Animal Ag Engage


Leave a comment

Lights, Camera…Misinformation!

It’s lights, camera, action for America’s farmers and ranchers – whether they auditioned or not. Films are popping up on the big (and small) screen, putting animal agriculture under increased scrutiny. These films often claim they are “shedding light” on the agriculture industry, but they usually leave out the true story.

Producer vs. Producer 

It could be a great thing to have American farmers and ranchers showcased for raising the safest food supply out there and providing great care to their animals, but when film producers attack the producers of our food, fuel and fiber it can spread misconceptions and “alternative facts” – especially when the films are produced by or in collaboration with animal rights groups.

Producing films (and publishing books) is not a new tactic animal rights groups are using to further their mission of putting farmers and ranchers who produce meat, milk, poultry and eggs out of business, but they are getting more attention in recent years. This is due to increased interest in how food gets from the farm to the fork along with the popularity of movie platforms like Netflix.

Lights, Camera…Misinformation!

Documentaries are supposed to provide a factual report of a certain event or issue, but the films produced by activists skew the truth or ignore it all together. Some claim they are giving an “unbiased” look into how food is raised on farms, but is it unbiased if the film is produced a vegan who only interviews other vegans?

Activist films are often how myths get started – because if it’s in a “documentary” it must be 100 percent true, right? Here are a few ways to tell if you’re watching an activist movie, or as Leah McGrath, dietitian and agvocate, likes to call them – “Shockumentaries.”

  • Cherry-picking studies
  • Playing ominous background music
  • Using outdated information and studies from 1841
  • Taking things out of context
  • An animal rights group is the main sponsor
  • The overwhelming majority of the cast is vegan
  • The call to action is “GO VEGAN!”

One of the main claims from an activist film recently released to Netflix is eating one egg is the same as smoking five cigarettes. I was honestly happy to hear this lie included because any rational person would recognize it as crazy and discredit the rest of the movie.

A pig farm

The Animal Agriculture Alliance has more than 20 movie and book reports summarizing these activist films which are available to our members. Each report lists out the main claims so you don’t have to go through the trouble of wasting an hour or two of your time, but can stay informed on what the other side is saying about our industry.

What’s worth watching…

As for what you should watch to learn more about agriculture and food production, how about videos of farmers taking you on a virtual tour of their farms?! They may not be as dramatic as the activist films, but they do show the truth. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fresh Air Farmer – a dairy farmer from Canada taking you on a different farm tour every week (from a celery farm to a pig farm!)
  • Farmland – a movie showcasing young farmers and ranchers across the United States
  • Chicken Checkin videos – the National Chicken Council put together a series of videos showing how broiler chickens are raised
  • Farm tour from Tyson Foods chicken farm – a recent video by Tyson Foods, Inc. about their commitment to animal care and sustainability
  • The Udder Truth – series of videos from dairy farmers about what really happens on America’s dairy farms
  • Veal farm tour – a veal farmer from Wisconsin invites you on a virtual tour
  • Turkey farm tour – a turkey farmers from California takes viewers onto his farm

Turkey farm tour!

Farmers and ranchers realize how important it is to be transparent and many have added advocate to their list of farm chores. They’re the true experts on farm animal care and know if they don’t tell their story animal rights activists will not only tell their version of the story, but make it into a book or film. So, the next time you hear of a “documentary” about animal agriculture ask yourself this question: who is telling the story? The farmers and ranchers who raise and care for the animals or the activists who could care less about animal care and just want to take meat off everyone’s plate?

 


1 Comment

Animal rights activists masquerading as consumers

Consumer demand is powerful. It can be the champion of a company’s success or the culprit of their failure. What I find even more interesting is how consumer demand is defined. Does a group of people with no intention of ever buying a restaurant’s product qualify as their consumer? With the avalanche of recent restaurant and retail pledges caving to pressure from animal rights organizations, it seems so.

At the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s recent Stakeholders Summit, speakers offered insights about consumer demand – suggesting consumers aren’t the ones demanding restaurants and grocery stores to change their supply chain policies at all. Dr. Dan Thomson of Kansas State University stated, “activists today are masquerading as the consumers.”

I have yet to hear a person order their chicken sandwich only with meat from “slower-growing” chickens, so Thomson’s statement didn’t surprise me. Although I understand why restaurants adopt certain sourcing policies in the face of mounting activist pressure, it would be refreshing to see a company stand up against the “self-appointed food police” as Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate calls them. Thankfully, there is still at least one brand with a backbone – Domino’s Pizza.

