On Oct. 28, Richard Raymond, the former Undersecretary for Food Safety at USDA, wrote a short piece about industrial agriculture, food safety, the recent Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) report about industrial livestock production, and (allegedly, although not really) feeding the world. In this op-ed, he took pains to characterize the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future as “incensed” and suggested that CLF is wrong on points of fact. Sigh. I will grant him some keen insights regarding the inefficiencies and embarrassing displays by this Congress. As for the rest of it, I could rebut at length. But we’ve been there, done that. Ditto for Consumer Reports, the Pew Health Group, and a former FDA commissioner. Instead of dignifying with a response this collage of misrepresentations, I will turn to Food Safety News readers. They comprise a very astute — and incisive — readership, indeed. Here are some of my favorite excerpts: From farmber: “Choice is great Doc! But unless there’s a transparent system behind it all then it really just comes down to marketing claims and ploys.” From Shelley Powers: “If we did eat much less meat, we could then afford to buy better quality meat from smaller farmers and smaller producers. These same producers can then afford to implement more safety procedures, and the farmers use more humane and healthier livestock practices. Once we attack the assumption that the food system in the US has to continue with the same output, or more, everything else changes. And therein lies my criticism of Dr. Raymond’s defense of “modern” livestock and farming practices. He wants to maintain the status quo; I want to us to do better. From Nic Parton: “I don’t believe Dr. Raymond really wants “all parties at the table.” Small-scale producers get an off-hand mention near the end of his article, implying that sustainable farming practices are too expensive for the average American. Well, meat is expensive. Especially meat raised on high-quality grain, instead of grass (which is, incidentally, what the “Corn Belt” would naturally be if it were not over-farmed in monoculture).” From Colleen Galvin: “If we stopped inefficiently funneling all the grains and soybeans through animals to feed the few, we would have more plant-based foods to feed all. All would be fed, not just the people rich enough to purchase animal flesh; a gross waste of our universal resources like water and land.” From justic4all: “The faulty assumption in this article is that we need to be producing the tremendous amount of meat that we do. Most people eat FAR more than the recommended amount of meat per day/week — and not enough vegetable and plant matter.” Thank you very much, farmber, Shelley, Nic, Colleen, and justic4all. You’ve said it very well.

  • Chuck

    Dr. Lawrence’s response should be headlined, “In Defense of Veganism.” It doesn’t seem to have much to do with modern food production in general or Doc Raymond’s Op/Ed.

  • Beef Lover

    Dr. Lawrence: Dr. Raymond is only trying to provide balance in this discussion. He has no financial interests in this discussion. He simply is trying to convey the facts as he sees them. His approach is no different than CLF. You on the other hand, as well as your comentors referenced above just happen to agree with CLF. Others, like myself, happen to agree with Dr. Raymond. In the USA we once had liberty and freedom to choose. Now, we are having those decisions made for us by a ruling class that thinks they are above reproach and censor. Liberty or Death.

    • Oginikwe

      No financial interests?
      “For Truth and Transparency, I want the readers to know that I do some consulting on food safety and public health for Elanco, a marketer of antibiotics . . .”

      Antibiotics and Animals Raised for Food: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
      (Food Safety News) 1/7/2013: https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/01/antibiotics-and-animals-raised-for-food-lies-damn-lies-and-statistics/

      • doc raymond

        No one in the industry even knew I was writing the OpEd in question. I wrote it in response to an email from Chuck Jolley, who is employed by Food Safety News. I received zero in compensation for it. I have no financial interest in this piece and I have already provided the info needed for truth and transparency.

        • Oginikwe

          As you so stated back in January nearly verbatim.

  • LouWho

    Wow, you wrote an opinion piece using only other people’s opinion, that you picked from multiple responses, to support your idea (the exact argument made about the “science” in the PEW report). I’d think a Doctor would be a bit more objective and a little less…lazy? Were you going to mention that you maybe felt Raymond’s comments as a personal attack? Also, Can we point out the logic issues associated with the posts and that their “facts” are based on opinion and their IDEA of agriculture?
    farmber – there is a difference between a transparent system and expecting everything to be laid out and spelled out for you. The information is there yet you don’t believe it or agree with it, “transparency” will not change that.
    Shelley Powers – We’ll glide over your assumption that smaller is better. What you state is not how economics and a free market or capitalist market works. Once “small” farmers start to become successful, they grow. Hormel started out as a grocery store/butcher shop. You would be VERY hard pressed to find a producer, of anything, that given the chance would decide not to expand their markets. So then you’d be calling those you once championed the now enemy. Vicious cycle you’ve built yourself. Besides, much of what goes to the Hormel’s and Tyson’s of the world come from small producers.
    Nic Parton – Small is not synonymous with sustainable as people like to think. In fact, small producers tend to cut corners because implementing truly (not what you imagine of a mom and pop farm from the 1800s) sustainable practices is very expensive. And takes more grass than grain to sustain meat. And not all meat sources can eat grass to live, just ruminants. Your assumption here seems to be that grass would be a cheaper alternative – have you seen hay prices lately?
    Colleen Falvin – see above, also right now meat is the most cost efficient way to deliver protein and certain vitamins to the masses. The amount of veg that would be required to achieve the same result would be more expensive. Which in fact is why the system is where it is – everyone wants meat. If that weren’t the case the market would be in a different place.
    justic4all – ok, work with those people then. But for now it’s supply and demand. And the demand is there and growing. Sounds like you are upset with people making the demands. I’d love to hear a good way of telling people what to do. Let me know when you find it.

