Posted By Cathryn June 28, 2012
As temperatures across the Midwest soar into the triple digits with little chance for rain or relief in sight, talking heads have started to blabber on again about how the drought will hit consumer’s wallets. Adding further pain to the heat-induced misery, these armchair economists stoke the fires of already burning financial concerns.
Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater may grab attention and cause alarm, but it is illegal to do so for a reason. Causing panic for the sake of causing panic does not have a public benefit.
A more cynical commentator might note that it does help drive rating and generate revenue. But instead of focusing on the fray, take a look at the facts.
According to a newly released study from National Public Radio’s Planet Money series, Americans today spend less on groceries than they did 30 years ago, nearly a full five percentage points less. Prices have declined across the board with some staple items, such as butter and chicken legs, down by 35 percent. Even a steak costs 30 percent less.
Will a drought impact America’s corn crop this year? Almost certainly. Does this spell dire circumstances that will leave the grocery consuming public taking out loans to feed their family with healthy, safe food? Almost certainly not.
In today’s America, what is truly in jeopardy is a sense of perspective. Banners flash before already stressed eyes on the evening news making dire declarations. Weary from battling real issues all day, these prophets of pain become an echoing chorus of doom drumming away basic sanity. Frantic feelings froth to a frenzy as the spiral of sustained stress with the prognosticators acting like an emotional succubus that feeds on America’s anxieties.
Stay calm. It may be hot outside, but cooler heads can prevail. Calmly, remember that America has the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in its history. The percentage of income needed to eat well has dropped to one of, if not the, lowest level in the developed world. Through innovation and hard work, farmers prove, time after time, that they can and will feed America, no matter what challenges they face.
Posted By Cathryn June 21, 2012
As temperatures rise and an array of fresh, vibrant produce options fills grocery baskets, the Environmental Working Group issued its annual summer scare list with this week. Deemed the “dirty dozen,” EWG again drags out its pseudoscience in the hopes of terrifying consumers, maligning nutritious foods and filling its coffers with donations from a frightened and misinformed public.
Almost any sound, reputable source stresses the incredibly important role that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables plays in a healthy diet. Instead of promoting this, the EWG joins the ranks of similar charlatans who base fad diets on trendy tidbits. Based more in sound bites than sound science, the misinformation found in the list pushes well-intentioned eaters off track.
This year, ignore the EWG. Frankly, it annoys them more than engaging with them. Instead, consider the facts.
Farmers value food safety for the same reasons consumers do. The food from their farms feeds their families as well as yours. Regular moms and dads with the same concerns, farm families strive to bring a broad variety of safe, nutritious foods to their tables and yours.
True scientists, the kind who hold respected positions in academia or publish in peer reviewed journals, have stepped forward, speaking out against this fear-based, anti-ag propaganda. With prominent professors from University of California at Berkley leading the charge, real food safety experts deem the
EWG list an unscientific hype piece that actually has a detrimental effect on the conversation about food.
So be fearless about food and ditch the dirty dozen’s baseless babble. An open, honest conversation between the people who grow food and the people who buy it is building. Find out more by clicking here.
Posted By Cindy June 14, 2012
New York City Mayor Bloomberg seems intent upon transforming the “City that Never Sleeps” into the “City that Never Eats.”
The latest food banning proposal being considered by the New York City Council would limit sizes of treats like popcorn and milkshakes. They have already agreed to put the ban on large size sodas up for a public hearing July 24.
Mayor Bloomberg did away with trans fats in the city back in 2006. He also started the National Salt Reduction Initiative to “help food manufacturers and restaurants voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in their products.” Talking about the initiative in 2010, Bloomberg admitted that he likes salt. “I put salt on my popcorn — as a matter of fact, popcorn without salt is not popcorn,” was the quote.
Well, popcorn without more popcorn isn’t popcorn either!
