Responsibility: Producer & Consumer

This post is in response to a blog posted by @zacharyadamcohen

We have had several civil discussions over the past few months finding areas that we agree and other areas which we agree to disagree. This post is in no way an attack on him, nor do I want any of my followers to be rude or attack him because you may disagree with his statements. I post this response with respect and in answer for his request for farmers and ranchers to respond.


I respectfully disagree with your assessment that farmers are to blame for the publics decisions on what to eat, how much to eat and what type of lifestyle to lead that leads to obesity. It is a philosophical difference between your ideology and mine.

I believe that as individuals we are responsible for all of our actions and the decisions that we make on that which we have control. We have control (minus the good Lord above, Mother Nature and government interference) over what happens on our farms, ranches, homes and personal lives, not the farm next door, the chef at the restaurant in town, or the consumer living across the state or country.

I am responsible for producing a safe product for the next person in the food chain, whether that is the horse owner, cattleman or dairy that buys my hay or grain, the commercial cattleman that buys my replacement heifers or bulls, or the people down the road that buy a steer to put in their freezer.

If that horse owner feeds a ration that leads to their horse colicing, or the dairy feeds an imbalanced ration that causes their cows to bloat, that is their responsibility, not mine. If the commercial cattleman, that bought replacement heifers from me, breeds them to a bull with excessive birth weight EPD’s, thus ending up having to pull the calves, that was his decision, and his responsibility, not mine. If the cattleman that bought a bull from me takes him home and puts him in a pen with other bulls, he runs the risk of getting him hurt. If that bull gets injured, that is his responsibility, not mine. Once the family that bought the steer from me to eat, they decide how to cook it, what seasoning to use, what portions to eat, not me. All of the “consumers” listed above make decisions based on their own knowledge and the information that they chose to access and are responsible for the resulting outcomes of their actions.

As a farmer I made an educated decision on what crops to grow based on the region that I live in. That includes my elevation, the length of the growing season and availability of water. I then take annual soil samples each spring to assess the nutrient levels of the soil and determine if any nutrients need to be added for the upcoming year. Moisture meters help me determine how often and how much water to apply. All my decisions are made using the best available information in order to produce a healthy crop that is safe to consume and keeps the soil healthy.

As a rancher, I made an educated decision on what type of cattle operation to run and what breeds to utilize, based on region as well. Having irrigated pasture, and limited acres, I decided to be a seed stock producer and optimize my production by producing a product for commercial cattlemen, bulls and heifers. I also elected to raise Angus and Hereford cattle, as we live at a higher elevation, with cold winters and both tend to be more efficient in those climates than European breeds. Pasture rotation is based on quality and condition of forage and helps increase the health of the pastures and enhances habitat for native wildlife. Regular conversations with our local veterinarian determine the health and nutritional plans that I utilize. Supplements of minerals, protein and carbohydrates are provided as needed by the cattle, depending upon the stage of the production. Once again, I make educated decisions that allow me to provide a safe and healthy product that is also beneficial to the environment.

Every decision that I make is based on my knowledge and research that I do so as to arrive at an outcome that is desired. If the outcome is not positive, I gather more knowledge and do more research to modify my management to arrive at an outcome that yields a high quality, safe product at a profit.

The public is just as responsible for gathering their own information to guide their own decisions and actions and are just as accountable for their own respective outcomes and modifying their behavior to change outcomes that are not desirable.

We live in a country that is based upon personal Freedom, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Sadly, some people make choices that do not result in positive outcomes and so they “blame” someone else for their misfortune without accepting any personal responsibility, but they had the Freedom to make that choice as an individual.

I do not have the right, or the ability to control how you live your life, what you buy at the store, how much you eat or how much you exercise. You have that right, you have that ability, and you have that responsibility. That is what makes living in the United States of America so special, we are FREE to choose.

Do I think it is unwise for people to smoke? Yes, but I support their right to make that choice.

Do I think it is unwise for parents to let their children watch TV and play video and computer games for hours on end? Yes, but I support their right to make that choice.

Do I think it is unwise for parents to feed their children regularly at fast food establishments and reward with candy bars? Yes, but I support their right to make that choice.

The bottom line is that some people make poor decisions. That is life. Thank God we live in a country where we can still make our own decisions, whether they are good or bad. However, people must stop blaming others for their own misfortune and start looking inside to resolve their own issues. My grandfather told me to look at my hand when I pointed at someone to pass blame and see that three fingers were still pointing at me. Responsibility and change starts with self. And, as President Ronald Reagan said, “All great change in America starts at the dinner table.”

Are there areas within the existing food system that can be improved? Certainly, but until we as a society start accepting responsibility for own choices, our own actions, the outcomes resulting from those actions and modify our own behaviors, those changes will never occur.

  1. September 8, 2009 at 6:11 PM

    Great thoughts Jeff. I am a student of history and have yet to determine when American changed from taking the bull by the horns to blaming the bull for all of our misery.Any ideas what in our history caused this shift?

  2. September 8, 2009 at 6:22 PM

    Great post Jeff! Thanks for the extremely thoughtful reply and I appreciate your civility!

  3. September 8, 2009 at 7:57 PM

    Thank you Daryl & Jody. I appreciate your support.Zachary, it is always a pleasure to discuss issues with you. I find it to be intellectually stimulating. Have a great evening.

  4. September 9, 2009 at 2:50 PM

    Jeff, thanks for writing this very articulate, passionate post. I believe in personal responsibility, too, though I have seen many well-intended consumers (non-farmers) paralyzed by all the confusing information out there related to food. One day, eating saturated fat is bad, the next day it's fine. Trans fats are good, now they're evil. Pomegranates have antioxidants, antioxidants reduce the likelihood of some cancers. You know these and other classic examples. I know you don't necessarily agree with me on beef but using USDA grade as the prime determinant of flavor/texture/quality is too simple, too. I'm doing my best to help people look beyond all those overly simplistic and often misleading labels (as if using Heinz Ketchup on my burger is really going to help my eyesight). The more we can work together to help people who are seeking to make personal, intelligent choices, through straight talk and sharing, the more likely we will succeed in, as Daryl & Jody say above, once again taking the bull by the horns.

  5. September 9, 2009 at 5:13 PM

    Carrie,I always enjoy your thoughts and comments. I've been thinking deeply about what you have suggested regarding the grading of meat. I look forward to discussing this issue further with you in the future. I think flavor and texture are very important in the sales of our product. Each consumer has a preferance in flavor, texture and style of cooking. A topic that definately has a future for marketing and meeting consumer demand. Thank you again for your thoughts. I look forward to our future discussions.

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