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. http://www.today.com/health/new-report-antibiotic-resistance-major-threat-2D79607141 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(https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244058/20130902_UK_5_year_AMR_strategy.pdf) “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. http://www.today.com/food/today-puts-meatless-meat-test-does-it-taste-chicken-1D79579619 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. ( https://kaedk7.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/there-is-no-such-thing-as-hormone-free-milk-2/ 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 http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-QuickFacts/#h3 . When has very little fat been good? Fat is absolutely crucial to body processes (http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Important_Fats.shtml 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. (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/articles/hayenga/hay%20aug98.htm) 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 http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/guidancecomplianceenforcement/complianceenforcement/bovinespongiformencephalopathy/default.htm ) 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.