BEEF Daily

Should We Fear Our Food?

RSS

Concern that sometimes flashes into hysteria is what many folks have about our nation’s food system. How can we inject some balance into the emotions that consumers feel when they shop for groceries?

The growing consumer concern over our nation’s food supply is, I think, characterized by a single quote by author Laurell K. Hamilton, who says, “People are supposed to fear the unknown, but ignorance is bliss when knowledge is so damn frightening.”

In this country, we have one segment of the population that is relieved to have food on the table. They rely on food stamps to help pay for groceries, and are grateful for the abundance of affordable food that is available. Moreover, one in eight Americans and one in four children in the U.S. go to bed hungry at night.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a segment of the population with a greater amount of disposable income. They are concerned about antibiotics, growth promotants, food-borne illness, chemical use, food laborers, allergens and food-production methods. Right or wrong, this latter group are the influencers, and their concerns are threatening to create a hysteria in this country like we’ve never seen before. In the land of plenty, we suddenly questioning whether our food is safe. And some in society are demanding changes.

 

Subscribe now to Cattle Market Weekly for the latest price trends and market news!

 

Take for example the March Against Monsanto held in Washington, D.C., earlier this year to protest genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. And, just this week, the issue was debated in the New York Times, with proponents contending that GMO rice could help feed the world’s starving people, while opponents claim that children shouldn’t be “science projects.”

Right or wrong, this mistrust in our system is also evident regarding our medical establishment, where more affluent parents are saying no to vaccine use in their children. Read “What’s With Rich People Hating Vaccines?” to learn more.

Not only are we less trusting of our food supply and our medical professionals, but we also doubt the value of the food itself. Some believe food, like animal proteins, are medicine, while others believe those same foods should be taxed because they lead to adverse health conditions. Remember when the Danes tried to tax butter? Should saturated fat be taxed, much like nicotine and soda?

In most of these conversations, fear-mongering has replaced science and common sense. Well-educated individuals are reading something they found on Google and placing more trust there than they do with nutritionists, dietitians, physicians and scientists. When did we this shift in thinking occur? And how does that relate to beef producers?

We need to be mindful of how our consumers perceive beef in the meat case. What are they thinking about when they make their selections? What concerns do they have about our product? If fear is one of the biggest factors they have in the backs of their mind when shopping, how can we alleviate those fears and re-instill confidence in our product? This is something I’m mulling over today and would like your thoughts? Let me know your opinion in the comments section below.

 

You might also like:

New Product Alert: 13 New Tractors For Your Ranch

5 Lessons You Can Only Learn On The Ranch

Beef + Dairy = Win-Win For Both

60+ Photos Of Ranch Kids In Action

 

Discuss this Blog Entry 12

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

After having an autistic child we now question everything. While I think farmers and ranchers are the most honest, truthful hard working people on earth, I don't trust big companies like Dow, Monsanto, and such. Just because they say a product is safe doesn't mean it is. Sometimes the science that says something is safe is backed up by the almighty dollar.

Douglas Riske (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

I'm old enough to remember when our local streams still had a teaming game fish population. Nights were filled with the bullfrogs talk and tadpoles filled every pond and creek backwater. Silence and silt have taken there places. Fence rows harbored field sparrows and finches. Fields stretch on for a country mile now. Corn and beans in neat rows, no more water ways or terraces to work around.
If you haven't noticed the average weight of the populace rising or lost any friends or kin to aggressive cancers count your blessings.
Find out when your land grant university last erected a major structure without corporate sponsorship. Trace the funding of research projects and personnel. Ask your self why 8th grade boys can push the scales to 260#'s and be 6'4" and no one thinks it unusual.
The empirical feedback of society and the environment force me to be skeptical of the closed loop "feel good" data our local coop feed and seed guys are promoting.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

We do a great job communicating these thoughts in the industry. We do a poor job, however, telling the safety story to the average consumer who is completely disconnected from production. With questions over modern production technologies looming, the industry has done a terrible job providing info to the general public. Personally, I could care less about reading about it in trade publications. The story needs to be told in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, etc. The Beef Checkoff has been wildly successful promoting our product over the years, but the industry needs to take a hard look at how to provide customers with science based information that allows them to not only feel safe consuming beef, but drives them to the beef case because of it's contribution to a healthy diet.

TJ (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

I work in ag-consumer relations, and I'm just floored at the number of people who have accused us of finding non-representative farmers and farms. Someone actually suggested that the farm we used for a recent hog-farm tour was faked just for the tour. When our farmers share their experiences with GMO and animal husbandry, someone almost always comes along and suggests that their experience cannot possibly be typical. It's just bizarre.

