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Archive for June, 2009

PEW Charitable Trust – Discussion On Antibiotics

A friend of mine asked me to review the PEW Charitable Trust claims regarding antibiotics. This organization was referenced by the movie Food Inc. PEW statements are in italics. My responses are in bold and are compiled by data, statistics and information through the CDC, FDA and the USDA.

Up to 70 percent of U.S. antibiotics go to animals raised on industrial farms that aren’t sick, to offset crowding and poor sanitation. This practice promotes the development of deadly strains of drug-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans.

The closest figure I can locate to the 70% figure is from 1978 FDA data, and that number is actually 68% and is based on volume of antibiotic administered in total, in relation to body weight. This seems fairly accurate as a 1000 pound steer will require a higher dose than a 150 pound human. I addressed the administering to “non sick” animals in my post, however, antibiotics are used on cattle that are not “back grounded” (cattle that are not current on their vaccinations prior to shipping) when first arriving to feedlots for a period of 2-3 days. A majority of cattle producers today though are utilizing and enrolled in the Beef Quality Assurance Program, which instructs how to properly background and prepare cattle for shipping, thus eliminating the need for administering antibiotics at all, upon arrival. Recent data also shows that these “back grounded” cattle are also 97% less likely to require doctoring at all during their stay at the feedlot. This a an example of a proactive step taken by family ranchers to provide a safe and high quality product to the consumer.

Penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, sulfonamides and other antibiotic intended for humans are typically pre-mixed in poultry and livestock feed or added to drinking water, often giving food animals constant low doses of antibiotics over much of their entire lives.

From my knowledge and experience, antibiotics are only administered when there is a disease outbreak. In the 1960’s and 1970’s it was more common to administer antibiotics through much of the life cycle of many food animals. However, due to modern science, it was discovered that this was unnecessary and the practice was abandoned. Further, the FDA has very specific limitations on the dosage, and length of time any specie (including humans) may receive treatments of antibiotics. Any alteration of the recommendations must be through an individual prescription from a licensed doctor or veterinarian. Additionally, all antibiotics have their own specific “withdrawl period.” That is the length of time an animal must go without treatment to insure there is no residual component in the product. Meat products are inspected for traces and if found, that product is not allowed to enter the food chain.

Ninety percent of hogs and 97 percent of poultry are grown on factory farms in the United States.

I will not attempt to address this statement. The discussion of the definition of “factory farm” will probably continue long after I am residing in a pine box. I can say that many poultry and pork producers are family owned and family managed. I also know that many suppliers of poultry and pork to non-family corporations are also family owned and operated. I will not, though, attempt to go into detail, as I am not as knowledgeable in those industries as I am in cattle, hay, horses, dairy and specialty crops. However, I would invite fellow farmers who are knowledgable in these industries to share this information.

Food-borne illnesses are becoming more difficult to treat due to the increase in antibiotic-resistant strains and the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics used as a first-line defense.

I have not, to this day, seen a reputable study that has been reproduced and peer reviewed that proves this statement to be correct. I concur that humans are encountering challenges with the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment. However, I would also suggest that our society has become to dependant upon drugs to cure all of their ills, and that much of this challenge has resulted from an overuse of drugs in humans, in order to “get healthy quicker.” I believe that unless an individual’s life is at stake, drugs should be a last resort. Human immune systems are miraculous, and almost always, do not need outside help. My doctor always told me to “let it run its course, get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, and eat what you can.” As a result, in 39 years I have taken antibiotics once, for 7 days, for a severe case of strep throat.

Consumers are exposed to resistant bacteria through the handling and consumption of contaminated meat, through produce that has been exposed to resistant bacteria in soil and water, or through direct contact with the bacteria in the environment.

Everyone is exposed to bacteria, in all of these manners and more, period. Are some resistant? Probably. I fail to find the study or reference that is reputable, reproducible and peer reviewed to make the link between that and livestock. See answer given previously.

