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The Big Waste – Do We Expect Perfection?

Sunday afternoon I found myself in my normal routine – sitting on my bed and attempting to do homework while I watched the food channel. Normally multi tasking is something I do well, but I found myself being captivated by a Food Network special called The Big Waste.

In this special two pairs of chefs competed against each other to cook a gourmet meal for 100 people using only food that is going to be thrown away. I sat enthralled as the chefs gathered tomatoes, fish, flour, trimmings of meat, eggs, peaches and many other food items. Some of this food came from distributors, grocers, or directly from the farms themselves. One chef even ventured out with a ‘freegan’ and dumpster dived for food behind grocery stores.

Much of the food was past its sell by date, but still perfectly edible, others had slight imperfections. Furthermore some of the food was discarded and thrown on the ground by consumers because it wasn’t perfect enough.

Many of these tomatoes were discarded because of cracked skin, however, there is nothing wrong with them. The fruit grew too fast and the skin did not have time to stretch, causing the cracking.

The reality of this is that every day one billion people go to bed hungry, while America’s grocery stores, restaurants, and food distributors throw out 27 million tons of food per year.

That’s about 200 pounds per person, per year. Among this number is five billion eggs thrown out, because they are too big or small, and may have the wrong color and countless fruits and vegetables thrown out for the exact same reasons.

Not only is this food waste disheartening with the large amount of hungry people in the world, but it’s also healthy food. You see people struggling to buy healthy food constantly, and here are all of these fruits and vegetables just thrown away.

So what’s the solution? If I could wave a magic wand and create a non-profit that uses this discarded food to run a soup kitchen, or food pantry I would. Chefs could be trained in how to use everything when they cook, and consumers educated that just because there are minor imperfections on food it doesn’t mean that something is wrong.

One company owner said we’ve “trained American consumers to expect perfection.” This program certainly opened my eyes to food waste. Next time I’m at the grocery store I won’t discard a tomato because it has a cracked skin, and I will certainly find ways to use all parts of food when I’m cooking. What will you do to reduce your food waste?

“We Must Do What We Can, With What We Have…”

I haven’t blogged in a very long time. Life has caught up with me and this semester I’m going to try my absolute hardest to blog at least once a week, hopefully more. I’ve just started the first semester of my last year of college. I graduate next December and have become accustomed to people asking me “what do you want to do after college?” Before I would always say, “find a job!” However, everyone seems to take that answer negatively.

So what do I want to do after I graduate? Well work in the agriculture industry of course! But when it all boils down I really don’t know which sector of agriculture I want to be involved in. Production, communications, or marketing? What about non-profit work? Or what if I worked in education or with a commodity organization? There are multitudes of choices and on any given day, I can see myself in one of the above sectors.

Currently my passion and focus has been centered on hunger here in the United States and internationally. Did you know that every day 25,000 people die due to hunger? That’s the equivalent to 60 jumbo jets falling out of the sky!

I can check Facebook on four different electronic devices (phone, laptop, IPod, IPad). Right now I’m sitting in my apartment heated to a nice 70 degrees and tonight my roommates and our neighbors are making Beer Can Chicken for supper. I know that I have enough money to pay my rent, utilities, and grocery bills, plus a little extra for some fun here and there. I am extremely blessed and lucky. Unfortunately, many people aren’t as blessed as I am.

So why don’t I do something about it? I recently listened to a speaker who told us “we must do what we can, with what we have.” That quote grabbed me and I find myself thinking of it constantly.

From now on, and in any future career I have, I want to do what I can, with what I have. I’m always going to try and give my best, and be thankful for how blessed I am to have the opportunities and luxuries I have. I encourage all of you to do the same – and if you have any future career advice, it’d be much appreciated :)

Just for Fun

 

In case you’re looking for a laugh, or you want to see the importance of checking your work before you post it, look at the picture below, and look closely.

Yes, those are turkeys, thank you HuffingtonPost for the picture.

 

 

 

 

 

Apologies to all…

Hey everyone! First off I’d like to apologize for the amount of time I have been away. After a crazy summer, and even crazier start to the school year I have been neglecting my blog. I hope to continue updating more regularly, and keep the content flowing. If there’s anything related to food you want to talk about let me know by commenting! There’s a lot going on with food production right now and I’m excited to pick blogging back up again.

It’s great to be back!

Brittany

P.S.

I have some absolutely amazing pictures of harvest that were taken by my sister, I’ll be sharing those soon!

Where do we go wrong?

Last night I was watching America’s Next Great Restaurant, a show I have recently become addicted to. One of the contestant’s restaurant pitches is to have a healthy, fast casual, restaurant structured around the concept of sustainability. I think this is an awesome idea, however, on last night’s episode the judges criticized her decisions. Why? Because she had decided to take lamb out of a recipe as she thought the animals were raised in pens and fed antibiotics and hormones. The judges corrected her, and the contestant later said she confused veal with lamb.

