Although it’s currently hard to believe now, my family had a farrow-to-finish hog operation until I was 10 or so. After that, we continued to raise feeder pigs (if nothing else for the many red-ribbon-winning (i.e., strictly average) 4-H hogs my siblings and I exhibited each year) — so it’s fair to say that I spent most of my formative years scooping poop.
While my parents called my familiarity with a shovel “character-building” – I also came to take a lot of pride in how our hogs were treated. I remember the distinct sense of accomplishment I had while walking to the house during blizzards after spending hours making sure our hogs were warm, secure and well-fed.
Me with one of my red-ribbon-winning beauties
It’s those same nurturing feelings that hurt the most whenever Mercy for Animals or the Humane Society of America release another one of the under-cover videos showing the torture and abuse of livestock. I typically make it about 60 seconds in before I have to click out and hold my stomach and try (most of the time in vain) to hold my tears back.
I cry at those videos like a girl who has never seen a sow suffocate one of her own by laying on it, never seen a pig castrated, or never seen what happens to pigs that don’t have their tails docked when they’re young.
But the truth is, I have seen those things – and they help me understand, that although raising livestock isn’t glamorous, that vast majority of the 2.2 million family-farmers in this country care so much about their animals that these videos make them cry, too.
Here in Nebraska, winter was never-ending this year, and I read, this time with tears of joy, during calving-season this spring of ranchers West of me taking new-born calves into their kitchens to give them a fighting chance. I talked with neighbors who pulled consecutive all-nighters helping their cows give birth to calves in 10 inches of snow with 30-mile-an-hour winds.
And so, as much as I’d like to agree that these animal activist videos are about helping animals, the fact is that it’s not the simple. These videos, more often than not, fuel a larger anti-meat, pro-vegan diet that I respect, but don’t agree with. These videos make family farmers like my community and me guilty before we even have a chance to speak. These videos are edited and manipulated to dramatize practices that although not glamorous, are sometimes legal practices recommended by very respected animal welfare experts.
If you’re looking to make a buck on an oddball idea (and let’s face it, we all are) it sounds like you should start creating a fleet of drones for PETA. The group says that they are going to start flying cameras over places where “animals routinely suffer and die”, according to a press release by PETA. First and foremost, I hope they’ll address the highway from Wayne to Fremont because I personally know the roadkill rate there is alarming.
In all seriousness, their goal seems to be focused on hunters, but also includes the dreaded “factory farm“. In fact the press release was actually titled “PETA to Acquire Drones to Stalk Hunters”. The first sentence stated that the organization ”will soon have some impressive new weapons at its disposal to combat those who gun down deer and doves.” It’s a highly entertaining read. Now, I can definitely get on board with more closely watching for things like poaching, drinking while in the possession of firearms, and leaving wounded animals to die. Few can argue that the less those things occur, the better. I’m not sure how the drones wouldn’t continue to get shot down left and right, though.
Flying over farms, expecting to find abuse, is a different story. The reason why I’m not really up in arms about this is because the chances of a drone flying over Carroll, NE and creating news is pretty slim. In fact, maybe we could pay for the footage so that people off the farm could see a typical day. There certainly wouldn’t be any animals routinely suffering and dying. The viewer would probably be quite uninterested actually- entering into planting, soon our equipment will be traveling back and forth from 7-10 all day. Where there are animals being raised for food, there will be organizations who apply their own spin on what they see to make people believe responsible production is inhumane. So drone on, my PETA amigos. And if you see a CineStar Octocopter overheard, smile and wave!
When you go to the store to buy meat, do you find yourself scratching your head? So many different cuts. The strip steak, New York strip, club steak, shell steak, and top loin steak all come from the same section of beef, so how do you know which one will suit your needs best? The American meat industry is changing the meat labeling system that has been in place for over 30 years, hoping to ease customer confusion regarding meat packaging labels and cuts of meat, like this one.
