Saturday, May 10, 2003

Kicked back

Have you ever halter broken a bull? I don’t know exactly how many I have tied on to but it probably runs near a couple hundred. It is not unusual to lose your patience during this process. But if you really lose your cool and make the mistake of giving the bull a good sound kick, it goes without saying that it really will hurt you more than it hurts him. And most likely it will still be hurting you tomorrow or even a week from now.

I just attend the U.S.D.A. listening session in Kearney, NE about the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation. I couldn’t help but think of how that meeting compared to halter-breaking bulls.

Throughout all of the rhetoric, hashed and re-hashed, not one single person mentioned the real reason that this law was introduced in the first place.

Arguments for this program come from people who want to switch sides of the fence depending on where the grass is greener. Numerous commodity check-offs have been challenged in court. The same folks who are against the check-off, because it is mandatory, are in favor of mandatory country of origin labeling. If it’s not OK to mandate a check-off, then why is it completely acceptable to force labeling of the same product?

During one testimony, a person involved in direct marketing supported the mandatory COOL program because she said consumers preferred their product because they know it is produced right here in the U.S. If one of her marketing tools includes telling consumers that U.S. farmers produced the product, won’t it be harder to differentiate her product from the generic competition if COOL is implemented and all of the products are labeled as such?

The most popular argument for COOL is that consumers have said they are willing to pay more for a product that is “Made in the USA”. Proponents continually reference a study published by scientists from Colorado State University. However, these very scientists testified during the listening session that these results were not intended to be used for public policy setting in this manner. There were only 278 people surveyed and the study was not designed to seek information about consumer preferences regarding the origin of food. Anyone familiar with scientific data and statistical analysis knows that you can’t take the results and mold them to fit your scenario if that is not how the study was designed.

I heard people touting Country of Origin Labeling for meat because “they know where every piece of their clothing was made and yet consumers don’t have an opportunity to know where their meat comes from.” I think that is comparing apples and oranges. The tag in your shirt may say “Made in China”, but it says nothing about where the cotton field was or which Iraqi oil well produced the petroleum to make the 35% polyester that keeps it from wrinkling.

The key word “mandatory” equals frustration. Frustration is the true reason this law was initiated. Frustration may not enough go deep enough to describe what is really pulsing through the veins of many of these people. I believe it is actually anger and desperation. Anger because we have few and bigger players in the food business. The meat industry has done a tremendous job of producing and marketing the safest, healthiest supply of food the world has ever seen. These folks are either forced to change the way they do things or be left behind.

Anger, frustration or desperation by some in the industry has forced them to kick the industry like I kicked the bull. They haven’t seemed to grasp the fact that it doesn’t matter how big the bull is, when he kicks back, IT HURTS.
Let the discussion begin

I am very excited about this: Dialogue! Every meeting I attend, the conclusion seems to be the same: “We need more and better dialogue with the consumer.” So I have partnered with Michael Milligan in an online forum that should be a wonderful opportunity to hear what consumers really think. It was just posted today and I hope we can get people of all viewpoints to weigh in on the subject. Michael spent a lot of time with logos and formatting - thank you Michael. Click here to discuss “The truth behind your dinner”.

Health should be renamed Fear!

Health magazine should probably just consider a new and more attention grabbing title like FEAR! magazine. I just floated through several of the stories and this is an excerpt from just one.

Of particular concern is the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in beef, pork, and poultry production. The AMA is supporting legislation proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., that calls for more restrictions on the practice. Most animals raised for food in the United States receive regular doses of antibiotics in their feed or water to protect them from injury and diseases they might receive while being raised in crowded, confined conditions.

But the following is my favorite and proves that they have no clue:

Even the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the Colorado-based trade body that represents cattle ranchers and beef producers, has begun looking into some of the farming practices of its members, including the use of growth hormones.

I stopped to visit with the vets in Ainsworth, NE yesterday and they had a great point. Have you ever taken your child to the doctor for an ear infection or some other illness. What is the first thing they prescribe? “Well, let’s try amoxycillin first. It probably won’t work but we will keep working up until the last option which is the power drug that finally knocks it.” THAT’S IT! “Weenies” are blaming animal agriculture for exposing our food animals to low levels of antibiotics for extended periods of time because they are feeling guilty about what is happening to humans. Humans may not become resistant to antibiotics if medical doctors would just take a closer look at what they are really doing to children. Here is a list of “fear” stories found in Health magazine.

Why the Meat Label is a Must-read

More organic options on their way to markets

Why you should care

Beyond animal rights

The growth hormone debate

Urbanizing America

Why did we starting putting water lines through the countryside? If we had not developed “farms” maybe people would have stayed in town instead bringing the town to us. This story in the LA Times describes what I am talking about with dairies and urbanites in California.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Social engineering

I just had very good meeting with Brenda Forman in Pierre, SD and she summed up the “environment” we live in today – “social engineering.” When did neighbors start assessing what I should or shouldn’t have. The following is excerpt from a Rueters news story and the first paragraph sums it up “huge factory farm”. And then they go on to define what a “huge factory farm” is - check it out. HEY, I have news for all you spin-doctors: size is not a factor in pollution. The other night in a Chicago restaurant, I visited with a gentlemen from Michigan and asked him about his occupation. He told me “I work for a large software company”. Think about how many people you interact with in daily life that try to tell you how BIG something is that they are involved in. Yet the social Nazis want to tell me how many animals I can’t have. Furthermore I am convinced huge is you having one more of something than me, and they don't have any animals. Read whole story.

