The Truth Behind Fear Based Marketing and Modern Agricultural Practices

The other day I decided to treat myself to a large bowl of ice cream. I was feeling like it needed a little extra something, so I decided to add some chocolate syrup and whipped cream. When I looked at the can of whipped cream, I had somewhat of an epiphany when I saw a bold label that said, “No Artificial Growth Hormones.”  I stared at the label as an agriculturalist and an advocate for the industry and began to understand why there is such a distrust between consumers and producers.

GMOBy definition, a scare tactic is a strategy intended to manipulate public opinion about a particular issue by arousing fear or alarm. Scare tactics are used all the time. They are used in politics, in advertising, and even by our own mothers. We have all had our mothers wag their finger in our face with a “do this or else” threat. While these tactics may seem relatively harmless, in some situations they can be incredibly dangerous. The reality we are facing is that most consumers today are three to four generations removed from their family farm. This distance creates space for misconceptions and misinterpretations to take hold and prevent consumers from thoroughly understanding the day to day operations of a farm or ranch and how their food is produced. This becomes worrisome when consumers begin to gravitate towards things such as “non- GMO” foods or foods with a “no artificial growth hormone” label because of scare tactics used by marketers and the stigmas that surrounds these things. There even has been questioning as to if the use of antibiotics is safe in animals meant for production.

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have hit the media by storm. Ultimately, this press has created a sense of distrust between consumers and producers regarding their food, where it comes from, and how it is produced. Consumers have legitimate concerns that demand to be addressed. These concerns include risks of exposure to pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides, which could lead to cancer. They are also unsure of the impact that they are making on the environment. Factually speaking, none of these things are true. GMOs have been presented to the public as an evil in our industry, when in fact, they are vital to many agricultural practices. The reality is that GMOs increase crop yields by 21% and cut pesticide use by 37%. Today, 12% of all cropland is planted with genetically modified crops. Highly regarded groups such as the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the World Health Organization have all reported that there are no health risks associated with GMOs. Ultimately, agriculturalists have no choice but to utilize GMOs. With a rapidly growing world population, they are needed to increase food production in order to ensure global food security.

Cow facesAntibiotics and growth hormones have also been used to scare consumers as well. Like any living thing, animals get sick from time to time. Antibiotics are used to keep them healthy, and are only used when needed. It would be inhumane to not treat a sick animal. If your child was sick, you would more than likely take them to the doctor to receive antibiotics. The same is true for animals. Producers utilize antibiotics under the supervision and direction of their veterinarian. Once the animal is healthy again, a withdrawal time must be respected before the animal is taken to slaughter. This withdrawal time allows the antibiotic to completely pass through the animal’s system and ensure that no traces of antibiotics are in the meat that is available to consumers.

chickens-jj-001Growth hormones help increase an animal’s growth rate and feed efficiency. Steroid hormone implants are approved by the FDA because of rigorous testing that showed that these hormones have no negative effects on the treated animal or the environment. Another important thing to note is that the use of growth hormones it prohibited in poultry. This is because they are not practical or effective in these animals. So, the next time you see chicken advertised with an anti-growth hormone label, be aware of the fact that there are no poultry on the market that have been treated with such things. The label is just there to deter you from buying other chicken products and to scare you into buying the one with the label that appears “safer.” The FDA claims that food products that were raised with growth hormones are highly effective and safe for humans to consume.

At the end of the day, we as producers and advocates for agriculture must be proactive in educating the public and consumers about these issues and fear based marketing. Many people see labels advocating against many of the tools and practices used by producers today to protect their animals or to help them grow and become a higher quality product. These misconceptions are not going to go away overnight, but they are important to address. If all agriculturalists band together and make education a priority, this issue will slowly begin to resolve itself.

 

Rebel Sjeklocha (2)Rebel Sjeklocha is a senior at Maywood High School and is active in the FFA Chapter. She lives on her family’s cattle farm near Hayes Center. She shows cattle and horses and does a variety of other projects in her 4-H club. She has also served as an advocate for rodeo and agriculture as the 2016 Elwood Rodeo Queen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nebraska County Export Values . . .

