Fruits and vegetables at a farmer's market



Early last month an organization called Food Tank hosted an event that they called “The Real Cost of Food.” On November 12th, a panel came together to discuss the concerns with food production in the coming years.

Among the panelist were Michael Berger, Elevation Burger; Roni Neff, Center for a Livable Future; Jenn Yates, Union of Concerned Scientists; Adam Diamond, American University; Barbara Ekwall, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; and Paul Shapiro, Humane Society of the United States.

They both raised a few valid concerns and showed a few ignorant opinions, but at the end of the day the group did nothing more than advance hysteria and panic that does nothing to solve problems or offer reasonable solutions.

On the Environment

A large portion of the presentations was based on the impact that farming has on the environment. However, many of the things that they mentioned were blown out of proportion, already being addressed, or not relevant to the broader issues of hunger and food insecurity that they advertised trying to solve.

For example, a main point that they brought up was the possible negative ramifications of over-fertilization. First off, every farmer knows that they cannot effectively do their job without the soil holding the vital nutrients and minerals used in food production. Yet, as a solution these panelist were advocating eliminating the use of fertilizer all together (both organic and chemical) because of the slight risk that runoff could hurt surrounding ecosystems.

They let their emotional arguments and hysteria rule them and thus they could not provide a logical solution to the problem.

Experts, on the other hand, advocate for a more judicious fertilization regiment and careful use of the products meant to supplement the soil, not complete abandonment. This is the approach that most farmers are taking. ­

Another point that they addressed was that of food waste. Each year, major countries all around the world report huge amounts of food being thrown away. They estimated the cost to be over $1 trillion for the United States alone and said that they food thrown away here could feed an extra 2 billion people.

First things first, as we are sure you have seen many times done to the presidential hopefuls, we have to fact check the absurdity of their claims: the actual economic impact estimate of food waste in America is only $168 billion each year, not a trillion, and that’s based on a 40% waste assumption (which is actually far from reality). It would take about 6 times the amount of current waste, nearly 2 ½ times our overall production, to waste a trillion dollars in food.

Here’s the math:

   X*40%=$168 billion

   $1 trillion/$168 billion = 5.95238

   5.95238*40%=2.38095 times X

Although this is an extremely prominent issue, they have widely overestimated the amount of food wasted and overblown the risks, especially when considering the fact that the issue itself is already being addressed at every stop in the food production structure.

Let me explain, at the farm level there is a lot of supposed “waste” because of what is known as culling. The farmers can only sell their best fruits and vegetables to companies for grocery stores, and thus pick through removing all but the best product from what they are selling. These culls are documented as waste; however, often times those farmers turn around and take those culls to be sold at farmers markets, roadside stands, and other local markets at a reduced price.

The food seems to be wasted, because it isn’t going to stores, but in fact the farmers have created their own system to make sure that they waste as little as possible. Sure, some cannot be sold at all because it was smashed by machines, eaten by bugs, or picked at the wrong time, but overall the waste at the farming level is much less than one would anticipate just looking at the numbers.

At the grocer level, they have addressed waste through innovative new packaging styles that allow for atmospheric control within the package to lengthen shelf life and added chemical readers inside the packages to tell consumers if the product has gone bad.

As time progresses these innovations will only continue to be more widely utilized and thus less food will be wasted. Food producers recognized the issue and took tremendous steps to address it, and honestly they are doing a pretty great job at it.

The most egregious of the panel’s claims that the though, were made by everyone’s favorite smoke blower, Paul Shapiro.

Shapiro’s Animal Claims

It’s dumbfounding that the panel would invite Shapiro in the first place, especially since the issue was on feeding people and stopping hunger – not eliminating food options. It’s groups like this one, attempting to gain popularity by inviting big names that have nothing to do with their cause, that give HSUS false legitimacy.

Shapiro spent much of his time speaking about the ‘poor moral conditions’ of farm animals. He claimed that, “In the absence of rules, agribusiness producers have been in a moral race to the bottom.”

However, what regulations is Shapiro really looking for to sew up this ‘moral vulnerability’? Remember, this is the man who proudly proclaimed “Eating meat causes animal cruelty.” So is it just regulations to promote welfare, or does he want the restrictions to be so tight that animal agriculture ends all together?

For him, it’s the latter.

Even while speaking to the panel, he let his anti-ag colors fly by saying that the recent movements towards cage-free egg production and against antibiotics (positions that HSUS supposedly supports) are not enough.

“It’s an important step in the right direction… but it has to be in addition to meat reduction,” he said.

You see, his speech wasn’t about animal welfare at all, but simply to promote veganism, the end of animal use, and attempt to force others to do so as well.

He even demonized laws meant to protect animals because it didn’t benefit him and his cronies. He argued that the laws being put in place to implement mandatory reporting of animal cruelty within 24 hours to the proper authorities – a common sense solution that ensures legal action ensue immediately – made it illegal to document animal abuse.

In fact, despite the law being good for animals, he and HSUS have fought against similar legislation because it limits their ability to stockpile footage and release it to the media as a fundraising technique instead of immediately searching for a solution.

We fail to see how any of his arguments could help the environment, solve hunger, or even help animals. Shapiro and HSUS have their own corrupt agenda that involves lining their pockets and nothing more.

This panel made some outrageous claims before involving HSUS, but afterwards it is impossible for us to view their organization as a credible source or even something that deserves an inkling of respect. Animal agriculture is vital to the health of humans and turns previously uncultivatable land into usable parcels that provide huge amounts of nutritious food imperative to our survival.





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