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Table to Farm

Sorting facts, half-truths and fiction of antibiotics

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Antibiotic resistance continues to be a major topic of discussion in the press. Unfortunately, accurate information is hard to come by, thanks to do-gooder activists who cloud the issue with their agenda. Here, I offer you my take on antibiotic resistance and the implications of antibiotic use for livestock.

First, please understand that there are two major categories of antibiotics for food animals: therapeutic antibiotics and sub-therapeutic antibiotics.

Therapeutic antibiotics

Used to treat sick animals, some of these drugs also are used to treat humans. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates withdrawal times to help prevent therapeutic antibiotics from entering the food chain. The U.S. has one of the most regulated food systems in the world. Milk and meat from treated animals must be tested multiple times to ensure no residue is present when these food products enter the market. The FDA also tightly regulates the classes of antibiotics designated to fight major diseases in humans.

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Life and rewards on a family farm

By Matt Reese

When I was a young boy, my parents decided to start planting Christmas trees on their farm, a labor-intensive endeavor that takes eight to 10 years to derive any income. The years that followed were filled with long hours of spring planting, summer mowing and shearing and winter harvests.

Whether we are planting 3,000 seedlings by hand under the warming spring sun or battling long days of soggy socks while harvesting trees for customers on a 35-degree rainy day during the sales season, my family depends upon each other to do what is needed to make it through. Sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is not so easy, but we almost always find a way to have fun working together on the farm. These kinds of family relationships do not develop over night, but over years of working together with the common goal of producing something useful from the land.

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Table to Farm: Is it safe to eat food with hormones?

There have been a number of recent questions about hormones in meat and milk. Here are some answers, with some help from the CommonGround program, a great resource for many questions about food.

First, federal regulations allow hormones to be used on cattle and sheep, but not on poultry or hogs, so there are no added hormones in chicken or pork. Sheep producers generally do not use hormones, so hormone use is mostly limited to beef and dairy production. The oft-discussed increased size of chicken breasts is due to a combination of advancements in genetics, feed and improved production practices — not hormones. It should be noted, though, that no meat or dairy products are hormone free, as all animals have naturally occurring hormones in their systems. Growth hormones are sometimes used in meat and dairy production to safely increase milk output per cow and produce leaner meat products more efficiently.

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How will the drought affect the prices of fruits and vegetables?

Corn and soybean supplies and prices are usually the crops most affected by drought because they are the least irrigated. As discussed two weeks ago, the price increases from these commodities will likely increase food prices some, but probably not significantly. The livestock sector will be hit hardest by this and there could be increases in prices due to a reduction in supply as farms cull herds because of high feed costs. These potential increases are yet to be determined and will not be realized for a while.

Typically, fruit and vegetable crops are not as affected by droughts because, in most cases, these crops are irrigated. An exception, though, could be Indiana this year, that is experiencing some of the most severe drought conditions in the country. In general, though, the prices of fruits and vegetables will probably not be affected much unless there is a significant reduction in supply.

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What are GMOs?

 

The term GMO, or genetically modified organism, refers to “a plant or animal altered using modern techniques of genetic modification,” commonly termed genetic engineering. Since crops have been genetically modified by classical methods for centuries, a more accurate term for the foods and crops created with the technologies used today might be GE or genetically engineered (from Best Food Facts).

U.S. commercially grown genetically modified crops (accurate for 2010) include corn, soybean, cotton, canola, sugar beets, papaya, squash, and alfalfa. In addition, small amounts of GE tomatoes and sweet peppers are grown in China. In terms of our diets, most of the GM crops that are consumed for food are used in making processed food ingredients included in cereals, soy cooking oil (vegetable oil) and other types of processed food products that contain soy or corn ingredients. In other words, if you see corn or soy ingredients included on the food label, chances are the product was partially made with GM-crop ingredients.

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Will widespread drought affect food prices?

