Its Time For Us to Go Oprahless

By Due to the fact that my flight was delayed for three hours in the Calgary airport on my way to Denver for the NCBA 2011 annual convention I found the Rocky Mountain Lounge to get in an afternoon of work. Beside my work station was a giant plasma tv that had on the Oprah show. Now I will admit that I am not at all a fan of Oprah in the least but she had on the nemesis of agriculture Michael Pollan. Essentially Oprah challenged her audience to consider more of a vegan diet. Obviously I disagree with the thought of not eating meat as a part of a healthy diet but there are several thoughts and questions that came to mind during the show.

Is it purely coincidence that the “innocent and pure” Oprah makes her vegan statement with her tag team partner Pollan on the eve of the largest cattle industry convention in the world? The NCBA convention is in Denver this week which is where 6000 delegates will gather to discuss the beef industry. Her loyal followers will say, “not Oprah…she is just looking out for the best for her audience.” Well I will call bullshit on that one. No coincidence here because this all about attention and hype.

Why is that America continues to take health advice from Oprah (notoriously always overweight), Suzanne Somers (I don’t know where to start), and Michael Pollan (a journalist trying to pretend he is a doctor)? Why do we not listen to the facts presented by globally acclaimed food scientist Bruce German that meat is a very good option in a balanced diet. Oh wait I forgot about the ever so bright Alicia Silverstone who constantly promotes her vegan diet on Oprah and other tv shows. Alicia’s claims are purely anecdotal and fly in the face of scientific research done by PhD’s and not actresses. I guess I forgot that we also look to Jenny McCarthy for advice on autistic children because she has written a book claiming immunization causes the disease. Why does the American public hold people like Suzanne Somers, Oprah and others in a regard that we think they are the authority on subjects. I guess it’s no surprise, when many North American’s consider watching Entertainment Tonight or TMZ as getting the “news.”

The fact that Oprah thinks eating eggs from chickens that got to listen to music makes her any better than the rest of us is laughable to me. Oprah is just another spokesman fighting against agriculture with this elitist attitude of “I can afford it.” Do you seriously think that very many consumers care whether their food listened to music?  I think this shows how out of touch Oprah is with the common consumer.  Another fallacy is that free range chickens are some how better for you is the biggest misnomer ever as well. I would challenge Oprah to follow around a free range chicken for a day and check out what they eat. Sorry I would much rather eat chicken that is fed a healthy diet prescribed by a nutritionist and not a chicken that eats dog shit. On another note is it not strange to you that Oprah and Pollan are against chickens being fed prescribed diets and yet humans that eat strict plant diets is somehow the answer. Just like free range chickens, humans want options and therefore trying to force me to not eat meat does seem hypocritical on Oprahs part.

I am sure that many of my beef producing friends in Canada and the United States are going to try and educate Oprah. They will reach out to her and say lets talk. They will try to get her to understand what is happening inside the beef business and how we really do care for our animals and that beef is nutritious. To that I say you are wasting your time. This is a great way for Oprah to create buzz for her OWN network that was recently launched in the US. Over time Oprah has moved from talking about real personal family issues to nothing more than a PR junkie interviewing friendly celebrities and giving gifts to the audience.  Two weeks ago Oprah is discussing her love for chocolate on Piers Morgan and this week she is promoting being vegan.  I don’t think she knows what she believes.

CHECK OUT WHAT BILL MAHER THINKS OF OPRAH AND HER GIFTING

Instead I am going to suggest that we quit watching the Oprah show and also we take a stand and not subscribe to her new OWN network on cable. On top of this we should quit watching her band of cronies like Dr. Phil, Dr. OZ, and Rachel Ray. Agriculture it is time that we speak and say no more of this lunacy. Oprah is not our friend and never will be. She is more activist than journalist just like Michael Pollan.

America wake up and realize that Oprah doesn’t really care about you. Don’t worry she won’t notice if you don’t listen to her. And besides if she does by chance ask you about it, tell her the truth and say, I LOVE BEEF!!!!!!!!!

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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26 Comments

Crystal

Great post. Did you know that there is a lady that decided to live a complete Oprah lifestyle. I think I could easily do the exact opposite. I am very glad that millions of people got to see inside a packing plant, but I sure didn’t like the context. We need to start listening to our doctors and not celebrity authors.

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Ellen

Shaun – great post! I too have become disenchanted with Oprah and the rest of here cronies. However there are still many, including most of the ladies at my workplace who hang on every word and wait for the next piece of life changing advice dispensed by Oprah and Dr Oz. I am also constantly amazed how little people seem to know about proper nutrition, finance,their own health etc etc etc.

Add me to the list of the ‘Oprahless’ and I LOVE BEEF!!

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Michelle Tucker

Well said Shaun. I love the Bill Mahr video you included. That was a low blow by Oprah and journalism includes both sides of the story.
Thanks for sharing your always intersting thoughts!