In the late 60′s when we started to go from a butcher shop to a bar-coded package at the supermarket- using brand new technology, we started using those bar-codes that we take for granted on everything we buy that make it so simple to shop. In 1984, URMIS was (Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards) developed, and that is what we have been using in various forms since. Unfortunately, URMIS was designed more for individuals with extensive knowledge about meat cuts, like butchers and retailers, than shoppers.
After about 2 years of research, the Beef and Pork Checkoff Programs have developed a plan to simplify the labels, which will be in effect before Summer’s end. The cool thing about the new labels, aside from being standardized and simplified, is that they will include details about the cut and cooking guidelines.
If you or someone in your family is a grilling pro, it’s worth checking out the retail sections of the Beef and Pork websites. They include ideas for cooking, details about cuts, and suggested cuts for those with health and dietary concerns.
The new system doesn’t come without imperfections. There’s an adjustment for some meat-eaters. I will be surprised the first time I see a “pork t-bone”. And what about the cookbooks that are already published or in the process of being published? They will undoubtedly list outdated cuts of meat for readers. With all change there is challenge, but hopefully having a clear labeling system for consumers outweighs those challenges. It’s one more step in making the dialogue between farms and grocery carts more clear.
There’s a case in the Supreme Court right now that’s raising the eyebrows of farmers, scientists, anti-biotechnology advocates, and even software companies. You should care because it involves food (and the research and development done to make our food supply safer and more sustainable.)
The issue at stake is patents on agricultural technology, but don’t let your eyes roll back in your head at the mention of agricultural technology, because this is an important case. It will set a precedent because it centers around seeds – which self-replicate (or produce a “2nd generation”)– unlike cell phones, music, or other technological items which often come to mind with the words “patent infringement.”
75-year-old Vernon Bowman, who farms 300 acres in Indiana planted a second crop of soybeans after he harvested his winter wheat in late June.
To plant these beans, Bowman chose not to buy seed from a reputable dealer, as is customary, but rather to buy cheap, 2nd generation beans from his local grain elevator. These “bin-run” beans are typically used for animal feed and have lower germination rates and yield (Bowman himself has referred to what he bought as “junk.”)
MSN recently published an article listing the “14 Foods You Should Never Eat“. In it, they call out bread, beef, non-organic produce, and McDonald’s. Also, they present the same information we’ve heard sensationalized in anti-ag media for years and act as though they’ve found ground breaking news.
First of all, shame on MSN for taking an easy story from Rodale (an online health website that has a history of anti-agricultural stances) and present it as fact. What trash. The fact is, people are going to find some sort of fault in all foods. Food is fuel. Now we look at food and ask, “how can we eat as little as possible with the least amount of fat, bacteria, dirt, hormones, etc” – things that occur naturally!
Here’s a rundown of MSN’s bogus claims.
“Don’t eat McDonald’s” because it’s raised on factory farms…. this is what I think of when I hear that:
“Whhhhyyy!!??? Whhhhyyyy!!??” Anyone who keeps up with the claim of factory farms in America is embarrassing. Farmers are people, not evil little creatures who only care about profit. Just because agriculture is modern and streamlined, doesn’t mean we took the humanity out of it. Read this post to explain the factory farming myth.
“Don’t Eat Industrialized Beef” because it’s full of hormones. Hey, guess what, so are you! I am around high-school students all day, please don’t question my expertise on the matter. Hormones occur naturally, and the ones used in beef production have been tested continuously to assure safety. Read here about that; and before you say my source is biased, research the Food Dialogues, it might be the most open conversation between American eaters and growers. My favorite part of that section from MSN though, was reading that cattle are raised in “filthy conditions”. Hilarious. I picture the dairy heifers on our farm walking around in large diapers with holes for their tails.
