Sunny Side Up(date)

Ventured into the newsroom this morning.   Already in a ‘mood’ so what’s a little more irritation and angst?

Read the latest regarding food poisoning allegations and egg recalls.

Seems FDA Chief Margaret Hamburg needs more ‘power’ in order to do her job properly.   She’d also like to have greater authority over imported foods.

Funny, the tainted eggs came from farms in Iowa.  When did they become defined as foreign imports?

She is, however, taking the ‘egg problem’ very seriously.  Apparently laws that allow the shutdown of lemonade stands and small dairy farms (read here, and here, and oh, lookee, here’s another….) have failed miserably when it comes to keeping big corporations on the straight and narrow.  She simply must have more authority in her fight against evil egg producers.

She calls for more enforcement and preventative power.  Oh, and would you people please quit eating eggs sunny side up too?

(I can see aides and under-paid paralegals frantically adding that decree to some sub-section in the pending Modern Food Safety Act….)

Sheesh.   Have you no intelligence whatsoever?  Must we now legislate how your breakfast  be cooked, too?

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What really caught my eye was the long list of previous violations by DeCoster companies (seems the two main farms in this tragedy are owned by or heavily linked to Wright County Egg and Quality Egg, both owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster).

Between 1994 and 2010, seems DeCoster companies have run afoul of and had to pay large fines for multiple offenses regarding harm to the environment, employees and animals.

As my eyes re-read the timeline, I noticed heavy involvement by Labor Secretaries, EPA, Immigration authorities and animal welfare groups… the list was long and varied, but allusions to different agencies involved made my mind fill in, “OSHA”, “Fair Wage & Labor”, “State Environmental agencies”…

I didn’t see FDA or subtle reference to such at all in the long list.   Guess they were anxiously sitting in their offices, unable to join in the battle because they didn’t have proper authority and power….

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Really, what kind of product did you expect from those who don’t care if hog waste runs off into local waterways, if  employees have safe and clean working conditions, who continually hire illegal immigrants willing to work for peanuts and suffer all kinds of indignities just to stay in the country and eat?  Apparently these folks also make the typical slave quarters of the pre-war south look like mansions when compared to the living conditions of their animals.

Rather than just blindly giving Ms. FDA some more power, me thinks perhaps a little more research is required.

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Some preliminary digging into historic egg prices tells me savvy egg producers plan for space and animal workforce management to counteract the dips in productivity compliments of the molting process.

(Which in chicken speak means, renewal time.  “I’m taking time off from reproducing and growing me some new feathers to replace these old, shabby ones.”   Nature does have a cycle.   Which, historically, is rebelliously out of sync with consumer demands….)

According to one poultry specialist report attempting to educate in regards to Flock Management the average wholesale price per dozen of eggs from 1983 – 2002 was 52.3¢.

I figure this is probably a good number, since the report was ‘sponsored’ by the United Egg Producers.  They better know how much money they get per dozen, else their 10-year approach to flock management will be severely handicapped.

This author also contends that prices took a jump in 2003.  Up to an average of .58¢ per dozen.  One section puzzled me:

“Are we entering a period of time for significant changes in the prices we receive for our eggs?  If so, should we re-think our replacement policies? If prices justify the elimination of molting is the industry prepared to make a major investment in new rearing facilities?”

How are they ‘eliminating’ molting?   Have they found the secret to keeping chickens from dropping their feathers?  How do the birds feel about this?  Did Mother Nature get the memo?

Further reading indicates they eliminate molting by selling off the chickens.  And replacing them with new ones, ready to lay….

Sometimes my cynical heart leads me to jump to conclusions….

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I also question the container in which these egg farmers are doing business.   A search to find who actually sets the wholesale price for eggs informs me it’s either complicated or on a need-to-know-basis, and I do not need to know.  (or perhaps I need to polish up my searching skills….it does happen….)

I did find this quote regarding poultry and egg prices from the USDA’s Economic Research website (tsk, tsk, last updated April, 2009):

“With almost 18 percent of total poultry production being exported, the U.S. poultry industry is heavily influenced by currency fluctuations, trade negotiations, and economic growth in its major importing markets.”

