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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Who do you trust to tell you the truth about food safety?

Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010, at 2:00 PM

Is our food safe or not?

Are today's farmers feeding and taking care of their animals properly?

It seems to come down to who you trust.

Do you believe the family farmers who have spent their whole lives producing food? The farmers who have built modern farming techniques, step by step, generation by generation -- building on the lessons, failures and successes of those who farmed before them?

Do you believe the scientists or researchers who have spent their entire careers studying animals, nutrition and food safety? Do you believe the USDA or the FDA who are tasked with making our food supply safe?

I have as much suspicion as anyone when it comes to the government, but in the case of food safety, I can't argue with the results.

While the rest of the world's agriculture has been ravaged by outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease and Bird Flu, we in the United States have not. Somebody is looking out for us and doing a good job.

Then there is the other truth. Here in the United States we pay only 7 percent of our take home income for food, while other countries pay a lot more. And despite that fact, we still have 36 million living here who can't afford enough food for themselves and their families.

Of course, if you don't believe those people -- or me -- you can believe the reports like the one recently by Katie Couric of CBS News. It blamed antibiotic use in animals for the rise of antibiotic resistance in humans.

If she would have contacted farmers and veterinarians, as I did, she might have found out there are two sides to every story.

H. Scott Hurd, a veterinarian and former deputy undersecretary of food safety for the USDA has written a statement-by-statement rebuttal of Couric's piece (see www.tinyurl.com/yhuyy2h).

As far as antibiotics are concerned, they test and make sure there are no traces of antibiotics in animals headed for the food supply. Every load of milk is tested for traces of antibiotics. The FDA has a zero tolerance policy -- as in none!

A hog producer here in Saline County told me that he uses fewer antibiotics now than ever, and that was true long before Katie took over the CBS news desk. I know for a fact that hog producers are meticulous when it comes to letting germs or disease in, calling it bio-security. They use antibiotics for sick animals, of course, and put a low level of antibiotics in feed or water during times of high stress, such as weaning or moving to a new building.

According to the hog producer I talked to, if they didn't do that, they would actually use more antibiotics taking care of sick animals, and the animals might suffer needlessly. According to Hurd's article, that has been the unfortunate consequences of an antibiotics ban for Danish hog farmers, who were held up as a good example in Couric's piece.

The local farmer doesn't use antibiotics to promote growth in his hogs and doesn't know anyone who does.

He points out there are several reasons they strictly limit antibiotic use already: one is cost, antibiotics are expensive and hogs don't have health insurance. They also want to provide a safe, acceptable product for consumers. The third reason is simple. The drugs are strictly regulated by the FDA to guard against antibiotic resistance.

Again, if you don't believe me, you might believe Michael Pollan, the journalism professor from the University of California-Berkeley, who has become a self-appointed "food expert" but has never spent time actually raising food or feeding an animal day after day.

Recently Pollan was on Oprah, spouting his oft-repeated line that corn is not a natural food source for cows (and ruminants) and that we are force-feeding the foodstuff causing them to become sick.

According to Pollan, in order to feed cattle corn, we have to also feed them antibiotics.

For most farmers, that statement is so laughable they can't believe someone would actually believe it. In fact, most don't think it is worth a response.

The problem is the journalism professor has made millions of dollars on several books and is getting paid $100,000 a speech to spread his message that cheap food equals bad food or that we should only eat locally grown food in season. (Lucky for him, he lives in southern California, where winter means 60-degree weather. Unlucky for us in mid-Missouri, it means we would eat no vegetables from November to March!)

I recently tried to explain Pollan's assertions to a cattle producer who has personally fed and sent thousands of cattle directly to packers. He raises the kind of cattle that people in New York City and California want when they pay $50 to $100 for a 6-ounce filet mignon.

No doubt, aided by the fact that he had been up since 3 a.m. helping cows during calving season, he thought I was joking.

This is an intelligent, college educated beef producer who is too busy raising safe, affordable and good-tasting food for you and me to watch Oprah or read fiction.

I didn't need to talk to him to know that it's untrue that corn is not a "natural" food for cattle and other ruminants.

The first reason I know its untrue is that corn IS a grass and the corn kernel is a seed of that grass. Pollan and his followers might argue that it has been "changed" or genetically modified, so it is therefore not a grass.

I don't agree. The main changes made since early times affect the bushels we can grow per acre, not the actual plant or seed.

