Our Own Worst Enemies

In North Dakota, lots of good people pulled together and worked hard to defeat the animal rights Measure 5 proposed by HSUS that severely threatened livestock producers.  The measure was defeated at the general election of 5 November last year.  That victory has been short-lived.

A new animal rights bill is now proposed:  Senate Bill 2211.  Incredibly, it was written by the very people who worked so hard to defeat Measure 5!

A vain attempt by agricultural organizations to prove that they are “reasonable” and to protect their members, this bill will make any thinking rancher quake in his boots.

“Any person that willfully (sic) engages in animal cruelty is guilty of a class C felony .

2. For purposes of this chapter, “animal cruelty” means:

a. Any act or omission that causes an animal unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death,

including the infliction of any injury that results in a substantial risk of death,

leaves an animal significantly disfigured, results in broken bones, or causes

prolonged impairment of an animal’s health; and

b. Any act or omission that results in a serious illness and leaves an animal

significantly disfigured or causes prolonged impairment of the animal’s health.”

Language is then inserted stating that “usual and customary practices in production agriculture” do not constitute violations.  The people proposing and backing this bill are, at best, totally ignorant of the modus operandi of our enemies.

When I read the above definition of animal cruelty, I immediately think of that chronic steer that I have treated three times and kicked out to grass.  Or the extreme case of footrot that I treated by amputating a toe.  Or the heifer with a dead calf inside her that I hadn’t found for a day or two.  Or the wild cow who jumped into the steel fence and broke her nose.  Or the calves that got bogged in the low-water pond and died before I could get to them.  Or, or, or.

If any man who makes his whole living ranching or feedlotting or slaughtering thinks that the above definition of animal cruelty could not be applied to him multiple times in any given week, then I offer this challenge:

Let me hang out at your place — unfettered access — with a video camera for a few weeks.  I will make a short documentary that would convince the average judge or jury that what they see does not comprise “usual and customary practices in production agriculture.”

TempleGrandin will be interviewed and her expert testimony will be, “That is absolutely unacceptable.  That is not what the majority of producers do.”

When my video of your practices is aired nation-wide by complicit media, you will discover what it feels like to be abandoned by your “industry” and everyone you thought were your friends.

You will be found guilty.  You will be a convicted felon.

According to this proposed legislation, every honest producer in North Dakota will be.  It’s just a matter of time…. a function of when you happen to find yourself — for whatever related or unrelated reason — in the line of sight of one of our enemies.

This bill does not protect North Dakota ranchers.  It gives them away.

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I love ag.  I love the fact that there are many good men and women who fought HSUS and won.  I hope they see that it does not matter who authors bad legislation.  Just because they wrote it, does not mean that it will not be used against good, honest producers.

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IMG_0378

These confined pigs struggled to get up on the hard, unnatural concrete. They were lying in their own urine. The white pig gnawed at the leg of the black pig. Through their pitiful grunts, they seemed to be begging me, “Help! Free me from this prison!”….Nah, not really. These are show pigs of friends of ours. These pigs were happy as Larry (whoever he is)! They have it made! Constant temperature year-round, all the fresh feed and clean water they want, a walk around outside every day, a 13-year-old girl caring for them as though they were her family! I cannot upload the video I have of them, but what I described above could very well have been the interpretation of the video. Especially with a little lighting change and some eerie music. I was not even filming with mal-intent. I can do MUCH better than this if I intend to do you harm! 

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Are YOU Sustainable?

One reason I love ag so much is because of the individuals involved in agriculture.  The farmers and ranchers themselves.  Individuals like my dad.

Dad was a problem solver every day of his life.  Problems arise whenever a “doer” does something.  Dad was always doing something.

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Mom and Dad with their two oldest grandchildren.

I remember one day when I was about 10.  Dad and I were going to feed hay to the cattle in freezing weather.  But the front-end-loader tractor had some engine trouble.  Without fanfare, Dad started taking the tractor apart.  I was helping him by holding nuts and shining the drop light (not in his eyes!) and fitting my smaller hand into places he had trouble with.

“How do you know how to do all this, Dad?” I asked, amazed at his calm, methodical mechanical work (which, as he shared with me in later years, he happened to hate!).

“I don’t.  I just start and figure it out as I go.”

His words stuck with me.  Dad was a doer.  Doers make more mistakes than anyone else.  But they also learn more and get more done than anyone else.

Dad is 74 now, and doesn’t do as much as he used to.  But whenever I do something, I want him around.  He just knows so much!  He recently taught me how to install a new air conditioner, including wiring in a new 20 amp breaker and running the wire through the wall.  He was never trained in this.  He figured it out on his own as he went about his every-day production tasks.  I’m the beneficiary of his explorer’s mentality.

