PETA hopes to light up controversy in the Vermillion area by expressing its beef with modern agricultural practices.
The organization's inspiration? Mayoral candidate Nick "Tick" Severson's recent arrest on drug charges for possessing and using marijuana.
According to a press release issued by PETA on May 6, the animal rights organization is currently negotiating with Vermillion-area outdoor advertisers to run a billboard that shows a photo of a cow next to the words "Say 'No!' to Pot (Roast). Don't Be a Meathead. Kick the Habit! Go Vegan!"
PETA notes that the proposed billboard comes in the wake of Severson's arrest on charges of marijuana possession and ingestion and as South Dakota residents prepare to vote on a ballot item this fall to legalize medicinal marijuana.
PETA claims, in the press release, that meat and dairy products are more harmful to human health than marijuana.
People from the Vermillion area with close ties to the beef industry refute PETA's observations.
"We were designed as carnivores. There is a reason for that, and we have to balance protecting the environment, and our families' future generations, because I would like to see my grandchildren on the farm that's over 127 years old," said Sheree Christensen. She and her husband, Dale, his two brothers, and his parents farm near Beresford. They raise corn, beans and alfalfa on approximately 2,500 acres and follow state regulations to operate their 2,000-head concentrated beef feeding operation, and 100 head cow-calf operation.
"As a fourth-generation agricultural producer, I have to say that farmers and ranchers are true environmentalists," she said. "We personally use our crops to feed our animals. Therefore, we are not using as many petroleum resources for transportation," she said. "We also use byproducts from the ethanol industry, and we burn ethanol in our vehicles, which is a renewable resource."
PETA's announcement comes on the heels of an executive proclamation signed by Gov. Mike Rounds naming May as beef month in South Dakota.
South Dakota ranks eighth among U.S. states in the total number of cattle and calves, with more than 3.6 million cattle in the state according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2007 Ag Census.
"Meat-eaters are doing a lot more harm to their health than someone who smokes the occasional joint," said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "Chickens, fish, pigs, and cows who are raised on today's factory farms are fed growth-promoting drugs by the bucketful, and those drugs – along with artery-clogging fats and cholesterol – are passed along to consumers who eat meat and dairy products."
Holly Swee, a registered dietician and licensed nutritionist is employed as director of nutrition by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) has hired its first director of nutrition.?She and her husband, Troy, continue to raise cattle outside of Beresford.
Her response to PETA's claims comes in the form of an e-mail sent to the Plain Talk that documents the role that beef plays in a healthy, well balanced diet:
"2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid recommend choosing nutrient-rich foods first from all of the food groups for a healthy, balanced diet. Choosing naturally nutrient-rich foods first, like colorful fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains and lean meats, helps people get more essential nutrients, or more power, from fewer calories.
• Lean beef is a naturally rich source of 10 essential nutrients that are needed for a healthy, active lifestyle.1 A 3-ounce serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet, yet it supplies more than 10 percent of the Daily Value for 10 essential nutrients. 1
• Research continues to illustrate the critical role high-quality protein plays in optimal health.
• A growing body of evidence indicates high-quality protein plays an increasingly important role in muscle maintenance, weight management, and disease prevention such as sarcopenia, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.9
• Despite the common misperception, most Americans are not over-consuming protein.2 While the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid recommend 5.5 ounces from the meat and beans group daily, the average American is consuming only 2.3 ounces of red meat each day.6
• In fact, many Americans may benefit from a moderate to higher high-quality protein diet because of its positive role in weight management, healthy aging and disease prevention.3,4,5
• There are 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, so it's easy to "go lean with protein" and follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. 7 These 29 cuts all have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams."
1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22, 2009
2. Fulgoni VL, 3rd. Current protein intake in America: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2004. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1554S-7S.
3. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:1558S-61S.
4. Paddon-Jones D, Short KR, Campbell WW, Volpi E, Wolfe RR. Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging. Am J Clin Nutr, 2008. 87(5): p. 1562S-1566S.
5. Layman DK, Clifton P, Gannon MC, Krauss RM, Nuttall FQ. Protein in optimal health: heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:1571S-5S.
6. CSFII 1999
7. FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for Industry A Food Labeling Guide.
9. Wolfe, R. The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006; 84:475-82.
According to PETA, meat and dairy products are often loaded with drugs and chemicals, including pesticide residues, hormones, and antibiotics. The consumption of meat and other animal-derived products has been linked to heart disease, strokes, obesity, diabetes, and cancer—not to mention other hazards, such as E. coli, salmonella, and listeria infection.
Swee said that beef producers and veterinarians use antibiotics judiciously to maintain healthy animals, and the government supports this effort through regular testing. In her correspondence with the Plain Talk, she notes:
• The United States government mandates that no beef with antibiotic residues that exceed FDA standards be allowed in the food supply; therefore, all beef sold in the United States is safe from antibiotics.
• The Food Safety Inspection Service's National Residue Program (FSIS NRP) is a multi-component, analytical testing program for residues in domestic and imported meat, poultry and egg products. http://www.fsis.usda.gov
• The FSIS NRP has been in effect since 1967 and provides a variety of sampling plans to prevent concerning levels of residues from entering the food supply. The program also provides national data on the occurrence of chemical residues to support risk assessment, enforcement and educational activities.
PETA is critical of modern farming practices, noting in it press release that "in today's industrialized meat and dairy industries, chickens and turkeys have their throats cut while they're still conscious, piglets have their tails and testicles cut off without being given any painkillers, fish suffocate or are cut open while they're still alive on the decks of fishing boats, and calves are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth."
"Any time there is a negative spin on your industry, it's going to affect your livlihood," Christensen said. "We like to be proactive and tell our good story rather than be reactive. We truly have an interest in balancing all of this, because we would like to see our children and grandchildren continue farming. I don't think you see that kind of commitment outside the farming and ranching industry."
Meat, poultry, fish and other products that come from South Dakota farms, she said, will always be part of a healthy diet. Christensen added that the source of many of the negative health consequences being experienced by Americans today is not the farm sector.
Christensen said many consumers are leading overindulgent, inactive lifestyles and making poor diet choices.
"I believe that if people understand where their food is coming from, they will increase their knowledge base," she said. "I believe the United States has the safest food in the world."