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Weighing the facts on food system issues

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This week brought a new report on animal production, a bevy of responses and yet another challenge for responsible consumers to weigh the facts on complex and controversial food system issues.

On Oct. 22, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future released a report, “Industrial Food Animal Production in America: Examining the Impact of the Pew Commission’s Priority Recommendations.” This report is a follow-up to a 2008 report, “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” generated by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a collaboration of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Recommendations made in the 2008 report—banning non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animal production, eliminating some production practices, new approaches to waste treatment, enforcement of anti-trust laws—drew sharp criticism from animal production interests and related professions. The criticism is no less intense regarding the latest report, which charges that Congress and the Obama Administration “have acted ‘regressively’ in policymaking on industrial food animal system issues.”

The Animal Agriculture Alliance addressed the latest report head-on, issuing its own report, “What the Center for a Livable Future, Pew Commission & Others Aren’t Telling You About Food Production.”  The Alliance also hosted a media teleconference with a range of experts in animal production providing feedback on specific issues cited in the Johns Hopkins report, including antibiotic use, animal care and food safety.

The sad reality today is that as a society, we lack a point of reference on the diverse issues associated with food animal production. At the least, questions about food production systems are too often fear-framed, generating defensive responses from industry—even when truth is part of both. In the midst of it all is the consumer. 

Farm Foundation has for 80 years sought to bring the stakeholders of the food value chain together for civil, democratic discussions of critical issues with the potential to yield positive steps forward. Based on this week’s news exchanges, our work is not yet done.

Here are links to the two reports and related news reports:

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future: “Industrial Food Animal Production in America: Examining the Impact of the Pew Commission’s Priority Recommendations”: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/_pdf/research/clf_reports/CLF-PEW-for%20Web.pdf

Animal Agriculture Alliance report, “What the Center for a Livable Future, Pew Commission & Others Aren’t Telling You about Food Production”: http://www.animalagalliance.org/images/upload/FINAL%20Advances%20in%20Animal%20Agriculture%2010.17.13%20Embargo%20Removed.pdf

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/feeding-antibiotics-to-cows-is-bad-for-humans-but-congress-wont-stop-it-new-report-says/2013/10/22/ecd2de08-3afd-11e3-a94f-b58017bfee6c_story.html

Farm Futures: http://farmfutures.com/story-anti-animal-ag-report-blames-government-lack-monitoring-0-103701

Des Moines Register: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131023/BUSINESS01/310230048/?odyssey=nav|head

Drovers Cattle Network: http://www.cattlenetwork.com/e-newsletters/drovers-daily/Dueling-reports-228841211.html?page=2

Politico: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/report-progress-on-pew-farm-policy-recommendations-gets-an-f-98702.html


Mary Thompson Mary Thompson (mary@farmfoundation.org)
Vice President, Communications Farm Foundation, NFP

View more posts by Mary Thompson

The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.