Apparently, today’s burning question is, “Was Dad sustainable?”

Did he have a procedures manual to document every production task he undertook every day?  Did he file a plan before tearing into that tractor?  Did he have a mission statement that included words like “biodiversity” and “ecology” and “society?”  Did he outline how he was going to decrease his “environmental footprint?”  Did he have a licence to do that electrical work?

Nope.  He was too busy figuring out how to do things better.  How to be more efficient.  Solving problems as they arose.  Producing.

No, Dad was not sustainable.

He provided a living for himself and my mother.  He raised 5 kids.  He produced food that other people demanded.  And he took care of his own land and animals in order to do all of that.  But by our own industry’s definition of sustainability, he didn’t even come close.

Here’s to Dad and all the other farmers and ranchers and other producers like him who are “un-sustainable.”

If only we had more in the world like them.

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Yep, I sure do love ag.  Oh, and just to be clear, I love my mother, too.  She wasn’t sustainable either!  🙂

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Below is the transcript from the press conference in Tampa, Florida, at which “our” industry’s Sustainability Assessment project was explained.  I believe it’s vital that every true producer out there read it in its entirety.

Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment Press Conference

(First major event in Tampa)

Jon Robinson of NCBA’s Communications Team welcomed everyone and introduced Richard Gebhardt, Vice Chairman of NCBA’s Federation Division, and member of CBB’s Producer Communications Working Group, and member of NCBA Executive Committee.

GEBHARDT:

I think one of the things you’re going to hear over the next couple of days when you start talking about sustainability – and you’re probably going to get tired of hearing it, but I think it’s a very, very important part – sustainability is not an on and off switch.  It’s not binary, it’s not that you’re sustainable or not sustainable.  Sustainability is about, you’re gonna hear the word “journey.”  Probably a more technical word is “continuous improvement.”

And so, but this journey started about 2 years ago with a pretty bold decision in my opinion by the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, a joint committee between the Federation Division and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board that allocates or makes funding decisions with the 50 cents of the Checkoff dollars that producers commit.  And that was to go forward in this area of Sustainability.

And… this is new.  And it was loaded with uncertainty not even loaded with risk.  This is a brand-new field.  And I’m really excited about this thing.  You know, we’ve had a lot of parties involved in it.  NCBA is the principal contractor to the Checkoff and Bo and Kim handled the principal coordination of the thing, the Board appointed me to – I don’t know if I was supervising them or not, but they kind of carried me along and I’ve learned a lot about this.

Two other parties I’d like to mention and get ‘em on record because they’ve been a great contributor to this thing and I’ve learned a lot from ‘em.  Number one is a corporation which you probably wouldn’t think would be involved with sustainability efforts. And it’s the BASF Corporation, headquartered in Germany.  And a great leader.  I’ve learned a lot from ‘em, I think Bo and Kim – I won’t speak for them – but they’ve taught us a lot.

And then the other one that was kind of surprising was the USDA’s animal research facility in Clay Center, Nebraska.

And…I’m gonna sit down here because, but, I think you won’t be able to get a handle around this project when you first see it.  You’re gonna have to look at it two or three times.  I’m not the smartest bulb on the circuit out there, but this thing is complex.  And I’m really proud of the way Kim and Bo melded the supply chain together and the metrics that they used, especially up-stream, up close to the cow-calf guy, the simulations that were made down at the Clay Center welded with more observational-type data downstream towards the consumer.

With that said, I’d like to introduce Kim and Bo.

STACKHOUSE:

Okay, thank you everybody for being here.  We’re…I’m gonna go ahead and walk through a very short presentation today on the assessment.  We’re going to be rolling this out at a larger meeting at 1:30 in Salon F at the Marriott, so we would love for you to come.  I do think that it is something that you have to see a few times in order to digest it and get your arms fully around it.

So, sustainability really became a word when the UN FAO published “Livestock’s Long Shadow” and they suggested that livestock was worse than all of the world’s transportation when we talked about greenhouse gases and carbon footprint.  But really, what the report wanted to do was answer the question, “How do we feed 9 billion people by 2050?” and they suggest that we’re gonna need at least 70% more food.  And that we have to produce 70% more food with fewer resources than we do today.

So really, the question becomes, “How do we produce more with less?”  We’re running out of resources.  Resources are finite.  And agriculturalists all over the globe are asking the same question.  How do we produce more with less?

