What You Really Need to Know About the IARC Report on Red Meat and Processed Meat

Jean L Clavelle

Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan

By now you’ve likely heard the news that red meats and processed meats are considered carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC – the cancer agency of the World Health Organization – released its findings yesterday after evaluating the carcinogenicity of consuming red meat and processed meat.

I think many of us, on occasion, have enjoyed products in those two categories so if the news reports are true, this is quite disturbing. Scary stuff indeed. Perhaps though, we need to investigate a little further into what these classifications really mean to see how concerned we actually need to be.

The IARC classified processed meats as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. This means that “there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer”. I’m not sure this is new information. If processed meats make up the bulk of the nutrients in your diet you might suffer some health issues. But you may notice that processed meats were included in the same category as tobacco smoke. This begs the question – are processed meats as carcinogenic as smoking?? The answer is absolutely not. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence a compound or “agent” has of being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of the risk. Based on the estimates found in the report about 66 in every 1000 people who eat a lot of processed meat will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. By comparison, 56 of every 1000 who eat very little meat will also develop colorectal cancer.

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Why I Agvocate

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Sarah Shultz author of NurseLovesFarmer.com blog.  When I read it I thought this to be an excellent message of keeping the “Agvocating” message positive and certainly worth sharing.  If you want to see additional posts from Sarah please check out her blog!

Jean L Clavelle

 

Why I Agvocate

It’s been almost a year since I started writing about agriculture on my blog. Sure I had posted dozens of pictures during seeding and harvest times and blogged about our family farming life, but I hadn’t ever really taken the plunge into blogging about the business of agriculture. I started off by asking my Facebook friends if they bought organic food, and Sarah Schultzwhy or why not. I got a varied set of responses and asked my friend Lyndsey from RealAgriculture.com do a guest post for me as I knew the majority of my readers (moms of young kids) would be able to relate to her as she’s also a mom of young kids and a professional in the agriculture industry. I then had my farmer husband write a post on his thoughts on organic and non-organic food from a producer’s perspective. These posts received good feedback and gave me the confidence I needed to keep agvocating.

What It’s Really Like to Speak Up for Agriculture

It is like an emotional roller coaster with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A little background info to that is that in the late spring of 2012 in my mommy blogging world I came across a Twitter party which was a plight to get a baby formula company to be a leader in the industry by removing GMOs from their formula. It really bothered me that such fear was being spread among my parenting peers, so I attended this party in an attempt to try to be the voice of reason for agriculture and science, even simply as a farmer’s wife & mom. This would be the first time I was indirectly called a shill for agriculture when a participant asked me if I was being paid to attend this party. I had no idea what they were talking about and attempted to talk to these participants that GMOs were not harmful and that worldwide scientific consensus stated the same, but no one would listen. At that point I decided something needed to be done on my part because it was not right that so many parents were being lead astray thinking that they were causing harm to their families by feeding them “evil and poisonous” GMOs. This is when I started researching GMOs and how I could best agvocate and teach my readers about biotechnology in agriculture. My first post merely posing my reader’s questions for GMOs entitled “Do You Have GMO Questions?” received 136 comments, mostly from people of the anti-GMO nature. Immediately I questioned “what have I gotten myself into?!” as my anxiety shot through the roof at the negativity my blog was receiving. Cami Ryan, my mentor and now good friend, gave me lots of invaluable advice and many counseling sessions via email!

Overcoming Challenges

Educating about ag when I’m not really in the industry is a challenge. On one hand I lose credibility as “just a mom” and blogger…but on the other hand a lot can appreciate where I’m coming from because I’ve taken the time to do my own research as a mom. I’m a farmer’s wife and I’ve learned a ton through my husband, people in the industry via social media, and mostly by reading articles and researching myself. Trying to maintain composure and confidence when it feels like most people are attacking and fighting back gets very draining on the nerves. If you want to agvocate or be a positive voice for anything you feel strongly about, I highly recommend having a mentor and joining some Facebook groups who talk about whatever your interest is. I’ve connected with a lot of other farm wives, farmers, and ranchers who blog and that are on Twitter that I know I can rely on for support and to help agvocate in the comments sections of my ag posts. I always disclaim these blog posts that I’m not an expert in these fields and that I’m happy to connect my readers with people who can properly address their questions and concerns. I overcome these challenges by educating myself and having the confidence to do so. I know most of the tricks up their sleeves and how to dispel a lot of myths.