Matt’s answer: Yes, but not as much as you might think. The reduced supply of corn and soybeans that results from the drought will increase prices for those commodities, but commodity prices account for a very small portion of the food cost in the grocery store or a restaurant. The amount of corn in a box of corn flakes costs less than a dime. The bulk of food costs come from transportation, packaging and processing.

The higher corn and soybean prices will raise feed costs for livestock, poultry and milk producers. In response, these industries may be forced to cut back on production and that reduced supply could result in higher meat, egg, and dairy prices down the road, but these effects are very speculative at this point and uncertain.

Expert answer: Self-appointed pseudo-scholars use common misperception, not common sense, compiled from the National Corn Growers Association Corn Commentary blog

Lately, articles have flooded the Internet claiming that the drought will cause food prices to skyrocket.

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Table to Farm: Where is the world's grain produced and how is it used?

This week’s Table to Farm questions focus on U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat.

Where is most of the world’s food produced? How much of the world’s grain do we produce? What about China, Brazil and other countries? How is the U.S. grain crop used? How much goes for human food, animal food, and biofuels?

According to the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. produced 38.7% of the world’s corn in 2011 with almost 12.5 billion bushels of production. The next closest single country in terms of corn production was China, with 20.6% of the world’s corn. This is followed by the European Union countries that produced 6.8% of the world’s corn and then by Brazil that produced 6.2% of the world’s corn. Japan is the top importer of U.S. corn, followed by Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan.

Livestock feed is the top use for U.S. corn with 5.9 billion bushels of consumption.

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Table to Farm: Where is the world’s grain produced and how is it used?

This week’s Table to Farm questions focus on U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat.

Where is most of the world’s food produced? How much of the world’s grain do we produce? What about China, Brazil and other countries? How is the U.S. grain crop used? How much goes for human food, animal food, and biofuels?

According to the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. produced 38.7% of the world’s corn in 2011 with almost 12.5 billion bushels of production. The next closest single country in terms of corn production was China, with 20.6% of the world’s corn. This is followed by the European Union countries that produced 6.8% of the world’s corn and then by Brazil that produced 6.2% of the world’s corn. Japan is the top importer of U.S. corn, followed by Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan.

Livestock feed is the top use for U.S. corn with 5.9 billion bushels of consumption.

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Too bad to be true?

By Matt Reese

Elizabeth (Altstaetter) Almeida, with Fat Moon at Meadowbrook Farm in Massachusetts, grew up on a Logan County cattle farm and moved to Massachusetts and started an organic farm. She agreed to share some insights from her urban East Coast customers about Midwestern agriculture. In return, I will be fielding questions from her customers about “Big Ag” in this forum titled “Table to Farm.” Each week I, along with some occasional expert input from others, will be addressing consumer questions about food. I would encourage any other farm folks to jump in with their thoughts on the questions as well. This is to be an open and honest discussion to help provide clarity to the mysteries of agriculture.

I am the editor for an Ohio farm publication that covers the broad spectrum of agriculture in the state. My wife and I have a very small farm where we raise meat chickens, eggs and sheep on a very small scale.

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Observations of ag from an East Coast farmer

This is a fascinating Q&A with Elizabeth (Altstaetter) Almeida, with Fat Moon at Meadowbrook Farm in Massachusetts. This East Coast organic farmer answers some questions about consumer trends she is seeing in her business.

OCJ: First, could you share some more about your background? Tell us more about your family’s farm in Ohio and how you ended up in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth: I grew up on a cow-calf farm in Bellefontaine, Ohio. I showed steers, hogs and chickens at our county fair and served as our local Beef Queen and Ohio’s Beef Ambassador for a year. In addition, I was active in 4-H and FFA locally and at the state level. My husband and I moved to Massachusetts nearly three years ago for his job and I launched a business offering classes on healthy living. Eating healthy food is such an essential component to living healthy that I decided a small farm would be the perfect context to offer classes on healthy food.

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