Now this story is really the model of the beef industry, right?  We’ve been doing this for generations – producing more with less – but we have very little data to back that up.  And to be able to talk about our role in feeding this global population and answering this challenge of how do we become more sustainable.

So sustainability is really one of those words that everyone has a different definition for.  And I always joke that if you were going to ask 100 students, “How would you define sustainability?” each one of them would have a different answer.  And so that’s really the first challenge that the beef industry had, was to define sustainability and what it meant to the beef industry.

And they started with an advisory committee that was both…mostly… had Checkoff producers involved, and they said, “We need the definition of sustainability to be larger than the traditional definition that’s been predominantly centered around carbon footprint and GHG emissions.  We need it to be completely balanced along our supply chain.  And we want to address 3 aspects:  Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability.  And we’re not just interested in gas emissions or air emissions from the environmental side, we’re also interested in our contributions to water, and soil, and land use, and does our product influence solid waste or resource consumption, and we’re interested in how our product and it’s sustainability affects consumer price, right, and production costs.

And on the social side, we want to make sure that we’re contributing to our communities and we want to be able to measure that, both in our contributions to rural economies, but also in our larger sense, where is there equal opportunity employment?  What sort of working conditions do our employees have?  So it’s a…we really took a holistic approach to the definition of sustainability.

The next thing we had to do, and Richard talked about the process that we have is really to put together a project that made sense.  A project that would answer the perceptions of what sustainability was to the beef industry, but also surrounding that definition which was so important to us.  So we conducted…or we set out to conduct…a comprehensive sustainability assessment of the entire beef industry.  So this is a complete life cycle assessment that analyzes the industry for the first time from birth of the animal through consumption of our product.  And through every single chain as we go through.

The next thing that we said is that 2011 is not good enough.  Just understanding where we’re at in 2011 isn’t going to help us make conscious decisions on how to improve over time.  It’s not going to help us on our journey like Richard mentioned.  So we said, “Okay, let’s go back in time and let’s pick years that make sense.”  And the first thing they said was, “Well, the biggest shift in our industry was the shift to boxed beef that we had in the late 60s early 70s.”  We need to understand how our sustainability changed when we made that shift to boxed beef.

And the second thing they said is that in the early 2000s — and we chose 2005 for some, some data reasons (there’s stronger data in 2005 than there is in 2001 or 2002) – we said ethanol became a major commodity, if you want to call it that.  And we started feeding distiller’s grains.  And that changed our industry again.  We had to figure out how to do better at feeding these new diets that contained distiller’s grains.

And then we decided, also, of course, to include 2011 as our benchmark.

They also said that the social component that was initially included in the original BASF model – although it included two things:  occupational health and safety and also toxicity potential – wasn’t good enough.  And that we knew that BASF was coming up with a whole new model that included a complete social analysis.  And they said, “We want to be the first to do that!”

And that data’s not ready to go.  We’re still in the process of collecting that and analyzing it because of the timing of the models, but it will be coming.  When we complete the project.

And the next thing that they had to ask themselves was, “Are we afraid of conducting the largest and most comprehensive lifecycle assessment that’s ever been done?” Not just at the level of a food chain, but ever been done before.

So they really approached this as leaders and thus, they’ve set the stage for beef leading the sustainability conversation globally.

So the project has three parts.  We started with the hotspot analysis, which I’m going to talk about a little bit later.  But basically this is the part where we went out and asked our stakeholders, “What’s your perception of beef sustainability?”  “What story do you know about our sustainability?”

The second part was the life cycle assessment.  This is the actual scientific data that goes on.  This is the part that will…has taken us the longest, and it includes environmental, economic and social parameters.  And it was very important, like Richard mentioned, that we had to partner with the right team.  We had to partner with people like BASF, and USDA ARS who shared our definition of sustainability.  That shared our belief in the importance of going all the way… from birth of the animal to consumption of the product, and not just stopping at the farm gate the way so many projects have done.

And then, finally, we said that we wanted to develop a lifecycle assessment tool that could be used by individual operators along the entire value chain.  This is in process right now, so I won’t be mentioning that, or talking about it too much today, but we are in the process, and we’re hoping to have our first lifecycle assessment tool developed by April.  To be used.

