Do you grow GMOs or non-GM crops? Why?
Make these warm cornmeal doughnuts for a delicious breakfast everyone will enjoy. Serve alongside a mixture of yogurt and honey for dipping. Don't forget to thank local corn farmers like Paul and Donna Jeschke and dairy farmers like Jesse and Mary Faber for making this treat possible!
From our families to yours, enjoy the food on your table!
Food brings out the emotional eater in all of us, especially when it comes to the topic of genetically modified foods (aka GMOs). As parents, we want to feed our families healthy foods, but does healthy mean GMO-free? With all of the conflicting headlines, healthy has become so confusing and quite frankly, downright scary. As a registered dietitian mom who shares your concerns, I’d like to help you become more than a headline reader. Rather than rely on the Food Babe or the food industry, here is where I go to get the facts about GMOs – both pros and cons - from reliable sources. I encourage you to check them out so that you can get the full story and make the right call for feeding your family.
GMO Safety: National Academy Report. According to this recently published report, genetically engineered foods appear to be safe to eat and do not pose health risks. A committee of 20 independent scientists examined more than 1,000 studies spanning the twenty year period since GMO crops were introduced and found:
“No substantial evidence of a difference in risk to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GMO) crops and conventional bread crops.”
While continued GMO safety research is essential, national health experts, such as Connie Diekman Former Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President, are hopeful that using the technique of genetically engineered foods will have the potential to help meet the needs of feeding a growing worldwide population.
GMO Labeling: Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is the FDA’s job to make sure all food –genetically altered or not – is safe to eat. Some countries already have laws requiring GMO labeling. Here in the U.S., a new law just passed requiring a national standard for GMO labeling. Before the law can be enacted, the USDA will work out the specific rules for use. Until then, the FDA has issued guidance on when the term is appropriate. If you prefer to not eat GMOs, choose foods carrying the "certified organic" seal.
When we talk about pig farming, we can get a lot of questions within our communities. But I’m here to tell you, we understand the concerns and we’re doing everything in our power to do the right thing for the environment.
But it’s not just about the air. Ask any pig farmer, and they know how important it is to protect our natural resources in all of our practices as part of the We Care Initiative. Our environmental goals include:
Farmers are subject to a host of federal and state environmental regulations. We work with officials at all levels of government to develop science-based rules to reuse and manage valuable manure-based nutrients — swine manure is a very economical fertilizer. Farmers are looking at best management practices like manure injection which is the use of nitrogen inhibitors and cover crops to keep fertilizer in the field. These practices keep manure nutrients with the crops and reduce input costs.
In short — we know that forward-thinking agricultural practices are not just good for the planet and its people, they’re also good for business. So the next time you hear a farmer talking shop, know that today most pig farmers have embraced these expanded concepts of sustainability. We’re doing our best to protect the environment.
Bake. Grill. Roast. Assemble. EAT. Discover what true love really is with this incredible spin on a classic s'more.
From our families to yours, enjoy the food on your table.
To bake your own cookies:
Make the cookies:
To grill the bacon:
Walking into the hog barn, the strong smell of pig manure pierced my nostrils. As my body adjusted to the smell, my sight was the next sense to be overwhelmed. Row upon row of large hogs were lined up in stalls just bigger than their bodies. Literally hundreds of 250 lb animals were shoulder-to-shoulder in crates too narrow for them to even turn around in.
These cages are known as gestation stalls. I had visited the Gould’s third-generation family owned and operated grain and livestock farm in Western Kane County as an Illinois Farm Families 2014 Field Mom. Most of the pigs on this farm were pregnant, as it is a farrow-to-wean swine operation consisting of 750 females producing 16,000 piglets annually. That means female pigs are housed to be bred. Piglets are nursed until weaning, then moved on to another operation, which raises them to market weight. Animal activist and industry debates center on the use of such constrictive confinement. I don’t have to tell you how cruel it seems to be unable to walk or even turn around.
When confronted with swine housing, most consumers automatically suggest open pens. They seem more natural and idyllic of farms. But most of us, like me, have absolutely no experience raising livestock and need to understand the issue isn’t quite that simple.
Hogs can demonstrate very violent social behavior as alphas try to establish dominance. Sows, or mother pigs, have to be on specialized, measured diets to ensure optimal health during pregnancy. In open pen situations, the more aggressive pigs end up with more feed than they should, the timid hogs with too little, and all suffer from fighting for feed. The scratching and biting result in open wounds, leaving pigs hurt and sick.
However, the eeriest thing in the Gould gestation barn was that it was almost silent. All those animals lined up one after another and there was no snorting, no grunting and no aggressive behavior. For as much as a non-animal-expert can tell you, the environment seemed to be low stress. Perhaps larger stalls that allow room to at least turn could improve the pigs’ lives, but currently they seemed to be clean, calm and healthy-looking.
Next we moved onto the farrowing barn, where newborn pigs nurse with their mothers. They were housed in farrowing stalls, where piglets have an open pen, but bars separate the mother from rolling onto and crushing her babies.
It was hard not to squeal with joy at the piles of tiny pink piglets. New brothers and sisters were grunting and pushing as they clamored for warmth and milk. But just as my heart filled with the joy of new life, my eyes laid upon a smaller, thinner one shivering in the corner.
“Oh no,” I said, pointing. “I think that one needs help.”
Eldon Gould, owner of the farm since 1968, reached into the pen and pulled the struggling newborn into the warmth of the heat lamp.
I looked at Eldon and the piglet with my sad but hopeful eyes. We moved on. Several stalls down I saw another runt shaking.
“Diarrhea,” Eldon said.
“What do you do?” I asked.
Eldon shrugged, “Mother Nature can be very cruel.” He explained how they didn’t want to force things or take artificial measures. “Sometimes they’re just not going to make it.”
I stopped taking pictures of the piglets.
“How many of them don’t make it?” I asked.
“We have a 10-12% mortality rate,” he answered honestly.
While it was hard to stomach the image of a struggling newborn pig, I appreciated the fact that the Gould family was not sheltering us from the reality of hog farming. After all, that was why I was there.
I asked the Gould family what the most difficult thing about being farmers was. The answer was uncertainty, and usually a different kind each day. Farmers have to play mental games with finances and resources as they struggle with variable weather and fight diseases. “One year there’s a drought, the next there’s a flood,” said Sandy Gould, Eldon’s wife and co-owner of the farm. I nodded my head in understanding as we were huddled together on a 30-degree day in late March. I think we can all agree that farmers have tough jobs and many mouths to feed.
I was impressed by the amount of science incorporated into farming today. Genetics help ensure sows have healthy litter sizes and hogs are bred to ideal weights and lengths. Proper nutrition and care is taken and measured for each hog on “baseball card stats.”
“What’s good for pigs is good for us,” Eldon said. “Like your kids, keep them healthy rather than try to get them better after being sick.”
Leaving the Gould farm, I felt they were doing their best to raise healthy animals to feed our country and make a living. While my first look at gestation crates and farrowing stalls was alarming, the images I truly can’t shake are of the baby piglets that were simply born unstable. The cruelest thing I saw on that hog farm was at the hands of Mother Nature, not a farmer, as some alarmist propaganda may have you believe.
“Are there some bad farmers?” Pam Janssen, owner of another hog farm, asked us on our previous Field Mom excursion. “Sure. Just like there are some bad teachers and bad priests. But does that make them all bad?”
I suggest going and seeing for yourself.
Cortney is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2014 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.