Saturday, August 29, 2009

The "Milk Cartel"

I listen to NPR most days even thought I have a hard time swallowing their take on things. And I listen because every business person I know listens religiously.

This week’s ag. reporting was how the “Milk Cartel” is running small dairy farmers out of business. They devoted 12 minutes to exploring what’s gone on with consolidation and prices for farmers. Twelve minutes is an eternity in radio.

I’m glad we’re not in the dairy business. There’s not a lot of good news in that segment right now. I don’t pretend to understand all of the issues those farmers face.

But this coverage is another example of how the mainstream media is equating big farming with bad farming. Your slice of agriculture is next.

And lots of intelligent, influential people will be listening, buying it all as the truth.

To listen to the report or read the story click here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whole Foods Not Immune to Protests

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, recently authored an article in the Wall Street Journal which is causing his regular shoppers to threaten to boycott. Protesting in person and online, shoppers are critical of his article against the Obama healthcare plan and in favor of a free-market type system.

"A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to healthcare, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America," Mackey wrote.

Think they got their practice protesting factory farms?

The organic food movement has created a very vocal public not afraid to demand what it wants--within reason or not. I find it extremely interesting that helping create that voice amongst its consumers is now working against the Whole Foods Brand.

The following analysis comes from Brandweek.
Especially considering Whole Foods has a highly engaged customer base, many of whom are deeply concerned about the issues of health and food, said Amy Shea, global director of Brand Keys. "It becomes problematic for a brand when you have the emotional side firing, and that's what [Mackey] did, he tripped that wire. It's never a good idea for a CEO to do an op-ed piece on such a volatile topic. Of all the topics he could have chosen, he chose one that is very, very close to the space in which the brand participates."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The TIME Bandit--bad reporting from TIME Magazine.

Credit for this post goes to the Beef Advocate Network – I've sent my e-mail to the editor of TIME Magazine. You should too. Instructions on how to send e-mails below. Sorry for the length, but it's too important to cut. P.S. I'm also deleting their application from my Blackberry.

TIME cover story bashes
American food system
August 21, 2009

TIME magazine’s August 31 edition hit newsstands August 21 containing, as a cover story, the article: “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food.” The magazine’s cover features a photo of a ground beef package with a warning label: “Warning: This hamburger may be hazardous to your health. Why the American food system is bad for our bodies, our economy and our environment – and what some visionaries are trying to do about it.”

NCBA offered six expert spokespeople to visit with TIME – five coordinated in just one afternoon due to the reporter’s tight deadline – however, TIME included only one quote, obtained from an earlier interview with Kristina Butts, NCBA Manager of Legislative Affairs, about antibiotic use. Included below is a summary of the myths contained in Bryan Walsh’s article and our attempts to combat each myth prior to the article’s publication.

Attempts to follow up with the reporter have gone unanswered. We developed a comprehensive national response strategy that includes working with an industry-friendly reporter to cover the untold story behind this article, regional consumer media outreach and facilitating feedback to TIME from cattle farmers and ranchers. Two of the experts interviewed for the article submitted letters to the editor to TIME magazine, as did the Center for Consumer Freedom. We also alerted Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) graduates to share their stories in response to the article.

In addition, NCBA Executive Director of Producer Education Tom Field, Ph.D., will be on NPR’s “To the Point” on Monday, August 24. The program will feature a roundtable discussion of the topics raised in the TIME article and also will include Walsh, Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson (click here for local stations and run times).

If you’d like to respond to the TIME article, letters to the editor can be submitted through the on-line version of the article by filling out the form that pops up on the magazine’s Web site after clicking on “Bryan Walsh” (right below the headline at the following location:,8599,1917458,00.html). The article also has been posted to If you’re registered on Digg, you can vote to bury the article, and select “inaccurate” as your reason for doing so. You also can scroll to the bottom of the page and post your thoughts about what you know to be true about beef production. In addition, TIME has a Facebook fan page where comments can be posted about the story.

As a reminder, public information refuting the types of claims made in the article can be found at Additionally, please feel free to draw information from the myths and refutations piece below.

Funded by The Beef Checkoff
TIME magazine article myths
and beef industry refutations

Myth: Intensive agriculture is accelerating global warming; eating less meat will slow global warming.
· Livestock only contribute 3 percent of U.S. GHG emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

· A grain-based system of cattle production has a low environmental impact and lower methane emissions.