    • It’s difficult to pull a coherent thread out of the jumble of assertions made in your comment.

      I don’t believe anyone made any comment that smaller producers and grass fed cows is somehow cheaper. On the contrary, we are more than aware that the product costs would be higher.However, the costs to both health and environment would decrease, the quality would increase—all of which, to me, compensates for the higher cost of the meat.

      We eat more meat than we need for health. We have taken meat eating to an obnoxious excess. If 6 ounces is sufficient, than 18 ounces is _so much better_. And please, do add a couple of potatoes with lots of butter or sour cream, or both. And desert better be something with chocolate that’s guaranteed to send us into a diabetic coma.

      And this isn’t a rare occasion meal, either. We demand a full meal like this for 10 dollars or less, or somehow America as we know is coming to an end.

      If meat is such an efficient way of delivering protein, then why do we have to eat so much of it?

  • doc raymond

    For those who may not know, Dr. Lawrence is the Founder of the Center for a Livable Future. i don’t know why he does not make that clear. And I agree that the comments he chose to quote are fairly obviously against consuming meat. Either that or they just don’t get why farming today is different than it was 50 years ago, a point I tried to make. I don’t know where he is coming from when he says “allegedly although not really feeding the world”. I spent much of the last 8 years of my life working with the international community trying to help bring about food security. The last overseas trip I took a month ago I had to pay $100 for a simple hamburger. Shelley and others might say that is a “good thing” because we won’t eat as much meat. I say that is a bad thing because choice has been taken away for most of that country’s residents. Shelley, we can always improve but we are far better than just a few decades ago. Children don’t die from drinking milk, in 2010 E coli O157:H7 illnesses were the lowest since we started testing, no more Trichinosis from eating pork, Salmonella on young chicken carcasses at an all time low last quarter.

    • A brief bio is provided for Dr. Lawrence if you click his name—the same for all opinion writers to FSN.

      I’m not against eating meat. I wrote “eating less”, and somehow that became “none” to you, which then makes it difficult to have any discussion.

      You can get a hamburger from a dollar menu in the states. But hamburgers made of kobe beef or with exotic extras, in fancy restaurants, costs considerably more. These are the same places that also charge you $20 for a bottle of water, which we can get from the tap.

      It is an absurd argument, which again makes it difficult to have any rational debate.

      Children stopped dying from milk when pasteurization was introduced a hundred years ago, not the last few decades.

      You have the background to bring a legitimate debate, but you don’t bring it. Instead you make absurd arguments and overgeneralize what we say in return.

    • susanrudnicki

      Sir—YOU do not “worry” about the millions who cannot afford healthy
      “choices” . As soon as your version of “choice” gets exported to
      other formerly “poorer” countries, their general health dives downward.
      Around the world, the trashy American model of eating—lots of flesh
      foods, engineered foods, processed foods—is contributing to a
      explosion of obesity and its related diseases. India, China, Mexico,
      Brazil all are becoming sicker and fatter and our export markets and
      USDA foreign Ag development schemes lead the way to this decline.
      Mexico recently passed the good ‘ole USA in the category of ‘most
      overweight citizens’.

      I grew up in Loup County
      Nebraska, on a cattle ranch, and (unlike MY memories), your memories do
      not seem to acknowledge that the average American of that era did not
      eat the amount of meat or the number of calories that the current
      citizen does—-urban OR rural. My former neighbors in Loup Co. often
      don’t even have vegetable gardens anymore. They buy second rate
      imported produce from the supermarket and eat way too much junk and meat
      and are uniformly exhibiting the “mid-West body type”—thick in the
      middle and suffering degenerative diseases the folks a generation ago
      rarely had.
      For your information, several years ago, the
      World Health Organization published the arresting fact that, for the
      first time in history, there are now MORE people in the world who are
      OVER-FED than UNDER-FED. Your personal “choice” is rooted in economic
      modeling more than obsequious sensitivity for the starving. The
      vaunted “efficiency” of modern AG is to feed more meat animals to more
      people to accomplish more profit for the ones in control of this
      inefficient system. Your opinion piece is fooling none of us here.

  • elizabeth dana

    Congratulations to Modern Science …You just saved my life ! whew close call ..who would think in 2013 I would receive an electronic email of Highest Importance …”TO NOT EAT MY LETTUCE” …..wow progress and modern marvels…”.better living through modern chemistry”… AND “electronics are the wave of the future” I did get my money’s worth in free education as a United States Citizen! …..btw ………………Everyone please wash your hands!