And another, which is not the least or the last, “Don’t Eat Corn” because it kills bees and corn is “little pesticide factories with roots”, referring to Bt corn. The Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins found in some corn hybrids produce a natural insecticide. In turn, pest challenges are reduced, pesticide use is reduced, and a healthy and safe product is grown. Read more about how this all works. So basically, we’re damned if we use too many insecticides and herbicides, and we’re damned if we discover and utilize ways to reduce chemical use. It’s just not a realistic outlook on farming.
While this article is great in theory (I’m all for researching food sources), it completely fails at providing realistic and helpful information to the reader.
I hope you all have a wonderful week. Try not to eat any non-organic strawberries. Because they are filled with poison implanted by the American farmer and paid for by Monsanto. Just kidding.
I’m feeling pretty sheepish right now- I took a new job and haven’t been able to write as much and keep up with agricultural news. I checked my phone tonight and saw that I had over 20 emails. They keep rolling in- every one is searching for Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” audio. Last June, I made this video to share some picture of our farm, and because I loved Harvey’s radio broadcast. Tonight during the Super Bowl, Dodge had a commercial that also shared his words, and America seems to love it, according to my YouTube views and comments. There are numerous other videos with Harvey’s audio and related to farming- so cool!
Bravo to Dodge for drawing attention to something that affects all Americans. Agriculture feeds America, provides jobs to America, and supports America’s economy. This is a great opportunity to create open dialogue- seek information about how your food is raised. And seek the truth, not sensationalized mass media! Either way the game turns out, it’s a win for me if people look for information regarding farming and ranching!
Whether you think this is a “dirty word” or it plays a beneficial part of your everyday life, there is no one in America who should be uninformed about one of the biggest agricultural biotechnology corporations in the world. Monsanto has their hands in everything, you can’t deny they are a smart business. They employ over 20,000 directly and indirectly, I’d venture to say they support numerous other jobholders.
I’m a big fan of reading the book before watching the movie. Full-disclosure: I’m a disgustingly die-hard Harry Potter fan, the movies were okay.. but the books? I’ve been re-reading them for years. Don’t judge. But back to my point- although The World According to Monsanto‘s research has been made into a documentary, I felt it was important to read the original work. Anyone with interest in what Monsanto is, their history, and the anti-Monsanto agenda needs to read this book.
Even as an avid reader, I thought this was a pretty tough book. I can’t tell a lie- I fell asleep a record number of times. I know that doesn’t sound like a glowing review, but the material was good- it was just a little overdramatic in style. It does tell a lot about the history of Monsanto, the maker of Agent Orange, DDT, and PCB’s, although it takes a very accusatory stance. In my opinion, as an agriculturalist, that’s where I “do my homework”. Why do people hate Monsanto? I learned a lot; Monsanto has made some questionable decisions in the past, after all, it’s been around since 1901. I understand immensely more about the arguments people make about the integrity of the company.
The thing that the author and I will probably always disagree on is the production of GMO technology. She sees it as a threat to world health, I see it as an answer to a growing population that needs to be fed healthy, sustainable food. Americans produce more while using less, and a huge reason that is possible is because of the advances in biotechnology in products used to grow crops and livestock.
Overall, The World According to Monsanto is extremely biased. If you’re a farmer, you’ll scoff at some of the statements the author makes. Parts of the book will make you want to chuck it against the wall- it’s not easy reading inflammatory statements about the work you’ve done for decades, on family farms dating back centuries. But read it. You’ll be more informed- when someone wants to talk about Monsanto, you’ll know both sides of the story. That’s what makes an informed blogger, voter, writer, speaker, and just an everyday average Joe (or Jane).
There are titles in food production and processing literature that are known to most. Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Marian Nestle- their writing has made a splash with many Americans, promoting vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.
The CAFO Reader includes excerpts from mutiple books, addressing customer concerns such as biological effects, financial concerns, GMO’s and antibiotic use, and sustainability. Edited by Daniel Imhoff, this book gives the reader the most bang for their buck. It includes writing from all of the most widely known authors and animal rights advocates. If you’re looking for a good, general resource that covers all animal markets and multiple concerns, this is it. CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. While farmers see the reasoning behind animal production practices, this book looks at the concerns of those who might confuse CAFO’s with “factory farms“.
