Category Archives: Uncategorized

What are GMOs? Turns Out, People Don’t Know.

Do you know what GMOs are? Turns out, a lot of people don’t.

In fact, some people can’t even state what the letters G, M and O stand for. I read results from a recent poll showing that most people can’t name the main GM crops grown in the U.S. They are corn, soy, cotton and sugar beets. A huge percentage of respondents said wheat was one of the top three. THERE IS NO GENETICALLY-MODIFIED WHEAT. IT DOES NOT EXIST COMMERCIALLY.

Genetically modified (GM) seeds allow farmers to grow crops that feed large populations in an economical and sustainable manner. With a global population that is expected to reach ~9 billion people by 2050 and food insecurity being prevalent in all over the world, including the U.S., GMOs are ESSENTIAL.

GM seeds are modified to withstand extreme weather conditions like drought and heavy rain, require the farmer to use LESS pesticides (better for the environment) and can also provide some enhanced nutrients like Vitamin A. There is NO credible scientific evidence suggesting that GMOs pose any unique threat to human health or the environment. In fact, there are over 2,000 credible scientific studies showing that GMOs are SAFE. I did a blog on the benefits of GMOs a while back — Check it out!

This Jimmy Kimmel video shows a few consumers who have NO IDEA what GMOs are, yet they do not want them in their foods. I would say that the video is mildly funny and will make you laugh, but it scares me so much I can barely even crack a smile while watching it.

Unfortunately, this is real; it ain’t just some biased video! I witness people with similar thoughts (or lack of thoughts) about GMOs every day of my life in Washington, D.C. And there are lots of state legislations on the table that would require GM foods to be labeled, which would just drive up food prices and result in a MESS for food producers, including the very farmers who feed us. I wrote a blog a few months ago about the passed legislation in Vermont that will require all food products including GM ingredients to be labeled accordingly.

It is has been my goal to lead consumers on the right path by providing accurate knowledge about GMOs whenever I can. This is a huge passion of mine, and I will be doing my Master’s thesis on consumer perceptions of GMOs.

For more information about GMOs, check out GMO Answers.

I want our farmers to provide us with a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. Do you?

corn-husks1

Tagged , , , , , ,

There is No Such Thing as Too Much Ice Cream

I love summer. I love everything about it. Laying in the sun, boating, fishing, running in a sports bra, the fact that everything is green, but most importantly, I love ice cream. July is one of my favorite months of the year because it’s National Ice Cream Month, which means that it is socially acceptable for me to eat ice cream for 31 days straight and not feel even remotely bad about it. I kind of made that happen this summer. I tried 21 different flavors throughout the month of July, and therefore it was the best month of my life. I am a sucker for a good vanilla ice cream and also anything with cake pieces in it, so several of the flavors I ate were more classic flavors like Blue Bell’s “homemade vanilla” and vanilla bean. But I also tried some more non-traditional flavors like black raspberry, toasted coconut and peanut butter S’mores.

icecream10

Now I’m no food-critic, but I sure do love my dairy so I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the fantastic flavors that I tried throughout National Ice Cream Month. Here’s the 21 flavors that I put in my belly:

  • Toasted Coconut (The Ice Cream Club)
    • Vanilla ice cream with pieces of toasted coconut
  • True to the Blue (Perry’s)
    • Vanilla ice cream with blue chocolate-covered pretzels. I absolutely LOVE chocolate-covered pretzels. This was the most simple, yet delicious ice cream I’ve ever had!
  • Bear Claw
    • Dark chocolate ice cream with massive amounts of caramel and chocolate-covered nuts. To die for.
  • P.S. Mint Rules (The Ice Cream Club)
    • This one was stellar. Mint ice cream with brownie chunks and chocolate fudge swirls. By far the best mint ice cream variety I’ve ever had.

icecream12

  • Red Velvet
    • Red velvet flavored ice cream with chunks of red velvet cake. Literally heaven in a cone.
  • Salted Caramel
    • Caramel-flavored ice cream with caramel swirls and peanuts

icecream2

  • Cheesecake Brownie (Ben and Jerry’s)
    • THIS IS MY FAVORITE ICE CREAM EVER. Cheesecake-flavored ice cream with chunks of cheesecake brownies. I consumer copious amounts of this when I study for final exams.

icecream4

  • Strawberry Yogurt
    • Frozen yogurt-style ice cream, with a sensational strawberry flavo

icecream3

  • Outlaw
    • Vanilla ice cream with caramel, chocolate chips and nuts. Made me feel like I was an outlaw and it was absolutely fantastic.

icecream5

  • Southern Peach Cobbler (Blue Bell)
    • I ate this one down in Georgia. It was perfect for the occasion. Great vanilla ice cream with pieces of peach cobbler and peaches. YUM.

icecream6

  • Homemade Vanilla (Blue Bell)
    • The most delicious vanilla ice cream I’ve come across in my almost 24 years of life.
  • Vanilla Bean
    • Another great vanilla variety. You can really taste the bean!
  • Birthday Cake
    • NEED I SAY MORE? It actually tastes like you’re eating birthday cake. And there’s chunks of vanilla cake and pretty sprinkles in it too, so obviously it won me over.
  • Strawberry Shortcake (Galliker Dairy Company)
    • Exactly as it sounds. Vanilla ice cream with strawberries and chunks of cake.

photo-18

  • Cookies and Cream (Blue Bell)
    • Have I mentioned that I love Blue Bell ice cream? One of the best cookies and cream I’ve tasted to date. Just very very creamy and rich!
  • Root Beer Float
    • Okay, so this wasn’t an ice cream flavor. But I made myself a root beer float because they are awesome.

icecream8

  • Peanut Butter S’mores (Perry’s)
    • This is basically the greatest creation ever. Everything you’d find in a S’mores plus peanut butter.

icecream11

  • Black Raspberry
    • A pretty purple ice cream that tastes just like black raspberry, with chocolate (potentially dark chocolate) pieces.
  • Chocolate
    • Because you can’t go through National Ice Cream Month without eating a good plain chocolate ice cream.
  • Espresso
    • I just love coffee flavored ice creams. Mainly because I just really like coffee.
  • Sponge Candy

And that’s that, folks. Let me know if you are interested in learning more about any of the above flavors or companies that make them. Ice cream companies do a great job of providing a variety of amazing frozen treats for all types of sweet-tooths. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in this post, you’ll be sure to come across a favorite flavor or a new, exciting flavor at a local ice cream shop or grocery store. All because National Ice Cream Month is over doesn’t mean we need to stop celebrating and eating ice cream! I personally celebrate allllll year long.

icecream7

Next year, I will make sure that I try a different flavor of ice cream each and every day of July in celebration of National Ice Cream Month. Because let’s be serious, there just isn’t such thing as too much ice cream.

-MollsyMoo

The Beginning of a Slippery Slope: Vermont Will Become the First U.S. State to Require the Labeling of GMO Foods.

Well, folks. It’s all downhill from here. After proposed legislations upon proposed legislations, Vermont has become the first state to pass a bill that will require all genetically-modified (GMO) foods to be labeled accordingly. Vermont Governor Pat Shumlin signed the bill last week, and it will become effective July 1, 2016. Why is this a terrible idea? Because there is a lack of credible scientific evidence suggesting that GMOs are unsafe. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization all have determined that GMO foods are not unsafe for human consumption. In fact, there is NOT even one mainstream scientifically-accurate study showing that GMOs are unsafe. So then why we would we even put a label on them? Because there is a ridiculous, scientifically-inaccurate conspiracy going around that GMO foods are harmful. There’s also a plethora of junk research studies out there suggesting that GMOs are unsafe, and a few select bloggers, journalists and anti-GMO activists have taken those scientifically-inaccurate studies and ran with them. Consumers often say that they want GMO foods to be labeled so that they have the right to choose what they purchase and put into their bodies. They want to make sure that they are eating the healthiest foods possible.

However, slapping on a label that says “GMO” won’t help them become any healthier. GMO labels will simply CONFUSE consumers. They will begin to think that GMO foods are unsafe and won’t want to buy them. Imagine walking into a grocery store and having the option of two different yogurts, one that says “GMO” and one that says “GMO-free.” My bet is that about 95% of consumers are going to grab the yogurt that says “GMO-free.” And they will be paying more. FOR NO REASON AT ALL. The GMO-free product will consist of the exact same nutrition as the non-GMO product. 

Passing this bill in Vermont is the start of a very slippery slope. The passing of this bill will change how consumers view not only GMO foods, but also agriculture as a whole. The passing of this bill may inevitably change how we feed America. And the passing of this bill may change how we feed the world. It makes my heart hurt. New York State looks like it may jump on the GMO-labeling bandwagon soon, as it has recently advanced its own version, and similar bills have also been proposed in states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and Connecticut. What will the result of all this nonsense be? Food prices everywhere will increase and consumers will end up paying higher prices for foods that are of the same nutritional value as their GMO counterparts. Families on budgets will be ripped of their money, even though little Charlie will be eating the same foods as before.

I also can’t even begin to imagine how messy things would be if every state develops its own individual policy regarding the labeling of GMOs! That 50-state framework would be a disaster because consumers wouldn’t know what the heck to believe.

So why are we confusing America’s families? It’s time to put a stop to this. We need a federal standard to prevent all of this unnecessary GMO-labeling nonsense, before it is too late. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) recently introduced a bill, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” that would create a federal standard for the voluntary labeling of GMO foods. It would also give the FDA the sole authority to require mandatory labeling if GMO products are ever found to be unsafe or materially different than non-GMO foods. The bill would protect consumers and eliminate confusion so that farmers can continue to feed us in a safe, economical and efficient manner. Pompeo and Butterfield, you rock.

And what about that notion that GMOs are brand new to society and we can’t possibly have enough information suggesting that they are safe? THIS IS FALSE.

GMOs are grown from seeds whose genes have been altered just enough to best withstand our changing society’s needs. We have been doing this since the dawn of time. Ever heard of Gregor Mendel? He was a famous geneticist born in 1822, who I’m sure you learned about in high school biology class. Mendel used a Punnett Square to create new types of pea plants that contained desirable traits. THIS WAS IN THE YEAR 1822. We have been genetically-modifying our foods since at least the 1800’s. The only thing that is different now is that we have years of science and technology to help us do it better. Currently, about 80% of the foods in the United States are produced from genetic engineering. No GMOs = No food. Simple as that.