Okay, that’s interesting.   Has anyone heard the rumor a global economic crisis is going on?   Maybe egg prices were reduced in order to keep folks from starving due to poverty.   Lowered prices means egg producers need to get their profits from quantity, not quality….just a speculation…

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My brain committee speaks up about a gal I worked with years ago.

I never saw this gal wear the same outfit twice during the six months I was a temp in her office.   During a visit to her home,  my hostess proudly showed me her master closet, and two other full-size closets packed from floor to rafter with clothes. They made the local Goodwill racks look sparse and neat.

She was appalled I paid an average of $8/gallon for raw milk from an organic farm. (translation: small flock, healthy animals, modest lifestyle owners who love God’s creatures, great and small.)

She routinely went clothes shopping in order to keep her wardrobe and fashion plate status renewed.   In her mind, organic dairy farmers were interfering with my right to dress well.

When a society encourages fashionable, extravagant wardrobes over basic nutrition, then we all have a problem.

(No, I don’t look in other people’s medicine cabinets…It’s just her bad luck to combine a tour of her wardrobe with criticisms of my food choices…and my ability to type…)

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The buy-local-organic community cries “corporate farming” is the root of most of our evils.

I say corporate farming grew in the fertile ground prepared by a busy, complex society who values luxuries over necessities and demands ‘instant gratification’.

“I want an Egg McMuffin, My Way and I want it now!  Hurry up, I’m late for work.”

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Philip Zimbardo defines Evil as

The Exercise of Power to Intentionally Harm, Hurt, Destroy or Commit Crimes against Humanity.

He also contends it’s not just bad apples who commit Evil.  Often, it’s good apples who have been placed in a poor situation and are required to operate under a problematic system.

The plot thickens….

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The AP article listed over 3.5 million dollars paid by DeCoster Farms in fines and settlements since 1994, though I think they just highlighted the big ones.

Are the owner and his managers Evil people who must be stopped via a more powerful FDA?

Or are they business men trying to make a living in a system that demands short-cuts and piss-poor conditions just in order to make a living off a commodity they have no direct power in setting the price of other than through pricey lobbyists and campaign donations? (those two items do not come cheap…)

Have they grown so big and received so many tax breaks, they can survive even in the face of million dollar penalties, fines and settlements?

Did they grow to immense proportions through Taking Over the World Intent, or did they do their best to meet supplier demands in a price fixing system?

Did they discover they could not fulfill supply demands, profit requirements, regulatory fees, labor laws, environmental protection acts and good animal husbandry practices all at the same time?  Did they truly set out to destroy the average American or did they slide one slippery step at a time down a muddy slope built and maintained by our government and culture?

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One last observation – It’s amazing to me how I don’t have to go any further than my Yahoo email “What’s New?” tab to connect with reports on the Salmonella outbreak that simply cries out for more FDA power and authority.

Mainstream media is just in time as Congress reconvenes on September 13th and Senate Bill S510 is on the agenda.

I have to scan Facebook, read emails from a friend and surf independent blogs or small locally owned media to find out how local, state and federal authorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of small dairy, poultry and meat operations.

Via charges of regulatory, permit and licensing violations.

Resulting in operation shut down, seizure and/or destruction of personal property and Cease and Desist orders, punishable by jail time if ignored. (Grazin’ Acres, Bechard Family Farms, Rawesome organic co-op, Palmer Family Farm, Brigitte Ruthman just to name a few…)

These small farms were targeted via sting operations or unannounced raids by local regulatory agencies.   No allegations of tainted food, food borne illness, environmental hazards, labor violations or cruelty to animals have been made by those leveling charges.

They face extinction because they dared to provide themselves, their neighbors and local community with healthy, nutritious food.

But you won’t hear about them through Yahoo News or the AP.

Cause if you did, you’d tell Ms. FDA and the authors of S510 they already have power aplenty and they’d better start focusing their enforcement efforts on the proper targets.

Tyranny grows to power in the field of Fear and Hysteria.

Common Sense

I received a comment on one of my posts containing the words “common sense”.

Yes, I’m a big fan of common sense.   But I also have plenty of examples where defining ‘common’ isn’t so easy.

Take the debate over raw milk.   Anyone raised on a farm with dairy animals and/or a knowledge of human history will tell you it’s ‘common sense’ that milk from a healthy animal is okay for digestion by humans.

