I am a cattle farmer who blogs. This combination leads to an interesting life, but yesterday’s blog experience surpasses anything that I could have imagined. There are times when I wonder if anyone reads what I write – I did not have to wonder yesterday as my email box filled with hundreds of messages as I did my normal “cowgirl” chores.
The huge outpouring of comments and the just short of 500,000 reads renews my faith that Americans are willing to engage with a farmer to learn about where food comes from.
This afternoon, Subway issued a revised statement which brings me hope that we can work together to form meaningful change. I have copied the relevant verbiage in the below paragraph which came directly from their website. The bold green portion is the additional language that appears in the revised statement as of today. Subway states:
Our goal is to reduce and eliminate the use of antibiotics in the food we serve. Elimination of antibiotics use in our supply chain will take time, but we are working diligently with our suppliers to find quality solutions that also ensure our high quality and food safety standards are upheld and not compromised in any way. Our plan is to eliminate the use of antibiotics in phases with the initial focus on the poultry products that we serve in the U.S. We are in the process of transitioning to chicken products made from chicken raised without antibiotics and expect this transition to be completed by the end of 2016. In addition, turkey products made from turkey raised without antibiotics will be introduced in 2016. The transition is expected to take 2-3 years. Supply of pork and beef products from animals raised without antibiotics in the U.S. is extremely limited. We expect our transition to take place by 2025. That said, we recognize that antibiotics are critical tools for keeping animals healthy and that they should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in veterinary and human medicine. Our policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but not for growth promotion of farm animals. Accordingly, we are asking our suppliers to do the following:
- Adopt, implement and comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) guidance for industry 209 and 213, which requires that medically important antibiotics not be used for growth promotion. Visit the FDA site to learn more.
- Assure that all antibiotics use is overseen, pre-approved and authorized by a licensed veterinarian before they are administered to any animal.
- Keep accurate and complete records to track use of all antibiotics.
- Adhere at all times to all legal requirements governing antibiotic withdrawal times. This assures that antibiotics have been eliminated from the animals’ systems at the time of slaughter.
- Actively encourage, support and participate in research efforts focused on improving animal health while reducing antibiotics use.
I view Subway’s revised statement as a victory for all of us. I am incredibly thankful to everyone who read my post and contributed to the discussion.
I went through the comments from yesterday’s post and grouped them into a few different categories that require further explanation:
- The Title: I gave a lot of thought to what to call my blog post, and the chosen title demonstrated how I felt (as a cattle farmer) when I read Subway’s first announcement. The title was a reflection of my feelings – something that I think is appropriate on a personal blog site. I view the scenario painted by the title as a very real possibility in the future of food production if farmers are not included in the discussion of “how food animals are raised”.
- Today, there exists a diverse food production system in the United States that includes both conventionally raised animals, and “niche market” animals such as organic and cattle that have never received an antibiotic. I think that this is a valuable system. Within this current system, organic and never treated animals can be moved out of niche market production and into the regular markets when they become sick and require treatment. While there are logistics involved to ensure that withdrawal times are adhered to before these animals are marketed, the system is relatively seamless. I think that Subway’s initial statements threatened rather than enhanced the current diverse system. The company was quoted as saying that the time line for beef and pork was elongated in order to allow the meat industry to change its practices while keeping the cost of their meat supply stable. This tells me that the premium for niche market animals would fall by the wayside with the creation of a new system where niche market beef sells for regular prices, and meat from animals that have been treated with antibiotics would sell at a discount (with the eventual possibility of being deemed worthless).
- Someone asked what makes animals get sick: Animals get sick when they come in contact with either a bacteria or a virus that penetrates their immune system. Stressful events caused by weather, movement, or coming in contact with other animals outside of the home herd are common contributors. I have worked hard over the past 15+ years to find ways to lower stress on my animals, and I have been successful in reducing the number of animals that require treatment. I mentioned in my post that last year I treated 7.8% of the animals in my feedyard. I would like to get that figure under 5% and am working with both my veterinarian and my rancher partners to accomplish this.
- Sub Therapeutic use: I serve on multiple national committees made up of scientists (including veterinarians) and farmers that are currently working to eliminate sub therapeutic antibiotic use in food animal production. Antibiotics necessary in human medicine are no longer used for growth promotion, and veterinarians play a key role in preventing and diagnosing illnesses so that they can be effective when necessary. I believe that we are moving the right direction.
- I think that further research on antibiotic resistance is critical as we all search for continuous improvement (both on the human and the animal side). Each and every one of us has a “footprint”, and it will take a team effort to make meaningful improvement. I am committed to this. I also think that we all need to be committed to being good stewards: to each other, to our animals, and to our planet. As someone pointed out, there are “bad actors” that exist in every industry – we need to turn those people into stewards so that positive improvement can be attained.
