Dinner Starts On The Farm
Thursday, December 13, 2012
One of the farm supply companies has a slogan "If you eat a meal, you are involved in agriculture." Stop and think about that. No matter what one eats, most of what is on the dinner table originated on a farm somewhere in this area or, with few exceptions, elsewhere in the United States.
In the next couple of weeks, many will be making extra trips to the grocery store getting ready for the Christmas holiday. When shoppers get to that store, they will expect to find what they want, when they want it, where it is in the store--and at a reasonable price. Unless it is a specialty item or something in big demand, they expect to find a plentiful supply of the items on their grocery lists.
Thinking about what is on the dinner table, the connection to a local farm and the abundance one finds in the grocery store can be complicated. Yes, one can tie that beef roast to a beef animal raised on a local farm or the glass of milk to one of the good local dairy farmers. But what happens between the farm and the table?
Farm products can be considered the beginning of a complicated food system. First, one wants to know that out there on the farm, these products are produced safely and healthfully. With the inspection and quality requirements in place, consumers can be assured that is the case.
Milk, for example, is the most inspected and regulated food that comes off the farm. Even a hint of antibiotics in milk is cause for it to be rejected and disposed of before processing. Quality and cooling regulations require milk to be of the highest standards.
Grain going to the elevator has to meet certain quality and moisture standards before unloading. Signs of molds or high moisture cause some grain to be rejected or the value is dropped because it has to be dried before it can be stored.
So now there are trucks and drivers to get farm products to a processing plant. Depending on the food to be made from the farm product, processing can be complicated or simple. But, there have to be inspections and quality control all along the way.
That box of corn flakes, for example, can have much processing as well as packaging to get the corn in edible form for breakfast. Butter for toast was churned from cream that was separated from milk, two separate processes. Then, it has to be sliced, put into packages and kept cool from the plant until it gets to the table.
All along the way with whatever food one is shopping for, many people are involved. In grocery stores, there are people who unload cartons of food, unpack the cartons and put the items on the shelves. At checkout, cashiers are ready to help and in some stores, there is even carryout service for big orders.
Let's go back to that dinner people may be getting ready to put on the table. They do that believing that all those that helped with that meal can be trusted. From the caring farmer who starts the process all the way to the table, with rare exceptions, people trust their food supply.
The United States is one of the best in the world in providing a plentiful, safe food supply at reasonable prices. One can also say that, with the number and kind of farms in Ohio and the food processing facilities that are in business, when people buy at the local food stores, much of what they buy is grown locally and sold locally.
Enjoy your locally grown Christmas dinner.
Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and is an independent agricultural writer.