My View From The Country

When It Comes To Technology, Should We Educate Or Eliminate?

A report this week showed that concerns about hormones and antibiotics continue to grow with consumers.

News about Chipotle’s forthcoming, four-part video series, “Farmed and Dangerous,” has created some consternation within the livestock industry despite the fact that it’s likely to get low exposure as it’s only being shown on HULU. The series may be fraught with half-truths, but it is a unique combination of humor and propaganda that has a serious message as it attacks modern agriculture, and particularly the use of hormones and antibiotics in livestock production.

A report this week showed that concerns about hormones and antibiotics continue to grow with consumers. Unfortunately for livestock producers, the increased concern doesn’t correlate to increased knowledge. In fact, those who oppose modern agriculture, technology, antibiotics, hormones, etc., don’t want the debate to be focused on facts.

Chipotle’s video series isn’t designed to increase knowledge, it’s intended to feed a general perception of modern agriculture and sell more burritos as a consequence. It seeks to depict conventional livestock production as being wrong at some deep intrinsic level.


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Once those perceptions are firmly cemented in the public consciousness, the next step is to attack anyone who wants to debate the accepted premises as being either uneducated or immoral. Let’s look at global warming as an example: If you challenge the theories regarding what is driving climate change, you’re considered a heretic. Even President Obama in his State of the Union address this week made the claim that there is no debate on climate change. Thus, the approach is that the climate models that are failing, as well as the growing list of skeptics within the scientific community, are to be minimalized and ignored. 

If we do not find an effective way to educate consumers on antibiotics, hormones and other technologies that are under attack, then we must begin making plans on how to eliminate them and cope with their demise. We have to determine what we can and should defend, and then be proactive in our approach to doing so.

As an industry, we struggle with the concept that good science isn’t the final arbitrator. We also have a tendency to believe that we should defend ourselves against all unfair attacks. We understand and appreciate the danger of the slippery slope, but we also find it difficult to acknowledge and accept that we are outmanned and outgunned in this battle. The bottom line is that we must be selective in picking our battles, because we simply don’t have the resources to win them all.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 9

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 31, 2014

Educating consumers will be difficult. There are those who know better but are against technology anyhow, those who listen to the above people, and those who chose not to be or are unable to be educated.
The anti's are good propagandists.

on Feb 1, 2014

We are not going to educate against crackpot ideologies. it seems common sense has gotten completely lost when it comes to educating consumers.

To eliminate the use of antibiotics and many of the other facets of production that the fringe ideologies continually campaign against would make animal protein less available and less reliable to the consumers.

MinnFarmer (not verified)
on Feb 4, 2014

And, unfortunately, that is exactly what the activists want. They know what they are doing.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 4, 2014

Plain and simple, consumers don't want their food tampered with. If the food industry insists on holding their ground, the consumers that object will find other sources to buy their food. That is a loss for the food industry because the customers that are concerned and have the financial means to source other food. Along with that, they are better educated and less likely to buy into the nonsense about the use of antibiotics in livestock production. Telling the public that antibiotic use about enhancing growth without admitting that it keeps disease in check as well was a tactical error because it insults people's intelligence. If you want to 'educate' people about livestock production it helps to tell the complete story or they simply won't trust you.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 4, 2014

First, If you expect anyone to take seriously your call to rely upon sound science, you really need to let the climate change denial go.

Second, producers do need to ask their customers what they want, then provide it. The current tact of continually trying to convince customers that, even though they dont want antibiotics or steroids, that taking some is not really a problem, is doomed to fail. If the customer thinks its a problem, it's a problem.

on Feb 5, 2014

I don't believe many of us "deny" that there is climate change. Much of the debate is actually about the cause or "lack of cause" or more accurately some one or some industry to "blame" climate change on.

There has always been climate change. There will always be climate change. There will come a time when mans time will end on this earth because we can no longer survive the climate. This should not come as a shock. Just reading any accurate history of the planet earth tells us our days here are numbered. We will be come a part of the earths history just as the dinosaurs have. It's undeniable, man is not the end game of the earths existence. We're just a tiny snippet along the way.

If we think we're going to control nature, we have a hard lesson to learn.

on Feb 4, 2014

After Three Mile Island, we in the nuclear industry made the decision to keep our heads down and let the sensational news "blow over." In one meeting I attended with the NRC one person actually said: "Americans have such a short term memory, they won't even recall this event in 6 months." They could not have been more wrong. They should have gone out with a major PR campaign and dispelled some of the myths and inaccuracies and even the incompetence by our local leaders and regulators as to how that event was handled. The opposition got such a foot hold in the minds of the general population that we still haven't recovered.

The issues are simple, if the facts support your position argue the facts. Use experts to defeat the conclusions of bad science. If necessary, fund INDEPENDENT studies to determine if your position is valid and then support it. Stay away from grey areas. Be prepared and know your subject.

For every half truth, there is...half truth. Are you convinced that the technology is safe or are you simply convinced it is good for your industry? Does Bute really stay in an animal forever? If so, why do they ever need another dose?

I do not agree that one should just roll over and let the consumer dictate how a product is produced. Show pictures of sick cows and other animals and say without antibiotics this animal will die a slow and painful death. Have a professional toxicologist explain the half life of antibiotics and emphasize that with today's technology, if you can't detect isn't least in a quality that will hurt you.

Get on to your state and federal representatives and demand that they accept the industry's research or perform their own. Banning a substance because there is no research saying it is safe is inappropriate regulation.

Lastly, give up if the proper research does not support your claims.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 4, 2014

Farmers have 'dug in' on the use of technology..antibiotics and steroids...because raising livestock is a thin margin business for the producer. They want to old onto what gives them an edge...improved growth rate and lower mortality. I get it. I also get that the farmer takes all the risk but the middle man makes a larger percent of profit on each animal than the farmer. Doesn't seem fair does it? The food system is broken. Consumers paying attention, asking for food they want, being willing to pay for it are all good things for farmers. Not so much for Big Food processors. The brainwashing of American Farmers having to feed the world is what keeps production high. What if farmers focused on feeding their communities instead of the whole dang world. What if the farmer was paid grocery store prices for their product. Raise less product, earn the same. The only stakeholder that suffers in that model is the big processors and I say too bad for them. All those 'pink slime' plants that went out of business is an example of what happens when an industry arrogantly produces a lot of product the customer doesn't want, pretends to not get why its a problem, and thinks they can tell the customer to eat it anyway. The same approach is being taken on the issue of steroids and antibiotics....hold on to your shorts because the outcome will be the same.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 5, 2014

How many shoppers are really concerned or even think about antibiotics and hormones when in the meat aisle?

Local vs. big business = small local grocer vs. Walmart/Kroger/ etc...... price aside, what is the first thing I look for when searching in the meat aisle? Freshness (i.e.quality) - not frozen. Large retailers have the freshness and selection - "local" does not.

What is the perception I have of local raised vs. "generic" meat in a small grocer vs large retailer? Local = High priced, frozen, little selection. Most people I know who want local buy a whole/half/quarter beef from a local source - depending on the animal and how it's fed, this can be a crap shoot. In addition, the local butcher gets paid every bit of what the "large food processors" get....

I'm against corporatism and government cronyism as much as the next true free market capitalist, but I'm just sayin.... who is the real enemy in this debate?

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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