EDITOR'S BLOG: Voices of reason
Aug. 22, 2016
by Joel Crews
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During the welcoming session at last month’s American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) convention, the theme of the keynote address was loud and clear: The animal agriculture community must be louder and clearer. While this notion and sentiment has been promoted by many others for years, Trent Loos, a Nebraska-based farmer and rancher who travels the world and hosts a radio show promoting his fellow producers and the positive aspects of the food-supply chain, framed his reasoning in a manner that was compelling and created a buzz among attendees of the event in Omaha. Consisting mostly of small- and medium-size processing companies, the majority of which are led by operators who tend to quietly go about their business without much fanfare or hoopla, it is the typical AAMP-member that stands to perhaps have the most influence on promoting the many positive aspects of the food-supply chain by informing the customers they interact with each day. Loos, who has traveled to more than 30 states this year spreading his message, said those operators have the most credibility when it comes to addressing the controversy that faces the industry.
“You are the experts in what you do every day,” Loos said, “in how you handle the animals, how you process the food and how you get it from farm to fork.” He added: “The expert needs to stand up now more so than ever before.”
Loos made the point that in the absence of a universal understanding and acceptance of the cycle of life, uninformed critics are quick to step up and fill the void with misinformation. Loos makes most of his compelling points based on a premise that is not realized by enough people: Everything lives, everything dies and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.
Some of the most common concerns and issues confronting the industry can be diffused once Loos’ premise is more widely accepted and more people are willing to empower and trust the experts in the food-supply chain. He said the paranoia about how to feed the world in 30-plus years is needless.
“Just let the experts drive the ship and we’ll feed them easily,” he said, citing examples of how efficient agriculture has become.
On health concerns surrounding food containing nitrates, Loos pointed out that not only are all Americans nitrate deficient, but 85 percent of nitrates in the diets of US consumers come from leafy greens. Many athletes at this year’s Olympics in Brazil are taking doses of nitrates as supplements and many doctors are prescribing nitrates to patients after they suffered heart attacks.
Industry critics with a goal of disrupting the food system and interfering with feeding people are typically basing their points on a selective portrayal of the truth and they mislead the public and create noise around a handful of issues that draw attention away from all the positives and progress made. Loos knows he’s preaching to the choir and that is his intent. I agree that this type of grass roots approach could be most effective in spreading the truth about polarizing issues ranging from the use of genetically modified feed by livestock producers to the side effects of using hormones and antibiotics in meat-producing animals.
“The choir is too quiet,” he said.
After a recent presentation made to an audience that included a significant contingency from the military, Loos said an Air Force commander made a keen observation. The commander, according to Loos, said, “Those of you in the farming world share the same frustration that we do in the military. The very men and women we risk our lives to protect don’t understand what we do or appreciate the sacrifices that we make.”
Loos went on to point out that one of the rights the US military defends each day is the freedom of speech. This right is being effectively used to criticize the food industry, but not nearly as effectively used to defend it.
“Speak up and share the expertise that is so evident,” Loos said, and by educating people one day at a time and focusing on facts and not the peripheral noise of its critics, the food-producing industries can create a truth-based foundation for promoting itself today and in the future.