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This is a time when BigAg and large corporations have unprecedented ability to influence and control politicians at every level of government via campaign contributions and multi-million dollar lobbying spends. Their attorneys, ‘think tanks’ and aligned Super PACs even draft legislation they’d like to see become law. Government agencies, such as the EPA and the USDA that exist to protect us from environmental pollution and health hazards, are also clearly under their controlling influence.

In light of this, it is encouraging how effectively environmental groups are protecting us and the environment using the courts. Our featured story, Environmental Groups Are Suing New York Over Water Pollution Caused by Dairy Farms – Here’s Why, is one example.

Study: Fecal Bacteria from N.C. Hog Farms Infects Nearby Homes details the passage by the Republican dominated state legislature of North Carolina of a bill by Rep. Jimmy Dixon (who has taken $115,000 in campaign contributions from the pork industry) placing the interests of Smithfield Foods and its pig factory farms, over the property rights and health of the hundreds of thousands of residents who live near those farms. You can see the writing on the wall. There is no recourse left - except to lawyer up.

Petitions are another very effective tool. In Victory! Subway Announces Monumental Chicken Welfare Policy, the power of 50,000 signatures resulted in the world’s largest fast-food franchise agreeing in writing to meaningful changes in its chicken welfare policies.

And then, on the world stage, when the World Health Organization next meets, as reported in Health Leaders Must Focus on the Threats From Factory Farms, the global problem of factory farms which constitute “a major threat to health and the environment” will be addressed.

Finally but perhaps most importantly, the power of our decisions as informed consumers is having beneficial impact. Cow’s Milk is Done For – Dairy Industry Sees Plant-Based Milk as a ‘Serious Threat’ reveals how the diary industry is reacting to the increasingly large number of consumers turning away from cows’ milk in favor of plant-based milks.

Yet factory farms continue to expand. The scourge remains. If you haven’t seen and felt what a factory farm is, please watch these two videos to understand what we are trying to put a stop to: Carton Of Cruelty: Behind Big Dairy's Closed Doors and "Spent" Hen Slaughter Investigation: Butterfield Foods Co.

Then, as a reminder just how amazing these animals are, please enjoy the video Mama Pig Finally Gets the Experience Millions of Others Don’t – the Chance to Care for Her Babies and the photo essay Newborn Cow Was So Scared The Day He Was Rescued.

Stay healthy, live well and get active on behalf of animals and the health of our planet. Help end the cruelty of factory farming. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Eat less meat and dairy.                                                                                                                
  • Know your food sources, avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely.                    
  • Keep your friends and family informed.                                                                                            
  • Ask them to join our email list!

Value and care for life. All life.                                                                                                                



Issue 10's focus is on the positive. Advice for sourcing only healthy foods, for the best eggs, for living well. Stories of victories in our shared quest to eliminate the suffering of factory-farmed animals - and to heal the planet.

That is the mantra. Remain healthy and strong and aware – and become increasingly active and vocal. Raise your voice and take a stand as we enter this period of Dark Times.


The spirit of Joe Loria’s Mercy for Animals post, 8 Things Vegans And Meat Eaters Can Totally Agree On, embodies this which is why I’ve selected it as our featured article. I agree with all 8 ‘things’ on Joe’s list. How many do you agree with? You’ll learn very quickly what you’re about and where you stand.

Get active by signing the petition in faCE LIFT demanding that Tyson Foods adopt a responsible food policy. Tyson Foods is a corporation on the Dark Side. It was a pioneer in conceiving of and developing factory farming, its operations, its brutality and its scope. The cruelty and suffering this corporation has inflicted on countless billions of animals is probably unsurpassed. Over eight decades, it has crushed tens if not hundreds of thousands of small family farms and ranches. With its global reach, there may be no other corporation that has caused as much environmental damage as Tyson Foods in terms of polluting and degrading our environment and the climate health of the earth. Tyson's executives need to hear from you.

For egg eaters, Pasture-raised Eggs: Healthy And Humane with attendant links, makes clear the vast different in taste, nutrition and healthfulness of pasture-raised eggs. Source your eggs from farms that pasture-raise happy healthy hens.

In an example of how swiftly change can come when a major food industry corporation embraces animal compassion, we celebrate the fact that Unilever has delivered on its pledge to use only eggs sourced from cage-free hens three years ahead of schedule. This means each one of their egg suppliers was or has become cage-free – or they are no longer a Unilever supplier. Among other products, Unilever makes Hellmann’s and Best Foods mayonnaise. They source a lot of eggs.

In our faCE IT section, we continue to show you what factory farming is all about. There can be no illusions. This is the Dark Side.