The second reason I know it is untrue is because unlike Pollan, I've actually fed cattle. I've slogged through mud and trounced through pastures, carrying buckets to cattle who can hardly wait until I pour the corn into to the trough. I've fed cattle for our own consumption and I've helped my sons feed steers for the Saline County Fair.

Pollan is right when he says corn needs to be fed at gradual increments or cattle will get bloated. It's true. Cows have sensitive stomachs (four, to be exact), and they don't limit

their intake of food as hogs or chickens will.

What Pollan fails to say is that too much of many foods cause bloat in cattle, including the "grass" many grass-fed cattle are finished on -- clover and alfalfa. They will eat and eat until they get sick, especially something they love as much as corn, alfalfa or clover.

That's why God invented farmers.

Our job is to make sure that doesn't happen. We've fed many steers here on the farm in a short period of time and gradually adding corn to their diet is the key. It's really not any different from humans, if we normally eat one amount and then one day overeat, we get bloated. No difference. We too, are unable to limit ourselves at times.

And here is the most important point: We've never aided the feeding process with an antibiotic and neither has the feedlot operator I spoke to. It is certainly not a necessary part of corn-fed beef.

Pollan likes to say that feeding cattle corn is a new phenomenon. He asserts that 50 years ago cattle were fed grass and then slaughtered after two or three years of grazing. His theory is that the farm policy of the 1970s and subsidization of corn are the reason that cattle are now corn-fed.

However, of all the Century Farm farmers and old-timers I've interviewed or talked to, I've yet to find one that didn't remember feeding anything but corn to finish cattle.

Corn-fed beef tastes better than grass-fed cattle. Study after study has shown consumers agree overwhelmingly.

Maybe that wasn't the case in western states, where corn was less available, I don't know, but here in Missouri, feeding corn to cattle is a practice that is at least a century old. Of course, as farmers always do, they are building on new technologies.

In recent years, the "corn" cattle eat includes a growing amount of the byproduct from ethanol production called DDGs or Dried Distillers Grain. Most people don't know that. Apparently, recycling an already "green" product doesn't sell books or television advertisements.

There is a fourth reason I know Pollan is wrong. I didn't realize it until this fall (I am not smart like my farmers), but deer are ruminants, just like cattle. They have two stomachs. In fact, even Pollan mentions them in one of his articles. Deer grow wild on my farm. They choose their own

food.

That includes a smorgasbord during the summer -- grass, alfalfa, trees, soybeans, wheat and a variety of garden goodies -- there is plenty of everything. However, judging by the big holes left in our fields, the crop they eat the most is corn.

Yes, the same corn Pollan says isn't a "natural" feedstuff for ruminants.

Ever look in a deer's two stomachs? I got that "joy" this fall as my sons dressed the deer they shot during hunting season. Guess what? Full of corn, lots and lots of MY corn.

Obviously our resident deer haven't read Pollan either.

I was trying to explain all this to someone recently, and she asked a very legitimate question.

"If it's not true that today's food animals are pumped full of antibiotics or that corn shouldn't be fed to cattle, why is that story not on the news?"

I wonder that too.

But the truth is with just one million people involved in production agriculture today, there are few people who know the "real story" about raising food.

Most Americans have never been to a farm, let alone ever talked to an actual farmer. And like my farmer friend, most farmers are too busy raising food to explain all the details to what sometimes seems like an ungrateful public.

And not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it's awful hard to get the "other side" out there. My own cousins thought that only 3 percent of farmers were family farmers. They knew we were family farmers -- they had been to my house, but they had no idea the ratio was 97 percent family farms and just 3 percent corporate farms.

Here is the other problem: Oprah didn't have anyone on her show to refute what Pollan said and neither did the documentary "Food, Inc." Or Katie Couric, for that matter. Hard to get the "other side" out there when you are not given a chance to state it.

The real truth is just because it says so on the news -- yes, even Oprah-- doesn't mean it's true. Remember, there was a time when majorities thought the world was flat, women in Salem were witches, Hollywood producers were communists, Iraq was full of weapons of mass destruction, that "popular" girl in your high school was really cool and the Colts would easily win the 2010 Super Bowl.

But now we know the "rest of the story."

To my friend and all of you who never hear the "other side."

You just did.

Like I said, it all comes down to who you trust.


Comments
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[Show in chronological order instead]

"In other words 40% of beef used to make hamburgers comes from the 5% of dairy farmers who chose to use rBGH?" Sorry I meant the meat came from the dairy cows not the farmers themselves!