Speaking of Negativity…

As a blogger I have to be professional and ethical as I represent a lot of brands, but I’m also representing myself and my family too. I could get snarky and mouthy, but I always remember that our words can heal and be life-giving or our words can be hurtful weapons – so I strive to abide my the former. Fighting fire with fire just doesn’t get anyone anywhere and if the naysayers keep coming at me with snark and negativity, in the end it makes them look like fools and discredits them. I’ve absolutely had to grow a thicker skin since I started agvocating, which is a good life lesson anyway, and I have learned that it’s okay to not address every single comment and it’s okay to delete comments that are just plain vulgar and destructive. I have been called a pawn or a shill for big ag, I have been called a bad mother, I have been called an irresponsible blogger for sharing “misinformation”, and most recently I have been called a “stalker” for responding to the misinformed tweets of an anti-GMO blogger. That’s okay because I have the confidence in myself and in what I blog about, and I don’t feel the need to fight with these people anymore to defend what I know to be true. I have also decided to not engage with anti-GMO activists anymore as their minds and their ideals won’t be changed and it’s not worth being put through the ringer and dealing with the stress it brings.

nurselovesfarmer card pic

This thoughtful card from AgMoreThanEver came at a much needed time!

Should We All Agvocate?

Simply answered – no. I strongly feel that if you cannot engage with people in a positive and respectful way, you shouldn’t attempt to agvocate. There’s no need to name-call or assume that people know anything about the agriculture industry, and that if they don’t they are ignorant and stupid, because so many don’t have a clue about anything in ag, and that’s okay. When we put our knowledge out there we must be accurate, accountable, and authentic, as I heard Cami Ryan recently shared in her presentation at Farm Tech, and I wholeheartedly agree. We must remember to agVOCATE and not to become an agTIVIST, there is a huge difference between being an advocate vs. an activist. Let us share our knowledge in agriculture, be proactive, respectfully dispel myths, avoid feuds, and just be positive. Share your story.

I also have to update this to add that I have made some absolutely amazing friends, especially my fellow female ag bloggers, who are some of the most kind, funny, and passionate women I have ever ‘met’ in my life! Love to you all!

 

Bridging the great divide

by Jean L Clavelle

There are some statistics being tossed around these days on social media – only 3% of the population is involved in food production agriculture.  Of those involved in primary production, 98% are family owned and operated.  Interesting as it seems this has set up our culture to be an “us against them” scenario in terms of food production and the general public.

It has been my experience that people in animal agriculture are passionate about raising their animals.  This isn’t a job, it’s a way of life.  Most of my colleagues feel the same way, and primary producers (those directly involved with on-farm production) that I’ve had the pleasure of working with here in western Canada exemplify this statement.  They want to produce a safe product, they want their animals to have a satisfying life and they want to have enough income to provide for their families and continue on with this lifestyle.

Sure there are some bad eggs (sorry for the bad pun) and those that don’t make the right choices.  This happens in every walk of life, every profession, every business however it is not the norm and it is certainly not the norm (or considered acceptable) in animal agriculture.

Sadly animal rights groups and some media presentations like those we saw in the recent W5 report do their best to highlight the small percentage that do not represent what conventional agriculture really is.  And instead of highlighting positive practices, sensationalized media coverage takes small snippets of unacceptable episodes and position them as being the norm.  Let’s be clear, animal rights groups do not want us to use animals in any way shape or form.  They do not believe we should eat meat or any animal by-product.  And unfortunately this message is lost for the average consumer. Continue reading

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan pleased with the success of another ‘We Care’ Billboard Campaign!

By Jean Clavelle

TBillboard campaign June 16his year marks another triumph for the “We Care” billboard campaign initiated by the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS).  The program, which began in 1996, feature beef, bison, horse, chicken, egg and swine producers with their animals and are posted around busy thoroughfares of Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

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It's All Antibiotic Free, Baby!

Reprinted with permission from Hurdhealth.com

 

It’s All Antibiotic Free, Baby!

Posted by
After all of the recent Panera and Chipotle hype about antibiotic free production, I decided to look at the data. This is also a follow up to my previous blog about antibiotic free (ABF) meat; I am going to present some data to back up my claim that there is very little difference between conventional and ABF – in other words, it’s all antibiotic free, baby! #ItsAllABF!

Due to farmers following appropriate withdrawal times, there are very few violations. In fact in the last three years of USDA testing no broiler chickens have been found with violative residues for the scheduled (random) sampling. For beef only 2 violations out of 1,600 samples were found and only 3 out of 2,200 from market hogs.  Note that antibiotics are not toxins, there are useful and very safe products used by us all.

