This post is the second in a short series for Elanco in the Truth About Food initiative. This post has been compensated by Elanco to help raise awareness around food security. All opinions are mine alone. #TruthAboutFood
Jennifer is a lady that I look up to. And before you get into short jokes, know that actual physical height is only one of the reasons I look up to her. She embodies the word farmer – and it was only after interacting with her that I really started to see female farmers for their full capacity. Jennifer is the herd manager for their Holstein ladies, but can also be found out in the crop fields with her brother and dad, or in the calf pen with her mom. It’s a full family affair at their farm, and Jennifer is an integral part of it.
The milk that Jennifer’s cows produce at their dairy is sold to a company that owns processing plants and helps with marketing. It’s a national company, but once their milk is picked up at their farm, it’s sent to the closest processing plant that’s just a few hours away in Virginia. There, milk from all over the region is tested for safety, then pasteurized, processed, and packaged for the end product. The milk may be sold in bulk to companies that want to make cheese or ice cream, or it may be put into gallon jugs with a grocery store label. If the end product is time-sensitive and meant for immediate consumption (think: gallon jugs of milk), it’s sent back out into the closest markets for you and I to pick up and take home.
Jennifer and her family are part of a national, large company as family farmers. But that doesn’t mean that her time-sensitive product ends up far from where it started.
Different products in U.S. agriculture may travel different lengths to get to you, depending on seasonality, supply and demand, and shelf-stable capacity, but the farmers behind that product are all local. They are your rural neighbors who quietly go about their daily work from sunrise to beyond sundown. They are the moms beside you at soccer games, your fellow shoppers in the grocery store, and seat 34C on your latest airline adventure.
What they produce is sold, processed, packaged, and marketed to you.
The gap between farmer and consumer is filled with stickers, commercials, and paid media. Think I’m joking? Take a look at the next watermelon, milk jug, or package of meat that you see. Count how many claims are on the packaging. Think back to how many articles or Facebook ads or whatever that you have heard and seen about this product (Ex: Milk) and it’s label (Ex: “All Natural,” “No Hormones,” Etc.). Remember when I wrote about labeling on chicken?
Labeling is confusing. And often misleading. If I didn’t see the farm side daily and didn’t know people like Jennifer – I’m sure I would take stickers at their face value and miss the fact that there is an actual living farmer behind my purchases at the store.
The truth about food? There’s a lot of pieces to that puzzle, and labeling and the transparency behind production are just a few of them.
What else is confusing regarding your food choices? Let’s start a conversation around what matters most for your family to grow and develop – nutritious food.