need to be further regulated, and consumers want to arm themselves with the correct information so they make good food choices.
Haws says though the latest scientific information should be disseminated to the public, public policy should ensure the claims that marketers use are not confusing to consumers. “Such confusion has the potential to lead consumers –particularly those who are less health conscious to begin with – to conclude that because they don’t know the best thing to do for their health, they will just do whatever they want instead. In line with recent efforts, the more simply useful nutritional information can be presented, the better.”
Focus on flavor, not health, makes the sale
Haws’ colleague at Mays, Distinguished Professor Leonard Berry, is a marketing professor and a board member of the Darden Restaurants, America’s largest casual-dining chain with a portfolio of seven brands. One of Darden’s most successful restaurant brands is Seasons 52, which features fresh grilled entrees under 500 calories. “Finding success in marketing more healthful food is tricky,” says Berry. “If the food doesn’t taste great and isn’t filling, forget it.”
Food marketers and restaurant owners have discovered that persuading consumers to make sacrifices when it comes to eating is a tough sell. “Seasons 52 is successful in part because it combines healthfulness and taste – and doesn’t hype the healthfulness part, which would scare customers away,” Berry said.
The restaurant chain is part of a trend to offer small-portioned indulgences such as mini-desserts or appetizers. On the other end of the spectrum, a good strategic move could be to offer larger portions of healthy fare, such as vegetables.
This aligns with a paper Haws co-wrote, “Healthy Satiation: The Role of Decreasing Desire in Effective Self-Control,” which the Journal of Consumer Research has accepted for publication. The paper demonstrates how some people – those with higher levels of self-control – are better at getting their fix of unhealthy foods faster while continuing to enjoy consuming steamed broccoli for longer than their low self-control counterparts.
The study shows that paying attention when you eat unhealthy food – savoring the sweets or salty snacks – will make you feel satisfied sooner. In one study, people who counted the number of times they swallowed while eating an unhealthy snack felt full sooner than those who didn’t.
“Consumers can ‘save’ their self-control resources by not monitoring consumption of the most healthy of foods – in other words, they can keep on eating the broccoli or carrots if they don’t want to think about quantity control,” Haws explains.
Observing a supersized world
Another area Haws is studying centers on the concept of “supersizing” – pricing structures that reward consumers for buying more. The fast-food industry is the most prevalent user of this strategy, but evidence shows it can also work for healthy foods such as baby carrots. “People were more likely to buy a larger bag of carrots if it were more of a bargain,” she explains. “There are trade-offs between thrift and health that lead you to scrap your health goal because you’re accomplishing another goal: saving money.”
Haws found that the pricing strategies lead to greater purchase and consumption – the bigger the discount for purchasing a large quantity, the greater the chance that a consumer will purchase the larger quantity, regardless of the potential health impacts.
Haws calls this “nonlinear pricing.” Specifically, as the quantity of the product increases, so does the discount per unit. But instead of sharing the larger quantity, the purchaser generally consumes the entire larger quantity – which is typically not the best choice for either the wallet or the waistline.
An example of a reaction regulators and policy makers have taken is a ban in New York on large-sized soft drinks sold by restaurants. Soft drinks can now only be sold in 16-ounce or smaller containers – although consumers can purchase multiple containers if they choose.
“While consumers may seek to consume food in moderation to achieve a goal of being healthy,” Haws explains, “financially, they may also desire to obtain good value for their money,” – a prime example of the battle between the brain and the belly.
About 12 Impacts for 2012: 12 Impacts for 2012 is an ongoing series throughout 2012 highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world.
At Texas A&M University, the next generation is being readied to take on the fight against global hunger. “How do we address the distance between one billion people who go to bed hungry and the other one billion who wake up overfed?” asks Texas A&M student Beau Barnette, a landscape architecture major who aspires to use his design skills to make communities more aware of food and waste issues.
Barnette is part of a team of Texas A&M students that won an international competition, the “Thought for Food (TFF) Challenge,” which invites students from around the world to submit project plans aimed at solving the global food crisis.
