The following article is written by Edwin Shank, one of my farmers. Be sure to visit Edwin’s website Your Family Farmer. He delivers milk, cheese, eggs, meat and more to numerous locations in PA, but even if you’re not in PA, the website has recipes for everything from cooking pastured meats to making kombucha. And be sure to check out ‘Fresh Thoughts’ where Edwin posts articles just as good as the one below.
Note: My husband asked me to remove the company name and product name from the post. I think you’ll understand when you read. You don’t need to know either to ask your grass-fed beef farmer about chemical herbicides, pesticides, parricides, antibiotics, larvacides, de-wormers and hormone implants.
Sometimes I feel like a double agent privy to inside information. Often it’s sensitive, potentially damaging information on chemical farming to which, if the “chem farm” folks were wiser, really shouldn’t allow me access. Especially since they should know who I am. You know, one of those lunatic, chemical-free, organic farmers! But they don’t seem to know. They keep sending the incriminating info straight to my desk.
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I guess the reason chemical farming folks assume I’m one of them is that I used to be. When I quietly switched sides in 2005 I never bothered to send them notice. I didn’t intentionally go undercover but it does seem they haven’t caught on. At least I can’t figure any other explanation for the document (Chemical Company) blithely addressed to me a few months ago.
The document was a slick, chemical marketing blitz targeted specifically to grass farmers. (Title of Chemical Company publication removed). The cover was eye catching: green grass, green trees, blue sky and happy cows.
The spin was well done. And it actually took me in. At least until the third sentence of the first page. When the featured ‘steward’ of more than 4,000 acres of grass land said, “If I don’t spray, this place would be covered in weeds.”
It was then I knew.
From there on, terms like: “spray, control, herbicide, kill, knock down, suppress, burn down, soil residual activity and season long control” literally peppered the success stories from the handful of featured “grass land stewards.”
I really wasn’t surprised. This is old turf. For years I’ve known that chemical addiction among non-organic grass farmers is prevalent. The farmers are even proud of it. They’re convinced that they are macho and normal and we are strange and paranoid.
I flipped the flier over, saw the (Chemical Company) logo on the back, sighed and shoved it in the trash. But something stopped me. And here is what it was. A mental picture of a mom… an innocent, unsuspecting mom, with her newborn snuggled in an Ergo on her chest, selecting 100% grass-fed, all American, non-GMO beef.
And. She. Does. Not. Know!
In that flash of a moment… I knew I had to tell her.
At least I knew I should tell her. I had an ethical obligation to tell. But I hesitated. I instinctively knew it was dangerous. This could get me into trouble. Real trouble! (Chemical Company) is a rich and powerful company…probably second only to (other Chemical Company). And there are libel laws and they probably have a whole team of in-house lawyers…and I’m pretty sure they won’t serve me raw milk in jail…and I’ll miss my wife and children so much! More mental pictures passing before my eyes…
After a moment’s wavering, I said to myself, “So what! Telling the truth never has been easy…nor safe. What good is discovered intelligence if the agent is too paralyzed to relay? Spy work is not for the faint of heart. And what kind of a man am I anyway if I protect myself and my family but leave that mom and her family in ignorance because they didn’t have access to this info and I’m too afraid to tell?”
Lest you think I’m playing this up, stick with me a bit as I expose the details which, for me, moved this decision into the ethical zone.
Some facts about the chemical (Chemical Company) is pushing: It’s called (Product Name) and is a powerful broadleaf poison which is engineered to kill (with several years residual in the soil) clover, alfalfa, dandelion, plantain, milkweed, thistle and 90 or so other plants. About the only thing that it doesn’t kill is plants in the grass family. That’s why it’s loved by non-organic grass farmers. Spray (Product Name) on your pastures and…like magic…only a monocrop of grass will grow!
Impressive business strategy (Chemical Company). Con farmers to buy and apply poison to their pastures to kill all the nitrogen producing broadleaf legumes like clover and alfalfa so that their grass becomes yellow with nitrogen deficiency so they need to go out and buy more chemicals…this time chemical nitrogen to boost the grass since they killed all the natural, God-given, nitrogen-producing legume plants with your (Product Name). Wow!
But the fact that this chemical kills, and in general, makes a mess of God’s perfectly designed symbiotic relationships in the ecosystem isn’t the surprising part. That’s what most crop chemicals do…nothing new here.
The first details that alarmed me were in what (Chemical Company) calls the “Application Advantages.”
I just kept thinking as I read it. “I cannot believe the company openly admits this craziness! They apparently expect us to be impressed!” (The following quote is directly in the words of (Chemical Company) straight out of the promotional flier so that their lawyer teams can’t say I wrote something false about them or their product. One of the requirements for libel conviction is that the statement must be false… Believe me! … I looked it up!)
With (Product Name), you can spray seasonally dry wetland and up to the water’s edge of running water, ponds and lakes.
(Product Name) has no grazing restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter.(Product Name) can be sprayed while livestock graze in the same pasture.
However, label precautions do apply to forage treated with (Product Name) herbicide and to manure from animals that have consumed treated forage within the last three days. Treated forage and urine and manure from livestock on treated pasture may contain enough active ingredient to cause injury to sensitive broadleaf plants. Consult the label for full details.
The (Product Name) label prohibits use of the product on hay that will be distributed or made available for sale off the farm or ranch where it was harvested unless allowed by supplemental labeling. That supplemental labeling is available for Kentucky, but not Illinois, Indiana, Ohio or Pennsylvania. …
… (Product Name) is not a federally Restricted Use Pesticide and most states do not require a license for purchase or application.
I’m not making this up, folks! And neither is (Chemical Company). The allowances above are clearly spelled out on the label. I have no idea how many arms were twisted, and politicians wined and dined and lobbyist paid, for (Chemical Company) to get approval to label this powerful chemical so loosely.
