Dear Matt Lauer and the Today Show, can you imagine the impact the truth can have? I can.

Dear Matt Lauer and the Today Show,

My name is Kendra Earl and I’m a senior at the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources getting my degree in Animal Science and a minor in Sustainable Agriculture. I’m writing to you because it’s time that my generation of educated Ag kids stands up for our industry and stops letting the media portray their version of our lives.

Today in my societal issues in Ag class we watched two clips, one of you interviewing Dr. Nancy Synderman, on the topic of superbugs. I’m in complete agreement up until 55 seconds in. You are asking about doctors prescribing antibiotics too often and that the public takes them too often, the first comment of Dr. Synderman’s is “antibiotics are in our food supply”. Last time I checked, they are not. There are regulations on antibiotics and many places no longer use them. If farms do use them there is a meat withhold period where the animal cannot me milked or sent to slaughter. But where is the farmer, animal scientist, or journalist letting the public know that? Her comment was also off topic of what you were inquiring about, and I promise you our entire class smacked their forehead as once again the media, not journalism, feeds the fallacy of how we produce meat. Yes, she is a doctor, but she is NOT in any way related to the food animal production industry and thus has no background to make that statement. But it doesn’t matter right? Because every day, news outlets fuel what the public wants to hear because that bring good ratings.

2:41, the subtitle, “Don’t buy meat with antibiotics”. Good news world, you CAN’T. It’s illegal, it’s regulated, and there are no antibiotics in your meat. It is difficult to try and rebuild lost trust between the consumer and the farmer. It’s difficult for farmers to be prescribed antibiotics for their animals now a days. When they do get them it is to treat a sick animal, that is removed from the herd until the withhold period of the medicine is up. This withhold period can range from days to weeks!

When there is an outbreak of a disease or incidence of antibiotics being found in animal products this creates the perception that animal products frequently contain disease or drugs. This snowballs into consumer advocacy groups stating that animal products are unsafe, and just like that you’ve lost the trust between farmer and consumer. Now the consumer has a warped perception of animal product reality. This same process occurs when there is an outbreak of antimicrobial E.Coli, or MRSA in domestic food animals. Again, people think that there is frequently antimicrobial resistant bacteria within all of the food animals, people jump a band wagon, and now they think the disease has zoonotic capabilities when it doesn’t. This is from the UK’s 5 year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy( “Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance that we face in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than the use of antibiotics in animals,” the report reads. “Nevertheless, use of antibiotics in animals is an important factor contributing to the wider pool of resistance which may have long term consequences” I hope you are beginning to see my frustration when every day I watch as respected media sources continue to destroy my passion with their false and out dated claims. I’m only paying thousands of dollars for my education; it wouldn’t make too much sense if I was being lied to by my professors, who have all done research on many of these controversial topics and are nationally and internationally recognized for their contribution to the field.

On to video number two. April 25th 2014, let’s talk about meatless meat from, oh man, right here in Columbia, Missouri. Throughout the entire segment, not once was there a question raised about what will this product do to the livestock industry? How will this change global food systems? What do farmers and communities think? How will this benefit international nutrition? I’m equally as curious, as I’m about to embark on a project to incorporate sustainable agriculture practices to a malnourished community in Kenya. What I watched was unfortunately biased, and exactly what the public would want to see. Another great example of media, not journalism.

At 2:59, Craig Melvin says the words “No Hormones”. How interesting, everything has hormones that the animal’s body produces itself and are in meat, milk, and eggs. I’m sure what he meant to say was no added hormones, common slip up, and I’m exhausted from hearing it used. Please, use your power and educate the public, tell them that there are hormones in everything, then there are synthetic hormones. These added (synthetic) hormones previously used in dairy cow milk are produced in the same manner that we produce insulin for diabetics. ( Sources are at the bottom) It is the same molecule as the cow makes herself. There is no real test for added hormones because you cannot distinguish the synthetic from the authentic. The growth hormone in cattle, is bovine somatotropin, and is a protein hormone, which means like any other protein is degraded in your stomach and digested in your small intestine. It cannot be absorbed through the skin, nor to humans have receptors in their body for a cow’s growth hormone. Funny that the US has frowned on hormone use in dairy cattle because the rest of the world has, when scientists have known for years there is no human health implication from using them. If we could use rBST the cow would produce 10-15% more milk, we supplement her with higher quality feed to compensate for asking her body to produce more, which in turn mean less cows to produce the same amount of milk, that leads to less feed, less harvesting of feed, less fuel use/exhaust by the tractors harvesting the feed, less land needed to produce feed, less manure/methane from the cattle, and (in a herd of 180 cows) almost $80,000 more for the farmer and his family.
Have you guys ever thought about doing a story on that?

I always have found it interesting that the people who want these “pure”, “organic”, “no hormones added” products tend to be the ones who can pay for them and the ones who care about the environment but don’t take the time to consider all the other points. In my sustainable agriculture classes I am constantly challenged to see things from a worldly perspective and strive to dig down to the facts and accept/promote the right thing even if I don’t agree with it. Back to the video.