For a more thorough background on the importance of GMOs to our environment, health and global food security, check out the post that I wrote a few months back: https://mollsymoo.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/i-eat-gmos/

But in short, here are why GMOs are awesome:

1.) We can grow foods that are resistant to weeds and bugs and can withstand awful weather conditions like droughts. Farmers can produce higher yields of safer, quality foods this way.

2.) We can produce foods that are of higher nutritional value like Golden Rice, a crop that is high in Vitamin A and helps children with Vitamin A deficiencies so that they can see.

3.) We can produce foods that stay fresher longer. Otherwise, those fruits you are eating from Florida may be brown by the time they get to your table.

The U.S. has a responsibility to help feed the world. We have the tools in our hands. Now let’s STOP being silly, STOP listening to the activists, the junk studies, and the uninformed bloggers and journalists. Let’s START becoming informed about where out food comes from. And let’s START accepting the fact that GMOs are safe and beneficial to our world’s food supply.

For more information on GMOs and to review scientific literature, check out this informative article by Jon Entine, head of the Genetic Literacy Project and senior fellow at the Center for Risk & Health Communication and STATS (Statistical Assessment Service) at George Mason University: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/

MollsyMoo

Image

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Farmland: Finally a Positive Movie about the Food Industry

Well, it’s about time the entertainment industry made a movie that presents the honest facts about where our food comes from! I am sick and tired of hearing about biased, negative productions like Food Inc. and Fed Up. Those movies do not provide us with an accurate representation of our food system, and it is not fair to leave consumers thinking that our food is being produced in inhumane manners, by people who do not care about us. Farmers DO care about us. They care about us more than anyone I know. It takes a ridiculously special person to be a farmer! And Farmland shows this. Farmland shows us REAL farming. It’s not a bunch of biased misconceptions that you see on television or read about in the news.

A documentary film created by Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Moll, Farmland presents the TRUTHS about farming. The good, the bad and even the ugly. Moll follows the lives of six young farmers and ranchers involved in diverse areas of agriculture, all under the age of 30.

Here are the featured farmers’ biographies, as from the Farmland website (www.farmlandfilm.com):

  • Leighton Cooley- A fourth generation poultry farmer, operates four farms in Georgia with his father. In addition to chickens, he also has a cow-calf operation and grows hay. Leighton and his wife have two sons.
  • Brad Bellah- A sixth generation cattle rancher, runs beef and cattle operations in Texas and Colorado, including a natural beef herd. The 26-year old husband and father of a twin son and daughter earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University. 
  • David Loberg- A fifth generation corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska, runs the family farm with his mother. The farm also custom feeds 500 head of cows for a local dairy operation and runs and irrigation business. The 25-year old and his wife have an infant son.
  • Sutton Morgan- A fourth generation farmer from California, grows, packs and sells onions and potatoes, and also grows melons, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower,  lettuces, chard, kale and alfalfa. Sutton holds a degree in business economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Margaret Schlass- A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable farmers based in Pennsylvania, farms on 18 acres with her two farms. During her senior year at the University of Delaware, Margaret studied abroad in peru, worked the fields harvesting corn and yucca, which introduced her to farming.
  • Ryan Veldhuizen- A fourth generation farmer, is taking over the operation of his family’s hog farm in Minnesota with his brother and sister. The farm grows hogs, corn and soybeans, which they use for feed.

The story of the film is told entirely by the individual farmers and their families. There isn’t a narrator for even a single line of the film. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the debut private screening of Farmland last March at the Ronald Reagan Ampitheater in Washington, D.C. I had been looking forward to seeing this movie for a good year, so naturally I was bouncing off the walls the entire time when I was invited to tag along with my coworkers. Some pretty awesome leaders in the agricultural community were present including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kysta Harden, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance CEO Randy Krotz and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Vilsack kicked off the premier by sharing some celebratory words about the state of the United States food industry. He mentioned that food is less expensive in the United States than it is anywhere else in the world. That is really special! Americans everywhere are able to accomplish their dreams because farmers are out in the fields, working hard, each and every day to produce our food for us.

I can tell you firsthand that this movie is different than other farming movies you may have seen in the past. It is a factual, honest and heartwarming depiction of what farming is all about. It will make you laugh. And it will make you cry… In fact, I balled like a baby at least four times.

It shows their struggles- whether that be poor weather conditions, broken equipment, people that don’t believe in them, negative attention from consumers and the media, or deaths in the family. It also shows how much farming means to each and every one of them. Farmers are farmers because they love what they do. They love their land, they love their animals and they love supporting their country. Farmers are people just like us. They have families, and sometimes they even “shop at J. Crew” and “drink too many Coors lights,” according to Bellah. In fact, 97% of farmers are family farmers. However, when many people visualize farming, they think that there’s traditional farming with a few cows running around outside in the grass or they think of “factory farming,” but they don’t think of anything in between. Yes, farming does look very different than it did in the 1950’s. The number of farms is decreasing and the size of farms is increasing. But there are many legitimate reasons for this, as you will see in the film. Farms are more sustainable and efficient, and food is being sold at a more affordable rate than it was years ago. Farmers have tools- technologies developed by science- to help them provide for our country. Watch this film and you will begin to understand.

As a girl who grew up surrounded by farmers in Wisconsin, I learned firsthand where my food comes from. But I realize that not everyone has easy access to farms like I did. I was blessed. And I am now blessed enough to be pursuing a career within agriculture, a field that I believe is the most loving, supportive and rewarding, and also instills the strongest work ethic among those involved. Did you know that today’s society is an average of three generations removed from the farm? That means that one in three people probably hasn’t even stepped foot on a farm. They haven’t petted a cow. They haven’t smelled the fresh cut hay. They haven’t used a pitch fork. A few days ago, a woman told me that she grew up in New York City and didn’t realize that “miles of just corn fields” existed until she ventured on out to the Midwest for a summer school program. For those growing up on farms, the average number of young people going back to their farms is decreasing. And the recent U.S. Census results indicate that the average age of a farmer is 58 years, and this number is rising. What is going to happen to the future of our food industry? Who is going to feed us? We need more young people to get involved in agriculture.

Most people acquire the knowledge that they have about agriculture from the media, and unfortunately the media often inaccurately presents the industry in an extremely negative light. As a result, there is a tremendous disconnect between the farming community and consumers. Yet, consumers have a strong desire to know where their food comes from and how it is produced. And the best way to help people understand where their food actually comes from is by showing them! It has never been more important than it is now for farmers to share their story by letting the public into their lives and showing them what they do every single day to produce safe, abundant and affordable food for our families. Farmland is a great way for farmers to spark this conversation with consumers. As Veldhuizen says in the film, “We aren’t hiding anything. But want do you want to know?” Farmers want you to be engaged!

A few of the featured young farmers attended the D.C. film premier, and afterwards they participated in a panel to discuss the movie with the audience. It was really wonderful seeing the farmers in person and hearing them talk about their experience with the creation of the film, and more importantly their everyday lives on the farm. When asked why he agreed to be filmed for the movie, Cooley declared that he grew up on a farm and established a love for agriculture. Farming captivated him and he has always been very passionate about it. He mentioned that farms are under attack, and participating in the film was an opportunity for him to get rid of misconceptions about farming. He wanted to ensure Americans that their food is safe. Bellah had a great answer as well. He stated that he did an internship in Washington, D.C. during college, and while he was there he realized that many people are clueless about agriculture and have no idea where their food comes from. Everyone had questions for him and he was anxious to answer them. This film is Bellah’s opportunity to link consumers to producers. (Also, I would just like to point out that Bellah wore fabulous cowboy boots to the movie premier. Yes, I noticed them).

Moll learned a thing or two about farming as well. “For everything I learned, there are ten more things I could learn. I hope that it prompts dialogue, discussions and questions” about the food industry. When asked about how filming this movie affected his food-buying decisions, Moll replied that he grew up in Los Angeles and purchased or avoided foods based on what he saw on Facebook. He has much stronger confidence in where his food comes from now.

Farmland will be released in public theaters across the country on May 1st. That’s just a few days from now, folks. Check out http://www.farmlandfilm.com for more details and to watch the trailer! I highly recommend that each and every person who cares about where their food comes from watches this movie.

Or as Cooley said at the D.C. screening: “If you eat, then this movie is for you.”

Farmland is about farmers coming together, no matter what type of farm they operate, and helping consumers to gain confidence about where their food comes from.

A plus film, James Moll. A plus.

-MollsyMoo

Meeting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the Washington, D.C. screening of Farmland. Photo by John Harrington Photography.

Meeting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the Washington, D.C. screening of Farmland. Photo by John Harrington Photography.

<

Tagged , , , , ,

Raw Milk: Yum, Fresh out of the Cow… But is it Safe?

Several friends have asked me recently about raw milk, so I thought that I’d share my thoughts on the topic, from an animal scientist’s point of view. You’ve probably heard of raw milk before, but maybe you haven’t sat back and really thought about what the words mean, maybe you couldn’t care less, or maybe you strive to buy raw milk from a local farmer and desire to know more about the topic. I am going to provide you with some knowledge about the facts and the myths about raw milk, along with my personal recommendations for milk consumption.

So what exactly is raw milk? Imagine milking a cow and then drinking that milk fresh out of the cow. That is raw milk. The pasteurization (heating milk just enough to get rid of harmful bacteria) and homogenization (dispersion of fat globules within milk to make the product the same consistency throughout) processes do not occur, and no additional ingredients are added to the milk. It is creamy, sweet, and very heavy. I personally have tried raw milk on the farm and I do not like the taste of it. I grew up drinking 2% milk, so even whole milk tastes too thick for me (and skim is far too watery for me). This raw product could not be any more natural if we tried. Therefore, there is an increasing desire for consumers to buy raw milk, as they strive to find natural products from the farmers themselves that they may think is healthier. However, in the case of milk, a processed product is necessary in order to protect human health. And as I will explain below, raw milk is not any healthier or more nutritious than the pasteurized product that you can find in the grocery store. What many people do not necessarily know is how harmful raw milk really is to our health. There are inherent risks associated with raw milk, no matter which farm the milk is coming from. As a result, the sale of raw milk is illegal in about half of the U.S. states. I personally am a strong believer in consumer choice and the ability for someone to purchase the products that he or she wants, but I am also a scientist and I would not want for someone to compromise his or her health, or especially a child’s health, for a product that is just as healthy and nutritious as the pasteurized, SAFE gallon of milk from the supermarket. I personally do NOT recommend for ANYONE to consume raw milk, even farmers themselves.

