It’s Time To Speak Up!


By: Wisconsin Volunteer Kim Bremmer

One of my favorite ways to start the day is at the counter of my favorite coffee place, ordering a grande triple shot caramel macchiato and a spinach and feta breakfast wrap. But I ALWAYS ask them to use regular eggs instead of cage-free eggs.

I am usually met with looks of question, not only from the barista but also from all the people in line with me. The response is always a disappointed, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that, ma’am.”  I then smile and ask them to please pass on my message to the corporate office that I would like the choice.

But the best part is that I then have a captive audience for the next 20 seconds or so.

I use that time to explain that I prefer eggs from chickens grown in cages. I used to raise chickens outside, and I know how much they like to eat things out of the dirt, including bugs, grubs and more. I also have friends who have some really nice chicken barns, where they raise very healthy, happy birds in cages.

It’s time to speak up.

With less than 2 percent of the population actually farming today in the United States, we have opportunities every day to talk to about food production with a very large audience that has never actually “been there and done that.”

We now live in a time when the opinions of journalists and marketing that plays on emotions trump solid peer-reviewed science every single day.

All of this well-funded creative marketing wants consumers to buy the latest and greatest trend: organic, natural, GMO-free, rBST-free, cage-free, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, humanely raised, responsibly produced, and the list could go on and on. Consumers are led to believe that the latest buzzword must be good and conventional food production must be bad. But all of these strategically worded labels come at the expense of consumers’ trust in agriculture.  The story of agriculture is being told by people selling stories, not by those actually involved in agriculture every day.

Well, it’s time for us to sell our story.

Another one of my favorite things to do is go to the grocery store either on Friday afternoons at 5:00 or Sunday mornings right after church. Some of my very best conversations about farming and food happen then!

It is so easy to strike up a conversation with someone comparing labels in the dairy aisle or meat counter and ask if they have any questions. I tell them I am simply a mom who understands the importance of feeding my family the healthiest food.

I also tell them I get the great opportunity to work on different farms every day. I can share my perspective on the different food-production practices because I work with all of them. The real tragedy is how truly scared people have become of food, even though we are producing the safest food in history, using fewer resources than ever before. My mission at every visit to the grocery store is to give people permission to not fear their food.

It’s time to speak up.

I am proud of conventional agriculture and not afraid to feed my family conventional food. I see how the animals are raised every day and how the land is cared for. I have friends who are organic farmers, but I would never pay more for the food they produce.

The biggest misconception is that a label means something is safer or healthier. A great example of this is the fact that added steroids and hormones aren’t even allowed in poultry production in the United States, yet consumers continually pay a premium for “hormone-free” chicken in the grocery store.

I believe that it doesn’t matter which production method a farmer uses because it is really the human element that makes all the difference. I always encourage people who have questions about agriculture to visit a farm instead of just “Googling” it.

Or ask a farmer by contacting a farmer-volunteer at www.commonground-bulk.flywheelsites.com. I could take you to visit a beautiful 35-cow dairy or a beautiful 3,500-cow dairy. Both use very different management practices, but both provide safe, high-quality food. If the farmers I see every day choose to do their job by responsibly using antibiotics, GMOs, rBST, cages and barns, I feel they should be able to.  I don’t ever want to be forced to pay more for food with a fancy label when I understand the safety of conventionally raised food and get to see how it’s produced every day.

I am proud of agriculture today. You should be, too. Share the real story.

It’s time to speak up.


14 Comments

beth meree

I’m so glad I found your website! I have been so concerned about the hubbub about our food. It is good to know where I can go for facts from the horses mouth.

