The Truth About a Farmer’s Fight

Todays blog post is going to be a little different from my others. Today I’m going to share why I am thankful for the fight of a farmer.

I am thankful for the work ethic and fight instilled into me by agriculture and my father. I recently found a “pledge” from Mike Rowe that, in my opinion, accurately sums up the agricultural industry’s view on work ethic. Here are some of my favorite points from the pledge, for which I am most grateful.

“THE S.W.E.A.T. PLEDGE”
(Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo)

3. I believe there is no such thing as a “bad job.” I believe that all jobs are opportunities, and it’s up to me to make the best of them.

7. I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late, and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is.

11. I understand the world is not fair, and I’m OK with that. I do not resent the success of others.

12. I believe that all people are created equal. I also believe that all people make choices. Some choose to be lazy. Some choose to sleep in. I choose to work my butt off.

A picture from Gilmer Dairy Farm's Facebook page.

A picture from Gilmer Dairy Farm’s Facebook page.

I love these points from the pledge because I find them applicable to myself and the agriculture industry; The 1st point I listed is one thing I am extremely grateful for, people that step up and do the “dirty jobs” that others do not want. Most people like drinking milk, but most do not want to dedicate the amount of time it takes to produce the milk. Dairy farmers essentially donate their entire life, give up vacations, and hours of sleep so that we can have that delicious drink that we love. If you are ever curious about what the life of a dairy farmer looks like check out, Will Gilmer on Twitter or Facebook.

I am grateful for the people that go above and beyond for our food production (I am not saying that other people do not show up early, work late and work their butt off, I am sure people of other professions do this as well.) But I am especially grateful for the agriculture workers that do this so that we can eat delicious meals, like the Thanksgiving Dinner we will have soon.

My father and I at an Ag in the Classroom Event recently teaching elementary kids about beef cattle.

My father and I at an Ag in the Classroom Event recently teaching elementary kids about beef cattle.

I am also grateful for the fight that is instilled in every farmer, no matter the circumstance. I have rarely known farmers to give up, they will keep working until they find a solution and solve the problem at hand. This can be anything from loading 12 foot panels in the 8 foot bed of a truck (personal experience), working to solve the world’s hunger problem, or fighting leukemia. My father recently got diagnosed with leukemia and he is already on chemo to fight it. I am extremely grateful because as a farmer he had strong work ethic and fight instilled into him from day one. I am so grateful for his work ethic and fight because without he might give up, but with it I know how strong he is and how hard he can and will work to fight this circumstance. Just as strong and as hard as the farmers and scientists that are working to solve world hunger, and feeding a growing population. Both of these are wars that are only going to be won by people with high work ethic and fight.

Chicken Growth Hormones

The Truth about “Hormone Free” Chickens

How many times have we gone to the grocery store to get food for dinner, and saw a label on our favorite protein, chicken, that stated “Hormone Free.” I hate to be the one to break it to you, but those labels are lying.

NO chicken, at all, no matter what, is completely “hormone free.” Chickens naturally produce growth hormones. Mississippi State University Extension explains this a little more when they said, “Progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen are naturally occurring hormones in both humans and animals. These hormones are necessary for normal development, growth, and reproduction.” As MSU Extension explains, hormones occur naturally in chickens so that is why the label, “hormone free” is incorrect.

Chickens Growth Hormones

Labels like these are misleading to consumers.

Another label that is misleading is “No Hormones Added.” Additive hormones are banned by the FDA and have been for the past 50 years. So no growth hormones are added to the chicken we eat, because they are illegal so when companies market their chicken as “No Added Hormones” just realize that this label applies to all chicken eaten in the United States.

This video from the USPoultry Association featuring interviews with professors and extension specialists from the University of Arkansas does a great job describing that hormones are not used in the poultry industry, and why they are not used. It also shows how chickens are raised, showing the housing, feeding operations, and overall care of poultry in the United States.

Chicken Growth Hormones

The left-hand chicken is a breed from 1957. The middle chicken is a breed from 1978. The right-hand one is a breed from 2005. They were all raised in the same manner for this paper and were photographed at the same age.

Poultry Science, a scientific journal, recently did a study on the effect of selective breeding on growth, efficiency, and yield of broilers, or chickens produced to be eaten. The study took mixed-sex chicks and grew them according to a current nutritional program to 56 days. They took front and side portraits of 8 birds per strains. They also measured growth rate, feed intake, and measures of feed efficiency including feed conversion ratio, residual feed intake, and residual maintenance energy requirements.

This study says that, “From 1957 to 2005, broiler growth increased by over 400%, with a concurrent 50% reduction in feed conversion ratio…” This study proves that the size of broilers has increased over time because of selective breeding that has consequently increased feed conversion ratios.