Image

Myth #1: Raw milk is safer than pasteurized milk

This is going to be a long explanation, but the most important one. Let me first explain how milk gets from the farm to your table. A farmer works with a nutritionist to formulate a specific diet for each individual cow group on the farm- pregnant cows getting ready to have calves will eat a different diet than cows who are producing milk. Most farmers feed their cows grasses that they grow themselves, with some added nutrients and grains as recommended by their nutritionist. Naturally, cows eat a lot (they are ~1500 pound animals!). In fact, a single dairy cow eats about 100 pounds of feed and drinks about a bathtub of water every day. And considering what goes in the animal, must also come out, well…I think you can agree with me when I say that cows produce a shit ton (no pun intended) of fecal matter. Dairy cows are inherently dirty. It doesn’t matter how large or small the farm is and it doesn’t matter whether the cows are organic, out on pasture (isn’t the outdoors where diseases come from?), or grass-fed. They will always poop a lot. Cows are herbivores, meaning that they only eat plant material, which is very fibrous. Cows are also what are called ruminants, with their stomachs consisting of four compartments- reticulum, rumen, omasum, and abomasum. And these compartments each have their own individual function to help the cow digest the extremely fibrous materials that their diet consists of. Have you ever eaten a Fiber One granola bar? I have. I had to poop like twelve times that day. But man, are they delicious! My point is that eating a diet high in fiber inherently makes an animal produce a large amount of fecal matter. Therefore, when a cow is milked there is always a chance that either 1.) fecal matter will get into the milk supply, or 2.) the cow will decide to poop right when she is being milked, which will result in number one.

Farmers work hard to prevent any feces from getting into the milk supply, which is why they follow strict guidelines when it comes to cleaning cows’ udders and the milking equipment at the farm. The teats on the cows’ udders are sanitized before and after the milking process, and equipment is washed down after individual cows are milked. Workers are trained to follow the most sanitary procedures. And contrary to popular belief, the larger farms often actually have the money and technology to enforce more sanitary procedures. Milk then goes into a bulk tank, is picked up by the milk processing company, is pasteurized/made SAFE, and sold to consumers at supermarkets within as little as two days. I don’t believe that raw milk is safer than pasteurized milk. In fact, I completely disagree with that statement. Here are some facts about the dangers of raw milk:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1998 to 2009 there was an average of 1,837 illnesses ANNUALLY resulting from raw milk consumption. 195 of those resulted in hospitalizations and 2 people died each of those years from consuming raw milk. BUT, here’s the kicker: Only about 3% of the U.S. population is even drinking raw milk! Can you imagine how many more illnesses and, God-forbid deaths, would occur if everyone drank raw milk?! Oy vey. CDC states that improperly handled raw milk is responsible for almost three times more hospitalizations than any other food-borne illnesses, which makes raw milk one of the world’s most dangerous foods!

Bacteria for some reason find milk to be a great place to grow and proliferate aka make baby bacteria. So even if there would be no fecal contamination in your raw milk, the lack of pasteurization could give bacteria a chance to grow faster and sooner. Pasteurization is a process that was developed by biologist Louis Pasteur in 1864 to reduce the number of viable pathogens in a product, thus making them unlikely to cause disease. Pasteurization heats the milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds only, and then the milk is cooled. This not only makes the milk safe, but it also extends the product’s shelf life by slowing the ability for bacteria to grow. Some diseases that pasteurization can prevent included tuberculosis, brucellosis, diptheria, scarlet fever, and can also kill Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, and E. coli. Pasteurization is the ONLY scientific method of eliminating potentially harmful bacteria from our milk and ensuring that the product is safe for human consumption. And pasteurization DOES make the product completely safe.

Myth #2: Raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk

There are no known health benefits from drinking raw milk that cannot be acquired from drinking pasteurized milk. Raw milk does not prevent cancer. It does not cure diseases. And it does not cure allergies or lactose intolerance. If you are lactose intolerent, there are many pasteurized, safe products available for your needs. Some people ask me about how the pasteurization process affects enzymes in milk. According to the CDC, pasteurization DOES inactivate some enzymes in milk. However, those enzymes that are inactivated are not considered important in human health. Some nutrients in milk are decreased through pasteurization, including vitamin C. But pasteurized milk still contains a high amount of nine essential nutrients including protein, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12. Losing a bit of vitamin C is a loss that I will take to make sure that I am consuming a safe product. Plus, I can acquire my vitamin C for the day in many other ways- like drinking orange juice (obviously in addition to drinking milk!)

Myth #3: Raw milk is made from cows who are happier

All farmers work hard every day to make sure that their cows are happy and healthy. No matter what type of farm they have. They work with nutritionists and veterinarians to ensure that their girls are getting the best nutrition and medical care possible. Happy cows are cows that produce milk. In fact, there is a natural hormone called oxytocin that cows release when they are milked. Oxytocin is the “happy hormone,” literally. And when a cow produces higher amounts of milk, she actually releases more oxytocin. Side note: Humans release oxytocin when they are happy as well. It doesn’t affect the milk supply.

Myth #4: All farm families drink raw milk and don’t get sick

A lot of my friends are dairy farmers. Some of them do drink the raw milk from their farms, but a lot of them don’t because they have gotten sick in the past and they understand the risks associated with it. It is difficult to determine the presence of germs in raw milk. The number of germs in a given sample may not be enough to make a certain person sick at a certain time, but there is always the risk!

Myth #5: Raw milk is better for children than pasteurized milk

AHHHHHHH!!!! Noooo! Can I please express my disagreement here?! Sometimes people desire to buy raw milk so that they can feed it to their children. This is a huge mistake! If my reasons above do not convince you, check out this link for stories of people whose lives have been affected tremendously as a result of consuming raw milk. Additionally, in September 2006 a child’s mother gave her son raw milk because he was lactose intolerant and had asthma. The child ended up being hospitalized, with E. coli O157:H7 food poisoning and he also developed hemolytic uremic syndrome from drinking the raw milk. We cannot see or smell germs in raw milk, so we could accidentally be feeding our children a product that is not safe! Now I am not a mother, but I know that someday I will be and I will NEVER want to expose my children to unsafe foods that they don’t have a choice in consuming! They are too young to understand the risks associated with raw milk consumption.

Myth #6: Raw milk does not contain antibiotics or hormones

Okay, so this is TRUE. However, NO MILK contains antibiotics or hormones! Just lots of nutrients. Nine, in fact. All milk is tested several times to ensure that it is safe and antibiotic/hormone-free. If a cow is sick and needs to be treated using antibiotics, her milk is DUMPED down the drain and doesn’t even touch the milk supply! Farmers work closely with veterinarians to make sure that their cows are healthy and happy. Hormones are sometimes used when a cow is having trouble producing milk on her own, but once again the milk is tested to make sure that it is safe for consumption before reaching store shelves!

Like I mentioned previously, I am pro-consumer choice in a lot of areas. However, I also feel that as a scientist in the dairy industry it is my job to help provide the safest product available to the public. When health risks become a factor, the government must take control and regulate the sales of raw milk. Especially when children are involved. If we have the capability to ensure that the entire U.S. milk supply is safe, then why would we want to jeopardize that by selling raw milk? The pasteurization process ensures that our milk is safe, wholesome and nutritious. Pasteurizing does not result in a product that is less healthy than the raw milk product. And it does not lessen the quality of the milk. If you prefer to buy your dairy products directly from the farmer themselves, there are many local dairy farms that have pasteurizers and sell their pasteurized milk off of their farms. Or, if you prefer the thick, creamy taste or raw milk, look for a non-homogenized pasteurized product. However, I want to be clear that all milk sold in grocery stores is safe, wholesome and nutritious. The dairy industry is one of the most highly regulated industries! All milk contains nine essential nutrients for optimum health and nutrition. If you are looking for probiotic foods, eat yogurt, milk, or kefir that is pasteurized and has had probiotic bacteria added to it. I personally feel that raw milk advocacy groups mislead consumers by making it seem as though raw milk is safer or significantly healthier than pasteurized milk, to ultimately increase sales. I recommend doing your research on raw milk before deciding to drink it. Raw milk is very unsafe and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone to risk getting sick by drinking it. I do not recommend for anyone to consume raw milk (do I need to say that again?)! And quite frankly, you’ll save a lot of money by consuming pasteurized milk because raw milk is a niche market that is expensive!

 

-MollsyMoo

Ps- Have you had your three servings of pasteurized dairy products today? If not, it’s time to go eat some cheese.

 

For additional information and resources on raw milk consumption check out these credible sources:

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Milk Producers Federation

International Dairy Foods Association

Real Raw Milk Facts

NASDA 2011 Raw Milk Survey

Parent Food Safety Guide for Raw Milk

Tagged , , , , ,

Food Doesn’t Come from Grocery Stores. It Comes from Farmers.

While working at a farmers market in New Jersey, a person once asked me about the special enzyme that cows have in order to produce chocolate milk. I laughed, thinking that it was a pretty funny joke. Then I realized that she was being completely serious.

