10.23.2009

A Country Girl Education

Bron is home! Yay! He spent almost three full days at the Cornell Nutrition Conference in Syracuse. We stayed up all evening just talking. I love having him home. It was the first time I fell into a really deep sleep in two nights!

One of the topics we discussed and that Bron brought away from the conference is that we (95% of the population) need to make our voices heard. The other small percent of the population is controlling the current legislation right now. We need to protect farmers' rights and prevent them from being over taxed. It simply starts with education.

Before I married my husband and into his dairy farming family, I was a very naive city girl. Two and a half years later, I have been successfully indoctrinated into country living and farm life. My world and some of my views have changed because I have seen a working farm first-hand. And because Bron is getting his education primarily in dairy animals, I can ask specific questions and have them answered in almost too much detail.

For example, are organic foods really better than conventional? The answer is: no. Conventional fruits and vegetables contain the same amounts of vitamins and minerals--if not more--than organic. Conventional foods are grown bigger and juicier because they are genetically modified. That modification has no effect on you. As for pesticides, however, the person most in danger is the farmer spraying it. Plus, the FDA has very strict guidelines. I understand if you want to avoid any risks. That's why there's an organic niche just for you.

Organic farmers are doing something right, however. They often plant a variety of fruits and vegetables. This in turn protects the farmer's entire crop from being destroyed by one bug, fungus, or other threat. Because of public demand, conventional farmers are forced to plant a monoculture. For example, potato farmers in Idaho grow the Russet Burbank potato almost exclusively because those are the type people prefer for their french fries and other great edibles. One bug can destroy hundreds of acres of fields of russet potatoes in one season. These farmers must use various forms of pesticides, etc. to protect their crop and their livelihood. So why can't people eat a variety of potatoes for their french fries? Who cares if they don't stick long and prettily out of the red McDonald's box? They would still taste delectible. I think it would be a win-win situation for everyone all around!

In the year 2050 it is projected that we will need to produce 100% more food to feed the planet's growing population. Less than 20% of this food will come from new land dedicated to farming. The rest is left up to food science and engineering. In other words, we will produce more crops per acre. We're already doing it and will continue to improve. Organics will not play a part in saving the world because they just can't produce those numbers.  However, I am not against planting a home-grown garden.  I think it's a great way to feed a family!

Did you know that a cow fed a conventional diet of silage, hay, and corn mixture can produce over 100 lbs. of milk per day? (That's what Miner is doing right now.) An organic cow grazing only on grass produces a third of the amount, around 35 lbs. of milk per day. Although grazing is obviously very cheap, it's actually more practical and cost-efficient in most cases to feed cows a conventional diet. I'm sure Bron's brother, Talon, has a few words to add to this paragraph about some of the other pros and cons. He's been using honey to treat mastitis (as opposed to antibiotics) and it seems to work! That's one simple remedy that's exciting!

Also FYI, Americans prefer the taste of a conventionally fed cow over a grass fed cow. Yum, Yum, Beef!

Bron and I talked about growth hormones in cows and the perception that people think their children are hitting puberty sooner because of these hormones. It simply isn't true. I've heard this argument many times, but was too afraid to speak up. I should have. It's a proven fact that girls start their menstrual cycle when they hit about 100 lbs. (Girls, think back to this horrific time in your young life!) Boys begin their journey into manhood at about the same weight. Today we are feeding our children bigger (proportions) and better foods than ever before in the United States.

The same idea is true in animals as well. Dairy calfs can grow into a mature cow much more quickly when fed exactly what they need. This means that a heifer can be bred and start producing milk at a younger age. Hormones are primarily given to beef cows to spur their growth. Just as there are regulations for a cow given antibiotics and the time between which her milk can be put in the tank, there is a certain amount of time allotted between administering hormones and slaughter. Because of this time lapse, there is no detectable amount of hormone in the meat we eat. Plus, if that isn't enough, the hormone denaturizes (just as bacteria) when the meat is cooked. Therefore, it's harmless anyway! So unless you or your child eats raw meat, you're in the green.

BST is another debatable subject. BST is already naturally occurring in animals that produce milk. Scientists were just able to make more. By giving a cow BST, she is able to produce more milk. The milk's fat and other nutritional content stay about the same. The only drawback is that her body wears-out faster. Nobody anywhere wants to admit that BST was originally given to human babies with absolutely no response.

Finally, many of the United States' legislation is based on world-wide data. So while the numbers may be true in South America, they don't hold a candle to the realities in the US. Our numbers are that different! Legislation for this country needs to be made upon research and numbers from this country. It only makes sense, right?

Please remember that many of our everyday conveniences, medical advances, and our quality and longevity of life have come from revolutionary ideas in science and engineering. It is imperative that research is done using good laboratory techniques. Better yet, research must be done in good conscience. Believe me, I do this every day I come to work!

I know I'm opinionated and out-spoken. I always have been; can't help it. I also know there are many other opinions out there and people may disagree with me or have some rebuttal. But that's what makes us compromise and move forward for a better world. Educate yourself and don't be afraid to speak up! It would make me happiest.

3 comments:

  1. Go Jessie Go! That was great info. I've been saying similar things forever but this is great backup for those non believers :)

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  2. Thanks for posting this.. since my dad is still a dairy farmer over in Utica, and me growing up on the farm.. its important to get that information out there.

    Also.. the best beef from a cow I think is when they have a mixture of silage, hay, and corn.. I hate buying meat from the store, I loved eating our own cows (does that sound weird?) but I think its bc we made sure they had such a good diet bc we were milking them.

    And organic food is such a crock! I heard that to be labeled organic you can still use at least one pesticide on them.. hmm, I bet most people don't know that!

    Reading your blog makes me miss so many aspects of farming! Im glad people like your husband are going into it and getting more education to help keep it alive.. farmers are truly a dying breed.

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  3. I'm very proud of my intelligent, opinionated sister! I wouldn't change that about you the least bit! you go girl!

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