My favorite part of this book is Part Two, “Myths of the CAFO”. It rolls through all of the myths surrounding CAFO’s and common thoughts relating to the reasons why indivduals might support animal production through CAFO’s. To understand why Americans have negative views about modern animal production, this is an extremely useful chapter. But to really get fired up, read Part Three- “Inside the CAFO”. The introduction, titled “What the Industry Doesn’t Want Us to Know” leads into a section that details the perceived negative production methods. The editor believes that the industry knows and accepts myths like the one that says antibiotic use is causing health problems for Americans and resistance to human medicines. They mention that farmers only care about profit, and care little about their animals, which is the mentality and untruth that we continue to work against with this blog.
The book finishes with steps and processes the reader can do to work against animal production and ways to move to what they consider a more sustainable diet. While this book contains a lot of untruth and a lot of opinion pieces, it’s still an interesting book and extremely important to read when learning about American concerns with food production. The one thing myself and the editor do agree on is; do your homework. Research your concerns before making decisions or advocating against or for something.
The holidays are a great time to read. If you follow the blog regularly, you know that it is one of my favorite hobbies. I love to read. I’ve collected quite a few books in the last few years, and soon I will probably need to invest in a bigger bookcase. The interesting thing about them, is most of my books about agriculture are anti-ag. Doing my homework to learn about American concerns and questions regarding farming means listening to their side of the story. In the next few days, I am going to share a few of my favorite, or the most interesting books on my shelf.
The two books that closely go together have equally similar names. Hal Herzog’s Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat and Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows are two of my favorites because of the way they make the reader really think. While they both discuss the psychology of eating and raising meat animals, they are really pretty different.
Opening Lines: Hal Herzog’s “Why is it so hard to think straight about animals?”:
Herzog looks into the wide array of relationships between animal lovers, pet lovers, and animal advocates. He tells the story of a vegetarian who knew that cows and chickens were animals, but didn’t consider fish to be real animals, even though they have brains, are vertebrates, and are social. After she met her future husband, who was a hunter, she slowly reverted to a meat-eating lifestyle. Then he tells the story of a boy who decided to eat a vegetarian diet based on one of those popular pro-vegan publications you sometimes see in dirty metro stations. He even felt that keeping his pet bird in captivity was wrong. He released it into the back yard. He said “I knew she wouldn’t survive, that she probably starved.” Yet he chose to release her for his own mental well-being. The last story Herzog tells is when he owned a baby boa constrictor and the neighbors called after hearing he was feeding it kittens. Of course this wasn’t true. But he brings up a good point- with all of the kittens that are euthanized in the US each year, why wouldn’t we use them to feed predatory pets like snakes and birds, rather than cremating them? I know it’s an “off-limit” thought to most Americans. This is often because we attach warm and fuzzies to kittens- the thought of them as food is disgusting. Part of this is something called antropomorphism, humans projecting their emotions onto animals. This could be similar to a farmer looking at a cow and thinking “he looks really content, because I just fed him and he has shelter” and someone else thinking “that cow looks very sad to be confined and probably isn’t fed enough”. Americans project their emotions onto animals in both rational and irrational ways. Overall this book just opens up a new line of thinking about humans thoughts relating to animals.
Opening Lines: Melanie Joy’s “To love or to eat?”:
The first minute of the following video is the opening scenario in Joy’s book:
Melanie goes on to explain carnism. Essentially, carnism is to vegetarianism as carnivore is to herbivore as meat-eater is to plant-eater. This means that carnism is the choice to eat meat. The author doesn’t consider meat to be a necessary part of the diet, so eating it is a conscience decision made by humans. This is relatable to speciesism, but is more clearly defined in terms of diet. The author has said previously, in so many words, that the reason for this is to remain inoffensive and open to the meat-eaters of the world. However… in no way is this book inoffensive to meat-eaters. Joy uses quotes from Nazi leaders and philosophers to make meat-eaters reading the book to feel guilty, ignorant, almost evil. The author bases these thoughts on what she calls “The Three N’s”.