So what is the hotspot analysis?  This is really a qualitative assessment, okay, to identify the perceived issues along the value chain.  So it’s based on non-scientific literature.  And that’s kind of a big jump for Bo and I and Richard to say, “Okay, we’re not going to go to the normal journals, right, the normal peer review journals.”  We have to actually ask Google what it thinks about beef sustainability.  We have to ask what the perceptions are of the consumers…those people that hear about us in the media every day.  And then we said, “Okay, we’re going to take those perceptions and we’re going to make a survey that we then ask 100 of our stakeholders to participate in.  Out of those 100, we had approximately 40 willing to participate, which seemed terrible to me at the first.  I was so disappointed.  And then BASF told us that we usually only get 15% interested in participating.  Well almost half wanted to participate in our survey.  So there’s a lot of interest in this at the level of our stakeholders.

I think, most importantly, it gives us an idea of what’s known about us and it allows us as scientists that we’re not just answering the questions that we think are important, but that other people think are important.  And that really gives us the tools to start to tell our sustainability story.  And it also gives us starting points for actions for improvement.  So we don’t have to wait for the science to come out to start answering some of these perceptions that are known about us.  And you’ll see why.

So we asked then, “What are your perceptions of the beef industry when it comes to sustainability?”

They had some concerns.  Their highest concerns are bolded for you in the areas under their pillars, okay, so if we go to the environment, Biodiversity was their number one concern.  For sustainability.  Then air emissions, water emissions, land management and water use.  Notice, nowhere up there is there carbon footprint.

When we go to the economic, they say compliance with the law.  They’re worried about large, confined operations, which they call CAFOs, being in non-compliance.  They’re worried about traceability, they’re worried that we’re damaging rural economies.

Under the social side, animal health and welfare was their number one sustainability concern.  Consumer health and safety, consumer education, and food availability.

So when we looked at this, first we were surprised, right, we were surprised that carbon footprint didn’t even make the top list because we thought that that was most people’s definition of what sustainability meant.

But what we learned…sustainability has become this larger umbrella of issues for our stakeholders.  And so, we started to work through how we were going to answer these.  Some of these things we will be answering with the sustainability assessment, some of these things we already know a lot about.  Like nutrition was one of the social concerns.  We have a lot of research…a lot of work built into the nutrition facts around beef.  And maybe we need to do a better job communicating with our sustainability stakeholders on what those are.

So now we’re gonna switch into the second phase of the scope of the project, which is the life cycle assessment.  Now this is the most complex part of the project, so bear with me as we go through this.

Due to the complexity of the beef value chain on-farm, so through the cow-calf, into the stocker and into the feedyard, we felt that a traditional life-cycle assessment which only accounts for inputs and outputs wasn’t good enough.  So we went to USDA ARS Pasture Systems and Management and we said, “We want to use your process-based model.  Now a process-based model basically just uses mathematical equations to derive biological processes as they occur in nature.  So, in other words, we need to be able to capture how things change based on region.  So, in Oklahoma right now, Richard’s probably not getting much grass.  And he probably didn’t have a lot of grass this summer.  But we know that the weather was decent in the NE part of our country, right?  They had quite a bit of grass…and rain.  In that region.

So we can’t just say, “There’s this much grass produced by going out and cutting it and weighing it and putting it into a life cycle assessment.  We have to rely on technology to predict that for us.  On research models that say, “Based on the temperature of the year, the season that we’re in, the soil quality that we have and the amount of rain that we get, we’re going to be able to predict how much grass is gonna grow, thus predict the performance of those cattle, how much that mama milked, and if she’s gonna cycle again to breed back the next time.  So that’s what that model does.  That model basically predicts on farm biological processes.

Then we asked BASF, who’s an expert in chemical development, right, and chemical processing, to take our post-harvest side.  To take us from the packer through the retailer into case-ready and into the consumer.  And they’re very good at counting inputs and outputs.  So we basically merged this model into the BASF model to create what’s called an eco-efficiency portfolio.  Which we’ll present in a little bit.

Now, remember, I talked about the years.  So we actually have data back into the 70s on-farm, because of the meat animal research center, which Richard mentioned.  Okay, so they have a massive database that we can then take these biological models that are mathematically based, and compare them to the data we have at the US animal research center.  We do not have data back into the 70s, unfortunately, on the post-harvest side.  So the major results that include everything from birth of the animal through consumption of beef will only be looking at comparing 2005 and 2011.

So, what do you need to know?  To understand the data, which you’ll see in just a little bit.  Remember that life cycle assessments are mostly an accounting system, right?  Accounting for the inputs and outputs.  And we have things called secondary emissions.  So, for example, if you have cardboard, right? That’s used in the production of beef – so we ship beef in cardboard boxes.  That cardboard comes in with an impact…of how much IT affected environmental, social and economic parameters of sustainability to make the cardboard.

So we have to account for ALL of the inputs and ALL of the outputs in these life cycle assessments.