After growing up into agriculture in the (great state of) Wisconsin, I moved to the East Coast for college and five years later I am still out here- currently in Washington, D.C., with dreams of making a positive difference in agriculture to support our country’s farmers.  In Wisconsin, I never seemed to have to worry about consumers not understanding where their food came from or hearing them attack conventional agriculture. Maybe that was because I grew up in a rural area, as a part of a farming family, and a lot of my 4-H friends (hey guys, shout-out time!) were farmers. Or maybe it was because Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, with the dairy industry being a $59 billion industry for the state and most people seem to be obsessed with beer (Spotted Cow, anyone?!) and cheese, which both rely on farmers to create the primary ingredients for. Or maybe it’s because times are changing, the media is becoming more influential in society and confusing buzzwords like “organic,” “free-range” and “all-natural” are dominating the supermarket shelves. It wasn’t until I moved to college and focused on the study of agriculture in a (very liberal, I might add) community, that I realized how unaware the public actually is about where their food comes from. Now, I’m not saying that Wisconsinites are more aware than residents of other states about where their food comes from, but from my experiences living in or near large cities such as Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., and also from attending universities with extremely diverse populations, I can attest that a large proportion of those individuals have not experienced the farming lifestyle that may be more accessible to people living in rural communities. That’s why I think it’s so important for people to visit their local farms and meet the families that produce their food, even if it’s a bit of a drive. Many farmers would love to share what their family does every day to support our country’s food supply.

Besides the chocolate milk story, I can share countless examples of crazy things that people have said to me involving agriculture. And it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized how legitimate of a problem it is that consumers are generations-removed from farming, and as a result many have never even stepped foot on a farm. As I mentioned previously, the public is often misled by the media, health trends and large organizations/companies with anti-agriculture hidden (or very visibly prominent) agendas. People, who often don’t know the truth, believe that conventional farming is destructive. They believe that conventional farming is inhumane. And they believe that conventionally-produced food is unhealthy. I want to change this perception. I STRIVE to change this perception. Why? Because when I step foot in a grocery store, I know that my food doesn’t come from the grocery store; it comes from farmers. And 97% of the farms those farmers work on are family-owned and operated. I think that is a shocker to a lot of people because they think that the only way to support family farmers is by purchasing locally-produced or organic foods. I can see how it may be confusing to be able to buy our food from so many different types of farms, with so many different types of buzz words describing our foods. And there are advantages to each type of farming method- whether it is conventional, organic, etc. But I just don’t think that enough people truly understand what is involved with each type of farming and as a result, many people choose to buy certain foods for the wrong reasons. So let me share with you the facts, based on my education and experiences within agriculture, about the various types of farming that exist today.

My goal with this blog post is to help clear up some of the predominant misconceptions about farming, not to persuade you to choose one style over another. But do you know what is really awesome? This is the United States of America. We are fortunate enough to live in a free country that gives our people the right to choose to buy whatever foods we desire. And at the end of the day, farmers are all farmers, and they all wake up early every morning to put food on your family’s table.

Conventional farming:

This is where the title of my blog post fits in. I feel that many consumers struggle to understand where the food that they are purchasing from at the grocery store actually comes from, because they are often not able to put a face to the farmer who produces it. The media does not help this disconnect by amplifying destructive words like “factory farms,” etc. I would like to share some information with you about the type of farming that feeds our country and world, conventional farming. This type of farming seems the most confusing to consumers because many have not grown up in agriculture or even visited a farm. They often picture a few animals running around outside in the grass, with no worry or care in the world! In that same picture, those farms are tiny, have little red barns on top of a hill, and are owned by families. Farms are still family-owned, but they don’t look quite like this anymore for a number of legitimate reasons. I’m going to talk a bit about the dairy industry, and help you to understand what a conventional dairy farm today looks like.    

Dairy farmers often house their calves in free-style barns. These barns are large open spaces that allow individual cows to roam around and lay down wherever they want, and eat/drink whenever they want. There are individual stalls in the barns to ensure that no cow is left out of a place to lay down or is denied access to feed. Because, just like humans, there can be some “bully” or “alpha” cows who sometimes would like to fight their way to the feed trough when the farmer brings fresh feed for the group. Cows are not raised outside solely on pasture. This is for valid reasons. Winters can be extremely harsh and summers can be scorchingly (I think I just made that word up because my computer put a little red line under it…oh well) hot. Additionally, there are bugs and predators outside! Cows purely on pasture often acquire parasites, and that is just not pleasant or healthy for the cows. Barns provide cows with the ability to stay warm/cool and comfortable during all times of the year, with equal access to feed and water. Many farms use high-tech sprinkler systems and fans to keep their cows cool in the summertime. Some farms also have really cool cow “toys” like large spinning brushes that scratch their backs. Man, sometimes I wish that I was a cow.

These dairy farms also use antibiotics. But not for the reasons you may think. Farmers do NOT use antibiotics for no reason at all! They use them when their animals become sick, just like we treat our children (okay, not me…I don’t have children and I am as single as a slice of Kraft’s American cheese) when they are sick. I personally would never be able to just let a sick cow suffer when I have the ability to help her become happy and healthy again. Farmers love their cows. ALL MILK, let me repeat that, ALL MILK from cows that have been administered antibiotics is dumped down the drain!!!! After a cow is given antibiotics, there is a withdrawal period, as recommended by the USDA, FDA and veterinarians, that the farmer must follow. They are not allowed to have that milk enter the supply for human consumption UNTIL that withdrawal period has been reached. Additionally, ALL MILK is tested numerous times for any traces of anything unsafe. After testing, if the milk is by any means considered unsafe, the ENTIRE milk supply must be dumped down the drain. That milk supply often consists of milk from many different farms, but the one farm responsible for contaminating the milk would be responsible for the cost of that total supply. What farmer wants to lose money? I can’t think if any. It is in a farmer’s best interest to ensure that the practices on his or her farm are top-notch. The industry’s regulations and standards help to ensure that as well.

Genetically modified organisms. GMOs. Biotechnology. Whatever you want to refer to it as. Conventional farmers use them. But did you know that farmers of all kinds have been genetically-modifying their foods for centuries? Gregor Mendel used the Punnett Square to create hybrid crosses of his pea plants. We use GMOs because they are a safe, sustainable way to feed our country. In fact, no significant scientific evidence has been found to prove that GMOs are unsafe. Basically everything that we eat has been genetically-modified in some manner. After hundreds of years of using them in various forms, we are still alive and here on this earth. GMOs also allow farmers to use fewer pesticides/herbicides on their crops because a GMO corn crop, for instance, may be genetically-modified to resist insects or weeds. Another great quality of GMOs is that they have led to extra-healthy foods like golden rice, which has higher vitamin A and helps combat the deficiency that is common in children. Let’s also think long-term. By the year 2050, the world is going to expand from 7.2 to 9.6 billion. We are going to have a heck of a lot more people to feed, and GMOs will help our farmers to do that in a safe and sustainable manner as the climate changes and the land becomes more difficult to farm on.

Animal abuse happens sometimes. It also happens on organic farms. On big farms. On small farms. It occasionally does happen, and I am not going to try to hide that. Do you know where else abuse happens? It happens in all areas of this country when a man leaves his dog in the hot car with the windows closed for an extended period of time during the summer. Or when a woman neglects or drops her baby. It happens when people refuse to feed their children. It happens when a person beats his significant other/spouse. Rape. Would you look at the human race and say “we are such abusive creatures?” I would hope not. Just like with people, we can’t generalize and use one instance of animal abuse to represent the entire industry. Plus, there are many standards in place on farms to make sure that animal abuse does not happen. Workers are trained, some farms have internal video cameras and the government does not take abuse lightly. If animal abuse happens, there is extreme punishment for the employees engaging in it. And those farms are usually dropped from selling their products to their providing companies. So, please, before you use animal abuse as a reason to not support farmers, realize that it’s NOT representative of the entire industry.

I could talk about dairy farming all day long, but I think that I provided you with enough knowledge for one blog post. If you have any additional questions about conventional farming please let me know. I would be happy to provide more information for you. My point here is that farming may look different today than it did many years ago. However, the farmers producing our food are the same types of families that produced our food years ago. Farmers simply have more scientific research today, helping them to practice the most humane, sustainable and efficient methods possible. If you visit a farm and see these practices firsthand, you will begin to understand. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people told me that they refused to eat food from “factory farms.” Truth is, those farms aren’t factories at all. They are FAMILY FARMERS who strive to help our country by applying the best methods possible to humanely raise their animals and sustainably feed our country. And they are constantly looking for new ways to improve their farming techniques and how to help their animals be the happiest that they can be. Take, for example, Rob-in-Cin Farms in West Bend, Wisconsin. Owned by Bob and Cindy Roden and family, the farm milks 400 Holstein dairy cows. Here is a picture of Rick Roden being followed by a silly calf! rick

Organic farming:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition, organic food is “food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.” A HUGE misconception in organic farming is that many consumers believe that organic farming does not use pesticides. That is a myth. Organic farmers, legally, DO use pesticides. These organically-produced pesticides are used to reduce unwanted pests from the fields in which crops are grown. And, contrary to public belief, many of these pesticides have been scientifically shown to be more harmful to human health than pesticides that farmers use.

 In organic farming practices, farmers are NOT permitted to treat their animals with antibiotics. On farms with animals, this means that farmers and veterinarians are not able to treat sick cows, pigs, chickens, etc. If they do treat them with antibiotics, the animals must be sold to a conventional farm, slaughtered or no longer considered organic. I’ve seen organic farms in which farmers do not treat their sick cows and have them no longer be organic, so the cows remain sick. I’m not saying that this is representative of organic farming, but it is something to consider when choosing to buy organic solely because you may think that it is better to refrain from antibiotic-use.

Another reason many consumers choose to purchase organic foods is because they think that those foods are healthier than their conventional counterparts. However, no significant scientific evidence has suggested that that is true.  There is no nutritional difference between organic and conventionally-produced foods.

Additionally, I’ve heard friends suggest that they only eat organic foods because they are more humane and are produced by family farmers. I’m going to assume that those same people view family farms are tiny little farms on the top of a hill, with a little red barn, and a few cows frolicking through the grass in the sunshine. Let’s sit back and think about that for a minute. Do you honestly think that because a food in the grocery store has the word “organic” on its label, it has been produced by your next-door farming neighbor? Because that organic food has most likely been produced by a farmer half-way across the country, with just as many cows (or whatever the animal may be…I’m in the dairy field, so I tend to be a bit biased towards relating things to the dairy industry) as the products made from its conventional counterparts. In fact, if you were to visit an organic farm, you’ll see that it doesn’t look very different from a conventional farm.