Dennis Hoyle (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

I recently attended a conference that strongly suggested that GMO and glyphosate are dangerous. It was quite compelling. Being a natural skeptic I proceeded to find out what I could, and having done that I will not be planting GMOs or using glyphosate in the future. There are farmers that are raising better crop yields without it. I intend to be one of them. I don't feed my cattle beta agonists, ionophores, anti biotics or hormones. There is a market opportunity out there that is open to those who want to enter it. I will be one of them.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 29, 2013

How you want to produce your cattle is up to you. My question is whether or not you will attack those that choose to produce cattle differently that you do (use of implants, ionophores, B-agonists) for no other reason that to protect your market share. It doesn't matter to me how people feed cattle as long as they meet accepted animal welfare guidelines and don't create a food safety issue. My issue is with folks that use scare tactics to attack those that choose to utilize current technology in their feeding operation.

W.E. (not verified)
on Aug 29, 2013

Kudos to you, Dennis, for raising your cattle without all the chemical and pharmaceutical interference. The marketing hype and industry propaganda kept us fooled for a very long time. If you have made same the paradigm shift that compelled us to finish our cattle on grass, you will enjoy a burgeoning demand. That's increasingly what people want: a natural product grown naturally on fertile soil. It is also the most economical and sustainable way to grow beef. Taking out all of the marginal land currently being used to produce corn for feedlots and converting it to permanent pasture, then converting our processing facilities to meet local and regional demand would go a long way toward feeding American consumers an even higher quality beef product that people can rightfully trust.

Ronnie Walker (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2013

The comments I have read all have their merit but many are of a different subject than was in the article. The most important thing that needs brought up is the fact that I am okay with U.S. meat products because of the Inspection service of the USDA checks. What folks need to look for and understand are the imports. NO RULES The conditions would amaze you and that is what you better watch out for.

l

W.E. (not verified)
on Aug 29, 2013

Advertising and marketing techniques are to blame for much mistrust, including the mistrust of big food, pharmaceuticals and agriculture-related industries. Far too many farmers and ranchers have allowed those who are greedy enough to do anything for a profit to dominate agriculture. The truth is, we absolutely do not know the consequences of far too many products and procedures that big industries (including the food, agriculture and medical industries) have been selling as progress, technology and efficiency. Far too many of these products and procedures are actually a way to make us think we need something we do not need in order to rake in an exorbitant profit. Far too many Americans have become, as a consequence, dependent upon highly processed foods, addicted to unnecessary medications that cause adverse side effects, or plagued by chemical-resistant weeds, insects and antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA and e.coli. All would be far easier to control had the marketers left nature alone. That old saying "you can't fool Mother Nature" remains true. When we try to manipulate nature, the bugs, weeds, and germs can reproduce and adapt far faster than our technology can or should. We should be working with nature, not trying to fool it. Consumers, consequently, increasingly distrust profit-motivated products and procedures. Yet the companies keep looking for new ways to capitalize on our desire to do things the fastest, easiest, cheapest way: Take a pill or get a shot instead of eating a well-balanced diet and exercising. Spray a weed or poison a bug instead of encouraging biodiversity and balance. Get your food for 99 cents at a drive-thru window instead of cooking locally-grown food at home. Pay “always the low price” for cheap imported stuff instead of supporting local businesses and American-made quality. Seventy percent of the US economy depends upon consumer spending, which makes it a house of cards built upon greed, the desire to get more faster and cheaper, or to keep more with less effort. Greed is never good, despite what Ayn Rand preached.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 2, 2013

I certainly appreciate pharmaceutical companies, research universities, and even PROFIT, that item so many seem to love to hate.

I appreciate the fact that Whooping Cough, which nearly killed me back in the 1940's, Pneumonia, cancer, and a few other BIG problem illnesses which made life miserable for people until recent times have been rendered far less dangerous due to research, even by some very BIG corporations!

I appreciate that methods to help cattle put on more of the healthful muscle, as opposed to excess fat, drugs (horrors!!!) that protect animals and people from illnesses, and which enable us to tailor soils and feed to better growth of grains and food animals.

I do admit to resentment for people who seek to demonize these beneficial items, helpful in so many ways, often to build up their own products and methods by disparaging the means other people use to produce similar, EQUALLY BENEFICIAL products.

I worry a great deal about people who demonizing those who must make a profit in order to have successful businesses raising food grains and animals. There have been few political systems where so many people thrive and live in freedom as do in the Democratic Republic which is the United States of America, based on Christian principles and a Capitalist business model.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 3, 2013

Amanda, isn't it a fact that imported food products, including meats, must meet the same inspection standards as meat produced within the USA, that they are, in fact, inspected before being allowed into our food system?

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 3, 2013

Luckily for us, there is no hard evidence that our technology, growth promotants, etc cause adverse health affects in food. But unfortunately, who knows what science will reveal in the future? What do you think would happen if big companies said "Okay. We give in. We will not use technology and additives to produce the food we do. We don't know it yet, but it MIGHT be dangerous to us" Do you think that the rich demanding these all natural choices would sacrifice lives due to the significant decrease in food available to such a huge population? If we had to choose whether to have a potentially dangerous but abundant food supply, or a natural drug-free practice but could only feed half the world's population, what would we choose?

Post new comment
or to use your BEEF Magazine ID
What's BEEF Daily?

BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

Contributors

Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×