Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's in the numbers

Disclamer: I am in full support of most agricultural producers.

It doesn't matter to me if you choose conventional production methods that include the use of pesticides, herbicides or growth implants or if you choose to produce food products in an organic or natural manner. If a farmer can make a profit in a niche market for organic products, local products or natural products hats off to them. But please, pretty please, don't criticize the thousands of producers who currently employ conventional methods. Too often ignorant consumers and media extremists report that organic, natural and local are the only way to go. What? Excuse me, let me rephrase: WHAT?! In a few concise points below, I hope to illustrate that the world has an undeniable need for conventional methods of production in the coming years. (Note: John Lawrence, ISU agriculture economist has studied the effects of modern technology on beef production. To read more:

  • Some estimates predict that the current world population of 6.7 billion people will expand to 9 billion by 2050.
  • Based on 2007 prices, removing the use of growth-promotant implants, dewormers, and fly control from cow-calf production would increase the breakeven price 47%, a value f $274 per calf.
  • In the feedlot phase, removal of growth implants ionophores antimicrobial therapy, beta-agonists, and dewormers results in a 13.2% increase in breakeven, a $155 value.

If these numbers haven't hit home yet, let me elaborate a bit more. In 2007, 11.1% of US households were reported as food insecure ( If the cost of food production increases as illustrated above, this cost has to be passed onto consumers. If people already cannot afford the price of food, then increased prices only means more of the same. Fewer people can afford food that is becoming increasingly expensive.

Now back to organic, natural and local. While I don't have specific research that supports the following claims, personal experience and first hand observation are enough to tell me that my claims are true. Organic, natural and locally produced foods are more expensive. Because of their comparitively higher cost, fewer people can afford to purchase them. If we require the production of food animals (or plants) to be organic and natural, fewer people are going to be able to purchase enough food to meet the requirements of their family. And this goes without considering the fact that our global population is growing.

Now back to my disclaimer at the beginning. I wholeheartedly support agricultural production, even if its not the method that I would choose. What I don't support though are people who deny the facts--the world population cannot afford to survive on organic, natural and local products alone. There is nothing wrong with consuming or producing such products; but please don't try to pull one over on America by telling her that organic, natural and local are the only way to go. She simply can't afford it.


Jennifer said...


LeAnna said...

Very true. I think both choices should definitely be available, because one way or the other - they're not going to feed a nation. I don't like the use of hormones or steroids in anything, and it makes me grateful that we raise our own beef. (not organic, or solely grass fed, but also not tanked up on anything artificial...) I know not everyone can do that, though...