Tim McIntyre of Domino’s Pizza

Tim McIntyre from Domino’s shared how the pizza company hears from animal rights “extremists” all the time, but they value the hard work of farmers and ranchers and will never make a policy announcement threatening farmers’ livelihoods [cue standing ovation].

Animal rights organizations hide behind the guise of being concerned about animal care and well-being, but in reality they are campaigning for animal rights. No matter how well animals are cared for, if it benefits humans in any way it is unacceptable in their eyes. The pressure campaigns are about one thing – driving up the cost of production and in the end, consumer costs to put farmers and ranchers who raise meat, milk and eggs out of business.

I urge the consumers who don’t want to be bullied by animal rights organizations to take a page out of Domino’s playbook and stand up and take action. A simple thank you to our favorite restaurant or the manager at your grocery store can go a long way.


1 Comment

Cast your vote for two farmers to win our blog and photo contests!

The top entries for our Instagram and blog contests have been selected and now it’s up to you to decide which ones will be the winners and receive a free registration to our 2017 Stakeholders Summit! Cast your vote by Friday, March 10th and the lucky winners will be announced on Monday, March 13th!

Blog Post Entries 

The farmers with the top blog posts are…

  1. Nicole Small, Kansas Farm Mom: “Action Please”
  2. Wanda Patsche, Minnesota pig farmer: “Action, Please – Minnesota “Farm-to-table style” 
  3. Melinda B., Cattle rancher: “Action, Please!”

Please vote for your favorite Action, Please story and the winner will receive a free registration and hotel stay to attend the Summit to Connect to Protect Animal Ag! The two runner-ups will be invited to come at a discounted rate.

 

Instagram Photo Entries 

We received so many great entries that we couldn’t limit ourselves to picking just three photos, so we picked our top five!

Laura Daniels, Wisconsin dairy farmer

laura-daniels

Karra James, Kansas beef rancher and row crop farmer

kara-james

Michelle MillerThe Farm Babe, sheep and cattle farmer

michelle-miller

Krista Stauffer, The Farmer’s Wifee, dairy farmer

krista-stauffer

Lauren Arbogast, Paint The Town Ag, Virginia chicken farmer

lauren-paint-the-town-ag

Please vote for your favorite farm photo and the winner will receive a free registration and hotel stay to attend the 2017 Summit and the two runner-ups will be invited to come at a discounted rate!

 


Leave a comment

Did you take action for animal agriculture? Share it with us!

Last year’s Stakeholders Summit focused on taking action to secure a bright future for animal agriculture. Well, it’s that time of year again and we want to know what you did to take action! Did you talk to people in your community, start a club or teach a lesson at a local school, join social media to start advocating, invite neighbors to your farm or something else to help secure a bright future for our industry? If you did, we want to feature you at the 2017 Summit! Share a photo with a few sentences explaining the picture or video testimonial and we will share your Action, Please story with our Summit attendees this May! The deadline to submit stories is April 7, 2017!

Please share your photos and videos on Instagram or Twitter and tag the Alliance! You can also send your photos and videos to Casey at cwhitaker@animalagalliance.org!


1 Comment

Farmers and ranchers can enter to win a FREE registration to the 2017 Stakeholders Summit!

The Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit is one of the must-go-to events of the year! Set for May 3-4, 2017, the Summit will take place in Kansas City, Mo.

With the theme of “Connect to Protect Animal Ag: #ActionPlease2017,” the conference will build on the 2016 Summit’s focus of taking action to secure a bright future for animal agriculture. Speakers will give the audience actionable solutions to take home and implement on their farm or in their business.

Sound exciting? Are you a farmer or rancher who advocates for animal agriculture? Well here’s your chance to enter to win a FREE registration to the event!

farmer-rancher-blog

Blog Contest:

Write a blog post telling your “Action, Please” story! This can be something you’ve done to help bridge the communication gap between farm and fork in your community and engage with consumers about animal agriculture.

What you need to do:

  • Write a 500-750 word blog post
  • Publish your blog post somewhere public before March 1
  • Promote your blog on Twitter and use the hashtag #AAA17 and tag @animalag

The Alliance will respond to your tweet to acknowledge it being entered into the contest. On March 2, 2017 we will announce the top three blog posts. Then, the top three will be up for public voting. The farmer that receives the most votes by the stated deadline will win a free registration to our Summit! The farmers in second and third place will receive a discounted registration to attend.

contest-2

Instagram Photo Contest:

If photography is more your style, here’s what you can do to win a free registration:

  • Share your favorite farm photo on Instagram before March 1
  • Use the hashtag #AAA17
  • Tag @animalagalliance

The Alliance will comment on your photo to acknowledge it being entered into the contest. On March 2, 2017 we will announce the top three photos. Then, the top three will be up for public voting. The farmer that receives the most likes by the stated deadline will win a free registration to our Summit! The farmers in second and third place will receive a discounted registration to attend. We’ll also choose some of our favorite photos to use for Alliance social media graphics in the future!