-- Posted by litlmissme on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 1:31 PM

I has been a couple of days since I read the posts here but I had time today to look over them and when attempting this link I got a message that the link may contain a virus.

http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/?page_id=4...

The next link; http://www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/bg...

gave these specific details which I find contradictory: "While rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada, and has been boycotted by 95 percent of US dairy farmers"

"(about 40% of the beef used to make hamburgers come from "old" dairy cows) derived from BGH-treated cows."

In other words 40% of beef used to make hamburgers comes from the 5% of dairy farmers who chose to use rBGH? I refuse to believe those numbers can be accurate.

I did not look at the third link as I got an error message, when attempting to load the page.

-- Posted by litlmissme on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 1:27 PM

Vegetables can be had in the months between November and March which are safe - tis why I do a lot of canning - I know in that jar is nothing more then the veggie or fruit, water, perhaps a spice or bit of salt or sugar (only cane - no beet sugars) with no pesticide residue (though I wonder about my husband's field runoff into our water supply, but it always tests okay) If it's not in a jar it is in a container or bag in the freezer. And the meat in the freezer comes from our pond or pasture (yes the cattle are finished off with some corn and grain - but are also still eating grass at the same time). I have stayed away from gas vacuuming packaged poultry and have not been able to buy a McDonald's Chicken Nugget since seeing Food, Inc. I try to buy milk certified as organic by the USDA without growth hormones or antibiotics. I have had numerous incidents of MRSA and it is some nasty stuff (likely from my occupation, which is not related to my food production or hubbie's farming). But I believe my precautions with the foods I eat have assisted my immune system in handling these MRSA episodes, as each subsequent one has seemed less severe and easily resolved by disinfection with alcohol and peroxide, without further Bactrim prescriptions. I do buy some produce such as lettuce, peppers, onions, potatoes, carrots when my supply is exhausted but also look for USDA organic. Unfortuneately in this area it is hard to have many options without driving some distance. So I eagerly await the spring warmth. Everyone has had good points in this discussion, and it was quite interesting to come back days later and read the discussion. Seems to boil down to each person must decide what they are comfortable with, and evaluate their health and how their system responds to the choices they make. We are responsible for our own well-being. There are so many areas in which we can make a difference to the over-all health of the planet and the critters living on it. I just know what I feel about my impact and what makes me feel positive about how I live in this world.

-- Posted by the26er on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 11:45 AM

I realy find it hard to believe that CAFO's deminish the quality of land. Have you ever seen a peice of ground hogs have "free ranged" or smelled such property? Perhaps seen an over populated feed lot? It is not pretty. I ask; what is the answer, stop growing livestock? The smell offends people!

Farmers stop using chemicals to improve your yeilds and keep your crops from being invaded by bugs.

Now let us see how expensive that it becomes to feed your family. My guess is that only farmers would be able to afford to feed thier family.

On the genetically altered seeds. One of the reasons this is being explored is to be able to prevent the use of herbicides and pesticides and to make it easier to raise a crop without chemicals.

Most farmers that I know have the goal to produce healthy, holsome foods and do not want to use anymore expensive chemicals or anything that would intentionally hurt anyone.

With the utmost respect!

Litlmissme

-- Posted by litlmissme on Mon, Feb 22, 2010, at 1:04 PM

Marcia excellant article as always. I'm not gonna sit here and throw out figures and stats like I know anything about this subject, however what I'm gonna add to this great debate is this. When the good lord says it's our time to go it don't matter what your eatin or not eatin, what's on a label or not on it. Isn't there more important things in life to concern yourselves with people like people starvin here in this great country of ours or the fathers,sons,mothers,and daughters dying over seas.Just some food for thought no pun intended. I guess I just have differant priorites. Ya'll have a good day and a better one tomorrow.

-- Posted by midniterebel on Mon, Feb 22, 2010, at 7:34 AM

I cant stand it anymore.

Nanadot wrote: "70% of the grain grown in this country doesn't feed people, it goes to feed cattle"

What the heck??? If that were true then it wouldn't leave much for the pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, let alone exports, ethanol, and the rest, would it.Besides what do you think cattle are?? They are food - beef, milk, cream, butter, cheese - high protein, good natural food.Besides it's closer to 20 percent of grain is used to feed ALL livestock.Apparently you don't know that soybean oil is crushed from soybeans and the meal left over is fed to animals. A byproduce of ethanol is also fed to animals, two for one.She also said: "I want food labeled not only as to country of origin, I want to know if it contains GMO's (I don't want spider genes in my tomatoes, or herbicide in my corn)." Good for you there arent.