Just a few years ago, organic farming wasn’t really even much of a thing in the United States. But now you can find organic products in most supermarkets. It is a brilliant business tactic for farms to go the organic route, and I commend those farmers for making the switch because it isn’t easy to do. But a lot of people buy organic foods because they think those foods are better for the environment, more humane, safer and healthier. You can choose to believe whatever you want and purchase organic if that makes you happy, but I think it is important to really just think about the misconceptions before making that financial commitment. Because let’s be honest, organic foods are freaking expensive. And as a poor graduate student who basically eats noodles and milk for every meal, I cannot afford organic prices. If you can afford organic foods, good for you.

Supporting Local Farms:

There are a few key points that I want to cover here. First, as I’ve mentioned before, I think that it is extremely important for consumers to get to know farmers. A great way to do this is to visit your local farms and learn how they work hard every day to produce your food. Many farmers invite people out to their farms for activities like pumpkin picking or dairy breakfasts. I am also a big fan of farmers markets, farm-stores and CSAs because they allow consumers to buy their food firsthand from the very people who produce their food. Farmers markets are also very beneficial in building local economies. I worked for a farm and managed the sales of our products at about 12-15 various farmers markets on a weekly basis. They are fun to attend, both for the farmer and also for the customers. However, farmers markets are NOT going to feed our country, and definitely not our world. Producing and selling food only on the local level is NOT the most sustainable or efficient method of farming. For example, an organic farmer only produces about 80% of the food that the same size conventional farm produces. Here is a great blog that breaks down the organic myths. Additionally, a family may travel three hours weekly to buy their vegetables, dairy and meat from a local farmer. Let’s say you have 200 families in a certain area traveling that distance. That’s 200 cars traveling a great distance for its weekly food. Conversely, if you have one semi-truck transporting 200,000 cartons of eggs across the country, well in the long-term that’s just more sustainable (side note: I made those numbers up for example purposes, but it should paint the picture for you). Plus, did you know that agriculture only contributes to 2% of our nation’s carbon emissions? Ladies and gentlemen, that is what sustainability looks like.

This was hopefully a helpful, comprehensive background about today’s most common agricultural practices. Again, like I said before, you can develop your own opinions about various types of farms and base your purchasing decisions upon them. But before you make those decisions, be sure that you know all sides of the story and understand the misconceptions about agriculture and WHY they are misconceptions. When looking for sources, make sure those sources are not biased and present you with factual information. And before you judge a farmer or style of farming, please just put whatever your bias may be ASIDE, visit a farm and experience firsthand why farmers do things the way that they do. I truly believe that farmers are some of the most hard-working, environmentally-conscious, innovative, entrepreneurial and technologically-advanced people in society- no matter what type of farming they have decided to pursue. Who else wakes up at 4 A.M. to milk cows, feed/water animals, plant crops, bale hay, fix a broken tractor, check in with the veterinarian, help an animal give birth and then make it to their child’s after-school activities, all before going to bed by 10pm and then doing it all over again the next day? So next time you are at the grocery store and picking up your meat, eggs, dairy, pasta or whatever it may be: Just take a few seconds to remind yourself that your food was made with care, by a farmer, who probably has a family to take care of just like yours. And without those farmers, we wouldn’t be here today. God Bless America.

I know that I’ve shared this picture before, but I think that it perfectly captures my message. This is my grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin…

farm

XO MollsyMoo

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chipotle: The Company with a False Sense of Integrity

INTEGRITY (Noun): “Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” (Merriam-Webster). Chipotle Mexican Grill, a burgeoning chain restaurant founded in 1993 with 1500+ franchises across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany with a net income of $278 million, boasts their motto as “Food with Integrity.” To the average person, Chipotle may seem like it is an innovative, successful company that cares about their customers and more importantly, farmers and animals. Heck, I thought so too for a while. They are indeed, innovative. And they are indeed, successful. But I argue that they do not care about farmers and animals in the way that they want consumers to believe. Chipotle first and foremost cares about increasing their sales and they will do whatever it takes to do so, even if it means through deceiving their very own customers. I am going to share with you why I believe that Chipotle has a false sense of integrity, based on my current graduate school studies and knowledge of strategic communication and the marketing campaign process.

I used to like Chipotle, I really did. Just looking at their burritos made me salivate. But what’s more important to me than a measly burrito, is understanding the message that an organization or company uses to market their brand- their true motives, their true missions and their true values. Are the messages that they portray to the public consistent with their internal beliefs OR do they disguise their ulterior motives with deceptive imagery to give the public what they want to hear, as a tool for ultimately increasing sales? I have morals. I do NOT want to feel cheated or deceived, especially for some sad marketing excuse.

A few years ago, Chipotle began an anti-conventional farming campaign. They released two creative and emotional, yet scientifically-inaccurate YouTube videos entitled “Back to the Start” and “Scarecrow.” These videos contain powerful imagery of cartoon animals being raised in contrasting environments. I am not going to link to the videos or talk too much about them because I am going to focus more on their current Hulu video series, “Farmed and Dangerous.” Plus I see no need to increase Chipotle’s viewership.

But basically, Chipotle is not stupid. They are aware that the general public is generations-removed from farming and that many people lack an accurate understanding of what happens day-to-day on farms. Farming does not look the way that it used to many years ago; it is more efficient, sustainable, regulated and safer than it was when our grandparents and great-grandparents were farming. The land is different today. The climate is different today. We have better technology today including milking machines, solar panels, and manure management and nutrition systems. However, the public often is not able to understand this from first-hand experiences, so they are more susceptible to being influenced by the media. The media plays a huge role in telling the public what to think about. This is called agenda-setting. Throughout the past few years, the media has actively instilled in our minds that we should be wondering about where our food comes from (and we should care about where our food comes from…I wouldn’t have created this entire blog otherwise!). That gave Chipotle the opportunity to step in and take advantage of us. Chipotle uses political communication methods referred to as framing and scare tactics in their videos. These are actions in which a group or organization creates messages in biased manners to scare their custumers, thus manipulating the end result in their own favor. Chipotle simply uses the public’s lack of knowledge about agriculture to convince viewers that conventional farming is inhumane, unsustainable and unhealthy.

Chipotle recently released the newest aspect of their campaign, the first of a four-episode Hulu series entitled “Farmed and Dangerous.” This first episode is just over 20 minutes long, and it is absolutely, sensationally, horrendous. It focuses on a make-believe animal feed company named “Animoil.” The company creates pellets out of oil, which they then feed to dairy cows and other species. Obviously, that would be a terrible idea and no farmer would ever do that for at least five hundred thousand different reasons. The cows in the video blow up. POOF. And then the Animoil management team ceases to care. Chipotle, is this supposed to be humorous? Do you really think that it’s okay to joke about living creatures blowing up? How is that being a caring company with integrity? Ask America’s dairy farmers how they would feel about their cows blowing up. I don’t think you’ll get too many laughs out of them. The only thing that I find even mildly funny about it is the fact that Chipotle’s sales by members of the agricultural community will be significantly decreasing from this point forward.

Oh, and if you are interested in learning more about Animoil, be sure to check out their website. You can even apply for jobs there! WHAT?! Yes, Chipotle has created a fake website, with fake employees, for their fake company. Stay classy, Chipotle…

Another fun fact of the day: Chipotle claims to support family farms and buy from local sources when they can. That sounds great, right? Well, they are deceiving you. Chipotle is a 1500+ chain restaurant. I would love to be enlightened and learn how tiny farms would be able to produce enough food for Chipotle’s market demand. And here’s the real kicker- did you know that 97% of America’s farms are FAMILY OWNED AND OPERATED? That’s right. Yet, these are the same family farms that Chipotle is knocking down with their campaign. They are attacking the very own farmers that produce their food. This just doesn’t make sense to me. I asked one of my graduate school professors about it, and he explained that Chipotle is employing the “theory of awesome.” They are aware that the general public has certain opinions on conventional agriculture, and since at this point in time television commercials are useless for social media sharing purposes, YouTube and Hulu videos are a way for their message to spread quickly. Their message really isn’t very compelling to the general public, but it IS memorable and most likely costs less than other campaign strategies. And apparently that’s where the “awesome” factor fits in…people watch it and they think “hey, that was kind of an awesome video.” And then Chipotle is stuck in their head, at least for a moment.

But this still doesn’t explain why a company would actively strive to cut down the farmers that produce their food. Honestly, I truly think that the only valid reason is because Chipotle knows that they can increase their sales through deception and influence public mindset to associate positive feelings with their products. It’s marketability. And in this case, it is ridiculously messed up.

I could sit here all day pin-pointing each individual thing that is wrong with Chipotle’s website and missions, but I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to urge farmers to continue sharing their messages and family stories with consumers. How hard they work every day to produce healthy and safe food for us, while continuously loving their most prized possessions- their animals. And if you are not a farmer, I am going to urge you to check out your local farms and see if you can set up a visit with them so that you can learn more about what farmers do every day for you, even on holidays and weekends. Like I said before, 97% of all farms are family-owned and operated. Farms just look different today for a number of reasons. And we would love to show you those reasons. Most farmers are more than willing to invite people out to their farms to learn what they do. How many of you invite random strangers to your office at work? I don’t (although no one has ever really asked me…should I be offended?) Farmers are, in my opinion, the hardest-working, most intelligent, most caring people on this earth. And I know a lot of doctors, veterinarians, lawyers, researchers, etc. No one compares to farmers in my mind. In the mean time, check out Dairy Farming Today for some great information on how America’s dairy farmers take care of their cows and work hard to produce food for your family.