There’s no doubt that movie theater concession sizes have more than super-sized over the last 20 years. I used to work at a movie theater in high school and our small popcorn was actually small and only cost 50 cents! The “small” sizes today were large sizes a couple of decades ago – but they cost a lot more.
Still, when families and groups of teenagers go to movie theaters together they often share large tubs of popcorn between them. When you divide a tub of popcorn between several people, it’s not that much. Will the New York City Council account for that? Will they just make it a law that you have to prove how many people are in your party to purchase a tub?
This is pure insanity. When I posted about the Salt Reduction Initiative two years ago, I used the following quote from a character in the movie “Demolition Man” who was speaking against the futuristic society that had bans on everything it considered “bad” for people:
I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, “Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?” I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I’ve SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing “I’m an Oscar Meyer Wiener.”
Could we have a future with only banana-broccoli shakes for food? No super-sizes, of course.
Posted By Cathryn June 7, 2012
This election year, Americans are already growing increasingly agitated with pompous, self-important celebrities who feel an uncontrollable desire to pontificate upon politics. Qualified only by having played a politician in a made-for-TV movie or having co-written a B-side flop, these self-anointed bearers of the divine torch of celebri-smarts help us regular folk understand our mistaken, unworldly personal ponderings.
Honestly, who could take a multi-millionaire who plays dress-up for a living seriously when he or she banters on about the plight of the common folk? Did they learn about Main Street in a Method class?
Another group of sell-out celebrats, the chefs of cable TV, who not only feed actors but often host their own insightful television programs, want to tell average Americans how to think about the farm bill. In a letter proudly coordinated by the Environmental Working Group, intellectual icons including Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio trumpeted their opposition to big, rich commodity farms while wrapping themselves in the trendy terminology of the local, organic and environmental movements. As much as they criticize the Senate legislation, how many of these signers even read it?
To be frank, it seems a tad hypocritical to take the bully pulpit preaching a populist gospel while rubbing elbows with the sophomoric socialites who get a kick out of menus that offer greater detail about each truffle-decorated tapa than their letter offers about the world-changing policies proposed. It’s like they all live in Portlandia.
The only advice these elitist epicureans have the expertise to dish out pertains to the dishes in their ovens. Most Americans cannot afford to dine at their establishments; America cannot afford to bite into their half-baked policies.
Farmers feed us in a meaningful, sustainable fashion. So, call the trendy wannabes out for what they are and stand by a classic. America’s farm families need a farm bill now. America’s top chefs need a new hobby.
Posted By Cindy June 4, 2012
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may have denied a petition to officially change the name of high-fructose corn syrup to corn sugar, but the marketplace might just discover consumers actually like HFCS better.
After making a big deal two years ago about switching the recipe for Hunt’s Ketchup to include sugar instead of HFCS, ConAgra has apparently now quietly decided to switch back. According to Food Navigator-USA.com, ConAgra officials say consumer demand for the product was “not as strong as expected.” The company will continue to keep one line of ketchup, labeled as “all natural,” with sugar in place of HFCS.
The company has sent out no formal release on the change and Food Navigator USA gets the credit for breaking the story, although it means it’s not getting out there in the mainstream media. You would think that ConAgra would want to let consumers know that they are giving them back what they want.
Several other companies have created HFCS-free product lines while retaining original versions with HFCS, but ConAgra decided two years ago to make the switch for “every bottle” of ketchup. There can only be one reason why they are now going to offer one version with HFCS and one without – their sales must have dropped when they changed the recipe.
Go figure. We consumers are funny that way. We tend to buy what we like. So, perhaps if the food companies decide to create separate lines of products with and without HFCS they will find that consumers prefer the one that tastes the best.
Posted By Cathryn May 30, 2012
Online parodies have long poked fun at the self-righteous rantings of the food elite. Now, a scientific study proves what many with foodie friends have long known. Eating organic can actually turn you into a jerk.
In all seriousness, the study, published in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science, found that exposure to organic foods can “harshen moral judgments.”