On-farm, the best example is fertilizer.  Fertilizer has an impact.  To make it.  So we have to take that impact into OUR assessment.  Okay?  So we have to understand secondary and primary.

Again, the cow-calf and feedlot portion of this project are based solely on the meat animal research center at this point.  Which is based in Clay Center, NE.  We have plans in 2013 to regionalize the data, so we will take these models that we’ve created and start to build assumption herds in different regions across the United States.

Now the reason for that is that cattle production is very different in Clay Center, NE, than in Florida.  Right?  Grass grows at different times of the year, cattle calve at different times of the year, there’s different management systems.  So we have to be able to understand how the sustainability of these systems change, based on the region.

The packer data is representative of approximately 60% of the harvested animals we have in the industry.  Unfortunately, we did not have any cooperation from the retail sector.  So we used public available data from FMI, EPA and USDA.  Now, because we did not have the participation from the retailers, we did not have primary consumer data either, so that’s all from public available sources as well.

Okay, so what do we need to understand moving forward?  Certification of this project is THE most important thing to the research team and to the Checkoff.  We will be submitting this project for certification to the National Standards Foundation, who is the same certifiers of the ISO Certification, so they’re very…they’re the largest certification company in the world… in the next coming months.

So all of the data that you’re seeing here is preliminary.  So please, we need to keep this inside the family, we need to wait till this is certified at this point to really release this publicly.

Um, we have 2005 and 2011 data, and this serves as a benchmark for where we’re at today.  There will be some results suggesting where we can go in the future, and where improvements we’ve seen in the past.  But today, this is a benchmark based on ClayCenter and 60% of the packing industry.

Our final report will include the social pillar.  Remember that’s not yet complete.  And you have to understand that everything we show you is based on one pound of minimally processed, boneless, edible consumed beef.  So this is our eco-efficiency portfolio for the beef industry since 2005.  On your X axis, you have cost normalized, and notice that the numbers are inverted.  So the highest value or the highest cost is at the X-Y intercept.  And environmental burden is on your Y axis.  And again, notice the highest environmental burden is towards the X-Y intercept.  And this is the area of red.  Okay, so that would be low eco-efficiency or low sustainability.  As we move away from the X-Y intercept, it gets greener, indicating higher eco-efficiency or higher sustainability.

So, since 2005, which is denoted here by the red data point, to 2011, the beef industry has seen significant improvement.  Another way to look at this is through the environmental footprint.  So this is taking, basically, the data indicators from the Y axis and putting it in a visual so we can all see improvements.

So there are 6 components to the environmental burden portion of the life cycle assessment.  Energy Consumption.  Emissions, which include emissions to soil, water and air.  Toxicity potential, which is a social indicator.  Occupational illnesses and accidents, which is also a social indicator.  Resource Consumptions, so the utilization of utilities, water, etcetera.  And Land Use.

And you can see that in every area, the beef industry has made improvements.  From 2005 to 2011.  Essentially shrinking that environmental footprint.

So the next question we always get is, “So you’ve measured these improvements, but where are they coming from?”  There’s been a tremendous amount of innovation along the beef value chain.  The innovations that have occurred on farm have included things like machinery technology, so remember the same example I used about fertilizer, where we have to take into account the impacts that it took to make the fertilizer?  Well, when tractors become more efficient, we get to take the advantages of that machinery efficiency.

Irrigation techniques have improved.  Fertilizer and manure management techniques have improved, things like precision farming have made a big deal, improvements that we’ve seen in animal performance, genetics, health and management have improved the sustainability of our industry, and, of course, the improvements we’ve seen in crop yields in the last 6 years.

On the post-harvest side, we have some incredible innovation that’s happened in the last 5 years.  There’s been a lot of plants shifting to more bio-gas capture, closed-loop water cooling systems, water recycling systems, in the case-ready part of the industry, we have right-sized packaging taking place, so using less plastic to package meat and ship it.  We have increased plant utilization and optimization.

So I hope you can see when we start thinking about the ways that we’ve made a difference in the industry.  It’s not just about improvements that we’ve seen on-farm.  Or on the feedlot.  Or improvements that we’ve only seen in the packing community.  It’s improvements across the entire industry.  And it’s that holistic approach that gives us that overall example, or that overall take-away on that eco-efficiency portfolio.

So there were some things that surprised us, right, when we conducted the project.  First and foremost was the vast definitions of sustainability that we got.  You guys saw the hotspot analysis, and the little graphic that we put up there for you.  And we noticed that GHG and carbon footprint weren’t even listed as one of the top hotspots.

