BRIAN CHABOT: Let's get started. It's a pleasure to welcome someone who I think most of you know, and that's Joe M. Regenstein, who is an emeritus professor in the Department of Food Science. Joe has degrees in food chemistry and biophysics from Cornell and Brandeis University. And he joined Cornell in 1974, so he's been among us for a very long period of time.
I think many of you know that Joe's special contributions are in the area of meat science, but particularly fish, sheep, and goats. But he has a broad array of interests, as we'll learn this morning, and he gets involved in these issues from time to time for the public. He's most widely known for his outreach efforts as part of the Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative.
He does a considerable-- this is both a national and international expertise and he does a lot of travel. He was just telling me how full his spring will be and trips to various parts of the world where he consults and educates on these kosher and halal issues. Joe is also a very committed teacher. He still teaches actively and will be running off to a teaching assignment right after this lecture.
Joe and I had an interaction a few years back when I was asked to take over a course he started as a capstone course for an early version of the environmental science major. Joe had created an engaged learning course before we knew what to call it.
And it was a fun course to teach. So I'm going to turn it over to Joe. His presentation, as you see, will address all of the marketing terms we encounter in the food we choose in the grocery store and elsewhere. Joe.
JOE REGENSTEIN: Thank you very much, Brian, and thank you all for coming. I apologize for it being a little earlier, but I do have a 11:40 class. I'm not running out, but I felt that this would give us time for discussion and still allow me to transition to my regular class.
What I want to do this morning is a two-part. One is to do some general discussion of issues and values and try to give a framing for this, and then go through some of the issues that are, presumably, on the consumer's mind, on the industry's mind, and presumably also in the mind of those of us in academia in terms of how do we think about some of these things. And what I worry about is that we're putting publicity and what we're reading in the wrong context of where we should be going with modern agriculture.
As Brian indicated, my bias is towards animal agriculture. And I will frame some of it, but I also do pay some attention to the crop and plant side of it also. But as you can see from some of these titles, some of these are issues that are more on the animal side, others cross both of them.
Where I'd like to start with a number of these kinds of talks is to talk a little bit about values. And I think for me, it helps me to frame this and I try to think in terms of five values. I put animal welfare in brackets only because, obviously, plants are not then included. But what we're actually seeing, much to I think some of our chagrin, is there are people who are beginning to worry about plant welfare.
On the other hand, one could say that is logical-- if these are living beings, why are only animals of concern? So again, what I hope to do is get you to think about these things. I suspect some of what I say you will agree with and some of what I say you won't agree with, and that's the fun part of being in academia.
Animal welfare is an important aspect of modern agriculture and we need to think about it. But we need to think about it in terms of the animal. It isn't about how we look at it. It's what, in fact, we can learn as scientists from the animal in terms of what works or doesn't work for the animal. And that's where I think some of animal welfare goes off the track in that it is serving anthropomorphic visions rather than what is actually best for the animal.
Clearly, as a food scientist, public health, human health, and safety-- that whole framing, again, is absolutely critical. The environment and sustainability-- Brian and I both worked in a engaged capstone course for environment sustainability. Clearly, in a world of currently, roughly, 7 and 1/2 billion people going anywhere from 9 to 10 billion people by the middle of the century, we have to take this into account. And that brings in global climate change and all kinds of other issues. But again, I'm going to be more narrowly focused on the sustainability component.
The impact on workers is the one that the students often don't know how to deal with. Different types of animal handling facilities, animal care have different implications on what kind of a job one creates for the workers. And then finally, this is a real world and people only have so much money, and not everybody has the luxury of having excess money to, I would argue in some cases, waste on some of the things that they buy.
Many people, even in our own country, are food insecure and on a global basis the numbers seem to be around 800 million people are relatively food insecure. So those are all issues that need to be addressed. And my goal is good food scientifically, culturally-- that is appropriate, and religiously appropriate. And obviously, that reflects my work in kosher and halal.
And this list-- again, some people will fine tune it, but nobody has come up with a sixth category, so I leave it at that. But what is interesting, I have been asking the students, if you had 100 points, how would you assign them between these five areas? And that's been fascinating, because I've had-- I teach in the animal welfare course, which is another course I helped start many years ago. And I had one student who gave 70 points to animal welfare out of 100. So others of these were zero.
Occasionally, I get students who will take one more-- I had one student who took two of these values and gave it a zero. So when we have these debates-- and I think this is where I have found it helpful, is to recognize that my values, which I think are perfect and right and obviously the only way to go-- not everybody agrees with me. And it is interesting when you give the kids the paper and then you collect it and do the scoring, the range you get and what is important to people.
And that raises the issue of how we deal with these things. I don't have an answer, but sometimes I would argue that all five of these values end up on one side of the scale. That's the lovely case. Then we can all agree, regardless of how one has the values.