As for the deadzone guess you never read this link, not doomsday enough I guess.

http://www.chesapeakebay.net/landuse_urb...

take note of this:

'Fertilizer Use'

Unlike many farmers using nutrient management plans, suburban residents often over-apply fertilizer to their lawns and gardens. The soil in residential developments is also highly compacted, so less fertilizer is absorbed into the ground. Instead, excess fertilizer runs off lawns into storm drains and streams, and is eventually carried to the Bay and its tributaries."

-- Posted by babygotback on Sun, Feb 21, 2010, at 6:39 PM

Thank you to all of you for weighing in on a very important subject. Thank you to those who have backed up my statements and encouraged me. It is sometimes very hard, but I think very necessary, to stand up for what you believe in. It seems even tougher when those opinions aren't the "popular" ones at this time.

Thank you also to those who have offered opposing opinions. I believe that often the truth of something and the solutions are found closer to the middle, than near the extreme sides.

I have read the links that NanaDot and Curious Tom have left and hope that all of you will take time to read the point by point rebuttal of Couric's story by veterinarian H. Scott Hurd, www.tinyurl.com/yhuyy2h.

My main issue is that the "other side" isn't getting a chance to be heard. Without hearing both sides of the story, how can we expect to find solutions?

This point was really brought home earlier this week when I spoke to a veterinarian, who was interviewed by one of Couric's assistants before her story aired. However his opinion was much the same as Hurd's and not close to the story that was aired.

After listening, the assistant told him Couric would not be interviewing him on air.

Now if Couric was doing an opinion piece, then she has every right to point out only "her" side --and be willing to hear the other side - as I have on this article.

However, as a journalist I was taught when you presented a controversial or disputed story as "news", you should air both sides, whether or not you agreed with one of them. That is my biggest issue with today's reporting on modern agriculture.

Thank you all for reading.

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Sun, Feb 21, 2010, at 5:53 PM

litlmissme and NanaDot,

Thank you for contributing positively to this discussion! Even if we do not reach agreement, we can be better informed and understanding of different viewpoints.

To litlmissme and Marcia Gorrell: I don't believe the greatest concern with antibiotic use in farm animals is how much antibiotic residue remains in the food we eat. There is a much larger concern.

That much greater concern is the impact of using up our limited arsenal of antibiotics on animals. The more each individual type of antibiotic is used--on humans or animals--the less effective it becomes over time. Bacteria exposed to an antibiotic develop resistance to it. Bacteria are extremely good at swapping genes, so resistance can be transferred between bacteria that sicken animals and those that sicken humans.

This same concern is reflected in the effort to ensure that human patients are prescribed antibiotics only when they have a bacterial illness (like strep throat) rather than a viral illness (like a cold or flu). The use of antibiotics when they are not essential diminishes their effectiveness for everyone.

Penicillin was a powerful miracle drug in the 1940s, but in the decades since, many bacteria have developed resistance. In fact, many bacteria have evolved resistance to *many* of our strongest antibiotics. This has led to an extremely alarming situation where previously unknown bacteria like MRSA now kill tens of thousands of Americans each year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrsa

The American Association for the Advancement of Science describes the situation far better than I can, here: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2009/0...

"There is a scientific consensus that antibiotics used in agriculture do contribute to rising resistance transmitted to humans."

-- Posted by CuriousTom on Sun, Feb 21, 2010, at 12:53 PM

It was pointed out in one of the preceeding comments the number of recalls of foods due to bacteria and/or other reasons. While we have become accustomed to these things. It is also reassuring that these things occur then just people getting sick and dying of food poisoning and never knowing the cause because we lacked the checks and balances in place to check our food supply.

-- Posted by collector on Sun, Feb 21, 2010, at 12:48 PM

NanaDot:

I went to the first link you provided.

