Misconceptions about antibiotic usage in agriculture

Colby Ferguson, director of government relations and Emily Solis, communications specialist at Maryland Farm Bureau share misconceptions about animal agriculture’s role in antibiotic resistance. To read the original post, click here.

There’s no arguing that antimicrobial resistance is a concern and something we should be cognizant of. The ability to treat a wide range of diseases and illnesses is an extremely valuable tool that we need to keep effective. Evidence shows that the true cause of antimicrobial resistance is human overuse and misuse. Furthermore, farmers have already taken serious steps to improve antibiotic stewardship.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the 12 most dangerous superbugs. The Priority 1 superbugs, which are considered critical, are all resistant to carbapenem. The carbapenem class of antibiotics are not used in livestock – meaning the resistance has come from use in human medicine. Based on a 2017 stewardship report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 30% of all antibiotics prescribed in outpatient clinics and hospitals are unnecessary.

CDC combats antibiotic resistance

Differences in human and animal medicines

Another important point to make is that the most-used antimicrobials in livestock are severely different than those most-used to treat humans. The vast majority of antibiotics are either used in people or animals, but very rarely both. For instance, tetracycline is the most used class in animals at 41%, while it makes up just 4% of usage in humans – the vast majority of that use is in human acne cream. Penicillins are the most used in humans at 44%, but only comprise 6% of animal agriculture use. Ionophores which make up 30% of usage in animals are not used for human treatment.

antibiotics used in humans vs animals

Studies show that the most urgent antibiotic resistance threats are unrelated to livestock. There is a 1 in a billion chance of antibiotic treatment failure from resistance to common animal antibiotics. This means we are thousands of times more likely to die from a dog bite or lightning striking than from resistance related to animal agriculture. In addition, a December report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that antibiotic usage in animal agriculture is greatly declining. The report outlines that sales and distribution of medically important antibiotics for use in livestock have declined by 33% between 2016 and 2017.

There’s a continued response that antibiotic usage in animal agriculture is unnecessary, but that is inaccurate. Animals are raised in conditions that promote health and wellness – but at some point they will become sick and potentially need treatment. While some companies and package labels are committing to zero antibiotic treatment, this does not share the full story. In truth, animals that were treated with antibiotics are simply marketed under a different name or label.

Antibiotics and food

Lastly, the concern of antibiotics in food and milk is non-existent. Meat producers that utilize antimicrobials for treatment follow strict withdrawal periods. These withdrawal times tell farmers when their animals can safely enter the food system as the antibiotics have safely passed through their system. Meat products are tested for antibiotic residues prior to entering the marketplace. Milk follows similar regulations and testing. Any animal treated with antibiotics will continue to have their milk tested until the results show it is free of the residues. Milk is dumped from those animals until it reaches that point. Milk tanks are also tested prior to being picked up for processing.

Solving instead of scapegoating

Unfairly blaming animal agriculture for antibiotic resistance will not help us solve this issue. Overuse and misuse of medically important antibiotics in human use is the number one reason for the increase in resistant bacteria in our environment. While it may be simpler to blame the agriculture industry, true improvements will not be made until we realize that human antibiotic use is the true concern. Animal agriculture is already making improvements in antibiotic stewardship. Now, it’s time for humans to do the same.

All posts are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of the Animal Ag Alliance.

My Experience with a Plant-Based Burger

As a part of my cell-based meat blog series, I have read many, many articles about the virtues and vices of animal meat, cell-based meat and plant-based meat. I became relatively familiar with companies like JUST, Impossible Burgers, and Beyond Meat. I consumed so much media about them that when I saw Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger in my normal grocery store, I felt compelled to try it.

I added it to my grocery cart and went on my merry way. It was more expensive than your typical pre-formed hamburger patty ($2.24 per hamburger patty compared to $3.49 per Beyond Burger patty). It would be even cheaper if you just bought ground beef and formed the patty yourself. You can tell from the texture that it was not hamburger meat, but it does look awfully close. The red coloring looked much closer to beef than other plant-based burgers, which are usually a shade of green or brown.