But most issues are obviously more complex, which means that people are disagreeing not necessarily hopefully on the facts, which we hopefully are presenting properly, but in fact, if animal welfare is 70% of it, you might come up with a very different solution than if you're trying to balance animal welfare, public health. And some of the students take public health less than the-- what I call the norm would be roughly 20 points-- some of them are down in five and 10 points. They don't understand, as a food scientist, in my mind, the importance of human health and safety. So again, you end up with very interesting ways that different people look at these sets of values.
And I love these two quotes. We've all been beaten over the head with the first one. Though I don't always agree with Mr. Ford, it's an interesting thing to remember-- "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse." And that's a balancing act that the industry, and that's across all industries, and us as academics also sometimes have to think about, that, do people realize what they need?
And one of the goals of supposedly, the capitalist industry is to serve the needs of the people by giving them what they need. Well, which way do we deal with that? And there is sometimes also the failure-- I think it's probably more than 1%, but the fact is, again, the reminder that we are in a world of luxury in this country and those of us essentially, who are in the academic world.
And I've come to realize what a wonderful retirement plan we get-- compared to other people, we're in a very, very privileged position if we've been in the academy for our whole career, and certainly at Cornell. I was rather surprised when I looked at the end when I started finally doing some planning of how, basically, well we were situated. And all of these things I'm going to talk about are luxuries, but they come with a price.
And part of what I want to at least raise are, what are some of the prices that come with some of these things? And to start with the figure I've heard-- and I've not validated it, but something along the line that we're 3% in the United States of the world's population and we're using 25% of its resources. And I don't quite understand exactly how one calculates balancing different kinds of resources, but again, a recognition of how much more we are using.
And again, the economics, just to reiterate-- if we are inefficient, we are wasting resources. And consumers are paying for that, as we are then with the costs that are not incorporated into it-- the externalities, I think, is how the economists call it. But there's also been something that bothers me in terms of our industry-- the food industry is it's one thing to positively talk about the attributes of your product.
It's another thing to disparage the other products. And the industry at times, for economic advantage of one sector over another has at times disparaged. And the data suggests that when they do that, the entire industry, including them, suffer. Negativity is not the way to go. And again, the newspapers, the activists talk about one thing, but consumer behavior, in many ways, hasn't changed that much.
People are still very price conscious and are not buying necessarily-- again, there are those who are, but many, many, many people are not buying on all of these different issues that are being raised. They're buying on price, taste, and then maybe some of the other attributes in terms of purchasing decisions. Again, in this country, that's a luxury we have, that safety is not an inherent issue.
So what are these claims that I'm going to want to talk about? Some of them, I think, are intentionally misleading and others are misunderstanding. People having the core values similar to what I said-- because I think, at least in some breakdown, we all have those values, but not recognizing always the choices we're making may, in fact, work against some of those.
And so that's where I want to go. This again, is about negative labeling. This is a person who does marketing down at-- somewhere in Philadelphia, I forget which school. "Negatively effects consumer perceptions of the whole category." One interesting concept that I want to get, which leads into the first of the topics, which will be organic, is to understand some of the issues.
Our government, mainly the FDA, first off, determines what actually causes harm. What are the danger levels? And this is oversimplified-- it's an unbelievably complex subject to deal with. But as an oversimplification, there is the level of what causes harm. Then the government takes into account safety factors. The nominal number that is used is usually 100-fold safety factor. Again, there are-- and whose safety factor?
Again, this is tremendously complex and I can see some of the people in the room who I know know much more about this than I do. But they set an action level. And then we have what then exists in the real world. And there are exceptions, this is not every case. But in fact, in many cases, and pesticides are the most common for this type of thinking, is there is pesticides on our normal food products.
It turns out, for various reasons, there are also pesticides on organic products, and that's one of the misconceptions a consumer has, some of which are intentional and some of which are through drift and things of that sort. And again, in general-- and I'm simplifying this greatly-- the organic is going to have a lower level of pesticides than the normal product. And for discussion purposes, I've assumed that the organic is 10-fold lower than the normal.
But if you're way down-- let's see if I can make this technology work. If you're way down here, yes, you can argue, it is 10-fold lower. But if this is where you are in terms of meaningful issues, is that that meaningful? Again, that may not hold for every crop, but for many crops you're still operating quite well in the safety range.
So with those comments, I want to now transition to looking up some of my misgivings. Now again, to do this in a one-hour talk, clearly I'm oversimplifying. I am more than happy to provide additional backup information and/or if some of you want to discuss it by email, we can certainly have much more detailed discussions. And again, I am not an expert in each of these topics. I'm looking at these as a food scientist who, because of my work in kosher and halal, end up dealing with people who ask lots of questions about these kinds of things.