That same person will also tell you if there’s blood, pus or other yuckky matter in the milk, then not only you, but your animal has a huge problem.

However, a friend who works for a doctor confided in me his response when she told him about my raw milk adventures.

“Raw milk?!?   That stuff’s full of blood, pus and bacteria.”  Charges of stupidity or insanity were not made, but I suspect were thought.

Now, common sense for a doctor would say if a new nursing mother came in with blood and pus issues, there is some illness afoot that must be fixed.

Apparently, his ‘doctor’s common sense’ didn’t make the transfer to ‘raw milk common sense’.

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In the past 4 years, I’ve been given a ‘tour’ of four dairy operations.   Two organic and two not.    Two with plenty of pasture and two not.   Three I would drink milk from – one not.

Here’s my ‘common sense’ criteria:

  • How close does the animal feed match what they would eat if in the wild?
  • How clean are the facilities?
  • How much fresh air and green pasture does the animal get access too?
  • How much personal interaction takes place between the owner and individual herd members?
  • How overworked is the owner?  Tired?  Stressed?

I sadly must report to you, that though I had personal liking for the owner of the farm who flunked, I was not impressed with their operations.

Out of the four dairy operations toured, they were the only ones who sold to the local Milk Cooperation.   You know, the cooperation that buys milk from farmers for .09 a gallon, pasteurizes it and makes it safe for your consumption and then sells it to you for $2.36 or more per gallon.

I must also report that this farm has since gone out of business.  Even with playing by the rules and regulations, having enough cows to keep them and two hired hands busy milking 24/7, they still couldn’t make it financially off .09 per gallon.

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In contrast, the three other places I toured had 20 head or less.   One place had some hired help for busy times, the other two took care of operations themselves.   Where limited land did not allow for pure pasture feeding, even in the ‘green season’, owners contributed to their local economy by purchasing hay from their land-rich, livestock poor neighbors.

Two of the operations had jumped through all the necessary hoops in order to offer raw milk to their customers via milkshares.   They both had a waiting list for their shares.   They chose not to increase the herd to answer supply demands, because they were already pushing their own limits on what can be accomplished in a day.

They also steadfastly refused to either initiate more milk production via chemicals on the animals they did have or to purchase animals bred specifically to give a life-time’s worth of milk in 2 years.

One operation was that of a friend, who loves her goats and their milk.  Who risked imprisonment when she offered me raw goats milk in exchange for the homemade bread I had made for her.

The powers that be don’t care what kind of common sense I have.  They are vigilant in protecting me from my own foolish choices in both food and friends.

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Those who cry “use your common sense” to those who are just a vehemently crying for ‘stricter food safety laws’ forget the sense each side has is not common to the other.

Paying an average of $8/gallon direct to the local farmer who feeds you and treats his animals right makes sense to the raw milk group.  Fresh air, green grass, sunshine and plenty of room to isolate the healthy from the ill members, who are identified by someone who spends their life earning a living via healthy animals seems rational too.  Studies showing how ingestion of pasteurized milk actually robs your body of more calcium than you get just back up our ancestors choices and obvious ability to live and procreate while drinking milk that has naturally soured, because they didn’t have Frigidaire or Louis Pasteur.   Quality over Quantity, Good Nutrition, Local Resilience and Freedom of Choice are all based on a collective ‘common sense’ of this group.

Paying $2.36 a gallon for pasteurized milk  deemed safe by the FDA, nutritious by the USDA and touted as a staple in the fight against osteoporosis makes sense to the other side – both for their budget and their health.   Those whose ancestral line contains the “lactose intolerant’ gene also have sense enough to support legislation and laws to protect people from their own follies.  Everyone knows large greedy corporations will cut corners any chance they get.   Big CEO and share holders’ dividends depend on profitable margins.   They must be watched.  Those Bark Eaters and Tree Huggers who want us all back in the stone age must be watched too.   From their knowledge base, Pasteurized makes sense.

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Our forefathers tried to ensure a country where we could each follow our own brand of ‘common sense’.   They also attempted to give us the freedom to engage in both activities and education that would broaden our ‘common sense’ knowledge base.