I have to state that I was raised on a farm and we had a Grade A dairy. We were required to keep records that told when a cow was administered any medications. That included the medications for mastitis that was specifically listed in the link above. Now when that medication was given the milk from that cow had to disposed of, as in thrown out for 10 days. It could not be fed to the baby calves and absoluety could not be put in the bulk tank for sale. As you probably know antibiotics stay in the system for ten days. Also, I attended a seminar in Albaney NY that said that antibiotics and growth hormones that are used in animals disapate at approximately 10 days, even during that 10 day period if tested it would show up as "1 blade of grass in a football feild full of grass". I wish I could remember the speakers name, but i do not. He was the head of the USDA in 1992.

I respectfully disagree with your opinions.

-- Posted by litlmissme on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 7:44 PM

I've heard it said that democracy is the worst form of government...except for all the others!

Similarly, the US food supply is the most unsafe...except for all the others.

Those of you who do not like FDA and USDA and think they are just stooges for evil corporates (who obviously want to poison the world), why don't you go try the food safety in, say, Peru? Perhaps you'd enjoy the food safety that results from The Democratic Republic of Congo's oversight?

If you want to go back to sustainable farming, then by all means, do it! Please! If you truly do, you'll be so busy you'll have to leave the rest of us alone.

-- Posted by Janet Down Under on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 5:45 PM

Marcia, congratulations on an excellent article. Scaremongers abound. And they abound because we are so efficient at producing food that they have the luxury of being able to SEARCH for a problem. Then, these leeches actually make money out of speaking or producing a TV show and scaring people.

Oprah was proven to not be a "news" source when she used that as her defense back in the 1990s when she was sued by cattlemen for scaring the heck out of people about BSE. Time Magazine also claims they are not a "news" source. It's up to us to let people know that these are sources of entertainment (by their own admission), and if people want news, they'd better turn to another source.

Thanks again, Marcia. We need more good people like you willing to speak truth.

-- Posted by Janet Down Under on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 5:36 PM

Marcia this is an excellent piece and well researched. Just know that there are always going to be those who hold extreme opinions and I just pray that we don't go the way of much of Europe and other countries (i.e., giving legal status as a living organism to plants). The extremist would rather see people die of starvation than to see an animal killed for food. The extreme organic community wants to see all other forms of food production ended.

America has the safest and most abundant food system in the world! Most just don't know how lucky we really have it unless or until it is all imported! God bless the American Farmer and I know who I trust....!!!!!

-- Posted by Dave in MidMO on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 11:33 AM

Obviously, food safety is a hot topic for everyone from all walks of life. If I'm going to contribute to the argument whether corn is a natural food for cattle, my only reasoning is what I've seen and read with my own eyes. I've seen enough farmers who raise both corn and cattle allow their livestock to graze in freshly harvested corn fields in the late fall to judge for myself. Cattle, like many herbivores, adapt to their environment and eat many different kinds of plants and grasses. To think all cattle must be raised in simple grasslands with little variation in diet because only a diet of grass is natural is ludicrous. Like all grazing animals, in order to raise them in this manner, farmers and ranchers put up fences. Otherwise, cattle would undoubtedly go after more favorable vegetation.

I also believe that as a nation, we produce the greatest food supply in the world. The fact that mad cow disease is nearly nonexistant in the United States is that we really have no need to import any sizable quantity of beef from outside of the country. We have stringent testing of all cattle that are imported from outside our borders.

As far as the hog industry, my grandfather raised hogs back in the day when hogs were fed what was known aa slops, raised in unheated farrowing barns or confining pens with no shelters exposed to extrene temperatures. I remember as a child taking melon rinds and other vegetation out to the hog pens and throwing them out to the hogs to eat. As stated by litlmissme, the hog farming industry is now state of the art.

The USDA is an very vital part of our food industry. Without it, Without it, there is no telling what kind of conditions the food we eat would be produced in. Yes, I said produced, As many of you know, most of our meat is slaughtered in kill/cut plants that slaughter thousands of animals daily and ship their product to other plants for further prossessing, as well as directly to grocery stores. While a few of our local grocers may still have a butcher to cut and package some beef, pork and chicken, most supermarkets now purchase all prepackaged case ready meats to sell in their grocery display case as you will already know if you ever visit the meat department of many of our local stores. The USDA insures that all meat is handled to Hazzard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) rules.

The USDA oversees that all meats that go through any of our manufacturing plants meet safety guidelines. All ground beef that we consume in this country is tested for bacteria like E-coli and Listeria before it is ever put in the stores for purchase. Recalls have become rarer and rarer due to the establishment of HACCP and I, as a consumer, have no worries about the products that any of our local manufacturers like Con Agra or Cargill Meat Solution produce.

