Friday, March 07, 2008


By Steve Kay, Editor & Publisher, Cattle Buyers Weekly, Petaluma, CA

Delivered to the National Meat Association’s annual convention, February 21, 2008

U.S. animal agriculture is under attack as never before in its long history. Today, it is inhumane handling of spent dairy cows. Tomorrow, it will be hogs lying prone in a truck because of mild heat stress. The livestock industry must urgently work together to get out front of the next “expose”. It must ask itself: What will the next HSUS video show? For there will be more.

I was in Virginia last Friday addressing cattlemen there. I congratulated them on keeping their beef cow herds largely intact after their terrible drought last year. I also suggested they keep their leanest cows that aren’t in the best of shape at the back of the farm, well away from anyone who might film them.

Then on Tuesday, I joined a media teleconference hosted by the Humane Society of the United Sates, during which Representative Rosa De Lauro of Connecticut said the Westland/Hallmark episode clearly showed that the U.S. food safety system is collapsing. Representative George Miller of California and HSUS President Wayne Pacelle made similarly emotive comments.

That was all to be expected. What disappointed me was the total absence of any kind of response or rebuttal statements by USDA or the industry. So all the media stories I read Wednesday morning were totally unbalanced. Ordinary Americans might therefore reasonably believe that the food they eat has become less safe, when, as we know, the opposite is true.

My point is: The U.S. meat and livestock industry urgently needs an industry-wide public relations body or mechanism to monitor and respond to every challenge to and claim about industry practices and other issues as they arise. If the Secretary of Agriculture is unwilling to immediately rebut such outrageous accusations from members of Congress, then someone representing this vital sector of the U.S. economy must. It seems that, once upon a time, the American Meat Institute performed this function, at least to some extent. But AMI now appears to be MIA, missing in action.

As Kirk Ferrell of the National Pork Producers Council told NMA’s Government Relations Committee yesterday afternoon, there is a war going on. It is a war for the hearts and minds, and I would add the stomachs, of all Americans.

We can all sit back and say: “Well, Americans will always eat meat and poultry products.” That’s true but it is missing the point. If the industry continues to allow the HSUS and others to make all the plays, the industry will have forced on it more and more legislative and regulatory restrictions that will make it even harder for many of you to stay in business. A downsizing of the American meat industry will mean consumers will simply eat more imported products.

The beef industry is already downsizing at the packing plant and cattle feedlot levels because of shrinking cattle numbers in North America. I would be horrified if further downsizing occurs because the industry did not come together and act very rapidly to tell its story, be it on animal welfare or food safety, in a forceful, factual way.

To do that, the industry must speak with one voice. It needs to have one or more highly credible spokesmen or women who can articulate to the American public that much of what HSUS and other industry critics are saying today, and will say tomorrow, is simply not true.

The industry should also consider an extensive campaign to educate members of Congress with the facts as to food safety, animal welfare and other management practices in the industry.

The industry must also take steps to anticipate what targets might be next and work to get ahead of any future attacks, be they on confined animal feeding operations, the use of growth promotants and other pharmaceutical tools that cattle and hog producers use, the castrating of male cattle and hogs, and other animal husbandry practices.

The enemies of U.S. animal agriculture have identified themselves and have revealed their tactics. It is time for the meat and livestock industry to draw up its battle plan and counter-attack.
Marketing Trends
National Meat Association March 3, 2008

I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna to take this anymore!!(Peter Finch from the movie Network)

As I listened to Steve Kay in the PDQ session at the recent NMA Annual Convention, I caught his clarion call for action and it has incensed and infused me. He was excoriating those anti meat activists who, to paraphrase Steve, are hell bent on putting those of us who derive our living from meat related activities out of business. Steve is that parakeet in the mine warning us all that we had better do something soon or we may be out of business before we know it. Maybe it is a bit belated, but I am now incensed with the methods those, who would attempt to take away my rights, use and I am infused with a passion to not only expose them but better yet show our consumers that the anti-meat, anti-animal-agriculture activists are wrong.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have the right to say what they believe. In fact, there are many of us who donned our nation’s military uniforms to protect their rights. However, they don’t have the right to use methods that, in my opinion, are repugnant and have become an anathema. In my attempt to get a better idea of their espoused “rights,” I visited the PETA website . The first answer listed to their rhetorical question, “Why animal rights?” is “Animals are not ours to eat.” They go on to say that, “. . . animals are not ours to use, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any way. . .” All of these are sentiments that smack of a fuzzy feel-good aura difficult to counter without coming off as a cold-hearted, brutal killer of animals. More about heart below.

Those of us in the meat business produce a healthy, wholesome human food, and for our work, we neither deserve the abuse from the PETAs of the world nor expect the praise of others. We not only provide good food, but among many other things, we are a source of jobs and contribute to stewardship of the environment all of which improve our society. We simply do our job of humanely raising animals and processing them into meat products for human consumption. Such is an honorable profession, which, as I say, does not deserve to be painted with a brush of scorn that PETA and others so liberally apply. They use the term “factory farming” as their euphemism for all animal agriculture practices without regard to their “humaneness” to galvanize others less informed to be against agribusiness.