Do Not Overcook

The cooking instructions were pretty simple: pre-heat grill or pan to medium-high to high heat and cook for 3 minutes per side. It was still cold outside here in Virginia, and I was not about to go outside to grill this burger, so I cooked it in a skillet.

The package was clear that the inside of the burger would remain red. I usually like burgers either medium or medium rare, so this did not concern me, but I had assumed that the outside of the burger would brown. Which it did, but it took longer than I expected, and I definitely cooked it longer than the recommended 3 minutes per side. It looked like a burger, so I cooked it like a burger. I ended up burning it waiting for the sides to brown before I remembered that this was a vegetarian patty, not a beef patty, and it would not necessarily cook the same way. Once the smoke alarm went off, I decided the patty was done, red or not.

Taste and Texture

Now the part I was most curious about: taste, texture, appearance. Given that I did overcook the patty, the texture and taste may have been different from a properly cooked Beyond burger. The color, as I mentioned, was a bit red. The texture was what you would expect from a plant-based burger, if you have had other ones before. Another note: I did not eat this burger patty as burger (with a bun, ketchup or mustard, pickles, etc). I ate the patty just as it was. This may have made the differences more noticeable than if you had it in a Whopper.

Nutrition

Although it had 20 grams of protein per serving, the Beyond burger also had 20 grams of fat. Which, when multiplied by 9 calories per gram, leaves us with 180 calories from fat (though the label says 170), making up 64% of the patty’s total calories (270). I suspect most of this comes from the canola oil and coconut oil. Compare this with a 93% lean beef hamburger, which has 8 grams of fat, 70 calories from fat, 41% of total patty calories (170).

I think this is an important point: just because something is made with vegetables does not mean it is healthy. The protein comes from pea isolate – different from eating peas, like eating white bread is different from eating whole wheat. Yes, it came from the same place, but you’ve lost something along the way.

It is true that a beef patty will have more cholesterol than a plant-based patty. However, dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels. This is because cholesterol in the body is highly regulated. If you consume more cholesterol, your body will produce less. Our bodies require more cholesterol than the average person consumes in a day, so your body will still be producing cholesterol to fill that gap.

 Conclusion

As an imitation, the Beyond Burger was excellent. My overcooking it is proof of that. However, if you are someone who appreciates a really good hamburger (the type you expect from a place that asks you how you want it cooked), this plant-based alternative does not meet expectations. If you are thinking about switching out a beef burger for a Beyond burger for health reasons, you may be disappointed.

NYC Meatless Mondays is a recipe for disaster

Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate, shares her perspective on Meatless Mondays.

In what he says is an effort to save the planet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that all 1,700 NYC public schools will participate in “Meatless Mondays” beginning next fall. After an 18-month pilot in 15 Brooklyn schools, the district will be serving vegetarian meals to all 1.1 million students to kick off each school week. As a mother whose children have experienced hunger, I am concerned about the consequences this policy will have on the city’s most vulnerable students.

Hungry children

In a city where 1.2 million residents face hunger every year and 339,000 of its students rely upon soup kitchens and food pantries that struggle to keep up with rising demand, this is a recipe for disaster for students from low income households.

114,659 NYC students are homeless.

My children have also been homeless.

The first 2 ½ months of our nearly year-long shelter stay was spent in a motel room where we had no access to food storage or cooking facilities. Our refrigerator was a Styrofoam cooler; we prepared ramen noodles with the lukewarm water from the bathroom sink. My 4th grader was held back a year, unable to concentrate in school, as his home was uprooted, and I was unable to prepare healthy, nutritious meals for my family.

Focusing in the classroom.

During these times and beyond, school meals have provided necessary nutrition to my children when my poverty wages could not. I have been a SNAP recipient and have checked my dignity at the door of food pantries, so that I could feed my children. I’ve then gone with a pocket full of change to purchase the animal protein the food pantry was unable to provide. I am not objecting to vegetarian options for students who, or whose parents, prefer them. I am opposed to removing such a rich source of protein from the diets of children who are not regularly otherwise receiving those critical nutrients and would prefer them.

