Letter: Where our food comes from

Food is one of the basic necessities for all human beings. Through our daily intake of nutrients, we as Americans have innumerable options and as such should be concerned about how our food is produced. In the modern age, both livestock producers and processors strive to give consumers safe, wholesome and nutritious food every day. I feel I can say this as I have spent the last 20 years of my life participating in animal agriculture and have seen the countless hours farmers put toward ensuring their livestock are happy and healthy.

The fact is, it is in any farmer’s best interest to ensure his or her animals are healthy, happy and well cared for due to the fact healthy animals produce higher quality meat and milk in greater amounts, allowing producer success and profitability. National producer education programs aimed at ensuring humane and wholesome livestock production such as Beef Quality Assurance and Pork Quality Assurance further demonstrate American farmers’ commitment to providing consumers with safe, ethically raised meat.

Family farms make up 97 percent of the total farms in the United States, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Interestingly enough, this fact is completely ignored by groups such as PETA, which prey on fears of “factory farming” and “corporate farming”.

It should be mentioned that there will be failures in the livestock production industry. As humans, we are prone to making mistakes and regardless of how hard farmers as a whole work to ensure animals are cared for properly, there will be individuals who fail to care for their animals. As someone who has worked with livestock, it pains me to hear of the mistakes made by the few. And honestly, it makes me sick to think that for the majority of people cases of neglect may appear to be normal. It is important for Americans to realize that these abuses of animal welfare are not normal and are not acceptable.

Organizations such as PETA and documentaries such as “Food Inc.” rely on the mistakes made by the few. Modern technology and the ever increasing gap between the average American and the sources of the food they consume can fuel misconceptions, cause public outcry and boost profits for PETA from the resulting media coverage they receive. As individuals, we must be willing to question the information presented with and do our own research to find the truth behind what we see. If something seems too extreme or unbelievable to be true, chances are it may be inaccurate or misrepresented.

The United States has one of the world’s safest least expensive food supplies in the world, with Americans spending less than 10 percent of our disposable income on food purchases. Federal regulatory organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration work with companies such as Tyson Foods to ensure we receive safe products we are able to enjoy without fear. As is true with farmers, it is in any processor’s best interest to treat livestock humanely as doing so will increase the quality and value of their business. Companies such as Tyson play an unbelievably important role in providing us with safe, affordable food.

Individuals such as Christopher Leonard aim to profit, much like opponents of livestock production, from portraying companies such as Tyson in a negative light and playing off of the fears of the American public. Likening Tyson’s contract growers to medieval serfs is neither accurate nor realistic as contractors choose to work with Tyson and profit from the relationship.

Another large misconception about meat consumption in American society today can be seen in the supposed health and nutrition benefits of organic versus conventionally raised meat.

Simply put, no legitimate scientific research has ever found any evidence of organically raised meat (or vegetables) being more healthful or nutritious than its conventional counterparts. It is true that organic products are raised using a different set of practices, and individuals can support alternative farming practices through their purchasing decisions. However, it is also important that Americans realize the need for conventional practices to meet the future need to prevent world hunger and feed a growing world population, which is expected to surpass nine billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations.

As consumers, you are met with an unbelievable amount of information, and misinformation, about your food and how it is produced. It is important we analyze the information we are presented with and do our own research to verify what we are told. By doing so, we can become informed and educated about our food choices and know where our food comes from.