However, is PETA the only anti-animal agriculture group deserving of our scrutiny? Well, I discovered another one called Animal Place of Vacaville, CA . They, too, promote an anti-meat agenda, but do it, in my opinion, in a more insidious manner. Their tactic is to promote their agenda with children. They justify their agenda with statements like, “Counter agribusiness's relentless conditioning of young children, which serves to dull their natural feelings of empathy and curiosity about farmed animals.” They do it by promoting 5 H instead of 4 H and in their words, “This campaign asks kids to add a 5th H "Humane Choices" - to their 4-H projects. Those animals whom (sic) they have cared for since birth and grown to love will not have to be subjected to the ultimate betrayal of trust by being sold for slaughter. The kids will not have to continue the process of desensitization which makes the betrayal easier each year.” Their stated goal in their words again, “Animal Place is committed to promoting compassion for all species and educating the public about the unjustifiable cruelty of factory farming and the far reaching benefits of veganism.”

These two organizations have every right to promote their agendas, as I said earlier. We, in the meat industry, also have every right to counter their methods with the truth about how we raise and process animals for food. However, the marketing lesson I am advocating is that such an effort must be as well orchestrated as those of PETA and Animal Place. This marketing campaign, and that is exactly what it is, should be education of not only consumers but also children and young adults as after all they are the future consumers. It should be a joint effort of all meat industry groups.

Simply to offer past tense reasons for the Hallmark/Westland debacle and how this could never happen again, we must instead insure that it never happens again. At the same time, we must show how it has never happened in other plants and how wholesome, nutritious and healthy our meat products are. Anything less shows no heart.

Mack H. Graves of Latigo, Inc., a meat and poultry marketing and management consulting company, who serves as CEO of Panorama Meats, Inc. wrote this Marketing Trends. You may reach him at his office phone: 303-699-7795,
Mobile: 303-882-5453, fax: 303-699-7206 or e-mail him at
The newest phenomenon: Global Cooling

Last week I was granted the opportunity to speak at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It was, in many respects, a very eye opening experience. First of all, you need to know that these were not all agricultural students - a dozen or so “concerned citizens” did show up and were quite vocal. They were vocal about the environmental degradation we as humans are causing through food production, transportation and just living, period. In fact, a couple of them were emphatic that the world is only years away from complete ruination. But then again why wouldn’t they think that? Have you listened to “the news” lately? “Global warming is altering this. Global warming is causing that”. The one that really gets my goat is when a presidential hopeful makes the statement that “our planet is in peril”.

The concept of global warming has become big business. We are reminded every day that we must be stripped of our consumer choices because the planet is in peril. We must enact tougher new environmental regulations because the planet is in grave danger. As it turns out, this may be the biggest fund-raising scam the globe has ever seen. If global warming weren’t a fear-mongering sales pitch, how would a past vice president have sold enough copies of his movie to pay the outrageous electric bill he runs up every month on his Tennessee mansion?

I would hate to think that an actual scientific conference has just taken place in New York City and you didn’t hear about it but the odds are good that it won’t make the prime time news. The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change took place March 2-4, 2008 and 100 environmental scientists from around the world gathered to share some startling facts.

Guess what they revealed. From the mid 1970’s until 1998 the earth’s temperatures did indeed rise. However, in the past ten years there has been zero net gain on temperature increase and, in fact, the evidence shows that the earth has cooled during that decade. Furthermore, these real experts presented evidence that humans are responsible for less than a fraction of 1% of the effects from greenhouse gases. Even more startling would be the fact that greenhouse gases have not caused planet warming but rather any temperature increase was caused by the sun.

Whether Global Warming is the world’s largest hoax or not, we as short time occupants are obligated to use our God-given cranial matter to protect the environment. Just as livestock producers study and determine the best manner in which to handle the nutrients produced by their operations and reapply them to the land, everyday citizens also have an obligation to make decisions that are best for future generations.

As we reflect back to the thought processes of some of the Cornell students last week, I don’t believe for a minute that what I experienced there is unique. In fact, I believe the greater the divide between the global consumer and land, the greater the perceived concern for the land. That is simply because they don’t have hands-on experience of helping to care for the land as most farmers do. I can tell you that it was an eye-opener for the ag kids on campus to hear their fellow students verbalize dire concern about what is happening to our world allegedly because of farmers. It is one thing to read it in a paper or hear it on the news but it is a completely different thing to hear one of your peers blame your industry for the demise of the world as we know it.

Everyone is so concerned with water pollution that we restrict the flow of natural nutrients into streams and rivers. We lose sight of the fact that nitrates and phosphorus are nutrients that are essential for life. In my lifetime, I believe we will see the day that we will have to add both of these nutrients into fresh bodies of water because we have created too sterile of an environment for the creatures that need to live in the water. Of course, too much of any nutrient is not a good thing but if it is essential for life you must have access to it. Life without the sun is not possible either, but too much sun can kill you.

At the end of the day my only wish is that every citizen of the United States truly understood that the agricultural portion of our planet has never been in better hands. The soil and water are cleaner and safer now than they have ever been. The only way the cycle of life will continue is if we, as humans, continue to implement conservation practices into the conversion of natural resources into the essentials of life for humans beings. Come to think of it, other than fundraising, egos may be the biggest problem we face. Some among us can’t come to grips with the concept that, as humans, we are just a little blip in the big picture of the universe instead of totally in charge of it all!