Meatless Mondays removes healthy choices

Mitchell Katz, MD, CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals, lauds the move as creating “an option of a healthier meal choice.” The irony is that this “Meatless Mondays” policy is indeed removing healthy meal choices from school cafeterias where vegetarian options often always exist. This is part of what I call food gentrification, where those with money and satisfied choices are dictating options for those with neither. Those most impacted by those decisions made by those in power are not often fully informed, invited to the table or even considered in these discussions.

In his press conference announcing this new policy Mayor de Blasio spoke of the amazing grilled cheese sandwiches being served to students in his schools.

Meatless Mondays
Grilled cheese

Now, I am a big fan of this delicacy since childhood. In the second grade, my class put together a cookbook for Mother’s Day. Surely, the recipe I submitted remains spot on for the best grilled cheese you ever will eat. As an adult, I was devastated to have to serve my children a grilled cheese for dinner because I lacked the resources to feed the protein I knew they were lacking. Some nights, my children went to bed on empty bellies; school meals having been the only source of food for them some days.

As good as they can be, is a grilled cheese sandwich really what we should be applauding ourselves for feeding our children as an alternative to meat, which is essential to their brain health, when it could possibly be their only meal of the day?

Long-term impacts

I wonder if there was any research done on the health outcomes of particularly the low income students in Brooklyn who participated in the 18 month pilot program. Given the rush to take the pilot mainstream, it would seem there wasn’t enough time, effort or forethought given to the consequences on the developmental health of these children.

Children in Brooklyn are survivors of the gentrification that has been driving up the cost of housing in their borough, directly impacting their parents’ ability to feed them. Must we also further gentrify their food?

Perhaps if Mayor de Blasio is so inclined to use his platform to address climate change, he’ll lessen the number of trips on airplanes which he and his wife take. Perhaps next time, they’ll reconsider the environmental impact of bringing along the photographer.

Who needs a Registered Dietitian?

I have a confession: I’ve taken nutrition advice from a fitness expert. It did help me lose weight. It helped me realize the magic of planning ahead and meal prepping. I got some great recipes with some ingredients I probably would not have tried otherwise.

At the gym!

But they were sharing one approach that had worked for them, not necessarily working with me to find out what would work for me. The strict timing recommendations (eat every 4 hours and not a minute sooner) really didn’t fit my social life. I enjoyed eating lunch with my coworkers and that timing could be sporadic. I enjoy dining out occasionally, which can never be perfectly timed. They also shared some wildly inaccurate information about agriculture, which was very frustrating.

I’ve since connected with several awesome Registered Dietitians through my work at the Animal Ag Alliance and learned some valuable lessons. In celebration of National Nutrition Month and Registered Dietitian Day, I asked them who needs a dietitian and how can you connect with an RD?

Who should see a registered dietitian?

Several dietitians agree that anyone with nutrition questions or looking for guidance on food choices should see an RD. Everyone could use a nutrition checkup! Just like you see (or should see) a doctor or dentist on a regular basis, you can have regular visits to a dietitian for preventative care.

Anyone with medical issues, like celiac disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or digestive disorders, would benefit from seeing an RD. Your physician and dietitian can work together to offer solutions. Some instances might be covered by heath insurance. RD’s can also help navigate food allergies, sports/performance and weight management.

How can you find a RD?

EatRight.org has a dietitian locator. Click on “Find an Expert” at the top of the homepage. How much easier can it get!? You can also take advantage of outpatient RD’s at hospitals or RD’s in university nutrition departments.

I enjoy following several RD’s on Twitter. I’ve learned some interesting things about nutrition, myths and misinformation to avoid and gotten some great recipes.

Instagram post from FoodandFearless.

Recently, I saw that a new gym in my community was advertising nutrition coaching. I gave an eyeroll, then looked into it. I was impressed to find they have a Registered Dietitian on staff!