Michelle

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Tiffany

Great write up Shaun – another fun fact about free range chickens, where do you think they lay their eggs? And when do you think they are found? A little worrisome in summer, don’t you think?

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Glenn

Chocolate is vegan as long as it’s not milk chocolate. Adding milk to chocolate ruins it anyway, kind of like adding milk to coffee.

I think the last time the beef industry tried to “talk” to Oprah, they did it by suing her. Not a great way to start a conversation, I’d say.

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Emily

Shawn,

I agree with parts of what you are saying, but there are parts that are so biased that you run into incorrect statements.

1. Pollen is a) an omnivore and a beef eater, not a vegetarian like you said, b) not against agriculture in the slightest, and c) Never was a journalist. He’s a professor. He’s against unsustainable and irresponsible growing practices that come from large farms/super dairies and the like. I do agree to an extent that he oversteps his qualifications in books like In Defense Of Food. Omnivores Dilemma was excellent though. Did you read those?
2. There is a very common reaction from members in the meat industry to feel like people are 100% against beef, when most are really advocating for a balanced diet that includes beef. I like beef, raised my own, and belong to a meat CSA, but it’s not something I eat every day. It should be completely natural to have a meatless day. It’s 1 day out of the week! There is a balance.
3. Oprah may be on a mission for a diet based on veges, but it’s not an elitist position to be advocating for less meat. Your article takes Oprah’s (insane) position of eating only eggs coming from classical music loving chickens, and groups all of us together with her. We are not elitist eaters. We are conscious eaters. (as a side note, many small dairies use classical music in the parlor because it helps the demeanor of the animals).
4. Free range chickens feed off a natural grass based diet compared to factory raised chickens who eat a nutritionist prescribed diet (as you call it) of pesticides, growth hormones, corn (GM corn), antibiotics etc. I’d rather eat the former any day of the week. I’m sure you are already aware of this. (Tiffany- Free range chicken farmers still train the girls to lay eggs in coops, not the middle of the field like you are implying)
Well this has been fun. I’d love to see some more discussion. Is Oprah really wearing a cowboy hat?

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Phil

Shaun,
Let me start by saying that I agree that the world does not need Oprah (although for the period of over a decade her Angel Network did report to be doing huge $$ in charitable work, it is now being dissolved as a thing of the past.) I often read your articles and can pick out some useful tips and market information. As I read this post, I felt it was written with much more emotion (passions similar to what they are experiencing now in Egypt) and leaning towards defensive. I often have felt this way about our food system and the perception of agriculture in the media. However I don’t feel that Oprah is significantly responsible for the values instilled in ~roughly 350million (North) Americans. She has however found a way to cash in on those beliefs. If Oprah were to vanish from our television sets, I don’t think a single thing would change…It would be like treating the symptom rather than addressing the cause. That to me is were the struggles lie in the agri-food system in the decades to come. Facing the root of why we value a sweater over the health of our food. Keep fighting the good fight! Enjoy Sunny Denver, CO.

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Lisa

Shaun, you make some good points about celebrity influence (especially the autism-vaccine thing), but this article is so toxic it’s hard to take you seriously. Besides, telling people to stop watching Oprah is like sticking your head in the sand. Even after she’s retired, she will wield more influence than the ag industry could ever dream of. She might not be always right (after all, she’s not God), but she’s got credibility.

And that comment on her weight was a cheap shot.

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Chris

I am a beef’n taters loving farmboy, and make my living in the agriculture industry. I know first hand what goes into the grain, milk, beef, and poultry products we buy, and I’m very OK with it all. However, I do prefer grass finished beef, chicken, and eggs when I can source them, if not that’s OK too, I just enjoy the flavor better, and I do believe there are some nutritional advantages from eating corn fed everything every time. The main point I would like to make is that I think it wise to listen often to the voices and perceptions of pop culture, you’ll be much better equipped to drive change and influence their perceptions. Do yourself a favor, read Pollens books, watch FoodInc, and be prepared to accept the parts of them you agree with and to debate the parts you dont agree with the next time you’re immersed into a group of uninformed city people. I have changed the perceptions of many west coast people who fear our food is toxic. It helped me to know what they had already listened to.

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Laina

Has anyone actually read Jenny McCarthy’s book about autism? Reading these posts makes me think not. Everyone here seems to be taking there misguided opinions and calling them facts.

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Ed Lefsrud

The responses to me are interesting. The closest to me is Emily’s #1 which is bulleye and I can live with comment #2, the rest is Oprah, and we happened to find her palace while in Maui. She is one RICH lady.
Michael Pollan is no enemy of ours. He was darn curious about where his meal came from and wrote a couple books.Omnivores Dilemma appears to be first written then Defence of Food.
Omnivores Dilemma is a text book on food, THICK, small print and heavy going and tells Our story of Agriculture rather well,the chapter on corn was great.
The book Guns,Germs, and Steel which amoung other things tell the BSE story, both should be required reading, we get to know our industry of Agriculture a tad better.Expect a week per book.
As for Oprah, she is show, and out of her league. I have only watched part of 1 show of Oprah and it happened to be this one. Food is going to be headline news of a while, get ready!

