Speaker provides insight for agriculture industry
By Kylene Scott
Jay Lehr encouraged attendees at the Protein Producers Summit in Colorado Springs, Colorado, during mid-June to tell their stories to those not involved in agriculture.
“I’m very excited, and I’m going to be enlisting all of you this morning to help in a battle to preserve and advance animal agriculture in this country and the world,” Lehr said.
Lehr spoke during the general speaker session at the Protein Producer Summit, a joint meeting of Colorado’s premier livestock organizations—Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado CattleWomen, Future Livestock Leaders and the Junior Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. Nearly 600 people attended the annual event.
Starting out working in groundwater and irrigation areas, Lehr has been involved in agriculture most of his life. He received the nation’s first Ph.D. in ground water hydrology from the University of Arizona.
“I have never been more optimistic about the future for all of us in agriculture. Even through we’re constantly battling negative aspects,” Lehr said. “We battle a green religion. We battle anti-agricultural activists.”
He encouraged attendees to get involved, to show others how their operations work.
“I need to motivate every one of you and every one of the friends you can talk to that are in agriculture to be proactive, to fight the battle,” Lehr said. “I’m going to give you a very special battle to fight this morning.”
At 78, Lehr is fit and healthy for his age, even competing in Ironman competitions. He touts his health is because of his diet.
“I’ve never been inside a regular doctor’s office,” he said. “I have lived my entire life on high fat—dairy, eggs, butter and lard—which as you all know has not been the recommended diet for the last 50 years, and I’m going to convince all of you to help make it the recommended at least through the next generation will take us some time.”
He asked the audience whether or not they believe a low-fat, high-carb diet is healthier than a high-fat, low-carb diet. Not many hands were raised.
“It would be embarrassing for any of you in your business to raise your hand. I understand that,” Lehr said. “We know for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the government has foisted upon us a diet that is unhealthy in every way.”
The general public believes the diet suggestions put forth by government entities, Lehr said.
“But it’s been told to us for so long, so often, the public clearly believes it, and I’ll be surprised a few of you don’t believe it, even though you make your own livelihood by selling animals into our diet,” he said.
According to Lehr, the truth about a high-fat diet has all but been ignored.
“All of you are shy about presenting it to your friends and neighbors not in agriculture,” Lehr said. “What will they say to you if you’ll approach them and say, you people will have to start eating red meat, saturated fat, dairy, eggs, butter, lard?”
Most producers in the audience would be afraid to be told they were crazy.
“You’re not. You have to persevere,” Lehr said.
The idea of a high-carb, low-fat diet would improve health started in the mid-1950s when President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack. Several nutritionists and doctors started promoting and endorsing versions of the diet. Lehr said the science didn’t stand behind their findings.
“The definition of junk science is choosing only the data that works to support your theory or hypothesis and ignoring the data that does not—it’s just that simple,” Lehr said.
Eventually people believed what health organizations and the government were telling them about what to eat.
“If you were to quiz 10 of your non-ag friends as to what is or is not a healthy diet, they will tell you, of course, low fat and high carbs,” Lehr said. “They believe there is a connection to between animal fat to cholesterol—which we now know is not true.”
Ultimately there were good intentions for those who jumped on the low-fat, high-carb diet bandwagon after World War II and Eisenhower’s health issues—particularly because there was a rise in heart disease following the war.
“They looked for something to blame it on, and unfortunately in science today there’s a bandwagon effect,” Lehr said. “If you’re an academic and want to get money for a study, your chances are increased dramatically by wanting to support accepted research.”
Lehr said the amount of research that was done to support low-fat, high-carb diets grew exponentially.
“And today’s generation accepts it as a doctrine, even though it was untrue,” Lehr said. “If you were a denier of the low-fat, high-carb diet, you were treated exactly as the people are treated today who don’t believe in global warming by the power structure that claims that man controls the stock.”
In 2006 the first major scientific study proving farmers and ranchers were producing and providing consumers with healthy food came out.
“But the experts who had invested their life’s work in low fat, high carb rejected it. It hurt careers,” Lehr said. “So we’ve had half of a century of a terrible diet based on government advice—willing the demand of the public.”
As a producer, Lehr wants people to spread the word that cooking with animal fats (lard, butter and tallow) are far healthier than vegetable oils—which are not stable when raised to high heat. The instability of the oils can ultimately create a number of health problems.
Meat is the densest of nutrients, while vegetables are the least dense.
Our ancestors didn’t live very long, not because the diets they consumed, but instead infectious disease. Health care plays a huge role in life expectancy.
“Life expectancy a hundred years ago was only 45. Two-hundred years ago it was about 37,” Lehr said. “But it was infectious disease when we had no cures. We had no antibiotics. It had nothing to do with diet.”
And those who managed to live through infectious disease epidemics were far healthier in their 70s and 80s than the people in the same age group today.
“Virtually all our founding fathers were in their 70s and 80s and far more active than we are today in those ages,” Lehr said. “Life expectancy was not tied to diet and it’s not really tied to diet today. It is tied to health.”
Later, Lehr discussed animal rights, because ultimately it is part of the diet issue.
“It’s easy to sell a low animal fat (diet) by also explaining that all you people aren’t nice to your animals,” Lehr said.
One simple aspect about livestock production is all it can take to convince non-ag friends and neighbors about the humane treatment of animals in the livestock industry. Lehr said to ask—What possible incentive would you ever have to mistreat an animal who is providing your livelihood?
“No living thing benefits from stress. You don’t do your best days work when you leave home under stress,” he said. “If you grow grain, you know the stress of low moisture/high heat does to your plants. Nothing alive benefits from stress.”
A dairy cow does not give more milk; a chicken does not lay more eggs; a steer does not create more lean beef; and neither does a hog. There is no incentive ever to mistreat an animal.
Lehr claims public perception of animal agriculture has been created by its enemies. He suggests producers get into social media or start a blog to tell the story.
“Start talking about what you do because people will find it around the world,” Lehr said. “It’s growing and growing. I mean there are already thousands of ag blogs. We need as many as we can, telling what we do on the farm.”
The future for agriculture is phenomenal, Lehr predicted.
“It’s going to be better and better if we can overturn the unhealthy diet. It’s going to be better and better if we can teach your friends and neighbors not in agriculture how great American agriculture, farming, ranching is,” he said. “It’s going to be better and better if you guys can teach your ag friends who are not here, to come proactive. So become proactive as I hope all of you will be.”
Kylene Scott can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.