October 24, 2013 — Food safety in this country has been the best it’s ever been. That’s according to many in the agriculture industry who are responding to a highly critical report on food animal
Chris Galen, NMPF
You have to go back five years to 2008 when the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future worked with the Pew Commission put together a panel including former secretaries of agriculture and public health experts to provide a critique of livestock agriculture.
“To no ones great surprise they found fault with a lot of what is happening today in conventional food production,” National Milk’s Chris Galen said.
Last week the commission chose the fifth anniversary of the initial release of that report to provide a scathing critique of what has happened, or more appropriately what has not happened since 2008.
National Milk along with many livestock groups representing beef, pork and poultry knew that this fifth anniversary update report was coming out and knew that it was going to be quite caustic in its critique of livestock groups as well as the Food and Drug Administration. So they released their own preemptive report entitled: ‘What the Center for Livable Future Aren’t Telling You about Food Production.’
Galen said the dairy industry needs to share the story of the glass being half full, not half empty.
“Not just from the standpoint of animal health, which was the big focus of the Johns Hopkins report, but also sustainability, reducing the carbon footprint, and the animal care program that we have,” he said.
A positive proof point for the dairy industry is the National Dairy Farm Program, currently in its fourth year, with 70 percent of the nation’s milk supply committed to the program. Another big difference between today and five years ago is social media.
“People back then were just figuring out what Facebook was and what a tweet was and now it is part of our every day vocabulary,” he said. “The nice thing is that dairy farmers and other food producers are also taking up those social media tools and put some balance in this.”
The big concern is this Johns Hopkins study really paints things terribly bad. That we have widespread public health issues, particularly because of the antibiotics used in the livestock industry.
“For dairy, we just don’t see that,” Galen said. “It was such an off base report that it describes a world that is very different than I think most dairy farmers and dairy consumers don’t see on a regular basis.”
What some people don’t understand is that the dairy industry tests every load for antibiotics, and they are only administered to ill animals, which is not what you would understand by reading this latest report from Johns Hopkins.
The bottom line, according to Galen, is there were a lot of half truths regarding statements in the study and that’s where the agriculture industry really needed to set the record straight.