Monday, February 23, 2015


Food labeling is something I love to talk to people about. I love that we live in a society that gives us so many options when it comes to the food we choose to buy for our families, but some of these labels are entirely misleading. It has simply out of hand. Marketers are taking advantage of uninformed consumers and getting more money for a label that doesn’t exactly mean what it implies.

So, what can you do about it? Get informed. Be an educated consumer and don’t let food marketers take advantage of you and your hard-earned dollars!

Here are 5 commonly misleading labels you should be aware of before paying extra:

  1. NATURAL- This label isn’t bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it might. In order to be approved for this label, the food must be minimally processed after harvest. In other words, any production methods can be used to grow the food (hormones, pesticides, genetic engineering, etc.). As long as it isn’t heavily processed afterwards, you can label it as natural.
  2. NO ADDED HORMONES- If you see this label on a chicken or pork product, it is 100% meaningless. There is currently no hormone use in hog or chicken production at all; therefore, any chicken or pork you can buy is sans added hormones.
  3. CAGE FREE/FREE RANGE- Again, these labels aren’t bad, but they might not necessarily indicate what they imply. To qualify as “cage free,” chickens can roam freely in a building or room. This does free them from a cage, but exposes them to other chickens who often peck and cause injury to one another. As for “free range,” those same chickens would have unlimited access to the outdoors. You might be surprised to find that, regardless of their access to the outdoors, most chickens would opt to stay inside due to fear of predators.
  4. NON-GMO- This label is so widely overused. There are currently only 8 crops that are commercially available with GM varieties: corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, alfalfa, squash, papaya, and sugar beets. If you are buying any other vegetable, this label is not relevant.
  5. PASTURE RAISED- The USDA definition for this label is as follows: “Due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products.” I think that one speaks for itself.

If there are any other labels you often look for and are curious about, visit the USDA’s website to see their definition of each label:

It’s always good to “know before you buy!”

Friday, February 6, 2015

What's the beef with GMO's, anyway?

I'm not late to the conversation, I know GMO's have been a widely controversial issue for a while now... but I had a thought today that totally slammed everything into perspective for me.

The first GM crop I remember learning about was Golden Rice. In developing countries where rice is the main food source, we see a huge issue with vision impairment/blindness simply due to a lack of nutrients; namely: Vitamin A. In an attempt to help these people, scientists started working on ways to create a rice crop with more Vitamin A.
And I thought, "How cool is that? We have so much knowledge and technology at our disposal and look at the amazing, life-changing things we can do with it?"

That was about 7 years ago. Since then, I have had countless conversations/arguments with people about genetically modified foods. My arguments are often based on scientific facts and anecdotes from my experience growing up on a farm... but maybe I've been doing it all wrong.

From day 1 of learning about GMO's, they have seemed like such a positive thing to me. We can make food with more nutrients, crops that need fewer pesticides sprayed on them, etc. How is that perceived as something so negative by so many people?

Maybe, from a fundamental level, I need to understand where you are coming from if you're anti-GMO. Have a conversation with me. Don't be defensive or try to convince me that your opinion is all-that-is-right in the world... just talk to me. Tell me your concerns. I want to hear your experiences and understand where you're coming from.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all do that... we will understand each other a little bit better and be able to have more educational conversations about these issues. Leave me a comment. Let's talk.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit

This makes me angry. And you know what? I saw this coming.

Over the past few years, I have been involved in discussions about the ag industry and doing my part to explain to people that, while they may not like every method used in food production, there is a reason we do things this way. There is a "why" behind every production method out there. We don't just slap chemicals on crops for the fun of it. We don't just use gestation stalls because we think they look cool. We don't raise animals indoors because we feel like it.


But do any of those radical activists listen? No. Because they want everything to be sunshine and rainbows and butterflies and until you agree with them, they wont listen to a word you have to say.

So, the industry has changed because of this huge consumer demand for more "free range, natural, GMO-free, *insert your favorite label here*" products. We are a consumer driven industry, so of course we made adjustments to accommodate the wishes of our customers.

Many of these changes have taken place within the livestock production sector. Less hogs are in gestation/farrowing crates, more animals are being raised outdoors for that "free range" label, and less antibiotics are being used to promote the health of the animals.

And now, the farmers are under attack again for being negligent.

"Hundreds of those newborn (piglets), too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over... In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation... A single, treatable malady — mastitis, a painful infection of the udder — has killed more than 625."

ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME?! Excuse my language, but sometimes, you just have to call people on their sh*t.

ALL of this is a direct result of consumer demand for different production methods! This is NOT the fault of the farmer!

You wanted pasture-raised meat? Okay, fine. But now you're mad that predators & severe weather are a threat to the poor baby animals?
You don't want pigs placed in gestation stalls or farrowing crates? Okay, sure. But now it's abhorrent to hear about the number of piglets crushed by their mothers every year?
You demand an antibiotic-free meat product? Sure thing! But now the farmers are terrible people for not handling common & easily treatable infections in their animals?
(You see where I'm going with this?)

I have said for years that, for whatever reason, people have completely lost touch with the fact that there is a very good reason behind everything that we do as a production ag industry. We have learned from past failures, we have adjusted our practices to create safer living conditions for our animals, we have asked our parents & grandparents these questions about why we do things a certain way, and there is always a reasonable answer. How do we fix this lost connection between consumer & understanding that there is a why behind what we do?

We give the consumer what they want.

And what was my hypothesis about what would happen? They would be so appalled at what the conditions in our industry look like and start demanding that we put those animals back inside where it's safe, and find a way to stop those mama sows from crushing her babies, and for goodness sake we need to be responsible for our animals and treat them with medicine when they are sick!

Bingo. I hate to say I told you so, but I TOLD YOU SO.

So, can we farmers get back to doing what we do best and take proper care of our animals now? Do you believe that our methods involve generations worth of research and work with animals that gives us the knowledge to know the best way to care for them? Do you finally understand why we use some of these practices that you are so unknowledgeable about and yet so against?

I'm angry. I love my industry and I have worked to defend it for years. All we have done is concede to the demands of our consumer, and now we are catching the heat for it once again. We are NOT bad people. We CARE about our animals, probably more than you do.

With that being said... Congratulations. You have gotten exactly what you asked for. I hope you're happy.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Rumor has it the USDA is preparing to release the latest dietary guidelines according to their research. This time, they have been getting recommendations to lower the recommended amount of red meat that we should all consume. Now, it isn’t exactly news that the health benefits/effects of red meat have been heartily debated in the past. This time, however, the recommendations are coming from an environmental standpoint.

The argument some people are posing here is that the carbon footprint of the meat industry is exponentially higher than that of plant-based food production. To which I say… duh! Of course a cow is going to have a greater carbon footprint than a soybean plant. But what does this have to do with dietary recommendations that are supposed to be based on research regarding health of the human body?

Here is my disclaimer: I have been raising beef cattle since I was 7 years old. Obviously, I’m biased here. However, I am NOT here to tell you that “RED MEAT IS THE BEST AND ALL OF YOU SHOULD EAT STEAK 3 TIMES A DAY.”

So, hear me out.
  1. The issue at hand is the latest version of dietary guidelines. Is environmental impact really a relevant piece on information to be considered here? Of course, I’m not saying that environmental impact should be disregarded altogether, I just don’t think it should be a consideration for this particular case. If we start taking sustainability into consideration for this, then we must also consider economics, ethical issues… it’s a total domino effect. While each of these issues are important, should they really be a part of nutritional recommendations?
  1. Can we just take a moment to remember that every person has different health issues such as dietary restrictions, heart health, etc.? I know people from all walks of life that choose to eat in completely different ways. And do you know what? I don’t think any of them are wrong. I know vegetarians, and I know people who eat meat almost exclusively. They all have their reasons, and what other people eat isn’t really your business. If it works for them, awesome. You do what works for you and your body.
  1. For most of us, the USDA’s list of dietary guidelines is something we can take into consideration or not. At the end of the day, we get to eat whatever we choose to eat. The problem is, this isn’t the case for everyone. The biggest effect this change would made is on federal feeding programs (i.e. food stamps, school lunches, senior care…). Is red meat really what we should be providing less of in these programs? I personally don’t think we should be limiting access to a great protein source for those individuals who rely on one of these programs.
I love red meat. I eat it once or twice a week, and it works for me. That’s not going to change based on these guidelines. But we really do need to think about the bigger picture with these sorts of things, not just ourselves. Would this change really be for the best?
Food for thought.


“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

–Stephen R. Covey
Think about that for a minute.

(Okay, has it been a minute? Did you think about it? Good.)

