Agriculture Benefits All
For 68 years and four generations, Nolechek’s Meats has depended on farmers to supply quality raw material to make our product and it is disheartening to see such erroneous, unsubstantiated claims be thrown around and perpetuated. It is up to people whose livelihoods are dependent upon farming to step up and educate the public as to what farmers do and what agriculture means not only to our local economy, but Wisconsin and the United States. There is so much on social media right now about agriculture. Articles are even appearing in our small community’s local newspaper about how eating less meat can be beneficial to health and the environment. So much of the information lacks statistics and facts to back up inflammatory claims intended to mislead the public.
According to NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service)1, hardworking people in Wisconsin agriculture contribute $104.8 billion to the economy, accounting for 435,700 jobs, or 11.8% of the state’s total employment. This includes positions in management/business, science/engineering, forestry production, and communications. Wisconsin agriculture includes dairy, cheese, cattle, pork, poultry, soybean production, cranberries, and so much more. Wisconsin ranks among the top 10 producers in many categories across the nation. Not to mention the even greater impact agriculture has on local businesses. For example, when a farm implement business purchases gas from a local station or farm employees shop at the local grocery store or utilize other local resources. Farms of all types and sizes are vital to our local economies.
Aside from providing essential nutrients in our diets, livestock are also utilized in many other areas of our lives. Did you know there are 185 uses for a pig and over 100 for beef? Check out www.beef2live.com or www.pork.org to learn how beef and pork do more than put food on our tables. From improving human lives with heart valve replacements, medical sutures, and in past decades, insulin; to day-to-day necessities like insulation, cosmetics, adhesives, toiletries, dog food and more.
In 2014, University of Massachusetts researchers examined vegetarian diets and bone health and wrote, “Vegetarian diets have been shown to contain lower amounts of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, protein, and n–3 (ω-3) fatty acids, all of which have important roles in maintaining bone health. Although zinc intakes are not necessarily lower quantitatively, they are considerably less bioavailable in vegetarian diets, which suggests the need for even higher intakes to maintain adequate status…On balance, there is evidence that vegetarians, and particularly vegans, may be at greater risk of lower BMD (bone mass density) and fracture.”2 What does this mean? Balanced diets that include lean meat, poultry and fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains increase the chance that all essential nutrients are consumed. Want to learn more about how meat and dairy can be a part of a balanced diet? Check out www.meatmythcrushers.org to learn how the nutrients found in red meat, poultry, and dairy contribute to overall health.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture accounts for 9%, with only 3.9% coming from animal agriculture, which is significantly lower than electricity production (28%), transportation (28%), or the 22% from industry, such as burning fossil fuels for energy.3 In some instances, agriculture is considered ‘carbon neutral’ like when methane is turned into renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint or recycled agricultural biofuel is used in airplane transportation. Want to learn more about how agriculture contributes to sustainability? Check out the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Community and learn how farmers are true stewards of the land. Farmers today are doing more with less. Technological advancements and innovations in animal and crop genetics have enabled farmers to nearly triple their output between 1948 and 2015, despite the amount of labor and land declining by approximately 75% and 24% respectively, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.4 Farmers today produce 262% more food using 2% fewer resources than during my grandparent’s time. Their success story based on continual improvements and the use of science, technology and innovation in how we grow and raise food is truly something to celebrate.
Typically, in the scientific community when claims are made, the burden of proof falls on the author, speaker or publisher to substantiate the claims with facts and statistics. Unfortunately, in today’s world, wild claims can be made with no accountability to accuracy or truth. Aggressive and slanderous marketing should have no place in the discussion about our food. A greater focus needs to be placed on objective scientific analysis, rather than furthering agendas. We are so fortunate to live in a country with such an abundance of food choices. I firmly believe that one is not better than the other, and it comes down to personal choice. And when we stop vilifying one choice to raise up another, we will start to realize how good we have it. Americans are blessed with a food supply that is generally affordable, accessible, and among the world’s safest. For that we have the American farmer, those involved in agriculture, government agencies, and food manufacturers to thank.
Want to learn more about farming? Talk to a farmer. Ask them why they raise their livestock in barns, why they graze cattle in fields, why they may choose to finish them on grain, why they grew their family farm and maybe became a CAFO, why they administer antibiotics and vaccinations and bio-security precautions are vital to animal safety, or why they plant cover crops or practice no-till farming. Ask them how caring for their animals provides them with a greater return on their investment and why animal welfare is vital to their business. Gather information from scientists, research institutions, and organizations that study the issues, work to better the industry, and create more sustainability. Find resources that provide statistics and facts based on decades of research. Learn from agronomists and animal scientists who dedicate their lives and careers to improving the industry. Here are some resources I follow on social media:
Kim Bremmer: www.aginspirations.com
Dr. Frank Mitloehner: @GHGGuru
Michelle Miller: www.thefarmbabe.com
arrie Mess: www.dairycarrie.com
American Farm Bureau: www.fb.org
1 “Statistics by State: Wisconsin Field Office.” National Agricultural Statistics Service. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wisconsin/index.php.
2 Supplement to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, volume 100, number 1(S), July 2014.
3 “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Sinks.” Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks.
4 Wang, S.L. et. al. “Agricultural Productivity Growth in the United States: 1948-2015.” Statistic: Farm Economy. Economic Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture. 5 March 2018. https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2018/march/agricultural-productivity-growth-in-the-united-states-1948-2015/.