Why doesn’t the earth-loving, nurturing persona used to market these foods encourage their target market to act in kind? Because, to no small extent, the feeling of superiority and wholesomeness conferred by their dietary choices leads to self-congratulatory self-righteousness. Taking the old saying “you are what you eat” to heart, organic devotees look down from their pesticide-free pedestal on those who have not committed to living a similar lifestyle.
What moral quandaries do those who partake in the halo effect ignore?
For many Americans, organics simply are not an option. The price premium placed on these products may seem small to the Whole Foods set, but the majority of ordinary folks in line at the local Aldi’s call the place “Whole Paycheck” for a reason. An average family, already coping with the remnants of a recession and ever climbing prices at the pump, already makes hard choices about what must be foregone just to get by. Paying extra for foods that are nutritionally identical makes little sense to the common shopper who still has common sense.
Moreover, these supposedly earth-loving ecovores show little concern for the planets other inhabitants. The world population will grow to more than nine billion people by 2050. To keep up with that growth, more food will have to be produced over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined. Given that this must be done using finite resources, biotechnology, and other un-trendy technology, provide the yield increases and input decreases necessary to feed these new humans. Promoting starvation might seem harsh, but turning a blind eye while bashing the tools that might feed the hungry really is not all that different.
Finally, they ignore the facts. 400 scientific papers on the health impacts of organic foods have found no difference in nutritional value. Moreover, consumption of biotech foods has not been shown to produce any effect on human health.
Buying organic has become the modern equivalent of purchasing indulgences. U.S. farmers work hard to produce an abundant array of affordable safe, nutritious options for our country’s wide variety of consumers to enjoy. The halo floating over organic-only heads turns out to be a bit tarnished and a tad askew. It is time for the healthier-than-thou crowd to come back down to earth.
Posted By Cathryn May 21, 2012
“You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Watching CommonGround Colorado volunteers Danell Kalcevic and Cindy Frasier during a live television interview broadcast on Denver’s News9 last week, I remembered this metaphor, which the nuns who ran the high school I attended often used during my tenure.
These two women, facing the cameras for the first time, met remarks which may have ruffled other’s feathers with calm, patient, open understanding. In return, they gained the trust and respect of the station staff and, most probably, many viewers as well.
Adding a bit of sweetness to their already pleasant personalities, they brought cookies. Meat cookies to be exact. So, immediately, they drew interest that, when coupled with the way in which they told their story, helped start a real conversation about food rather than a battle.
The lesson applies to everyone who dedicates time and effort to helping further the public discourse on farming. Had Danell or Cindy become combative or defensive, the conversation would have stopped. If we allow ourselves to put up that wall, it shuts out the people who most need to hear the real story of today’s family farmer.
Agvocates need to cultivate their interactions with the same care given to their land. Imagine how it feels to have someone bluntly call a statement wrong. Now, imagine a smiling face offering their perspective from what they have seen. Which agvocate would more likely build a real, productive conversation?
Take a moment to evaluate how implication, tone and non-verbal cues affect a conversation. Bring honey with you to agvocacy instead of vinegar.
Notably, it never hurts to bring a plate of Beef Cookie Recipe too.
Posted By Mark May 17, 2012
Farmers are always getting asked these days to get involved; write a letter, call your Congressman, but how about eat a pizza? Now activation by the slice is something I think we can sink our teeth into and all wrap our minds around.
With many corporate players caving in to environmental whackos and misinformed consumer groups it is refreshing to see a major player in the restaurant industry like Dominos Pizza tell The Humane Society of the United States to “hold that thought” when they asked them to require pork suppliers to stop housing sows in gestation stalls.
When HSUS asked stockholders to bow down before their warm fuzzy image and the millions in lobbying and PR dollars they wield, Dominos shareholders rejected the resolution. A Domino’s spokesperson explained that the company relies on animal experts to determine the best way to raise an animal that’s used for food.