Just like everyone needs farmers, everyone could benefit from registered dietitians, too!

Thank you to Leah McGrath, Amber Pankonin, Neva Cochran, Kayle Skorupski and Kim Kirchherr for sharing their expertise for this post!

Health goals and common sense

It’s the start to a new year and many of us are evaluating our health goals, myself included. I dug my Fitbit out of the dresser drawer a few weeks ago to start keeping better track of my eating habits, exercise and water intake. With so many fad diets, it can be challenging to decipher all the health claims floating around. I am definitely not a nutritionist or health expert, but some things just make sense – like including lean meat, eggs and dairy in a healthy, balanced diet.

Health goal 1: Eating healthy

Eating healthy is probably my biggest challenge. I have an uncontrollable sweet tooth – if chocolate is in my house, I will eat it…in one sitting. I try to avoid buying candies and desserts I like so I won’t be as tempted, but it never works. For example, last Halloween I refused to buy Milky Ways, Snickers, KitKats and all the candies I love (the trick-or-treaters probably hated me too), and I still ended up eating the entire bowl of Starbursts that was leftover at the end of the night. It’s been a problem for as long as I can remember. My mom had to buy my sister Zebra Cakes growing up because if she bought Cosmic Brownies the box wouldn’t last more than two days.

To keep myself on track, I make sure to eat nutrient-dense foods instead of high-calorie, nutrient-lacking foods. Sorry, Cosmic Brownies!

Meat Matters Guide

Meat Matters Guide

Here’s a few reasons why I include meat, dairy and eggs in my diet:

  • Milk’s essential nutrients can be difficult to replace. Three 8-ounce cups provide as much calcium as approximately 17 cups of raw kale!
  • One large egg has varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals along with six grams of protein and just 70 calories.
  • It would take 600+ calories of quinoa to get the same amount of protein in a 170-calorie serving of lean beef!
  • One 3-ounce serving of turkey has 10 essential nutrients and about 50 percent of the recommended daily value of protein.
  • Meat, dairy and eggs are natural sources of vitamin B12, essential for proper red blood cell formation and neurological function.

My meal plan

Arugula and goat cheese sandwich

Arugula and goat cheese sandwich

The nutrients and protein meat, dairy and eggs provide are hard to ignore! For the last few weeks, my go-to breakfast has been low-fat cottage cheese with blueberries and granola with coffee. For lunch, I usually have two hard-boiled eggs, carrots, a BabyBel cheese wheel and a handful of mini Triscuit crackers – I love the smoked Gouda flavor. If I have my life together on Sundays, I’ll grill some chicken and veggies to have for lunches all week.

Then I’ll have a snack around 3 o’clock – usually an apple. One of my biggest pet peeves is wasting food, so I try to mix things up on the weekends to avoid getting tired of the same meals. I recently tried a new recipe – arugula and goat cheese sandwiches with roasted red peppers and mozzarella on sourdough. So good.

Chicken breast with broccoli and garlic pasta

Chicken breast with broccoli and garlic pasta

For dinner I’m cooking for two. My husband has been trying to learn to cook, but it’s a process. “A” for effort, right? We usually have chicken breasts or pork loin cutlets. With both of us trying to exercise more, the protein and nutrients meat provides help us convert food to energy and preserve and build muscle. Alongside our chicken or pork we always have a vegetable. In addition to in-season vegetables, I always keep bags of frozen veggies on hand.  I’ve heard claims that I can eat broccoli to get my protein, but to get the same amount of protein in a 3-ounce serving of chicken I would have to eat 10 cups of broccoli. No matter how much I love broccoli, 10 cups is a lot!

Speaking of a lot, Crock-Pot meals are also a staple in my house. White chicken chili, creamy Tuscan chicken and butter chicken are all husband-approved. Who am I kidding, he’ll eat anything!