And I did, by way of background, spend a year as our Institute of Food Technologists first congressional science fellow. So I did spend a year in Washington in a senatorial office and learned to deal with a little more political side of things than just the straight science. And that's a experience of its own and a talk of its own. So I'm trying to pick up some of the main topics and start by at least giving them some definition, in most cases.
Technically, they are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides. That was the heart of the organic movement. And they do use natural pesticides. They decided around late 1980s to undergo the process of convincing Congress to authorize USDA to run the organic program. The industry was complaining about the fact that the different organic certifiers had different standards.
Rather naive. Again, I live in the world of kosher. I just got the latest-- we have 1,427 certifying agencies for kosher around the world from the orthodox community. Because it's a legitimate religion, nobody wants to try to impose a set of standards from above. Organic is a philosophy, but its members are probably more religious than most of us Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
And that was one of the hardest things my wife had to teach me, is that in a cocktail party, when somebody is that fervently religious, you don't undertake an argument or discussion. But they wanted the government to take over. And the government made a whole bunch of decisions as to how to do it. Ironically, because I was in Washington when this was happening, I was actually invited to USDA and gave a talk on kosher and halal certification, trying to get the message across that a single standard doesn't really serve people well. Because if we each decided to be organic and what organic meant, we'd all come up with something different.
And in fact, as my wife always says, two Jews, three opinions. And as a professor, I disagree with her, because I have three opinions of my own. So we need more. So again, it's been a difficult process, but we now have the government saying, this is organic. And guess what, the small organic farmers who now have to pay for this have realized that they've given up what they really love, which are certain standards that are no longer how the government runs the program.
And the government now charges-- they put some subsidies in. So in some states you can get a subsidy if you're a small farmer to be organic, in other states you can't, depending on how the states chose to administer it. They stuck their nose in other areas, and that was a beautiful political maneuver as far as my analysis is.
They had three public questions and they got, I think, hundreds of thousands of responses. And nobody paid attention to everything else, because everybody was focused on those issues, one of which was the GMO issue, which I would argue is going to eventually lead to the failure of organic. And now we're dealing with transition issues and we actually have efforts to, during transition, allow people to sell product that's neither organic nor normal. So they're trying to help encourage that transition period.
And then they're working on outdoor standards for animal welfare, which are clearly being driven by the small farmer who's trying to drive out the big farmer. Cornucopia Institute, which represents the small farmers is clearly the driving force. And the big companies that are in organic-- there's money and so they're in it-- are actually trying to keep the animals off the ground, which from an animal welfare point of view, is absolutely wonderful.
But it's not quite as some organic folks want to see it, because God forbid the animals-- they should be healthier and we should be healthier by not having the animals interact with their own feces and not interacting with worms and other things in the ground that transmit various negative attributes. So it's an interesting fight to watch. So far, the big business, not surprisingly, is winning.
One of the challenges that bothers me is the generally low yield. Generally, organic does not produce as much per acre of land. That's an extremely important issue in terms of a population increase. Remember, every time we increase population, we have more mouths to feed. But they have to live, they have to have schools, they have to have religious buildings, they have to have shopping malls.
I've watched this-- I go to China regularly and the community that I spend most of my time used to be-- around the campus there was certainly a bit of, as they do in China, local produce being produced. It's all now high rises and malls. So even in the 10 years that I've been going to China, I have watched land usage go to other alternatives and less land for agriculture.
And again, most people here understand the only solution is to deforest. And that's clearly something we all strongly-- I hope all of you, all of us strongly do not want to see more deforestation just to get more land. So we need to be more efficient per acre, not less efficient. And that's the kind of thing where I get bothered by organic.
The nutrition research, which is difficult-- how do you do this properly? There is no overall benefit from organic, which is not surprising, because, in fact, it is not really addressing that issue. They use natural pesticides, some of which are not as well-designed as modern synthetic pesticides.
And what we're seeing is two specific issues, which is that, one, they're using sulfur. And we're starting to see that in the soils-- having some negative attributes in the soil. And they're using unrefined phosphate rock for their phosphate fertilizer. Much of that is heavy in chromium and we're starting to see plants come in higher in chromium.
They also like manure. One of the big fights that was dealt with, but I think unsuccessfully, was, do you have to compost manure to give a heat treatment to kill the transmission of organisms? Cornell is the center for a good agricultural program and one of the keys here is, how do you keep plant agriculture from getting all of these pathogens as opposed to then trying for us, as food scientists, which we have to do, to clean them up?
Can we keep them off in the first place? And obviously, some of this is through animal transmission. So again, there are these kinds of issues that are being ignored by the folks doing organic.