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Kim Bremmer

Thanks, Beth! It is our hope that more people would be willing to talk to the people growing the food if they have questions. There is so much misinformation everywhere and food marketing gets more deceitful every day. It frustrates us all! Please don’t ever hesitate to ask any question you might have and let’s keep the conversation growing 🙂

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Elizabeth Deden

Kim,
We run and operate a working cattle ranch here in Texas. I have a daughter presently at Texas Tech. She is currently a Civil Engineering Major…looking to change. Possibly in the
Ag department. I also have another daughter who is interested in the Ag dept. Neither in Vet programs. Your article interested me and what your background is. My phone number is 713 906 6997 perhaps we could talk. thanks!

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Kim Bremmer

Hi Elizabeth! Agriculture is a very exciting field and there are so many opportunities. I grew up on a dairy farm and attended UW-Madison where I studied Dairy Science and Ag Journalism. I would love to chat more with you about it and will call you!

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kumari

but what of the quality of life of the animals. that is my biggest concern are the chickens and dairy cows happy on the big farms are they running around grassing and raising thier young? I want to make sure i am supporting the farms that provide the best quality of life for the animals.

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Kim Bremmer

Hi Kumari! I completely agree with you regarding concern for the welfare of our animals and am certain it is the number one concern of farmers and ranchers each and every day. Absolutely every decision is based on caring for animals and minimizing stress. My best advice is to go and visit some farms to see for yourself. Make sure to visit some big farms too. (Documentaries and journalists/marketers selling stories aren’t always the best resources.) I am sure any of our Common Ground volunteers would be more than happy to have you! My front seat is always open if you ever get to Wisconsin. We all appreciate your concern!

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Jessica

I am a young rancher from the Midwest who raises Organic Grass-fed beef! When making decisions about the health of my family, my livestock, and myself I do it based on faith in God and in basic common sense. For instance if God created chickens to eat bugs and grubs…I feel its safe to assume that it is probably supposed to be in their diet. Everything in nature corresponds with its surroundings in an endless cycle of regeneration. When we start to manipulate nature, i.e. by using sprays or by growing monocultures, etc., we start to break down the natural system. I know for a fact that God is smarter than me so it is a personal conviction of mine that I will work with nature the way it was designed instead of trying to “improve” on what God has put in place. These are just some countering thoughts about the this topic, I am in no way looking to get into an argument, and I hope you take this as a peaceful discussion not a hostile one. I just want the viewpoints of the organic world to be understood and appreciated. I am also huge on the importance of labels because so many people are not directly involved in agriculture, they should be able to know how the product they are purchasing was produced somehow. From one agriculture advocate to another I ask that you not speak down about the hard work and passion that goes into organically raise food. Agriculture is the foundation of all societies and needs to be respected no matter how different the viewpoints may be.

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Kim Bremmer

Hi Jessica! I appreciate all that you do as a farmer and support all of agriculture – I would never take your comments as a hostile discussion! In fact, I do not have any problems at all with organic farming and have friends who are certified organic farmers…I just don’t want to ever be forced to pay more for food that is nutritionally the same and equally safe. I too want the choice. I also don’t think my friends who are conventional farmers should be made to feel inferior either. I am just returning from a trip to China and we are so blessed to have such a safe food supply in the United States. There is no one-way-fits-all way to farm and each farm is so different. My main point is that farmers are the experts on what works best on their specific farms. For example, I would never dream of telling you how to rotate your crops because you know the topography of your land and what your soil samples look like and what grows best in your climate. You are the true expert on your farm and my hope is that your choices will never be taken away because of deceitful marketing and people who don’t ever walk in your shoes.

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Paige Maul

Do you work for or have you taken money from Monsanto? You sound like their mouthpiece. I agree with you about consumers lack of knowledge. It’s easy to acquire the information about hormones and steriods not being allowed in poultry and pork production. If a consumer pays more for hormone-free, shouldn’t the company be liable for misleading them? You think hormones used in beef are OK? These end up in consumers’ bodies and negatively affect them. I’m guessing this means you’re OK with girls menstrating at 9 and skyrocketin obesity? I buy organic because it doesn’t contain pesticides and I have no problem paying more for it. Do you like to eat pesticides? You truly believe they are healthy? Are factory farms really the happiest place on Earth for animals? It’s a rosy picture you paint. People like you are the problem. Stop spreading your misinformation and go educate yourself.

