Response Editorial: Proud To Help Feed the World


Response to “Look at our Food Chain” by Robert Allen Rieck, Jr

As a person who has spent my entire life in agriculture and primarily in animal agriculture, I find the op-ed of Robert Allen Rieck, Jr. of Lincoln published in the Scottsbluff Star-Herald June, 2020 extremely offensive.  Mr. Rieck implies pandemic influence is caused by eating meat.  He refers to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) citing one of the threats facing humanity is pandemic influenza.  He neglects to state that another threat facing humanity is starvation.  As the population of the world continues to grow, we in agriculture are being told we need to increase food production by 70% by 2050.  Without high quality protein from animals, even more cultivated food production will be needed.

I can only speak to the life cycle of cattle because that is the species I raise.  They do not spend their lives in intense confinement.  Actually, they spend the majority of their lives grazing forage that is not utilized by humans for food and is often not tillable  If they do enter a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) they are there for limited days before harvest.  They are provided ample space to move about and socialize.  Cattle are herding animals and will congregate even when out in the pasture.

Antibiotics which are medically important (used in human health) require veterinarian oversight when fed to animals. There are withdrawal times on antibiotics before an animal can be harvested.  Antibiotic resistance is a concern for animal agriculture.  We need antibiotics that are effective when an animal gets sick.  Judicial use of antibiotics is a cornerstone of the Beef Quality Assurance program, a producer initiative to ensure animal care and wellbeing guidelines.

Zoologic infections are likely to continue.  They are not a result of modern animal agriculture production.  Recent incidences of concerning diseases have come from regions of the world that do not have the same safe, best-practices we utilize in the United States. 

I am proud of the role I have played in providing high quality protein for the world as I know all producers in Western Nebraska are.

Written by: Jerry Underwood – Alliance, NE

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