Monday, October 19, 2009

One Call at a Time

I was dashing around about to leave my house at 6:45 am this morning when a friend here in Indy called to tell me to turn on the radio to WZPL 99.5 where the morning show host was praising Michael Pollan's documentary "Food, Inc.". In case you aren't familiar with the documentary, it espouses incorrect information about today's food production systems and condemns the American farmer for today's obesity problems, global warming, cancer, high toe stub rate, etc....

So I run to the car and turn on the radio. Immediately my blood is boiling, so I call in. Here is a summary of what I told the host when I was first connected (it was recorded, not live at this point):
1) Americans are blessed to have easy and constant access to the world's safest, most abundant, most affordable, most diverse food supply.
2) It is in the best interest of farmers to care for animals in a way that allows them to grow to their potential which means keeping animals disease free, comfortable, etc.
3) Many production practices are misunderstood by the public. These practices are in place for either a) the animal's benefit or b) the consumer's benefit (food safety).

This snippet was played on the radio a few minutes later, along with a snippet where a woman said chicken's are injected to grow more breast meat and also a woman who said organic food is better than conventionally grown and about the "benefits" of free range production. Blood pressure sky high now! So I call back, this time I am live on the air. Here are the highlights of about a 3 minute conversation:
1) There are no substances for injecting in a chicken to stimulate meat growth that are legal, nor is it feasible/cost-effective for a farmer who has 50,000 chickens to inject them. This is not a part of today's food system.
2) Show me the science that says organic food is more nutritious or safer. You can't, because this science does not exist! Conventionally grown food is better for the animal and the consumer because a healthier live animal=safer meat on my plate.
3) Until the 1940's, all protein was produced in "free range" systems. We could only feed about 10 people per farmer. Then we got smarter and more efficient. In today's confined systems, 1 farmer can feed 50-100 people. The animals are fed a controlled diet, disease challenges are reduced, and the animals are kept in an environment that protects them and the consumer. It would take exponentially more land to produce the current amount of protein in a free range system.
4) The bottom line is that farmers are in the business of producing nutrients that sustain life. Independent farmers raise their families and they produce food, not only for America but for people all over the world.
5) It is great to learn more about food production, but go to a credible source that understands food production, not someone like Michael Pollan who doesn't have a clue about agriculture and is only pushing a personal political agenda.

I was on air live for about 3 minutes with a golden opportunity to share a few soundbites of truth about production agriculture. I probably stuttered and sounded like a doofus (I can't find it online or I'd put the link up) but I tried. All too often the silent majority allows an ignorant and uneducated (and obnoxious...) minority to disseminate fallacies and misinformation that is accepted as gospel truth....at a very high cost to farmers and consumers alike. Let's seize every opportunity to help Americans better understand how food gets to their plate---and for crying out loud, ignore Michael Pollan!

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