Aren’t we all guilty of this in one way or another? During arguments or heated discussions, most of us have a tendency to get defensive- and when we are being defensive, we are no longer participating in a discussion to try to better understand the opposing viewpoints. We come by it honestly. Heck, even kids are guilty of this! Have you ever tried to argue with a stubborn 5-year-old? They will come up with the craziest excuses to prove that they aren’t wrong or guilty.

I think all adults are equally as guilty of this when it comes to discussions about GMO crops, organic versus non-organic, food additives, etc. I have had countless conversations with people who have differing views from me and many of those conversations end with me just giving up. I enjoy having conversations in order to better understand where people are coming from, and I would like for them to learn a little something about my viewpoints in return. But some people are just impossible; they are only listening to what you have to say in order to come up with a response to prove that you are wrong. To me, that is a pointless conversation.

Once in a while, I get to have a real conversation with someone who genuinely wants to learn more about these topics and hear about my experiences and opinions. And in turn, I want to know what their concerns are and where those concerns came from. AND IT IS MAGICAL. Both people always walk away from those conversations with a better understanding and a little something to mull over.

You may be asking yourself, “Hmmm… I wonder what brought this topic up for Rosie today.” I am so glad you asked!

The Food Babe visited the University of Florida last week and gave a speech to the students and faculty about “how to avoid bad foods” based on her opinions. Keep in mind this woman is not a scientist, nor does she have any experience in the food industry whatsoever. She has made a living for herself by using fear mongering on social media to build an army of scared and angry consumers who attack various companies and get them to change the ingredients they use in their food. A professor from the horticulture department on campus wrote a blog in response to her visit, and I think it is wonderful. You can read it here.

Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox. Just do me a favor and take a moment before your next discussion about food to remind yourself to listen to understand, not just to reply. Please and thank you!

Monday, September 22, 2014


Dr. Oz is at it again, sensationalizing another “hot topic” issue to scare his viewers and ultimately get more views. You have to hand it to the man, he knows how to make his show successful. But the problem is we seem to live in a world where we all forget that his goal is to get more views, not educate his viewers using the most sound and reliable information possible. It’s the same concept as various ads created by  companies such as Chipotle that use fear and/or entertaining concepts that bash farming to accomplish their ultimate goal: To sell you burritos. Again, their goal and job here is not to present accurate information to you.
So why do we let these marketing schemes affect our opinions or understanding of something? Why has a talk show host become a more reputable source to us than the people who are out in their fields every day working with GMO crops or pesticides? Why do we use an ad for burritos as a primary source of information upon which we form our opinions? We live in a time where we have information about everything imaginable at our finger tips… but maybe it has become too much. How can we expect anyone to be able to sort through all of the bad information to find the real stuff? I wish I had the answer.
For now, the best I can do is respond to this clip from the Dr. Oz show with the best information I have. Hopefully, some of the people who have the same incorrect information will read this and decide to do more research or ask an actual farmer to get a better understanding of what’s going on here.
  1. Dr. Oz and the mother in this clip keep saying more pesticides are used on GMO crops. That is just completely false. GMO corn, for example, is naturally resistant to the most common and dangerous pests that threaten it. Therefore, farmers have no need to spray pesticides on those crops. Among other reasons, this is why GMO crops were created! To allow us to use less chemicals because the plants are naturally resistant to the pests we used to spray for! Somehow, that fact has been lost in translation between the farming world and urban consumers.
  2. At the beginning of the clip, Dr. Oz shows a graphic of weeds being sprayed and killed in corn fields and talks about the harsh chemicals that accomplish this. Actually, due to the natural “canopy” of shade created by the leaves on a stalk of corn, farmers don’t really need to spray for weeds very often. Once again, this is something that a farmer could easily tell you about, but Dr. Oz obviously hasn’t even taken 5 minutes to ask for their side of the story.
  3. The mother in the clip “discovered” that non-GMO crops are sprayed with pesticides, too. Of course they are, see point number 1. They are sprayed with pesticides MORE OFTEN than GMO crops, that’s why so many farmers choose to plant GMO crops! Less pesticides!
  4. The mother also says she decided to start buying organic so that she could avoid pesticides altogether. If she really believes that, I hope she finds this article because unfortunately she has been terribly mislead. Organic farmers can still use approved pesticides on their crops! If they didn’t, when you bit into an organic apple, you would likely find a beautiful juicy worm inside there waiting for you!
These are just a few of my thoughts after watching that clip. I find it incredibly discouraging that that mother has gone to the measures she has based on incorrect information. I am 100% supportive of everyone making the right choice for themselves and their families at the grocery store, be it organic or not. I just wish everyone would take the time to wade through all of this “hype” caused by shows like this one to get to the best sources of information on these issues.
PLEASE keep in mind what someone’s ultimate goal is when presented with information like this! Dr. Oz sensationalized this to make it scary because THAT will hook his viewers and ultimately get him more views! Chipotle wants to make you feel like the farms they buy their food from are all sunshine and rainbows so that you will buy more burritos from them. If we could all just keep these things in mind, I think it would make a huge difference in our ability to take things with a grain of salt and wade through all the sensationalized, fear-based stuff and find reality.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My Problem with Raw Milk

