Editor's Notebook: Time to Step Outside Your Fence

November 7, 2015 02:15 AM
Editor's Notebook: Time to Step Outside Your Fence

I saw the headline on my phone, scrolling through the morning’s email. Another group, this time connected with the World Health Organization, slammed processed and red meat—products of agriculture considered wholesome for generations. Farm Journal Media’s Greg Henderson, who leads Beef Today magazine, looks at the group’s findings and agriculture’s response in "WHO Report Links Red Meat to Cancer."

Here we go again, I thought. I pictured the livestock producers I know shaking their heads. So, I called one of my favorite cattlemen, John Butler, a fourth-generation cow-calf and row-crop farmer in northwest Tennessee. John is a 47-year-old bear of a man who has a way with words and a gift for putting things into perspective. I asked him what he thought about the rough week for the livestock industry, made rougher by Subway’s pledge to ban meat from animals fed antibiotics.  John was kind enough to take a few minutes from his busy calving season.

“Farmers want to be healthy just like everyone else,” he said. “We need to take things in moderation, including red and processed meat, so I’m not going to argue with WHO.”

What’s “disheartening” to John is when complex and multifaceted findings get “spun” into simplistic half-truths and outright falsehoods by popular culture. “The message became, ‘Eat red meat and you’re going to die of cancer,’ and that’s not true,” he said. 

“My grand-daddy used to say, ‘Mend your own fences and let everyone else mend theirs.’ But we can’t do that anymore. We have to step out of our comfort zone and help get the truth out,” John said. “For me, I can get up in front of people, and they see my honesty. A friend of mine blogs. Maybe it’s just talking with a stranger you meet. We need to do what little bit we can to spread good information.”

In future issues, we’ll share some concrete tips on how to do just that. I’d also welcome hearing yours.

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