Thursday, October 22, 2015

The 11.5 inch Pissed Off Everyone Sub

Yes I know I have people that have been waiting since January for me to finish the vegan series. Maybe slamming out this blog will inspire me to finish that up, but for now......lets start with this momma cow and baby in March....and the same pair today...isn't Mother Nature amazing??? I can already tell this is going to get long winded but just pretend it is 10 separate blog posts and we will both be happy!

So here we go again, another big discussion related to Subway deciding to use meat from animals that have "never" had antibiotics beginning in 2016. As expected lots of quick and passionate reactions from all directions either cheering this decision or bemoaning it. Now I could give my slanted opinion on this and get the support and scorn of some sides or I can be honest and probably piss off people from every direction. Lets go ahead and piss everyone off in the interest of honesty, the world is sorely lacking in honesty. I am also approaching this purely from a beef producer standpoint. Your pork or poultry experience may be different, but I will say I consume both and don't blink an eye about them from a food safety or antibiotic view. Full disclosure here, I don't understand why anyone would go to Subway anyway when you can buy a loaf of bread and a head of lettuce and make your own comparable sandwich on your own dirty counter without subjecting yourself to poor customer service from a skateboarder in a hairnet but that's just me. Anyone pissed off yet?

Lets start by defending Subways decision.(Maybe lost a lot of the choir already) Not defending it on solely the merits of the decision but from a outsider looking in perspective. Lets remember Subway owns this business, well their shareholders do anyway. For what I suspect are lots of reasons, including some based in reality, some based on consumers stupidity and gullibility, some based on what some "expert" has told them etc. they have made this decision. I say GO Subway!! (more people pissed off) I really don't like anyone telling me how to do my business so I respect their decision to make their own business decisions. The beauty of capitalism is smart decisions are often rewarded, while poor decisions are often devastating but highly educational. Will this decision invigorate a brand that has really struggled of late eventually pay off? That is yet to be seen. Remember Subway came to prominence by the "Eat Fresh" idea and that the then fast food industry was dominated by those "evil" burger joints like McDonalds (Oh the humanity). Subway offered a "healthy" and "fresh" alternative. It also got a huge boost by Jared and his Subway "diet" and the marketing campaign that followed. Again, I am not against this but now we know "allegedly" that Jared's weight loss may have been partially attributed to chasing teenagers around playgrounds as much as eating sandwiches.(more people pissed off) Either way it was a brilliant marketing program that paid huge dividends and resulted in massive growth for Subway at the time. Lets face it, these days Subway needed a facelift, and this is the path they chose. Now let's relate that decision back to me as a beef producer at the cow/calf level.

We do not use antibiotics on this ranch, well let me qualify that, we don't use antibiotics unless an animal needs it. If an animal gets pinkeye, foot rot, a respiratory issue or something else that puts them in distress then we do. Do I use antibiotics because I want antibiotics in meat, or because I support antibiotic resistance, or because I don't want Subway or any business not serving my beef? NO! I do it because it is the RIGHT thing to do from both an animal welfare standpoint and honestly an economic standpoint. Yes, the last few years I have been paid a premium for "natural" cattle that have never had an antibiotic. That being said, SICK cattle don't pay the bills, no matter if they are "natural", "antibiotic free" "gluten free" "organic" "grassfed" "predator friendly" or otherwise! Do I catch every animal that needs treatment? Again NO! Does every one I treat recover and survive? NO! The reality is that 99% of cattle on this ranch never see an antibiotic, but when they need it, when I see they need it, then they are going to get it. This is not going to change no matter what fluffy marketing program ANY brand has or promotes. Doing the right thing is timeless. What happens in a range cattle operation when an animal gets sick and doesn't get antibiotics? Below is what happens. Now I doubt anyone that supports "never had antibiotics" supports this? Maybe I am wrong, humans are some weird creatures. By the way, the calf in the below picture is "everything free" if anyone is interested in purchasing, I'll make you one hell of a deal but I wont take a "with shrink" price. Number of people pissed off rising rapidly......