 

Economic Tidbits logoInternational trade and foreign markets are critical to Nebraska agriculture.  To get a sense of which Nebraska counties are most reliant on international trade, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has created a map showing export values by county for select commodities (see below).  Commodities included are beef and beef products, corn, dairy products, distillers grains, ethanol, pork and pork products, pulses, sorghum, soybeans and soybean products and wheat.  The map was created using 2015 Nebraska cash receipts data and attributing shares to counties based on county production data.  Platte County topped the state with export values of $245 million.  Custer, Holt, Boone and Cuming Counties fall in the next tier with export values between $125-$150 million.  Most counties in Nebraska generate at least $25 million in export values, which no doubt contributes significantly to their local economies.

The top counties stand to gain the most from increased access to foreign markets.  Free trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, Korea, Colombia and others, while benefitting all counties, have been particularly beneficial to these counties.  An analysis last year of the benefits of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) by Nebraska Farm Bureau showed many of these same counties would have benefited from the $378 million in increased receipts Nebraska was projected to receive under the agreement.  The map clearly demonstrates it is in the interest of Nebraska agriculture to continue to press for more open international markets in agricultural products.
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Jay Rempe is the senior economist for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe’s background in agricultural economics, years of experience in advocating at the state capitol, and firm grasp of issues allow him to quantify the fiscal impact of a regulatory proposal, and provide in-depth examination of key issues affecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

Sam’s Shepard’s Pie

Looking for a fun, easy recipe to fulfill your week? This recipe by Crew Member, Sam Steward, is a quick and delicious version of Shepard’s Pie. Try it tonight!

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Ingredients

1 pound of hamburger

1 can of corn

1 can of cream of celery

3 cups of cheese

1 ½ cups onion

3 large potatoes

½ a stick of butter

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease an 8×13 pan.
  2. Start by peeling and quarter the potatoes in a medium sized pot and boil until tender.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, begin chopping 1 ½ cup of onion. Then in a medium sauce pan, melt ¼ stick of butter and start cooking the chopped onion until tender.
  4. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the can of corn and continue cooking until tender.
  5. Once the onion and corn are cooked until tender, add the 1 pound of hamburger and cook until brown.
  6. Salt and pepper the corn, onion and hamburger mixture to taste.
  7. Add the can of cream of celery to the corn, onion, and hamburger mixture.
  8. Once potatoes are cooked, you can start mashing them.
  9. In the greased, 8×13 pan, layer the hamburger mixture on the bottom. Then you can layer the mashed potatoes over top the hamburger mixture.
  10. Sprinkle the three cups of cheese over top and cover with foil.
  11. Place in oven and bake on 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
  12. To get browning of the cheese, broil for 5 minutes.

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Carrying on the Family Tradition at the Denver Stockyards

In the midst of mud from the freshly melted six inches of snow, miles of pens, and the hum of generators, I stand above the ground and take in my surroundings. The catwalk in the Denver stock yards is one of my favorite places in the world.  On it, I am able to look over a place that has historic value, as well as significance to my family.

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One of my favorite memories was this past January, seeing my photo on the Wall of Champions in the Yards as National Hereford Queen, since my parents and grandparents are on the wall, too. I am the fourth generation of both sides of my family to exhibit cattle at the National Western Stock Show, and the fifth generation on both sides to raise Hereford cattle.

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Photo Credit: Michelle Wolfrey

While these two traditions have uniquely influenced my life, the broader traditions of agriculture run deep in many families, such as my own.  There are technical traditions, such as branding cattle with the brand (and sometimes the same branding irons!) that have been in a family for years.  There are also traditions of agricultural life that are more so associated with values and soft skills.  For example, when I think of integrity, I think of a cowboy, because the image that most people have of a cowboy is a kind person who always helps and does the right thing.  Other traditions of agricultural life include grit, courage, and passion. These are a handful of the reasons that I am proud of the traditions that I keep as part of an agricultural family.

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An Inside Look at How Antibiotics are Used in Livestock

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Everywhere I turn, I seem to be faced with advertisements encouraging me to eat antibiotic-free meat. While one beauty of being an American is that we have the freedom to choose how we raise our livestock and what products we buy.  In no way am I shaming antibiotic-free producers.  However, I understand that fear of antibiotic resistance and concern for animal well-being.

As a sixth generation beef producer from the Nebraska Sandhills, I have firsthand experience with raising livestock.  When cattle get sick with a bacterial infection, my family chooses to treat them with an antibiotic.  We don’t do this because a sick calf would mean a loss in profit.  I can speak for most if not all livestock producers when I say that our livestock are our way of life.  We put our heart and soul into caring for these animals, and it pains us to see them suffer.