First of all, I am all for people being able to make their own decisions about what kind of food to put into their bodies. Organic, sugar free, conventional, GMO, non-GMO... do your research and make the right choice for you, just like I do.

But I can't STAND when people push raw milk as a healthier choice. Like in this article:
Their research suggests that drinking low fat milk might have more negative affects on your body because of the artificial sweeteners they use to replace the fat. I'm OK with this, they are doing their research and sharing information. In fact, I would agree with the article from that standpoint.

BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH RAW MILK VS PASTEURIZED MILK?! Nothing. Why is raw milk even motioned in this article? Fat content has NOTHING to do with pasteurization! Pasteurizing milk does one thing: MAKES IT SAFE TO DRINK.

Why do you think we, as a society, decided to start pasteurizing (i.e. boiling) milk in the first place? BECAUSE IT WAS MAKING PEOPLE SICK. You boil the bad bacteria out of it, and viola, a safer product. I don't understand why people are against this. It has nothing to do with chemicals, production method, nutrition... only SAFETY.

You prefer organic milk? Great. You prefer milk with "no added hormones?" Awesome. But don't get up on your soap box and try to tell me that raw milk is the safest, most nutritional choice for you and your family. It is absolutely not safe. Having said that, if you still choose to drink it, that's fine, it's your body and your choice. But STOP telling everyone it's safe. The FDA isn't labeling it as "safe" for a reason: its a huge liability risk for them.

It's just boiling milk, people. It has nothing to do with fat content, organic, GMO, (insert your favorite controversial food topic here). It has nothing to do with any of that. Only safety.

End rant.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tired of Playing Defense

Farming, the livelihood so many of us take great pride in, has been under attack for years. As a whole, agricultural people are passionate and quick to come to the defense of our industry and way of life. This I know because I have seen it demonstrated countless times over the last few years.
I, like many of you, have a passion for farming and take great pride in the work my family does and the food we produce. I have been “fighting the good fight” alongside many of you through all of the recent attacks on our industry… but you know what? I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to battle all of the articles and advertisements that use fear to accomplish their goals. People simply aren’t interested in hearing the boring facts about food that prove it’s safe; it’s far more interesting and easy to agree with the horrifying stories & exaggerated advertisements that demonstrate the impending doom of man-kind if we don’t all eat organic veggies and grind our own fresh coffee beans that were grown in the backyard.
With the launch of Chipotle’s most recent ad campaign featuring crooked farmers & exploding cows, I have no words. I am just hoping that people have enough common sense to see that ad campaign for what it really is: a completely unrealistic exaggeration with the goal of providing you with cheap entertainment & gaining brand recognition. At some point, we just have to trust that the urban consumers this company is targeting have enough brain power to see through their tactics.
I love that people have become so interested in understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced. What I am hoping, is that those people go straight to the source for their information. And as farmers, I hope we aren’t too jaded to welcome them onto our farms for a conversation.  
SPREAD THE WORD: Chipotle’s goal is not to provide you with the most unbiased, truthful information about food production. Their goal is to SELL YOU BURRITOS. It’s as simple as that. Don’t let them be the source of information from which you form your opinions.
Over & out.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Mostly Vegetarian"

The other day, I was talking to a friend about her eating choices. She calls herself "mostly vegetarian" because she only eats meat from animals who she knows were not mistreated. Now, personally, I have a "to each his own" attitude when it comes to other people's choices, so this post is not meant to say that she is wrong for choosing her food the way she does. I am an animal lover, too. I don't think there is any excuse for mistreating animals, so I can totally understand where she is coming from here.