If you know a farmer or rancher who should be at our Stakeholders Summit, tell them about this opportunity!

 


Leave a comment

Tis The Season to Thank Agriculture

Food has a long history of bringing people together, especially during the holiday season. No matter our religion, political beliefs or which football jersey we wear, we can amicably sit around the table and enjoy our neighbor’s company with a warm meal. Food surrounds us in times of happiness and in times of sorrow. It is something we cannot live without and part of something bigger that we often take for granted. Agriculture.

With the holiday season among us, I can’t help but reflect on the reasons I have to thank agriculture for the gifts it provides not only during the holidays, but every day. This is why I thank agriculture:

  1. I thank agriculture for introducing me to my best friends, career and passion.

    14317597_10208991341513097_800970794976589166_n

    My best friends I met in the College of Ag at Auburn University!

  2. For the farmers and ranchers who don’t take a holiday off from raising livestock and growing crops.
  3. The dedication to animal care that all farmers share, not matter what size their farm.
  4. The people who care about the future of animal agriculture as much as I do.
  5. For the dairy cows and farmers who provide high quality cream for my coffee addiction.
  6. Bacon.
  7. All the students currently studying agriculture and working to become a voice for our industry.
  8. For giving me the peace of mind knowing that our country has the safest food supply in the world.
  9. The many choices in the grocery store – whether its produced a certain way or has a certain label, I know it is safe and nutritious.
  10. Chicken, turkey and pork free from added hormones…also known as all chicken, turkey and pork in the United States.
  11. For all the farmers who have hosted a farm tour and have reminded me why I love doing what I do.
  12. All my favorite wool and cotton sweaters, socks and scarves that keep me warm during the winter.
  13. For not only my food, but for the food I feed Zaza and Barney.Zaza and Barney!
  14. The colleagues in the sheep, beef, chicken, veal, turkey and dairy industries who at the end of the day unite for animal agriculture.
  15. Knowing that when I find a recipe online I can find the ingredients just down the road.
  16. The things I use every day that I don’t realize are made with by-products from animal agriculture.
  17. The small, but mighty team I get to be a part of at the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
  18. And a million other reasons!

The men and women involved in agriculture are some of the most dedicated, passionate and hard working people I know and to work on behalf of people I have the utmost respect for is an honor.

I hope everyone has a happy holiday season and remembers to thank agriculture for for all the presents it provides without fancy wrapping paper or bows. Please join me in sharing why you thank agriculture on social media with #WhyIThankAg!

why-2-tw


1 Comment

14 things I bet you didn’t know about pig farming

Oink you glad it’s Porktober? Not only is it finally starting to feel like fall with pumpkin spice everything hitting the stores, but it is also Pork Month! Farmers are dedicated to caring for their pigs so we can enjoy bacon next to our eggs every month of the year. Here are a few things to know about pig farming because bacon doesn’t magically appear on our plates (although that would be awesome!).october-is

  1. There are five common types of pig farms. Today’s pig farms usually specialize in a certain period of the pigs’ life cycle. The five types of pig farms are: farrow-to-finish, farrow-to-nursery, farrow-to-wean, wean-to-finish and finishing. There are 67,000 total pig farms in the United States!twitter-pig-care
  2. Modern pig farms help farmers care for their pigs. Animal care is the number one priority for all farmers and modern farming systems allow farmers to embrace technology that allows them to take better care of their pigs. Temperature control, automatic water and feed dispensers and protection from predators are a few examples!
  3. Pig barn floors a designed to keep things clean. Floors in pig barns are slatted to allow farmers to easily hose and clean up after the pigs!
  4. All pigs are raised without added hormones! Some packaging labels claim that their pigs are raised without hormones, but ALL pigs are raised without added hormones. It is illegal to use added hormones in pig farming!hormones-twitter
  5. Pig farmers use less water, land and energy than ever before! Pig farmers live on or near the land that they farm, so they understand the importance of environmental stewardship. Between 1959-2009, pig farmers decreased land use by 78 percent and water use by 41 percent!pig-sustainability-twitter
  6. An adult female pig is called a sow. And a baby pig is a piglet; a young female pig that has not given birth is a gilt, a male pig is a boar and if castrated, barrow.
  7. Farrowing stalls help protect piglets. Farrowing stalls allow farmers to help in the birth process and reduce the number of piglets accidentally laid on or stepped on by the sow.farrowing-twitter
  8. Piglets are born with needle-teeth that are trimmed after birth. Farmers have learned more than a few things over the years, and one of them is to trim piglet teeth to prevent injuries to other piglets and the sow!
  9. Heating lamps are used to keep piglets warm. Heating lamps help keep piglets warm in the farrowing stall while keeping the sow cool.heating-lamp-tw
  10. Pig farmers work closely with veterinarians to ensure their animals receive the best care. Farmers and veterinarians learn from each other on how to improve and best take care of their animals. Farmers work with veterinarians to have animal care and health management plans on each farm.
  11. Pigs’ ears are used for identification. The left ear identifies the pig number within its litter and the right ear signals the litter number.
  12. Pigs eat a nutritionally-balanced diet every day. Pigs eat a grain-based diet of corn and soybean meal with wheat, barley, vitamins and minerals.
  13. Pig farmers are on social media! That’s right, pig farmers are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram just like everyone else! Some farmers are very active on social media sharing their farm story and pig farmers are no exception. If you search the hashtag “#RealPigFarming” you can follow along with them and learn more about pig farming!
  14. Americans love pork! Ok, I bet you did know that – BUT maybe you didn’t know you can satisfy your pumpkin and pork craze at the same time! Here are few pumpkin-themed pork recipes for you to enjoy:

