Food Truths: From Farm to Table
Parents, especially moms, worry an awful lot about the food they are serving their family, often feeling guilty about the chemicals, antibiotics, DNA, hormones, and engineered crops on their plates.
Michele Payn, a CEO, popular public speaker, and leading influencer in the genuine farm-to-table movement, says ignorance – along with deliberate misinformation and marketing hype – is creating a great deal of the unnecessary angst and concern.
Herself a farm girl who has been a Holstein breeder since the age of nine, Michele is on a mission to turn food confusion into clarity, and to make certain that the food we eat is raised the right way, by the right people, for the right reasons.
As you read this blog post, Michele’s latest book, Food Truths From Farm to Table, is making its way into bookstores around the country, promising to deliver “25 Surprising Ways to Shop & Eat Without Guilt.”
Michele and I recently spoke about her new book and her mission to stand in stark contrast to the typical sensationalist and often negative perspectives – especially in the mainstream media – when it comes to what’s healthy and what Americans should be producing and eating.
[You can hear my full RANCHCAST with LEM LEWIS interview with Michele and my special co-host Dean Rotbart, an award-winning business journalist, by clicking here.]
100% of the Population Eats & Drinks
Michele attributes many of the misconceptions about food, and what’s actually healthy, to the major disconnect between consumers and producers. She points out that more than 98% of the population in the United States does not own a farm or ranch, although 100% of the population eats and drinks.
“It’s hard to bring those two worlds [producers and consumers] together,” she explains. “Those of us who are out there producing and working in that arena, we take it very personally, and we look at it very differently than folks who are in an urban setting.”
In Food Truths From Farm to Table, Michele accompanies readers on a tour of the supermarket, going isle by isle separating fact from fiction when it comes to food safety and nutrition. To supplement her extensive knowledge and experience, Michele turned to more than 55 experts and almost 120 published books and articles. Her book covers dairy; eggs; fruits; vegetables; meat; bread and baking; cereal; snacks and convenience foods; and deli and foodservice.
Among the 25 food truths that are likely to come as a surprise to many guilt-ridden readers:
The Pundits Get It Wrong
Instead of looking at the facts, which Michele spells out and substantiates in Food Truths From Farm to Table, Michele frets over the “instant experts,” activists, celebrities, politicians, and members of the mainstream media who promulgate misinformation. As a result, both consumers and producers face unnecessary regulation and societal pressures that restrict their choices in what they eat and what they produce.
“Quite frankly, there’s increasing pressure on choices for farmers and ranchers,” Michele tells me. Many of those pressures come in the form of agricultural, water, soil, and animal regulations. But commercial and marketing pressures also abound.
One example that Michele shared is an approved GMO potato that is engineered to turn off the gene that quickly turns peeled potatoes brown. (Similar anti-browning properties have successfully been gene-edited for apples as well.)
Yet consumers who would like the choice of purchasing these potatoes, and producers who’d like to grow them, must contend with companies such as fast-food giant McDonald’s, which announced that it will never serve French fries made from genetically altered potatoes.
The implications of unnecessary regulations and market constraints are far-reaching and interconnected. One example Michele cites is the proportion of food that is thrown away in America – a whopping 40%. People trash brown potatoes and apples, even while they’ll reject an approved GMO variety that won’t brown.
These are issues that Michele has been raising and helping farmers, ranchers, scientists, dietitians and other passionate agriculture, health, and nutrition advocates raise for years. Michele’s consulting company, Cause Matters Corp., founded in 2001, addresses food myths and helps her clients effectively communicate why their cause matters.
Kickboxing and Throwing Plates
Among the clients who Michele and Cause Matters have worked with over the years are Women in Agribusiness; National Onion Growers; American Soybean Association; Apple Processors Association; Indiana Dietetic Association; Washington State Hay Growers Association; Bayer CropScience; Pfizer Animal Health, and Merck.
On stage and off, Michele is a dynamo. “If you ever saw me speak you’d probably be shocked with the things I do on stage,” she says. “I kickbox; sometimes I throw plates, other times we dance” – whatever it takes to deliver the message to her enthusiastic audiences.
Besides reading her book, or if you’re lucky enough catching her speak, Michele says urban dwellers would do themselves and their families a lot of good to take a day and spend it on a farm or ranch – something very few city folks have ever done.
“You would be shocked at what you find because more often than not when you get to know the people who are working with the land and animals, you discover what they’re doing is trying to raise food for the right reason,” Michele tells me.
Michele believes a big part of the onus is on farmers and ranchers to do a better job communicating what they do, and why, to folks who come no close to rural producers than their supermarket shelves.
For their parts, consumers remain blissfully ignorant when it comes to the science of food, swallowing superstitions, hearsay, marketing hype, and outright lies as if they were biblical truths. Buzzwords, including bacteria, viruses, antibiotics, chemicals, hormones, and genetic engineering needlessly frighten consumers who are uneducated to the science of food.
Michele concludes our conversation with an invitation to buy her book, connect with her social networking accounts, and provide her feedback. “Please remember,” she urges, “that food should be about celebration, not confusion.”