Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What consumers should know about their food

Firstly, if it's a report about food, and you read it in the newspaper, heard it on the radio, or saw it on television, the report you saw was almost certainly biased, untruthful, propaganda. When a Katie Couric clone tells you that eating meat will destroy your intestines, he or she is lying. Keep that in mind.

In this economy, food is increasingly expensive. There are a number of reasons for this, including monetary inflation, over-regulation, tax policies, and turning food into fuel. There is another, perhaps more important reason. The media have declared war on the food sector. To prosecute this war, they are dealing in misinformation, disinformation, factual manipulation, and – most of all – outright lies. These constant attacks not only undermine your confidence in the food supply, they directly and indirectly drive up retail food prices.

According to the media narrative, our food is unsafe, tainted by toxins and infected with pathogens. Greedy farmers intentionally load their produce with poisonous chemicals and ranchers pump their livestock full of hormones and antibiotics. This is done to maximize profits, regardless of the well-known consequences suffered by consumers.

Most consumers seem to be skeptical of these claims. They continue to eat the presumably deadly foods three – or more – times each day. They realize that the food isn’t making them sick or killing them, nor is it sickening or killing anyone they know. But the narrative is persistent and pervasive, and it’s a cause for concern. We’ve all heard the adage, “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Given the message, consumers are only right to wonder where the fire is, and whether it’s heading their way.

Consumer confidence is being constantly attacked, and the narrative flies in the face of reality. At some level, consumers who eat well each and every day of their lives, understand that their food supply is the safest, most nutritious, and least expensive of any food supply on earth. Here’s a bit of anecdotal evidence:

At the Kimball Farmers’ Day celebration last September, our ranch donated the ground beef for the free hamburger feed. We provided more than 500 lbs. of tasty, nutritious, grassfed beef to the event. We wanted to be available to answer any questions or concerns about the main course, so we set up an information booth.

Grassfed burgers sizzle on the grill at Kimball’s 86th Annual Farmers’ Day celebration.

Youngsters add condiments to their burgers at Kimball’s 86th Annual Farmers’ Day celebration.

The hungry crowd was all smiles at the free hamburger feed during Kimball’s 86th Annual Farmers’ Day celebration.

Our booth was the John Deere Gator which we’d driven through the parade. We parked it adjacent to the serving lines and attached a few “ask me” posters, inviting questions about antibiotics and hormones, grassfed vs. grain finished beef, nutrition and food safety, and ranching or agriculture in general.

Though we received many thanks and compliments, we heard nary a question about the source of the beef or about any quality or safety concerns. I was slightly surprised at this, considering the preponderance of negative press. How many positive food stories have you seen on television or read in the press over the last decade? (The answer is ZERO.) I drew two general conclusions from the lack of questions. Firstly, the free hamburger consumers were hungry after waiting in line and were more interested in eating than in talking. And most importantly, they were probably not very concerned about the quality and safety of the food.

I suspect that this is the case with the vast majority of American consumers. Despite being constantly bombarded with horror stories about an unsafe and even poisoned food supply, almost no one has ever been sickened by the food they eat, nor do many consumers even know of anyone who has been sickened. They are almost certainly somewhat concerned about the bad food narrative, but their experience tells them there’s never been anything wrong with the food they’ve consumed.

So what should consumers know about their food supply to help them overcome the false narrative spread by the major media? To start with, let’s deconstruct the meat narrative.

The narrative espoused by the major media – network television, major newspapers and magazines, national public radio, etc. – is consistent. The narrative claims that ranchers, seeking profit at all cost, use antibiotics and hormones to force animal growth. As a consequence of this, according to the narrative, the meat you consume is tainted with antibiotics, pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, and loaded with hormones. Antibiotics in the “tainted” meat are toxic, the narrative implies, and the added hormones cause obesity, early puberty, cancer and death. Overuse of antibiotics cause the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which kill 100,000 consumers each year and sicken many more.

If you think my claims about the narrative are overblown, I challenge you to find an objective story on U.S. meat production which has aired or been published in the major media in the last decade. If you provide it, I’ll make an appropriate retraction in this space.

But you’ll have a hard time finding one.

Far more common are hit pieces such as Katie Couric’s “exclusive” on antibiotic use in food animals, ABC and Jamie Oliver’s attacks on Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), and fantastic claims that hormones are causing all manner of health problems.

When it comes to antibiotic use in food animals, the press gets it completely wrong. They’re either fail to understand what antibiotics are and how they work, or they’re intentionally lying. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

In food animals, antibiotics are used to treat or prevent specific bacterial illnesses. The same thing is done in human medicine. But the system is better regulated when it comes to food animals. Veterinarians and ranchers administer only approved and therapeutic doses of antibiotics. Antibiotic withdrawal periods and USDA inspectors ensure that no meat containing antibiotics or antibiotic residues enters the food supply.

Couric (and legions of other so-called journalists) report that overuse of antibiotics in food production causes the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which kill more than 100,000 Americans each year. She cited the finding of Methicillin-Resistant Staph. aureus (MSRA) in a single Iowa hog operation as proof. Within a week her entire “exclusive report” was completely discredited; livestock are never treated with methicillin, and the bacteria found on the pigs came from farm workers. In the reverse of Couric’s claim, the animals had been infected by humans. For the complete story, visit

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and ABC news have hounded BPI (Beef Products International) over their LFTB product, which they call “pink slime”. ABC is presently subject to a defamation lawsuit over their fantastic claims. Oliver demonstrated his understanding of LFTB to his studio audience when he mixed rotting meat scraps with household ammonia cleaner and ground it in a blender. This was such a fabrication and intentional misrepresentation that it’s hard to believe any but psychotic and deranged person would make such claims. In the actual LFTB process, lean meat is separated from fresh, fatty meat trimmings via a centrifuge. The lean meat is treated with a tiny amount of ammonium hydroxide, which increases the pH of the meat to inhibit bacterial growth. Ammonia is a nitrogen compound which occurs naturally in all foods. In fact, a typical bacon cheeseburger made with LFTB contains a total of  232 milligrams of ammonia. The bun contains 50 mg, the bacon 16 mg, the condiments 50 mg, and the cheese 76 mg. The LFTB contains 40 mg, or about 17 percent of the total.

When it comes to hormones, the narrative consensus is that beef is so loaded with growth promoting estrogen compounds that children become obese and suffer an early onset of puberty, and that the high levels of hormones cause cancer and other diseases. Just how high are these levels? Estrogen is measured in nanograms (ng) per 500 grams (g) of food product. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Beef from a non-implanted steer contains five nanograms of estrogen in 500 grams of meat. That number rises in an implanted steer to seven nanograms, an increase of two-billionths of a gram in roughly a pound of beef. That’s not so bad, is it? But let’s compare the estrogen content in implanted beef (7ng/500g) to milk (32ng), butter (310ng), eggs (555ng), peanuts (100,000ng), white bread (300,000ng), pinto beans (900,000ng), and tofu (113.5 million nanograms).

Do my claims still seem overblown? I can’t speak to why the press is attacking the food industry. I have my suspicions. More important though is what they are doing. They are lying to you, and playing on your fears. This is a despicable thing to do, and is a direct attack on the first amendment and freedom of speech.

The media is supposed to report factual, objective news. They claim they do so. Do you believe them?

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