Monday, February 28, 2011

Becoming an Agvocate: Telling the Story of Production Agriculture

January 21, 2011

A date that would change me for the better. On this day I was watching The Today Show, and Natalie Morales was interviewing Suzanne Somers about her new book. In the interview Somers made several false statements about not only the agriculture industry but also about the scientific evidence needed to provide a causative agent for a disease state. After watching this interview I was spurred into action to tell the story and the truth about production Agriculture. I composed an email and sent it out to my family and friends. My email made it to Allie Devine, Vice President and General Counsel at the Kansas Livestock Association, she then forwarded it on to Stephen Russell, Director of Industry Relations at the Kansas Beef Council. Mr. Russell responded to my email with some educational information about antibiotic use in cattle. You will find his comments later in this post along with the links to this information. I guess in a round about way I have Suzanne Somers to thank for motivating me to do something to spread the truth about production Agriculture by becoming an Agvocate for the industry. Maybe I'll send her a thank you....

The interview with Somers that aired on January 21, 2011: Suzanne Somers on staying 'Sexy Forever'

This is the email I sent out to my family and friends on January 26th:

Every once in awhile you see something that is so disturbing it makes your blood boil and it motivates you to take action. Well today was that day for me; I simply could not believe what I was hearing. I was watching The Today show and Suzanne Somers was being interviewed about her new book, "Sexy Forever- How to Fight Fat Over Forty." After watching this interview I could not simply sit back and turn a blind eye to the attack on production agriculture and the misinformation Somers was feeding the public. I decided to take action and spread the truth and the facts about what actually happens. Now, it is fair to say that 99% of what came out of Somers’ mouth was false. I would be here all day disputing everything; I picked a few topics and provided the facts. At the bottom of this email you will find the link to a farm wife’s response that goes into more detail about all of the false statements.

In the interview Suzanne is afflicted with a case of verbal diarrhea. She just kept spewing completely false statements from her mouth. I couldn't believe what I was watching, I cringed in agony because the American public was watching this and may believe her statements to be the truth. What is even worse is that the book she is promoting is already on the New York Times bestseller list. This means people are buying her book and believing what she is preaching. Thank goodness Natalie Morales is a well-educated journalist who actually checks her facts before reporting on a story! She disputed and debated several of Somers' claims!

In the interview Somers goes on to completely bash the production agriculture industry. She states that antibiotics in our food cause women over forty to become fat. She says, "The antibiotics in the meat we ingest from our food accumulate over time in our bodies and gets stored in our fat tissue. As women age they accumulate more of these so called "toxins" and so they need more adipose tissue to store them, thus leading to the reason why women over 40 feel bloated and can't lose weight as well." She recommends we eat grass-fed beef to rid our systems of the antibiotics that are found in corn-fed beef. She then goes on to say that antibiotics in the food supply causes "leaky gut syndrome." This is a completely false and absurd statement and here are the reasons why:

Reason1: Antibiotics which are administered to food animals have a withdrawal period (usually 20-60 days) before they can be slaughtered and enter the food supply. The antibiotic is excreted of the animal's system before it ever enters the food supply. So the only antibiotics you are ingesting, Suzanne, are the ones your doctor prescribed to you! Oh, but wait, I forgot you don’t believe in Western medicinal practices, and you say in your interview that, “you would use Western medicine as your last stitch effort to get better.”

Reason 2: Testing is done in the locker plant for traces of antibiotics. If a test returns positive, the entire carcass is pulled off the line and disposed of. It never enters the food supply! IF this happens the producer is not paid for the animal, which means it hurts the producer’s livelihood. I find it hard to believe that a producer would intentionally risk their bottom line by trying to sell/slaughter an animal before an antibiotic had been purged from the animal’s system.

Reason 3: Producers eat the same meat as everyone else. Therefore, they are not going to knowingly damage the food supply by putting something harmful in the animal that may end up on their plate too.

Reason 4: Here’s a newsflash Suzanne, you may want to sit down for this one: Grass-fed beef is not guaranteed to be antibiotic free!! The only way you can ensure your meat is 100% antibiotic free is if you buy beef that is labeled antibiotic free.

Now to address the subject of “leaky gut syndrome.” I don’t recall hearing that Suzanne Somers recently earned her M.D. degree or that she is conducting scientific research on the causative agents for lupus, M.S. and fibromyalgia. When searching for Somers’ degree in anything from anywhere I came up short. Therefore, this does not give her permission to scare the American public into thinking they can get these diseases from eating beef that has been injected with antibiotics.

I am not studying to be a medical doctor but I am working on my Pharm.D. Degree and have learned a thing or two about the human body. In all my years of studying the anatomy, microbiology, physiology, biochemistry and now learning about disease states in pharmacy school I have never come across the term “leaky gut syndrome.” I was curious to learn more about this “new syndrome” so I did a little research on the topic. I searched trusted medical journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, for the term "leaky gut syndrome." The search returned this statement, "no search results found for ‘"leaky gut syndrome.’" Huh, imagine that. Maybe it returned this statement because it is a hypothetical disease, not a scientifically proven condition!! I was able to find it on Wikipedia, which we all know is a trusted source for your information. And yes that was sarcasm. :)

As producers, we often wonder why the American public has such a negative view of production agriculture. THIS IS WHY!! There are people spouting off their own personal beliefs and opinions without checking the facts or heaven forbid consulting someone who actually works in the industry. I challenge you to be an advocate, or as the term has been coined an "agvocate" for production agriculture by educating the public about the truth!

I found a response at Prarie Farmer, written by Holly Spangler, that discusses all the issues of misinformation Somers stated. It is very well written and provides the facts with just a hint of sarcasm.

This is response I received from Stephen Russell of the Kansas Beef Council a few days ago:

Ms. Navinskey:

I received your e-mail from Allie Devine at KLA. Thanks for you interest in this topic.

Yes, Ms. Somers makes several unscientific statements in her interview with the Today Show. Her viewpoints towards beef production are unfortunate and a bit disturbing. Melissa, your comments are well-said.

The beef checkoff program monitors media events on a daily basis that are potentially damaging to the industry. This interview is an example and was monitored by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the beef checkoff program, when it originally aired in January. In this case NCBA did not provide an official industry response to NBC. It was concluded that Ms. Somers' comments/data are not backed by science and that a response could have created additional unwanted media attention to the topic. Some individual producers expressed their concerns directly to NBC.

I've attached a document titled Antibiotic Use in Cattle Production. This document explains approval process and safeguard measures that are in place to protect the food supply. In short, antibiotics are heavily regulated and closely monitored by government agencies for the protection of the health and well-being of both animals and humans.

This document and others are available on the Internet at For information about how beef fits into a healthy diet visit

If you have additional questions or need additional information regarding beef production and beef nutritional values do not hesitate to contact the Kansas Beef Council, If you'd like training on how to become and advocate for the beef industry visit the Masters of Beef Advocacy program websiste at Your interest in advocating for agriculture is appreciated!

Best regards,

Stephen Russell

Director of Industry Relations
Kansas Beef Council

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