I also am a believer in spending as much of my paycheck locally as possible and shop here in Saline County. I buy local produse when in season and look at labels for origin of manufacture in all the food and other goods I buy.

-- Posted by collector on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 10:09 AM

I have to weigh in on this agian.

The hog farm that I was raised on had farrowing barn that had no heat, we bedded our pigs down in straw. In the summer it was hot, in the winter freezing! The feeders got plugged with poop, the waterers froze and had to have ice broken out of them.

The confinement buildings have a controlled environment. Most pigs never see a temp below 68 degrees, have clean food and water supplies 24/7.

Now, that to me is quite an inprovement! Any one who wants to argue; go sleep in a bed of straw in a barn tonight, then we will talk.

As far as food recalls go at least two of those recalls were of organtic foods(strawberries and spinach). Now that being said, that means no chemicals. Therefore, these organtic farmers used the old fashioned methood of fertilization, poop water, which caused the e'coli bacteria to be present in the foods.

Is the old fashioned way better or are modern practices?

-- Posted by litlmissme on Fri, Feb 19, 2010, at 6:25 PM

Dear Jack-son jett-son,

My definition of a family farm is simple. If it raises food, fiber or fuel, it's a farm. If the family owns at least some of the operation and works there, of course, it is a family farm. Corporations in agriculture taking their cut (and more) are nothing new to farmers. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the "middle man" in the early 20th century. I've heard many an old farmer say, "I don't care if they make money, as long as I make a little along too." Most farmers do what they have to do to keep raising animals or digging in the dirt." That's why so many have stayed farming through the generations.

Hog and chicken producers have few choices if they want to keep raising animals. In the 1950s the chicken industry became vertically integrated and it happened to the pork industry in the 1990s. But contract farmers still own the land and the buildings, they are family farmers. They are taking a risk.

You won't find me defending some of those corporations on my blog, but to say a farm is not a "family farm" or that they are industrial because they have managed to keep farming and doing what they love is unfair.

Soybean, corn, wheat and cow-calf producers are still "relatively" independent, but corporations benefit every time we buy seed, feed and supplies. Most of us also have several "landlords." Some even custom farm for others, getting paid for doing a job of planting or harvesting, but not sharing in the risk or profit.

I think I explained it best in a former column: http://www.marshallnews.com/story/145976...

"The money we are paid will stay mostly right here in Saline County. Yes, a corporation does benefit, just like a corporation benefits every time I write a story for my local newspaper or my colleagues sell an ad.

A corporation also benefits every time we plant a seed that says Monsanto, Asgrow or Pioneer on the bag.

A corporation benefits every time we buy a tractor from John Deere.

Other people in other states, counties and countries own some of the land we farm. They, too, benefit when we raise a crop.

However, so do lots of people in Saline County who work at the local places we purchase our seed, feed, fertilizer and machinery. And like those employees, we pay taxes in this county, live in this county and shop in this county..."

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Fri, Feb 19, 2010, at 4:42 PM

Char-broil:

Citing world wide outbreaks of MCD and Avian flu is not proof of a safer food system. a) we knew prevented outbreaks here due to knowledge of the other ones. b)Avian flu is as much a food borne illness as Swine flu c)we've had minor outbreaks of avian and swine flu d)We've had outbreaks of e coli.

You like to attack the idea of cheap == good, but you neglect something rather important in the whole real food debate. Better, more expensive, healthier food leads to healthier people which leads to lower health costs. The cheap food we have now is causing our obesity epedimic, enflaming strokes, heart attacks and diabetes. It's not just about cost of food and environment, it's also about the effect that food has on our bodies.

-- Posted by jdeville on Fri, Feb 19, 2010, at 2:12 PM

Curious Tom,

I must say, nice profile pic! Is that your normal attire, or were you just playing dress up? If it is the former, then I understand some of the misinformation in your post.

First of all, you said that Mrs. Gorrell gave no proof that America's food supply was safer than other countries. But she stated that other countries around the world have had outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease and Bird Flu while we have been safe.

Although in America's food system there has been numerous recalls of salami, peanut butter, spinach, etc., no one is perfect. To think that there can be an absolute perfect food system is utopian and ignorant, due to the sheer size and volume of the American food and agriculture system.

You also said that having the cheapest food supply in the world is not necessarily a good thing. Unfortunately, not everyone is as rich and obviously bored (judging by your location) as you are. The only thing that some people care about is if they can afford their next meal, not where it comes from.

