over the last couple of months , and globally as well as in the U . S . And sometimes , during that conversation , people will say , “ Well , yes , we need to have farmers involved .” And I am thinking , “ Well , ( then ) why aren ’ t they at the table ?”
So , I think it ’ s going to be really important that , you know , the basis of the whole concept of climate change and sustainability is that agriculture needs to make sure that we are inserted into the conversation early on . But it ’ s also important that we don ’ t keep just talking to ourselves . You know , we need to make sure that there ’ s an integration of conversations across the board , so those who might be making policy truly understand the unintended consequences , or also understand the positive solutions ; either way .
And so , agriculture , to me , is at the core of where we ’ re going — it ’ s just that we really need to be in the middle of the conversation now , not ( only ) when decisions are made .
I know that you ’ re involved in another conversation . You were named to the board of directors of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky a couple of years ago . And I know that your background includes owning a strategic nutrition consulting firm for the food and healthcare industries . Why is it important that that insight and perspective about farming and food production have a seat at that particular table ?
Well , it ’ s — earlier this week , we actually had a discussion of really bringing a group of partners across healthcare and the workforce to really look at how we can start drilling in on particular focus areas within Kentucky , to really start turning around ( and ) making Kentucky a healthier population .
The reality ( is that ) we are at the bottom — not at the total bottom , but definitely at the , at the lower percentage of being healthful . During COVID , it really , it has exposed an issue we already knew ( we had ): the issues of health equity and inequity , and how COVID has affected those with the higher percentage of culpability , such as ( those with ) diabetes , heart disease , etc .
So , with my background , I do lead the strategic planning evaluation committee , and so , you know , we have to think broad-base . What are the factors that are , really , have created this , you know ? At the core , it really is food , as well as access to healthcare .
So , I feel like my very background , as well as my work in strategic planning over the years , can really work side by side with all the other colleagues in the health and ( food ) workforce to be very focused on the fact that there ’ s never been a better time , and it ’ s really important that we move forward and really identify what ’ s at the core and how we can reverse our health status in Kentucky .
Marianne , an article on your blog is titled , “ Antibiotics : Cure or Curse ?” And you cite concerns about antibiotic overuse , resistance , and how the two may be intertwined and how , for some , the blame is on animal agriculture , while for others , it ’ s on human medicine .
Do you anticipate movement toward more antibioticfree and organic production in 2021 ?
SUMMER ISSUE – JUNE 2021
Yes , even though I do think we will see more of it . What ’ s interesting — in a recent survey that was just recently released by the International Food Information Council Foundation in Washington , D . C ., which I have previously worked ( for ) — what was interesting is they were really looking at influences on animal protein and plant protein decision-making . And about 25 % of the individuals said that if a product was labeled “ no antibiotic ,” that really influences their decision , more so than “ organic .”
And so , we see that that ’ s typically with those that might be under the age of 45 and ( with a ) higher income . But , again , individuals are connecting that as a safety issue , and with COVID , there ’ s also been concern that , “ Okay , what ’ s in my food or what ’ s being given to animal protein that , you know , is there any ” — even though we know it ’ s not really been , that ’ s not necessarily true — but there is some thought within the public of , “ Is there ( a ) connection ( with ) how my food is raised , especially animal protein , as related to disease states or future disease states ?”
So , I do think we will continue to see consumer influence on looking for products that have no antibiotics . I think there ’ s a lot of discussion out there ( about ) whether , does that — is it as good for human health as ( it ) is for animal welfare ? But antibiotics — ( the ) third shift is so important across the human and animal continuum .
I served on one health board a few years ago when I worked with the International Food Information , and so this is one area that really , as a human and animal health connection , that needs to continue to be looked at over the way . And with organic , even though it ’ s still a small piece of the total purchases , what was interesting is , last year , to your point , with COVID , we saw a much more significant increase of individuals who ( are ) buying organic produce .
Hmm . Well , what is on your shortlist of things you hope to see happen in agriculture and food production this year , in 2021 ?
Oh , my shortlist . So , world peace . [ Laughs ] I think , in the shortlist — I keep ( coming ) back to it — but ( on my ) shortlist is really bringing this whole discussion around sustainable food systems : what does that look like ? And that ’ s a really large topic , but I think , in 2021 , my shortlist is : what have we learned about the food value chain ( and ) the whole distribution system during 2020 ? How can we use these learnings to really start looking at what needs to change ? You know , what have we learned , and how can we use those learnings to really improve not only the safety ( of ) the distribution system but also improve trust and transparency and take that and learn what we can do better ?
So , really , even though it ’ s a very large shortlist , I think this should give us an opportunity to really put the consumer and the farmer , along the whole other food value chain , ( to put these ) individuals together to really realize that — if we are going to be able to continue with having the availability of food that we have been so fortunate ( to have ) — that we all need to come together to create transparency and trust among each of us .