We also were surprised at the improvements achieved from bio-gas recovery and the closed-loop water cooling systems and waste-water recovery systems made such a difference.  On the packing sector.  They were huge contributions and huge innovations that changed the sustainability of our industry.

We were also surprised that we think that the lowest-hanging fruit and the biggest opportunity for us to improve as a beef industry moving forward, is to partner with folks who are working on food waste.  If we could reduce food waste, at the consumer level, by half, we could improve our beef sustainability portfolio by 10%.

So there’s huge value in doing these types of assessments to understand where those improvement opportunities are.

So, what are the benefits from this sort of research?  I think it gives us the data and the proof we need to tell our story.  It’s based in good science, and it demands that the supply chain focus on the right areas to actually achieve sustainability improvements.  And we avoid arbitrary areas that may be regulated or imposed upon us, right?  And it also effectively addresses the need for more sustainable alternatives, and helps us feed that growing world.  It helps us become a part of the solution.

And I think it’s always important to keep in mind, we always end our presentations with this, um, slide, and it speaks to what Richard mentioned before.  That sustainability is about continuously improving over time.  That it’s a journey.  Not a destination.  And that we have a sustainable product today, but we always want a more sustainable product tomorrow.

And we hope that’s going to resonate with the consumer.  That that will help build consumer trust, and build beef demand.

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One last thing. If you think this project is driven from within by our own industry people, read the comments on this article in Brownfield News.  I found it quite enlightening.

To Supply, Or Not? Chinese Government Demands Pig in a Poke!

And in other news….

China will stop imports of US pork unless it’s certified Ractopamine-Free as of 1 March 2013.

Ractopamine is a beta-agonist, delivered through feed in the last 2-3 weeks of the feeding period, which causes energy to deposit to muscle rather than fat, thereby increasing the lean meat yield on each hog killed. In short, it’s great for efficiency, which, by definition, is great for the environment, as it produces more end product using fewer resources.

pigs

Photo courtesy of Trent Loos.
Stolen with assumed permission.
Update: Permission granted. Whew!

Small traces of ractopamine have been found in pork, but you’d have to eat lots of ractopamine to experience any ill effects. And I mean A LOT. If you take a lot of anything … even water! … it will kill you.

So the Chinese Government, succumbing to pressure (maybe their pork producers have a strong lobby, but I’m guessing it’s more from international animal rights groups), have banned ractopamine and pork produced using it.

The fact is that pork from hogs fed ractopamine is the same as pork from hogs not fed ractopamine. It’s a safe and proven technology. (Of course, there’s not a shortage of articles scaremongering about it.) So the Chinese Government is demanding that their own people pay more money for the same product.

US pork producer Smithfield Farms has promised to supply the pork mandated by the Chinese Government, and will go through the required third-party audits.

Trent Loos’s short monolog on Smithfield’s move is worth listening to. Trent quotes the Smithfield spokesman.

He boasts of his company’s ability, due to vertical integration, to respond to “changing consumer demands.”

But this has nothing to do with what consumers want. This is policy being developed with no thought whatsoever to true consumer choice. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be proud!

The Chinese people do not get to choose whether they get to buy low-cost ractopamine pork or higher-cost ractopamine-free pork. I’m pretty sure there’d be a few million of them choose the cheaper option.

So Smithfield is NOT providing what consumers want. This has nothing to do with consumers. This is all about trade barriers, anti-modern-farming movements, and big companies apologizing for using technologies that allow us to feed the world’s population.

Should Smithfield be free to do what they are doing? Absolutely. But we must ensure that our own government does not pass legislation or make regulations outlawing the use of ractopamine here in the US, “in the interest of protecting our export markets.”

Let producers here in the US compete. If Smithfield wants to produce more expensive pork and submit themselves to auditing by people who know nothing about producing, that should be up to them. Another company might just decide to continue to produce cheaper pork for me and my family and the millions in the world like me.

Demand for pork from pigs fed ractopamine is huge. But I’m certain that when even the elitists who rail against food technology are hungry, they will be happy to eat GM-corn, ractopamine-treated pork, and HGP-treated beef.

Governments benevolently deciding on behalf of their citizens what is good for them never seems to last very long.

I’m a bit turned off going to New York City, knowing that I can’t get a 44-ounce soft drink to share with my kids. And I certainly won’t be journeying to China for their extra-safe pork, thank you very much.

I’ll take my chances right here in the dangerously (relatively) free middle part of the USA.

