The Animal Agriculture Alliance has been busy over the course of the last year staying up-to-date on animal ag issues, researching current activist campaigns and advocating farm policy. At the 2013 NAFB Convention I met up with Kay Johnson Smith, President and CEO, and Emily Meredith, Director of Communications during the events Trade Talk.
Hot topics of discussion included the Animal Rights Conference Report, Meatless Monday campaign, Farm Protection legislation, their outreach efforts and the 2014 Stakeholders Summit.
Kay shared that they recently attended the Animal Rights Conference Report to better understand what our industry needs to be on the lookout for throughout the next year. The key takeaways from the event were three target audiences these activist groups are focusing on. They include retail restaurants, youth K-12 and students on college campuses as well as, health conscious adults.
The Animal Ag Alliance took it upon themselves to do a little digging into the Meatless Monday campaign and the results were shocking. You can checkout their complete report here. Emily shared how people were really surprised and that with such busy news cycle many of the mainstream news media take fact checking for granted.
The 2014 Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholders Summit is scheduled for May 8-9 in Arlington, VA. “Cracking the Millennial Code,” is the topic of discussion and will cover hot-button issues including antibiotics, animal welfare, sustainability and communication through the lens of a Millennial.
Executives from DuPont Pioneer, Elanco and Monsanto all participated in a panel discussion at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue last week on “Research and Returns: The Future of Agricultural Technology and Investment.”
“In general, we’re talking about the importance of continued investment and innovation and taking it even further to consumer acceptance,” said panelist Rob Aukerman, President of US/Canada Operations at Elanco Animal Health. “We’re very good at the science … the productivity story is incredible. But today we have so many consumers that are far removed from agriculture, that do not understand where their food comes from, and we have to enter into more of a conversation with the consumer to have the social license to move ahead to employ the technologies we need to feed the world.”
While the cost of putting a new product on the market for animal health or crop production is extraordinarily high due to the number of agencies involved, Aukerman believes a strong regulatory process is important for consumer confidence. “That’s one of the things that gives us license to move ahead,” he said. “We always are challenged to make that efficient as well and to make our investments pay off but there is great incentive to continue to invest because the need is great.”
Elanco’s product line includes antibacterials, anticoccidials, vaccines and parasiticides for both food and domestic animals, as well as a productivity enhancers, safety tools and analytical services. Even though they don’t directly produce food products or even animals, Aukerman says they consider themselves a food company. “Our vision of enriching lives through food has changed our company and has compelled us to be part of forums like this and dialogues throughout the entire food chain,” he added, noting that taking part in the World Food Prize events has “re-energized” him.
Dr. Richard Raymond, former Under Secretary, Food Safety Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dr. Scott Hurd, former Deputy Acting Under Secretary, Food Safety, USDA Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, PhD, University of Illinois, Associate Professor Animal Science Dr. John Glisson, DVM, MAM, PhD, Retired Department Head of Population Health and former Head of the Department of Avian Medicine, University of Georgia; Vice President, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Science, University of California Davis
You can listen to the press conference here: Animal Ag Alliance Press Conference
Experts discussed the progress made by the animal agriculture industry in the areas of responsible use of antibiotics, environmental sustainability, and animal well-being, and they vehemently disagreed with the former Pew Commissioners’ assessment of the animal agriculture industry.
“We are providing the safest and most affordable food supply in the world,” said former USDA Under Secretary Dr. Richard Raymond. “The words—like antibiotic resistance—that groups like the Pew Commission and others toss around are meant to inflame the American public and dis-inform them.” Continue reading →
This is no surprise to me. The Meatless Monday campaign doesn’t have the participation the organizers would like you to think they have. I have thought for some time that reports and effects of animal activists and their trendy sounding ideas are way over estimated.
Thanks to the Animal Agriculture Alliance for doing this research!
After weeks of investigation, the Animal Agriculture Alliance has concluded that the Meatless Monday Campaign is grossly misrepresenting the campaign’s enrollment and prevalence among schools, restaurants, hospitals and colleges. Since the inception of the Meatless Monday campaign, the Alliance has closely monitored the campaign’s progress and tried to correct its misinformation about the healthfulness of meat consumption and environmental impact of livestock production.
In anticipation of the Meatless Monday campaign’s 10th anniversary, the Alliance analyzed the overall effects of the campaign and gauged its effectiveness by individually surveying every participant listed on the Meatless Monday website. The Alliance found that the campaign has not been as popular as the Meatless Monday movement claimed. Most notably:
Out of the 236 kindergarten through twelfth grade schools listed as participating, more than 51% no longer or never participated in the program; Out of the 155 colleges/universities listed as participating, more than 43.2% no longer or never participated in the program; Out of the school districts listed as participating, more than 57% no longer do.
