Dan Imhoff, noted author and advocate of sustainability in food production, spoke to a packed house at Murray State University on February 8th.
Mr. Imhoff’s talk was titled “The Meat of the Matter”. His message promoted a food system that is healthy, ecologically sustainable and ethically strong. The purpose of Mr. Imhoff’s talk was to raise awareness of where our meat comes from and to propose another type of agricultural system, a system which is sustainable, an alternative to the factory farms.
Imhoff lives on a sustainable farm in California that includes livestock. Although his livestock are pasture raised, some of the food for his livestock comes from throw away produce at a local farmers market.
The author related that the beginning of agriculture was 12,000 years ago. During his presentation, Mr. Imhoff showed slides of caveman paintings, all of which showed man’s relationship with meat even back then. From that time until the mid 1900s, all food came from a local source.
The rise in industrialized food production such a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) had its roots in needs after the dust bowl, the great depression, and two world wars. Industrialization and mechanization in factories soon was endorsed by meat producers as an efficient, mechanized method of producing considerably more meat, more cheaply and with less effort.
Mr. Imhoff noted that prior to industrialized agriculture, Americans ate 21 pounds of chicken per person every year. Now we eat 77 pounds of chicken per person in a year. Mr. Imhoff lamented the loss of traditional farmers. Over the last 20 years or so, the number of farmers has declined by a factor of ten-fold – from 500,000 to 60,000.
Another concern of Mr. Imhoff is antibiotic use. In Iowa and North Carolina more antibiotics are used in CAFOS than in all human medical facilities in the United States. The wastes from CAFOS including toxins are applied to farm land end up in our water, air and soil. The toxins include viruses, infectious bacteria, antibiotics, heavy metals, and oxygen-depleting nutrients. Mr. Imhoff concluded that protein is valuable to our diets and sustainable agriculture is the way of the future.
This event was hosted by the Kentucky Water Sentinels, the Great Rivers Group Sierra Club and Murray State University.