Keep your eye on the ball
By Trent Loos
Lindsi, our 10-year-old daughter is convinced that she is going to be a professional softball player. Honestly, I think she has the potential and when I work with her in batting practice I stress, day after day, keep your eye on the ball. Everybody knows if you take your eye off the ball for even a split second, you will not succeed at scoring runs.
The reason I share this little tidbit that you already know about softball is that most of us in animal agriculture have taken our eye off the ball and the other team is sending player after player across the plate.
I have owned animals for meat production since I was 4 years old. Through the years, the number of animals produced has been numerous between the hogs, the cattle and now the meat goats. I am a meat lover and I have to be honest in saying that, aside from bacon, it has been hard to get excited about eating pork lately especially those overly lean pork loins. However, something happened last week that changed my mind.
For the past 20 years I have continually heard about the superior eating quality of Berkshire pork but I had never actually tried it. My wife suggested that we need at least one sow that would raise pigs that were really good to eat. Last year we bought a Berkshire gilt and she farrowed last summer. Last week we butchered the smallest pig from that litter.
From the moment I split that carcass as it was hanging on my front end loader, I could tell it was different than any we had butchered before. The meat was actually darker and richer in color. A few days later I grilled four of the pork chops to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. They were truly amazing. I am, once again, excited about eating pork chops.
So what does any of that have to do with keeping your eye on the ball?
With all the challenges we face today just to stay in business, I think we are so focused on surviving that we have not talked about increasing demand at all. Most of you know that domestic demand for beef and pork has been stagnant for a long time. We spend very little time or money reminding our customers why they should consume the products we work hard to raise.
Animal agriculture improves the planet and it improves human health. If you have a conversation with any non-farm person under 30, they consider meat consumption to be a luxury instead of an essential part of a healthy diet.
The following research was just released from a UK study. It is significant to look at this study because the Europeans have been ahead of us in decreasing per capita meat consumption and look where it has gotten them:
"Millions of people in the UK are putting their health at risk because of inadequate intakes of vital vitamins and minerals, a new study has revealed. But the research also highlights just how important the role of red meat is in the diet in helping to cover this nutrition gap.
"The latest study found that data from dietary surveys indicates that UK diets for people of all ages can be worryingly low in nutrients normally found in meat, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and potassium. The researchers say that integrating red meat into diets across the age spectrum, from infanthood to old age, may help to narrow the present gap between vitamin and mineral intakes and recommended levels. In addition, there is emerging evidence that nutrients commonly found in red meat may play a role in supporting cognitive function, immune health and addressing iron deficiency."
I am no different than you in trying to figure out how to survive in these unprecedented times of food production. However, we must build demand for the essential nutrients of healthy living that are provided from the foods generated through animal production. What's the point of surviving if there is no one to buy the products we are producing?
How many teams have ever won the World Series by hoping for a bunch of walks? As an industry, we must step up to the plate, keep our eye on the ball and take a big swing if we want to win this thing!
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.