Normal: Eating meat is normal. If everyone’s doing it, how can it be wrong?
Natural: Eating animals, especially raising animals for meat, is the way things should be.
Necessary: For 2 reasons: animal population control and health and world hunger benefits.
Joy’s combats all of these common reasons why humans, specifically Americans, eat meat. Her opinion is that all meat consumption is wrong, but her ideas are intriguing in terms of psychology. Most Americans would be disgusted with the thought of eating golden retriever, but that’s just a food taboo in the US. Around the world, people eat some whack stuff. In the West African nation of Togo, rats are on the menu. In Iceland, during the holiday celebration called Thorrablot, residents dine on rams’ testicles, sheep’s heads, and rotting shark. Kutti pi, highly desired by most Indians and Europeans, is considered a delicacy because it is rare- animal fetus. All across the globe, we swat or spray misquitos, I would say even animal lovers: yet they have brains, they breed, they’re living creatures. Where is the line drawn? This is why I love these two books: they make me think about these weird things.
Do you eat meat? Why do you do it? I feel comfortable eating meat because there is a cycle of respect and care that I am confident occurs in animal production. I was once asked “how does it feel to eat an animal you raised?” This is important: I felt successful. Hear me out: if I had given that young pig anything but the best care that was possible of me, and it died or became ill, I would have failed. The fact that I cared for an animal, raised it, watched it grow, and then was informed about the slaughter process of animals is a success. I know where my food came from. There is no disconnect or unrealistic expectations, and I don’t feel negatively about helping to feed my family nutritious, sustainable food.
These are two books that, after I read them, I said “that really pissed me off, but I’d read it again, it made me think”. Those are the great kinds of books.
Although it’s currently hard to believe now, my family had a farrow-to-finish hog operation until I was 10 or so. After that, we continued to raise feeder pigs (if nothing else for the many red-ribbon-winning (i.e., strictly average) 4-H hogs … Continue reading → […]
If you’re looking to make a buck on an oddball idea (and let’s face it, we all are) it sounds like you should start creating a fleet of drones for PETA. The group says that they are going to start … Continue reading → […]
When you go to the store to buy meat, do you find yourself scratching your head? So many different cuts. The strip steak, New York strip, club steak, shell steak, and top loin steak all come from the same section of … Continue reading → […]
There’s a case in the Supreme Court right now that’s raising the eyebrows of farmers, scientists, anti-biotechnology advocates, and even software companies. You should care because it involves food (and the research and development done to make our food supply … Continue reading → […]
MSN recently published an article listing the “14 Foods You Should Never Eat“. In it, they call out bread, beef, non-organic produce, and McDonald’s. Also, they present the same information we’ve heard sensationalized in anti-ag media for years and act … Continue reading → […]
I’m feeling pretty sheepish right now- I took a new job and haven’t been able to write as much and keep up with agricultural news. I checked my phone tonight and saw that I had over 20 emails. They keep … Continue reading → […]
Monsanto. Whether you think this is a “dirty word” or it plays a beneficial part of your everyday life, there is no one in America who should be uninformed about one of the biggest agricultural biotechnology corporations in the world. … Continue reading → […]
There are titles in food production and processing literature that are known to most. Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Marian Nestle- their writing has made a splash with many Americans, promoting vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. The CAFO Reader includes excerpts from … Continue reading → […]
The holidays are a great time to read. If you follow the blog regularly, you know that it is one of my favorite hobbies. I love to read. I’ve collected quite a few books in the last few years, and … Continue reading → […]