Food-borne bacteria are more dangerous in their antibiotic-resistant forms, because they are harder to treat and may require multiple antibiotic treatments, longer hospital stays and other interventions before finally being eliminated.

With my knowledge and understanding of the issue, I believe this is a correct statement. However, where is the connection to livestock and the support that livestock production is the cause? See previous answers.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $4 to $5 billion per year.

Lacks reference, but may be true.

Each year 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths are caused by food contaminated by dangerous pathogens and bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli, which are increasingly becoming antibiotic resistant.

According to the CDC, since 1993, only 30 deaths have been attributed to ecoli infections. They also state that the vast majority of ecoli and salmonella infections are entirely avoidable, with the proper handling of food, including proper cooking, washing of fruits and vegetables and washing of hands. I found numbers close to those stated by PEW, but they were a WORLD count, not in the United States.

According to the CDC, in 2005, a total of 16,614 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections in FoodNet surveillance areas were identified, as follows: Salmonella (6,471 cases), Campylobacter (5,655), Shigella (2,078), Cryptosporidium (1,313), STEC O157 (473), Yersinia (159), STEC non-O157 (146), Listeria (135), Vibrio (119), and Cyclospora (65). Overall incidence per 100,000 population was 14.55 for Salmonella, 12.72 for Campylobacter, 4.67 for Shigella, 2.95 for Cryptosporidium, 1.06 for STEC O157, 0.36 for Yersinia, 0.33 for STEC non-O157, 0.30 for Listeria, 0.27 for Vibrio, and 0.15 for Cyclospora. Also, according to the CDC, there are approximately 70,000 cases of ecoli infection each year, this number includes both EC 0157 and STEC.

There are around 2.4 million Campylobacter infections in the U.S. and about half of these are resistant to at least one antibiotic. Nearly 14 percent of these infections are resistant to at least two drugs.

This may be a correct statement, however, once again, where is the reference and connection with livestock production?

Categories: Uncategorized

Food Inc. Correction #1 – Antibiotics

Food Inc. Correction #1 – Antibiotic Use

While researching statistics, data and information used in Food Inc. pertaining to antibiotic use, the only information I could locate, was from 1978. Therefore I have provided a more recent assessment for consumers, from the year 2000.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 50 million pounds of antibiotics are produced in the United States each year.

According to the most recent (2000) AHI survey, 31.5 million pounds are used in humans, 63%, 17.8 million pounds, 36%, are used in animals, and around 700 thousand pounds, 1%, in plants.

Of the total used in animals, 14.7 million pounds, 83%, are used for prevention and treatment of disease.

Of all antibiotic uses, only 3.1 million pounds, 6.1%, are used for growth promotion. It should be noted that the term “growth promotion” is refers to decrease in weight loss due to disease that may occur due to stress at the result of transportation and arrival at the feeding location. Antibiotics are sometimes fed in the first rations to prevent disease until animal acclimates to their new environment.

Antibiotics may be approved for use in both companion and farm animals.

All antibiotics have a “withdrawl” period or period of time that the animal must be not be fed or injected prior to processing, so as to insure that no residual antibiotic is in the final product.

Meat for consumption is tested for residual drugs and other contaminates prior to entering the food chain. Any meat testing positive is not allowed for consumption.

There are more than 7.5 billion chickens, 292 million turkeys, 115 million cats and dogs, 109 million cattle, 92 million pigs, 7 million sheep and 6.9 million horses in the United States.

Finishing rations in the United States have NOT been allowed to contain any antibiotics since the 1990’s.

Cattle that get sick are separated from the group and kept in “sick pens” for treatment and then returned when they are healthy; this to ensure the health of the rest of the pen/herd, and reduce the number of animals that may need to receive antibiotics.

In addition to protecting the health of America’s pets, antibiotics help farmers maintain healthier animals, which helps make America’s food supply the worlds safest.

All information is data provided through the CDC, FDA, & USDA.

Twitter Chat on Food Inc

Following a lengthy discussion with many individuals, from all aspects and opinions, while changing water on the ranch, I was struck by the following epiphany.