In short, they didn’t try to force their brand of common sense on us, rather taught us that only with the Freedom of Choice could we hope to come to conclusions on what we want and what we don’t.

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Not as eloquent or fancy or even soul stirring as Thomas Paine’s original Common Sense, but current times are trying my soul….

Freedom of Food Choices

A few years ago, in an attempt to avoid becoming involved in politics, I told a dairy owner how the battle regarding legal access to raw milk would really be won:

“When 80% of the population prefers raw milk over pasteurized, then legislative bodies must heed the voice of the people.  I’ll contribute to the movement by educating people on the benefits of raw milk and the drawbacks of pasteurized.”

Grassroots movements are, to my mind, the only way to bring about lasting change.   The law just tags along in the wake of social reform.

I see now how naive I was.  I stand corrected.

I should have joined the Raw Milk Association of Colorado then.

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I awake to find yet another story of more small dairies raided by local authorities because they dared to give customers what they want – raw milk.  While complying with the local laws.   Which were so broad in nature, they are open to interpretation.

Problem #1

Our complex society contains an equally complex legal system.   Given our desire for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, we’ve raced around for more than 200 hundred years, forming new laws whenever it seemed one of the Big Three were being threatened by individuals or groups.

In our quest to be safe, secure and free, with the legal backing to punish those who engage in activities harmful to others, we’re slowly wrapping our heads in a plastic bag.

Which, you’ll remember, your mother specifically told you not to do…

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Katherine Mangu-Ward’s article, Why Buy the Cow? references three dairy farms who have been the target of bureaucratic raids this summer.  All were going forth with their business, secure in their knowledge they were satisfying all laws and regulations, only to find out they weren’t.  Supposedly because the laws where they live are not specifically, item-by-item clear.   In other words:

“Ignorance of our Interpretation of the law is no excuse.”

Sigh…

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As more folks learn the benefits of raw milk, customer base grows.   Instead of proper legislation and regulation reform occurring to support local business, individual freedom of food choice and safety for the individual, we actually see more raids, more destruction or confiscation of private property and all other kinds of personal freedom violations.

Even when no one has gotten sick or filed a complaint.   This tells me Bureaucratic backlash against Grassroots movements does occur.  Around the raw milk industry it happens frequently.

So much for social change via legal,  non-violent means. (First Amendment: Right to Petition)

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Where do you draw the line between public safety and individual choice?

How do you fight to preserve your chosen way of life when you have followed the laws, harmed no one and still the local powers that be see you as a threat to society? (Grazin’ Acres Shutdown)

For those who cry for more Safe Food laws and regulations, I’ll remind you there are already remedies in place.

They are called Civil Litigation and Boycott.

If you purchase directly from a food supplier and end up ill, due to their carelessness (not your messy kitchen) then you sue for damages.   If that financial blow isn’t enough to either get their attention and result in improvement or shut down,  then a Boycott will put them out of business.

(I’m pretty certain there are no Federal Bailout funds for small, locally owned dairies. Warning! Boycotts wield the most power within a Free Market, which is quickly disappearing…)

For those who wish for more Food Safety I ask, “When are you going to take some personal responsibility, too?”

I’m convinced there are many benefits from raw milk, but I also took the time to tour the farm and know my supplier.   I observed how their animals were cared for and what kind of living conditions they had.

After all this, had I become ill, I would have had a comin’ to Jesus meeting with my supplier.   Asked them to pay the doctor bill, if applicable. Then made a choice of whether to continue doing business with them or not.

I can do all that by myself without wasting tax-paid services to go do my work for me…

Right now, I can still do that.  You keep whining ‘keep me safe, keep me safe’ I’ll lose that choice….Please quit whining.

(Whining really grates on my nerves…)

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If you’ve lost a loved one to food poisoning, then perhaps you’re thinking, “She just doesn’t get it.  If she had lost someone, she’d be taking this seriously.”

Well, newsflash, I’ve lost a son.   He was 17. Killed by bacterial meningitis.   He saw a doctor on Friday and a doctor on Monday morning, with phone consultations on Saturday and Sunday.   Monday morning he got some shots and was sent back home.  Quit breathing about 2 hours later.   Went into a coma.   Spent a day on life support and was brought back from the pearly gates 3 times before I was told there was no hope.

