Does your local government pit one sector of agriculture against another? I hope not, but an email from a faraway place to my middle of America location caused me to pause this week on the subject of "meat reduction" coming from New York City.
A news release arrived in my inbox capturing my attention with the subject line of “New York City Mayor's Office of Animal Welfare promotes meat reduction.” I wish I could show up at their office to investigate myself. Instead, I read the email, read more online and wrote this opinion column. The email and context of it reminded me of “The Fleecing of America” news segments from Tom Brokaw which captured my attention as a child and teen, examining wasteful government spending.
For me, wasteful spending is trying to "reduce" one sector of agriculture in the most food-rich country in the world rather than addressing true food issues, like feeding hungry people in our communities.
An animal “protection” group, that I leave unnamed to not give it any undeserved attention, went on in the email to say meat reduction should not just be for New Yorkers but for all Americans. And evidently for all Americans, that includes the publisher of an agriculture media brand, me, to receive the email.
“By reducing demand for meat, dairy, and eggs, we can create a shift towards farming practices that are more sustainable and kinder to animals,” said the email.
According to Food Bank of New York City research:
- Nearly 1.1 million New York City residents, or 12.9%, are food insecure.
- New York City residents make up half of all food insecure people living in New York state.
- New York City's food insecurity rate is 12% higher than the national rate and 16% higher than the New York state rate.
We have meal gaps in our rural counties, towns and cities. We have neighbors, unable to put on enough food on the table to feed themselves and their families.
Show empathy. We're proudly a bountiful agricultural nation, yet this email from a city with a "meat reduction" effort shows me our food system remains disconnected and in some areas, broken.
Our food-rich systems cannot be fixed without collaboration and change between the entire food system — from the fields and pastures where food is grown and raised to distribution, including through government-funded food programs.
Where is the disconnect, some ask? Rather than attack a specific farming practice or sector of agriculture, why not put our time and resources, including government spending, toward addressing food insecurity, including all types of protein reaching all types of people?
No one in an animal activist or commonly labeled “protection” group trying to take down a sector of agriculture, this being animal ag, should be given a platform within city government when they have hungry people they aren't feeding. Before "reducing" any food choice, find methods to address food insecurity in your own backyards.
Is it too much to dream and then set out to achieve an agriculture diverse utopia? We need meat, dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables to reach a variety of eaters and locations.
While my initial reaction to the New York City email was that I hope and pray I never have any reason to live in New York City, or any city for that matter, where a "meat reduction" crusade is funded, I realize I need to do better as an agriculturist. The email serves as a reminder.
Agriculture cannot stop standing up for all types of food production, in all states and countries.
Stand up for the fleecing of America against our farmers and food systems. Use your voice and ability to connect with lawmakers and policymakers and utilize America’s ability to bountifully grow a variety of food rather than stay silent against those trying to take out and remove sectors of agriculture.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.