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Lisa

@Chris – I couldn’t agree with you more!

The fact that Oprah did a show on food means that more and more people think that agriculture is important. That gives farmers a chance to tell their side of it, like Chris.

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Les

I saw the first segment of Oprahs show and what impressed me was the willingness of Cargill to open their doors to their packing plant. Cargill deserves a big pat on the back for showing the consumer where their food comes from. The cleanliness and orderly fashion on how the cattle were processed was impressive. What bothered me most about the show was the claim that peta forced the packers to make changes within their plants for more humane handling of the cattle.Im pretty sure this a false claim. The improvements in handling were brought about by people like Temple Grandin and men and women within the cattle industry that have a genuine interest in the well being of the animals they have helped raised from birth to slaughter.
I have raised cattle my whole life and i am very proud of our industry. I believe discussions like this are very healthy. I use any technology on my cattle that is scientifically proven to be safe that will produce a product that wont compromise the quality of the end product.
As consumers of food i think we are all spoiled. We dont realize how safe and affordable it is.
When the time comes and food costs us 50% of our income instead of roughly 10% as it does today what will the headlines read then.

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Dennis Laughton

What more can I say other than I just tell them to remember that photosynthesis is a chemical process!!

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Megan Oleksyn

It’s sad that consumers (who require farmers to live on a daily basis) listen not to who speaks the truth, but to who speaks the loudest…
It is also funny that vegetarians love animals so much, yet they eat all their food!

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wayne

The real problem here is the disconnect between urban and rural. As the farms become big factory farms you have less contact between people which leads to people listening to all the hype coming out T.V.

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RL

Wow she gets a lot of attention from everyone doesn’t she? It’s kinda sad really that someone with so little to say and so full of crap can have such an impact. I can’t believe that so many people listen to her, isn’t there anything else on television.

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Bruce

If , for just a few months, the USA public would follow healthy diets prescribed by human nutritionists as closely as we manage the diets of the animals that we produce for agriculture , I know that we all would be amazed how significantly we would reduce obesity, heart attacks, heart failure, and diabetes. Oprah would do much more for mankind by focusing on the problems of mainstreet America instead of the whims of the American elitists . Shame on Oprah for not addressing the real problems of America and shame on those who support her billionaire lifestyle .

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Andrea

Shaun~ Are you referring to my “free range” chickens eating dog shit? Great article!

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Lee

Hey Shaun

On one thing we agree… I too, would be happy to go Oprah less, and don’t have much to do with the show other than my wife forcing me to watch the odd food based episode. And yes, I still feel complete as well! However, in this case, I am afriad that you missed a large portion of what the show was trying to communicate or what opportunities there are for animal agriculture to meet the demands of consumers which you and some other posters have missed totally.

First of all, I don’t think Oprah is the one who actually is starting this movement, she is an icon, but come on – she’s not all-powerful and omnipotent! I think Oprah is the one telling us (animal agriculture) that this is what popular culture is looking for out of their protein sources i.e. ethically raised animals. Consumers are sending a clear message – so start raising it the way we are asking for it, or suffer the consequences. As much as it pains me to admit this – she’s right, just because we produce it, doesn’t mean that consumers will eat it any more! Consumers have more protein sources available to them than just animal protein, and they are seeking these sources out.

Secondly, as depicted in the show mentioned, Michael Pollan is not a nemesis of agriculture as others have noted, he admitted to eating beef as a regular part of his diet. He also said that he didn’t think that there was anything wrong with eating meat, but that he chooses to eat meat that is from known sources and that is raised ethically, his one line sums up a lot- “these are animals that live happy lives and have one bad day!”

Thirdly, the General Manager of the Cargill plant in Fort Morgan (also on the panel as part of the Oprah show in question) should be given a raise, a medal, and a spot in the NCBA hall of fame and our eternal gratitude as an industry for how she represented our cattle industry. She was outstanding and if she is an example of the next generation of leaders in our industry I’ll gladly follow her! If anyone knows her, please shake her hand for me!

All that to say, I have a lot of city friends that have moved away from mass produced animal protein simply because of the perceptions around how these animals are raised; Oprah didn’t create this movement. In fact I think we caused some of this backlash from our production mechanisms. So as an industry, I think we have a choice, either start producing protein in a fashion that consumers will accept or start growing protein sources such as soy beans. So for pointing this out so that I can improve and continue to make my living in animal agriculture, I am actually thankful for Oprah! (something I have NEVER said before!)

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