Federal regulators should reject any proposals that would exempt huge "factory farms" feeding thousands of animals at a time from air pollution rules, six environmental groups said.

The environmental groups said CAFOs, which can hold 1,000 head of cattle, 2,500 hogs or 30,000 chickens, "present a widespread, severe air quality problem, both to neighboring residents and impacted airsheds."

Signing the letter were Association of Irritated Residents, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Environmental Defense, Environmental Integrity Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

Raw Food

One of the most eye-opening things I have witnessed in the past year is the movement toward the consumption of raw food. Last year at the Health and Harmony Festival in California, I saw people eating things raw that I would not feed to my dog. I totally support and encourage people to adapt the lifestyle they choose. Vegan, vegetarian, raw food or constant beer and chips, I don’t care because this is America. What I have so much trouble with is that it seems like the marketing of one particular lifestyle is negative to everyone else’s right to choose. The following is an example from the promotion of the RawStock Festival coming up in California in July.

a clear understanding of why raw food diet is the most ecologically beneficial diet, with the power to reverse our earth's declining state of health

passionate vibes from health-loving people who love life

"Rawstock will be the ultimate raw food event. It will pack more successful experience onstage than any raw food event, ever. The best food, the best speakers, best bands, simply, the best. Anybody who wants absolute raw success, and to participate in a major slice of history, Rawstock is a 'must' event." Dr. Doug Graham - President of Healthful Living International

See another interesting website linked to this one

We have more trees than we have ever had. We have cleaner water. Human management has made these things better. Yet the message is that we are just days away from destruction - all in the name of marketing a lifestyle. This raw food movement is very intriguing to me. I remember people telling me last year that they wanted all of their food to be consumed within 15 minutes of harvest. Now unless they live in a garden, how practical is that?

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Michigan native speaks in homeland

Back on the “weenie” list for a third time this year is Gary Yourofsky. I missed his speaking presentation but Detroit TV WXYZ (view) did a story on one parent who didn’t agree with Yourofsky speaking to his son at Eisenhower High School. Yourofsky, a PETA lecturer, spoke to 600 students in January and I thought you might be interested in a few of his comments from that presentation.

"When you cause misery to animals and take part in their murder, you are causing God misery and murdering his soul."

He admitted his purpose for speaking to the students was to convert them to a strict vegan lifestyle.

“People who eat meat are terrorists”

And the following gem was quoted not to the students but in the Toledo Blade 2001: "Do not be afraid to condone arsons at places of animal torture," he has written to supporters. Matter of fact, if an "animal abuser" were to get killed in the process of burning down a research lab, "I would unequivocally support that, too."

Two teachers requested his speaking appearance at the school and the school principal said they will do a better background check from now on…

Teresa Platt and the Fur Commission have all the information on Gary Yourofsky, click here to get his full profile.

The world is ruled by those who show up

Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT is the first American University to take a stand against factory egg farming. A store at Wesleyan University says it will only sell eggs laid by chickens with freedom. This a quote from a student leader in the school:

Factory egg farms are infamous for their cruel conditions, for both hens and workers, and for the environmental threats they pose. Up to ten hens are forced to live in a cage so small that one hen could not spread her wings," said Matt Montesano, a member of Wesleyan's Environmental Organizers' Network (EON). "Hens are in lifelong pain because up to two-thirds of their beaks are cut off as chicks. Hens in factory farms
are periodically starved for up to three weeks in a practice called force-molting, which attempts to shock hens' bodies into another laying cycle."

What do you think? Maybe the messages that people like Gary Yourofsky are sending to students in schools are working?

Monday, May 05, 2003

Farmers not Agriculture

My trip last weekend to Michigan turned out one the best trips I have had, maybe ever. I spent Saturday afternoon and evening brainstorming about how we can do a better job of supplying the truth to the consumer. It concluded with a small round table discussion of Detroit urbanites giving their perception of food production.

The number one image problem in food production is Farm Subsidies. They were appalled that a farmer with $300,000 in income may have $100,000 of that coming in the form of a subsidy. Their perception was that “Corporate” farms would receive a payment in addition to net income. They had no clue that if a farmer had $3 million in revenue, that it was gross dollars and not net income. They had no idea that over half of the proceeds of the “Farm Bill” go into food programs and not to farmers.

So many things came from this meeting, but the final thing that I will tell you about was NATURE. They said city people live and work in an artificial world, so when they are not working they want to experience NATURE. Farmers are correlated with nature, not agriculture. Agriculture is business and resembles the world they live in, whereas farmers are salt of the earth history of our country.

The bottom line is that Faces of Agriculture must incorporate this type of focus group roundtable all across the country with both soccer moms and farmers. Yeah “soccer” - they said baseball was gone too. One final thing, all of this happened because one insightful individual - Jody Pollok, Executive Director of Michigan Corn. Thanks Jody…

California breathe, but don’t relax

As you know the “weenies” have been prancing around the country trying to enact laws to chase livestock agriculture (or should I say farming) out off of U.S. soil. We got a break in California. Read the entire story from the LA Times, but don’t relax. Be sure to tell more people than ever what we really do on farms. I guarantee that the “weenies” will only fire up and come harder next time. Following is a small sample from the LA Times Friday.

A state bill that would have prohibited the confinement of calves and pregnant sows in cramped crates was withdrawn Thursday before facing the Assembly's Agriculture Committee.
A staff member for Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), who wrote the bill, said she did not have the votes for approval. Given the state's pressing budget crisis, Hancock decided the bill might not be given adequate attention. She plans to reintroduce it next year.