The Meatless Monday campaign also counts restaurants and food service providers among their allies, yet, over 35% and 47%, respectively, no longer participate in the program.
The Cattle Industry Summer Conference was more than committee and board meetings. Education was a key element to help arm attendees with facts and figures they can take home and use in everyday conversations with familiy, friends and complete strangers about beef.
Chuck spoke with Dr. Jude Capper, Livestock Sustainablity Consultant, after she presented a talk on common myths about beef. She truly put the numbers into context for the audience and stated, “If we have no context then we have no way to assess if these numbers are big or small.” Here are a few of the myths she busted that will allow us all to talk beef with anyone and be able to explain it practically.
Beef’s Carbon Footprint
“We have a perception out there that modern ag is killing the planet. For example, cattle cause global warming, if we went meatless every Monday we could save the planet and still drive our Hummer. If we use Meatless Monday’s as an example, as a contribution to national carbon footprint, meat only contributes 2.1% so the other 97.9% comes from everything else we do. The perception is if we all went meatless, all 330 million people in the states, we could save the planet. But actually if we did that every Monday for a whole year it would cut out national carbon footprint by less than 1/3 of 1%. So really it isn’t that big of a deal, but people really think it is”
Hormones in Beef
“Hormones in beef. There are so many conversations about, “Well, I don’t feed my kids beef and dairy now because kids are growing bigger and developing faster and it’s because of the hormones used in the beed and dairy industry.” And it is true that beef from an implanted steer has more estrogen in it then beef from an non-implanted steer. But the quantities are still are really tiny. If we put that into context with the birth control pill thats taken by 100 million females every single day globally, each one of those tiny little pills contains 35,000 nano grams of estrogen. So to get the amount of estrogen from beef as you do from one tiny little pill, each female would have to eat more than 2,000 lbs. of beef per day.”
Grain-fed vs. Grass-fed
“If we look at grass-fed vs. corn-fed beef, for example. The assumption is that feedlots are bad, we need to do away with them, we need to make all of our beef grass-fed. And it is a great system. But if we want to make the 27 billion pounds of beef that we produce every year from grass-fed system we are going to need more then 65 million more cattle in the national herd. We are going to need an extra area of land, more than 75% of the land area of Texas, a huge amount of more land. We are going to need water equivalent to adding 53 million households to the staves and the carbon emissions extra to make the same amount of beef will be the same as adding 27 million cars to the roads every year.”
Animal handling is THE big priority issue for the Livestock Marketing Association. Members have Laura Marks, LMA Director of Animal Handling, as a great resource when it comes to this issue. Here at the 2013 LMA Annual Convention Laura conducted a workshop on this issue. I visited with her in between sessions to learn what she wanted members to know. Laura says members want to treat the animals in their care the best way possible at all times.
Unfortunately, when dealing with the threat of activist groups it is hard to avoid the courtroom. During the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit we heard from those who have seen first hand the legal ramifications of activist tactics.
John Simpson, partner at Fulbright and Jaworski LLP, shared how he fought back for his client for 13 years and tips for those courtroom battles. John represented Feld Entertainment, who produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The team was victorious and ASPCA paid Feld Entertainment a $9.3 million settlement.
John doesn’t refer to these groups as activists, he says they are special interest groups with a radical agenda. He also stressed that they will attack you at the local, state and national levels. They will not only attempt to take action in the courtroom, they will attack the legislative, science and vet labs, in the media and your very own business.
Partnerships are what the Animal Agriculture Alliance is based on. These partnerships unite the agriculture community, creating one voice. Instead of ‘preaching to the choir,’ attendees at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, heard from outside voices and some challenges were presented that made us all think about how we can join together and address them.
I spoke with Chase Adams, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, about their involvement with the Animal Ag Alliance and how they plan to share the message presented at the summit with their producers from across the country.
“National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has been a longtime supporter of the Animal Ag Alliance. We’ve got a member on the board and we believe, as all the groups do, it’s so important that agriculture puts a unified face against those that really want us put out of business and thats animal rights folks. Animal Ag Alliance allows groups like NCBA to join with other groups like pork and even a lot of grain and agribusiness partners around the industry and put that unified voice together and respond to so many of the things we get attacked on.”