The other one here-- and I see some of my nutrition friends who may know this history better than I do. We found most of our deficiency diseases and in some of our toxicities with animals living on a particular piece of land and not having the land and the forage that they were getting having the right balances. And so that led to animals that were not healthy.
And again, it's not inherent to organic, but a lot of the folks of that ilk are also in things like CSA and many of the community supported agriculture. And many of them are local organic farmers who go into community supported agriculture. And so you're getting most of your food supply from a narrow catchment basin. And again, what are the implications of that as opposed to spreading your food supply in a national and now global way in terms of goods and bads coming in and out? Is this the best way to go?
Again, I worked with a professor out at UBC who actually taught organic animal production who, in his retirement, looked at the entire literature at the time of the book-- it's now a few years old, obviously. And he came to the conclusion that despite having taught organic through his academic career, there was no data suggesting actual real benefits on the food nutrition, food safety side, again. And he did not emphasize the pesticide issue, which I tried to at least give some sense of where I am.
I just threw this in. This is fairly new information on this protein powders. I didn't know quite where to put it, so I put it in here. But again, a lot of the brands are having problems with heavy metals. And again, this goes to the issues of how we maintain our land and what are we putting on the land in terms of fertilizers, et cetera? So this was a surprising one.
Natural is one of my favorites. Natural doesn't exist in the legal system. The government has requested under the previous president to the consumers and the people who respond to federal register, what is a definition of natural? I sent in a comment on that one, because, in fact, I have what is probably-- as I actually said to FDA, I have a definition that nobody is going to like, which is why it's a good definition.
And that was, is there anything that's domesticated that's natural? Are any of our cows, our sheep, our corn, our wheat truly natural? They have all been heavily selected by humans. And is a GMO sweet corn any less natural than all the other breeding that we've done in terms of the word natural?
So what I suggested to the government is anything that is wild harvested-- I got my wild fish in. It's good for my industry. Wild berries, wild game, those are still natural. Even though they're affected by the environment indirectly, I'm willing to concede that those are natural.
And then I had the problem of processing, because part of the natural definition is, what is processing? So I figured 1776 sounds like a good year to talk about. Everyone here recognizes-- when I do this in China, I get in trouble with that one. Nobody knows what I'm talking about. So if you can do it in the way you did it in 1776, I'm prepared to allow you to call it natural.
So electricity is out, stainless steel is out. You lose a few things in that definition. Which in fact, as I say, is a perfect definition, because it is something FDA can justify legally and basically, get rid of the word. But you can't go to court and say, all they're trying to do is get rid of the word. Because it, in fact, has some logical basis. For the processing, you can argue, maybe we should go back to the year zero or maybe we should go back to Moses. Take your pick.
Again, some of these natural and organic are actually working at cross purposes to animal welfare and sustainability. So again, this is the case where the scale comes in. What are we doing with some of these animals? I don't know how the time's going to work, but I hope to talk a bit about antibiotics. But the point here is that organic is no antibiotic. What if an animal gets sick? What do you do?
I mean genuinely sick. We're not talking about, are we using them in the right way? But antibiotics are there for when animals get sick. And what's happening is that the organic farmer, if he or she gives the animal antibiotics, it's no longer organic. They lose their investment. So if an animal's sick, well, is it sick enough? Is it really sick enough? Do we really want to give it an antibiotic or other medical treatment or do we hope it'll cure itself?
And so what we're seeing, in fact, is a form of animal cruelty, because these animals are being allowed to be in pain, to not be treated properly because the hope is that they will self-correct. So again, there is that, and then of course there is the question of the inefficiency of production. The feeds that are raised organically are not giving the same yield. So you're using more resources to get the animal to the same place. And in some cases, literally hurting the animals in doing so.
The next one, which is similar to natural, is local. Here, clearly economically, I believe-- and again, I'm not an economist, but I believe that keeping the money locally in principle has benefit. But if everybody kept all the money locally, I'm not sure we would have the food system that we have. And so I worry about the farmer in Mexico who's raising tomatoes.
If in fact, we go overboard on local-- and I have recognized and I picked on tomatoes, because I know everybody will tell me that the local tomatoes are better than tomatoes from Mexico, and they probably are. And so again, there's niches for that. For the few weeks that we have local tomatoes, go for it, guys. Enjoy them. I don't have an inherent problem-- but to push local is, in fact, punishing third world farmers in many cases.
And are we really ready to go local? How many of you are ready to give up the orange juice that we had? How many had orange juice? How many had cider? The cider's local. The orange juice-- we don't grow oranges in Ithaca, as you could see yesterday and today as we came in. This is not orange country. We don't grow coffee, we don't grow tea, we don't grow bananas. We don't grow a lot of things.
