Blog: Farmers - not activists - feed the world

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In many ways, America is the land of plenty. This is certainly the case when it comes to food--most Americans are lucky enough to have an abundance of choices at the grocery store. But for 1 in 6 people in the United States, America is not the land of plenty.

Last month was National Hunger Awareness month, and for the millions of Americans struggling with food insecurity, hunger is a reality that is not confined to small pockets of society, certain areas of the country, or certain demographics.

We hear a lot about the global food crisis that’s coming in 2050--how we’ll have to feed 9.1 billion people with the same--or fewer--resources. But for countless Americans and millions of people around the world, there’s a global food crisis right now. It’s a crisis from the standpoint that they can’t make ends meet and feed their families.

It’s a crisis we don’t hear nearly enough about. Unless, of course, it’s from animal rights activist groups who are quick to blame animal agriculture and meat-based diets for food insecurity in this country and abroad. Then we can’t hear enough about world hunger.

According to PETA’s website, “There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population. We funnel huge amounts of grain, soybeans and corn through all the animals we use for food instead of feeding starving humans.”

Similarly, HSUS argues, “of the world’s nearly 6.8 billion humans, almost 1 billion people are malnourished. Feeding half the world’s grain crop to animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk instead of directly to humans is a significant waste of natural resources, including fossil fuels, water, and land. Raising animals for food is also a major contributor to global warming, which is expected to further worsen food security globally.”

Disappointingly, we’ve come to expect the circulation of this misinformation by groups that will do anything in their power to bring about an end to animal agriculture. (For some actual science-based logic on the food vs. feed conundrum, I would highly recommend Dr. Jude Capper’s most recent paper, “Is a Cow Eating my Lunch?”).

But I know I wasn’t the only one to be shocked by the blatant slap in the face that came near the end of Chipotle’s latest digital short entitled “The Scarecrow.”

I know I was already fuming as I watched the sad Scarecrow board the bus towards home. As the bus pulls away what can only be seen as a “factory farm,” he stares out upon a bleak, barren landscape and a billboard with the slogan “Crow Foods Feeding the World.”

Now, it’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of that messaging point. I think it makes those of us in the agriculture community look like we have a huge superiority complex, which I’m guessing is why Chipotle took great pains to use our own words against us.

That said, the truth is that America’s farmers and ranchers are indeed feeding the world, but not just by growing and raising the food that appears on our grocery store shelves. They literally give back and try to feed those going hungry every day within our borders. 

Not only are individual farmers donating their surplus harvests of corn and vegetables, but so are companies deemed to be “big food” by hipster companies like Chipotle. Tyson Foods, for example, partners with FeedingAmerica to help stock the shelves of food banks nationwide.

It’s easy to take pot shots at “big food,” “industrial agriculture” or “factory farming,” and even easier to hide behind some misguided notion of moral superiority (yes PETA and HSUS I’m looking at you), or a million-dollar, allegedly “fictitious” virtual reality scheme (ehem, Chipotle). 

But it’s difficult to strive to actually solve a problem, or at least try. Looking towards the looming 2050 global food crisis, I feel much more secure relying on sound science, modern agriculture, and dedicated farmers and ranchers with a proven commitment to feeding the hungry.

After all, the average American farmer feeds 155 people worldwide (and probably many more when you count up all the farmers donating extra food above and beyond what they sell).   

Whereas, the average American activist organization And I’m pretty sure an $8 Chipotle burrito isn’t feeding the hungry either. 

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Terry Ward    
Pa.  |  October, 09, 2013 at 11:22 PM

OMG .. STILL bickering with vegans... Don't y'all get tired of this EVER? Oh wait...How many vegans are there? Ummm, like, um, 1%? Jeeze..must be a slow day.

Cathy P.    
Venice, FL  |  October, 10, 2013 at 10:05 AM

It is pretty clear the writer, assuming that is her photo, is very well fed on animal products! ;-) Nothing being said by the animal rights or animal welfare people, or Chipotle, for that matter, is as inaccurate as the propaganda spread day in and day out by people like her. Neither are 100% accurate, but they are closer than most animal agriculture advocates. The truth isn't in them because they know they can't sell the truth!

October, 10, 2013 at 09:27 PM

you can come up with nothing betterto attack this writer with than a personal insult based on her size. Shame on you

Cathy P.    
Venice, FL  |  October, 11, 2013 at 10:30 AM

I did come up with more. It wasn't kind, but neither was her commentary. It was simply an observation, based on her head shot. Not sure how big the rest of her actually is, but she looks quite well fed. I feel no shame for this. Do you feel shame for the things you do to animals or say about animal welfare supporters?

kansas  |  October, 11, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Kudos Emily! Terry & Cathy turn-out prove you hit a nerve or two among the wild-eyed, drooling attack dogs (vicious tea-cup poodles) of the anti-farm Left. Keep poking them, it's fun to watch them all-cap, emoticon writhe & twitch.

Terry Ward    
Pa.  |  October, 11, 2013 at 02:16 PM

Michael i do believe you have earned today's' drama-queen award.

Terry Ward    
Pa.  |  October, 11, 2013 at 02:19 PM

Cathy you are way off base with that comment. Personal invective is for 7 yr. old boys. Nasty 7 yr. old boys. If you think commenting on someone's physical appearance helps any animal anywhere you are sorely mistaken.

Vicky Johnson    
IL  |  October, 13, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Did you miss the point of Chipotle's video? Many many are opposed to some of the standard practices in animal production that are finally coming to light. Take the message as a suggestion and do something for the animals! Bring the standard practices above reproach for most people - and yes, there will always be some that can't be appeased.