Health goal 2: Drinking enough water

You don’t have to remind me to eat, but I could use some reminders about drinking water. I’m horrible at drinking enough water each day – coffee is another story. My goal is to drink 64 ounces of water every day. I have a a ton of 24-ounce Tervis Tumblers, so I try to drink three by the time I go to bed. This doesn’t sound too difficult, but for some reason I find myself chugging water each night because I didn’t drink enough throughout the day. I’ve thought about setting an alarm on my phone to go off every hour to cue me to drink a glass. Any other suggestions?

Health goal 3: Staying active

So far, I’ve been pretty good about exercising three to four times a week. Reaching 10,000 steps can be difficult with an office job, but when I feel those celebratory buzzes on my wrist (if you have never used a Fitbit, you might not understand) it makes me feel accomplished. My secret to motivating myself to workout is to only allow myself to watch Netflix if I’m on the stationary bike, lifting weights or doing floor exercises. This way if I get hooked on a show I 1) have a distraction that doesn’t make working out so bad, 2) if I’m really hooked, then I exercise every day and 3) I can’t binge watch shows because cycling for eight consecutive hours is insane.

Well, that’s a little about how I stay healthy. Everyone has different routines, preferences and bodies. What works for one person may not work for another. With so many claims on what’s healthy and what’s not, I think it’s important for everyone to do research and use common sense. Happy 2019!

Agriculture Films Worth the Watch

With the creation of anti-agriculture documentaries and films on the rise, I often find myself wondering, “where are all the positive and pro-agriculture films?” So after some research, I took a dive into a few films and videos that showcase the story of agriculture… and I wasn’t disappointed! Whether you’re looking for a movie to watch after a day on the farm or you want to showcase a positive light on agriculture in your classroom or with friends, I strongly recommend the following films.

Farmland

leighton

Photo credit: Farmland Film website

Farmland takes a look at six young farmers and ranchers working in different sectors of agriculture. The film looks at why these individuals have chosen to farm and the everyday decisions they make to be successful and profitable. Farmland makes you feel connected to the farmers and their stories because it shows how relatable they each are. The passion these families have for agriculture is easy to see and will make you thankful for farmers and ranchers across the country. Grab some friends and go check out Farmland!

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, iTunes, YouTube, PlayStation, Xbox and Vudu.

License to Farm

Capture License to Farm

Photo credit: License to Farm website

This 30-minute film features Canadian farmers and researchers discussing the growth of genetics, technology and communication within the agriculture industry. The question “Where does my food come from?” and consumer push-back inspired the film. Three concerns held by consumers are touched on: GMOs, pesticide use and the thought that farmers have no control over their production practices. The science behind food production is shared to debunk these concerns. The film also urges farmers to share their stories to help educate consumers in their communities. Check out License to Farm if you want to learn more about positive trends in agricultural technology and food production!

License to Farm can be viewed at licensetofarm.com.

Food Evolution

Photo credit: Food Evolution website

If you like science, then Food Evolution is a great film to check out! The film tackles food myths and misconceptions, especially around GMOs. Food Evolution looks at science and research to back the safety of GMOs and seed production. Science terminology isn’t always the easiest to understand and Food Evolution does a great job at explaining biotechnology and science related to agriculture, in simple and relatable ways. The film looks at the positive impact genetic modification has on preventing disease and insect damage to crops. I would highly recommend watching Food Evolution to grow your understanding of science and agriculture.

Where to watch: Amazon Video, iTunes, YouTube, Hulu and Google Play.

Why I Farm

Photo credit: Why I Farm website

While the Why I Farm video series might not be actual “films,” they’re still well worth the watch! These short videos were developed by Beck’s Hybrids and highlight Midwest farmers and their families. The focus of the videos is as the title suggests: why these farmers have chosen to pursue and remain in the agriculture industry. Each video features the unique story and journey of a farmer, told in their words. If you don’t have time to watch an entire movie, I suggest checking out these short films – you won’t be disappointed!

This series can be viewed at  whyifarm.com.