Along with Barnette, the team from Texas A&M, Team Giving Tree, includes Erin Ponsonby, an international politics and diplomacy major; Aaron Kotwal, landscape architecture; Jailene Santana, international environmental studies; and Ryan Pratt, who studies chemical engineering.
Team Giving Tree’s idea revolves around a growing trend known as the “Eco-Park.” These community parks vary in their features, but focus on bringing education and awareness of environmental and food issues to people using hands-on experiences. The team devised a plan for a national system of Eco-Parks, designed to help people understand what happens to food waste and what steps they can take to reduce it.
The team’s version of an Eco-Park features an area with open recreation, using low-maintenance native plants and a storm water retention pond. The plan proposes to educate visitors on sustainable farming with demonstration gardens where volunteers can use space to demonstrate planting and composting methods. A farmer’s market area is included to encourage support of local food production and a preparation area would show visitors how food can be prepared with minimal waste. And the plan proposes a speaker’s corner where people can share their ideas on the food system.
Barnette and his teammates got encouragement along the way from former Texas A&M student Julie Borlaug, ’97, granddaughter of the late Norman Borlaug, the Texas A&M professor who won the Nobel Peace Prize for developing wheat varieties that saved millions from starvation and was known as the “Father of the Green Revolution.” Julie, who currently serves as associate director for external relations for the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M, “was hugely encouraging,” notes Barnette. “She met with the Aggie teams and listened to our ideas.”
“I was so impressed with the TFF program, I offered to help recruit U.S. university teams and Beau’s team happened to be the winners,” Julie says. “My grandfather always believed that the success of the Green Revolution was due to the hundreds of young scientists and farmers he trained that were willing to take a chance on a new approach. I know my grandfather would be supportive of TFF because it emphasizes innovation and highlights young college students who are open to changing the world.”
Julie says she supports the idea of a nationwide Eco-Park system because, “We have become too removed from agriculture and the park offers a great way to draw people into real discussions about agriculture.”
Barnette acknowledges that Eco-Parks alone won’t solve the problem of global food insecurity, but, “they can help us more intimately understand the context of the problems and encourage novel solutions.”
He says in the future he’d like to run his own landscape architecture firm with a focus on green recreational space development, planned communities and urban agriculture.
Barnette says his entrepreneurial spirit is growing thanks to his involvement with Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M’s burgeoning, student-run business accelerator, located in the Texas A&M University Research Park on the western edge of campus.
“It’s a cross-college collaborative effort to help Texas A&M student entrepreneurs with businesses or very strong business projects to develop further by providing them with general business resources,” Barnette explains. “After our grand opening next semester, we will seek to provide more resources for those who need to develop their projects, but aren’t quite ready to start a business.”
Not every innovator is a business person, says Barnette, and not all business people have innovative ideas, so one of the goals of Startup Aggieland is to bring people with various skill sets together, and give them resources and a venue to form viable businesses.
Texas A&M students spent this past weekend at Startup Aggieland for the “3-Day Startup” lock-in event, where they were challenged to brainstorm and come up with viable business ideas by the end of the weekend.
Barnette is a proponent of the free flow of ideas and encourages those in his generation to “learn, listen and be heard. If you have a well-developed concept, you will find plenty of ears.”
For their winning Eco-Park concept, Team Giving Tree was flown to Pittsburgh this past October for the One Young World Summit, a gathering of 1300 delegates under the age of 30, representing 183 countries. “I dare say we were the only Texans there,” laughs Barnette. “It was a life-changing experience. There were a few dozen speakers ranging from Bill Clinton and Muhammad Yunus [the Nobel Prize-winning economist], to the CEOs of Barclays and Siemens. I met amazing young people, learned a lot and came out very inspired.”
About 12 Impacts for 2012: 12 Impacts for 2012 is an ongoing series throughout 2012 highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional examples, visit http://12thman.tamu.edu/.
Media contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-5591