I normally try to keep my blog light and airy. As a matter of fact, the Hired Help said I should not write this as it may set a new tone for my blog. But I cannot stay quiet and you’re gonna hear my opinion. Well, if you keep reading anyway.
There have been NUMEROUS food recalls in the news the last few months. No single Industry is immune; meat, vegetables, consumer goods and heck even flour has had a recall. And the reasons for the recalls range from undeclared milk in yogurt, to elevated levels of vitamin D in dog food, to performance defect in tampons (Yikes!). But the biggest culprits are the ones that make the news; predominantly salmonella, e. Coli and listeria. (But where was Lester Holt and David Muir telling me about these tampon recalls?!)
And read the comments on any shared-1,547-times Facebook post about a salmonella recall and every finger points to Big Ag. Every finger, for example, points to hundreds of thousands of cattle too close in confinement and massive amounts of manure being flung into our rivers, and that water being irrigated onto Big Ag vegetable farms and poof, e. Coli in Romaine lettuce is born.
And then the comments to follow are, “That’s why I only buy local”, “You should know your farmer and this wouldn’t happen” or “Big Ag is the devil, only buy local”.
The tipping point for me came when I recently saw a local farmer saying, “Come get SAFE lettuce from our farm. No e. Coli here”.
In total transparency, small farmers are typically not held to the same food safety regulations as the big guys are. It’s impractical on two fronts; small farmers don’t have the resources for many of those requirements (and we’d all go under if implemented) and there aren’t enough inspectors on the planet to enforce it. And before you go and say Big Ag has the inspectors in their pocket, my family’s dairy was considered big and we did NOT enjoy the inspectors that showed up unannounced. Maybe not the case for all, but who likes the government in your business? No one.
Now, that does NOT mean that farm stands and farmers markets are unsafe compared to your grocery store. But you, as a consumer, have to be smart. The more steps between commercially grown food and you does increase the risk for contamination, including sweet corn you get in January, for example (I mean, think that through. That’s traveled quite a bit to get to a Hy-Vee grocery store in Small Town, Minnesota when it’s -20 degrees). There’s just more “hands” touching it. But if you think one major recall couldn’t happen to your local farmer, then I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona to sell you.
Pilaroc will NEVER say we are safer than anyone. While we feel we have a finger on every aspect of our business, we will NEVER say “It Can’t Happen To Us”. And I lose lots of respect for any farmer that thinks their facilities couldn’t harbor a bacteria. That the “all-natural” manure fertilizer they use on their strawberries hasn’t been sterilized, but think it’s safe. That an infected deer or goose didn’t poop in the water used for their drip system or their hired worker washes their hands every time, or the farm they visited last week didn’t leave some trace of fecal coliform on their boots and they’re transferring it to the place they grind sausage. That farm that I referenced earlier says they simply don’t have a risk for e. Coli because it comes from the ground and they harvest their lettuce from a hydroponic, enclosed system. And only a couple hands touch the lettuce in order to get it to a farmers market. Great! But unless your workers are wearing gloves, buddy, you’re at risk like the rest of us.
BUT READ THIS: What DOES set LOCAL apart when a recall happens: YOU. KNOW. US.
You have a relationship with us. You know where our farm is. You know every person that works on our farm. You know our practices and procedures. A contaminant may happen, but we can pinpoint the problem and work to recall product quickly.
And how we manage that crisis tells you everything you need to know about us, as your local farmer. Are we quick to find the culprit? Are we quick to respond PERSONALLY with details and updates? Are we quick to apologize? Are we quick to earn back your trust?
People. Our food supply is safe. All farms are safe. All farms try their best to not have an incident ever. Please trust that all of us are working for you and your families. YOU are why we do what we do and we wouldn’t jeopardize that for all the money in the world.
Now go buy some lettuce from wherever the heck you want to and make your lovely salad. All I ask is that you consider throwing some steak and bacon bits on it too.
List of all recalls can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm#Link_to_Food