I believe that it is people like you (living on the coasts, cruising through life with no worries except what someone in a small-town Missouri newspaper writes) that are part of the problem in America. You have no clue what goes on in the backbone of this nation, the Midwest, but you are always ready to criticize.

-- Posted by Char-broil on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 5:50 PM

Oops! The correct link for the end of my preceding post is https://www.cia.gov/library/publications...

-Tom

-- Posted by CuriousTom on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 3:30 PM

With all due respect, this column seems long on emotional platitudes, but short on relevant verifiable facts.

For starters, it's a false dichotomy to claim that our food is either "safe" or "not". Safety is measured with scientific data. Trust should be grounded in actual evidence, not emotion.

Next, she seems to completely misunderstand the question of routine antibiotic use on farm animals. She focuses on the absence of antibiotics in milk in the supermarket. This is a bizarre metric completely irrelevant to the growing body of scientific analysis. That evidence indicates we're expending our limited arsenal of antibiotics on growing larger farm animals instead of protecting people. Given that deadly antibiotic resistant bacteria are killing many more people than in past decades, and that farmers give far more antibiotics to farm animals than doctors prescribe to people, I think the burden of proof belongs on the farm industry.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/opinio...

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/articl...

She says "in the U.S. our food supply is safer than other countries"--but without a shred of evidence. Which countries? Or is she just fabricating overly-broad unfalsifiable claims to support her theme that all is well in the American industrial agriculture? (If she has any actual data, I'm also curious which countries have *safer* food supplies than we do, and what we learn from them.)

Americans now consider it routine to have massive nationwide recalls of spinach, beef, tomatoes, peanut butter, and other agricultural products that have been shipped to consumers containing sickening and/or deadly poison. Why don't we demand better? Saying we're "safer than other [unspecified] countries" is a weak defense of a food inspection system that simply fails to protect consumers. When I was young, raw eggs were a healthy component of recipes like eggnog--until the USDA decided salmonella in our eggs is ok because salmonella-infected eggs are cheaper to produce. When friends visit from Europe, they ask why American eggs are so anemic, tasteless, and yellow.

The author is proud that American food is so cheap. I question whether cheap is good. Maybe if we paid a little bit more to get higher-quality, more wholesome food, fewer of us would get sick, and our life expectancy wouldn't be #49 in the world, behind much of Europe, Asia, and Canada. http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/prof...

-Tom

-- Posted by CuriousTom on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 3:20 PM

The FDA is a joke...bought and paid for by the industry and corps its supposed to regulate. a very very small percentage of meat products (among other products, industry-provided research, etc) are actually tested, and those numbers drop from year to year.

what is your definition of family farm? if a farm is contracted (i.e., controlled by an outside business/corporation), it can hardly be called "family".

and as someone said above...big industry was asked for comment throughout food inc and gave "no comment" everytime. the chicken farmers that were shown would not even show inside their houses for fear of losing their contracts. the one woman who did show the inside did not have her contract renewed the following year.

agreed that Im not too big on michael pollan showing up on the likes of oprah. but he has placed great information in the public sphere regarding the state of our monocultural food system.

---jack-son jett-son

-- Posted by jackjett on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 2:03 PM

Dear ewagoner,

I have seen Michael Pollan on Oprah and other television shows. I have also seen his speeches on television and have seen the movie King Corn, in which he was a large contributor. I have read several of his speeches online and several of his NY Times articles. That is what I based my column on.

But, you are right. I didn't see Food Inc. I referenced it in my summary statement based on other's reviews and statements. However, without seeing it myself, I should not have brought it up at all. I regret that error.

Did his message change in the movie? Was someone given a chance to refute all his statements about corn not being a natural food, or that antibiotics had to be used in order for cattle to be corn-fed? In his articles and television appearances that has not been the case.

As I stated, I, too, am skeptical of government. But like I said, in the U.S. our food supply is safer than other countries. Are a few mistakes too many? I have no doubt that if my family were the ones affected I would think so. But I also have no doubt we will never have an absolutely "perfect" system.

Finally, are you a farmer growing vegetables year-round here in our area? If so, I would love to interview you. I am currently working on our Democrat-News annual Agriculture Edition and yesterday interviewed an organic vegetable producer.

He told me it might be possible to raise tomatoes in a greenhouse in winter, but was cost prohibitive because of the cost of natural gas (or other heat sources.)

