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A Wisconsin Farmer’s Response to Michael Pollan, Part IV

Laced or Unlaced?

Mr. Pollan repeats the misleading anti-animal litany about dairy and meat products being “laced” with hormones and antibiotics. This is an insulting and inaccurate portrayal of today’s farmers who use modern technology responsibly for the benefit of their animal’s health and productive capacities.

Hormones occur naturally in all animal species. The hormone used to increase milk production in dairy cattle (recombinant bovine somatotropin, rBST) is a virtual copy of the naturally occurring dairy cow hormone (pituitary bovine somatotropin, pBST). Both are composed of the same amino acids (building blocks of homones) found in cattle. There is a difference of two pBST amino acids substituted by two different but naturally occurring amino acids in rBST. Furthermore, rBST has been researched and declared safe by government regulatory agencies; it also breaks down into its component parts during the process of pasteurization. (Note: it is illegal to sell unpasturized milk in Wisconsin).

The hormone used to stimulate beef cattle growth is typically implanted in an animal’s ear at a designated time, dissolves, and has no discernable presence when that animal is marketed. These relatively recent technologies enable those of us in production agriculture to enhance the efficiency of our operations while supplying an abundant and therefore low cost food supply to consumers.

It should be noted, not all farmers use these technologies; they are usually evaluated on a cost effective basis for each individual operation.

Anti-What (Or Whom?)

Antibiotics have saved countless human lives plus reduced suffering and misery worldwide. Why then, is there such a gap in logic, Mr. Pollan, that antibiotics cannot do the same for animals in production agriculture? Is it because we farmers are often dirty and sweaty while working? Are we all demonstrably incompetent? It is frustrating to be considered the least common denominator in the food equation.

Used responsibly, antibiotics reduce suffering and maintain productive health in farm animals. Strict state, federal and industry rules dictate their use. Veterinarians are routinely consulted and give careful guidance to farmers when dispensing certain drugs.

Milk marketed in the U.S. is regulated by Pasturized Milk Ordinance 40 (PMO 40). Under this rule, the tolerance for antibiotic residue in milk sold to the public is zero. Most dairies in the U.S. test every load of milk daily for antibiotics. Producers or processors who knowingly market milk, tainted with antibiotics, are subject to fines and even jail time. This system catches mistakes that may occur from human error while virtually ensuring an antibiotic free milk supply for the American public.

Meat marketed in the U.S. has a similar set of laws and regulations; 21 CFR 1589.2000-Drug Residue In Animal Tissue. As with PMO 40, the tolerance for antibiotic residue in meat sold to the public is zero.The safety net for American’s food supply is sadly misunderstood and unappreciated by those it protects. It is easy to make inciteful rhetoric about those of us who toil in production agriculture and take pride in producing a quality product.

Moderator’s Note: This is page 4 of 5. Read the rest: A Wisconsin Farmer 2010-25-09.pdf

The discussion generated by Mr. Pollan’s book has certainly been an opportunity to explore some issues pertaining to food and food production. The opinions I have ventured here are my own, but are probably shared by others in production agriculture. Here is my own variation on the Pollan Theme:

Eat responsibly. Eat together. Be grateful for abundance. Thank a farmer.

On, Wisconsin!
George H. Roemer
UW-CALS Class of ’70