Pollan Makes Some Pertinent Points
I recorded the Oprah show, Go Vegan For A Week, that aired last week with Michael Pollan as a guest and the topic being veganism. I finally had a bit of time to watch and digest what had been said. Because society is no longer connected to the food that they eat, shows such as this tend to make me a bit nervous. Call me paranoid, but when a major celebrity, a popular documentarian and an author are giving advice to a million plus people on “healthy” eating, I get skeptical. On issues pertaining to health and diet, consult a doctor and for information on agriculture, talk to a farmer or rancher. There were three primary “nuggets” that I thought were of significant importance, one of which I found myself in partial agreement with Michael Pollan and another with Oprah Winfrey.
First, I was impressed by the inclusion of the video from Lisa Ling’s visit to Cargill. While it may have been “shocking” to those not familiar with the beef industry, it represented how agriculture has changed by blending efficiency, quality and animal welfare. Cargill, as shown in the video, has implemented modern technology, handling methodology and designs by Temple Grandin that reduce stress on animals. What I really appreciated about this video was the fact that a major company was willing to allow cameras to enter one of their facilities to share their part of the agricultural story.
Second, Michael Pollan stated a couple times “You shouldn’t eat [it] if you are not willing to see where it came from.” While the reference was to meat, this concept has merit, especially if applied to all consumables, including production processes involved with imports. Let’s expand this awareness all the way back to the farm and ranch. Due to multi-generational removal from the farm, society does not have the direct knowledge of what is involved to get the food to their table, the fiber on their body and the shelter above their head. I am excited with the number of farmers and ranchers actively participating in re-connecting with the consumers through social media and other platforms. I think it would also be wonderful for the American consumer to have access to how imports are grown and processed in comparison to products grown in the United States. Consumers need to be able to see how much more heavily regulated and restrictive it is to grow American products.
Third, during an early segment, Oprah stated, “It’s because of modern practices that we have these choices.” Yes! While I do not think she realized the point that she made, it was spot on! The modern farmer is not only able to feed more people, but technology has made it possible to grow a greater variety of commodities. Just think about your local supermarket and what you can find on the isles today, compared to 40 years ago; you can’t help but be impressed.
Finally, Oprah, this show was on vegetarian diets, not living vegan. There is a big difference. Perhaps another show, explaining how much we rely on the byproducts of livestock for our everyday living, would be appropriate to distinguish the difference between being vegetarian and vegan. As my friend Mike Haley described last week, on his Haley-Farms blog, let’s start on the farm and ranch; there are plenty with open invitations.
In conclusion, I agree that society has become disconnected with their food and where it comes from. However, let’s expand the reconnection all the way to the farm and ranch and include those from abroad who do not have the same limitations and regulations that American farmers and ranchers have. Society needs to be more aware of what they are eating and gain an appreciation for where it came from and what was involved to produce it. Michael Pollan was correct, we need to know where our food comes from and make a conscious effort to eat fresher and less processed food, and it’s a matter of personal priority; make the time. Meat is an important part of a balanced diet. If you have questions about your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. If you have questions about where your food, fiber or shelter comes from, ask a farmer, forester or rancher.
Check out the Agchat Foundation website and meet some farmers and ranchers.
Visit the Know A California Farmer website and discover California agriculture.
At a NASCAR track near you, look for the Farm American Project.