The past can’t be changed, but we can learn from it. That’s what economist, public speaker, farm girl, wife and mom, Janet Hufnagel Thompson, stressed with her message to attendees at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. The event focused on how we can protect our animals, our farms, the food we eat and the confidence of consumers.
Janet shared her families fight against environmental groups to save their family farm. Unfortunately, her story doesn’t have a happy ending, but her hope is to educate others by sharing the lessons they learned the hard way. Talking publicly is something she thinks would have changed the outcome of their situation. She stated that if at least have of the people who supported them privately, spoke out publicly then they could have saved the business. But the take home message she wants all to remember is the sanctity of private property.
“The most important thing is the sanctity of private property. Private property owners need to decide what happens on their property and with their business. I think this idea that we need to regulate more to keep the bad actors from being bad doesn’t stop the bad actors. It make it hard for good people to do business. So I think we have to go back to the fundamentals that this country was founded upon, the protection of life, liberty and property. And until we do that, until we go back to treasuring private property and what it truly means, I think we are going to continue to see an erosion and deterioration of circumstances for producers and thats producers of all kinds, not just farmers and ranchers.”
Speaker after speaker during the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit reminded us that transparency is no longer an option for the livestock industry. To prove that the agriculture community has nothing to hide, groups have opened their doors to share how your food is made.
Senior Vice President for Public Affairs & Professional Development at the American Meat Institute, Janet Riley, was one of those speakers who shared how her organization is bridging the divide between producer and consumer. I got the opportunity to talk with her and she gave more insight into AMI’s Glass Wall Project.
“For far too long the animal rights activists have said if slaughter houses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian and I didn’t believe it. Then Cargill really gets a lot of credit for the inspiration when they allowed the Oprah show into their plant. It went so well. It was just a very honest dialogue, they didn’t shy away from anything. So I started talking to Temple Grandin and I said will you be willing to host some videos and just explain in your own works how we slaughter livestock. She was delighted to show people what we do and how she has influenced what we do. She picked two plants that were representative of the beef and pork industries. Both agreed to open their doors to us. Then we decided that we would produce these videos in Temple’s own words. We wanted authentic transparency and so we just allowed Temple to explain in the best way she could how we process livestock into meat at each step of the way. It was a really interesting experience. Every now and then I would say consumers might not understand why we do this, could you explain it? And then she would.”
The beef and pork processing plant videos can be viewed at AnimalHandling.org, along with more information on meat processing. AMI is looking into producing a turkey processing video next. These videos are a great educational tool and open doors for progressive dialogue.
Protecting animals, farms, food and consumer confidence was the theme during the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. More and more states are taking legislative matters when it comes to protecting farmers. And that was a hot topic addressed during the recent event held in Arlington, Virginia.
Joe Miller, General Counsel for Rose Acre Farms, spoke to attendees on farm protection legislation and how it actually promotes animal care. Misconceptions with these legislations have been that farmers have something to hide, but Joe helps explain that they are designed to shelter farmers from unlawful accusations. He also stated the need to better understand our consumers and not expect them to simply understand us.
“Some of the drivers have been the 80 videos that have been taken since 1990. Undercover videos taken without any knowledge of the people involved. The problem is it causes a lot of damage to these company’s reputation. They have no way to respond to these. These are farms, they don’t have PR departments and they can’t respond to this. But yet there is a lot of damage done. These is no proper response available for these people so legislation is being driven from the standpoint that we are trying to protect honest, hard working people in business and stop people from trying to harm them. That’s what is driving this legislation.”
Joe also added that states should consider adding a vicarious liability statement to their legislation. This would enable you to press charges against any company or organization that used footage taken illegally. If this clause isn’t added, then the only person held liable is the videographer and they typically have nothing for you to gain.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit brought together people from across the agriculture community to discuss issues our industry is facing. Communicating with our consumers seems to be one of the most important things we need to focus on.
Dallas Hockman, Vice President of Industry Relations for the National Pork Producers Council, spoke to attendees about the value of communications throughout the food chain. He shared how the NPPC is reaching influencers and the value of choice. Choice not only for the consumer, but for the producer as well. Another thing he stressed was the importance of creating door-opening content.
“It’s not surprise to your listeners out there, especially pork producers, that our industry is under significant challenges. Being attacked and stereotyped as a factory farm, that we don’t really care, we over use of antibiotics, or whatever it may be. So, we have embarked on an effort to reach out to our retail and food service channel partners. Talking to them about the great job the industry is doing. We have gone through a complete analysis of the risks that our industry is facing as it relates to upcoming issues, whether that be on pain management, use of antibiotics or whatever they may be & having these meetings with our customers and talking to them about all the resources we have available. More importantly providing them a good resource in the event they have questions on these issues in the future.”