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Kim Bremmer

Hi Paige! You bring up a great point about food marketing companies being liable for misleading consumers…I wish it were possible! I recently posed a similar question to a global manager of a worldwide food company (that we would all know) and he politely laughed and said, “it’s not my job to educate consumers – it’s my job to sell products.” This is frustrating to all of us! As for your concerns, all are valid. As a mother with a daughter, I too wondered about early puberty. But if you really dig into it and talk with some of the internationally recognized experts in endocrine regulation, they all talk about how there are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, killing much of their ability to have any biological activity. In fact, only about 10% of what we ingest is even remotely absorbed. There just isn’t any way to come to a science based conclusion that hormones in food cause early puberty. Beef (whether given any added hormones or not) actually has considerably lower amounts of estrogen than most plant based sources (3 oz beef: 1.2 ng, 3 oz beef with an implant: 1.9 ng, 4 oz of raw peas: 454 ng, 4 oz cabbage: 2,700 ng, ave soy latte: 30,000 ng, 1 ave birth control pill: 35,000 ng, and you and I, Paige, have over 450,000 ng of estrogen in our bodies all the time.) Body fat plays a much larger role in driving puberty (which makes sense because in nature, the purpose of sexual development is reproduction, so until a certain level of fat reserves are present, reproduction and puberty would be delayed.) Genetics and better overall nutrition are likely more feasible causes. But I do think it’s unfair to blame obesity on hormones – my vote is inactivity and unbalanced diets with too many processed carbs. I was a nutritionist for cows for nearly 15 years and know firsthand how cows eat a more balanced diet than most people! I have also been on literally thousands of visits to farms of all types and sizes and encourage you to please visit anytime. My front seat is always open! As for pesticides, there are over 50 commercially available ones organic farmers may use. And I am grateful for that because all farmers need to deal with bugs, weeds, plant disease and weather. No one is “eating pesticides” like you may believe. And no, I have never taken money from Monsanto, Paige, but thanks for asking 🙂 I am just a mom and farm girl who wants to share my front row seat to farming. It’s exciting, continually improving, and something to celebrate!

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Jamie

WTF is wrong with you? Is the fact that a chicken eating what nature intended grosses you out so you would rather have a chicken be force fed bio-engineered garbage?! Good for you. I have a farm and my chickens are free range pasture. So basically what a fair comparison is, lets lock you in a closet and only feed you McDonalds. Makes sense and is fair and healthy..right?

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Kim Bremmer

Hi Jamie! Thanks for your comments. But my real focus is that as a consumer as well, I too want the choice. I don’t want to pay more for a different method of farming because I am not convinced that one is superior to another. I truly believe it has everything to do with the farmer and the type of person they are. I raised chickens growing up and I am glad you have some in your pasture. But I don’t have any in my back yard and I am o.k. with that too. I have tremendous faith in our American farmers today. I have visited some pretty amazing people who raise chickens and I am perfectly fine with how they do it. I have never seen the horrendous conditions that are depicted by activist groups or HSUS, so I just don’t believe that story. The barns I have visited have more space than you think and the animals receive great care. Just as I am sure you give tremendous care to your chickens.

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Elizabeth Bobo

I do not base my opions on buzz words or what I’m told is the latest and greatest thing. I do research and decided for myself what I think is best and conscionable for me. I don’t appreciate your condescension, you can be informative without acting like the general public is stupid.

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Kim Bremmer

Hi Elizabeth! No ill-will intended! The majority of people I meet in all of my travels are confused by food labels and all of the misinformation out there. I am merely trying to share some perspective from my front-row seat to farming because not everyone gets to see all the different types of farms that I do. Thank you for doing research and I hope talking to farmers is included in that. I am really passionate about the fact that we do not need to fear any of our food and all of agriculture has a great success story to share!

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