In the News

Why Food Day “Facts” Aren’t So Factual

Oct. 24 is Food Day, which celebrates healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food. It sounds like a pretty great cause to get behind, right?

As farmers and moms, we support the movement to get Americans to eat healthier and move more. But what really concerns us is pushing out loads of misinformation behind what seems to be fairly noble cause.

Do we agree we should spend less time in the drive-through and more time as a family at the dinner table? Absolutely!

Do we agree that we should strive to eat more balanced diets with fruits and vegetables instead of cartons of greasy fried foods, gooey pastas and sugary desserts? You bet!

But here’s where we simply need to set the record straight:

Food Day urges folks to cut back on “fatty, factory-farmed meats.”

What exactly is a factory farm, anyway? Take a good look around at the 2.2 million U.S. farms. We are hard-working families, not factories. We devote our lives to giving our animals the best care possible, often putting their needs above our own. In any weather and at any time of day, we’re there to ensure our farm animals have the food, water, shelter, space and medical care they need.

We also want our critics to know that cattle spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass. When mature, cattle are sold or moved to feedlots where they typically spend 4-6 months. Feedlots allow ranchers to raise beef more efficiently with fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas that give them plenty of food, fresh water and room to move around. Veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal every day.

And labeling all meats as fatty? Well, that’s just not accurate. In fact, there are 29 cuts of lean beef and six cuts of lean pork that meet the USDA’s guidelines for lean, heart-healthy meats with less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. The trend of avoiding meat because it’s generally “unhealthy” is simply unfounded. Why can’t we all just adopt the attitude of “everything in moderation,” park a little farther from the store and talk a walk more often?

Food Day advocates say “a meat-heavy diet takes a terrible toll on the environment.”

Farmers are the original environmentalists. For generations, we have cared for the land so we can pass it on to our children and grandchildren. We care about what goes into the soil and the air, and we work tirelessly to do more with less inputs and land every day.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, livestock production accounts for 3.12% of total emissions, far from the claim that cows are worse than cars. In addition, modern farming continues to implement sustainable practices that significantly reduce the amount of fuel and chemicals required for food production. There’s an old saying that “You can’t make any more land.” That’s why we work hard to protect what we have.

Food Day activists “are united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.”

Hey, wait! That sounds a lot like our vision as farmers and ranchers. Like any successful professionals, we want to do our jobs better. We are constantly finding new ways to grow safe, affordable food on less land and with fewer resources. If we didn’t care for our animals and our land, we couldn’t stay in business. And if we can’t stay in the business of growing food and fiber for a booming world population, it won’t be long before we’ll have some very serious issues on a global scale.

We are farmers. We are moms. We commit our lives to producing safe, healthy food — the same food we feed our families. To infer that hard-working American farmers and ranchers aren’t producing food with care? Well, we invite you to look again. That’s what we do, day in and day out.

Have a question about your food? Ask us! We’re always happy to share openly about how we grow crops and raise livestock on our Kansas farms. We’ll never tell you what to eat, we’ll just answer your questions so you can make the most informed choices for your family.

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5 Reasons We Love Farming

MamaDweeb Guest PostIt’s no secret that we LOVE farming, and volunteer Katie Sawyer does a great job explaining her reasons why in today’s guest post on MamaDweeb.com. We had the privilege of getting to know MamaDweeb, aka Annie Shultz, at the Feast of the Fields event last fall near Manhattan, KS. We were excited to meet a blogger who lived just down the road! Annie writes about all sorts of topics of interest to moms from parenting to  personal growth. Check out her blog!

Thanks to Annie for your support of CommonGround Kansas as we continue on our mission to create conversation with folks about farming and food!

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What’s in a Label? The Question of Antibiotic Use

Each morning, we might take a multi-vitamin. Some of us take our prescriptions with breakfast. When our loved ones get sick, we encourage them to go to the doctor. We take care of ourselves and our families with prescribed medicines.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that U.S. farmers and ranchers must maintain good animal care. This means making sure animals are healthy; well nourished; comfortable; safe; able to express natural behaviors; and not experiencing pain, fear, or distress. Farmers and ranchers administer antibiotics to their animals out of concern for their wellbeing, just as we are concerned about the health of ourselves and our loved ones.