Maryland Farm & Harvest

Capture MD Farm & Harvest

Photo credit: Maryland Public Television website

Maryland Farm & Harvest is another series that features the faces of farming around the state. The 30-minute videos focus on current technology used in agriculture, challenges that farmers face and what different areas of agriculture look like. This series aims to connect viewers to the people who raise their food in a positive and informative way. Maryland Farm & Harvest features everything from bees to cow pedometers to oyster farming. Even if you’re not from Maryland, these videos are great to watch if you desire to learn about all segments of agriculture!

Maryland Public Television presents this series on their channel, but the latest episodes can also be viewed here.

Before the Plate

Before the Plate debuted in February 2019. The movie aims to close the gap between urban consumers and farmers in Canada. The movie follows chef John Horne to different farms throughout Canada to see how food is produced, including a beef and dairy farm.

These films and videos were great to watch and helped me grow my understanding of food production and agriculture. So grab some popcorn and go check them out!

‘What The Health’ claims get debunked

Some determined activists will say almost anything to convince people to go vegan. One example of this is “What The Health,” a film you might have seen while scrolling through Netflix. If you’ve watched the movie, it may have left you feeling confused about the nutritional value of meat, milk, poultry and eggs.

Several scientists, dietitians and agriculture advocates have started speaking out against the film and helping viewers find factual information to make decisions about their diets. Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise analyzed each health claim made in the film and concluded that 96 percent were bogus and not based on sound science. Dr. Harriet Hall, a retired family physician says the film “cherry-picks scientific studies, exaggerates, makes claims that are untrue, relies on testimonials and interviews with questionable “experts,” and fails to put the evidence into perspective.”

Here are some of the main claims from the film debunked:

Red and processed meats cause cancerBurger

The World Health Organization (WHO) report that brought this controversy to the forefront relied on a few weak studies and ignored numerous other studies that have affirmed the nutritional benefits of consuming meat. Since the report was released, the WHO said “meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet.”

A 2015 meta-analysis of 27 studies concluded that the link between cancer and red meat consumption is actually pretty weak. In another 2015 meta-analysis of 19 studies, scientists concluded “the results from our analyses do not support an association between red meat or processed consumption and prostate cancer.”

Sodium nitrite, a salt used to cure meats like sausage, bacon and ham is often brought to the table when discussing cancer and processed meat; but the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is considered the “gold standard” in determining whether substances cause cancer, completed a multi-year study that found nitrite was not associated with cancer. NTP maintains a list of chemicals found to be carcinogenic. Sodium nitrite is not on that list.

Sugar and carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes, instead it is caused by eating meat

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Starchy foods can be a part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Being overweight does increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people should avoid intake a sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes.

A 2016 study and meta-analysis regarding sugar and diabetes concluded, “habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

Avocado egg toastEating one egg is the same as smoking five cigarettes

Yes, they actually made this outrageous claim. There’s no way an egg has the same health effects as smoking cigarettes. Eggs are packed with 6 grams of protein, 14 essential nutrients (including choline and vitamin D) and they’re only 70 calories each – how can you beat that combo?!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three healthy eating patterns…all of which include eggs. According to a 2015 peer reviewed study about the effects of egg and egg-derived foods on human health, “eggs represent a very important food source, especially for some populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, convalescents and people who are sports training.”

Pregnant women who eat meat, milk and eggs are introducing toxins to their child

Wrong again. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a pregnant woman should eat lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas to obtain the daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy.  A 2013 study states pregnant women “should eat foods that contain adequate amounts of choline” and milk, meat and eggs just happen to be choline-rich! Now you may say – pregnant women can skip meat, milk and eggs if they take a prenatal vitamin, right? Nope. The study also states that “prenatal vitamin supplements do not contain an adequate source of choline.”