The Bottom Line

The residue detection levels in the 3 classifications that I analyzed (beef cattle, market hogs, and broilers) are extremely small and well below the levels that would cause adverse effects to a human eating the meat. In addition, if an animal tests positive for residues, it does not enter the food supply.

Meat from an ABF farm would supposedly have zero levels of residues – but, if you aren’t going to get sick or be affected by the perfectly healthy, wholesome conventional meat, why should you pay more for something that potentially carries more foodborne illness?

From a veterinary perspective, I am concerned with the internal struggle that the ABF farmer must face. Most farmers get some premium for raising ABF meat, so if the animals get sick does the farmer treat and lose the financial benefits of ABF or wait a day or two? Waiting can increase mortality and spread of infectious disease significantly. What about the veterinarian, who has taken an oath to prevent animal suffering, but management will only let him treat a small percentage of the barns? Can these restaurateurs really argue their ABF meat provides a better “conscience choice,” if it comes at the cost of additional mortality and animal suffering? Continue reading

A reply to "The ethics of food"

The following letter to the editor was submitted as a response to an article published in the Ottawa Citizen, which you can find below the letter itself.

Dear editor,

Thanks to Kate Heartfield for her recent piece, The ethics of food. In an age where food philosophies have become all the rage, it’s healthy to ask question and respect other people’s food choices.  Ontario farmers are willing and able to produce such a variety of foods, grown a variety of ways. As a farmer, I follow food safety, environmental and animal care standards to produce the best beef in a sustainable manner in the Ottawa Valley.  Of course there are many additional standards – including organic, free range, halal and even biodynamic – that some farmers will choose to participate in and need to be paid accordingly. Regardless of what a person’s food politics are, I’m glad when they take the time to consider how food our food is produced.  I also value how fortunate we are to live in a society that has so many food choices available.

Gerald Rollins Beef farmer, Cobden, Ontario Continue reading

Bad, bad big city press

Guest Blog by Steve Kopperund,  Ag issues consultant

 

I’ve decided the general media are pretty much amateurs or hacks when it comes to accurately covering issues in food and agriculture. In no other area of our lives – including the arcane world of high finance – does a single profession get it wrong so much of the time. I’m allowed to say this out loud because I was a general newspaper reporter before I was an agbiz reporter/editor before I was a lobbyist. Continue reading

Why are you choosing organic?

Guest Blog: Lisa McLean, Agricultural communicator

I am fortunate to surround myself with a number of strong, intelligent, critical-thinking friends. Many of them are also parents, and all of them want the very best for their families.  Continue reading

Harvest 4 Hunger

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Hunger relief efforts by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank have been given a big boost by a group of farmers, who set a world record in the process.

Although there were several date changes due to the weather forecast, on October 5, 115 farmers combined a 160 acre soybean field simultaneously in Perth County, Ontario in an event called “Harvest 4 Hunger”.  The crop was harvested in 11 minutes and 43.9 seconds, according to the release sent by the organizers.  Although it was not fast enough to beat a Manitoba wheat harvest record as the fastest harvest ever, it was a great effort.

More importantly, though, it raised approximately $250,000 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to use towards fighting hunger around the world, exceeding the $200,000 goal set by event organizers.

Following the harvest, an auction was held to sell the soybeans.  The release also states the first bushel sold to the public brought $1000, and the first two lots of 1,600 bushels sold for $36 per bushel to the grain trade, which is well above market value.  It is estimated the yield was 8,000 bushels.

In addition to the crowd of approximately 3,000 people who watched the event, there were also two fixed wing aircraft, three helicopters and many video cameras documenting the harvest. 

Once the final weights of grain are known, organizers will have a more accurate total for the amount of money raised.  On the day of the event, lunch was available by donation to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the public can “donate a bushel” for $20 on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website. 

The link for the website is: https://secure.peaceworks.ca/cfgb/donate/donation_make_form?notes=Donate%20a%20Bushel to donate a bushel.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of Christian churches and Christian-based agencies.  It is active in hunger relief efforts in developing countries.

Farmers understand benefits of animal welfare

Farmers must take the lead on animal welfare – their livelihoods depend on it. We like this article, published recently in the Guelph Mercury newspaper, that discusses this fact and a recent national funding announcement designed to take animal welfare even further in Canada – OFAC

Farmers understand benefits of animal welfare
Guelph Mercury
Owen Roberts
May 10, 2010

Healthy animals are profitable animals. And for farmers, profitability is the bottom line. Farmers who treat their animals poorly can face veterinarian bills, and other costly problems – such as a turned-off, unsupportive public. But right now, for the most part, consumers are on farmers’ side. And farmers aim to keep it that way. Continue reading