Ok, now it is time for full disclosure on my personal bias. Unlike HSUS – that hides behind their false image as the savior of puppies and kitties, while giving a pittance to actual animal shelters. When I was in college I have to admit to having a real gastronomic romance with Domino’s Pizza. The food was inexpensive which is critical to a student on a budget and they delivered faster than any other food establishment. Also, an important factor for those who get a random hunger for pizza late at night.
I still have that pizza problem today…love it, eat it weekly and still a fan of Dominos. I can openly live with this “pizza problem.”
One has to wonder how HSUS employees sleep at night knowing full well that they are spending their vast resources to drive a vegetarian agenda and hides a lifestyle choice as a moral cause. And they do so while constantly misrepresenting themselves to the general public.
Thankfully many people are taking note of the online “Farmers Paying It Forward with Pizza” campaign that was the brainchild of Clarence, Missouri pork producer and Ag blogger Chris Chinn.
The Brownfield Network became the most recent public entity to take note of Dominos act of corporate heroism. A logical decision really, but heroic none-the-less given the lack of spine and sense of right that seems to have invaded much of corporate America.
So, thanks to Chris, Brownfield and many others for bringing this into the light of day and challenging us all to show support of Dominos. And for the record I like my activism with parmesan sprinkled on top.
Posted By Cathryn May 9, 2012
In coverage of the recent “occupation” of agricultural research land at the University of California- Berkley, one essential point was striking in its absence. While a public university, the land these so-called activists forcibly took over is, in fact, private property. Their actions in doing so showed complete disregard for the principles upon which our nation was founded, for the well-being of the institution’s students and for the rapidly growing world population whose food security depends upon the products of agricultural research.
Clinging to worn-out rhetoric shrouded in a mindless, trendy façade, these protesters stand against a fundamental principle upon which the nation is based. The ownership of private property has been held as a fundamental value of American society since the revolution. The nation’s forefathers enshrined it in the Constitution, and, in doing so, created a country to which many have fled in order to gain this protection. Placing their judgment above that of the university governing board, state government and of the people which those legislators represent, this fringe group forcibly chose to repurpose land to suit its own agenda.
What did the people who support this university lose?
They lost a valuable asset that provided the university with an outdoor laboratory. Agricultural research often culminates in necessary field trials that allow scientists to test how new varieties or products will react in circumstances similar to those in which they may ultimately grow. This land was not a common area without a stated purpose. These protestors stole a valuable resource.
They lost the valuable time. Right now, the future food security of the world depends upon agricultural research. In next 40 years, farmers will need to produce more food than was produced in the last 10,000 years combined to ensure the food supply keeps up with population growth. In light of this challenge, taking fields used for research into the products which will make this possible is tantamount to taking food from the mouths of those who will need it within our lifetime.
Actions have real consequences. The “Occupy the Farm” movement has shown how disregard for the basic ground rules governing our society, no matter how supposedly well-intentioned, results in real harm. Their lack of foresight and careful scrutiny of the possibly consequences of their actions shows the irresponsibility inherent in policies they espouse.
Posted By Cathryn April 25, 2012
Think that everyone should eat only organic foods? A new study published in Nature magazine disputes this notion as, if a move of this sort were made, many people would not eat at all.
Ignoring ongoing disputes over the value of different types of farming, many of which are based on anti-technology myths and misinformation, the study finds that, in most cases, truly organic production practices cannot meet the demands of a hungry world.
“Crop yields from organic farming are as much as 34% lower than those from comparable conventional farming practices,” the article cites. “Organic agriculture performs particularly poorly for vegetables and some cereal crops such as wheat, which make up the lion’s share of the food consumed around the world.”
In the end, the choice of whether to select organic or conventionally grown food comes down to consumer preference. America’s farmers work hard to provide an abundant, affordable variety of safe options every year. Don’t take away the very tools helping ensure that they can continue to do so.
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