I used to love Chipotle’s burritos. But do you know what I love even more? America’s farmers. Which is why I simply cannot support Chipotle any longer aka I will be buying my burritos elsewhere or potentially starting my own brand called Molly’s Burritos (I’ll probably stick with the former idea unless someone firmly believes in my business capabilities and would like to invest in me, but I really do not recommend that for your sake). This may sound bizarre to some of you who are reading this because Chipotle is known for being “Food with Integrity.” However, a company that strives to convince its customers that America’s farmers, the very same people who are producing food for the Chipotle brand, are viscous and inhumane, is NOT a company that I will support. Taking advantage of the general public’s mistrust and lack of accurate understanding of the food system is unacceptable and the opposite of what integrity is all about. Instead, Chipotle should team up with their farmers to help share our positive message. Chipotle may have a creative and strategic marketing campaign, but they do NOT have integrity, no matter what they want us to believe. Let’s all take a stand for America’s hard-working farmers and thank them for providing our families with a safe, affordable and abundant food supply. Now THAT is INTEGRITY. So who’s with me?

XO MollsyMoo (Yes, that’s an “S” in there. MollyMoo was already taken, dangnabbit!)

Side note (do I always have a side note?): I am actually so fired up and frustrated about this campaign that I am devoting one of my graduate school semester research projects to studying Chipotle’s campaign strategy and the effects that scare tactics have on customer loyalty after viewing the videos. I propose that customers who are involved with conventional agriculture will have decreased loyalty to Chipotle after viewing the videos, whereas customers removed from conventional agriculture will not be significantly influenced).

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Got Milk? Throw it Away:” NO THANK YOU! But I’ll Gladly Throw Away your Infographic

Throw milk away? No thank you! I enjoy staying healthy, and America’s dairy farmers have worked far too hard for me throw their precious girls’ milk into the trash. Plus, my favorite cows would be so mad at me if they knew that I was wasting their milk! Your recently re-circulated anti-milk infographic is inaccurate on so many levels, as it uses deception and false statistics in order to encourage families to stop consuming America’s most nutrient-dense food. I’m not sure why you would provide innocent families with misinformation- potentially for some sad marketing excuse? Moms everywhere are being misguided right now, and this infographic is simply an unethical tactic.

This infographic is not new to the Internet; It circulated back in October 2012 through LearnStuff.com, but apparently you didn’t learn the first time how inaccurate these claims are. And quite frankly, I would be rather embarrassed if I were you for posting something like this. As an animal scientist, I see very little validity to this infographic. As a dairy expert, I see very little validity to this infographic. As a runner, I see very little validity to this infographic. And as an avid (more like obsessive) milk drinker, I see VERY LITTLE VALIDITY to this infographic. Let’s talk about why, and I think that it’s important to go through it statistic by statistic…

Claim: The USDA tells American kids to drink 3 servings of milk a day.

For optimal health and nutrition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends American adults to consume at least 3 servings of dairy each day- this can be in the form of fluid milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream (okaaaaay, so this last one isn’t the most nutritionally-sound option, but it’s obviously my personal favorite dairy product so I felt the need to include it- plus there are great low-fat ice cream options), whatever floats your boat. The dairy section at your local grocery store is packed with many different delicious options to fit your family’s needs! For fluid milk, this contains whole milk fat, low-fat, fat-free, and flavored options (YUM STRAWBERRY MILK!). The current USDA nutritional guideline chart is called “MyPlate.” I have included a description of the experts’ suggested nutritional guidelines for healthy living. Also, here is a great article to answer your questions about MyPlate and dairy. Or, if you would like to read an official USDA document.

myplate

Photo by MyPlate.gov

Claim: Per capita: The US drinks 9 times more milk than China

Did you know that there is currently a growing market demand for dairy products in China? My brother lives in China. He told me that if I want to get rich I need to increase U.S. dairy exports to China because everyone WANTS them. Dairy products used to be more popular there, but high prices, poor refrigeration, and limited production capacities made it difficult for the Chinese to have a consistent dairy supply. However, China has come a long way in advancing their technologies including improved pasteurization capabilities, better transportation and refrigeration methods, better feeding systems and management practices on the farm, and stronger genetics among the cows. In fact, milk production doubled from 1996 to 2002, and I expect that it will continue to increase exponentially over the next few decades.

Claim: Average dairy consumption: 593 lbs per year; Average vegetable consumption: 428 lbs per year

MyPlate recommends Americans to consume 2.5 cups of vegetables/day and 3 cups of milk/day. So, yes, it makes sense that we have a slightly higher consumption of dairy/year than we do vegetables/year. But did you know that many Americans are not getting enough calcium?

Claim: …but drinking milk is not natural

Says who? We have been drinking milk since the beginning of time. It’s referenced in the Bible many times. If you don’t believe that the Bible is real, fine; we still have been drinking milk for hundreds of years! We also choose to roast pumpkin seeds, pick coconuts off of trees, and sometimes we (NOT me) even suck the juices out of lobster antennae. We are humans. We are intelligent beings. We are far more intelligent than you may even realize. And we have learned, over many years, how to improve our genes and subsequently pass those genes on to future generations. It’s called “survival of the fittest,” and quite frankly, we wouldn’t still be drinking cow’s milk today if it wasn’t beneficial to our offspring.

Claim: Consider this: 4% of adults have food allergies.

Well, this sure is a vague statement! My best friend is allergic to peanuts. I bet she also fits into this 4% food allergy category? Oh, and another friend is allergic to chocolate. She must fit into that category as well!  Some people are indeed lactose-intolerant, and many of your favorite dairy companies produce tasty low-lactose or lactose-free options just for you! Although it is important to mention that there are many misconceptions about what lactose intolerance really is.

Claim: Cow’s milk is also the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children

I’m sorry; why are we not feeding infants human breast milk or formula?! Of course, if you try to feed an infant ANYTHING other than human breast milk they may not react positively…their body is only used to human breast milk at this very young age. Just like baby calves can only be fed their mothers’ milk until they reach a certain age and their stomachs become more developed and ready to digest grasses. We need to wean them, just like we need to wean our children to any new foods. We can’t consume human breast milk or formula forever.

Unless we are talking about allergies in older children. In this case, realize that allergies in children can be outgrown. I was allergic to pollen and straw/hay/dust when I was a child. It was terrible! I couldn’t even go outside in the summer…and don’t even get me started about walking into the barn when straw was being thrown around! End point: I grew out of it. And now I can stuff my face with flowers, no problem.

Claim: And a whopping 33% of American adults are lactose intolerant

Many misconceptions are circulating about lactose intolerance, so I am going to help to clear those up. Lactose is the natural sugar in milk. Let me explain the difference between lactose intolerance and milk allergies. Intolerance means that after a person consumes dairy products with lactose amounts greater than his or her body is able to digest, sensitivity occurs. This is NOT an allergy, and low-lactose or lactose-free dairy products are available in many different brands and varieties for consumers with this need! Milk allergies are triggered by the immune system in reaction to milk protein. Also, can I please just point out the number of people who probably aren’t even mildly lactose intolerant but claim that they are? It’s for some reason a bizarre trend right now that I will never understand.

Claim: Lactose intolerant statistics

Some people DO have lactose intolerance. However, I personally find it low and racist that you use lactose intolerance statistics among ethnic groups to boost your anti-dairy agenda. I’m going to let the expert handle this one…Here are some words of wisdom from a pretty smart guy in the field: “Primary lactase deficiency is common. However, the incidence varies according to ethnicity and is related to the use of dairy products in the diet. In populations consuming a predominantly “dairy” diet, such as Northern Europeans, the incidence of primary lactase deficiency is low compared to that in Hispanic, Asian, or African American children. Even these children should be able to tolerate small amounts of milk or other dairy products, which is important for bone health and development” -Jatinder J.S. Bhatia, M.D., FAAP (Professor and Chief at Section of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics: Medical College of Georgia). If you have more questions about lactose intolerance, check out this article by the National Dairy Council.

You hear that? Everyone can digest dairy in small amounts. And we ALL need dairy to be healthy. Plus, don’t forget about low lactose and lactose free dairy options.

Claim: Only 13.1% of American adults don’t drink milk

Good! That means that 86.9% of American adults value the importance of drinking milk! I hope that more Americans will think about introducing milk back into their diets. I also hope that they will give their children the option of drinking milk. Did you know that the government has reported that only 5% of girls and 25% of boys ages 9-13 get the calcium that their body needs? Milk is the most important source of calcium in the food supply.

Claim: And cows get the raw end of the deal: In 1970 one cow produced 9,700 lbs of milk. Now one cow produces 19,000 lbs of milk/Average milk yields by year/How are cows producing more milk?

Well, let me see here. I can think of at least twenty different reasons off of the top of my head that explain why cows are producing more milk now than they did in the 1970’s, but I’m sure that no one wants to listen to me ramble all day long (If you do, please let me know and I will gladly personally do that for you. I really like to talk. Especially about dairy. Duh). So I’ll just give you a few reasons here:

#1: Cows are producing more milk today than they did in the 1950’s because animal scientists and universities have done extensive research on ways to improve everything that happens day-to-day on the farm. This is why farms may not look quite the same today as they did in the 1950’s when there were little red barns on top of hills. Which brings me to point #2….

#2: Farms have better resources and technologies today than they had in the 1950’s. One example is the milking machine! Milking machines allow farmers to milk their cows using technology, rather than using their hands. It would take all day long to milk cows by hand! And cows naturally need to be milked twice per day. Milking cows by hand would be really rough on their teats. To the ladies reading this: I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t like someone tugging on my teats all day long (there, I said it!) The milking machines are very gentle on the cows’ teats, and they also help to prevent disease or infection because they are cleaned before each cow comes in to be milked!

#3: Healthier Cows = Higher Milk Production. Farmers work very closely with their veterinarians to prevent and treat any sicknesses. Cows getting sick is a serious matter that farmers and veterinarians do not take lightly. In conventional dairy, when a cow sadly becomes sick, we NEED to treat her. We like happy cows. And happy cows produce lots of high-quality, wholesome milk.

#4: Better Diet = Higher Milk Production. Dairy farmers work with dairy nutritionists to formulate a specific diet for each cow group, to ensure that the girls are getting all of the nutrients that they need in order to stay healthy and happy. For example, a pregnant cow needs to be fed a different diet than a cow who is in her teenage years or a cow that is just trying to maintain her body weight for growth. Calves are fed even different diets! They are the special babies. Some farmers even put collars on their cows to help monitor what each individual cow is eating. This way, he or she will know right away if a specific cow needs additional nutrients. A healthy and happy cow is a cow that produces milk. I repeat, unhappy cows will NOT let down healthy or productive amounts of milk. It is in a farmer’s best interest to feed his or her cows the best feed possible!