So if you're really local, are you going to have the diet of somebody in the 1700s or 1800s? Or are we just being local where we think, OK, we can buy the local product because it's OK to buy the local product? And then of course, what is local? Nobody's agreed on that. And what is funny to me is in many places, people-- and our governments are doing this. Obviously, New York-- and I'm part of New York Ag, so I've got to be careful of what I say. That's why being emeritus is helpful, where I can be a little more honest.
The Pride of New York and all the programs New York has had over the years is something local that comes from Lake Champlain, but something that comes from Sayre, Pennsylvania is not local. What kind of a circumference do you put-- and one of the interesting things we have found is, if you want local meat, we've got to transport it to Pennsylvania to get it slaughtered and bring it back.
So in some cases, yes, it's Tompkins County meat, but it's gone in and out of the state, it's gone some miles and so forth. We'll talk a bit about that also. So again, a little bit of local, I'm fine. I'm not trying to get rid of local. But we've also visited some of these local farms and I must admit, I don't like what I see. Just because they're local-- some of them are very expensive because they're very inefficient.
We've developed many things to be better animal welfare, to be more appropriate economically, better work. And we're going backwards. We've got our college-educated graduate students going down and bending over and weeding by hand with, in some cases, even a Cornell PhD. A little bit of that in your garden, it's good for you. Get in touch with the soil.
But is that really contributing the most to society? And there's this whole concept of local, because part of it is this understanding of the importance of transportation. Well, first of all, transportation in many cases is only a small component. Part of this is where the FAO got some of its things wrong. And there's a real difference in efficiency. Bringing something in by airplane is a lot more environmentally less sustainable than bringing something in by boat.
People have done life cycle analysis of-- and the one I love is bringing in lamb from New Zealand to London versus from Scotland to London. And it's actually from transportation, it is more efficient to bring it in from New Zealand. Taking a boat from Auckland is a lot more efficient than taking a lorry-- they don't call them trucks, they call them lorries-- taking a lorry down from Aberdeen to London.
And this whole concept of food miles is totally misplaced. What's really important is the fuel use, the energy per unit of useful food. And so there was this wonderful ad-- I suspect many of you are NPR people. This is who we are. CSX had this wonderful advertisement. We move one ton of freight 450 miles on one gallon of diesel. And that's really the unit we need to think about in terms of transportation-- energy input per amount of product. Just as we also need to think about that in terms of evaluating the efficiency of the animals themselves.
And boats are efficient. And so that's why we have widened the Panama Canal, because we now have boats that are bringing on literally-- the 40-foot reefer that you see, your standard tractor trailer truck, which is 40 feet long-- we have boats that have 24,000 of those on one boat. They are so big they can't even go through the new Panama Canal. So they're limited.
But the Panama Canal has upped the size of boats that can go through in terms of number of containers per boat. And I've got two quick pictures of again, rail transportation done efficiently that's two-trailer high. You only have limited routes because we built our bridges too low. These are a little taller. But there is at least one cross-country route that can allow for the double level trailer, which is, obviously, the most efficient.
And this is a typical loading crane. These are amazing. These are 20-ton containers-- a 40-foot container can run up to about 20 tons. And these cranes and stuff and the carts, they move them around like kids move them around in their toy sets. Many of you, I hope, are grandparents and get to play with cars and toys and cranes and all those things again, like we used to when we were kids. We didn't always have time to do it with our own kids, but grandchildren-- it's great.
Did I get that? Yeah. OK. Gluten free-- there are people who absolutely need gluten free product. But again, it's resource intensive, it's taking a lot of effort. Most people really don't. And what's interesting, of course, as food scientists, we like to do things blind, get people to try products. And to do it experimentally is to give them placebos versus actual samples and stuff. It's not clear that lots of people really need gluten free.
And again, those are upmarket products which we indulge ourselves in. OK. So I do have time for the antibiotics. I want to leave 10 minutes towards the end so we can have some hopefully, lively discussion. Antibiotics are extremely important for human use. We are seeing antibiotic resistance. What that means is that antibiotics that we count on are not working in some cases. And that's a real issue.
We do in the past in animal agriculture have used antibiotics in a much more prophylactic sense. How much of our antibiotic resistance comes from humans themselves? How much comes from humans with respect to specifically hospitals? How much comes from pets? Which is something nobody talks about, and I'll explain why I think nobody talks about that.
And then finally, how much comes from agricultural animals? Again, the figures are argued. I suspect-- I will admit that probably at least some small proportion of it do come from agricultural animals. What has happened is the industry has basically decided a few years ago that it will accept that reality and will work with FDA and the veterinarian community to basically, revamp how we use animal antibiotics.
It's a work in progress. I think they've made significant progress. But it's dependent on much more control by the veterinarian, giving the veterinarian less flexibility in off-label uses, trying to control that things that they do with these things are what they're supposed to do with them. And this has so far seemed to be working and is being phased in. As I say, it's still a work in progress.