The 12th Annual Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit is a wrap. Each year staff and board members try to bring topics that are hot to the table for experts to share their insights into what the agriculture industry is facing. This year the theme was focused on animal activists and ways we can protect our animals, farms and food but not forget the importance of consumer confidence.
I caught Kay Johnson-Smith, President & CEO for the Animal Agriculture Alliance just after the last guest speaker finished up. She was glad to have another successful event in the books and excited to see how the information given to attendees will be put into action in the future.
The Alliance also recently elected elected Paul Pressley, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, chairman of its board of directors. USPOULTRY has been an active member of the Alliance for 24 years, and Pressley will serve a two-year term as chairman. The Alliance’s board of directors consists of representatives from all major sectors of animal agriculture.
“I look forward to working with Kay and the Alliance staff. The Alliance has been a strong voice for all of animal agriculture for over 25 years. Now, more than ever, the ability to unite the industry across species lines is critical to responding to animal welfare issues,” remarked Pressley.
This morning kicked off the 12th Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit here in Washington, D.C. or more specifically Arlington, Virginia. This year’s topic of discussion was on “Activist at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food & Consumer Confidence.” The Animal Ag Alliance is focused on connecting, educating & protecting and that is exactly what this conference is all about.
Today we have heard from all aspects of the agriculture community as well as a few outsiders who gave us a perspective we needed to hear. Tomorrow’s panel will continue with the same dialogue focused on animal welfare within the agriculture industry.
If you were unable to attend the event you can follow the #AAA13 on Twitter or view the live coverage here, provided by Alltech.
Though these acts are uncommon, See It? Stop It! gives animal care providers resources to easily report what they witness.
Betsy Flores, NMPF’s Senior Director of Animal Health and Welfare, stated, “Care of animals could not be more important to farmers. Having a system in place to contact any of several authorities is imperative, and ‘See it? Stop it!’ provides that resource. This initiative combines well with the dairy industry’s National Dairy FARM Program: Farmers Assuring Responsible Management to ensure the well-being of animals in our care.”
“As the nation’s oldest animal protection organization, the American Humane Association (AHA) has a long history of involvement with programs that help assure proper animal care,” said Kathi Brock, National Director of the Farm Animal Program for AHA. “It is critical for farm management to set clear expectations for animal care and to have zero tolerance for animal mistreatment. We believe ‘See It? Stop It!’ provides the tools to help set those expectations and a mechanism for reporting abuse which supports the proper care of America’s farm animals.”
The U.S. pork and dairy industries have provided funding for the program and believe it is a great way to add to their already existing strong animal care programs.
“The Pork Quality Assurance® (PQA Plus®) program outlines best practices for proper animal care,” said Sherrie Niekamp, director of animal welfare for the National Pork Board. “The ‘See it? Stop It!’ initiative meshes well with the core principles of PQA Plus that pork producers have followed for more than 20 years.”
For more information about the program and an employer checklist, guidance for integrating the program into existing animal well-being programs, posters and employee training visit www.seeitstopit.org.
Fox News loves to point out media bias in mainstream reporting on politics in particular, but probably not when it comes to agriculture.
Fox carried an AP story over the weekend about state bills seeking to make it more difficult for animal rights activists to go undercover at agricultural operations to get video of abuse and sometimes hold it for weeks or months before alerting authorities. Reasonable enough, unless you are the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which is vehemently opposed to such legislation.
The media bias in the story was clearly on the side of HSUS, quoting three different HSUS spokespersons and only one agricultural organization person. Two other quotes supporting such legislation were from a California assembly staffer and a spokesperson for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a state level public policy organization.
There was one interesting item in the story that raised a question in my mind about USDA’s plans to furlough meat inspectors under the sequester. According to the story, last year USDA created “24 new positions in the Food Safety Inspection Service were dedicated to humane handling.” Now, the quote was attributed to a “high-ranking food safety official not authorized to speak publicly” – which makes one question its accuracy – but if it is true, you have to wonder if the sequester will impact those positions as well. Just sayin’.
Zoetis has created a series of YouTube videos with veterinarians to show the public how farmers of all sizes take care of their animals.