There are some very mixed messages about the food-choices we make. The latest Panera commercial may make us question the use of antibiotics and become concerned about the use of antibiotics in raising animals. It’s perfectly natural to questions where our food comes from and how it is raised. Here’s what you need to know:

The FDA does not allow meat to be sold with traces of antibiotics above strict safety limits.

You do not have to be concerned about antibiotics being present in the meat you eat. The Food and Drug Administration and the Food Safety and Inspection Service require specific withdrawal times, which means a set number of dates that must pass between the last antibiotic treatment and the animal entering the food supply. Farmers and ranchers keep detailed records of antibiotic administration to make sure they are following these regulations. The FSIS also conducts random, scheduled testing of meat nationwide.

“The use of medicated feeds in food-producing animals is evaluated and regulated to prevent harmful effects on both animal and human health,” said Steven D. Vaughn, D.V.M., director of the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

No difference in taste has been proven.

Panera claims that there is “an issue of taste” association with antibiotic free meat. No research has proven this perspective to be true. If you decide to make the choice of antibiotic-free meat, make sure to check the label.

A study by Food Safety News found that many antibiotic-free labels are not verified by USDA. Learn the USDA requirements for food labels. Look for the USDA-verified symbol when shopping. Look out for unapproved labels: No Antibiotic Grown Promotants, Antibiotic-Free, No Antibiotic Residues.

The USDA states “no antibiotics added” may only be used on labels for products if the farmer provides documentation that proves the animals were raised without antibiotics.

We care about the health of our families and our animals, just like you!

We want our animals to be healthy and we want to feed our families with nutritious and safe food. Sadly, the media doesn’t share our story of deep commitment to providing excellent care for our animals. We are very proud of how we care for our animals and welcome the opportunities to talk with everyone about how keep our animals healthy and safe.

Have questions? Please ask!

How and what you eat is your choice and we respect that freedom. All viewpoints are welcome. You can submit questions via our website or contact one of our volunteers.

Farmers and ranchers, including CommonGround volunteers, want to talk to you about how we raise your food. We want everyone to be educated and feel confident in every food choice.

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CommonGround Brings Story of Farming to TV Viewers

CommonGround volunteers LaVell Winsor of Kansas and Kristin Reese of Ohio were interviewed by more than 20 media outlets during their satellite media tour discussing food and farming on Wednesday, April 3.

CommonGround volunteers LaVell Winsor of Kansas and Kristin Reese of Ohio were interviewed by more than 20 media outlets during their satellite media tour discussing food and farming on Wednesday, April 3.

From the National Corn Grower’s Association

This week CommonGround volunteers LaVell Winsor of Kansas and Kristin Reese of Ohio took the story of American farming to people across the country through a series of interviews with blogs and television and radio stations. Answering questions on issues such as organic foods and biotechnology, Reese and Winsor opened the barn doors, offering themselves and their fellow CommonGround volunteers as a resource for consumers with questions about where their food comes from and how it is grown.

“It is natural for people who aren’t involved in the raising or growing of their food to have questions about how that is done,” said Reese, who farms in Ohio. “What I want to do, along with my fellow volunteers, is start a conversation with people who have these types of questions so that we can share and learn from one another. No one should have to fear their food, but if someone has concerns, we are there to share our experience as farmers.”

Over the course of the morning, Reese and Winsor took part in 25 interviews, both live and taped, which will reach 21 specific media markets and blog readers and radio listeners nationally.

Winsor, who farms in Kansas, noted that “with most Americans now two or three generations removed from farming, it makes sense that so many people are looking to find out more about the foods they eat and who grows them. For example, a lot of the people that I have met through CommonGround have been genuinely surprised to learn that about 96 percent of American farms are family farms. Personally, my husband and I farm with my in-laws. I have found that people are excited to find out that families, much like their own, grow their food. Through honest, open dialogue with farmers, people might be surprised to find what an incredible story their food has to tell and how it just keeps getting better.”

While many hosts focused on how people with questions could use CommonGround volunteers and the group’s website to find information, the women also responded to a variety of specific questions about production practices, technology and the difference between the wide variety of food choices available to American consumers.