I was assured no mal-practice took place, via a coroner’s investigation.

Who cares?  I took him to folks with a license proclaiming they are legally permitted to  ‘practice medicine’.   I knew what I was getting into.

You don’t see me storming the nation’s capital shouting, “Hey!  I’m tired of all this practicing.  Can you please make it illegal for these folks to be in business unless they damn sure know what they’re doing?   Can you please pass another law so people will quit dying?”

People get sick and people die.  Yes, we would like to prevent it.  Yes, we have an emotional investment.   But please quit blindly calling for laws that cannot possibly prevent all death and illness, but will severely hamper our freedoms in their quest to attempt to.

Sheesh…how many times do I have to say it?

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin, Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin

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Research Notes: I was aware of news stories of illness traced back to a goat milk-share farm in Colorado around late June, early July.   I wanted to find an update on that investigation.

A google search of the keywords, “raw goat milk farm in Colorado, July shutdown” produced:

6,740 links in .26 seconds.  The first 11 revealed three bloggers screaming about food safety, 6 watchdog groups relaying information about raids and seizures on personal food stores, and 2 organizations calling for action before our freedom to eat the way we choose is lost.

I like Google.   It both tells me when my search skills need polishing and also gives me an idea of what the national climate around a subject is.  It highlights who knows how to tag, keyword and Search Optimize and who doesn’t.

Those who fight for Freedom of Food Choice are not only good at footnoting their articles, but they also know how to properly SEO their stuff!  Thus ending the allegation that those who prefer raw milk are “uneducated, illiterate country hicks.”

Grazin’ Acres (shut down?)

No complaints, no illness, but Wisconsin dairy still facing shutdown by local authorities

In response to the report that The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is attempting to shut down Grazin’ Acres, owned by Vernon and Erma Hershberger, I sent off an email to Sauk’s County DA, Patricia Barrett, Esq. and Sheriff Randy Stammen (email content to follow).

Why would I send communication:

  • to officials I cannot vote for or likely care what I have to say?
  • regarding information that I may, or may not have, the full story on?
  • that probably won’t be read?

Well, because if what has been reported IS the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then it is the responsibility of every individual who treasures the freedom of purchasing their food direct from the producer to voice their opposition to events such as these.

And even if there are true violations that need addressing (I’m thinking perhaps someone thinks they are missing out on some license, permit or tax money?) then fine, but why shut down a prospering business that contributes to the local economy and prosperity?

And in the end, even if I have once more succumbed to something that will be de-bunked on Snopes (I have before, but I highly doubt this is the case this time!), I still think it is important that elected officials nationwide have some clue as to the number of citizens that place high value on buying their food locally from conscientious producers.

If you value your local farmers and ranchers, farmer’s market and having the availability of local food, please add your voice!  Here’s the link again for the full story and contact addresses.

Here is the content of my email:

“Dear Ms. Barrett and Sheriff Stammen,

I was alerted to information indicating Grazin’ Acres is under investigation for violations regarding food production/distribution, although no consumer complaints have been filed, nor injuries incurred by individuals consuming their products.

I am not a resident of your county and have not read the official reports – so I realize that I may not be privvy to the whole story.

However, if the facts listed by those who are supporting the Hershbergers (specifically, the Weston A. Price foundation) disclose the full story AND are correct, I respectfully add my voice to those who request these kind of actions desist.

Historically, many of our food safety laws, government regulations, etc., have come into being after faulty practices and sub-par products were dispersed to the market by those who considered profits above the health and well-being of the communities they served.  This is good and right, as a society should do its best to protect its’ civilians from the harmful actions of those who place affluence before the well-being of their fellow man.

However, it is disturbing to me to see interference in a business agreement in which the consumers have no complaints and the producer is providing a valued and needed commodity to their local community.

In the face of economic recession and budget woes, it is more important than ever to strive for strong local communities and local resiliency.  Successful locally owned businesses contribute to vibrant local communities and, by the way, a strong local tax base.”

Thanks to The Good American Post for posting this information!

(Perhaps the actions by the DATCP is indicative of what we can expect if Bill S510 passes?  Please say not……………)