In a recent test of pork chop and ground-pork samples from six U.S. cities, Consumer Reports found low levels of ractopamine in almost one-fifth of the 240 pork products analyzed, as well as a range of other nasties – including several strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Ractopamine is a growth promoter drug. It is widely used on intensive livestock farms in the U.S. because it increases the rate of weight gain and carcass leanness in pigs, cattle and turkey. It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of the U.S. pig herd is fed the drug every year. Of course, the drug doesn’t come without its costs.
On May 4 Animal Welfare Approved hosted an expert panel of writers, farmers and representatives of sustainable livestock production. Entitled, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm,” the discussion centered on the need for truly sustainable livestock farming that takes into account animal welfare and the health of our environment – and ourselves. Panelists included investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the bestselling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant.
AWA Program Director Andrew Gunther moderated the discussion, beginning by posing this question to the panelists: “How does such a diversified group have an opinion on the future of agriculture?” Panelists’ responses highlighted the issues that affect all of us, including truth in labeling, fair and scale-appropriate regulation, overuse of antibiotics, environmental pollution and treatment of farm animals and workers.
Speakers also addressed the role of the consumer in ensuring the sustainability of our food system. Morison explained, “Consumers need to get more involved in their communities. You’re not only sustaining farms, but the communities as well.” Kirby commented on the disconnect between consumer expectation and the realities of the food we eat: “When you get your cheap yogurt at the mall you’re not thinking about how now someone can’t use their well water anymore.” Niman encouraged eaters to do their homework, understand the systems they support with their food dollars and offered the following rule of thumb: “I want all my food to come from farms I want to visit.” Dr. Whisnant agreed, encouraging us to “start from the consumer side and demand change.”
We were honored to host such an accomplished and articulate panel. Their work is creating a truly sustainable path forward – one that sustains farm families, animals and the communities that depend on them.
For more quotes from the event visit us on Twitter (@AWAapproved). We will be posting video footage soon!