People point out that somewhere-- I think around 80% of our antibiotics are used with animals. But you have to remember two things. One is the body weight of the animals living in America today is more than the body weight of the humans. So if you use them at the same rate, you're going to be using more for animals.
The second is that in terms of animal agriculture, the definition of antibiotic includes a category called ionophores, which are used in animal agriculture. They are not used with humans and they do not seem to cause antibiotic resistance. They work in a different mechanism. And so all those kinds of numbers games are quite distorted.
What we are seeing, on the other hand, is that I'm seeing almost weekly-- I am on a number of actual agricultural lists, which I actually have a tiny bit more time to look at now that I'm supposedly retired. My wife says I'm failing completely, which she's quite right. And they're working on prebiotics and probiotics and natural nutrients, and trying to do what the antibiotics did that way. And I think that's a wonderful thing and I think that's a much more sensible way to go about it.
But that still leaves the issue of human responsibility. one of My dear colleagues in this campus selects his doctor because the doctor gives him carte blanche on when he wants to use antibiotics. How many of us finish our antibiotic sequence as prescribed by the doctor? We're feeling better, we don't need them anymore.
But if you look at antibiotic resistance, that is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing. And particularly if you have pets. How many of you-- which giving your pets an antibiotic is a real pain, as I understand it. I do not have a dog or a cat, so I can't speak from personal experience. But again, it's hard to do, the animals don't want to take pills and whatever, you certainly don't want to inject them regularly. So what do you do?
The animal's feeling good-- he's out there playing with the kids, and so you stop the antibiotic treatment. And why does nobody want to deal with pets? Guess who pays for all the animal welfare activists. Most of those are the pet people who want to see farm animals treated worse than they are more like pets. Because I would argue that the worst animal welfare is at the level of pets, including President Johnson pulling his dog by its ears.
These are pack animals that are being kept indoors on a leash. These are social pack animals. Again, some people have multiple dogs and that has its own problem, but at least the animals have some social opportunities. There's certainly data-- again, I do pull these data. I don't always have the ability to fully vet them, and I accept that criticism.
A recent study found that 30% of antibiotic prescriptions for humans may be inappropriate. If you've got a virus, they don't work. Then there's this issue altogether-- going back to the organic, but to frame it even more. An estimated-- which I was surprised at-- this one really surprised me, too. An estimated 1/5 of the livestock around the world are lost to disease. That is perhaps the greatest untold story of food waste today.
Allowing a production animal to die-- we do not generally put it into the food supply. So that is a major source of waste. I know we're dealing finally with ugly fruit and we're doing a lot of good things. But think about that. And then the other point being made is the amount of milk that is discarded because the animal has mastitis.
We think of that as a health problem and we argue about, how do you treat the animal? But nobody is calculating in the impact of that on the waste stream, that we are wasting these materials. So again, I leave that as a thought for you.
I think I've covered most of those. Again, the other thing-- they are looking at not just the ionophores, but other antibiotics, to use ones that are not being proposed for humans, to try to separate the two. And that's again, good, but we all need to be educated. And right now, one of my high priorities, of course, would be organic growers who aren't using them.
The man who hired me in the poultry department is sitting here. I grew up working my summers on a traditional floor pen farm, thought that bringing birds into cages was stupid, but I watched that transition even before I was officially in animal agriculture. And the cages we use are not perfect. They have some real room for improvement. But what you're doing is keeping the animal in small groups so peck orders can be obtained, you are keeping the animal eggs and feces separate and the animals separate, which is human health, and eggs aren't being loaded with manure.
Again, in reality, it occasionally happens. Out on the small-- when we did farm pens, in a particular house you'd have two, three, four eggs every day that were covered with manure, and we would clean them, we did some washing. But again, we created that system because it's also most efficient. Egg production is pretty much the highest we've seen when you have them in cages.
Again, it needs some improvement, but going to cage-free and going even worse to pasture and things like that is not the way to go. I've given whole talks on GMOs, so-- but I just want to cover that and then one comment on hormones. GMOs are as safe as conventionally cultivated food. There is no evi-- there are nine papers out of thousands of papers that had something negative to say about GMOs from a food safety point of view. And all nine of them have been subject to, more than one in some cases, a consensus panel of senior experts, and a number of them have been retracted.
There is simply nothing that suggests that they are dangerous. In fact, these are quotes from Mark Lynas, who was one of the most active anti-GMO activists who finally sat down and looked at what he was fighting-- a little like my professor after he retired looking at organic-- and he's done a 180. And of course, he is actually affiliated now with Cornell through the Cornell Science Policy Center-- I'm not sure, I've got the exact term.