Individuals that believe Food Inc is an accurate portrayal of “all” modern agriculture in the United States are perhaps the individuals that brought us to this point of discontent.

It seems that the biggest concern that these individuals have is with “big agriculture,” “industrial farms”, and “factory farming.” These terms were heavily used as the description of today’s production agriculture. So I pose the following question: How did we end up with these non-family owned corporations in the first place?

Certainly, there are some issues that need to be addressed regarding “non-family owned corporate agriculture.” We in the beef industry have been struggling for years, with the consolidation of feeders and packers and the impact felt in the market place due to their actions. Understandably, similar challenges exist in the poultry, pork and dairy industries as well. However, I propose that it is because of the actions of the suburban and urban population that we have arrived at our current destination. Whether or not is our final destination is yet to be seen.

Urban sprawl is continuing to encroach, surround and swallow productive land and is forcing the small farmer and rancher to sell their land. Complaints about noise at night, noise during the day, tractors and cows on the highway, odor, dust and other aspects of farming and ranching have resulted in ordinances and legislation that place restrictions on agriculture that financially force the small farmer and rancher to sell. The “NIMBY” (not in my back yard) attitude has forced family owned feedlots, dairies, hog and poultry farms, slaughter houses, and rendering facilities to close up, never to reopen.

This has resulted in larger dairy, swine and poultry farms, and fewer, but larger, feedlots, slaughter houses and rendering facilities, located predominately in the mid west. Small farmers and ranchers and related businesses that once were rural did not have the resources to survive the fight against urban sprawl, and those that were located farther from the major population areas were able to grow, due to a reduction in competition, but continuing increase in supply .

Today, those non-family owned corporations rely on the family farms and ranches for their product and the family farms and ranches rely on them for a market. Is it a system that we like, not always, but it was not a system created by family farmers and ranchers. It was created by the consumer. However, the struggle continues. Family farms and ranches continue to be threatened by new legislative regulations, and new agency permitting programs pertaining to the environment and animal welfare, brought about by activists focused on a few “bad apples”, the minority, and economically devastating the majority. Without major change, we are headed to even larger agri-business and more consolidation, exactly what the Food Inc supporters do not want.

Additionally, these corporations are often criticized for “monopolizing” technology that they create. What is not admitted, or realized, is that the typical family farm and ranch does not have the time, money or resources to devote to innovation and technology development, and that without these corporations, much of the progress we have seen in efficiency and yield would not exist, and likely, we would be a net food importer instead of an exporter. Further, it is these corporations that so generously support FFA and 4-H programs and agriculture programs at universities and community colleges. Without their financial support, most of these programs would not have the success that they currently have, let alone exist.

It is time to face the facts. While local grown is a wonderful idea, it is far from practical to feed a country, let alone the world. Common sense tells us that New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, etc., will never be able to sustain their food needs by buying local. Can it be done in rural areas? Certainly, however, unless the plethora of permits, regulations and legislation are curbed, that too will soon be a memory. Society needs to allow the affordable construction of new slaughter houses, rendering facilities and packing houses. Society needs to place the value of the human being above species and allow family farmers and ranchers to stay in business, enhance the environment and continue to serve as the carbon basin for the general population.

Movies such as Food Inc., directed at the urban consumers, that paint agriculture with generalizations, misinformation, and emotionally driven propaganda, will only exacerbate the “problem” that they are trying to solve.

Ironic, in my humble opinion, that the “enemy” which they are fighting, was ultimately created by themselves.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Mathew 7, verses 1-5

Food Safety

Discussion on #agchat Tuesday night highlighted on Food Safety. One of the questions was “What can and should be done to improve food safety?” I would like to offer this forum for producers through consumers (field to plate so to speak) to continue that discussion. Many great ideas were floated, but time limited discussion. In my opinion, progress is always better when ideas are generated at the ground level, rather than by the government.