But what I do know is this: We have a poison which is legally allowed to be sprayed on pasture grasses where cows are present and grazing. The cows can legally consume the poison soaked grass. The poison will admittedly pass through the cows and come out in their urine and manure and still be toxic enough to kill plants (the manure can stay potent for years…up to 4 by some reports). Yet at the exact same time, the milk and meat from those same cows, which admittedly are exuding poison from every orifice of their bodies, is pronounced perfectly safe and perfectly legal to be sold to that unsuspecting mom and her baby and the daddy coming home from work.
Without any warning at all.
And that is just wrong!
And then there is the specific mention of how you don’t even need a license to purchase or apply this poison, and oh yes, its fully legal and you are fully welcomed to spray right up to the water’s edge of any and all bodies of water and even in wetlands as long as they are dry at the moment…
Oh, but don’t forget that the hay you harvest from the fields is illegal to sell (in all but one state in the nation) because…after all…it has poison on it. But no worries; just feed the poisoned hay to your cows and sell the meat and milk. Just be careful, and remember that the manure and compost from the same cows will be poisonous.
All this is so unbelievable. There is not much more to say. “Let them eat cake,” comes to mind and seems to have applications.
As distasteful as this first bit of information is…the second is, if possible, even more disgusting. It’s definitely more unethical.
According to the document, at least some of this poison-grass-fed-beef is being sold into the unsuspecting local food market. Some of the “grass land stewards” proudly featured by (Chemical Company) are even doing home delivery of their grass-fed beef…in cute delivery vehicles painted to look like the breed of beef cows they raise on their farm.
How is that for a farmer connection?
I’m almost 100% sure the moms who trustingly buy from these farmers have no idea of the full story.
But maybe I misjudge. Maybe these farmers are 100% transparent and tell these moms that the beautiful grass-fed cows producing their meat are eating poisoned grass right up to the butchering day. Maybe they explain to them what a marvelous technology this is! Maybe the farmers do explain to these moms that if they were to buy some of the farm’s composts to mulch their garden that all their tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, strawberries and green beans would shrivel, their leaves would curl, turn yellow and probably die.
Maybe, just maybe. But somehow I have my doubts…
It would be one thing if this kind of beef was only sold at the supermarket. I think we all sort of know what to expect there. But direct marketed straight-from-the-farmer, delivered-to-your-door grass-fed beef! It gives me a sick feeling in my gut and a deep sense of sadness.
So now you understand why I had to share this. And now you know too and can tell your friends.
Yes, I did have to blow my cover…but the goods got delivered and the message went through. I feel exhausted. I’m glad it’s over. My guess is that a certain chemical giant will remove a certain lunatic farmer from their mailing list yet tonight.
And about the lawyers… I’m really not too worried. I like people and I know you’ll all visit me in jail. Call Dawn. She’ll give you my cell number.
I know this Fresh Thoughts article probably raises a lot of questions and I don’t have space to get into all of the answers here. It’s actually very likely that I don’t even have all the answers to your questions. But I just really felt obligated to let you know. This is really only the tip of the iceberg.
Do your research. There are at least 7 other herbicides that go by different names that are similar to (Product Name). So it’s not like this is a rare thing.
I’m not trying to scare anyone who really does not mind. If someone actually prefers beef or milk from cows like in the example situation and trusts and has faith in the chemical companies’ claims that cows which have poisonous manure and urine can at the same time give meat and milk that is perfectly safe for their family…hey, more power to ya! Your faith is in a different power than mine!
I’m only telling you this information because I really do think you need to know that this kind of stuff is out there, even lauded by those who just don’t get it. And you need to be aware so you can make educated choices. (And no, the featured farmers are not our competitors. Most of them are 500-1000 miles away.)
The biggest take-home message for all of you is this: If your beef (or chicken or any other meats for that matter) is not from a certified organic farm, you really, really must ask more questions than just, “Is the beef grass-fed and is it non-GMO?” While those are some good questions, they really do not go far enough. The above farmers could answer truthfully in the affirmative on both of those questions. “Sure, it’s 100% grass-fed all year long and no, we don’t do anything with GMO’s” “Wow, am I ever glad she didn’t ask me about chemical herbicides, pesticides, parricides, antibiotics, larvacides, de-wormers and hormone implants!”
If avoiding the above chemical cocktail is important to you and your family, the best and easiest way is to be very sure that your beef is raised organically. All Family Cow beef is. Certified Organic covers 100% of the above chemical concerns including non-GMO, plus animal welfare too.
The other option, which is also a good one, is to ask educated questions to be sure the farmer is following organic farming methods even if they are not certified organic.
There are a lot of excellent farms out there that are not certified organic but are following organic principles. Polyface Farm in Virginia is one of those. Joel Salatin and his team would never violate organic principles but their farm is not actually certified. And that is perfectly ok. But you do need to know what questions to ask. I hope the info above can help some of you know what kind of questions to ask.
On a side note, you may have noticed that even though our chemical-free, grass-fed, soy-free, non-GMO beef is all 100% certified organic on the farm, our beef packages do not carry the USDA certified label. The reason our beef does not have the certified label is that the butcher shop itself is not certified. USDA says we may not use the word organic on our beef unless the butcher also gets certified and pays the accompanying organic fees. USDA does acknowledge that our beef is certified on the hoof when it arrives at the butcher.
We don’t really mind that the butcher is not certified because all he is doing to the meat is cutting it up, grinding and vac packing. And there is not much to certify organic about a knife or a saw or a grinder. But we would like to help him get certified in the future.
Take care all!
Know your Farmer.
If you don’t have one, find one.
If you can’t find one, become one.