Europe has chosen chemistry over biology. And we're seeing that the developing world-- now over 50% of GMO usage is in the developing world to get crops in successfully. And I love the last quote-- "We are witnessing a historic injustice perpetrated by the well-fed on the food insecure." I'm going to skip that. Oh, here's one of my favorites for all of you. How many of you know what dihydrogen oxygen is?
JOE REGENSTEIN: Water. But if you put it on a label, do you label it as water or dihydrogen oxygen? I'm going in the wrong direction. Sorry about that. And the final one, just because I want to leave some time, is, yes, we use hormones with beef-- meat animals. Poultry and pork are all hormone-free. The use of hormones in this country for pork and poultry is prohibited.
So you'll see lots of poultry out there hormone-free. That's exactly the kind of advertising I find counterproductive, because it's implying that there's something wrong with hormones. And if you don't put the word hormone-free on your product, there's something wrong with your product. All poultry and pork are hormone-free. Certainly most table beef probably have used hormones.
The amounts are very interesting. I think it's-- oh, I forget the units. I think it goes from 5 nanoparts per million to 8. But in the same units, we go from 5 to 8 in the meat, the birth control hormones are 35,000 at the same units. Many of our young women are taking birth control pills. They're getting the same kind of hormones at 35,000 units compared to the natural presence of 5 going up to 8.
The only other thing I'd like to say is many of the organizations, the NGOs have to raise money. They're paying themselves very nice salaries in some cases. Some are basically taking an issue, but they have the wonderful luxury of dealing with an issue as a single issue and not having to necessarily deal with the consequences.
The one that I always thought was funny was the March of Dimes. When we cured polio, they had to find a new use for themselves. So they repositioned themselves and took another disease. Again, they're less regulated, and of course, some of you may have heard-- HSUS has a D rating and has one of the best pension plans in the world, probably better than ours.
Anyway, again, happy to share these slides with people for some of the topics I didn't cover. And would love to have some comments, questions, challenges. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I loved your presentation showing the anomalies of well-intentioned activity. But one of the things that struck me is the presentation shows what I certainly think is an American bias in the way of thinking about these things. You listed at the outset a list of values that people need to look at. And what struck me as missing from that list is equity or fairness.
Now, you come back to it, and you did at the last example-- the impact of being food insecure. But it's almost like the inbred habit we have, living in a quote free market society, that equity is a concept [INAUDIBLE], maybe we've got to patch it up rather than confronting it right up front. And thinking about it as we design our policy, it's one of those tiny factors [INAUDIBLE].
JOE REGENSTEIN: Interesting. You're the first person who's given me one that I would absolutely admit is not there and might actually be something to put in there. It's implied, particularly in the environment. It's implied, but you're right, it is not explicit.
AUDIENCE: It's not explicit and I think most-- I'm an economist. I know how it is brought in after the fact. Oh, yeah, well, we'll [INAUDIBLE]. But occasionally, we're involved in setting out new policy and new systems, and it seems to me it's beholden on us to think about, what are those consequences up front rather than as an after fact that you have to patch up?
JOE REGENSTEIN: Point well taken. Thank you. Chris?
AUDIENCE: And what I was going to say is actually related to that and you built on it a little bit in the sense of I was thinking about your value list. And if you said, just think of yourself and think about how these things matter to you, I'd do it one way. But if you said to me, ah, eating, producing food is basically a social activity.
Now think about these things from the perspective of, is it good for all of us? Is it good for society? Because food is basically-- food we eat is social and the production of food is a social activity. So it built on what you're saying. And I think people might rate these things differently if you thought about it a little bit. OK, now what's good for you, but now what's good for society and where do these things matter?
JOE REGENSTEIN: Good. That's why I-- I've given this mostly to student audiences. This is great. Any other comments or questions or-- because this has been some great ideas. I've always worried that my list was too short. Five seems just too short.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] for diversification. We think about the bananas of the world. They're all basically the same kind of banana. What happens when they get affected? How do we ensure that there is a much more diversified food source?
JOE REGENSTEIN: That would have come up in the GMO--
AUDIENCE: Yeah, [INAUDIBLE].
JOE REGENSTEIN: Basically we are in that position where-- but again, diversity in the bananas, maybe that's a good one where we've overspecialized. But what's been interesting also on the other side is the citrus fruits. The greening disease is affecting all of them. And so in both cases, we're looking at the modern GMO technologies to retain them.
And we did this essentially in Hawaii with the papaya. Because American papayas are all GMO. So either you get them from another country, which doesn't make America great again, or you get them from America and they're going to be GMO. So these are some of the legitimate agricultural questions that we have. And they do then raise some of the issues of equity and social responsibility and again, how we deal with global agriculture which we seem to want to go backwards on at this point. Or at least some folks up there want to go backwards.