Milk contains pusDrinking milk

Let’s put this misinformation, frequently used to try to scare you out of drinking milk, to rest. Here’s an awesome explanation from Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin dairy farmer…

Somatic cell count (SCC) is a measurement of how many white blood cells are present in the milk. “White blood cells are the infection fighters in our body and so an elevated white blood cell presence or on a dairy farm an elevated SCC is a signal that there may be an infection that the cow is fighting. Dairy farmers are paid more money for milk that has a low SCC, if our cell count raises above normal levels they will dock the amount we get paid for our milk, if it raises even higher they stop taking our milk and we can’t sell it. So not only do we not want our cows to be sick, it would cost us a lot of money and could cost us our farms if we were to ignore a high SCC. While the current US regulation is that milk must have a cell count under 750, dairy coops and companies generally require under 400 and most dairy farms aim for a SCC under 200. So, does this mean that we are allowing some pus into your milk? No. All milk is going to have some white blood cells in it, that’s the nature of a product that comes from an animal, cells happen.”

Animal Agriculture AllianceFor these and more claims from the film debunked, check out this resource from the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The Alliance also provides detailed reports to its members on popular books and movies pushed by animal rights activists along with films that are positive towards farmers and ranchers.

This film is tagged as a “documentary,” but I would argue it should be categorized as a comedy because it has so many absurd allegations about food and agriculture.

As always, if you have concerns about your health or the foods you eat, you should consult your doctor!

You’re teaching my daughter WHAT in health class???

This guest blog post is from Ty Higgins, a farm broadcaster from the Ohio Ag Net and host of Farm and Country Radio, sharing his experience of when he learned his daughter watched “Food Inc.” in her school health class and how he took action to help the school learn the truth about agriculture. Read Ty’s original post here. 

Ty Higgins

Ty Higgins

What started out as a nice family meal out at one of our favorite fried chicken stops turned into a conversation that had me boiling like the oil that cooked our supper that night.

My 6th grade daughter began telling us about her day. Part of her studies for this quarter included a health class. I have to admit as a protective father the thought of what she might learn in health class scares me just a tad, but never in my wildest imagination did I think she would learn something like what she was about to tell me.

Her health teacher loaded up a video that was called “Food, Inc.”! My heart literally stopped for a second, although that might have been a bit of the fried chicken’s fault too, but that’s beside the point.

She went on to tell me, muffled by a chicken leg between her teeth, that many of the girls after class said that they would never eat meat again and felt so bad for the animals in the film. I was appalled and wrote this letter to the health teacher and the school principal.

Good Afternoon,

Over dinner last night, my daughter brought up that her health class curriculum included viewing the “documentary” “Food, Inc.”

As a member of Ohio’s agriculture community and a very proud grandson of a farmer, I was disheartened to hear that this misleading, propaganda-filled movie was part of a health class curriculum.

I was hoping for some insights on why this anti-agriculture biased film was part of a health class? Is it the intention of the local schools to teach kids that all of America’s hard working farmers are bad and that animal proteins are not healthy?

These 6th grade students are very impressionable and I am in complete disagreement that such a movie is part of any class, unless there were an opportunity for actual farmers to share what really happens on family farms, which make up 97% of farms in this country and just how safe and healthy animal protein is to consume. I can arrange that if you would like.

I feel that if we are teaching our children to come to conclusions about certain societal issues, they should hear both sides of the argument.

I truly value the education that my daughter receives and I thank you both for the time you spend with her and all of your students. My only concern is about showing them documentaries that are one-sided and agenda-driven against something that is so important for people in my world and the world as a whole.

I look forward to your response and I thank you for your time,

Sincerely,

Ty

The first response I got was from the teacher, who wrote:

By no means was this meant to be that at all. We talk about how the companies place things into our foods without us even knowing it… We looked at it from the food safety side, as well as what it means when things are organic products (grass fed; no antibiotics, and hormone free)…

Totally agree — We talk about what the corporations have done to the farming industry and all the power they have; in fact we talked about in the video where the natural farmer raises his on all grass and not corn and the differences between the two.

By no means was this a push for me to say that farming is bad. I was raised in eastern central Ohio in a rural community and support farming 100 percent.  Appreciate all the hard working farming communities.  

