Quotes from Oprah tell the story

Well the slam on modern agriculture wasn’t as bad as I expected from Oprah’s show today featuring Michael Pollan, Kathy Freston and Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, Manager of Cargill’s Fort Morgan Plant.

First, I think it is great that Cargill opened their slaughterhouse doors to allow viewers to see how the beef animals are processed. They showed the great system designed by Temple Grandin that keeps the animals calm as they walk through a snake-like shaped alley. This was graphic and the talk on twitter was that many people were turning vegan immediately. However, I’m sure a lot of them will get over the shock, realize that is how life is, and enjoy their hamburger tonight. Also, Timmerman Feedyard from LeSalle, Colorado, showed some great facts on why we feed cattle a concentrated diet of grains and forage and how long they are in the feedlot – around 200 days.

The quotes below were taken from the show and you can see my comments following.

“You shouldn’t be eating meat if you don’t know where it came from,” – Pollan
Pollan made this comment after watching the Cargill video. He tried to convince the audience that you have a moral obligation to know where your food comes from and you should think about the animal before considering eating meat.

“We are feeding animals grain that should be used to feed people.” – Pollan
In actuality, 99% of the corn that is raised in the U.S. is field corn – used to feed animals and make a renewable fuel, ethanol. The remaining 1% is sweet corn that people eat. Obviously, we are not feeding livestock corn that we would eat. Trust me – I’ve tried it and it’s chewy and not sweet! But the cattle love it! Otherwise they wouldn’t eat it either.

“I eat meat, just not industrialized or feedlot meat.” – Pollan
Pollan himself is not a vegan. He just doesn’t eat industrialized or feedlot meat. He did say that many producers today are raising their animals humanely and it’s ok to eat meat from them. I would say that all livestock producers I know are these people.

“Most all animals live a happy life and have one bad day.” – Pollan
This was the one (and maybe the first) statement that I agree with Pollan on. Animals raised for food are treated humanely – up to the point they are harvested – and Cargill proved this.

“People should think about the animal that had to die to provide that meat.” – Pollan
This sounds a little morbid, and really brings in the emotional part of animal agriculture. As Nicole from Cargill put it, “The animals are handled with dignity.”

“Cheap food is a blessing, but also a curse.” – Pollan
In terms of all of the processed food that is out there today, Pollan and Oprah analyzed that eating a more natural diet is healthier for you.

“We should definitely do Meatless Mondays, but those who want to eat meat can. Let’s not get sued for it!” – Oprah
This just cracked me up and I had to include it. Obviously, Oprah was very sensitive throughout the whole show and did not contribute much to the conversation.

Kathy Freston, a vegan celebrity, came on the show next and talked to many of the Harpo employees.
“Kathy Freston is not a nutritionist, just a vegan.” – Oprah
So why is she considered the “expert” in eating vegan – just because she is a celebrity?

“You have a choice in the food you buy.” –Oprah
Oprah made a point and I think didn’t even realize it – you have a choide in the food you buy because of modern agriculture providing safe and affordable food. You have the choice to buy organic or natural, but know it is a niche market and you are probably more willing to pay for it.

The best quote of the show:
“My family has a dairy, so going vegan affects our livelihood.” – Oprah’s senior supervising producer Jill VanLokeren (thanks for the update from my comments)
It was great that this specific audience member expressed the concern about how a vegan lifestyle affects her family’s livelihood. Kathy Freston later took her to Whole Foods to learn about food she could buy. She may change some of her eating habits, but she wanted them to know she was not going all vegan because of the dairy in her family.

I was most disappointed that they didn’t define that being vegan means more than not eating meat, cheese, milk or eggs. There are many products that you use that involve animal products – the rubber in your tires, detergents, adhesives, medicines, paint, dyes and more.

And lastly, this is what my dog, Hank, thinks of going vegan:

What was your take on the show?

5 thoughts on “Quotes from Oprah tell the story

  1. Kelsey, Thanks for this detailed report on the show. I missed it because I was outside chopping ice so their food (maybe not this week but when they are no longer on their vegan fad) could have a drink when they were done eating the hay I delivered to them. Will she ever have an actual food producer on the show instead of just some elitist trying to sell books?

  2. The most important fact of this show, which was extremely brief, is that the Veganist author, who received an hour long commercial for her book, is married to one of Oprah's biggest partners in the OWN network. Also, the biggest advertiser on Oprah's Website? Kashi- the products that all of the Oprah employees ate with such excitement throughout the show- follow the money…..

    Joe Webel
    Grain & Livestock Farmer

  3. The "My family has a dairy, so going vegan affects our livelihood." quote was actually said by Oprah's senior supervising producer Jill VanLokeren.

  4. Kelsey,
    I love the quotes you chose to comment on above, especially Hank! For those that read this and do not know I work for Cargill and spent 5 months in a beef plant. Producing and processing beef is a very challenging livelihood and I commend all of the farmers and ranchers who produce the food that feeds our families every day. My firsthand experiences brought forth a new found appreciation for how our beef is processed. I witnessed how a safety driven harvest process pertains to the consumer and the immense food safety regulations that are followed. After 5 months I only learned the basics, as the processes in place are rigorous and complex to provide the most assuredly safe product. The employees are very hard workers and take pride in producing the beef that they know feeds this country. Cattle really are treated with dignity, and respect while produced to feed the world. God gave us cattle so that we could eat beef as a source of protein which is essential to life.
    Beef is wholesome, nutritious and provides a source of protein that, in my opinion, could not be replaced. I believe the beef industry, from ranchers to retailers, carries a personal responsibility to raise, feed, and process beef in a humane manner as it affects their livelihood and their businesses. If one would shadow a cattle producer today, one would see that the cattle come before most of the people themselves when it comes to bad weather, illness, etc. With winter storms sweeping the Midwest, cattle producers are cleaning out bunks in negative degree weather, breaking ice so they can have water to drink, making sure cattle are fed and well taken care of. Cattle truly live humane and happy lives with one "bad day". That “bad day” as Pollan refers to, is still a calm and respectful day. A gamut of research has lead to procedures that have been implemented to ensure that utmost care is utilized.
    I feel that true "vegans" do not exist, because of the broad range of products cattle and cattle by products are used for. As Kelsey said, even the rubber in our tires have animal by-products in them. As we said at the plant “We save everything but the moo!”
    I loved being a part of a beef plant for 5 months. The work that is done is extremely demanding and makes me want to eat more beef to support the people who take great pride in producing it. I feel Oprah’s show was a bit one sided and could have used more beef industry experts, or at least unbiased information, to discuss how beef is produced and provide factual information as opposed to what I call “celebrity” information. Although gruesome for some to watch, I hope people appreciate where beef comes from and eat more of it!

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