In response to a question about the growing popularity of organic foods, Reese explained that “CommonGround volunteers include farmers who use both traditional and organic methods, and we truly support the ability to choose the foods they feel best for their family. While we embrace the diversity of agriculture, we do want to offer information about how all kinds of food are grown so that shoppers can make the best choices for their unique family based on solid information. Whether organic or traditionally grown, America’s farmers grow and raise an array of healthy, nutritious foods that consumers can feel confident about feeding their families.”

Many of the stations involved in this tour aired the interviews live, but quite a few others taped the segments to run over the coming weeks. Interviews will air in: Harrisburg, Penn.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Lima, Ohio; Huntsville, Ala.; Rochester, N.Y.; Peoria, Ill.; Rochester, Minn.; Mason City, Iowa; Boston, Mass.; Evansville, Ind.; Toledo, Ohio; Monroe, La.; Amarillo, Texas; Minneapolis, Minn.; New Orleans, La.; Abilene, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; Fargo, N.D.; Detroit, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo.; and in many parts of Virginia. Additionally, information from these interviews will be featured in blogs such as Celebrate Woman Today, Earnest Parenting and Motherhood Moment and on radio stations across the country through It’s Your Health Network.

Video from these interviews will be posted to the National Corn Growers Association’s website as available.

CommonGround is a grass-roots movement to foster conversation among women — on farms and in cities — about where our food comes from. The National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates developed CommonGround to give farm women the opportunity to engage with consumers through the use of a wide range of activities.

Have another question about your food? Find CommonGround online:

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Celebrate National Ag Day

National Ag DayMarch 19 is National Ag Day! We are excited to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.a
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

Thanks to the Agriculture Council of America for promoting awareness of National Ag Day across the country. Why celebrate agriculture? The ACA says it best:

“Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis. But too few people truly understand this contribution. This is particularly the case in our schools, where students may only be exposed to agriculture if they enroll in related vocational training.

“By building awareness, the Agriculture Council of America is encouraging young people to consider career opportunities in agriculture.

“Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people … a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s. Quite simply, American agriculture is doing more – and doing it better. As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.”

Join us in celebrating National Ag Day today, March 19, and National Ag Week all week! Learn more at http://www.agday.org.

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Sharing the Story of Food Production

Kansas Farmer MagazineCommonGround Kansas made the news again in February in this article in Kansas Farmer magazine. When we’re not busy chatting about food and farming with folks off-the-farm, we also get excited about talking to other farmers. Why? There’s a growing movement in the agricultural community to be more open and honest about how we grow your food. If we can inspire other farmers to share how food is raised, we can create an even better dialogue about agricultural production where you can ask questions and get sincere answers.

You might be surprised how much farmers really are on the same page as consumers. As an industry, we truly care about the quality and safety of the food we produce. We can all benefit from encouraging ongoing conversation between consumers and farmers.

Read the full article from Kansas Farmer Magazine (PDF).

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CommonGround featured on AG am in Kansas

Check out LaVell Winsor’s interview on CommonGround with Bryan Hallman of AG am in Kansas.

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CommonGround Kansas featured

We were excited to make the front page of one of the recent issues of Grass & Grain newspaper. The article features interviews with volunteers Karra James, LaVell Winsor and Teresa Brandenburg. Check out the article detailing how CommonGround volunteers are helping answer tough questions about food and farming.

Read the full article as a PDF.

Grass & Grain

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Should I be worried about hormones?

© Eisenhans / PhotoXpress

© Eisenhans / PhotoXpress

There’s a lot of information out there about our food, and it’s creating some real confusion.

For instance, Shape Magazine recently posted an article titled “13 Banned Foods Still Allowed in the U.S.” The article discusses ingredients that are banned in many other developed countries, but are deemed safe by the FDA to be consumed in the United States.

We can definitely understand why that might sound scary. While we can’t speak to some of the other foods on the list, we would like to talk about the misinformation regarding hormones in milk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assure families and individuals that we need not worry about hormones in food. For example, 90 percent of hormones are destroyed during pasteurization of milk. The rest of the hormones are broken down during digestion. In fact, there are no differences between milk produced by hormone-treated and untreated cows according to FDA studies.

Agricultural hormone use has been found safe by scientists all over the world. Residue levels of hormones in food have been demonstrated to be safe and well below any level that would have a known effect in humans, according to FDA. In fact, The Center for Veterinary Medicine has confirmed that 1 pound of farmed beef from cattle given a common hormone, estradiol, contains 15,000 times less estradiol than the estrogen produced daily by the average man and 9 million times less than that produced by a pregnant woman.

But, what about chicken? It’s not uncommon to hear how chicken breasts are much larger than they once were. However, that has nothing to do with hormones. In fact, federal regulations don’t allow hormones to be used in poultry production. The same goes for swine. So there is no need to be concerned about added hormones in your chicken and pork. So why are chicken breasts bigger these days? The size of chicken breasts is due to a combination of advancements in genetics, feed and other production practices.

It’s OK to have questions about food and farming, especially when there is a ton of conflicting information. If you ever have questions, we are happy to provide a farmer’s perspective. We’ll never tell you how or what to eat, but we’ll help you gain the information needed to make smart choices about what to feed your family. For more research-based information regarding hormones, check out the food facts page at findourcommonground.com.

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Do Farmers Care About Their Animals?

Cattle

Photo © CommonGround Kansas

Do farmers care about their animals? Absolutely, we do!

But Americans are getting a different story today with a post on Yahoo! titled “8 Cruelest Foods You Eat” from Prevention magazine. The article includes a sufficiently terrifying dose of buzzwords like factory farms, animal abuse, gestation crates and inhumane conditions. As consumers, it’s easy to get swept up in the wave of fear.

In our nation today, most folks are many generations removed from the farm. It’s perfectly natural to be concerned about where your food comes from and how it was raised. Here’s what we want you to know:

As farmers and ranchers, we absolutely agree that the treatment of our food matters.

You might be surprised to learn that we put our animals’ health and safety first. In fact, guests at our recent dinner at the Kansas State Fair were fascinated to hear how our ranching volunteers care for newborn beef calves, even bringing them inside their own homes to stay warm in the cold winter birthing months.

We watch over our livestock and ensure they are comfortable and content. We provide veterinary care when needed. We make sure they have all of the food, water and shelter they need. These animals are our livelihood, and they deserve to be treated with the utmost care and respect. As an example, volunteer Katie Sawyer talks about how they care for their beef cattle in this video.

Simply put, healthy animals are good for business. We are family farms, many of which have been handed down from generation to generation. We simply could not stay in business without providing excellent care for our livestock.

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s nice that you take care of your animals, but what about all those undercover videos? You must be in the minority.”

Actually, quite the contrary. The overwhelming majority of farmers and ranchers practice great care and respect for their animals. As in any industry, there are isolated cases of the “bad apples” … but American agriculture is making great strides every day to help eliminate these outliers. They simply do not represent the industry as a whole, and we are as passionate as you are about creating positive change among these offenders.

Remember, in the media, sensationalism reigns.

Think about how reports of crime and car accidents all too often trump good news happening in our communities. As consumers, we only seem to hear about animal care when an undercover crew exposes mistreatment.

Guess what? Those stories upset us, too! We never want to animals to be mistreated.

Sadly, the media never shares the other side of the story — stories of how we go to great lengths to provide excellent care for our livestock. We’re very proud of the way we care for our animals and very comfortable in talking with folks off-the-farm about how we ensure our animals are healthy and safe.

Do your homework.

Instead of simply taking what you hear in the media at face value, we encourage you to seek out your own information from sources based on research and science, as well as asking the folks who actually raise food. In fact, in the most recent Yahoo! article, we can’t find any citations of even a single farmer being consulted. Perhaps that’s because the facts that truly represent the agriculture industry aren’t nearly as sensational.

If you have a question, just ask. We won’t tell you how to eat or what to eat, and all viewpoints are welcome. You can submit questions via our website or contact one of our volunteers.

Farmers across the nation, including volunteers in the CommonGround program, are eager to talk to consumers about how we raise your food. We want everyone to feel confident in their food choices. Most importantly, we want you to have all the information you need to make educated decisions about how you feed your family.

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