From Michael Pollan to Wayne Pacelle, here is what popular activists are saying about the beef industry this week.
In order to keep an eye on industry trends, it’s important to review both the positive and the negative media articles in circulation. Today, I’ve rounded up four items I think all beef producers should know about.
1. Mike Smith writes for Truth in Food about the 10 reasons why consumers dislike farmers so. The article contends that consumer misconceptions are only half of the problem; the other half is that food producers need a little education on what their customers are really thinking.
“In the spirit of knowing your adversary, Truth in Food takes you inside the modern liberal arts university Food Studies program to list the top 10 reasons today's food-consumer-activist complex so despises what you see to be nothing but the innocent pursuit of fruitfulness. Why do they hate you so?”
Smith lists the reasons consumers hate efficient, productive agriculture. You can read those top 10 reasons here. You might be surprised how well it describes many of us.
2. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle admits he doesn’t like animals. Gee, imagine the irony that the leader of the nation’s largest animal rights organization really doesn’t have a fondness for the animals he claims to serve.
HumaneWatch.org has rounded up some of Pacelle’s more radical statements made while in college. As published in the Yale Daily News, here are some of his most revealing ideals:
“I don’t love animals or think they are cute.”
“We equate speciesism—the belief that one’s species is superior to all others—with racism and sexism.”
“Animals have their own rights. We’re animals, too.”
“Animals are no one’s property, and they have the right not be ‘taken,’ ‘harvested,’ or ‘culled,’ or any other euphemism for murder that wildlife managers use. They are no one’s property, just as you and I are no one’s property other than our own.”
3. Earlier this year, the New York Times ran an article, “Open The Slaughterhouses,” which called for more transparency in the meat production business. Written by Jedediah Purdy, a Duke law professor and author of “The Meaning of Property: Freedom, Community, and the Legal Imagination,” offers an essay on why transparency in slaughterhouses and feedlots would allow for consumers to make educated choices when shopping at the grocery store.
The problem is that today’s consumer is so far removed from the “circle of life” that these images might come as a shock. In an age of convenience meals and heat-and-eat dinners, it’s been a long time since anyone has had to kill their own Thanksgiving turkey or butcher their own chicken. It’s a tough pill to swallow -- one that I’m not sure consumers want or need to see.
However, I can see the benefits of this transparency. We have nothing to hide, and perhaps the more our consumer sees, the more they can appreciate how livestock are handled with respect and their lives are ended in such a way that we honor that animal.
Ryan Goodman, Ag Proud blog writer, posted about this recently and enlightened me to a great project spearheaded by Temple Grandin, which provides a glimpse inside a beef plant. Called “The Glass House Project,” two videos have been released giving a tour inside a beef and pork plant. You can watch them below.
4. Food activist Michael Pollan is changing his tune on beef production and the environment. While Pollan has traditionally been harsh on the beef industry (check out “Omnivore’s Dilemma” to see what I mean), he is now saying that beef production may actually be good for the environment. Although in his mind, your production method of choice may decide whether you’re harming or hurting the planet.
“Depending on how you farm, your farm is either sequestering or releasing carbon,” says Pollan. “As soon as you plow, you’re releasing carbon. When you have a grassland, the plants living there convert the sun’s energy into leaf and root in roughly equal amounts. When the ruminant [e.g., a cow] comes along and grazes that grassland, it trims the height of the grass from, say, 3 ft. tall to 3 in. tall. The plant responds to this change by seeking a new equilibrium: it kills off an amount of root mass equal to the amount of leaf and stem lost to grazing. The [discarded] root mass is then set upon by the nematodes, earthworms and other underground organisms, and they turn the carbon in the roots into soil. This is how all of the soil on earth has been created: from the bottom up, not the top down.”
So, while Pollan is saying that only grass-fed beef is good for the planet, at least he’s softening in his stance against beef all around. You can read all of his comments at slate.com.
That’s today’s roundup of some of the enlightening media articles making the rounds this week. Let me know what you think about these items, and how we might reframe the conversation to better represent the beef industry.