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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Meet Your Meat (and Misinformed Media)

K-Stater's remember all to well an editorial published in our school paper last fall "Vegetarianism: More than just a lifestyle - Meet your Meat" where philosophy student Beth Mendenhall discussed the evil that is eating meat (in her mind at least). This day was particularly memorable for me for a couple reasons. First, as a K-State College of Agriculture and School of Journalism alumna, I was struck by the misinformation used to attack the industry I love. Second, I also know the writer quite well. Beth and I were both on the K-State Debate team and we had numerous heated, but professional, disagreements on this very subject.

I was impressed with the quick response to the article coming from the College of Agriculture, although I felt some responses were much more effective than others. For me, comments that provided facts or personal experiences and addressed specific points Beth made were much more persuasive than those that simply attacked Beth as a person. I was particularly impressed by the response from fellow Food For Thought member Miles Theurer and blogged about his comments on the NCBA Young Producer's Council blog.

I sent in a letter to the editor that was never printed and thought I would share it here. Feel free to comment on how you would have handled the situation.

Dear Editor,

I like Beth Mendenhall. She’s funny, nice and really good at beer pong. I also like meat, beef especially. It’s nutritious, delicious and - unlike Beth - never beats me at beer pong.

But the Collegian opinion article “meet your meat” was anything but fun and games for people involved in agriculture across campus and around the state. I was extremely disappointed in the gross misconceptions Beth puts forth in her article. In fact, I find many things she claimed offensive. As someone who works hand in hand with livestock producers I know they care for their land and animals in a responsible way in order produce a safe, wholesome product and eventually pass their farms and ranches down to future generations.

I also take issue with the UN report Beth references. The vast majority of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributed to livestock production are from deforestation and other significant agricultural land use changes, which do not occur in the United States where we have 16 million more acres of forestland than we did a century ago.

According to EPA, the entire U.S. agricultural sector contributes just 6.4 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. (

Additionally, muscle protein is a good way to make your carbons count when it comes to your diet. For example, beef is a nutrient-dense, high protein food choice with 29 cuts that meet government lean labeling guidelines.

All that being said, there was one comment Beth made that I did appreciate. She mentioned “voting with your pocketbook.” For me, this is far superior than trying to legislate what livestock producers can or cannot do. Supply will follow demand. If you prefer an alternative like antibiotic free, locally grown meat products, and are willing to pay the premium it costs to produce them, livestock producers will happily meet your needs.

A proud 97.5 percent of Americans eat meat and should continue to do so knowing they are supporting a hard working, wholesome group of farmers and ranchers. Right now consumers are overwhelmingly voting for affordable, conventionally produced meat. This is a healthy, responsible choice. Personally, it’s my preference. Make your own decision. But also respect the opinions and decisions of others. All I ask is that you base your decisions on sound science – something Beth failed to do- and don’t attempt to pass regulations that would limit other people’s food choices.

Chelsea Good

Communication Studies Graduate Student

1 comment:

  1. One comment I would make. If you want to get a Letter to the Editor published you should keep it much shorter than I did in this situation. I've heard that 200 words is about right.



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