Happy Pork Month!


Leave a comment

Using Snapchat to share agriculture’s story

The Animal Agriculture Alliance engages food chain influencers and promotes consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. Social media is one way we share information and facts about how farmers and ranchers care for their animals and help feed families.  We are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and now Snapchat! Our username is animalag.

Snapchat is one of the newest social media channels with more than 100 million users. We are excited to use this new platform to make sure animal agriculture’s voice is heard and to reach even more people who may not be familiar with how delicious meat, milk and eggs get to their plates. Basically, the app allows users to take short videos and pictures to share with followers, but the content only remains visible for 24 hours.

The Alliance will use Snapchat to take our followers on farm tours and conferences we attend throughout the year, meet farmers and share trivia facts. Recently, our director of communications attended the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual conference in Nebraska and shared photos and videos from the conference where she had the opportunity to tour a dairy farm and a cow/calf beef farm.snapchat
Starting in the next few weeks, the Alliance will start Trivia Tuesdays and Thursdays on Snapchat about animal care, sustainability, meat matters and fun facts about pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys and all the other barnyard animals!

If you’re on Snapchat, here are a few other accounts to follow:

  • Gilmerdairy – Will Gilmer, Alabama dairy farmer
  • Hilljay45 – Jay Hill, New Mexico farmer
  • Nationalffa – National FFA
  • Realpigfarming – Real Pig Farming
  • Cristencclark – Cristen Clark, Food & Swine
  • Hmiller361 – Hannah Miller, social media guru on agriculture
  • Aggrad – Ag Grad, a career resource for college students and recent grads

For how to effectively use each social media platform to promote agriculture, check out the Alliance’s social media guide, The Power of Social Media in Agriculture: A Guide to Social Media Success.

 


3 Comments

Don’t let misinformation become someone’s truth

We are all consumers. We all have our preferences regarding the types of foods we like to purchase and eat, but our purchasing decisions should be based on facts, not fear and misinformation.

IMG_17411I recently attended the annual Glenview Dairy Breakfast and Stockshow at the Historic Wagoner Farm, a family-oriented event filled with games, a tasty breakfast and barnyard animals. My job was to answer any questions people had about animal agriculture and animal care. Almost every person I spoke with didn’t necessarily have a question, but rather a statement they wanted me to verify. Unfortunately, all of their statements were laced with misinformation.

Here are a few of the myths and misinformation I heard:

“I don’t buy products in the store that come from factory farms.”

When people say “factory farm” they are usually referring to large farms, but size does not automatically make a farm good or bad. What matters is how the farm is managed.

It takes farms of all sizes and types to make up the agriculture community and provide consumers with healthy food choices. Large farms can be conventional, organic or local and the same is true for small farms. Large farms often have the resources to hire animal care specialists, veterinarians and animal nutritionists to be on staff to help care for the animals using advanced technology that not only benefits the animals, but the farmer as well.

Farmers may prefer to raise their animals or grow their crops in different ways, but one thing all farmers share is the commitment to animal care and food safety. One way the animal agriculture community ensures their herds and flocks are healthy and receive the best care is through quality assurance programs and constant research and dedication towards continuous improvement.

Advances-in-Animal-Ag

Advances in Animal Ag Infographic

Perfectionism does not exist in agriculture because farmers are always looking for ways to improve and evolve as new research and technology becomes available. The Alliance recently released a report and infographic highlighting the advances in animal care, food safety, responsible antibiotic use and sustainability achieved by animal agriculture.

