“Since 2002 there have been 20,000 new products on food shelves with reduced fat,” said Trent Loos, a sixth generation United States farmer, who lives in central Nebraska, speaking at the Red Angus Association of America convention Sept. 15, in Springfield, Mo.
There is an “obesity problem” in America, he continued, and we’re creating feeders with as much intramuscular fat as possible. Consumers want products to taste good and be lean, too, he noted of the conundrum.
What the public wants, what they think they want, what they are pressured to want, and what livestock producers need them to want, don’t always jive. Loos has made a career trying to influence consumers and producers alike, to join the conversation about the truth behind production agriculture.
Starting in the beginning, Loos said, “I got irritated by the public perception of agriculture. So, I went into a radio station and said, ‘I want my own radio show.’” Years later, Loos’ radio programming includes daily Loos Tales and Rural Route programming as well as Dakota Trails & Tales, Colorado Trails & Tales, Loos Trails & Tales and Illinois Truth be Told.
“We have programs in school now that teach kids to be better advocates and attorneys for the animals… how did we get to this point?”
Loos answered his own question, arguing that the players in agriculture have not done a good job positioning themselves and their products. And while producers are inactive, the animal activist groups take every opportunity to negatively impact animal agriculture.
We Have To Know The Positives
“There was a University of Texas study that shows intramuscular fat is Omega-3 fat, like olive oil,” Loos said. He insists that American livestock producers must understand the benefits of the products they’re marketing, to counter the negative press coming from other groups who work to reduce meat consumption, or worse, end animal agriculture.
In example, according to “Beef Nutrients That Work As Hard As You Do,” a fact sheet put together by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, from a 3 oz. serving of beef a person receives 50 percent of their daily recommended protein and 39 percent of the zinc needed in one day. Beef is the No. 3 source of iron in the American diet, and the iron in red meat is more completely absorbed by the body than the iron found in bread, cereal and other plant products
“A University of California – Davis study found that it takes 700 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. But, what do you get from that pound? Cosmetics, 104 pharmaceuticals, toothbrushes, tires – the stearic acid from beef cattle is why a tire holds its shape,” Loos noted.
The important factor for livestock producers to keep in mind, is there are many statistics surrounding agriculture that can be turned around to make animal agriculture look like it has a negative impact, or skewed or misrepresented to give a false conclusion. Loos arms himself with the facts, and encourages other producers to do the same. “It takes 7 gallons of water to produce one calorie in beef, and 4 gallons to produce one calorie in carrots, but it takes 20 lb. of carrots to get the same equivalence of essential nutrients in beef,” he said.
Balancing the Information
The key to combating the negative information about agriculture is a commitment, Loos said. “Day-in, day-out, reach out to those people. There is a failure in the average American citizen to understand that everything lives, everything dies, and death with a purpose gives meaning to life.
“Beef is not a competitor to other meats. We’re in competition with the non-meat eaters,” he reiterated. Non-meat eaters with gross misinformation. Loos said he met a teacher who taught the third grade. He was teaching his students to be vegetarians because he couldn’t get over all meat being soaked in urine before being sold.
And, it doesn’t help the livestock producer’s quest to continue producing a quality product for the American consumer when we are fighting groups intended to be on “our side,” Loos said. “The USDA says we need to revamp the school lunch system and reduce egg, meat and milk consumption,” Loos noted.
And all-too-often, he cited, these initiatives are based on faulty facts, bogus research studies and political agendas.
“We have to stand up every day, and we have to find the science, we find the credible sources, or we’re no better than animal activists,” Loos said.
“There are a significant number of people who believe animals are equal with people. Loos said he asked a group of college students at Drury University to define agriculture. One student offered this definition: “Taking animals and plants and making food, fiber, etc., for people.” Loos then asked Jackie Moore, owner of Joplin Regional Stockyards, to define agriculture. “It’s a way of life,” Moore said.
A way of life, Loos said, that we as producers must show, share with, and explain to the American consumer.
Loos said he sees a correlation between producers and soldiers. “If there are two groups of people Americans know the least of, it’s soldiers and producers.” The soldiers don’t get the credit they deserve and neither do farmers, he said.
“What you and I do every day is about improving human lives,” Loos said.
And, to overcome the opposition to animal agriculture, Loos said, the burden is on the producers’ shoulders. “We haven’t bridged the gap and it’s our fault, not theirs. If you’re frustrated the question is, what are you going do to change it?”
Walking the Walk
Loos said that it’s vital individual producers employ correct practices at their own farm. “I believe in proper animal stewardship and welfare. I don’t use the word humane, humane means man-like. I promote stockmanship and welfare.”
“All of us know proper animal husbandry. If it’s not right, don’t do it,” he said.
Prior to the Red Angus convention, Loos was allowed to speak with Drury University students who are also currently enrolled in the “Animal Ethics” course.
“I think it’s important to continue to have a dialogue to make these good kids have an exposure to a balanced dialogue. Because dialogue is the most important thing,” Loos said.
For each stakeholder in this industry.