Where my understanding for her choice stopped, is when the topic of grass-fed beef came up. She said, "I would be interested in buying grass-fed beef!" Without knowing or seeing where these cattle were raised or how they were treated throughout their life, she is totally on-board with grass-fed beef. There seems to be a disconnect for some people between how a farmer chooses to feed his/her cattle and his/her treatment of those animals.

"Grass-fed" or "organic" are not synonymous with "well-treated." Can they be? Sure. Can conventionally raised cattle be well-treated, too? Absolutely. I grew up on a cattle farm where our cows were fed grain. Today, I live on a farm that raises grass-fed cows. And do you know what? I have never mistreated any of my cows, on EITHER of those farms. (Really, if you ask me, cows LOVE corn! Those grass-fed animals are really missing out on some yummy food! But, the people want grass-fed, so we give them grass-fed.)

I don't think my friend is the only one who assumes things like this. I think it is a large part of the reason some people choose to buy food based on these labels. If you really want to buy meat from animals that you know were treated well, get to know a farmer and buy your meat directly from them. Better yet, trust that farmers love their animals and ANY meat you choose to buy will fit your criteria. I think it is a noble thing to want to know where your food came from, but choosing labels like "organic" or "natural" or "grass-fed" will NOT guarantee you "happy cow" meat. It simply isn't the same thing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How DARE this comedian make a joke about FARMERS!

Unless you live under a rock, you have seen the latest video the farming community is upset about. A comedian does a bit about Daylight Savings time and makes some jabs at farmers. If you haven't seen it, watch it here and then try to keep up with all of us a little better next time, OK?

So, are you offended? Most people (from what I have seen) in the farming community sure are! How DARE he make jokes about the people who put food on his table every day!

Personally, I disagree with most of my peers on this one. He is a comedian, people. He literally makes a living out of writing jokes. How many comedians have you heard make fun of different races, religions, stereotypes, old people, young people, men, women... the list goes on. But when one of them makes a joke about farming??? Oh, no you didn't.

Seriously, farm kids aren't raised to be so darned sensitive, lets all just "cowboy up" a little bit here, shall we? Let's take a real good look at what this guy is saying:

Joke #1: "300 million of us set our clocks back 1 hour for, what 6? Is it 6, I'll give ya 7 farmers tops?"
  • How many of you have read, or even used, the statistic that 1% of us are in charge of feeding the entire population? We know less than 2% of the population are farmers. In fact, we use this fact to explain to people why we need to use the best technology available to increase our yields! Let's not get offended when someone else points it out. We pride ourselves on being able to accomplish such a feat.
Joke #2: It's too long to quote, but lets address the bit where a farmer calls the government to request the time change.
  • This is a joke. A reason for the comedian to use a funny voice to make people laugh and at a silly scenario. We all know that everyone used to be a farmer so the time change was a benefit for everyone at the time. And you know what? No one likes getting up for work at 6:30am when it's still dark outside, even if you just have an office job. Lets just take this bit for what it was, a joke.
Joke #3: "Did you know that the idea of the 8 hour work day is also based on farmers? Because it takes them 8 hours of day light to pick cabbages... You don't need 8 hours to do office work, you need 20 minutes. So now we're all in offices for 7 hours and 40 minutes pretending to be busy."
  • See what he did there? He is also picking on non-farmers. People who only really work for 20 minutes a day. Everyone knows farmers work from sun up to sun down. Actually, he is pointing out that farmers work harder than a lot of other professions here, so we can all be friends now, right?
Joke #4: "I want to know why we're accommodating farmers anyway. I  mean, they already have perfect lives if I'm picturing it correctly."
  • Here, he says we are lucky because we get to enjoy the outdoors, he points out the overall good character of people from rural towns, paints the picture of a beautiful sunset glowing on our crops... we all love these things about our farm life, don't we? I don't understand why we are so mad about this.
At the end of the day, can't we all appreciate that he is a comedian and he is just doing his job here? Essentially, he is mad because our lives are so great. And, heck, I think they are! Don't you? I don't think there are many people that would truly question the kind of hard work and dedication it takes to be a farmer. We all take pride in what we do, and that is probably the reason everyone got so worked up about this video. But at the end of the day, we love what we do and there aren't many people who are as lucky as we are to have a job like this. Go ahead, let them be jealous!