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Hang On For the Ride

Written by Dennis Sun
      This past week Time Magazine carried a story on America’s food supply and the food safety issue.  We had prior notice from the National Beef Board that the story was coming and that it wasn’t going to be favorable to agricultural business. On the cover was a package of hamburger that carried a warning “CAUTION. This hamburger may be hazardous to your health.”  
    The article in Time a couple weeks ago was, in my mind, a twisted piece of newsprint. The writer seemed to have his own agenda in mind when he wrote the article. The National Beef Checkoff Program had learned his article was coming out and had contacted him. They provided numerous fact sheets and offered interviews with six beef experts and two feedlot operators, all to no avail.
    As the Beef Checkoff states, “The article repeats a wide range of ‘factory farming’ claims, including the common myths about modern beef production’s over-reliance on corn and antibiotics, the distorting effect of farm subsidies and poor farm animal living conditions. The writer was really hard on the pork industry and he also took potshots at the corn, chicken and fast food industry, especially McDonald’s. He blamed these industries for American’s obesity problems. Remember, America today is a country where everyone is not accountable for their actions. If one is overweight, it has to be the fault of McDonald’s or the high calorie food from the grocery store, it just couldn’t be because we eat too much or eat the wrong foods.”
    The writer goes on to praise sustainable farming, which is raising organic meats and vegetables and the animals are always happy and healthy. He uses as an example a couple that raises cattle and farms north of San Francisco, Calif. and works with other small landowners to sell their products to retailers and restaurants. His wife now helps out, but previously she was an attorney for the environmental organization Earthjustice. We’ve heard about them in Wyoming, haven’t we? The writer really pushes the organic foods even though the USDA recently said that organic foods are not necessarily better for us. Perception rules out and some consumers are willing to pay an extra $900 a year for organic products.
    The article, with statements like, “the U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices (Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food today, down from 18 percent in 1966). But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans.” And perhaps worst of all, “our food is increasingly bad for us, even dangerous,” and quotes like, “the way we farm now is destructive of the soil, the environment and us.”
    As producers we all need to be spokespeople for the products we raise. It is ok to praise the products we raise, but we shouldn’t point fingers at others. Just state the facts. The right answers are on our side.
Dennis