Missouri  |  October, 13, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Perhaps on the few remaining family farms there still exists a lofty goal of feeding the hungry. But factory farming is all about profits. Americans are being poisoned. Cancer causing chemicals, pesticides, additives, preservatives, food colorings, GMO, growth hormones, anti-biotics, BLEACH, etc. have decimated our food supply. It is difficult to find real food anymore. Instead, we eat food-like substances. Animals are raised in unnatural conditions, fed unnatural feed, pumped with chemicals, tortured and brutally killed. Ag-gag laws outrageously keep consumers in the dark as to where their food is coming from. The Steve King Amendment in the Farm Bill virtually legislates animal cruelty. And Monsanto... OMG. American consumers are NOT Roundup Ready. And why is Congress so hellbent on getting rid of labels if it isn't to protect corporations from liability? When profits become more important than people, corruption abounds. For both moral and health reasons, my family quit purchasing meat and milk. As vegetarians, we try to buy organic. And now, to further destroy our food supply, horse slaughterhouses are fighting to open - to export drug-laden horsemeat to our allies overseas, using OUR tax dollars for their private business. It's just WRONG. I come from a family of farmers. But it was very different when my grandfather and uncles were farming. It's all about money now. Food safety is a thing of the past. I am grateful to animal welfare organizations. Without them, the greedy factory farmers would stop at nothing to make a buck. Please contact your legislators and tell them to sponsor the Safeguard American Food Export Act HR1094, S541. Remove the King Amendment. And LABEL GMO!

OK  |  October, 13, 2013 at 12:53 PM

If you really want a reality check maybe you should look into the realty of the beef industry. There is no other FOOD industry that gets more taxpayer subsidies than the beef industry. Last year Billions of dollars went into the pockets of cattle ranchers and producers. Cattle require and take up far more land for grazing and land to produce their hay/grain than land that is used to feed humans. Beef consumption contributes to the vast cost of health care contributing to the #1 killer of US citizens and that is heart disease. DON'T get me wrong, I am not a vegetarian or vegan. But I am sick of people writing articles and blogs that have erroneous information. Oh and BTW I am a small rancher. You may want to concentrate on the real enemy and that is the Farm Bureau that works deals for the large outfits and leaves us little guys out to dry. You don't like that others depict farmers and ranchers as problems, then maybe we should take it up with the Farm Bureau that allows and fights for the big outfits that ARE doing all kinds of egregious things to stock and our industry.

Oklahoma  |  October, 13, 2013 at 12:57 PM

sorry the edit did not come through. The above sentence should read: "Last year Billions of dollars went into the pockets of LARGE CORPORATE cattle ranchers and producers".

Georgia  |  October, 13, 2013 at 03:55 PM

By farmers, do you mean the Chinese and other foreign interests who own most of America's agricultural industries? You have no one but yourselves to blame for the turn towards veganism in this country. It is all a result of your own greed.

Matt Prescott (HSUS)    
October, 14, 2013 at 11:11 AM

It’s been interesting to watch Animal Ag Alliance’s efforts. Some are saying it seems clear that when the AAA looks at farmers, they see little more than membership dollars—with what appears to be no real concern for whether they make any actual headway on the issues those farmers pay them to address. If you think about, it’s hard to come up with any tangible ways in which the AAA has been successful. In the time since their founding, consumer distrust over several agricultural practices (e.g., gestation crates) has reached an all-time high, many states now outlaw once-standard practices (e.g. veal and/or gestation crates), consumer survey after consumer survey shows that Americans are opposed to these most extreme confinement practices, and virtually all major food companies have animal welfare policies that call for the elimination of certain practices like gestation crates. On the ag-gag issue, which was of course a hot topic during AAA’s summit, nearly all of the proposed bills have been struck down while garnering extensive media attention calling into question just what the ag industry is trying to hide with these bills. Media outlets nationwide (from Wyoming to Indiana) condemn the bills, and even ag trade press has called them off-base. By ignoring the crux of the issue – that there are some farming practices that are so extreme Americans simply won’t support them – and polarizing the stakeholders (e.g., HSUS and farmers) against each other, the AAA seems to have found a formula which allows it to continue fundraising without showing any actual results on behalf of farmers.

P Greenway    
Mitchell SD  |  November, 14, 2013 at 10:08 AM

I guess I would measure success by how many anti-ag trolls are following you. Wow, the negativity and misinformation never ceases to amaze me! I'm glad most of us are able to purchase a wide variety of safe, nutritious, inexpensive, food from our local grocery stores. There is (and probably always will be)a challenge to make sure all people can afford to put food on their tables. Good thing there are people & companies helping with that issue.

illinois  |  December, 11, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Emily. You seem to think that this is a contest as to who can feed more people. The way I see it. PETA and several other animal activist organizations back their claims with scientific research while you just spout off random claims. You sound like a brainwashed disciple just drinking the koolaid that is given to you on a daily basis. The facts are clear that animal "agriculture" is unsustainable. Don't you ever wonder why you are constantly defending your industry. If it is as wholesome as you say it is then why do so many people have a problem with it? You will probably blame this on the undercover footage taken by various groups that you discredit and want us to believe are all just fabrications. You want us all to just take your word for it and that the animal "ag" industry is made up of all these happy farm animals living on the countryside. We the american public know better. The bottom line is that animal activist groups do not have nearly as much to gain as your industry has to lose when consumption of animal products starts to dip. Food for thought. If you spend all of your time defending your industry. If so many people seem to have a problem with it. Maybe there actually is a problem.

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