Gary Sides is worried that consumers today take their food for granted. "We teach kids today how to read and write, but they have no clue about agriculture," Sides, who is a beef cattle nutritionist on the Zoetis technical services team, told cattle producers gathered at the 80th annual Sandhills Cattle Association (SCA) meeting this past May in Valentine, Neb. "There are no courses for kids in food production."
He noted that past generations knew exactly where their food came from because they produced it themselves, and they knew the consequences of having no food.
"You can't have a culture without agriculture," Sides said. "In this country, our pets eat better than most children in the Third World. Farmers make up about 1% of the population, and they feed the rest. That frees up culture to do other things." The problem with agriculture and today's society, Sides said, is that those in agriculture haven't told their story.
"When you raise cattle, you are not destroying the planet," Sides explained. "Defend what you do for a living." He made note of media campaigns to promote fruits and vegetables as the best diet to avoid obesity, but obesity in the U.S. has only increased. The idea that red meat is a culprit in health issues dates back to poor science from the 1950s, Sides said.
"Since then, obesity has tripled, and two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight," he noted. "There is an epidemic of diabetes, and yet they are still recommending the same thing. This is the pure definition of insanity."
There is a huge genetic variable in all of these health issues, Sides said. "But we know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and that beef is the best source of iron in nature," he said.
He called on cattle producers to know the facts about the products they raise. "How can you defend your main product, if you can't tell your family why it is good for you?" Sides asked. "It's not beef that causes these health issues. Beef and beef fat is heart healthy."
Other SCA convention speakers included Corbitt Wall of DV Auction, Dan Morgan from the Morgan Ranch at Burwell, Neb., a representative from AgWest Commodities, and cowboy poet R.P. Smith.
The annual event included a membership meeting, trade show and art gallery, Pen of 3 judging contest, and live and silent benefit auctions. Learn more about SCA at sandhillscattle.com.