The European Union challenge
By Trent Loos
Alltech has done it again and this time from Dublin, Ireland. The Global 500 Beef and Dairy Summit has gathered people in agriculture from around the globe to share visions of the future. I have long been critical of the European food policy and honestly I believe it is a path to starvation for the European citizens. They are currently importing more food than they are producing.
The one component of my criticism that has been overlooked is the fact that the farmers in the 27 EU countries are the individuals that must deal with handcuffs being placed on them by unnecessary bans and laws that prevent them from using the technologies that help the rest of us produce more with less.
Still today no word generates more of a buzz than “hormones.” The EU still does not allow any beef to come from cattle that have been treated with naturally occurring hormones. In case you are not familiar with this practice, in the United States we often implant feedlot heifers and steers with hormones, primarily estrogen.
On the first day of my trip here in Ireland I was able to tour two different feedlots and was somewhat shocked to see thousands of bulls on feed. Ireland is a very rainy country and the two lots we went to were both on slats and the bulls were fed under a roof. I was very impressed with the creativity of the Irish farmer who is restricted from getting the advantage the U.S. cattle feeder has in being able to implant because science shows it will improve growth rate between 10 to 20 percent and will decrease cost of beef production by 5 to 10 percent.
Ironically, the benefit of feeding bulls as opposed to steers without implants shows the same production efficiencies. So other than the hassle of feeding bulls instead of steers, these guys have figured out how to get around the restrictions placed upon them.
Of course that might lead you to wonder what is the hormone impact on the meat itself? So I share with you the research as written in summary from the University of Hamburg:
“No difference in the hormone patterns could be detected between the three muscles. However, the enrichment of beef samples with inter- and intramuscular fat decreased the levels of the polar corticosteroids, whereas the levels of lipophilic steroids were increased. The patterns of the lipophilic sex steroids, their precursors and metabolites, which can be used to determine the sexual origin of beef and which might prove useful in evaluating residues of administered steroid hormones, seem to be less affected by the beef sample’s fat content, however.”
In closing, as this meeting continues I am once again reminded that no matter what country you are in, when we speak of the disconnect between the rural and urban people, the gap between food producers in every country and regulators who restrict their production capabilities continues to widen. I truly feel the pain of these farmers here in Europe who have been regulated to the point that farming is a great challenge.
We must not be complacent any day of the week and allow our lawmakers to take even one more step toward following what the government in the EU has done to the European farmers.
Farmers should be able to choose the greatest tools we have in food production to produce more with less. I am not only talking about estrogen-based hormones but also gestation crates for sows, cages for hens, antibiotics for all animal agriculture and genetically modified crops.
The last discussion I was a part of was about leadership and maintaining trust. The farmer has the trust of the consumer but the consumer doesn’t truly understand who today’s farmer really is. That is why I am asking real farmers all around the world to stand up and be heard.
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.