By Brett Kenzy, Gregory cattle producer, posted November 14, 2018
Just a few weeks ago, I stood before the U.S. Department of Agriculture in D.C. to testify for clear, unambiguous labeling of meat. We asked that the USDA and Food Safety Inspection Service not to allow lab-cultured protein to be labeled as meat.
Before I shared my 3 minute testimony, I spent nearly a day and half listening to what others had to say. After listening to others testify, a few things became clear.
Cattle producers are on the same sheet of music. Now, there were very few cattle producers in attendance. But, those who did show up to testify, had similar testimony to me and the other four members of South Dakota Farmers Union. (How ironic that a COOL advocate such as myself, would be standing beside NCBA representatives and together we'd be testifying for clear, unambiguous, truthful labeling.)
There are huge misconceptions on how cattle is raised in the U.S. Those promoting cell-cultured tissue be labeled as "meat," refer to it as clean meat. Acting as though cattle producers carelessly and wastefully use antibiotics to raise our cattle.
The other side is using these misconceptions to push through their agenda.
I see this meat-labeling discussion as an excellent opportunity for the beef industry to get the real story out about how our cattle are raised.
We need to share the fact that today, we don't do things the way grandpa did. We are capturing runoff and applying manure scientifically.
We use antibiotics judiciously. In fact, over the last two years, our industry has revolutionized the way antibiotics are given to livestock. Just like in humans, antibiotics are only given to animals with a prescription. And, once they are given, there are closely monitored withdrawal times.
This brings me to another point. Consumer groups are on our side. They want truthful labeling.
When we listened to consumer groups' testimony, they were concerned about what artificial products go into lab-cultured tissue, asking questions like, "Will this cause cancer?" "What long-term studies have been done to show it won't cause cancer?" And, challenging the reference to "clean meat," by bringing up concerns over antibiotics and growth hormones used in the lab to artificially imitate what a cow's body would do naturally.
Like the other cattle producers who testified, I am not against this technology. I am for truthful labeling.
I am an advocate for truthful and transparent labeling because I am passionate about what I do everyday as a fourth generation cattle producer.
How exciting is it that I get to spend my life creating a product that I feed to my own family. My brother George and I (pictured at right) and our families eat what we produce. My extended family does too.
We want consumers to have a choice. Ambiguous labels which create an illusion of choice are my primary concern.
The truth is in the labeling. Integrity matters.
Let's share our story and comments with the USDA and Food Safety and Inspection Service. Post your comment today at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001.
And, let our congressional leaders know how you feel.
When we were in D.C. we sat down with Thune's staff, and they knew nothing about the possibility that lab-cultured tissue could be labeled as "meat."
You can reach them at the contact below:
Senator John Thune
Phone: (202) 224-2321
Senator Mike Rounds
Phone: (202) 224-5842