A good friend of mine recently shared a post on her Facebook wall which beyond being a mile long was filled with all sorts of information about foods that were supposedly dangerous and the evil companies behind them. The post started with a commentary about Smithfield Foods being bought by the Chinese and now they were shipping live hogs to China where they were processed and shipped back to the U.S. because they don’t have to follow governmental regulations about food safety. This went on into a rambling mess of misinformation and half-truths, which made my eyes glaze over and my temples begin to set themselves on “migraine” setting before I stopped reading it right as they were talking about food being raised in human waste.
I wasn’t so upset that the post was written as much as I was disappointed that so many people really are uneducated about how their food is raised and where it actually comes from. Well-meaning but obviously uneducated individuals on each coast continue to spew this garbage to people who don’t know any better and live by the mantra “once I’ve seen it on the internet twice it must be true!”. This is one of many things we in agriculture haven’t done a very good job of combating in my opinion, as too many people don’t really understand what it is we do.
This is also evident by the completely misleading and ugly post recently circulating the internet from our friends at PETA. Obviously the organization is finding itself totally irrelevant at this point because they chose to move from their usual “Fur is murder” and fake blood throwing activities to attempt to take on the half a million plus FFA members, calling it a lame organization that teaches young people about murdering defenseless animals and poisoning the world through genetically modified foods. Really? Are you going to get far attacking an organization that has nearly 8 million former members?
We are behind in this battle as many companies including Panera, Subway and Egglands Best are using “well-meaning lies” in their advertising simply to make sales. When you spout that your products are hormone free, but in tiny print below it, admit that the amount of hormone is most foods is so miniscule that it would take millions of pounds over hundreds of years of ingesting that food to make you ill; then not only are they misleading the public, they are doing so in a way that perpetuates that lie. The truth is antibiotics aren’t allowed in any animal taken to slaughter. That growth hormones aren’t allowed in milk and the amount of hormone in a pound of hamburger is 50,000 times less than in the average birth control pill and less than what is contained in a can of tuna.
It is time for us to stand up and begin advocating for our largest and most important industry. It is up to you and me to teach others where their food comes from and the work behind it. If we don’t undertake this task we may end up in a world one day where every person believes that food simply comes from the grocery store. If that is the end result…no one wins. See you next week…remember, we’re all in this together.