Greetings from Minnesota! It was a windy day with skies ranging from sunny to overcast with a few rain drops.
This post has been brewing for a while. I’m finally getting it written, and to start things off I’ve got a few questions…
Do you ever think about where your food comes from? Do you think about how it’s raised?
What about organic food? Do you think it’s better than traditionally grown food? Are you willing to pay more for foods produced in a certain way?
No matter how you answer these, hopefully I can bring a new perspective to your thoughts on food as I show you two sides to several food stories.
The Dairy Product
I’m starting out with dairy because that’s what I know best.
Many labels show up on dairy, and they all come with varying price tags. Organic. rBST/ rBGH-free. Local. Just to name a few.
Does this make them better? A lot of people will say they think these dairy products are “better” even if they aren’t sure how they’re better.
I think the common belief, or first side of the story, is that more expensive products, such as organic milk versus regular milk, must be better.
In reality, ALL milk contains hormones and no milk sold contains antibiotics.
Milk specifically labeled rBST/rBGH-free (as well as organic milk) means that cows haven’t been given more of the hormone Bovine Somatotropin (BST) than they naturally produce. This hormone stimulates milk production, and all cows produce it.
There is no way to test milk to tell whether it just contains the cow’s own BST or if the cow has been given more. This is because the synthetic version is identical to what cows naturally produce.
So what’s the second side of the story?
Well, I’ve had environmentally conscious folks tell me they feel that giving cows additional BST (remember that’s the milk producing hormone) is a good thing.
It doesn’t hurt the cow, but helps her make more milk. This means more milk can be gotten from less cows.
Is that good?
Well, it does mean farmers can make more efficient use of resources like water and land (it takes land to grow feed like grasses, hay, and grains).
While cows who give more milk are going to consume more water and feed than cows who give less, it is still more efficient than needing more cows to get similar milk production.
Plus, there’s always that little fact of our world population expected to grow by billions and billions in the next 20+ years. Farmers must get better at producing more food with less resources if we’re going to feed a hungry world.
So what’s the better choice?
That’s for you to decide.
Bottom line: I think dairy products are great. We’re lucky to have so many choices in the dairy case. No matter what you buy, I think you can feel confident that you’re getting a safe, quality product.
A one-size-fits all model doesn’t work well for most businesses, and the same can definitely be said about dairy farms. 🙂
The other food I’m going to explore is meat. Think everything from turkey to beef to lamb.
I know “antibiotics” can be a controversial word when it comes to food, but I assure you there are even two sides to this issue.
On one side, I know many people don’t want antibiotics to come in contact with animals raised for food. People may seek out products labeled “antibiotic- free” or only buy organic (which no antibiotics can be used on).
I think those foods are a good, healthy choice.
But, I can also tell you that even if meat (or milk) comes from an animal that has been treated with antibiotics, it is still free of antibiotics when you consume it.
That’s because there is a withdrawal period required on all antibiotics approved for food animals. The animal can’t be slaughtered until after the withdrawal period. This ensures no antibiotic residue in the meat.
Now you may be asking… Why use antibiotics at all?
Well, my personal belief is that if an animal is ill, the responsible remedy is to treat him or her with the appropriate medicine. Just as I would go to the doctor and get a prescription if I needed it, we want to give our cows the best care. Sometimes that does mean using antibiotics.
We work closely with our veterinarian to choose the right treatments, and we always discard all milk that may have traces of antibiotics. Every load of milk that leaves any farm is tested, so it’s assured clean.
Now I realize that not everybody believes in these treatments, and some people choose herbal remedies instead of a prescription.
On farms who don’t use modern medicines, I know they sometimes need to sell animals to a traditional farm where they can get the treatment they need. Or, they may have animals die because the organic remedies available don’t always work.
As I said before, I don’t think there is one best way to farm, and we need many ideas and methods to make our food system work.
No matter foods you choose in your next grocery trip, I hope you know that farmers and processors work very hard to get a safe, nutritious product to you – the consumer!
I would explore into the fruit and veggie world, but my knowledge is more limited in that arena. Besides, I think I’ve met my word quota for the evening. 🙂
Questions, comments, or criticisms?