I would love to have someone speak to our health classes… If you or someone you know would come and speak to our kiddos as that would be great!

And I responded back:

Our food safety system is one of the (if not the) safest in the world. With a huge urban population (only 1.5% of our society is farmers) that is not a small feat. Although I think there is room for all types of agriculture, including grass fed and organic, these methods are not sustainable with the amount of food needed. No meat that is sold in stores has antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to keep in livestock to keep them healthy, but there is a period before production that an animal is taken off the antibiotics.

As for labels, I think that today’s labels are made simply for marketing and that should be part of your curriculum as well, i.e. “hormone-free” pork or poultry (hormones are never used in these animals).

Then I got a phone call from the principal. Before he called me, he watched a few clips of “Food, Inc.” on YouTube and he sounded just as upset as I was about this type of film being shown inside the walls of his school.

He assured me that he realized this video was not meant for teaching students about food, but for scaring them into not eating it. He was by no means a part of agriculture, he admitted, but a generation or two before him were farmers and he knew the importance of telling ag’s side of the story.

That is exactly what will be happening from now on at this particular middle school. He has already contacted me since to see if I knew of some local farmers that would want to stop by to share what they do every day to keep our community, our nation and our world fed.

Just so happens, I know a few of them.

Why I am not a vegetarian (anymore)

It has taken me about seven months to write this blog post. I knew I had a good story to tell seven months ago, but part of me was hesitant to share it because I didn’t want to admit that I once had doubts about the industry that I now am so passionate about.

11188468_10152744847515636_3360909980126081613_n-2Like I’ve said before, I didn’t come from an agriculture background nor did I participate in FFA or any other agricultural programs when I was younger. I stumbled into agriculture while in college and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Since I didn’t grow up on a farm and wasn’t involved in agriculture like I am today, I was just the regular consumer not too long ago and had the same questions and concerns that a lot of consumers have today. One of my concerns led me to become a vegetarian for about a year.

My vegetarian days  

Strictly speaking, a vegan is someone who does not consume meat, milk, eggs or animal by-products such as gelatin, broths or honey. There are different levels of vegetarianism – some may eat eggs, dairy products and fish but not meat or poultry or some variation in between. For me, I didn’t eat meat, poultry and eggs but I still ate dairy products and the occasional seafood.

I was 16 years old when I made the decision to eliminate meat from my diet. I was worried that eating meat caused health issues and that it didn’t have much to offer on the nutritional side that couldn’t be replaced with protein from another source.

I vividly remember my doctor’s face when I informed him that I decided to become a vegetarian – it 11150483_10152838744175636_2546207196395563572_nwas as if I was the doctor telling him he had an incurable, life-threatening disease – pure terror. I was convinced that I knew what was best for myself, so I  didn’t let anyone change my mind – not even my doctor when he told me I should be eating meat to get the necessary protein and nutrients I needed as a growing teen.

I began eating more beans, nuts and other plant-based proteins, but I soon discovered that it simply didn’t satisfy my dietary needs. Long story short, a vegetarian diet was hindering my health instead of improving it. After a year or so of strictly not eating any meat, I decided that I would re-introduce my once-loved protein back into my diet for the same reason I let it go.

Lessons learned 

In the eight years since I returned to eating meat, I’ve learned a few things about the nutritional aspects of animal protein that I wish I would have known eight years ago…

  1. Meat and poultry are packed with vitamins and minerals.
  2. Animal-based protein and plant-based protein are not equal.
  3. There are lean cuts of meat available with less fat.
  4. Balance is key.

11755235_10152923620605636_3003432396995242031_nReflecting on my experience, I don’t necessarily regret my hiatus from eating meat because it has provided me with a unique perspective, but If I could tell my 16-year-old self one thing it would be to hear all sides of the story before making an important decision that could have an impact on your health.

If you are considering changing your diet based on concerns about nutrition, the environment, ethics or a combination of the three, I hope you take the time to talk to subject-matter experts, read credible resources and hear all sides to an issue instead of basing your decision off a feeling like I did.