N.C.B.A. responds to magazine article

by Bryan Salvage
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CENTENNIAL, COLO. — Despite interviewing numerous beef industry experts, Time magazine is publishing an article that not only "blatantly disregarded" the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s input — it repeats a wide range of "factory farming" claims, including the common myths about modern beef production’s over-reliance on corn and antibiotics, the distorting effect of farm subsidies and poor farm animal living conditions, N.C.B.A. charges.

Here’s the story behind the story, according to N.C.B.A. Time magazine posted the pre-mentioned article by reporter Bryan Walsh to its web site titled "The Real Cost of Cheap Food". It’s the cover story for the Aug. 31 print edition, which already is available at some newsstands and will be arriving in subscriber mailboxes early this week. The cover artwork is a package of ground beef carrying the warning: "CAUTION. This hamburger may be hazardous to your health."

N.C.B.A. explains the issues-management and media-relations teams of the Beef Checkoff Program heard from a Time research assistant at the end of July about a pending article. At that time, it was positioned as an article Mr. Walsh was writing about food safety and antibiotics. The research assistant specifically wanted the industry’s comment on the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act and antibiotic use in the beef industry. Employees of the Beef Checkoff Program quickly arranged an interview, after which, Mr. Walsh contacted the team directly to fact check how much it costs to raise a steer to harvest weight.

However, when asked more about this article, Mr. Walsh revealed his story would address other issues, including beef and nutrition and the environment. N.C.B.A. said it relayed to Mr. Walsh he needed to hear from beef industry experts before running his story.

Five interviews were then arranged for Mr. Walsh within a three-hour time period on the afternoon of Aug. 19 and the team provided him with fact sheets and research about beef choices, beef nutrition and the environment. Interviews were set up to discuss beef’s important role in a healthy diet with Shalene McNeill, Ph.D., R.D., N.C.B.A. executive director of human nutrition research; production agriculture and the different choices of beef with Tom Field, Ph.D., N.C.B.A. executive director of producer education; and livestock production and the environment with Jude Capper, Ph.D., assistant professor at Washington State University. Interviews were also set up for Mr. Walsh with two feedlot operators: Anne Burkholder of Will Feed, Inc., in Cozad, Neb., and Gary Teague of Teague Diversified, Inc., in Fort Morgan, Colo.

N.C.B.A. said that of the six expert spokespeople offered up, Mr. Walsh included only one quote about antibiotic use: "(Resistance) is the result of human use and not related to veterinary use."

"In addition, Time’s description of feedlot conditions blatantly disregarded the great information about the care that goes into raising cattle that was provided by Mr. Teague and Ms. Burkholder," N.C.B.A. charged in a news release.

As a result of this experience, N.C.B.A. is telling its cattle producer members to urge the public to find information refuting these types of claims at ExploreBeef.org.

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