The week of March 17-23 has been declared National Agriculture Week. As part of the festivities, you may have celebrated National Agriculture Day on March 19. The events surrounding National Agriculture week are part of a nationwide effort focused on telling the true story about American agriculture, while reminding citizens that agriculture is important to everyone. One of our readers asked how we think that Ag Day and Ag Week should be celebrated. The first answer that comes to mind involves suggesting that everyone seek hearty helpings of bacon and a satisfying pork chop. However, taking things a bit further, we would also like to thank our pork producer readers for doing their part to produce a safe, affordable (and extremely tasty) product.
While pondering the important role that agriculture has played in the development of the United States, it is interesting to note that, according to John Grey, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, in Thomas Jefferson’s time, 96% of Americans were farmers. Today that number is less than 2% of the population. Despite the drop, productivity has skyrocketed and agriculture has evolved into a technology-driven profession. According to a 2009 report on the economic impact of animal agriculture, the livestock production industry supports 1,818,843 jobs. The impact on household income across the nation is about $41 billion. Animal agriculture contributes more than 5% of the gross state product in over a dozen states. In 2009, $10 billion was paid in income taxes related to animal agriculture. Those are impressive figures!
And yet, even with that kind of impact and an ample supply of easily available, affordable food, many consumers have no idea where that food actually comes from. As part of the National Agriculture Day and Agriculture Week effort, many farmers and people involved in the food production industry have been working to spread the great news about our food. Smithfield Foods invited the public to learn more about how pigs are raised by offering a series of pork production videos online on their YouTube channel. The series is entitled, “Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production.”
The American Meat Institute (AMI) is also seeking to provide information for consumers. During Agriculture Week, AMI promoted the newest video added to the “Meat Mythcrushers” Web site. AMI points out that even though the recent drought has raised the price of meat, the overall percentage of their income that Americans spend when making their meat purchases is still better than in the past. According to AMI, 21% of the U.S. grocery budget is spent on meat. The Meat Mythcrusher series includes more than 20 videos and has accumulated more than 28,000 views on YouTube since its launch in 2011. All of the videos are available at http://www.meatmythcrushers.com/.
Did you do anything to celebrate National Ag Week? What do you wish consumers knew about how their food is produced? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, or email [email protected]. Thank you, farmers! Happy Ag Week!