When I answered the phone, the caller on the other end was not happy. In fact, Carol Eltzroth was fired up to the point of action.
I couldn’t believe it when I received my February issue of Bon Appetit, she fumed. The reason? No. 29, in an oh-so-trendy article, 50 Ways to Eat Green.
“Eat grass-fed beef … A corn-based diet actually makes them [cows] sick, so they need to be routinely treated with antibiotics.”
Eltzroth has a small cow-calf beef herd on Ampthill Plantation, a historic bed and breakfast (the home was the last to be designed by Thomas Jefferson) near Cartersville, Va. Her cows are out on pasture, but, like many beef producers, she also feeds some grain.
She knows feeding grain doesn’t automatically sicken cattle, and the blatant statement made her angry.
I want to write them a letter, Eltzroth said, but I’ve never done that before.
That’s why she called Farm and Dairy. She wanted some advice on how to go about it, what to say, and if I thought it was a good idea.
In my office, the angels sang.
Finally. Finally, there’s someone who will step outside her comfort zone to stand up for agriculture.
A long time ago, I copied down this quote from Illinois animal scientist Stanley Curtis. He said: “The horn of plenty needs tooting. And we are obligated to do some of it.” I use it all the time in some of my presentations to make you squirm. If you’re not willing to speak out on behalf of your industry — your passion — who do you think will do the speaking for you? If your voice is silent, then the only sound the public hears are the voices of PeTA or the Humane Society of the United States.
It’s not always easy and that’s why we choose to remain silent instead. But silence won’t quiet the opposing voices that are getting louder on the issues of animal rights or runoff or pesticide use or GMOs or rbST.
I offered Carol some tips and some encouragement. “They need to hear from a subscriber who’s a real beef producer,” I told her. “Go for it!”
The other day, I received an envelope from Carol containing a copy of the letter she sent to Bon Appetit, along with a note that said I could use her comments, too.
“American farmers are the most highly educated in the world,” she wrote. “Why, then, would any beef producer feed corn to their animals and make them sick, then give them antibiotics to make them well?
“The cattle on my farm are fed a limited amount of corn… No, it does not make them sick!”
Farming is tough enough without having to battle ignorance. But if you choose not to wage that battle, you might just lose the war.
Remember, the horn of plenty needs tooting. And you are obligated to do some of it.