1. Post if you are a PRODUCER, PROCESSOR, PACKER, RETAILER or CONSUMER and your question or response.

2. Feel free to comment on posts.

3. KEEP IT CIVIL.

Categories: Uncategorized

GMO Discussion

Recently, there have been many tweets regarding GMO’s. I would like to offer an opportunity for both sides to post their arguments with scientific support. This is intended to be a civil discussion.

Fact 1: The world population is growing.

Fact 2: Production farm land is disappearing urban sprawl, development and environmental buffers.

Fact 3: We have a social responsibility to feed people.

Fact 4: GMO plants and livestock provide the opportunity to grow more on less acres, using less herbicides and insecticides and having longer shelf life.

Question: What is your strongest argument PRO or CON regarding GMO’s?

Directions:

1. Lead your post with either “PRO GMO” of “CON GMO.

2. State your argument.

3. Post a link to your arguments SCIENTIFIC support.

4. You may also ask (polite) questions of the posters.

** ANY POST THAT DOES NOT HAVE SCIENTIFIC SUPPORT WILL BE DELETED. **

** ANY POST THAT IS A PERSONAL ATTACK ON ANOTHER POSTER WILL BE DELETED. **

Categories: Uncategorized

"Ribbon To Our Troops

Another non-ag post. This was just sent to me by a friend. I know my Christian followers and friends will appreciate this.

VERY INTERESTING-

1… The Garden of Eden was in Iraq

2. Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, was the cradle of civilization!

3. Noah built the ark in Iraq

4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq

5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq

6. Isaac’s wife Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in Iraq

7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq

8. Jonah preached in Nineveh – which is in Iraq

9… Assyria, which is in Iraq, conquered the ten tribes of Israel

10. Amos cried out in Iraq

11 Babylon, which is in Iraq, destroyed Jerusalem

12. Daniel was in the lion’s den in Iraq

13. The three Hebrew children were in the fire in Iraq (Jesus had been in Iraq also as the fourth person in the Fiery Furnace!)

14. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon saw the ‘writing on the wall’ in Iraq

15. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Jews captive into Iraq

16. Ezekiel preached in Iraq

17. The wise men were from Iraq

18. Peter preached in Iraq

19. The ‘Empire of Man’ described in Revelation is called Babylon –which was a city in Iraq

And you have probably seen this one: Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are Babylon , Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, more exactly between the Tigris And Euphrates Rivers.

The name Iraq means country with deep roots.

Indeed Iraq is a country with deep roots and is a very significant country in the Bible. No other nation, except Israel , has more history and prophecy associated with it than Iraq.

And also, this is something to think about.

Since America is typically represented by an eagle. Saddam should have read up on his Muslim passages. The following verse is from the Koran, (the Islamic Bible)

Koran ( 9:11 ) – “For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle.. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah and lo, while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced; for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah; And there was peace.”

(Note the verse number!) Hmmmmmmm?!

This is a ribbon for soldiers fighting in Iraq .

Categories: Uncategorized

Letter to President Obama

Typically, I only write or post items that are related to agriculture. However, after listening to and reading speeches delivered by President Obama, while driving tactor, truck, cleaning horse stalls, and working in the shop, I had to put my thoughts to paper (so to speak).

June 6, 2009

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington , DC 20500

Mr. President:

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a fifth generation, Christian, family farmer and rancher, married, with a 2 year old son. I own and operate my own business, and help manage my parents.

I have always had the utmost respect for the office of the President of the United States. I have always respected the individual that held the office of the President, regardless of their party affiliation, unless they acted in a way that tarnished that position or acted in a manner unbecoming of a person who represents all citizens of the United States of America. While I have not agreed with most of the changes that have taken place over the past several months, I accept that your policy positions are different than mine. However, some of your actions and actions that you have allowed your administration to pursue go beyond simple policy changes and threaten the very fabric which this great country was formed.