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I love ag.  But what happens when companies stop spending money to develop new technology because people who hate production are dominating policy-making and ensuring that new technologies are outlawed?  Will the anti-everything forces succeed in stopping inventions and innovations?  Only if we let them.

Dancing With The Devil

 

Somebody’s knockin. Should I let him in?

Lord, it’s the devil, would you look at him!

I’ve heard about him, but I never dreamed,

He’d have blue eyes and blue jeans.

–Terri Gibbs

The problem with evil is that it doesn’t come dressed in a bright red suit with a long tail and pointy horns.  It doesn’t come bearing a pitchfork, flaming hot.

Devil

It’s just flat out difficult to recognize sometimes.  This devil comes into our circle, dressed like one of us, talking our talk, saying nice things about us.  All the while, he is planting seeds that will destroy us.

We will not recognize the germination and growth of those seeds until it’s too late.  Then when we confront him in shock and anger, he will laugh merrily with bright eyes and say, “I did not do this to you.  You did it to yourselves.”

And he will be right.

I attended the Cattle Industry Convention in Tampa, Florida last week and met many amazingly good people.  I was told that I needed to attend the Freedom to Operate committee meeting on Thursday afternoon.  I can tell you, I’d much rather have laughed and mingled outside that room.  Ignorance is bliss and all that.

But there is none so blind as those who refuse to see.  The people inside the room are refusing to see that they are dancing with the devil himself.

Our industry has spent millions of dollars developing, promoting, improving, promoting, tweaking, and promoting Beef Quality Assurance (BQA).  We were told back in the mid-1980’s, “If we do not do it, someone else will do it for us.”

Punch in the Gut #1

Inside the room, Dean Danilson, PhD, a representative from Tyson Foods, spoke about their new Farm Check audit program.  (I wrote about the program when it was first announced:  Tyson Foods Announces A Win for Wayne Pacelle.)  He told us that pork, beef and chicken suppliers to Tyson would be required to submit to random animal welfare audits of their private facilities.

A third-party will audit.

“Who will the third party be?” asked a rancher in the room.

Tenders for third party auditor are still under consideration.

The focus is on human-animal interactions and improving human treatment of animals.  Tyson just wants to make sure those interactions are appropriate.

“What is the definition of appropriate?” asked another rancher in the room.

The audit program is still being developed in collaboration with industry, NGOs and other participants.

“Which NGOs are involved in the development of the standards?” asked another rancher in the room.

The ones who are involved in animal welfare.

“Is HSUS involved?”

There are a variety of NGOs involved.

“Why are you developing a new QA program when we as an industry have spent much time and money developing BQA?”

Tyson’s people tell them that BQA is unacceptable because it is developed by industry and is voluntary.

On the concluding slides, justification for the program was given:

“If we don’t do it, somebody else will.”

Punch in the Gut #2

I spoke up in the meeting (we were all encouraged to participate and share our ideas, after which we were encouraged to come together and “move forward” by supporting the anti-freedom initiatives within the Freedom to Operate Committee).  I told Dr. Danilson that if he thought HSUS or WWF or Mercy for Animals or any of the other anti-animal-agriculture groups out there would accept Tyson’s QA program any more than they would accept BQA, he was dreaming.  (WWF is the World Wildlife Fund.)

Immediately, a man in the room stood up and took issue with my statement.  “I work for WWF and I can tell you that we are a reasonable organization.  We are not anti-animal agriculture.  You ranchers have to realize that you are not the only ones who care about your animals.  Other people care, too, and you need to work with other reasonable people…”  (I paraphrase, but this is pretty close to what he said.)

WWF Guy in Freedom to Operate Committee meeting

I encouraged everyone in the room to drill down on what WWF works for and stands for, and to make their own decisions about how “reasonable” they are.

WWF is one of the largest advocates of climate change alarmism around the world.  If there is any single movement that is anti-animal agriculture in its own right, climate change alarmism is.

WWF also advances anti-private property concepts such as endangered species and  wetlands legislation and regulation, which always result in a taking of land without due compensation.  How many cattlemen have been negatively affected by “conservation” groups and the tangled mess of legislation and regulation they advance?

Most chilling in the current context, however, are WWF’s attacks on intensive animal agriculture, such as this blatantly anti-cattle, anti-feedlot article found on their website.  (Have a look at the other links on the left-hand side of the page, including “Antibiotics and hormones.”)

I could not believe they were in the room.  The fox is not only guarding the henhouse, they have apparently designed and built the henhouse – with our own money.

Punch in the Gut #3

Before I tell you about the third punch in the gut, let me give you some background, and ask you to do a tiny bit of research for yourself on 1) Maurice Strong, 2) Agenda 21 and 3) the Triple Bottom Line.

