Last week, I received an email from a reader who shared with me that his 12-year old granddaughter was recently shown a CNN Student News video in her sixth grade classroom about ingredients in livestock feed.
While much of the information was factual in the video, what alarmed me was the way the show presented it. The mood was gloomy, the tone hinted at a sinister plot, and the ultimate message was that livestock producers are willing to make sacrifices in food safety and animal welfare in order to line their own pocketbooks.
To give you a better idea of what was presented to 12-year olds, here are a snippets from the video transcript:
- The smell was awful, but, for me, the most unsavory part of this process is the one you rarely get to examine closely. In fact, it`s one of the most opaque corners of the meat industry. It`s the animal feed itself.
- Most animals grazed in this country eat a secret formula. Some elements of the mix are even unknown to the farmer. But it`s safe to say that includes proteins, fats and in many cases, drugs. But the base for much of it is lots and lots of corn. How do you get livestock to explode in size in a few months? The industry has a term for it -- renderings. Animal byproducts like meat and bone meal, leftover grease from restaurants, and even meal made from poultry feathers.
- And there`s the heart of it, demand for cheap meat. We produce it as efficiently as possible and the conditions the animals lived in means drugs are often used, not only to keep them alive, but to make them fat.
CNN Student News is a program presented to middle school students across the country, and presenting information like this in the way that they did is a gross misrepresentation of the livestock industry and the protocols producers follow to safely and efficiency put meat on the dinner table.
But the problem doesn’t end there.
Earlier this month, I read an article written by Ty Higgins for Ohio Ag Net titled, “You’re teaching my daughter WHAT in health class???” In the article, Higgins shares his concerns about how his daughter had to watch the documentary, “Food, Inc.” in her sixth grade health class.
Higgins writes, “Her health teacher loaded up a video that was called Food, Inc. My heart literally stopped for a second, although that might have been a bit of the fried chicken’s fault too, but that’s beside the point. She went on to tell me, muffled by a chicken leg between her teeth, that many of the girls after class said that they would never eat meat again and felt so bad for the animals in the film. I was appalled.”
He decided to write a letter to the school addressing his concerns about showing such a biased, anti-agricultural documentary in a middle school health class.
And it’s not just sixth grade classrooms being bombarded with misinformation. College students are bombarded with trendy documentaries and books such as “King Corn” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” that are required study materials in many of their courses.
It’s no wonder our consumers are scared, angry, guilty and confused when it comes to buying food at the grocery store! It should come as no surprise that folks like Dr. Oz and the Food Babe prey on these consumers using fear-mongering and other scare tactics to line their own pocketbooks.
We cannot sit on the sidelines and continue to let situations like this pass us by without speaking out. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of politicians, activists, celebrities and biased health teachers influencing our next generation of consumers about how they should fear and mistrust today’s farmers and ranchers.
If your kids or grandkids are being presented misinformation in their schools, speak up. Write a letter. Submit an op-ed to the local paper. Share your story. Volunteer to speak in the classroom about agriculture. Don’t wait for someone else to do it; take action now. These students will be influencers in the next 10-20 years, and we want them to be well-versed on what it actually takes to produce safe, affordable, nutritious and abundantly available food.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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