If you are raising strawberries and tomatoes here in the winter, I would not only like to interview you, I would like to buy some.

As I said before, that is why God invented farmers-all of us.

Thank you for reading,

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 7:09 AM

Amen, Marcia! Would that we could get this posted across the country...throw it up on facebook, etc. Well done...

-- Posted by SteveKDC on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 5:39 AM

Dear litlmissme, You're right, it does make you want to Laugh out Loud!

Dear Movaldude and farmerwife, I appreciate your comments. As far as hogs are concerned, my husband always says, "Anyone who thinks hogs are better off outside has never raised hogs!" If you don't have fur or sweat glands (like hogs) Missouri (or most of America's) weather would be pretty tough without those comfortable buildings.

Thanks for reading.

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 9:13 PM

Marcia, you've said several things in your article about "Food, Inc." but then admit in the comments that you've never seen it. The opposing viewpoint was given a chance to respond throughout, but the filmmakers were greeted with one "no comment" after another.

One poultry farmer who allowed the crew on her farm then had her contract terminated. She would qualify as among the 97% of family farms, but what good is it to own the land and the bills if you don't own the crop, whether it's poultry, hogs, corn, or soybeans? If a corporation owns the production, isn't it in effect a corporate farm?

Beyond the film, you say you trust the USDA and FDA when they say our food is safe and say they test "every load of milk" for antibiotics. I wish they did more testing for the things that really matter, such as for e. coli, instead of waiting for people to die. I'd assume the families of those hundreds of people a year who dies from ingesting contaminated beef, dairy (even pasteurized), peanut butter, and other foods. The USDA and the FDA have demonstrated time and again that the err on the side of corporate profits over consumer safety, and have not earned my trust.

Finally (though, I could go on) as a vegetable farmer who grew up in central Missouri, I take great issue with your assertion that you cannot eat any "vegetables from November to March". You praise farmers who have built modern farming techniques, step by step, generation by generation -- building on the lessons, failures and successes of those who farmed before them -- but cannot extend those praises to the diversified small-scale all-season vegetable growers in your midst?

Granted you can't gorge yourself exclusively on juicy tomatoes and ripe strawberries, but there are plenty of vegetables that can be grown to keep you fed. That's why God invented farmers.

-- Posted by ewagoner on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 7:30 PM

Keep up the good work Marcia--think we should get you and some of the producers on the Oprah show to let others know there are TWO sides--occasionally watched Oprah in the winter afternoons, but spending a lifetime on the farm makes you question everything on her show since she is so willing to have these people as her guests. I could hardly stand watching her show some time back on sows farrowing in the pastures in small huts with no pens around them--all who have raised hogs know what happens there and the rest of you probably don't want to know the grusom truth!! Thanks again Marcia for the good work you do for us!!

-- Posted by farmerwife on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 9:03 AM

Thanks Marcia for a great blog. I wish it was required reading for everyone. I'm going to email it to some friends who have pointed out the Food Inc. program to me. I tried to change their minds but to no avail. I hope your blog will do some good.

-- Posted by movaldude on Wed, Feb 17, 2010, at 1:19 AM

Some people beleive that cow burps cause global warming too! LOL

-- Posted by litlmissme on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 6:01 PM

the26er, I have not seen Food Inc., but I have seen King Corn and some of Pollan's speeches and articles. He states that no cattle can digest enough corn to be corn fed in a a year to 15 months and be ready to slaughter without being fed antibiotics. That is simply not true. He says over and over that corn-finished cattle are not what we should be eating, we should only eat grass-finished. (The truth is even most "grass finished" are kept in a lot- they often call them gathering lots and given some corn at the end for the marbling, or the steaks are tough as shoe leather!.)

He states over and over corn is not a natural food, and that is my point.

Grass fed is fine if that is what you choose, but do it based on the true facts, not some blanket statement lumping All corn-fed cattle in with a few bad actors.

The farmer I reference in the article does have confinement cattle, albeit not as large as you see in Nebraska or Kansas. He ships his cattle to a large slaughter facility.

Thanks for reading.

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 4:37 PM

I saw Food Inc. - the corn fed cattle that Pollan was talking about in reference to their inability to digest corn were those cattle that are raised most strictly in confinement lots - that is different than pastured cattle who are supplemented or finished out with corn.

-- Posted by the26er on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 3:58 PM


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