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By Staff | Mar 15, 2017

It is a sad fact that mainstream America is removed so far from her agrarian roots that she is now afraid of her own abundant food supply. -Kristine Walker Hamilton County-area cattle producer/grain grower

We all want what is best for our children, those we care for, and for ourselves – in that order, usually. Urban or rural, rich or poor, illegal or legal, gay or straight: we seek the things that make life good for those whom we care about; it is our commonality we ought to rely upon when we are faced with uncertainty and untruth.

I do my level best to feed my family wholesome nutritious meals budgeted by the cash and time on hand. While convenient processed tidbits often find their way into the cart, I tend to lean toward whole food-fresh veggies and fruit, milk and eggs.

Groceries are an errand, not the main event of the day. There is little time for researching the genetic makeup of my broccoli, the hormone profile of my milk, or the mental health of the chickens laying my eggs. I trust the farmers producing those things to do their best for me, period.

As a beef producer, I am fortunate to have a freezer full of meat at my disposal. I am comfortable with the feed that meat was given, the treatment of that meat on the hoof, and ultimately the humane and sanitary manner in which it was harvested and processed. I knew that meat as calf No. 12. My husband, daughter, and I cared for its mother, tended to its delivery into this world, vaccinated it, administered zeranol subcutaneously in his left ear to help improve feed efficiency, poured anthelminthic over and into his hide to drive out internal parasites, applied every measure to ensure it wouldn’t be afflicted with pinkeye, and fed it a steady ration of forage, protein, genetically modified corn we produced, and-yes-even minute quantities of antibiotics were present in the loose trace mineral used to round out his ration.

When he was fit, we loaded him into the trailer and delivered him to the Williams locker where he was shot, his carcass hung, and processed. Calf No. 12 had a good life, and is serving his earthly purpose in feeding my omnivorous family. I am confident the meat calf No. 12 provides to us is nutritious, safe, and tasty. Having spent some time in the animal health industry, I have researched antibiotic residues and resistance and continue to have confidence in ol’ 12.

As we care for our creatures, we care for our children. Both of my kids have been through the vaccination schedule recommended by the medical community without untoward adverse effects of the dreaded thimerosal hiding in their adjuvant systems. Best of all, I am confident they are protected from the horrors of polio, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diptheria, whooping cough, and hepatitis among others. When they are sick, I take them to the doctor – I trust their training and judgement to prescribe antibiotics as needed.

As an advocate for agriculture, I cannot sit idly by and watch this Subway/Chipotle/Panera saga play out without getting a chance to weigh in myself. It is a sad fact that mainstream America is removed so far from her agrarian roots that she is now afraid of her own abundant food supply.

Like lions to the kill, the media and marketing gurus have glorified buzzwords like “non-GMO, antibiotic-free, and all-natural” to the gregarious masses seeking simple redemption and safety from profit-driven, inhumane, evil-minded food, fuel and fiber producers of our own country. Like me, they are in a hurry in the grocery aisle and want the best for their family and loved ones. Sadly, they do not know calf No. 12 or Bill and Kris Walker who raised him, so they are prone to pay a premium for a label while the cheaper stuff is likely just as free of antibiotics as the pretty package in their cart.

With any industry, a healthy check of the status quo is undoubtedly a means by which improvements can be made. While the healthcare of our stock is at the heart of every operation, folks like Temple Grandin are helping us understand animal behavior in a new way-leading to better livestock flow (and perhaps a secondary benefit to producers’ blood pressure as well).

Good stockmen and women care about the wellbeing of their herd; it is not only their livelihood, it is the core of their soul and the way they live their life.

Like any industry, there are bad apples. Unfortunately, they are the ones who tend to grab headlines, hashtags, and YouTube hits.

There will always be a segment of the population that is convinced that conventional agriculture will slowly grind the world to a halt and earth will implode. No amount of rational scientific argument will convince them otherwise and they will only be satisfied with organic vegetables produced happily alongside one free-range cow and a flock of chickens skittering around the farmyard pecking through organic non-GMO cow pies and laying eggs at will.

While that was a bit facetious, the mentality exists. Some producers are making strides at fulfilling their needs. I applaud those who are working toward filling the demand of these niche markets seeking added-value through alternative means of rearing crops, livestock, and fiber.

Ask any of those folks, however, and they will likely attest that there are constraints and challenges to these methods just as “commodity” producers face, which contribute to that additional cost of production – whether it is in added resources, feed, or labor.

That said, the consumer enamored by the idyllic farm should expect to pay for it.

The U.S. has the most inexpensive, safe, available and ample food supply of any developed nation. By all means, if you are uneasy about the quality of the food you have available to you, please seek out your own. You will find that it will require time, some land, and some money at the very least. Do a little research yourself, be an informed consumer, please. You may find that we farmers really aren’t so bad after all; we are governed by such folks as the USDA, EPA, and FDA, pay our taxes, sing off key in church, and are quite well read on science and technology; our occupation requires it.

Reach out to us, ask us why we do the things we do and open your mind to our response. Don’t believe what you hear on the Today show, read on Facebook, or watch on YouTube.

Pick up the phone and talk with us, ride in the combine, help us preg-check cows, walk the timber fence with us – you might be amazed by the things you see.

We probably won’t stop for lunch at Subway, so you might want to grab something before you come or take your chances with us.

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