Interesting that Craig decides to quote the company at 3:09 and say “it’s healthier ”, “Low fat”, but where are links to the peer reviewed research looking at the health implications of this product versus real meat? Did they say that it is supplemented with vit B 12? Vitamin B 12 is only found in meat . When has very little fat been good? Fat is absolutely crucial to body processes ( Sources are at the bottom) If this product wants to go internationally and make an impact on global nutrition, having less fat would be harmful not helpful. Starving children in developing countries need sustainable food systems using local species, local inputs, and local people. This system needs to have the ability to adapt during any period of change while supplying a constant nutritious product, benefiting the community, enhancing the environment, and supporting the local economy. Not less fat in synthetic meat. The amazing part is that here are hundreds of thousands, probably even millions of people who know all of these things I have described. Farmers, researches, professors, teachers, and students who have dedicated their lives to food production animals and the process of harvesting milk, meat, and eggs, then have to sit and watch the media embarrass themselves by spewing the most ridiculous “facts” just to turn a buck for the company and improve ratings.

It’s mind blowing how much power and influence the media has over the general public. Did you know on 4/16/1996, Oprah, with one statement vowing to stop eating meat she crashed the cattle market? How many farmers did that effect? Enough farmers for the Texas Cattlemen’s association to sue her for liable, they lost. ( Please stop, please educate the consumer. I’m so sad, mad, and frustrated that the Ag industry as a whole has let this happen. They kept their mouth shut when they knew the truth and I don’t understand why. Example based from the Oprah episode, we feed animal by-products to animals (not ruminants to ruminants, there is a ban on that ) because the amino acid profile of another animal is more useful in supporting the physiological processes of an animal rather than the amino acid profile of a plants alone.

I tell you now, I will spend my entire life sharing openly what production farmers do, and why we do the things that are so controversial to the general public, for the protection of our animals and our food safety. I have been given this opportunity for an education and if I’m not using it to change the world, my community, or myself than by God, I am wasting the precious space of someone who will. Regardless of what I’m doing I will stop and take time to have an educated conversation with someone about why we keep sows crates, why I like hormone use in dairy cattle, how humanely we slaughter animals, and the list is much more extensive than this. My generation will not be quite, we are educated, it is our responsibility to speak out and make a change while we still can. In the meantime all of you working at the Today Show, as journalists and reporters should be resolute in presenting the truth, all sides of it, regardless of what makes good TV. Can you imagine the impact that the truth can have? I can.

Kendra Earl


There is NO such thing as Hormone Free milk.

Here’s my problem….

People read something then are content to absorb the information offered with no scientific mind to question what they were just told. This is extremely frustrating when animal rights and environmental groups, make claims, write in blogs and so forth, with only a few attached links to supports all of their claims. I have been just as guilty as the next person for reading something and then regurgitating it without a second thought as to where did the information come from, who wrote it, who paid for the research, and was there even a legitimate study done. I’m writing about this because as school stared back up again, my drive to educate non-ag people about the ag industry is renewed.

I was recently given a book about rethinking how we treat animals, as soon as I opened it, the pages fell to a section about growth hormones in dairy cows, the more I read the hotter face got with anger. There was no sources, just what people think is going on when someone gives a cow a shot of growth hormone. I’m going to walk you through what happens physiologically and why there is no such thing hormone free milk.

First, growth hormone (Somatotropin) is not a lab developed, “genetically” engineered chemical compound, that money grubbing scientists came up with for the ag industry. Bovine growth hormone occurs naturally in dairy cows (how do you think they grow?), and is being produced by the anterior pituitary gland in the brain. From here the hormone travels through the blood to the liver as well as to muscle cells and bone cells for immediate action to increase amino acid transport to cells, and increase fat metabolism.  The growth hormone that goes to the liver stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factor, which induces protein making and block muscle from breaking down. It is the insulin-like growth factor that goes to the udder to increase milk production as well as growth hormone directly.

From when a cow calves and produces colostrum to when she is in late lactation (months after the calf) the amount of IGF and growth hormone fluctuates.  Scientists have been studying the insulin-like growth factor levels in milk, and have found that cows treated with growth hormone exhibit the normal range of IGF that exists in a normal lactation period. When it comes to distinguishing how much growth hormone is in the milk of a treated cow, there is no way to distinguish lab made growth hormone from her natural hormone she produces….because they are the same thing. Just like insulin is produced in a lab for diabetics to use.

So why is everyone worked up about hormones in milk? Because the media enjoys indoctrination of the masses with flashy ideas of the food system, based on fear, and what will make them a buck. When I say the food system I’m talking everything from production to consumption. It is silly for farmers to pick up milk and see a label that says hormone free, they all know that it has hormones in it. (side note) I just finished the book The Food Police by Jason Lusk. It does a great job at displaying how so many people are trying to tell us how to eat, how to view food, how to be around food, how to purchase food. While it is written with a nice dose of sarcasm it’s worth a look through. I’ll also post my book review I had to write for class if I get any requests.

