Commentary: Importance of feeding earnestly

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Think of how much time we spend each day preparing, cooking and consuming our food. Mealtimes are usually one of the most important milestones of the day—certainly the markers that divide the daily segments of time, whether at work, at home or at leisure.

Of course, the work environment and the comforts of home are important to our well-being, but the best-furnished house or the fanciest office quickly becomes meaningless if we’re deprived of sustenance.

Often the recollections of travel or vacations surround the meals as much as the scenery or the sightseeing. And when the food fails to meet our expectations, it’s as bad or worse than lost luggage or rotten weather.

Ask yourself: What’s the biggest complaint about flying these days? “All they give you is a lousy bag of peanuts.”

The quality (and quantity) of food is vitally important not only to our health but also to our psychological well-being, as well.

That’s why I’m always puzzled that animal activists seem to focus almost exclusively on livestock housing arrangements whenever they roll out their anti-meat and their factory farming campaigns. They focus on cages and crates, and they illustrate their attack ads with photos of piglets packed into a stall, cattle herded into pens and chickens flocking together in a barn.

Oh, wait. That last one would be normal, wouldn’t it?

The scientific slant

But the point is, the touchstone for consumer outrage is always animal housing, and the comparison is always made with household pets and even people. Activists love to pose hypothetical questions, such as: You wouldn’t force your dog to stay in a cage all day, would you? Or, You wouldn’t keep your cat locked up in the house all day, would you?

Well, okay . . . the cat does that on its own.

Rarely—if ever—do activists, who supposedly are all about what’s best for animals, ever comment on or worry about what and how livestock are eating. Oh sure, they whine about all the grain that’s “wasted” on livestock, when it could be turned into cooked cereal to replace the meat, poultry and dairy products we currently enjoy. (Especially if you live in Africa. I haven’t heard a veggie yet who didn’t preach about the importance of diverting U.S. corn from the nation’s feedlots and hog farms to the thousands of African villages where the residents apparently prefer mush to meat). And the activist community certainly got the mileage out of raging against the horrors of adding meat meal and blood meal as protein supplements to cattle feed during the BSE scare.

However, the quality of life, whether it’s animals or humans, depends greatly on nutritional availability. Thankfully, that’s why animal scientists and researchers spend a great deal of time studying feed composition, feeding management and nutritional composition—all with the aim of improving well-being, enhancing performance and assuring proper growth and optimal health.

I mean, you can’t browse through a scientific journal, as I typically do most afternoons, publications such as The Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, or the Journal of Molecular Biology, or maybe a couple back issues of Food and Chemical Toxicology, and not be impressed by the wealth of research devoted to what animals eat and how the professionals involved in animal husbandry can apply the findings to more efficient livestock production.

In fact, if half the effort and one-quarter of the applications aimed at raising healthier farm animals were invested in providing better nutrition and healthier food choices for kids (and adults), we’d go a long ways toward dealing with the ongoing obesity crisis we’re facing as a result of not consuming the optimal mix of protein, the right balance of energy sources and the proper levels of fat in our diets.

Of course, the veggies have an answer for that one: Just say no to meat and hello to soy.

You see, soy protein, they’ll be happy to tell you, has the perfect complement of amino acids. It’s the ideal source of quality nutrition.

Just as long as it’s not fed to animals.

Dan Murphy is as veteran food-industry journalist and commentator



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