To acknowledge the fear of antibiotic-treated meat animals, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.  As producers, we develop herd health programs with our veterinarians, and receive training on proper dosage and withdrawal procedures. Relative to the topic of antibiotic resistance, many of the compounds used to treat animals are ionophores, which are actually antimicrobials that serve no purpose in human medicine, and do not impact antibiotic resistance whatsoever. While there are the few drugs that are utilized by both species, they are used to different degrees, as in the case of tetracycline, which accounts for only four percent of human antibiotic prescription, but comprise forty-one percent in animals. Producers feed the meat that we raise to our own families, so we would absolutely never taint the food supply.

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As the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) goes into effect in January 2017, the use of antibiotics for growth promotion will no longer be allowed.  Antibiotic use will be more closely monitored by requiring a VFD or prescription for the use of medically important (those also used in humans) antibiotics.  The VFD, which is the result of an FDA Guidance for Industry, is part of the livestock industry’s effort to reduce antibiotic resistance.
If there are further questions about the VFD, livestock use of antibiotics, or livestock production in animals, the best solution is to contact a veterinarian or livestock producer.  While we may seem far away, we are more than happy to answer whatever questions about our way of life that you have!

 

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Spring Cattle Work

cake -- JacobWhen I was a freshman in college I remember one weekend I had some friends ask me what I was going to do that weekend. I told them that I had to go home to help my family pair, sort, vaccinate, and move our cattle out to our summer pastures. To my surprise they would ask, “Why do you have to vaccinate them and sort them out?” At first I was shocked, I thought to myself, how would people not know why ranchers have to do that? But I took a step back and remembered that not everybody grew up in a ranching community and have been around cattle their whole life. After I told them why they seemed very interested in it and was glad they learned something new! So, I thought I would tell more people about why ranchers do this to their cattle.

After all the cows give birth to their calves in late spring, most ranchers move their cattle out to new pasture for the summer, a place where they will be comfortable all summer to roam and graze as they please. But before you can move them away from home you need to do some housekeeping duties first. First my family separates the good, healthy pairs. We only want to send our top notch, healthiest cows and calves to new pasture. So we separate the healthy pairs. In case you didn’t know, a pair is both the cow and her calve, the calves are still very young and need their mom’s milk for nutrients and to grow better. After we get the best, healthiest pairs separated, we need to sort the calves away from the cows. After we sort them it’s time to run them through the shoot.

pour on -- JacobYou need to sort the cows from the calves because you use different sizes of alleyways and shoots. Once you get them in the shoot, the procedure is the same. Each cow, calf, and bull, get two shots. One shot helps prevent pink eye, respiratory problems, and intestinal problems. While the other shot is just some vitamins to help keep them healthy. You also pour a certain about of pour on over their backs. Pour on is a liquid that you pour over the backs of them. This helps prevent flies from bothering them as much during the heat of the summer.

After all of this you load them up in trailers. Calves go on separate trailers than the bulls and cows because they could get trampled. Once they are loaded you take them to your desired location. Over the coarse of the summer you need to check on them frequently. Ranchers have to make sure they have enough salt and mineral for them just so they are getting extra nutrients and sometimes ranchers will give them a sweet treat called cake. Cake is little cylinder like pellets that you give to them as a treat; they taste very good to the cows and are full of nutrients so ranchers like them too. Ranchers also have to check on them to make sure the flies aren’t bothering them too much. If the flies are bad, we will spray more pour on over them.

Moving cattle out to graze over the summer is an exciting time of the year for ranchers. It gives them a much-needed break after the hard, cold, and long calving season. Ranchers love to check up on their cattle and make sure they are doing okay. Once Fall hits it’s time to take them home. When they get home it’s not long before the calves are sorted away again and taken to sale barns to be sold. This is quite possibly the biggest day for ranchers, as they will make most of their money for the year. Sale day is also either a sad or happy day for them, depending on whom you ask! Then they start all over again in the spring with calving out their new calves.

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Barbecued Brisket

Barbecued Brisket2Ingredients

4 lb. brisket

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon sage

½ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

1 ½ cup ketchup

 

Directions

  • If the brisket has abundant fat, trim some of the fat off before proceeding. Spread salt and pepper over all surfaces of the brisket.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Pour 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place brisket on the sauce.  Pour 1/3 of the sauce on top of the brisket.  Cover and bake in a 275º oven for 4 ¼ hours.
  • Slice thinly and serve with the remainder of the sauce.