During California’s last election, there was an initiative that was poorly written and harmful to California’s egg industry, prop. 2. Most of our local papers advised voters to educate themselves about the issue and realized this was an initiative written and supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). As my very smart readers know, HSUS is for the most part, not what they seem. But that is for another blog post.
One local paper, The Chico News and Review, supported prop 2. Basically they fell victim to the excellent marketing campaign (baby pigs are cute!). Also this paper loves to quote anything our local Farm Sanctuary says as truth, even if it isn’t. Well, I bet you all would be surprised to learn I started a letter writing campaign asking them to use better resources when talking about local agriculture. I actually just found the e-mail exchange, I should post it, it was funny!
The CN&R did get an ag intern from our local University and things were a lot better. Then the intern graduated, and things went back to normal. It became apparent to me, that this paper only cared about their own agenda, not the community, not the local farmers or ranchers, not the animals, not the land. I went on to law school, and didn’t have time to write a letter every time skewed facts or misinformation was printed. I also started this blog in hopes of getting some good information out there. Plus it’s common knowledge within this community that the CN&R is not the best place to get news.
With all the bad media coverage going on about, well, pretty much everything, I think it’s time that the agricultural industry step up. We need hold the media responsible when they do their job poorly. These reporters need to understand that their fear mongering does have a direct impact on our livelihoods and familys. And that is not ok.
This week’s edition of the CN&R spurred me into action. I’m posting the article for you to read and I’m posting my letter to the editor. Feel free to use my letter as a template if this article upsets you as much as it upset me. Again I’m not telling you to eat burger made with LFTB. I believe it is incredibly important to have choice in our food supply. Using fear and fallacies to limit that choice is a new low and should not be condoned.
Your recent article regarding “Pink Slime” in the Green House Greenguide was very disappointing. Instead of reaching out to local experts to gather facts, educated opinions, or doing any independent research about lean finely textured beef (LFTB), Ms. LaPado used hyperbole to demonize a product and company that she is apparently unfamiliar.
Butte County is an agricultural community, in an agricultural state. Many of Butte County’s local farmers and ranchers, that you claim to support, work tirelessly to combat sensationalism like your “Pink Slime” article. Promoting this type of misinformation to the public and our consumers only hurts the very family farmers you claim to champion. Do you expect readers not be alarmed when the very title is “Soylent Pink”?
What surprises me the most, however, is as someone who reports about sustainability, Ms. LaPado never mentions why LFTB is used. Cattle-people like myself would have to raise anywhere between 516,000 to 654,000* extra cattle per year to produce same amount of beef if we did not use the lean beef trimming, which is simply beef that has been separated from the fat in beef trimmings and not “basically offal swept up off the slaughterhouse floor” as Ms. LaPado claims. Using the whole beef carcass is instrumental to improving sustainability. It would take a lot of natural resources to produce all those extra cattle.
Ms. LaPado also failed to mention that three out of four BPI plants have closed due to the repercussions of incomplete journalism, leaving thousands of people struggling in an already uncertain financial economy. The “corporate beef giant” BPI, has a very solid food safety record and clean facility. Noted food safety attorney, Bill Marler, even reiterated that fact. Did BPI need to show more transparency? Absolutely. People have the right to full disclosure in our food supply. But did BPI deserve this smear campaign? No.
As I mentioned before, many local farmers, ranchers and processors work incredibly hard to make ourselves available to newspapers, blogger and journalists. We are also lucky enough to have two agriculture colleges, and several slaughterhouses in this area, it’s not hard to find a good resource about meat or beef. In fact, Chico Locker and Sausage Company at http://chicolockersausage.com operate a very informative blog about current meat issues. My blog, thebeefjar.com also contains information about modern beef production. I also noticed the CN&R on twitter. Twitter makes available a wealth of knowledge through #agchat, and the ability to connect with industry experts in one tweet.
In the future, I sincerely hope you use educational resources available to you and do your due diligence by using factual information.
6th Generation Cattle Rancher
*According to Dr. Jude Capper