Monday, July 29, 2013

Panera Bread, Antibiotics in feed, and #PluckEZchicken

I have recently been following the debate about the Panera Bread online advertising campaign that suggests that farmers feed antibiotics to their livestock because they are too lazy to care for them. This debate can be seen at the Blog "The Adventures of Dairy Carrie"  and a follow up called #pluckEZchicken . In the whole debate there seems to be a missing piece of information, "What antibiotics are fed to livestock?"

While the Panera Bread advertisement seems directed more at the chicken producer, I feel it reflects poorly on most producers of livestock. Since I raise pigs on a large scale in confinement barns, I will speak only to what I know and don't know or do and don't do as the case may be.

I purchase baby pigs from the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure (technically it is the company named Legacy Farms that is the operating partner) when they are weaned. These pigs arrive at my barn weighing about 14# and are about 21 days old.

pigs are housed in these pens for easy observation for 6-8 weeks

As I understand it, biologically, the piglets are just starting to produce their own immunities and to lose those of their mother at this age. In other words they are weaned just before they start to pick up mother's adult diseases and their immune system has just started to respond independently. Obviously, they are at risk of getting sick during this time since it takes about 3 weeks (21 days) for an immune response to develop. It is during this time that I feed antibiotics in their feed.

In some ways, I liken it to when I went to college and was first exposed to all the diseases that the urban students were already immune to. I was sick for a month!

even authorized personnel shower in and change clothes on entry

I go to great lengths to present the pigs with as clean an environment as possible during this period. The pens they enter have been cleaned and disinfected and entry to the facility is restricted. This includes people but also any other living things that might be a carrier of disease like raccoons, possum, birds, etc.. The tough ones are airborne viruses. To this end my barns are located in remote locations to create natural buffers to airborne illnesses.

Feed arrives from a commercial mill in a semi truck and is placed in storage bins. Each feed and delivery has a unique information tag/invoice that is delivered with it so I can know what was delivered.

this is the largest image I have been able to make, my son scribbled on the weight ticket

These tags are kept on file for two years as part of my compliance with the National Pork Board's Pork Quality Assurance Plus program so that if a question is raised about what was fed, I have an auditable trail for an answer.

These tags show that from 6/28/13 to 7/24/13 this group of 2100 pigs was fed an antibiotic call Carbadox at a rate of 50 grams per ton of feed. The label further says that this medication must not be fed within 42 days of slaughter. It may also be seen that this amounted to slightly less than 31 tons of feed.

So with these facts let's think a minute.

My wife's 2# bag of powdered sugar weighs 907 grams.

my cheapo scale is off a little

I just fed 1550 grams of antibiotic to my pigs mixed in with 31 tons of corn, soybeans and minerals (also on the tag above) over about 30 days, to fight off diseases that almost certainly were present, while the pigs immune response developed naturally. The first pigs won't go to market for 5-6 months (180 days) so the 42 day slaughter restriction is met with ALOT of room to spare.

Since these are the only antibiotics these pigs will ever see, unless there is a disease that breaks out, it seems unreasonable to me to say they are stuffed full of antibiotics. The Panera Bread add shows the antibiotics holding up the barn roof. That seems a little bit of an over statement to me.

So the next obvious question is, "What is Carbadox and how safe is it?"

The answer, of course, is way beyond my technical knowledge. I am a pig farmer with a college degree in Agricultural Business from 1983. You are a consumer that expects food to be healthy and wholesome for you. Period. Full stop. That is why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these drugs requiring enormous amounts of testing and research before they are approved for production.

I just listened to a presentation of this process at a meeting of the National Pork Board's Animal Welfare Committee by Dr. Steve Sundlof (the former head of the agency tasked with this job). His presentation for laymen took an hour. I do remember that the testing requirements are for things like effectiveness, safety to the pig and ultimate consumer, safety to handlers, safety to the environment, and length of time needed for the drug to dissipate from the animals body prior to slaughter (slaughter hold times), along with other things. These all get condensed into the feed tag pictured above.

If you are concerned/interested about what is in the food you are putting in your mouth, I applaud you. I hope this discussion gives you a little more perspective about what goes on at my farm (I am not unlike a lot of farms). I hope you can begin to appreciate the time, attention, and great lengths that farmers are going to so that the food you put in your mouth is absolutely healthy for you and in fact has never been unhealthy itself.

After all, the road to healthy food is not easy but it sure is tasty.

P.S. Diana Pritchard comments on the social media aspect of this dust up in her Swine Web editorial.
P.S.S. here is a person with more expertise discussing antibiotics/residues Mom at the Meat Counter

Friday, July 5, 2013

Patrick Henry, Immigration, and Freedom

I have experienced a slow transformation in my thinking toward my relationship with the government and the degree to which it attempts to control the citizens. My recent trip to Washington D.C. that I detailed in the blog about data and surveilance is the most recent transformative event in my thinking. When I realized that E-verify would create a database of EVERYONE's work history a small light came on in the back of my head. Reading the full text of the famous speech by Patrick Henry brings my thinking into clearer view.

I have just recently come to realize that we live in the "information age" and that "knowledge is power". Our government is assembling enormous amounts of information/knowledge about each of us as citizens which gives that government enormous power. For what purpose? We are told it is necessary for our safety and defense. This causes me to focus on the question "Have we any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of data and lists? No, sir we do not. They are meant for us: they are sent to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the government has been so long forging. "

The endless scandals that the government (from both parties) seems to be facing all have a common denominator, data and its analysis. The weapons of mass destruction, interrogation, IRS, the NSA, the AP, Obamacare, immigration, EPA data releases, and on and on, all point to a government that is collecting and using data....for what. To make men free?

Here below is the text of Patrick Henry's speech, I have edited it to fit more clearly with the current day situation, so you may more clearly consider my thoughts.

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" by Patrick Henry (italics are my edits)

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy people of the United States. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to anyone if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.  The question before us is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate.  It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

It is natural to man to indulge in illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren of hope till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their daily salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the U.S. government for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves. Is it that insidious smile with which our petitions are heard? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.  Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our concerns matches with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are databases and lists necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be cooperative that surveillance must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this electronic array of arms, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Have we any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of data and information? No, sir, we have none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. they are sent to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the government has been so long forging. And what have we to oppose them?

Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you , sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated: we have endured bad legislation, and have implored our leaders to arrest the tyrannical hands of the various agencies. Our petitions have been disregarded and spurned, with contempt, from the white house. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending---we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to peaceful but unswerving resistance and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us , sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our government shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our government can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no choice. If we were cowards enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our records are taken, our names recorded, our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the streets of Boston! The war is inevitable---let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace----but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next national crisis that sweeps from the media will bring to our eyes and ears the sight of a mighty government controlling its people. Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would we have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty god! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

(source unknown)

I do not advocate for armed resistance, but I am all for a spirited and energetic defense of our god given liberty. A freedom that includes the right to life, movement, association, speech, assembly, etc. without having government monitor our every action and move (a guard at every door).

Thank you for considering these things with me.

postscript update 7/7/13

here is an interesting view from another angle