This is getting long, so I will wrap it up. It has always been my intent to be a positive instigator for continuous improvement in this journey we call food production. I put in long hours on my farm offering care to my animals, and additional hours reaching out to each of you to share how I grow beef. While I will never achieve perfection, I try to make up for it with hard work and sincerity.
Thank you for traveling along with me.
46 responses to “Following Up On Subway…”
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Way to go Anne
Thank you, Dr. Cross! I appreciate the Aggie community sharing the post and broadening it’s reach 🙂
I am new to your blog and when i read the Subway post and your concerns, i have heard both sides of the story and i am inclined to agree with you on the subject of raising healthy animals. there is a time limit to all medications that are used on Animals the same as there is a time that it takes to leave the human body. Most Antibiotics are a short term medication anyway. I do understand the frustration it puts our farmers under to produce a good quality product with the new FDA`s policies. It is heart warming to know that the majority of farmers care about their product and are will to do anything for their health and well being. God bless you all, and thank you for all that you do. God bless.
Thank you Tracy! I very much appreciate your kind words. I am glad that you plan to continue to follow the blog 🙂
I look forward to hearing from you again!
Anne – it is pleasure to call you a friend in the industry. Thank you for again taking time out of your busy day again to update everyone on this situation. As for the title I think it is direct reflection how every single one of us who care for livestock daily felt. My 1st thought when I read the initial statement by Subway was something very similar to your title except with maybe a few more colorful words. As a rancher myself sometimes hard to separate business and home life because our businesses are our homes. We don’t clock out at 5 on Friday and not think about the office again until 8 am Monday morning. I am glad to see that we as an industry stuck together and stood up for ourselves. We need to do a better job at educating our customers. Thanks for all you do. Congrats to the lady Haymakers! Sounds like they had a great day!!
Thank you, Bobbi.
The Lady Haymakers had a great day bringing home the Nebraska Class C Runner Up Trophy. I am so very proud of them. Ashley Grace ran a heart filled race — as did the other three scoring runners on the team. They run with a “pack mentality” and it gives them strength. I learn from them every day and try to inspire all of us in agriculture to embrace that “pack mentality” as well. I think that we got that done pretty well with the Subway conversation.
Well done, Anne! This whole dialogue has been amazing and very productive.
Thank you, Sue Fan 🙂 It certainly was an interesting experience for me. The conversation is not over, but I think that we are on better footing now than a couple of days ago. It is such an important issue, but we have to work together and be intelligent as we search for improvement.
I appreciate you reading. I hope that the family is doing well!
Do you have a link to the revised statement? I’d love to post it as an update on our website as well.
Here is the link to their website. They revised their animal welfare policy and it is listed there. There was no big “press release” this go round, but the statement appears to be revised.
I am so proud of you for sticking up for what you believe in, what you do on a daily basis, and for the truth. Now a days it is hard for someone with the truth to be herd over the loud lies and misconceptions of big business and media aimed to scare people to one persons misconceived point of view. You are always willing to hear feedback and address it respectively with the truth.
I thought you would be interested in another blog post from one of the other ladies I follow https://huskercowgirl.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/subway-please-listen-to-americas-farmers-and-ranchers/#comment-496
She shared your POV and also address lies with respect but mostly with the truth. I applaud both of you for your wisdom, truth, and willingness to address these important issues with facts and truth rather then trying to scare people into believing your view. The truth if someone will listen is more powerful 🙂
I am proud to be your blogging friend 🙂
Thank you, Kim! I will check out the other blog. I very much appreciate your friendship 🙂
Good to hear from you–
I concur with everything you posted! Especially #2! We can constantly say there’s room for all but if we are demanded to only practice one kind of agriculture than organics, all natural, etc. no longer become a niche market or can fetch a higher price for the farmer and then what happens to the sick animals we treated? There is nowhere for them to go. I fear that is the road we are starting to head down. Thank you for all you do!
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Thank you for all of the outreach that you have done on the issue. I appreciate it.
I disagree with the last part of this statement. I grew up raising cattle and from time to time we would get sick animals. The sick animals were sold at a slaughter house for dog and cat food products instead of human consumption. That left all of the healthy, untreated animals open for slaughter for human consumption. We still support this type of production by purchasing our meat from a local meat market that has their own kill floor and uses only “clean” grass fed animals from local ranches. I would like to be able to eat at Subway and know that I am getting the same quality meat that I am accustomed to.
Hi Greg, I appreciate your thoughts. I think that it is important to point out that just because an animal has an episode of sickness, that does not condemn him to a life of sickness. The vast majority of the animals that become ill, quickly recover with an appropriate dosing of antibiotics. Once that animal recovers his health, and then passes the required withdrawal period, I do not believe that meat is any different than an animal that has never been treated.