“What are you doing to prevent farmers from abusing their animals?”

To assume that farmers mistreat their animals is quite disheartening because it couldn’t be further from the truth. Farmers and ranchers care about the well-being of their animals and work hard to ensure they are providing the best possible care every day. Groups that want you to think otherwise often use scare tactics, misinformation and highly-edited videos to convince you not to support American farmers and ranchers. When a farmer takes care of his/her animals, the animals are healthy and comfortable which yields a safe, wholesome food supply for consumers. Farmers are striving to feed us, while activist groups are striving to take protein-packed meals off our plates.

grassfinished-or-grainfinished-beef-1-638“What’s the deal with grass-fed and grain-fed?”

A common misconception is that grain-finished cattle never eat a blade of green grass, but all cattle spend the majority of their lives eating grass on pasture. Some cattle are grass-finished and others are grain-finished. Grain-finished means they are fed a nutritionally-balanced diet of grains, vitamins and minerals for the last 3-6 months of their lives.

Farmers work closely with veterinarians, animal nutritionists and animal care experts to ensure their animals receive the right amount of nutrients at the right time. Whether the animal is grass-finished or grain-finished does not correlate with the quality of care they receive. Ninety percent of United States cattle are raised under the guidelines established by the Beef Quality Assurance program – a science-based program that helps farmers and ranchers raise their cattle using proven techniques and recommendations from animal care specialists.

Myth-busting marathon

What I honestly hoped would be a day filled with sharing coloring books with children and Alliance resources with parents quickly turned into a myth-busting marathon, but I would run the marathon again in a heartbeat. The people I spoke with were only repeating what they had heard from advertisements, activist groups and misinformed friends. Once I started a conversation with parents addressing their concerns and sharing the truth about how farmers care for their animals, they planted their feet in the ground and we had long discussions that left them smiling and thankful to hear the other side of the story.

We need to share our agriculture story so they hear the truth. Go to events, be active on social media, talk to people in your community and don’t let misinformation become what they think is the truth!IMG_17621

About the author: 

I didn’t grow up on farm, but as soon as I met a farmer I knew I wanted to help tell their story. I am the communications coordinator at the Animal Agriculture Alliance responsible for social media, website management and member resources, bridging the communication gap between farm and fork and telling farmers’ stories every day. 


Leave a comment

5 things to know for #BeefMonth

May is the month to celebrate everything BEEF! Here are five things to know for beef month (and every other month!):twitter-beef

What is a rancher???

Before we get too far, let’s discuss the difference between a farmer and a rancher. Typically, farmers are those who grow crops but chicken, turkey, egg, pig and dairy producers are also commonly called farmers. Those who raise sheep and cattle are often called ranchers. Make sense?

More than 97 percent of beef cattle ranches are family owned!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and their National Agricultural Statistics Service, 97 percent of all beef cattle ranches in the United States are family owned. Some ranches may be big and others may be small, but they all share the same passion in raising cattle and commitment to animal care.

Cattle ranchers care for their cattle by providing a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions. Here are a three ways cattle ranchers care for their cattle:

  1. Cattle ranchers work closely with veterinarians to keep their cattle healthy.
  2. Professional animal nutritionists help ranchers develop a balanced and nutritious diet for their cattle.
  3. The Beef Quality Assurance program assists ranchers by providing information about science-based husbandry techniques to help ranchers care for their cattle.

Untitled-designCattle ranchers live on or near the land that they ranch – they care about the environment too!

Beef cattle ranchers are committed to continuous improvement and strive to take care of the land on which they raise their cattle. In fact, the ranchers often live and raise their families on the land as well and work hard to ensure they are providing for the future generation of cattle ranchers. Between 1997 and 2007, the beef community produced each pound of beef using 19 percent less feed, 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water and 9 percent less fossil fuels.

In a recent report released by the USDA, all of agriculture was reported to be responsible for only 10 percent of total green house gas emissions in 2014 while transportation accounted for 26 percent.

It’s not just beef!

Although most Americans love a grilled steak at a summer cookout or a big bowl of spicy chili when it’s cold outside, beef cattle yield more than just beef! Did you know baseball gloves, lipstick, tires, soap, asphalt, piano keys, photo film and much more also come from cattle!

Now you know a little bit more about beef cattle – Happy Beef Month!

About the author:

I didn’t grow up on farm, but as soon as I met a farmer I knew I wanted to help tell their story. I am the communications coordinator at the Animal Agriculture Alliance responsible for social media, website management and member resources, bridging the communication gap between farm and fork and telling farmers’ stories every day.