 When we do use antibiotics we have label directions, rules of use and withdrawal times that we follow which means a consumer does not get beef that has ANY antibiotic level in it, in reality this is what you are getting from Subway (and everywhere else that serves beef) right now. In 2016 you wont be getting anything different other than a signature or a series of signatures. Your beef won't be any more "antibiotic free" than it is today. Now to explain this "only getting a signature" reality. Which of the calves below has received any antibiotics in their life? For those still reading that are not pissed off.
   The one with the ear tag in the left ear in the first picture? The one with the ear tag in the right ear in the second picture? (Actually that is just the way we easily keep steers and heifers identified) Just the solid black ones? Just the ones with white on their faces? All of them? None of them? Yes, shockingly no matter what the media tells you NONE of them have EVER had any antibiotics! Will they receive antibiotics before they become beef? Possibly, but most likely not as any type of "mass" treatment but in rare INDIVIDUAL decisions based on oversight and symptoms of disease manifesting itself. When we do treat a calf with antibiotics we notch their ear tags as well as making a written and computerized note. These calves will not go into a "natural" or an "antibiotic free" system but when they do become beef they wont have ANY antibiotics in them just like their "natural" and "antibiotic free" brothers and sisters. You see, antibiotics have a withdrawal time in which they can no longer be detected. So how do you as a consumer know you are getting beef from calves that have "never had antibiotics"? You DON'T. (Pissed off quite a few right there) You are trusting that Subway, their beef suppliers, feedlots, stocker operators and the original producer (me) are honest and trustworthy and that our signature on a piece of paper has some honesty and integrity behind it. By the way 99.999999999999% will be honest because there is little to nothing to be gained by being dishonest. For me it is really SIMPLE, would I feed my OWN family what I am sending into consumer channels, the answer IS and has ALWAYS been 110% absolutely. No amount of marketing whether based in reality, fluff or fear mongering is going to change this reality. More people pissed off.....

So lets break it down. Just like many things in life this announcement doesn't really mean much when the rubber hits the road. Cattle producers, stockers, feedlot owners and yes even packers I understand your frustration with fear based marketing and ease with which consumers fall for internet memes and misinformation. I am amazed how people will believe someone with a website and a brand name who has never raised a single bovine about how safe beef is instead of asking actual beef producers. It is no different than me giving advice to NASA and them believing it and taking that advice because I was an astronaut for Halloween in 1973. Just remember if everyone was really intelligent and hard working they could be successful cattle producers instead of easily pandered to consumers.There are also a multitude of outlets for beef that are only going to increase as the planet keeps breeding and living longer (weird I know given how "dangerous" the food system is) That being said, the reality is this announcement wont really change the way good operators are conducting business. I would never advocate not treating a sick animal, but at the same time, examining your practices, your vitamin and mineral program and vaccination protocols is something you should always be doing in my opinion. It not only can improve animal welfare but add to your bottom line as well. I also know the vast majority already do this or they would go broke. A few more people pissed off....

  Consumers, the wholesomeness, quality and safety of your beef isn't going to really change. Hell, I have yet to see a Subway sandwich that has enough meat on it to make a difference one way or the other but what meat they do have is safe today, and will be safe tomorrow and in 2016. How about the veggies, are they "antibiotic" free? Oh you didn't know that some vegetables and even fruits have antibiotics applied to them??? Got FireBlight???  The reality is we have a food supply that is as safe and as cheap as anywhere in the world.That is a good thing! The sad part is it makes many people susceptible to misinformation. A full belly makes it easy to be a self righteous food snob. Yes, I know you saw that headline that said "3 kids sickened by E coli in beef" My question is why wasn't the headline "200 million kids ate beef today and nobody got sick?" It is because reality and honesty just doesn't sell in a market that thinks "reality TV" is reality. The honest reality here is MORE people will die or get injured this year driving or riding in a vehicle going to Subway (or any other food service business) than will ever die or get injured actually EATING any beef. We are a society that has enjoyed a safe and abundant food supply and becoming paranoid and stupid really makes zero logical sense. Ask someone who lived through the great depression or has suffered from hunger what kind of food they want and most likely they are not nearly as paranoid but are just happy with the many choices available. 

I was once traveling with an old cowman and we stopped to get some beer. When he handed me the cash I felt it was polite to ask him what kind of beer he liked.......He narrowed his eyes, stared at my whipper snapper beer snob ass and said..."Cold beer!!". I am sure I missed lots of points I was going to make in this post but I hope I hit lots of high points. As always I appreciate civil debate, comments and questions but I warn you it better be "bullshit" and "stupid" free. I am also heading down south for a friends bachelor party at the end of the week so although I may not respond rapidly any hopes of me "going dark" or "running away" is as dumb as eating lettuce sandwiches. Enjoy your food choices folks, we are very lucky to have them, even if you do get pissed off now and again! #EatBeef

Today's Cowman music selection is Alan Jackson singing "You can always come home" Dedicated to my baby girl that is off at her first year of college. Also all pictures can be viewed full size by clicking on them.