I also use a local butcher to slaughter one of my own beef when my freezer is empty. Sometimes that animal has been treated at some point in it’s lifetime, and sometimes it has not — regardless, I feel good about serving it to my family because I am confident that it is safe and nutritious.
It is your right to choose the meat that you feed to yourself and your family — one of the greatest things about our meat supply is the vast array of choices. If you prefer grass fed beef — that is great! I am glad that enjoy the beef product and thank you for being a customer. I simply ask that you allow others the freedom of choice as well.
Congratulations on your victory. Well done. Thank you for your leadership and hard work. This just goes to show that if the ag community responds to these outrageous actions with in large numbers and with factual reasoning we can prevail. Onward and upward!
Thank you, Charles. This issue is far from over and we all have much work to do on it, but hopefully we can be meaningful in our changes so that the outcomes are positive.
I agree that the ag community needs to both work together and find their voice. We all play an incredibly important role in the production of food, and need to “be at the table” when these discussions occur.
Both this and the earlier post were excellent insights into the complexity of our food production system–and a lesson in how understanding this complexity and working through it will help create a system that might actually make sense rather than one in which marketing hype trumps all. I thought you made an excellent point in the first “Subway” post: “It is unreasonable for my customers to demand the impossible.” We do this with all sorts of foods–consumers want fresh organic local strawberries in midwinter, for a reasonable price!–and I think it is absolutely appropriate to educate consumers about the realities of food production. Thanks for doing this with grace and honesty. Keep up the good work.
Hi Adele! Thank you for reading and I very much appreciate your thoughts. Yes, your statements are so very true. I am glad that you found my posts understandable and appropriate.
I hope that I always stay true to “grace and honesty” — as they are two of the most important pillars in my life. I tell my girls, “you should always take your integrity with you because it is the basis for meaningful conversation and improvement”. It is so very important that farmers are allowed to contribute to this vitally important conversation.
As a Texas Aggie goat raiser– I salute you! We need to wrest back the education component of meat products from the restaurants! I don’t care if a restaurant wants to sell products grown a certain way, but am angered when their discussion leads uninformed consumers to believe that way is the only way! Farmers Fight!
Yes, Karen — Farmers Fight! is an appropriate chant for this one. I am saddened that we have traveled so far down this road, but believe that it is so critically important to share the realities of farming.
There is no “Ivory Tower” of food production — growing food takes practicality and hard work and it is not always “pretty”. While I believe that my customers can demand that I always do my best, they cannot demand the impossible. Somehow we need to get this discussion back to a meaningful place where we can all be successful while appropriately addressing an important issue.
Thanks for reading.
I think what Subway said (the second time around) is right in line with the upcoming veterinary feed directive (VFD) which (if I understand it correctly – of course it is complicated, it is the gov’t after all) will “forbid” the use of antibiotics in feed for growth promotion and will “require” a prescription written by a veterinarian (who has a veterinary client patient relationship VCRP with the farmer) for antibiotics used in feed for prevention and control of disease. The prescription goes to the “approved” feed place, where antibiotics are mixed into the feed as described by the prescription. Copies of the prescription are kept by veterinarian, farmer, and feed store for some number of years. The VFD refers only to antibiotics that are felt to be “important for use in human”. Ionophores are not used in human medicine, so ionophores are not covered by the VFD.
This is actually a very complicated issue with multiple components – the “mass” (by this I mean feeding to an entire group of animals) use of antibiotics in feed for growth promotion (no longer legal as of Jan 2017 I believe); the “mass” use of antibiotics in feed for disease prevention and control; the use of injectable antibiotics to prevent disease in a group of “susceptible” animals and the treatment of an individual animal because of an illness.
IMHO the first 3 uses of antibiotics could be significantly curtailed with improvements in husbandry, management, and stockman ship. I do not believe that most of us (generic us) think that a sick animal should not be treated – I believe that people may find the “mass” use of antibiotics problematic. It appears that the media has lumped them all together, when of course they are not.
I wondered when I would hear from you! I appreciate the explanation which I find to be very much in line with my own thoughts and understanding.
Thank you for chiming in on the conversation.
Anne, I am not surprised by all the responses to your original blog about Subway. You have a strong following and we all appreciate all the hard work you do for your farm and your family. You have been able to articulate what thousands of us in the industry are thinking and we appreciate you being a loud and very intelligent voice for all of us. Thank you.
Thank you, Dave. I very much appreciate your kind words and am glad to hear that many share my thoughts. Agriculture needs to find its voice — The future of food production is at stake here, and we need to be a part of the conversation so that meaningful improvements all along the food chain can occur.
The hesitant part of me still wonders if anything here changes Subway stance on antibiotics use for livestock in its supply chain. As I wrote earlier in the day (http://agricultureproud.com/2015/10/23/subway-updates-statement-on-antibiotic-use-in-livestock/) when I looked back to see what their statements had looked like prior to the change, I’m not certain that this clarification does much to change the statement from their initial press release regarding the changed policy.