Her statements piqued my curiosity. I realized that in all of my research on issues in animal agriculture I hadn’t found much criticism of the sheep industry. Granted the industry is a much smaller portion of American agriculture, however they don’t seem to even have a small target on their back.

I began digging and found that there were 365,000 lambs and sheep slaughtered in 2010. Although I couldn’t find an exact number, many sources say 750,000 veal calves are slaughtered per year. Video after video of abuse at veal farms is released, yet I have yet to find an investigation done on a lamb producer.

So what’s the difference? Why target other sectors of animal agriculture, yet leave the sheep industry alone? I don’t have the answer, and I will continue to search for it. But in the mean time, maybe we as agriculturists should take a look at the American sheep industry and ask, where do we go wrong?

Is Admittance the Key?

The agriculture industry has once again been buzzing as Mercy for Animals released a new undercover video early last week (I know I’m running quite a bit behind the bandwagon). Consequently, my journalism class began talking about crisis management in Public Relations this past week as well. The Exxon Valdez oil spill, and Tylenol still go down as the worst, and best, handlers of a crisis. In Exxon’s case, they paid to clean up the spill, but didn’t do much else. Tylenol however lost millions in product sales when they pulled all bottles of medicine off the shelf after a few isolated instances of cyanide poisoning. They admitted they had a problem and Tylenol came back as a corporation stronger than ever, and consumers continue to trust their brand still today.

A Job Well Done

Kirt Espenson of the E6 Ranch Hart TX, spoke to Trent Loos on Wednesday, and I believe he did a great job of explaining what happened. As with all undercover videos we will never know the full story, but in Espenson’s case I commend him for taking responsibility for his employees, and their actions, even when he says he had no idea what was going on. Trent Loos also did an interview with Nathan Runkle, the founder of Mercy for Animals.

What I think…

It’s difficult to see people blame producers for their own employees actions, and call farmers heartless, greedy animal abusers. Abuse of animals and improper treatment is something no one ever wants to see. However, farmers can’t point the finger at someone else, their employees, or the undercover investigator.

I believe it was wrong of Mercy for Animals to pose this “random investigation” and trespass onto someone’s farm. But it was also wrong for the employees to use improper treatment.

Maybe the key to helping consumers understand that we don’t want to see animals hurting anymore than they do is to fess up to our actions. Take the blame, even when it’s not ours to take. After all we are responsible for our employees. After all, isn’t admitting that there’s a problem the first step to fixing it?

Iowa’s Legislature – Creating Uproar

The Iowa legislature is certainly making waves in the news. HF 589 / SF 431 was introduced by Annette Sweeney, and makes, among other things, videotaping and photography on farms illegal unless you have consent.

Backlash

Many organizations are not happy with the bill, claiming it’s unconstitutional, and that it would take away first amendment rights. Many opposed to the bill say that this is “big ag’s attempt to cover up horrific factory farm practices.” Others say that the undercover operatives are needed and are doing everything for the animals.

My two cents worth

I often get upset when a video is released shows agriculture in a negative way. If it is showing animal abuse, I get upset with the workers, but if it’s showing something entirely different, a video that looks to be extremely edited, and not horrific at all to someone involved in agriculture, than I become upset.

A case against undercover videos

The Humane Society of the United States released a video showing ‘cruel practices’ to sows in gestation stalls. Those who visited the farm found something entirely different. In the video sows were screaming, pushing against the bars of their stalls, obviously in distress; however, hog producers all know that if you turn the lights on in the middle of the night, the sows will begin to squeal, wanting food. If you then leave, they will chew on the bars until their mouths are bloody, which is exactly what was seen in the HSUS video. Was it a coincidence this happened while an undercover worker was on the farm? I’ll let you decide.

Many journalists also don’t believe that gathering information while undercover is ethical either. Yes you could say that you are exposing a ‘horrific practice,’ but you are still undercover, and receiving that information in a false pretense.

So should the bill pass or not?

I still haven’t decided my stance on the bill, I do believe that people shouldn’t be able to enter a farm and pose as a worker, with the intent that they are only gathering negative information. Think of it this way, if someone came into your house as a babysitter and planted secret cameras, later releasing them after they showed you spanking your child, you would feel hurt, and misunderstood. Not only did the video not capture the full context of the act, but they also didn’t talk to you first, and try and get the entire story.

Final thoughts

My conclusion is this: I don’t believe a bill like this should be passed, mainly because it shouldn’t be needed. Unfortunately, it is, and until groups stop attacking agriculture for practices that they don’t understand, it should be illegal to enter someone’s property and take videos with the intent to destroy their farm and career.

As to those who are unhappy with not being able to see the insides of facilities, they have a right to be. Farmers should be allowing those who want to see their facilities inside of them. Granted those people who want to see what farmers do on a daily basis should have to shower in and out, wear different clothes and shoes, and have an open mind.

Modern agriculture is not the evil empire that it is made to be in the undercover videos. Moreover, producers should believe in the practices they use enough that they can allow people inside their facilities. As for HF 589 / SF 431, it’s up to those we elected to decide whether or not it should pass.

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