This week, Lindsay highlights five articles that found their way into her newsfeed. She and Andy join in a brief conversation about the articles.
What are your thoughts and questions? We’d love to hear them.
1. IS YOUR STATE ON THIS LIST? ANDY’S IS! (GO IOWA!). BUT MINE ISN’T (COME ON, OHIO!).
Q for Lindsay: What does eating local mean to you?
Lindsay’s Response: “Local” is a term that has evolved over the last few years, and if consumers aren’t careful, they will be tricked into buying or eating something “local” that doesn’t at all abide by their perceptions. When I invest in a “local” product, I know where it was raised. I’ve seen the hens running across the yard, the cattle grazing in the field. These are animals that haven’t been raised behind stark metal barns with thousands and millions of other animals. While a farmer’s factory farm might be local to my neighborhood, it isn’t investing in a food ethos that aligns with my convictions, and labeling that type of product as “local” feels like a blatant betrayal of what the term “local” intends to convey.
Q for Andy: Why do you think the local food movement has become so huge throughout the last few years, and do you think that it’s deceiving for industrialized ag to market its product with that label?
Andy’s response: Buying food that is locally grown is awesome! In my opinion, the local food movement has become so large because people want to make a connection with how their food is grown and understand how their food makes it to the plate. Family farms, which make up the majority of farms and ranches, take pride in working locally. In addition to selling locally, there are many examples of farmers supporting local food banks with locally raised food.
2. WHY “ORGANIC” ISN’T NECESSARILY ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. PUN COMPLETELY INTENDED.
Q for Lindsay: What factors go into your decision about food choices? Is organic labeling part of your decision?
Lindsay’s Response: Organic labeling is so loosely regulated (as demonstrated in this article) that I don’t typically buy a product based on the “organic” label alone. In fact, all of my meat and egg purchases come from small, local grower within my own network. When organic products are available in my store (*note, Ohio isn’t listed as one of the best states to eat local; nor is Indiana, where I will be moving in a few short months), I buy discriminately because there are certain areas within the food pyramid where I’m still not convinced that organic is better or safer than conventionally raised.
Q for Andy: Organic chickens are often raised in the same type of environment as non-organic, but the consumer imagines organic chickens on large open land and unrestricted daylight. Shouldn’t the agribusiness market be more forthcoming about this?
Andy’s response: An organic livestock farmer makes management decisions based on science and current regulations. Today’s organic livestock farmers raise animals that benefit from technology, advances in nutrition, and adequate room to grow. I think this article could be a jumping off point for more conversation about organic food production.
3. SHOULD OUR FOOD PRODUCTION BE TOP-SECRET?
Q for Lindsay: Take a look at the post ‘Sometimes we are mean to our cows http://dairycarrie.com/2013/12/09/cowabuse/‘; how does Carrie’s post influence your opinion on filming?
Lindsay’s Response: I think comparing this post to some of the other information out there is really disingenuous on Carrie’s part. Does this influence my opinion on filming? Absolutely not. Through this very post, Carrie demonstrates what Ag’s response to filming ought to be: opening your doors and explaining how the food production process works—over and over and over again until any misconceptions are cleared up. When the response is to shutter the windows and doors and tell the consumer to blindly eat what is provided, the industry is painting themselves as dubious (no help from animal rights groups needed).
Q for Andy: Why should it be illegal to expose our food production methods?
Andy’s response: Undercover farm videos appear on occasion showing animal abuse from individuals. Anyone who abuses animals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There are some great initiatives, such as the See It? Stop It! effort to encourage farm workers to immediately report animal abuse. Transparency in agriculture and food production is important. People want to know more about how their food was grown and efforts such as Food Dialogues provides a starting point on transparency in food production.
4. ACCELERATED LINE SPEEDS AND REDUCED OVERSIGHT?
Q for Lindsay: My reaction: I am in favor of embracing technology that improves food safety without exposing workers to injury. What is your reaction?
Lindsay’s Response: To be honest, when I read this article, my mind immediately went to Sinclair’s The Jungle or PBS’s documentary Rape in the Fields. There’s a long history between agriculture and worker exploitation, and accelerated line speeds seem to have more to do with profit efficiency rather than food safety.
Q for Andy: I have read that ½ of all crop farm workers are undocumented, earning nearly $6,000 less in wages than documented workers. Knowing this, how can we truly ensure worker safety when ½ of the crop farm workforce isn’t even accounted for?
Andy’s response: We need to make a better effort to understand farm workers in their full context. I recently read of an Extension effort to better the lives of migrant workers. I think efforts such as these should be held up and recognized for the important role they play in the agriculture community.
5. THE FEED ADDITIVE, PORCINE PLASMA (AKA “PIG BLOOD”), IS SUSPECTED FOR A DEADLY VIRUS SWEEPING ACROSS THE PORK INDUSTRY.
Q for Lindsay: Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus is a major concern and reinforces the need for biosecurity (such as monitoring visitors) on farms. Are there questions you have about biosecurity?
Lindsay’s Response: I agree that biosecurity is necessary when we’re packing thousands and millions of animals into barns. The issue with the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, however, seems to center around the feed additive, porcine plasma, and if our suspicions are confirmed, I’m not sure how biosecurity will eliminate this issue without increased cost to the producer.
Q for Andy: How will biosecurity eliminate the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus?
Andy’s response: Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that biosecurity will eliminate porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. It is possible to move the virus between farms on items that come in contact with manure and are not thoroughly disinfected between farms. The amount of exposure required to cause illness is low, which means that small amounts of residual manure pose biosecurity risks. Biosecurity is a practice designed to prevent diseases from being introduced to a livestock farm by minimizing movement of biological organisms and their vectors onto premises. Here’s a real example of a biosecurity technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbUbXX9P7qs&feature=youtu.be