And I’d be surprised if this was a change in response to the farm community, rather than a poorly timed posting of the information that was already on hand. But that may be the cautious side of me thinking.
Thank you for chiming in, Ryan. And, thank you for keeping all of us “in the know” relative to this information. I think that the additional verbiage allows the conversation to be on a reasonable playing field. Both farmers and Subway customers need to hold the corporate office to the revised statement. It certainly bears watching and paying close attention as we move on into the future.
I always appreciate your view point. You are a great advocate and educator for all of us. Keep up the good work.
Hi Anne, I just to wanted to say what a nice article! I’m glad to see you are working on ways to eliminate stress in your beef herd & antibiotics use. We do organic dairy farming & of course we can’t use antibiotics, if we do for humane purposes we half to remove that cow from the herd. We have had great success through proper animal nutrition pretty much eliminating antibiotics use by working with this company out of Wisconsin http://crystalcreeknatural.com/. They have wonderful nutritionists & a wonderful on staff veterinarian that work with both conventional & organic herds. I would highly recommend them for your beef herd if you looking at to reduce antibiotic use.
Thank you for sharing the link. I will take a look at it, and visit with my veterinarian about the company and their products.
Thank you also for your work as a farmer — Our family drinks lots of milk 🙂
I appreciated your update. One thing that may help in the future though, when citing or writing a quote could you please use a contrasting color to the background. The use of yellow type on a sepia toned background made reading the quote challenging until I scrolled over it with the mouse to turn the type blue from yellow. It’s a small suggestion, but a big aide in being able to effectively read what was typed.
Thank you for the suggestion. I just went and made the revised statement bold print in dark green. I think that should help for reader ease. Sorry about that! I appreciate the “heads up” 🙂
While I respect people who prefer vegetables grown organically and meat raised without antibiotics, it is not a choice I would make. What bothers me about Subway is they are making that choice for me.
Yes, you said it just right. I agree. The diversity of our safe food supply is a true blessing. just like you, I hold very dear the right to be able to make that choice on my own.
Thank you for a great comment. I appreciate you adding to the discussion.
Thank you for the articles. I have been following this and commenting on my FB page which has brought many questions from consumers that I have been able to set straight. I have used ur articles in back up. We are a small angus farm that sells to private customers. But the issue affects all of us in this industry. I see this revised statement as a positive also. At least someone has listened. Thank you.
Thanks for the note, Barb. And, thank you for your efforts as well!
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Since when do animals or any living thing need the use of antibiotics to PREVENT disease? I’m not being sarcastic, but sincerely asking this question. It is my understanding that antibiotics should only be used to kill a harmful bacteria that is already present. If you use antibiotics to PREVENT disease in your cattle, to me, it is no different than using them for accelerated growth purposes.
The preventative use of antibiotics (either in humans or animals) is definitely controversial. I remember when my husband had dental work done, he was told that he had to take antibiotics prior to the procedure — while I don’t agree with this practice, it does happen with relative frequency in human medicine. I agree with you that this practice needs to be phased out — both in animals and humans.
A few times a year, my veterinarian prescribes the use of antibiotics for an entire pen of cattle when there is a disease spreading throughout the group that we cannot get controlled. To me, this is an acceptable use of antibiotics although (in this case) not every animal in the group is showing clinical signs of the disease at the time of treatment. I always feel a bit like a failure when this happens because it means that my non-antibiotic preventative measures on the farm did not work. However, it is an effective tool for getting the disease outbreak under control. We try hard to minimize this type of use.
I think that it is critical that all of use try to invoke meaningful change relative to our personal “antibiotic use footprint”. There are changes that I have made over the years that have greatly reduced our farm’s footprint, but there are more changes that I need to do in the future to continue to make progress. I understand your concern, and I think that it has great merit.
Thanks for sharing,
Great followup. Thanks!
Thank you for your support!
Very well said I’m a be producer here in Canada as well and I think is just a lot of BS just like bSE Subway better get bullet caps on and give it to us and hunker down because they’re in for bullets of a different sort they may have to get a new clientele to eatto eat there superduper sandwichpeople want cheap food and fast that’s why they going to Subway they don’t go to Subway because they know it’s super Duper meetnow or in the future
Two great posts, and my compliments to you and anyone else who helped Subway see the value of a policy that looks very much like the BQA standards.
Except for sliced roast beef and steak fingers, most of the beef that the fast food service, including Chipolte and Subway, can be sourced from cull cows and meet their standards. As a consequence, the whole tempest seems totally nuts to me.
Making straw men villains outside their organizations will not solve problems or food safety or ethics inside their organizations. It is truly crazy that people with other agendas are tempting them to make such silly public announcements.
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