Second, there are many different types of hormones, growth hormone is protein hormone, which means it is water soluble, large, and has a charge associated with it, (different components of molecules have positive and negative charges). Since it has these qualities it IS digestible, once again… it is IS digestible. What does this mean? It means that it is broken down, just like other proteins that are eaten and is not active in the body. The only way that it could have an effect on the body is by direct injection. This was tested in the 1950’s when children suffering from hyperpituiary dwarfism where injected with huge amounts of bovine growth hormone….guess what? There was no effect on the children. However, when human growth hormone was used, then there was an effect. Pasteurization also destroys growth hormone.

What do injections of bovine growth hormone do for the dairy cow? She produces 10-15% more milk by an increase in nutrients being directed to her udder. How does this help the farmer? If a dairy produces on average 3,360,000 lbs of milk per year with 12.5% increase of that, the new yield is 3,780,000 and increase of 420,00lbs…if milk is $19 per hundred pounds that’s an extra $79,800 a year for the farmer.

If you click on the last link it will display diagrams of both the cows own pathway and how we make rbst!!

I’m currently searching for the official write up from the study done in the 50’s on the children. I’ll post as soon as I find it. I wrote it because all of the sources mentioned it. ( I should really find this article now, but a few professors have heard of it, so I’ll keep looking)


Pork…A Lesson Learned

Today I learned two important lessons that are going to help give me the motivation to stick it out for the summer, by showing me how blessed I am to be on this farm (Deer Run Pork).

One, don’t take the farming out of production and two, do not lose animal husbandry for profit.

At the farm I work on the manager Joey pulled me aside today and with passion overflowing for his industry, began telling me how his farm is different from ones I’ll see in the future. It started last week when a few of the sows had problems with their feet and were placed in a pen. They could barley move and seem in so much pain, and I asked if someone would kill them to stop them from suffering. Today Joey told me why he won’t kill them right away and what the reality is in much of the pork industry.

The problem with the commercial pork industry today is that they are breeding animal husbandry right out of the worker. Worker I write, because they can no longer be called a farmer when the animal’s best interests are removed for the purpose of making money. Joey’s face became red and furrowed as he told me a story of a sow that went down on a farm he was visiting. They didn’t tend to her for days, finally when he came to her to roll her over and give her side a break, he found her hock had rotted to the bone. I cringed, and felt sick with my blood getting hot. The most important thing my mentor Dr. Jeff Dill has taught me is that pain management is sometimes the only choice you can offer and is one of the single most crucial things you can do. Joey told me that the reason he keeps the sick and injured around is because if we work with most of the time they will get better. At many farms a prolapsed uterus is a death sentence, Joey has sewn up, he estimates 100’s, with no problems. He went on, saying that I will be shocked when I walk onto other farms and see them moving animals with PCV pipe, shouting and only using the hogs fight or flight response to get them to move. This neglects the animal’s intellect. They all have a brain, they all have emotions, they all feel pain. Just like John Denbigh teaches us on the dairy, the girls will move by our body placement and our hands on them. There is no need for screaming, walking towards their head, and the use of gate rods or PVC. Our sows at Deer Run are quite, I don’t even wear ear plugs because they are not afraid of us. The other people who work there understand the responsibility we have as the sole means of well ware for the hogs, and love what they do. We have an amazing farrower named Marion. She has an uncanny gift with the sows, and is extremely in tuned to them while she helps them give birth. The people I have been surrounded by on this farm, genuinely care about the sows, and piglets. They take pride in the comfort, and well being their hogs are getting to enjoy. At Deer Run, everyone takes the time to hand feed and water sick animal’s, rotate and turn them so they don’t get sores, and have shown me exactly how a swine farm needs to operate.

Things that makes this job hard…when people everywhere start screaming about antibiotics in their meat. Here is what it does to us. There are meat withhold days for a reason, so that residues of antibiotics are not present. If they do show up they can track it down to the farm the animal came off of. But PETA and others made it so bad that they took away all the antibiotics on swine farms, no copper or sulfa topical for their feet, no blue coat for small cuts or booboo’s, none of the actual medicine needed to help the animals. So when their feet do get hurt, we have nothing to heal it with, when they get a cut, we have nothing to put on it. It has made it a nightmare for the good farmers who want to help their animals not cull them all as soon as something befalls them. Those medicines allow the sow to live for many more years, produce more young, and live a wonderful healthy life under the care of farmer. Yes, there will always be antibiotic abuse, but they people who have petitioned to take it away I am so mad at right now because I see hogs with simple problems and have nothing to solve them with.

I’m sure I have much more to say, but as always it escapes my mind by the time I’m ready to write it down. I hope this gives the non aggie readers a little glimpse into the world I so dearly love. Things can change, and it’s my job as a University of Missouri Animal Science, and Pre-Vet student to educate the people who don’t know or understand where their food comes from. Many stand on a soapbox of perceived notions, preaching only the horrific shadows that have been captured of the food animal world. Yet, they have never experienced a dairy farm morning, the birth of calf, the moment when you think it’s over and the animals miraculously is going to be alright. The pride of every farm kid at their hard work, the joy they have knowing it is their responsibility to feed the world.