In new YouTube videos released today, swine veterinarians Dr. Matthew Turner of North Carolina and Dr. Tara Donovan of Wisconsin join veterinarians and farmers from across the country in speaking out for responsible livestock farming by hosting a film crew to document their work. They are among 12 veterinarians who demonstrate modern animal wellness practices on dozens of U.S. farms and ranches in the YouTube reality series “Veterinarians On Call,” www.youtube.com/vetsoncall.
“Veterinarians On Call”, presented by animal health company Zoetis™, shows the public that regardless of the size of a farm, farmers and ranchers benefit from raising animals in the most comfortable, stress-free conditions and housing. Doing so avoids disease, saves money on care, and keeps animals growing at proper weight until ready for market. In other words it would be counter-productive to and a risk to their businesses if farmers raised stressed, underweight animals.
The film crews documented veterinarians working on farms as small as a couple hundred animals, to some of the largest U.S. farms responsible for hundreds of thousands of animals a year. The farms are an accurate representation of America’s 2.2 million farms, 97% of which are family-owned.
The 12 veterinarians who volunteered to be filmed are:
Dr. John Groves, Missouri
Dr. Rick Leone, Colorado
Dr. Don Goodman, Texas
Dr. Tom Noffsinger, Nebraska
Dr. Paul Ruen, Minnesota
Dr. Ross Kiehne, Minnesota
Dr. Angie Supple, Iowa
Dr. Pete Ostrum, New York
Dr. Lindsey Peck, New York
Dr. Matthew Turner, North Carolina
Dr. Tara Donovan, Wisconsin
Dr. Lynn Locatelli, New Mexico (to be published 2013)
Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Should we sit down with HSUS in ‘common cause’?”
The results of this poll are skewed due to the hacking by HSUS. In the end, the poll read that eighty one percent voted Definitely, fifteen percent said Never, and four percent thought we Should in some cases. The attempt to affect our poll reflects the HSUS/PETA goal of an end to animal agriculture. They are working to get the livestock industry to make concessions that drastically change production methods. When that happens it becomes a very slippery slope very quickly. It will only be a short matter of time before allowing chickens more room in cages becomes allowing all animals the right to life. Treating animals humanely is not the same as treating them like they are humans – but many activists see no difference.
The hacking we are referring to was having almost 400 poll responses to the Definitely answer come in during a few hours one night last week and none since. If you take them out, the answer Never would have been the highest result by far.
Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “How many machines (tractors, etc.) does your farm own?” Some of the urban folk believe that if you own more than 1-2 pieces of machinery, that would classify you as a large farmer. We disagree with that. So let’s see how many pieces of equipment most farmers/ranchers own. Let us know!
The question of whether agriculture should sit down with groups like HSUS to find “common cause” is our poll question this week on AgWired.com and while the answers had at first been running well against such dialogue, the poll has now been “hijacked” by HSUS supporters voting in favor. Overnight last week, the poll received nearly 400 responses in the affirmative – and some of the comments of those supporters show exactly why all of agriculture should be very afraid of their agenda.
“Let animals be animals, not commodities.”
“Stop the torture and Killing of the animals.”
“People should just stop eating animals period – there’s no such thing as humane murder.”
The ultimate agenda is obvious – the end to animal agriculture. Once the livestock industry begins to make concessions to animal rights activists that drastically change production methods it becomes a very slippery slope very quickly. It will only be a short matter of time before allowing chickens more room in cages becomes allowing all animals the right to life. Treating animals humanely is not the same as treating them like they are humans – but many activists see no difference.
This website is very well-read by animal activist individuals. We have an obligation to not just defend, but educate. We get lots of comments on our posts about topics like this and it is important for the agriculture community to use this forum for intelligent dialogue and healthy debate. Sometimes it’s easier to just call them wackos and be done with it, but better still to rationally explain that livestock producers know way more about how to care for their animals than HSUS does, and we really like to eat meat!
Animal Agriculture Alliance President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith announced the appointment of Emily Meredith as the Alliance’s new Director of Communications.
Meredith, formerly of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, joins the Alliance after receiving her J.D., with a concentration in food and drug law, from Seton Hall University in Newark, New Jersey.
As the Director of Communications, Meredith will develop, oversee and implement all aspects of the Alliance’s communications strategy, including social media initiatives.
During her time at USDA, Meredith served as a speechwriter for several agency officials. She also participated in managing communications relative to recalls, authored congressional testimony and participated in strategy sessions for issues management.
Meredith holds a B.A. in International Affairs and Journalism from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Currently, Meredith is awaiting admission to the state bar associations of New York and New Jersey.