The U.S. has significantly fewer dairy cows today than we had in the 1950’s, yet we have significantly higher milk production today. That is a huge accomplishment because we require less cows, which in turn means that we need less land to grow feed for the cows…whiiiiiiich means that the dairy industry is more sustainable and efficient than we were in the 1950’s. The entire agricultural community only contributes to TWO PERCENT of carbon emissions. If that’s not sustainability, then I don’t know what is! The dairy industry is doing wonderful things, and I cannot wait to see the progress that we will continue to make in the future!

Claim: Cows doped on growth hormones produce 10 more pounds of milk per year. And the growth hormones go into your milk too

First, studies have been confirmed since 1993 showing that milk from cows treated with supplemental hormone rbsT is no different from milk from cows not treated with rbST; either way, it is the same wholesome product that we have been enjoying for generations! The FDA, the World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization Committe, American Medical Association, and regulatory agencies in 50 countries agree.

Let me make sure I get this right; You’re suggesting that one cow that has been given a growth hormone produces TEN more pounds of milk per year than she would have produced if she had not been given the growth hormone? Well, since one cow produces about an average of 75 pounds of milk/day, that means she will produce about 27,375 pounds of milk/year. And you’re saying that an additional TEN pounds of milk production for that entire year is horrendous? Interesting.

Here is a brief background on why dairy farmers sometimes give their cows growth hormones, such as rbST: Cows naturally produce rbST in their bodies, but sometimes their internal hormones act strange so we need to give them a little help by giving a recommended amount of rBST. We are not introducing anything foreign into the cows’ bodies. Think of it like women and menstruation; some women get really bad cramps and therefore the doctor prescribes a birth control medication or some sort of hormone-regulator to help make her hormone levels more normal so that the woman can be herself. rbST simply helps cows to reach their full potentials.

As far as hormones transferring into your milk is concerned- ALL milk NATURALLY contains small amounts of hormones. So do your vegetables. Studied have shown that cows treated with rbST produce milk within the normal range for SAFE consumption. I love this blog post comparing hormones in beef to popular vegetables. One pound of beef that was given the hormone estradiol contains 15 THOUSAND times LESS estradiol than is produced DAILY by an average women. That hormone is like a little grain of sand on the beach within your system. (Yes, I know my blog post is about dairy, but it’s a great visual that will hopefully help you understand the concept that giving hormones to animals does not make the final product unsafe).

However, if you are looking for rbST-free products, there are PLENTY of options available at your local supermarket. Dairy companies provide these options because of market demand, NOT because of health or safety issues.

Claim: This growth hormone contains IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) which humans already have

IGF-1 is a naturally-occurring growth hormone in humans. It is present in all milk, whether the cows were given rbST or not, and it is safe. If a human consumes IGF-1, it is completely digested within the body because the IGF-1 from the milk would represent less than 1% of the amount that is already present within the intestines. That’s 1/1000th of the amount that the body NATURALLY produces. That’s like a grain of sand on the beach, folks. Therefore, consuming small amounts of it does not affect human health! The American Cancer Society states that there have been no direct comparisons of IGF-1 levels in people who drink cow’s milk from cows that were given rbST.

Claim: Increased IGF-1 is linked to early puberty in girls

All milk has the same composition, whether it be organic, regular, or rbST-free. One of the contributing factors to early puberty onset in females is MALNUTRITION. Which is in large part a result of the LACK of consumption of dairy products. Other reasons include chronic infections and illnesses. Check out Global Dairy Innovation for more information!

Claim: And men with increased levels of IGF1: 4X more likely to get prostate cancer

Research has shown that there is NO conclusive association between milk consumption and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is often asscoiated with age, family history, and ethnicity.

Claim: Milk, it does a body harm.

NO. Just, no.

Claim: Milk has the same calorie load as soda.

Really? You’re comparing milk to soda. SODA, of all things? I find it rather depressing that I even have to spell out the differences between soda and milk. I would go grab a can of soda from my fridge to provide you with a firsthand observation but oh wait, I don’t drink soda. Just LOTS of milk…About 3-4 gallons/week to be exact. So, here is a chart from the USDA comparing the nutritional content of milk with soda. Sure, soda and milk may both have a relatively similar calorie count, but milk also contains NINE ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS: potassium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-12, phosphorous, and calcium. Milk is the #1 food source of 3/4 of the nutrients that Americans are not getting enough of: calicum, vitamin D, and potassium. And did you know that legally, the only added ingredient to white milk is vitamins? Milk is truly the purest of all food sources.

milkvssoda2

Photo via dairymoos.com

Claim: In a study of 20 countries, high milk consumption meant higher rates of Type 1 diabetes and heart disease.

Interesting. Because I can name plenty of studies showing that dairy foods consumed as a part of a HEALTHY diet aid in bone health, improve diet quality, and may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity, colon cancer and metabolic syndrome (conditions that can lead to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes). Want to see a study that suggest high-fat dairy is associated with a LOWER risk of obesity? Here you go!! Oh, and here’s another one. That’s right, current research shows that a whole fat dairy diet is healthy!

Protein is an essential part of the human diet, and milk is an excellent source. Nutrition research shows that protein helps maintain muscle mass when aging or losing weight, as well as promotes satiety and exercise recovery (especially chocolate milk!)

Here is a great article, describing several studies that show the many benefits of milk!

Claim: One serving of 2% milk has the same saturated fat count as a serving of french fries.

If you don’t like milkfat, pick a low fat or fat free option! Milk is available in many different varieties and flavors to meet your family’s needs. I personally prefer 2% milkfat. Chocolate milk is the best (and tastiest!) milk to drink after exercise because it has the ideal carbohydrate to protein ratio for ultimate refueling and rehydrating of the muscles and body.

A recent study comparing results of the consumption of high protein or high soy protein breakfast drinks was performed on obese adults for 20 weeks. The adults who consumed the dairy breakfast drinks lost significantly more abdominal fat (total of 20% loss) than those who consumed the soy drinks. The researchers suggest that protein and calcium in milk played active roles in this weight loss among milk drinkers.

The key is that we should be eating overall HEALTHY diets. It’s okay to drink whole milk. It’s okay for your children to drink higher-fat content chocolate milk. Everything is about moderation and making sure that your overall diet is healthy. Because if you eat cheeseburgers and french fries every day with your milk, well that’s not an overall healthy diet. You should still be eating lots of yummy fruits and veggies along with your milk!

Claim: Women who upped lactose intake equal to one glass of milk per day: 13% more likely to get ovarian cancer

Current evidence does not support any association between milk consumption adn an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Factors likely contributing to ovarian cancer include: age, personal history of cancer, family history of cancer, and never being pregnant. The World Cancer Research Fund showed in a 2007 study that there was NO association between milk consumption and increased risk of ovarian cancer. If you would like examples of more studies, click here.

Claim: So the next time you have a bowl of cereal and your only option is cow’s milk, eat it dry. You’ll be doing your body a favor.

Like, I said before: No thank you! Milk is wholesome, nutritious, safe, and of course- delicious! I would never give up my healthiest food source. (In fact, I don’t think that I would survive if I was stranded on a desert island and there were no cows. Coconut milk just wouldn’t cut it for me). Milk is nature’s most PURE food source available, and it is also the most nutritious! It contains nine essential nutrients that your body needs in order to stay healthy. Milk is also available in diverse options to meet your family’s needs- whole milkfat, 2%, 1%, skim, as well as chocolate and strawberry flavors. If you are lactose-intolerant, have no fear! Many dairy farms provide milk for low lactose or lactose free products, to be easily digested by lactose-intolerant individuals.

I think it’s pretty obvious that this infographic is inaccurate. Milk is truly an exceptional gift from nature! We have been drinking it since the beginning of time, and I sincerely hope that you will continue drinking milk in your home; I know that dairy will be a very valuable aspect of my dinner table when I have a family someday. Milk is important for your health and well-being, and at a mere 25 cents per glass, you really can’t get any better than that! So let’s share the love, share the health, and share the MILK!

-MollsyMoo

PS THE FARM BILL PASSED LAST WEEK!!!! (See below post to understand why I am so excited)

nationalmilkday14

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Why EVERY American Should Care About The Farm Bill

First, I would like to apologize for my lack of blogging lately. I recently moved to Washington, D.C. to begin graduate school and I have been very busy finding internships and trying not to get lost on the Metro (I’ve been successful with both, thus far. Cross your fingers on the latter though). I am thrilled to be in a city with so much passion for policy and leadership! I plan to support America’s hard-working farmers while educating the public about agriculture. Which brings me to the point of this blog post- THE FARM BILL.

You have probably heard the phrase “farm bill” mentioned at least a few times throughout your lifetime, most prevalently within these last few months. But do you know what it is, and honestly- do you really care? I’m hoping that this post will provide you with some insight into agriculture and why the farm bill is important for EVERY American, whether he or she be a cattle farmer in South Dakota, an organic-loving vegan living in a NYC high-rise, a cheese-enthusiast (like me), an avid hiker, an individual living in a small town, a university researcher, a hobby gardener, or a low-income single parent needing to provide for his or her children.

So what exactly is this infamous “farm bill?” The “Agriculture, Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013,” more commonly known as the farm bill, is legislative policy that covers anything and everything related to agriculture and rural America. Yes, pretty much ALL of agriculture and rural America. It includes laws and policies related to supporting our country through nutrition programs, forestry, conservation, crop insurance, environmentalism and sustainability practices, international trade, and research. The bill is passed once every five years or so, and the previous bill expired on September 30th, 2013. This means that farmers have been without any long-term support for the past few months. Congress and support groups are currently working hard to establish an agreement so that the bill can be passed.

With a growing global population expected to reach approximately 9.6 billion by the year 2050 (according to the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs), we will inevitably have a lot of mouths to feed! This means that farmers and ranchers will be increasingly essential to our health and well-being in the years to come. The farm bill ensures that we have the ability to feed our country in a safe, sustainable, and economical manner. Everyone benefits from the farm bill.