Another reason, besides legality that chickens are not given growth hormones is that they are not effective. Dr. Berry, a poultry science professor from Auburn University explains why, “Growth is complex; no one hormone can affect it. The hormone everyone considers a growth hormone is a protein hormone that is in all vertebrate. It cannot be taken orally, because it is digested normally, to be effective it would have to be injected. The injections would have to be given every 90 minutes to be in correlation with the pulses of the natural hormones in the chicken. We have 110-120 million birds growing in Alabama at any given moment, so 120 million birds would have to be given an injection every 90 minutes; obviously that is not economical at all.” This is a reason that surprises a lot of consumers, but it is another main reason that hormones are not used in the poultry industry.

So the next time that you hear that chickens are larger than in the past because they are fed growth hormones, just realize that is actually not true. Chickens are not fed or injected with growth hormones, they just have naturally increased size over time. So when you see a label that has “No hormones added” or “hormone free” just remember that NO chicken, at all is hormone free,  and no chickens have hormones added to them. So feel confident when buying chicken from the store or from Chick-Fil-A by realizing you are not eating something with growth hormones.

A Dairy Misconception: Malnourished Cows

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Finding these cows similarities, could be difficult but finding the differences are very easy. As for similarities: they are both female cattle (cows) that have calved semi recently. It is obvious in the picture in the right of the Hereford because she has a calf beside her, in the picture of the Jersey (on the left) there is no calf but you can tell that she has calved somewhat recently because of her large udder.

As for the differences, their builds contrast one another. The Jersey on the left looks skinny, as her hip bones and ribs are showing. The Hereford is very stoutly built, she has adequate rib shape and depth. The Hereford is nursing a calf at her side, but produces less milk than the Jersey. Lactation in any animal, including humans, is the single most energy demanding activity.  Hereford cattle produce about 10-12 pounds of milk a day, while Jersey cattle produce around 50 pounds a day, which takes 10x more of the cows energy. The more energy spent to produce milk is less energy that will be used to produce meat. This does not mean that the Jersey is malnourished!! As a dairy cow she just has a different body type than beef cattle. This difference in body type is because of each cows purpose.

A dairy cow being skinny is not her being malnourished, it is actually called dairy characteristics. Dairy cattle are supposed to produce milk, so they expend a lot of energy doing just that. “Producing milk and growing body tissue are different physiological processes, under different controls” says Dr. Keith Cummins a retired dairy professor from Auburn University.

I hope the next time you see a a dairy cow, either in person or in a picture you will better understand why she looks “malnourished” and understand that she is not, she is actually a perfectly healthy cow that is working very hard to produce milk for you and your family.

The Truth about the Humane Society of the United States

If you are friends on social media with any farmers, ranchers, hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, or anything of that nature. You may have seen a frenzy of angry and upset posts about a recent occurrence. The Original Muck Boot Company shared a photo on Facebook about a fundraiser they were doing for the Humane Society of the United States. This caused an uproar in the agriculture and hunting communities, and resulted in #WhatTheMuck.

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Muck has since posted a response to this issue, so for some this issue is resolved for others it isn’t, but that is not the reason for this blog post. 

Some people may wonder, why would people freak out about a company donating money to help save puppies and kittens, they must be heartless. But the truth is trying to save puppies and kittens isn’t all that HSUS does, actually it is a very small part of it. Between 2009-2011 the “non-profit” collected more than $509 million, and gave away $27 million to grants and organizations in the United States, which is about 5%. Watch this video for more info. This would be all well and good, if HSUS didn’t present themselves as helping animals via commercialsRescued Stray Cats Wait To Be Adopted

People assume that because of the name, that their $19 a month goes directly to help animals, just like their local shelter does, but really where the money goes is lobbying against “animal cruelty”, in a backhanded way. 

Rapid City Journal did some research and found that HSUS credits itself with passing 470 state laws between 2004-2010, and 121 new laws in 2009 alone. Alright, so not only does HSUS not really help the pitiful animals in their commercials, they pass laws. So what? 

Well the way some/most of those laws are phrased directly affect/limit agriculture, while trying to hide behind the guise of helping animals. One law they proposed in Alabama in 2008, was a law to end cockfighting. This sounded like a wonderful thing to support, until further investigation, where it was discovered that by the wording of the bill any farmer with two or more roosters that could fight would be accused of cockfighting, fined and shut down. Therefore the poultry industry, a large sector of the Alabama economy, would be limited. Farmers got together and formed the Coalition for Farm Animal Care and Well-Being and prevented this law from being passed. 

UnknownAnother law HSUS lobbied for was Proposition 2 in California; which states that egg laying chickens must be free ranging for a certain amount of time, which is going to drive up the cost of egg production and possibly drive the egg industry out of California.

That is the reason so many agriculturalists exploded about HSUS receiving money, because giving money to HSUS could be synonymous with losing our farms and everything we love, live, and dedicate our life to, the agriculture industry. 

If you want to actually help animals donate money, food, or time to your local humane society where it is guaranteed that your money will help animals. 

I hope now that you know the truth about The Humane Society of the United States you either don’t feel guilty about not donating money to HSUS, or you choose to stop donating to HSUS if you have been.