Maurice Strong

Maurice Strong fertilized the seed of the “Sustainable Development” movement way back in 1972 at the UN Convention in Stockholm, Sweden. 20 years later, he proudly gave birth to the official movement at the Rio Earth Summit. At Rio, there were four main initiatives launched:

1)      Climate Change,

2)      Agenda 21,

3)      Biological Diversity (Biodiversity), and

4)      Deforestation.

Maurice Strong

Maurice Strong, Father of the Global Environmental Movement

Strong’s direct quotes such as this one, are revealing:

“We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”

He has never attempted to hide his anti-private-property, pro-centralized control ideas.  He also happened to be a Humane Society of the United State (HSUS) board member until 2010.

A google search of Maurice Strong yields this as the second link:

Maurice Strong

www.mauricestrong.net

Maurice Strong globalized the environmental movement.

That sums it up nicely.

Agenda 21

Agenda 21 is the United Nation’s “Sustainable Development” program, which effectively advances the environmentalist agenda (which is totally at odds with our inalienable rights to life, liberty and property) at the local government level throughout the world.

Some years ago, I went directly to the source…to the UN’s website…to research this one.  I didn’t want to take anyone’s word for it.  It’s all there in black and white, in full public view.  This link is to a PDF document of the original agenda in 1992.  If you do nothing else, please read it.  It’s simple, straight-forward and unambiguously clear.

The Triple Bottom Line (TBL)

TBL is a concept created by the United Nations to advance the four baseline initiatives birthed at the Rio Earth Summit.  Go to Wikipedia entry on Triple Bottom Line for a complete read (well worth the time).

The triple bottom line (abbreviated as TBL or 3BL, and also known as people, planet, profit or “the three pillars” captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological, and social. With the ratification of the United Nations and ICLEI TBL standard for urban and community accounting in early 2007, this became the dominant approach to public sector full cost accounting. Similar UN standards apply to natural capital and human capital measurement to assist in measurements required by TBL, e.g. the EcoBudget standard for reporting ecological footprint.

In the private sector, a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies a commitment to some form of TBL reporting. This is distinct from the more limited changes required to deal only with ecological issues.

Interestingly, before I went into the Freedom to Operate Committee meeting, I was interviewed by Trent Loos.  A bit after that, I had a great conversation with the current crop of Beef Ambassadors (great young people passionate about beef and sharing the good stories of beef production!).  In both conversations, I warned about the dangers of the triple bottom line.

  1. Economics already accounts for “society” and “environment.”  Every day, in each purchase decision made by each of the approximately 330 million people in      the United States, a value is given to “society” and “environment” through price.  So when we advance the triple bottom line, we actually double-account for “costs.”
  2. When we advance the idea of imposing a plugged value to “society” and “environment,” no matter how well-intentioned we might be, we set producers up for a tax at some point in the future.  Whatever extraneous values are agreed to will eventually become a financial penalty on production.

Now for that Third Punch in the Gut

The second speaker in the Freedom to Operate meeting was Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, Director of Sustainability Research at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The images on the glossy handouts and the slides say it all:

Sustainabilitylogophoto

But if you are a masochist, or if you are a responsible NCBA member and want to fully inform yourself, please go to this site and click on the “Sustainability Press Conference” audio link.

Conclusion

Needless to say, the wind was well and truly knocked out of me.  The people who are supposed to be working for us are working – openly and unapologetically! – against us.  I do not believe they mean to; they are really nice people.  But they are running scared, 100% intimidated by the age-old scare tactics of extortion groups.

NCBA’s move into this “sustainability” realm began with their participation in the WWF-Convened (and underwritten by McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, JBS Swift, Cargill, and Intervet Schering Plough Animal Health) November 2010 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef.  I lived in Australia at the time, and fought (unsuccessfully) against Australian Cattle Council participation.  I warned against colluding with the enemy (yes, I’ll say it again, World Wildlife Fund – WWF — hates us!).  No good could possibly come of it.

I reiterate the same today.

Since when did we cattlemen start playing along with such evil?  When did we stop saying, “It’s none of your business” and start “negotiating” with people who hate us, hate what we do for a living, and hate the concept of private property?

I’ve always considered the cattle industry to be the most fiercely independent, most pro-free-market industry within the freest country on earth.  I’ve been forced to revise my opinion on both counts.  It’s been a painful few days.

Dancing with the Devil seems to be fashionable.  I wish, at the very least, I weren’t forced to fund it.