AUDIENCE: I think the interesting question on that is, why do consumers feel this way? Why is it about agriculture that makes consumers feel they want something different? And I think agriculture needs to think about it very, very carefully.
JOE REGENSTEIN: Yeah. Why is food singled out? All of these technologies used for medicines everybody's fine with. And we've put in some technologies which were all carrying in our pockets that have totally changed our social structure, and nobody seems to be paying attention to it.
Food is so tied, as you said, to social, but-- and it's my introduction-- it's cultural, it's ethnic, it's religious, it's just so much a part of us. And it is something we do voluntarily and want to make the choices that we think are best for us, influenced by so many factors out there that we don't even realize where they're coming from. But I leave that to some of the more social nutrition and food type people. [INAUDIBLE]?
AUDIENCE: I'm not an emeritus professor, but I'm a food scientist. [INAUDIBLE] is my professor. I've been at this for 40 years and one of the issues that food science has is that food and science isn't sexy and science doesn't sell. And the activists can get on TV with a phone call tomorrow to the Today Show. Ralph Nader could get on the Today Show tomorrow if he picked up the telephone when he was active.
But our professional society, which Dr. Regenstein has mentioned, The Institute of Food Technologists, could stand on their heads and they would never be called. And that's something that we as professors and we as food scientists have to figure out-- how to make food science sexy so it sells.
AUDIENCE: Do you have any comments on veganism in relation to your list of values?
JOE REGENSTEIN: I have trouble seeing veganism as a global answer, because it's hard to do veganism right. On the other hand, I give them credit for being more-- honest is the word I use. It's not the right word. But vegans don't take animals, exploit them-- too strong a word, but exploit them, and then leave them for somebody else to pick up the remains.
So if you're eating eggs and milk, what happens to the chicken and the cow after they're no longer productive? The vegans don't have that issue. And in fact, the ones I really like and I don't even know what they call themselves is the ones that only will eat things where you don't destroy the plant. So they won't even eat potatoes and carrots and beets, because you destroy the plant. There's something consistent.
But I then turn to my nutrition friends. Can everybody really do this and are we using the best use of our resources? Because one of the things that people don't want to take into account is a lot of plant agricultural waste materials are being processed probably into the highest level usage by going through the fermentation tank called the rumin that takes all of these materials and turns them into usable feed.
So the question of 1/3 of our agricultural land being grassland, do we really want to be growing crops? The other choice is we can all have grass burgers. And so I'm not-- I have been the carnivorous advisor to the Jewish vegetarians, which are really the Jewish vegans of North America, and I've watched their arguments. In one of my other talks I pointed out they have three kinds of arguments-- totally bogus, misleading, and real issues that we need to deal with.
Animal agriculture is not perfect. We've got room to grow and to do better. I love what we're now doing with probiotics and prebiotics and trying to have a more sensible way of maintaining animal health. The cages need more enrichment-- the whole world of enrichment needs to be taken more seriously. There's lots of places to improve. And I think animals have a role.
Again, what is our dietary deficiencies? Women in reproductive age, iron in non-poverty audiences is a potential issue. And the best way to do it is with heme iron coming out of small portions of red meat. As a meat scientist, we eat too damn much meat. We need to be-- what I think the closest we come is to flexitarians. And I would probably put myself in that category, only because as a kosher home, it fits on our needs in a kosher home.
We're mostly a lot of plants-- I use all these burgers. I don't think the Impossible Burger and the Better Burger is a beef burger, but they're perfectly good products and we use lots of them. But we also have meat on occasion. Again, it's a balancing. We need to look-- and actually, Gary Fick over here has done the analysis in different states of some states adding animals as a totally wrong thing to do.
In New York, if you're driving to Cornell, you see the land that if we're going to use it productively, it's going to have to be pasture land. We don't want to start putting plows on some of these hillsides. So again, we need to balance these things. Which again, the vegans don't do. At least now, as I understand it. Again, in fairness, if somebody is a vegan, please speak up.
BRIAN CHABOT: Joe, you have another class to teach.
JOE REGENSTEIN: Yeah.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
As our food supply gets more varied and safer, consumers seem to have become more worried about many issues related to the food supply. Some of these issues are, of course, real concerns. Food safety must always be front and center. Nutrition and health are always of concern. But other issues when addressed often raise the cost of food yet may be working at cross-purposes with what consumers really want: safe food that is sustainable, with good animal welfare where relevant and good working conditions for those providing the food, all at a reasonable cost.
In a lecture to the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti (CAPE) on Oct. 18, 2018, Cornell professor emeritus of food science Joe Regenstein looks at the limitations of organic, natural, non-GMO and cage-free in terms of what consumers "really want" versus their perceptions, which often drive behavior.