Most recently, your trip abroad has been disgraceful. Your responsibility lies with the people of the United States, not Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Germany, etc. Speeches you have delivered overseas have been heavily apologetic and appeasing. This is disgraceful. We in the United States have NOTHING to apologize for and should NOT be trying to appease countries that do not hold in high regard the same value for the human rights and freedoms that were so valiantly earned with the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers and maintained and protected by those currently serving so honorably in our armed services.

What were you thinking when you told the Muslims that we are not a Christian country and further that we are “one of the largest Muslim countries.” You need to fire your speech writer for feeding you lies and/or you need to go back and re-read your American history so that you can recognize the errors and misstatements before you repeat them. Surely you cannot believe what you have said. The United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics, principles and values and believed so strongly that our forefathers included language stating our beliefs in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of these United States.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them . . .”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator (not Allah or Buddha) with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

– Declaration of Independence

“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

– The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 7

For your information, Christians account for 78% of the population of the United States, Muslims 0.6%, that is LESS than 1% of our population. That 0.6% equates to 2.3 million Muslims. Let us compare that to say India (156 million), or Pakistan (150 million). Using whose math is 2.3 million even close to 150 million?

Your speech in Cairo, Egypt, was also filled with inaccuracies, apparently an attempt to appease. For your information, the compass traces back to the Aztecs and Chinese, algebra was developed by an Babylonian, Rome was the home to architecture, and Johannes Gutenburg, a German, developed the movable type and please, to credit Islam with religious and racial tolerance. Have you not read the history of the Middle East?

Additionally, you fail to show deserved respect to one of our oldest allies, Great Britain, and yet, you bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, (thank you at least for not doing so during your last visit) and give kudos to the president of Venezuela. Further, you take the time to visit a mosque in Turkey, but fail to visit the graves of our departed veterans in Germany. Your actions are offensive, giving the Germans more respect than the Americans who fought and died to save the Germans from themselves. Where are your loyalties?

Your domestic actions are of great concern as well. Bank executives and company CEO’s are having limits set on their pay and bonuses. What about the blatantly corrupt government officials. Namely, Senator Dodd, Senator Frank Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelic and the bonuses that paid in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

GM has also now been taken over by the government. (I say government and not people because I truly feel the majority of elected and appointed officials in Washington D.C. no longer represent the PEOPLE.) We only need to look to Amtrak, which goes ~$400 in the red, per person traveling from the west coast to the east, to see how well the government manages companies. Data indicates that GM is losing $3,000 per vehicle and owes us, the PEOPLE, how many billions of dollars? How can you seriously believe that WE the PEOPLE will ever see a return on your so called “investment.” Add this buy out to the previous careless spending and we as Americans now each have an extra $55,000 per household to pay off in additional debt, added on to the existing $540,000 of debt, based on 2008 numbers.

By the way, how many of your advisors and appointees that are guiding your decisions have ever had a REAL job, managing a company or business in the private sector? Certainly you know the adage about the character and wisdom of an individual is reflected by those he surrounds himself with.

Returning to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as I understand it, their executives will be receiving $210 million in bonuses, and have already been given $51 million. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am not; were not Fannie and Freddie largely to blame for the current economic situation? Has not your administration heavily criticized other companies that are failing for paying their executives bonuses when they managed them into the dirt? It seems to me the pot is calling the kettle black.

Mr. President, with all due respect, LET CAPITALISM WORK! It is the responsibility of the government to ensure equal OPPORTUNITY for individuals to be successful, NOT make everyone equal. Innovation, invention and jobs are created by the PEOPLE, not the government. Will some businesses fail? Of course they will. Will it be painful? Certainly. But bad business must fail. Poor performance and decisions must endure the consequences. NO ONE is TOO BIG to fail! It is essential for balance to return NATURALLY, WITHOUT government interference, in order for our economy and country to heal itself.

In closing, Mr. President, it is high time for you to clean your house of the inept, inadequate, out-of-touch, inexperienced and history deficient advisors, speech writers and appointees. If you do not, rest assured, the PEOPLE of this great country WILL, in the next Presidential election.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey N. Fowle

Categories: Uncategorized
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