I am usually smarter after talking with my nieces during the Thanksgiving holiday. This year was no exception.
One is a veterinarian and the other has a masters degree in food science.
I asked my veterinarian niece why her colleagues were not more vocal on animal husbandry issues – pen gestation, antibiotic free, cage free protocols being adopted by the livestock and poultry industries because of pressure from brand-building food supply chains such as Chipotle, Panera and recently Subway.
She said that it was a mistake and that her profession had more to offer to the dialogue on what constitutes good husbandry than they were currently contributing.
It has been to my amazement that the public would take the word of these trendy foodie restaurant franchises of what constitutes proper animal husbandry over that of veterinarians, but the vets have not joined the discourse like they should.
They need to speak up. She gave an example.
There is a lot of dairy in her area of practice and treating mastitis is a big deal. Dairy operations that are natural, organic, antibiotic-free do not treat cows for mastitis with antibiotics or they do not qualify for their marketing program.
She is appalled that this can be considered to be proper animal husbandry or welfare. The health of the cow can be measured in the somatic white cell count in milk.
For milk to be sold to the public, the somatic white cell count, which indicates the health of the cow, must be under 450,000/ml.
The natural, or organic dairy operations struggle to stay under 450,000, while conventional dairies that treat for mastitis with antibiotics will produce milk with a somatic white cell count of fewer than 100,000 which indicated that the milk came from a healthy cow.
Since there are no antibiotics in milk, which milk is actually the most wholesome?
Pen free sow gestation adds to sow death loss, producing fewer pigs, increasing cost of production by 10 percent.
There is a sow hierarchy and the lead sow defends her status in the pen by fighting for it with the result that the losers are injured or killed.
Astoundingly to producers, the animal rightists turn a blind eye to this, while opposing stall gestation which protects the animals.
Antibiotic free hog production kills pigs and stunts others. My niece has seen death loses in these antibiotic-free pig operations of 50 percent, because if they treat them they are kicked out and the producer loses his foodie supply chain premium.
His choice is that he can have a live healthy animal that only qualifies for the commercial market for which he will lose money, or risk the pig’s life on making enough on the foodie premium to pay for the dead ones.
Antibiotic-free kills animals and somehow that very strong truth hasn’t been conveyed to consumers.
Consumers also think that animals treated with antibiotics must have antibiotics in the meat. No. No. No.
The animals get well, the antibiotics are gone and there are withdrawals before slaughter with the meat tested so there is no residue.
Where are the videos from PETA showing the natural dairies with sick cows with infected teats, bloodied sows in gestation pens or the ones killed, and all the pigs that died because the producer would lose his access to the market if he treated sick ones with antibiotics so the ham could be sourced by Subway?
There is a whole other side to these pen gestation, antibiotic free, natural livestock husbandry protocols that the public is not aware of. Veterinaries would be the best ones to explain it to them.
Chipotle was at least a three-time loser for E. coli food illness outbreaks this year. They must be going for some kind of record.
My food science niece explained the Chipotle disaster. I thought that it was important where food is sourced as to the incidence of E. coli. She said that often the source can be traced back, but more important was the food preparation protocols of the restaurant.
How it is handled and how it is cooked was the most important. She said that all meat for example, likely has some level of E. coli.
It is naturally occurring. Proper cooking eliminates any health risk. Proper washing of vegetables eliminates E. coli risk.
She said Jimmy Johns eliminated alfalfa sprouts on their sandwiches because the sprouts structure resisted cleaning.
They didn’t have confidence in their ability to successfully wash them clean enough, so they eliminated them.
Consumers accept what is the proper husbandry and protocols by listening to social media chefs rather than veterinarians.
The success these foodie restaurant franchises have had has drawn in McDonald’s and Subway, who feel compelled to join them as a way of competing with them.
In order to continue to brand themselves, the foodie supply chains will continue to raise the ante demanding new protocols and restrictions from livestock producers in order to have access to their supply chains.
Animal rights organizations are not all about animal welfare or they would be stepping in to protect livestock from foodie protocols that do animals harm.
Frankly, U.S. consumers would be far better informed about proper livestock production protocols and food safety if they listened to my nieces.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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