Myth: CAFOs are major polluters and are inhumane for animals. Work in a CAFO is monotonous and soul-killing.
· About 85% of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops. Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food. Ranchers take pride in caring for their animals, ensuring they always have room to roam and grow, access to clean water, a balanced and nutritious diet and humane treatment at all stages of life. Producers work with veterinarians and nutritionists to make sure cattle are healthy. Many of these principles are contained in the Beef Quality Assurance guidelines followed by beef producers.
· Experts like nutritionists and environmental engineers are used to ensure beef producers are good stewards of their cattle and of the land
· Each animal gets the attention it needs and every animal is checked daily
· Ranchers’ commitment to providing a safe, nutritious and wholesome product affects their everyday decisions
· Ranchers should share their passion for what they do
· Fact sheets about beef and the environment can be found at http://www.explorebeef.or/g

Myth: Animal agriculture relies heavily on antibiotics and is contributing to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.
· Beef producers use antibiotics judiciously to treat animals that become sick and to ensure optimum health of animals in our care
· Resistant bacteria encountered in human medicine are due to antibiotic misuse in humans, not animals. No connection has been found between antibiotic use in cattle and antibiotic-resistant foodborne or other pathogens
· All antibiotics used in beef cattle production go through a rigorous testing process before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration
· Antibiotics are an important tool to prevent, control and treat disease in cattle, and healthy cattle are the foundation of safe food
· B Q A guidelines are followed and producers work closely with veterinarians when selecting and administering antibiotics

Myth: Local, organic, grass-fed and/or other niche products are the only way we can feed the population sustainably.
· Understanding the differences between types of beef production, costs/challenges associated with each type, high cost of feed, and disadvantages of grass-fed products in U.S. due to a short growing season is important to know before discussing sustainability.
· The appropriate use of technology and management creativity allows farmers and ranchers to feed the world with increasingly smaller numbers of farmers and ranchers
· Beef producers invest not only their business life but the entirety of their experience to producing good products while sustaining our communities, our resources and our enterprises
· Beef producers feed their families the same food that consumers buy

Myth: Americans are eating too much meat; modern food production encourages obesity. Hundreds of millions of people will want to shift to the same calorie-heavy, protein-rich diet that has made Americans so unhealthy. Corn helps produce that marbled taste many of us love, but it can result in beef that is higher in fat — helping to fuel the obesity epidemic.
· There are 29 lean cuts of beef, providing consumers ample choices for high-quality, lean protein.
· Consumers are NOT over-consuming protein. (We are well within Dietary Guideline recommendations.) Beef should be included in a healthy diet.

If you belong to the KLA and are not a member of the Beef Advocate network, let me know and I'll put you in touch. They provide great information to dispute attacks on agriculture

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vegetarian Lunches: Coming Soon to a School Near You

School lunches are the latest piece of the food chain coming under attack from a group suggesting they’re interested in promoting health, when they are really pushing an anti-meat agenda.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is using the voice of a vegetarian child to promote the need for more meatless and non-dairy options on the school lunch menu.

The group placed posters on Capitol Hill featuring, Jasmine Messiah, an 8-year-old attending a Miami, Fla. public school, who asks: “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?”Messiah and the PCRM say vegan, vegetarian and non-dairy options are a must to make school meals healthier.

On it’s website, PCRM says it is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine. They also seek to eliminate animal research. Reports I’ve read say they have received as much as $1.3 million from PETA. Other reports say that physicians make up less than 5% of this group‘s members.

I have no issue with improving the quality of what is served in school lunches, we all need to eat more vegetables. But all of us in farm country should have a problem with, mandating a vegan or vegetarian menu as the only way to make these meals healthier.

Today it’s animal foodstuff. Tomorrow it will be anything touched by biotechnology or chemicals.

This group’s primarily goal is to influence how the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized later this year. That act regulates the National School Lunch Program and could cause significant changes to what is served in school lunches.

This is just one more piece of the debate about what constitutes healthy eating that will be part of upcoming farm and food policy and even the discussions on our nation’s healthcare situation. This isn’t the most organized or well known group in this fight.

But it’s one more thing we need to pay attention to, and work to offset with messages of our own about what constitutes healthy eating.

You can see their campaign at: