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#GivingTuesday with the Alliance

The Alliance is celebrating our 30th Anniversary this year. Thirty successful years of working to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork by connecting industry stakeholders through common ground, engaging with both producers and consumers about agriculture, and protecting the industry that feeds us all. This is why General GT instathe Alliance will be participating in Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving on November 28th, again this year to help us continue our mission for years to come. We are attempting to reach new heights for our #GivingTuesday campaign this year by increasing our goal in hopes of expanding our support for those involved in the agriculture industry who work so hard for our nation’s food supply. We are excited to have participation in our campaign this year from two companies: Cooper Farms, who will be matching all donations up to $5,000, and Cattle Empire, LLC, matching gifts from $5,001 up to $10,000. Here are some examples of how the Alliance team has been working hard over the last year in pursuit of bridging the communication gap between farm and fork.

Monitoring activists and animal rights groups.

The Alliance has been working hard to protect animal agriculture through constant monitoring of activists and animal rights groups. We keep our members up-to-date with the continuous formation of new activist groups to add into our Activist Web, and provide activst websummaries of key activist groups to help others understand the various goals and tactics of each organization. Additionally, the Alliance sends representatives to the Animal Rights Conference every year, releasing a report afterwards of important takeaways from the gathering.

Not only are we proactive about learning new methods and tactics used by activist groups, but we also work to keep our members informed and knowledgeable about how to protect themselves from a possible threat. Through the Alliance’s Farm Security Mobile App, we arm members with the most up-to-date security and crisis management advice and resources designed to keep their farms safe.

Engagement with food chain influencers.

Restaurants, retailers, and foodservice establishments are constantly being pressured by activist groups to meet their unrealistic demands. That is why the Alliance has ramped up efforts this year to engage with these food chain influencers to help them become more well informed about animal agriculture and aware of the potential repercussions of their decisions.

Earlier this year, the Alliance launched a series of Lunch and Learns for DC-area food chain influencers to build relationships with these associations and provide resources to restaurants and food retailers. Attendees this year included representatives from the Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, National Restaurant Association, National Council of Chain Restaurants and several ag organizations. Additionally, the Alliance organized a #FamersThankDominos campaign this year in response to Domino’s’ outward support of farmers and ranchers. We encouraged everyone to order a Domino’s pizza on June 2nd, followed by a posted picture on social media using the hashtag #FarmersThankDominos, which was used over 1,000 times.

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Group picture at the pig operation we toured – Langenfelder Pork.

Most recently, the Alliance hosted a farm tour for various food chain influencers, in which we visited a poultry farm, dairy operation, and pig farm in Maryland. We encouraged attendees to become involved and pose questions to become more informed on the workings of the animal agriculture industry. The tour was an excellent way to develop relationships with individuals in the restaurant, retailer, and foodservice industry and we received a lot of positive feedback about the tour.

Mainstream and Trade Media Engagements.

Working to bridge the communications gap between farm and fork means we need to be highly involved with various media outlets. We have been working hard over the last year to build and maintain positive relationships with key influencers in the agriculture industry. Between May 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017 the Alliance was mentioned in more than 760 articles, and issued 31 press releases during this time period. Our attendance at various media events such as the Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum is crucial in the amplification of our mission.

egg advanceWe also use these relationships to share various reports or recent news from the Alliance, such as our recent Advances in Animal Agriculture report, the Alliance’s 2017 Annual Report, and updates regarding our College Aggies Online scholarship competition. We plan to continue engagement with various media outlets and resources over the next year, building mutually beneficial relationships to ultimately reach a consumer network outside of our own and continue public access to factual, science-based information about agriculture.

Join the Alliance for #GivingTuesday, November 28th.

Help us continue these efforts and amplify our mission to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork by supporting the Alliance for #GivingTuesday this year. By supporting the Alliance, you are helping give farmers and ranchers a positive voice to further engage with consumers. Visit our website on Giving Tuesday, November 28th, to donate and be sure to follow us on social media!


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15 scary food myths

Halloween is here! Here are some scary food myths that are tricks, but knowing the truth is the treat!

  1. Scary Food Myth: Today’s farm animals are raised on “factory farms” in poor conditions. Truth: Many of today’s farms may be larger than farms of the past, but the farms are also have better animal care practices, enhanced nutrition and housing. Indoor housing protects animals from predators, disease and extreme weather. Modern housing is well-ventilated, temperature-controlled and scientifically designed to meet an animal’s specific needs.
  2. Scary Food Myth: Chickens, turkeys, laying hens and pigs are fed hormones to make them grow bigger and faster. Truth: Federal law prohibits hormone and steroid use in all poultry and pig production in the United States. All chicken, turkey, pork and eggs are free of added hormones and steroids regardless of whether it is labeled.
  3. Scary Food Myth: Farmers only care about profits, not animal care. Truth: Farmers’ top priority is ensuring their animals receive the best care possible. If the animals are not appropriately cared for, they will not produce quality beef, eggs, pork, milk or chicken. Not only is quality animal care essential to a profitable farm – it is the right thing to do.
  4. Scary Food Myth: Cattle are the primary cause for climate change. Truth: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data show that all of agriculture contributes nine percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, transportation accounts for 26 percent.
  5. Scary Food Myth: Farmers irresponsibly use antibiotics. Truth: After Jan. 2017, veterinary oversight is required for the use of medically important antibiotics, though it is important to note farmers and ranchers already routinely consulted with their vet before using antibiotics. Farmers work closely with veterinarians to develop herd health plans and when/if an antibiotic is needed for an animal to treat, prevent or control a disease, the farmer consults with their veterinarian to ensure an antibiotic is the best solution or if there is another form of treatment that will work better. Any antibiotic in animal feed requires a prescription from a veterinarian first.
  6. Scary Food Myth: Inspectors rarely visit meat plants. Truth: Few industries in America are regulated and inspected as comprehensively as meat and poultry plants. U.S. meat packing plants where livestock are handled and processed are inspected continuously. Large plants may have two dozen inspectors on site in a two-shift day. Plants that process meat or poultry, but do not handle live animals are inspected daily.
  7. Scary Food Myth: Meat is full of antibiotics and other drugs. Truth: Antibiotics are sometimes used in livestock production – but never in meat production. Under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, farmers and ranchers must wait a defined period to send animals to market if they have been given antibiotics or other medications. In meat and poultry plants, USDA inspectors sample carcasses and organs to ensure no residue violations are found.
  8. Scary Food Myth: Hormone use in beef production is a health concern. Truth: Hormones like estrogen are used in modern beef production to increase the amount of beef that can be harvested from cattle. However, these hormones are the same as, or synthetic versions of those naturally produced by cattle. The estrogen that is used in beef production, for example, is used at levels that are a fraction of what is naturally found in soybean oil, soybeans, eggs and what is produced by the human body.
  9. Scary Food Myth: Nitrite in cured meats is linked to diseases like cancer. Truth: The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is considered the “gold standard” in determining whether substances cause cancer, completed a multi-year study in which rats and mice were fed high levels of sodium nitrite. The study, finalized in 2000, found that nitrite was not associated with cancer. NTP maintains a list of chemicals found to be carcinogenic. Sodium nitrite is not on that list.
  10. Scary Food Myth: Animal welfare in meat plants is not monitored. Truth: Under the Humane Slaughter Act, all livestock must be treated humanely. They must be given water at all times, given feed if they are held at a plant for an extended period and they must be handled in a way that minimizes stress. Federal veterinarians monitor animal handling continually and may take a variety of actions — including shutting a plant down — for violations.
  11. Scary Food Myth: Alternatives like almond, soy, coconut and rice milk are healthier than dairy milk. Truth: Milk alternatives use lots of additives to try to match the taste and nutritional profile of real milk. Cow’s milk is simply milk with added vitamins A and D. It has more nutrients that occur naturally – including eight grams of high-quality protein in every glass – with no added sugar. And the health benefits like improved bone health, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure in adults are supported by decades of science. It’s nature’s original protein drink.
  12. Scary Food Myth: Milk is full of antibiotics. Truth: All milk is tested for antibiotics before it leaves the farm, and again before it is sent to the store. If milk tests positive for even the slightest amount of antibiotics, it is safely discarded and never reaches the store.
  13. Scary Food Myth: It’s not natural for humans to drink cows’ milk; no other mammals drink milk from other animals. Truth: Decades of research have proven that cows’ milk does a human body good. Humans do a lot of things other mammals don’t. We grow crops, read books, fly planes and make music. You wouldn’t call those things “unnatural.”
  14. Scary Food Myth: Milk is full of dangerous hormones. Truth: All cow’s milk – whether conventional or organic – naturally contains minuscule amounts of hormones (actually, plants contain hormones, too!). The majority of these hormones are eliminated in the pasteurization process; the rest are broken down safely and completely by your body when you digest the milk. Some milk also contains tiny amounts of a synthetic hormone call rbST, which has been closely studied and declared harmless by multiple organizations, including the FDA. Multiple studies over more than two decades agree that milk from cows treated with rbST is just as safe as milk from untreated cows.
  15. Scary Food Myth: Pasteurization destroys the nutrients in milk. Truth: Pasteurization kills germs, not nutrients.


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Key points from the 2017 National Animal Rights Conference

Do you ever wonder what campaign, movie or myth the animal rights movement will think of next? The Animal Agriculture Alliance has been tracking animal rights groups for more than 30 years to predict their next moves and keep farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and everyone in the animal agriculture industry ready for what may come in the future.

The Alliance sends representatives to the National Animal Rights Conference every year to gather insight on strategies and tactics of the animal rights movement. The Alliance shares a detailed report including quotes and observations with its members so they can stay informed. The 2017 event emphasized the ‘humane meat myth,’ clean meat innovations, expanding vegan options into the marketplace and a need for inclusivity within the movement.

Speakers urged attendees to avoid using the term ‘factory farming’ to encompass small farms in their rhetoric and breaking the law in the name of animal rights was deemed acceptable. These tactics are already in use as we see an uptick of activists breaking into farms of all sizes and stealing animals. Just in the last few months two different animal rights groups broke into farms in Colorado and Utah to “rescue” animals. Direct Action Everywhere trespassed and broke into a commercial pig farm while Denver Baby Animal Save walked onto a free-range chicken farm. The number-one goal of animal rights groups is to put farmers and ranchers out of business, no matter the size of the farm.

The Alliance team

Another theme at the conference was to continue pressuring restaurants, retailers and food-service companies to adopt certain policies for their supply chain – not to improve animal welfare, but to increase prices for both the farmer and the consumer. The focus has shifted from egg-laying hens to broiler chickens and the next target is will likely be aquaculture according to speakers at the conference. The Humane League is notorious for pressure campaigns and their executive director recommended “putting blood drips on their logo.”

The Alliance keeps detailed profiles on more than 80 animal rights groups for its members. Some of the most active animal rights groups include: The Humane League, Direct Action Everywhere, The Save Movement, The Humane Society of the United States, Mercy For Animals and Compassion Over Killing.

To find out more about the Animal Agriculture Alliance and the resources that are available, visit www.animalagalliance.org.


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Happy National Farmer’s Day!

Today is National Farmer’s Day! Sometimes we don’t think about all the people involved in producing that juicy burger as you chomp down on it, or the turkey that centers your well-decorated Thanksgiving table. And as I took the time to think of all the reasons I’m grateful for farmers, I realized most of them centered around the sacrifices farmers make in putting others – especially their livestock – before themselves. The pig farmer who trudges out to the barn in four feet of snow to fuel up the generator so his hogs don’t freeze while the power is out. The cattle rancher who moves his cow-calf herd to a higher field so an approaching hurricane won’t drown them in the flood waters. These are just a few stories of many, and they are all examples of the tough decisions farmers must make every day.

Thank them for their hard work.

Farmer_and_tractor_tilling_soilIt’s easy to forget, and we so often look at farming and say: “I bet I could do that, easy.”  But farming is not as simple as just feeding the pigs once a day, weeding the garden weekly, or collecting a few eggs every morning. Farming takes dedication, responsibility, care, and patience. Patience in dealing with animals, in waiting for the harvest to come in, and in pushing through the tough times that make you question your decision to ever start farming.

I had one of those instances this past spring, which started with a heifer who struggled to deliver a calf. I first noticed her in what looked to be the early stages of labor as I headed out of the driveway to run errands, figuring she’d have the calf on the ground by the time I returned. No such luck. I came back to see the calf’s hoof exposed and the heifer still pushing, looking exhausted. I jumped in our Kawasaki mule and raced to the field where she lay, carrying a set of calf chains and prepared to do as much as I could by myself. Sloshing over to my heifer, my boots filled with rainwater from the raging thunderstorm, because cows are nothing if not timely in their deliveries. My dad came out to help and together we spent about twenty minutes working to get the calf out, but to no avail. It eventually took three of us (after calling the vet) to pull the large bull calf, giving relief to the momma, who was so exhausted from the ordeal she just lay still and let us administer antibiotics and pain medication to help her heal over the next few days.

Afterwards, I sat on the couch at home, feeling frustrated with myself for not thoroughly doing my research on the bull we put with the cows the previous year, or for not having intervened sooner when I saw her in labor before I left. The large size of the calf had left my heifer paralyzed for a few hours (a relatively common occurrence during long labors when the calf is pushing on nerves in the hips). Though the vet assured me that the heifer would make a full recovery, I felt as though I had let myself down. I was a better cattlewoman than this, and needed to hold myself to a higher standard. In that moment it would have been easy to throw my hands up in defeat, and it was tempting, but remembering that the time I gave to get the calf out in turn helped save my heifer helped me see the positive side of my work.

Thank them for not giving up.

wyoming-188870_960_720One of my favorite stories that my dad tells from his younger days as a farmer is of a cow in a similar situation. After attempting to deliver a calf much too large for her frame, she was paralyzed in her rear legs; and unsure that the cow could make a full recovery, the vet advised my dad to euthanize her. My dad, unwilling to give up on the cow, drove out into the field twice a day with heavy duty straps on the forks of his tractor, and hoisted the cow up on all four feet for a period of about 20 minutes. He made sure she had water and feed at all times, and slowly encouraged her to stand on her own. He worked with this cow for over two weeks until she was fully able to walk on her own, when she went on to become fully readjusted back into the herd and continue producing calves for years afterwards.

Deciding when to take a chance in farming is always difficult, never knowing whether it will turn out in your favor or completely devastate production that year. Farmers make these decisions daily. Decisions that, whether or not we realize, impact us every day. Enjoying the bounty of corn in late summer? Thank the crop farmer who just spent weeks harvesting every day from sunup to sundown. Savoring that delicious Easter ham? Thank the hog producer who hooked up the generator for his barns during a power outage to ensure the pigs didn’t freeze in negative temperatures. A farmer’s sacrifice in these situations is to benefit consumers, and we are grateful for the care and time they give so selflessly.

Thank them for putting others – people and animals – before themselves.

photo-1506976785307-8732e854ad03In everything in life there is a give and take. However, farming contains some of the largest swings between positive and negative outcomes. There are few jobs in which circumstances out of one’s control, such as natural disasters, can completely devastate society on the vast scale that occurs in agriculture. Farming is difficult, and it is not always rewarding. Yet because of farming in America today, we can sleep knowing that we will always have access to an abundance of food. This is why it is important to remember to thank farmers every day, not only on National Farmer’s Day. So before you bite down on that BBQ sandwich, or post a picture of your delicious meal on Instagram, take a moment to thank a farmer and remember what they sacrificed to get you that food.


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Four Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn the First Time I Had to Stick My Hand up a Cow’s Butt

1. Animal agriculture is much more scientifically based than most general consumers realize. Believe it or not, there is scientific explanation for nearly every practice used in farming today (discounting my crazy uncle who swears that jumping backwards six times and howling at the moon will absolutely guarantee a bull calf). There is such a depth of scientific knowledge regarding animal agriculture at our fingertips. All it takes is a little curiosity and willingness discover new facts!

2. I never thought I’d be so excited to be in this particular position, but I’m so glad I am! I have learned so much through hands-on experience with cattle, whether that’s “sticking my hand up a cow’s butt” to check for pregnancy, or conducting a breeding soundness exam. Animal practices are completely fascinating, and I can’t wait to apply my knowledge to future careers and endeavors.

3. You can learn a lot from the back end of a cow. Besides quickly learning that cow poop stains (still haven’t figured out a good method to get it out of my clothes), being behind a cow tells you a lot about how that cow is feeling. Perhaps even more than being at the front end of the cow. You can understand many aspects of her body’s health by checking her manure, noticing her temperature, and any potentially abnormal fluids appearing. Taking the time to notice these indicators can really help you out.

4. Maybe we should all stick our hands up a cow’s butt some time. Okay, maybe we don’t all have to go that far. The general idea is that we could all learn a lot from getting a more hands-on experience with the animal agriculture industry. However, if you’re ever given the chance – at least have an open mind!

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A few of my cows on a snowy day. Photo by Erin McCarty

 

 

 


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From Small Farms to Feedlots: The Agriculture Industry Needs Us All

Growing up, I was an active member of the local 4-H Livestock Club, raising many species of livestock and showing them in local fairs as well as shows throughout the state. Though I lived on a small farm in which I was the only family member raising animals for show or consumption, I took a strong interest in the agriculture community in my area and did everything I could to actively engage with producers. I felt as though I had a clear understanding of modern day agriculture – at least in my area, which consisted mostly of smaller cow-calf operations.

straw-bales-2638678_960_720Then I went to college in southwest Virginia, an area rich in large-scale cow-calf farms with feedlots scattered between. I met other agriculture students who lived or worked on 10,000 plus head operations, or had grown up with three chicken houses in their backyard, and I was overwhelmed. I felt as though my experiences surely couldn’t compare to these individuals who had spent their entire lives working cattle through the chute weekly or waking up early on the weekends to take care of piglets. Little old me, who had come from a non-working farm and raised my very meager herd of purebred Angus cattle to a whopping 10 head, I certainly couldn’t give my opinion on farming in front of these other students. However, after spending time around individuals with varying degrees of experience, I found that everyone brought interesting insights to the table regardless of their background.

Don’t discount yourself due to lack of experience.

Experience isn’t everything in the agriculture world. Though previous knowledge certainly helps to understand the workings of agriculture production, lack of experience does not mean you are unable to have informed opinions about its practices. Even though I didn’t have the thorough background in production that some of my counterparts brought to the table, I still had something to contribute. Just as the person who grew up in the heart of a city with no hands-on experience working livestock had valid opinions to offer. Though some of us are more involved in the process, we all

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Me with some Virginia Tech friends attending the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Conference in 2016.

participate in the agriculture world and have something to share.

Never be afraid to speak up.

Even when you feel outnumbered by those who carry more experience than you: speak up! Share what you know! Ask that question to which you’ve been dying to get an answer! This is how we grow and learn from each other as a society. Growth in modern day agriculture comes about when everyone is an active participant in its conversations, and everyone who cares about the future of agriculture deserves to have a part in those discussions.

Learn from others.

If you are the person who grew up on a large scale operation, always have an open mind to others’ opinions, even though your experience may far exceed theirs. Additionally, if you did not grow up on a farm, listen to shared knowledge from those who had that exposure. Never pass up an opportunity to have an educational and potentially enlightening conversation with someone. Furthermore, always be respectful in your interactions with individuals of varying backgrounds, and remember to treat every conversation as an opportunity to learn and grow in your knowledge of agriculture.


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It’s More than an Industry

I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to have found an interest in animal agriculture; the work itself is great, but the people are even better. This summer I was able to attend the Ag Media Summit , which is a conference held for those involved in the agricultural communication field. I was again impressed by the kindness and sincerity of the people who work in the agriculture industry.

Everyone is Welcome

As a student, it is easy to be intimidated when meeting professionals who work in your field. We often forget that they are people too and once stood in the same place we did. For the first time, I attended a conference and did not feel like a student; I was immersed in professional conversations and introduced to mutual connections. I was in the presence of industry leaders while still being able to meet many like-minded students. I loved the atmosphere and felt welcome in every room I entered.

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It’s exhilarating to meet new people, especially when they have similar passions and understand why you get so excited about writing and social media. When you are a young professional just kick-starting your career or still finishing your degree, it is encouraging to have alumnus and communicators from across the nation take the time to speak with you about your goals. I can’t speak for other industries, but I know everyone in the agriculture sector is truly a large family wanting each other to succeed. I think that is something pretty special.

We Honor One Another

Since this was my first Ag Media Summit, I wasn’t familiar with who regularly attended or who had made the conference such a success for many consecutive years. So, when the room fell silent during a tribute to someone who had passed away and tears began to fall, all I could do was listen to a cherished man’s story and be thankful that such individuals exist. Even though I’d never met Don, just learning how he had impacted so many lives made me feel as though his memory would impact me.

Throughout the entire conference, we all honored one another. Everyone respected each other as unique, creative individuals and everyone wanted to learn from other people’s experiences. People laughed and shook hands; it was easy to make incredible new relationships. Multiple attendees, students and professionals alike, were awarded for their hard work in the agricultural communication world.

For three days, I interacted with people who write incredible news stories, create beautiful magazine covers and strategically plan the perfect marketing campaigns. Not once did I hear anything negative about someone else’s ideas or passions. Instead, individuals collaborated and sought new ideas. I can’t accurately describe how talented these communicators are or how thankful I am to have met them.

A Bright Future

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I think most of us can agree that the agriculture industry needs a voice now more than ever. Technology continues to improve, new studies are being conducted and consumers have questions about how their food is being raised. It was great to come together with others who work to share the story of agriculture, and I think it is safe to say that our stories will continue to be told.

For me personally, I’ve been inspired to continue pursuing my goals and not be afraid to tell my own story. Besides, every single person has valuable experiences to share. I really believe the story of agriculture will only get better, especially since the story isn’t always about crop genetics or animal husbandry. The stories being told are actually about the remarkable people who make this industry so strong. The agriculture industry isn’t an industry of working strangers; it’s an industry built on family values. I hope we never forget that.

 


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5 reasons why college students should do College Aggies Online!

Untitled design (16)Topanga McBride, a student at Kansas State University studying Ag Communications and Ag Economics and the 2016 individual winner for College Aggies Online shares why college students should sign up for this year’s program!

Back in June of 2016, I was sitting at my internship finding as many different agricultural organizations as I could. In my searching, I stumbled upon the Animal Agriculture Alliance and their College Aggies Online contest. Always one for a good newsletter, I signed up, not realizing I had just put my name in the hat for a 9-week challenge to tell my story. It didn’t hit me until I started getting emails and even a tweet from College Aggies Online saying they were glad I had signed up. I scrambled to figure out what I had just gotten myself into, to conclude that this was a great opportunity. One competition, a trip to the Animal Ag Alliance Summit, countless connections, and one scholarship later, I’m so glad I mistakenly signed up for the contest. If you’re still not sold, here’s five reasons to get yourself involved in the College Aggies Online contest.

1. Do it for the vine (or the followers).
Old reference, right idea. This contest allowed me to make all sorts of connections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I interacted with the hundreds of other college students in the contest, discussing strategy and learning each other’s experiences. On top of that, the contestants had a mentor each week who was a communicator in the industry we were focusing on. They gave us insight on their experience and advice both through presentations and personal conversations. Because of all this networking, I not only gained hundreds of followers and friends, but also valuable network connections as I pursue a career in the industry.

2. If you’re into strategy and competition, this contest is full of it.
There is not another competition that compares to College Aggies Online. Strategy is one of my top strengths and this competition gave me the opportunity to exercise it. The contest runs on a points system – whoever has the most points wins. While placing the top posts and entries is up to the judges, simply completing all the tasks is half of the battle. Each week, I’d scan over the score sheet to see who was leading and took the time to learn from their entries to understand what was successful. If you like some healthy competition, College Aggies Online has it.

3. Give your social media some purpose.
We all use our social media differently. This contest helped me understand how I wanted to use each platform with the audiences I already had. My tweets were no longer just about whatever funny hashtag was trending, my Instagram featured less pointless selfies, and my Facebook allowed me to feature stories of my friends instead of just me. I see my social media very differently, and continue to use these platforms more as a tool and less as an online journal and photo album.

4. Meet #AgChat celebrities in real life at Animal Ag Alliance Summit.
The top three finalists and a representative from the top club get to attend the Summit, wherever it may be. This was the first conference I went to where I recognized people all over the room because I’ve interacted with them on #AgChat, or read their blog. Everyone came from different industries and it was exciting to see poultry farmers and beef producers work together over the challenges that face them. I walked away from the Summit abuzz with all sorts of new information and a motivation to keep working towards my career in this industry.

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5. Agriculture needs more voices. It needs your voice.
You’ve heard before that agriculture is a small industry, an aging industry, a necessary industry, etc. You may not think you as a college student have something to offer. That’s where you’re wrong. We each have unique networks we are a part of and unique stories of our experiences in this industry. I can tell you a lot more about how a cow gets milked than I can tell you about row crops and the seasons. I have great reach in Northern Colorado with my environmentally-conscious peers, but I don’t have any connections to comfort food lovers in the South. For people outside of agriculture to feel comfortable with the food that they eat and the practices that make it possible, they need to be able to find a person in this industry they identify with. By telling your story, there is someone out there that will see part of themselves in you that they will never see in me. This contest trains you how to best tell your story in the most personal way possible to make the biggest impact.

If you’re still not convinced, reach out to the Animal Ag Alliance, another previous contestant, or myself. We all can help you understand if this contest is an opportunity for you. Hopefully you’ll get involved by choice instead of by accident, but I’m sure glad I did. Thank you for the opportunities and the experiences, Animal Ag Alliance. I cannot wait to see what stories are shared this coming fall.


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Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg!

Mr. Zuckerberg,

As champions for farmers and ranchers, we know sharing the stories of the people and families who raise and produce our food is key to helping consumers better understand where their food comes from. We are excited to see you joining us as you visit farm families across the country and share their stories on Facebook.

As you know, there is a lot of misinformation being shared online about food and agriculture – often times by people generations removed from agriculture. We appreciate you sharing how much hard work, dedication and passion farmers and ranchers have for raising livestock while feeding families everywhere.

The Alliance is no stranger to receiving negative comments from groups that are opposed to animal agriculture as we work to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We’ve noticed that you are now receiving some of the same comments on your posts and standing strong in the face of their tactics is not always easy. The Alliance team and the farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, animal health companies and other farm organizations we represent want you to know how much your recognition and appreciation of the people who grow and raise our food means to each of us.

We sincerely thank you for being a supportive advocate of the agriculture community!

 

 


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‘What The Health’ claims get debunked

Some determined activists will say almost anything to convince people to go vegan. One example of this is “What The Health,” a film you might have seen while scrolling through Netflix. If you’ve watched the movie, it may have left you feeling confused about the nutritional value of meat, milk, poultry and eggs.

Several scientists, dietitians and agriculture advocates have started speaking out against the film and helping viewers find factual information to make decisions about their diets. Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise analyzed each health claim made in the film and concluded that 96 percent were bogus and not based on sound science. Dr. Harriet Hall, a retired family physician says the film “cherry-picks scientific studies, exaggerates, makes claims that are untrue, relies on testimonials and interviews with questionable “experts,” and fails to put the evidence into perspective.”

Here are some of the main claims from the film debunked:

Red and processed meats cause cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) report that brought this controversy to the forefront relied on a few weak studies and ignored numerous other studies that have affirmed the nutritional benefits of consuming meat. Since the report was released, the WHO said “meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet.”

A 2015 meta-analysis of 27 studies concluded that the link between cancer and red meat consumption is actually pretty weak. In another 2015 meta-analysis of 19 studies, scientists concluded “the results from our analyses do not support an association between red meat or processed consumption and prostate cancer.”

Sodium nitrite, a salt used to cure meats like sausage, bacon and ham is often brought to the table when discussing cancer and processed meat; but the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is considered the “gold standard” in determining whether substances cause cancer, completed a multi-year study that found nitrite was not associated with cancer. NTP maintains a list of chemicals found to be carcinogenic. Sodium nitrite is not on that list.

Sugar and carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes, instead it is caused by eating meat

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Starchy foods can be a part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Being overweight does increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people should avoid intake a sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes.

A 2016 study and meta-analysis regarding sugar and diabetes concluded, “habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

Eating one egg is the same as smoking five cigarettes

Yes, they actually made this outrageous claim. There’s no way an egg has the same health effects as smoking cigarettes. Eggs are packed with 6 grams of protein, 14 essential nutrients (including choline and vitamin D) and they’re only 70 calories each – how can you beat that combo?!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three healthy eating patterns…all of which include eggs. According to a 2015 peer reviewed study about the effects of egg and egg-derived foods on human health, “eggs represent a very important food source, especially for some populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, convalescents and people who are sports training.”

Pregnant women who eat meat, milk and eggs are introducing toxins to their child

Wrong again. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a pregnant woman should eat lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas to obtain the daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy.  A 2013 study states pregnant women “should eat foods that contain adequate amounts of choline” and milk, meat and eggs just happen to be choline-rich! Now you may say – pregnant women can skip meat, milk and eggs if they take a prenatal vitamin, right? Nope. The study also states that “prenatal vitamin supplements do not contain an adequate source of choline.”

Milk contains pus

Let’s put this misinformation, frequently used to try to scare you out of drinking milk, to rest. Here’s an awesome explanation from Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin dairy farmer…

Somatic cell count (SCC) is a measurement of how many white blood cells are present in the milk. “White blood cells are the infection fighters in our body and so an elevated white blood cell presence or on a dairy farm an elevated SCC is a signal that there may be an infection that the cow is fighting. Dairy farmers are paid more money for milk that has a low SCC, if our cell count raises above normal levels they will dock the amount we get paid for our milk, if it raises even higher they stop taking our milk and we can’t sell it. So not only do we not want our cows to be sick, it would cost us a lot of money and could cost us our farms if we were to ignore a high SCC. While the current US regulation is that milk must have a cell count under 750, dairy coops and companies generally require under 400 and most dairy farms aim for a SCC under 200. So, does this mean that we are allowing some pus into your milk? No. All milk is going to have some white blood cells in it, that’s the nature of a product that comes from an animal, cells happen.”

For these and more claims from the film debunked, check out this resource from the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The Alliance also provides detailed reports to its members on popular books and movies pushed by animal rights activists along with films that are positive towards farmers and ranchers.

This film is tagged as a “documentary,” but I would argue it should be categorized as a comedy because it has so many absurd allegations about food and agriculture.

As always, if you have concerns about your health or the foods you eat, you should consult your doctor!