The entire farm bill represents about only 2% of federal funding. Although according to the Congressional Budget Office, the farm bill‘s cost will be $969 billion over 10 years, the vast majority of this budget (~80%) will go towards the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps, or SNAP). This program has been one of the impasses in passing the bill; Democrats wanted to increase the amount of funding for SNAP, while Republicans strived for a decrease. SNAP affects many low-income and struggling families who need to provide their children with healthy, safe meals.

You might be thinking: “But I don’t need to use food stamps. How does the farm bill affect ME?” The rest of the bill, or approximately 20% supports America’s farmers, ranchers, and CONSUMERS through various commodity programs. Let’s break the farm bill down by some of the areas that it covers…

Commodities and Natural Disaster Relief: This provides insurance, or a safety net, for farmers that grow things that we find in our everyday food and clothing staples like sugar, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, dairy, and cotton. As we all know, the weather is out of our control. When Hurricane Sandy happened, farmers all over the northeast were affected. This past fall, South Dakota cattle farmers were devastated as tens of thousands of cattle were killed because of a severe blizzard and extreme freezing temperatures. As a result, meat prices rose, which in turn affected CONSUMERS when they bought their meat at the grocery store or farmers’ markets. A farm bill would provide farmers and ranchers with insurance and support- whether it be for crops, cattle, etc.- in the cases when Mother Nature decides to be unforgiving. As a Wisconsinite who is literally obsessed with dairy, I personally do not want to see milk prices skyrocket to ~$6-8/gallon (which is what may happen if a farm bill is not passed.) I drink 3-4 gallons of milk per week, and as a graduate student I cannot afford to pay $32 every week for milk! I vote for stable food prices.

Conservation: The farm bill encourages sustainable farming practices that preserve our water, land, air, and soil. I plan to have children. And grandchildren. And I hope to be alive someday to meet my great-grandchildren. And maybe even my great-great grandchildren. I do NOT want them to live in a polluted and destructed world; I want for them to experience the world’s beauty. Therefore, I feel that the conservation portion of the farm is bill is a necessary tool for a healthy future generation.

Rural Development: This aspect of the farm bill provides communities with technological, business, and infrastructure improvements so that we can build our rural communities. As a result, this increases economic growth in rural America and opens up new job opportunities in diverse subject areas. Amen for job-creation.

Research:  A lot more happens at universities than students simply going to class. Research is also performed at many universities, and a portion of this research is focused on improving the agricultural and food industries. Cornell, Penn State, UW-Madison, Ohio State, and Minnesota are just a few of the top research universities that aid in discovering better food safety, conservation, nutrition, pest management, and sustainability methods. With funding for high-quality research, we are able to help our farmers to become more sustainable, efficient, and productive! Producing more, using fewer resources, is key for a sustainable future.

Farm Credit: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, less than 1% of the U.S. population claims to be farmers and the average age of farmers is rising, with about 60% of farmers in the U.S. being 55 years or older. Within the next few decades, most of our current farmers will be either too old to farm productively or have passed away. It is increasingly essential that young people continue to take over their family farms, as well as agricultural education be taught to young people to spark interest in careers within agriculture. Farm credit programs provide direct and guaranteed loans to farmers, which helps beginning farmers and ranchers to begin their new careers in feeding America’s families.

Forestry/Recreation: I am a runner…Therefore, I like to stay hydrated by drinking ridiculous amounts of water throughout the day. I am blessed that we have the fortune of clean drinking water in the U.S. I enjoy running on trails as well as going for long, beautiful hikes. Nothing beats an afternoon walking through a national or state park, with the smells and sounds of wilderness surrounding me. And everyone who knows me also knows that I am an animal-lover. The farm bill will help provide support for all of these things- including ensuring that we have clean drinking water, national parks, wildlife habitats, as well as access to camping, hunting/conservation, and other recreational activities.

Agricultural Trade and Food Aid: Exporting agricultural products creates one million jobs in the U.S.!!!!! The U.S. also participates in humanitarianism efforts in developing countries by providing aid in times of agricultural crises.

Now that I’ve explained some of the major ways that the farm bill improves not only the food industry, but also society as a whole, I hope that you can see how significant it is. The farm bill truly impacts EVERY American, no matter what he or she does for a living, no matter how old he or she is, and no matter what type of foods he or she eats. As the House Committee on Agriculture Chairman, Frank Lucas, said: “The work of the Agriculture Committee, including reauthorizing the Farm Bill, affects every American; ensuring that our farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to produce an abundant and affordable food and fiber supply is as important to our country as national defense.” The world’s population is expanding, and it is our country’s duty to provide our people with a safe and consistent food supply. So next time you go to your local grocery store or farmers market, think about not only the hard work that farmers must engage in to provide us with our food, but also think about the legislative policies that we need in order to enjoy life as we know it for many years to come.

Until next time (when I pray to God that the farm bill will be passed),

-MollsyMoo

Ps- (I can use that terminology on a blog, right?!) If you are a numbers nerd like me, you may find this report by the USDA on the economic importance of passing a farm bill interesting: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/11/0223.xml

Tagged , , , , ,

I Eat GMOs.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). They’re everywhere. Your papaya. Your “all-natural foods.” Your corn-on-the-cob. The feed that the cows whose milk you drink were fed. And they are NOT harming us. In fact, they are providing our country with a more efficient, sustainable method of feeding our people.

So what exactly are GMOs? GMOs are organisms whose genetic material has been modified or altered through genetic engineering techniques. In simple terms, we are able to take an organism and change its genetic code just enough so that the organism is more suitable for our changing society’s needs. GMOs are often used in research with an example being introducing a fluorescent gene of a jellyfish into a mammal, which can help us discover valuable traits about human diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. But they are also used in agriculture. And that is the primary purpose of this blog post.

SUSTAINABILITY. Find a photo of a farm out in the country in the 1950’s. Now compare it to a picture of that same spot in 2013. Chances are that the land will look quite different. Or it may not look different at all, depending where the picture was taken. But my point is that the world is changing due to an increasingly growing population, development in rural areas, advancements in technologies, and the ability to conduct superior scientific research. With changing climates, less open land for farming, and poorer quality soil, insects and pests have become a predominant issue when it comes to growing crops in fields. Scientists and farmers began to use advancements in technology to create seeds that are resistant to pests/insects/weeds as well as seeds that can survive in more harsh conditions such as droughts. This means that by producing crops from GMO seeds, we are able to reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides that we need to spray on our crops, which results in less chemical runoff into the waterways. Reports by the Council for Agricultural Technology also indicate that GMO crops have decreased soil erosion, preserved top soil, and provided reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we are HELPING our environment to become a more sustainable place by using GMOs.

GMOs also help farmers to grow a greater amount of healthy crops so that our families can be fed. Now, I am not a farmer. I will NEVER pretend that I am a farmer or take credit for being a farmer. I do not have to milk cows at 4:00 A.M. or be out in the fields all day, and I can only imagine the amount of time and prayers for good weather that it takes to grow crops. GMOs help famers to grow more crops with their limited amount of time and land, all for the purpose of ultimately feeding us.

HEALTH. Another awesome advantage of GMO crops is that we can produce crops that have higher nutrient profiles, such as foods that are higher in Vitamin A. GOLDEN RICE. Better eyesight? Uhm, yes please.

QUALITY. According to the USDA, GMOs allows us to produce fruits and vegetables that are better tasting and that stay fresh longer. In a country that must rely on long transportation times to deliver foods from areas like California to New York, a product that has a longer shelf life is undoubtedly ideal.

SAFETY. Are GMOs safe? The primary reason that the public is concerned about consuming GMOs is because of safety. Putting substances into our bodies that have been changed using technology just seems questionable for many people. And in this media-indulged society, I can understand the desire to question it. Heck, I question a lot of what I hear in life. That is why I recommend that everyone researches both sides of an issue before making an educated decision, and I am going to recommend that you do that for GMOs as well. Just make sure to understand where the information is coming from and whether or not that person or organization they belong to is biased. Much of the information that the media shares about GMOs is extremely biased and false. But unfortunately that’s politics, folks.

Back to GMOs… There has been little to NO evidence that GMOs cause any harm to the environment, nor evidence in introducing unique allergens or toxins into the food system, nor threats to public health. In fact, GMO foods are one of the most studied areas of science, and all crops are tested by the FDA and approved by the World Health Organization. Here is a recent article by Forbes that will give you some additional information (more like 2,000+ reasons) informing us why GMOs are safe: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/2/. I posted this article on my Facebook page a few days ago, and I found it very interesting who “liked” it. It wasn’t geneticists or employees of big corporations that liked it, but rather it was farmers, food scientists, natural resources students, environmentalists, and medical/veterinary students from respectable institutions. That right there, says something, people. It’s not large companies or corporations that are “trying to take over the world” by creating GMO seeds. But rather, it’s the doctors, the agriculturalists, the scientists, the environmentalists who understand the need for a safe method of bettering our health system in an efficient and sustainable way.

So why are we so afraid of GMOs? People are constantly searching for “non-GMO” products at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. I was in charge of dairy product sales for a farm in New Jersey for a year, and I should have really kept a tally of the number of times that customers/potential restaurant owners asked if our products were non-GMO. Despite the benefits of GMOs, they are consistently given a bad reputation and quite frankly, it’s a result of the media, politics, paranoia, and society’s current obsession with “health” trends. This frustrates me beyond belief because I understand the reasons that we use GMOs, the substantial credible scientific research that has been performed to validate their presence, and the many benefits that aid in a more sustainable country resulting from GMO use.

I am just fine with eating a cob of corn from a genetically-modified seed or cheese made from milk of cows fed GMO feed. That may sound absurd to the many consumers out there who strive to buy only non-GMO products, but when you compare the concrete facts with the misconceptions, it makes sense.

Thank you to GMOs for making our country a more sustainable place, for helping us to feed a growing population, and for providing us with the ability to study and prevent diseases to better our society. Hats off to you, GMOs.

Until next time (which I PROMISE will not be three months from now),

MollsyMoo

Tagged , ,