The truth and names for dairy cows
Casper – According to Greg Quakenbush of Pfizer Animal Health, the agriculture industry in the U.S. is in a battle for truth.
“We’re getting attacked on ethics, and we keep trying to answer with science,” he said. “We keep trying to answer an ethical question with science, and it doesn’t work. You, as producers, need to find your ethical voice.”
Quakenbush spoke to the 2010 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup in Casper, which ran Dec. 12-14.
Quakenbush maintained that the general public continually asks for the “truth,” but that they can’t handle the truth.
“We argue that we’ve done studies about the square footage needed for chickens, but they still put it on the ballot and vote for two more inches,” he says. “You absolutely have to speak up and find your ethical voice – if you truly believe the things we’re doing are right and moral, you’ve got to speak up.”
“In our society, ‘truth’ doesn’t always matter,” he said. “Social media doesn’t always have anything to do with the truth.”
Quakenbush gave as an example the truth about technology. “I work for an evil, wicked pharmaceutical company, and we also keep a lot of people alive. Somehow the American public believes that technology and corporations are evil, but we’ve doubled beef production with half as many cattle, thanks to technology,” he commented. “We’ve reduced consumer prices by 25 percent, we’ve reduced the impact on the environment, and have increased quality.”
He pointed out how the media often portrays the 1950s agricultural operation as ideal, where everyone had a home garden and all the dairy cows had names.
“If we were to go back to 1955 technology, and we needed to meet today’s demand for beef, we’d need 83 million more head of cattle, and we’d need more land equaling the areas of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado to get it done,” he added.
“Brazil, which is the same size as the U.S., still produces beef at a 1955 level, and that’s why they continue to clear the rainforest for grassland. Our technology is not only feeding us, but it’s doing it efficiently,” said Quakenbush.
Further, he said antibiotics, implants, vaccines, hormones and genetics have made a huge difference, and have greatly helped. He presented the truth about hormones, one of the large red flags in the media today.
“Peas have hormones in them,” he explained. “Four ounces of peas have 454 nanograms of estrogen, a cup of soy milk has 30,000 units of estrogen and three-and-a-half ounces of soy protein concentrate contain 102,000 units of estrogen,” he said.
“Four ounces of untreated beef have 1.2 units of estrogen,” he explained. “There is four times as much estrogen in four ounces of raw peas. Don’t let people fool you – fruits and vegetables have hormone compounds, and it’s normal and natural. This paranoia about hormones is way overblown. You might say it’s not true.”
Looking to implanted beef, Quakenbush said it only raises the amount of estrogen in four ounces by .2 units.
“When you hear we can’t export beef because we implant, can you see the BS involved? It’s not about the truth, and it’s not about science,” he stated.
Furthermore, Quakenbush pointed out that one birth control pill contains the same amount of estrogen as 125,000 pounds of beef.
“The cure is called hunger,” he said of the solution to the extreme selectivity of some parts of the American population. “Do you think, in Haiti, their first question is if it was a free-range chicken? I heard the other day that 80 percent of the women in the world spend half their day getting water for their families. We’re so affluent. Hunger will change that.”
Of antibiotics, Quakenbush says they’ve been used for 50 years, and have been deemed absolutely safe, and that the stakes are high in getting new products approved.
“Have you seen new pharmaceutical companies? We’re not consolidating to get bigger, but to stay alive through the regulatory system,” he said.
“The risk assessment of someone having an illness caused by giving a drug to a cow is one in 10 million,” said Quakenbush. He pointed out that the chances of being killed in a car accident are one in 6,500, and crossing the street one in 48,500.
“It’s not about science, it’s about their worldview,” he said of those trying to put a stop to antibiotic use in all livestock. “Why aren’t these people at the auto safety meeting, where the risk of people being killed is much greater?”
Of global warming and methane and carbon dioxide emissions, Quakenbush said some like to show a graph of the carbon footprint of a dairy cow in the 1940s compared to today.
“If you switch it around, and base it on units of milk production, the graph is incredibly opposite,” he said. “We have to look at that per unit of what we produce. We produce 443 percent more milk per cow today, using less inputs and less ground. Have you seen that in the media?”
Quakenbush said 95 percent of the objections and falsehoods related to technology, production, economics, efficiency, food safety, hormones, environment and nutritional value can be addressed with facts and honest science.
But, he said that doesn’t matter, because the truth is under attack.
“Our current culture is based on relativism and postmodernism, which say that truth is relative – you have your truth, and I have mine,” he explained. “Truth doesn’t work that way.
Two opposing viewpoints cannot both be true, but we live in a culture that says we have to be diverse and tolerant of opposing viewpoints.”
In addition to relativism, Quakenbush said many in America are consumed by a “pursuit for authenticity.”
“‘Authenticity’ says ‘I can’t find much meaning in life, so I’ve got to find something that helps me be authentic,’” he said. “They’re looking for meaning in life, and a cause, to give them the feeling they’ve done something significant. The current thing is to go back to life in the 1940s when the dairy cows had names and the sky was blue. They want to have a little garden and be like Grandma and Grandpa, but their reasoning is flawed.”
“Sincerity has nothing to do with the truth. People can be sincerely wrong,” he continued. “The Obamas have a vegetable garden, and they’re really sincere about it. Feelings trump the truth. They feel it’s wrong to raise chickens in a crate. That’s why we can’t trust science anymore, because scientists are emotionally engaged.”
“Everybody has world views, and they have absolutes. I have a Biblical world view, and because of that, I believe that man has dominion over animals, and that frames how I see things,” he stated. “Some people believe that animals have as much value, if not more, than people.”
“Ethics and morality are the battleground,” he said. “Know the truth about the business we’re in. Every one of you has influence. You have a sister who’s a nurse or a brother-in-law who’s a physician. You have a circle of influence, and you’ve got to know the truth. Find your ethical voice.
“If you’re bugged by dehorning, or branding, stop it. But if you think it’s ok and that it’s morally and ethically right, stand up and take the hit, but don’t be neutral about ethics.”
“Livestock people and vets still have a lot of credibility with the public,” he said. “People want to know the food they’re eating is safe, and if we don’t tell them, I don’t know who will.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.