The Oprah Show, missing the Farmers' Voice
Feb 02, 2011
In my previous blog post, I indicated that I was anticipating the February 1 episode of the Oprah show-Vegan Challenge. On the cattle farm in central Illinois, we were in the mist of a blizzard. All day, I anticipated the 4pm airing of the Oprah Show on my local station. When the 4 O'Clock hour struck; the wind picked up, ice pelted, and the local station feed died. After 20 minutes, it was clear the show was not going on in my household.
My family including the children bundled up to complete the evening chores. A task in this weather that requires all hands on deck. As the wind howls and the lights began to flicker, I was quite impressed with the teamwork.
After supper, our Internet was barely hanging in and I could see the many tweets, blogs, and facebook posting about the Oprah show. Anticipation still building and determined to watch the show on a sister station at 10:00pm.
378 Harpo Employees and Oprah agreed to Go Vegan for one week. For that week, the diets of the 379 individuals would include no meat, milk, cheese, eggs, and NO ANIMAL ANYTHING. Guest speakers on the show included Michael Pollan- author of Omnivore’s Dilemma and appearance in Food, Inc., Kathy Freston-Veganist, Nicole Johnson-Hoffman-Cargill Fort Morgan Plant Manager and Challenge takers.
I respect and fully support the diet choice of consumers. As a farmer who raises corn, soybeans, and beef cattle; I appreciate all consumers of agriculture products whether it is soybeans or meat.
My First Impression
The Vegan Challenge that was launched only addressed dietary selection. A true Vegan accepting the challenge for one-week would not use any animal products including non-eatable items. As I pointed out in my last blog post, many products in our everyday lives are made from animals. Unless you live in a cave, the challenge is mission impossible.
Oprah not only issued the challenge to her colleagues but to the world. Accepting a life-changing challenge from a celebrity based on an emotional plea and not facts is always a hefty personal concern of mine.
Agvocate and Rancher- Mike Haley, in his blog post immediately after the show, logically points out why an average person could not 100% fulfill the challenge:
“After watching the show I considered taking Oprah up on her challenge. How hard could it be? I have gone for a week before without eating steak, and I also like salad! So, I began by doing the logical thing and Googling “what does it take to be vegan?” Of course the answer is that a vegan must reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose.
In essence to fulfill Oprah’s challenge I began to make a list of things I would have to sacrifice for the week. I began with the logical answers of steak, chicken and milk. Then I started thinking about the definition of a vegan, I would have to give up all animal products, so I broadened my list to include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, stearic acid, and broccoli.
So I know what you are thinking, “why can’t a vegan eat broccoli?” Well as I made out my list I noted stearic acid was a byproduct of animals, a byproduct that makes tires. Tires are used by the farmer that grows the broccoli, by the truck driver that delivers it to the grocer, and would require that I walk to the store in…. I guess bare feet as even rubber shoes have animal products in them. So in essence I could grow the broccoli in my garden using organic methods and fertilizing it with manure; oh wait that is an animal product as well.”
Overall, I thought Oprah did a pleasant job facilitating the discussion. I would not call the episode a complete balance of all perspectives. An important element was missing, the farmer or ranchers’ point-of-view. However, I applaud Cargill-Fort Morgan Packing plant for opening their doors to Lisa Ling and accurately portraying the harvesting of animals.
I agree that everyone needs to make a conscious decision about his or her food. We should know where our food comes from and I invite everyone to consult an actual farmer or rancher not a celebrity.
In my book, Michael Pollan is not a superstar. The true Superstar was Nicole Johnson-Hoffman and the Cargill plant. As Lisa Ling was guided through the packing plant, I was impressed with the dialog. Lisa did not receive sugar-coated rehearsed script filled with emotions but the facts.
As a farmer, I can learn a few lessons from Nicole on communicating to the general public. I am thankful everyday that animals give their lives to feed us. As Nicole points out, “We never forget these are creatures of life..", "we treat them with dignity. “
Mr. Pollan I am quite concern that you think America is suddenly experiencing a “Renaissance of new farmers”. NEWS FLASH: Farmers and ranchers have been passionately caring for their animals for generations.
The feedback from the participants was interesting. The testimony of those who lost weight caught my attention. The Oprah Show forced the conclusion that meat was to blame. I concur with hog producer, Chris Chinn:
“The reason the Oprah employees are feeling better and losing weight could be from over indulgence of all foods or a lack of exercise. Don't blame the meat. MEAT PROVIDES ESSENTIAL VITAMINS AND MINERALS LIKE B12 AND IRON.”
Points to Take Home
If you do not remember anything else then please internalize the following points:
- If you have any questions about how your food is raise then ask a farmer or rancher.
- A healthy diet is well-balanced. Meat is a naturally nutrient-rich source of ten essential nutrients. The protein in meat helps strengthen and sustain your body. Evidence shows that protein plays an important role in maintaining healthy weight, building muscle, and fueling physical activity.
-Oprah visit a farm and walk in our shoes. Maybe you should accept Mike Haley's invitation.
A healthy diet is well-balanced. Meat is a naturally nutrient-rich source of ten essential nutrients. The protein in beef helps strengthen and sustain your body. Evidence shows that protein plays an important role in maintaining healthy weight, building muscle and fueling physical activity.