We have been tracking the growing threat of a new antibiotic resistant Superbug. faCE Issue 3 and Issue 8 focused on this. The news now is scary. Sarah Zhang notes in Resistance To The Antibiotic Of Last Resort Is Silently Spreading, “One by one, over the years, the drugs {antibiotics} used to fight the most stubborn infections have fallen by the wayside as bacteria have evolved resistance to them. For certain infections, the only drug left is colistin.” Recently, a new gene, mcr-1, which is resistant to colistin, appeared on pig farms in several countries. It has now spread to humans… Sarah continues, “To be clear, these E. coli with mcr-1 found in China were still susceptible to antibiotics other than colistin, but if a bacterium with genes that make it resistant to every other drug then picks up mcr-1, you get the nightmare scenario: a pan-resistant bacteria.” ‘Pan’ as in pandemic.

Over 80% of antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to factory-farmed animals. California legislation passed last year is putting a stop to this in California. Big Ag is pushing hard to continue antibiotic use on factory farms, to maximize profit from animals arriving to slaughter at top weight, and because living conditions are so virulent for factory-farmed animals, that without constant antibiotic dosing they would likely succumb to disease.

The second new article in faCE IT is the story of a woman who died because antibiotics no longer worked for her. 23,000 Americans die each year because antibiotics, including ‘The Antibiotic of Last Resort’ no longer work for them – and the number is rising. Imagine one day soon you get a routine infection, and you go to your doctor for an antibiotic prescription - only this time you find that antibiotics no longer work for you. Your infection progresses – and there is no longer any cure…

Dr. Joseph Mercola makes a strong case that Industrial Farming Threatens Food Security In The U.S. and worries that American agricultural farming practices will likely create another Dust Bowl. Find out why. This is a paper the White House should take note of – but I don’t think they will.

The faCE LOVE section always inspires me. We profile our heroes - advocates, authors, scientists, business and social leaders, those seeking and finding solutions. We cite businesses and endeavors, showcase an article featuring the beauty and intelligence of animals, and finally we cite a legislative accomplishment - the result of those utilizing the tools of our democracy to effect positive change.

Wonderful people, significant accomplishments at a time now when we shift into a Dark Period.

Agonize maybe, but do not despair. Stay healthy, live well and get active on behalf of animals and the health of our planet. Help us all end the cruelty of factory farming. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

·       Eat less meat and dairy.

·       Know your food sources.

·       Do not spend one penny on factory farmed meat and dairy products.

·       Spread the word to friends and family. TELL THEM TO JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST!

Love, value and care for life. All life.



Scot Lehigh, in his Boston Globe column, Encouraging News On Animal Welfare, notes the “stunning progress” that has been made forcing the egg industry to phase out the cruel confinement of hens in battery cages. Commitments by grocery chains and fast food retailers to phase out the purchasing of eggs from battery-caged hens have grown in increasing frequency leading to similar recent commitments from McDonalds and Walmart. This leaves the poultry industry no choice but to change their ways. Scott also reports that that “some 75 companies, including those two behemoths, have promised to phase out extreme confinement of other farm animals, all within the next seven years. The veal industry has pledged to end close confinement of veal calves in 2017.”

Big Ag did not agree to make these changes out of compassion for the horrendous suffering of factory farmed animals. These corporate executives view that reality with unfeeling eyes and depraved souls. They are making these changes because they have been forced to - by you. Consumer pressure on their customers, the major supermarket and fast food chains, or as in my state of California, an overwhelming majority, 8,203,769 Californians, who voted this change into law.

This is the result of years of hard work and commitment by activists, humanitarians, animal rights organizations and the undercover investigators brave enough to document the horrible animal abuse endemic throughout factory farms, slaughterhouses, indeed the entire industry. Each of us should celebrate these changes and the suffering that will end for billions of factory farmed animals each year.

However, we remain at a cross roads, a pivotal time for us on this planet.

We are fast arriving at a critical moment in humanity’s Modern Era, the end of the age of antibiotics. The focus of faCE Issue 8 was ‘Antibiotics: Our Lost Last resort?’ Jason Best concludes in Antibiotic Of Last Resort Faces New Superbug Threat that “we’re watching antibiotics that were once hailed as miracle drugs increasingly lose their ability to fight disease.” In study after study, in Asia, Europe and the Americas, gene mutations in bacteria making them resistant to antibiotics are showing up in livestock - and in humans. The June 1st article, The Superbug Doctors Have Been Dreading Is Now in the U.S. documents “the first instance of a person living in the U.S.  infected with a feared antibiotic-resistant microbe.” Lance Price, PhD, a prominent resistance microbiologist and founder of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University, has concluded that, “We’re watching our demise in real time.”

Nearly 80% of antibiotics used in this country are given to factory farmed animals in their food as a disease preventative enabling them to survive in their virulent factory farm confines. It is this overuse of antibiotics that directly can lead to infections that existing antibiotics cannot cure.

While the elimination of battery cage confinement will end some of the vast animal suffering on factory farms, the very existence of factory farms requires this dangerous misuse of antibiotics. The practice of factory farming must be ended.

With regard to Climate Change, carbon dioxide levels will pass 400 PPM (parts per million) later this year. Nadia Prupis writes, citing a new study published in the Nature Climate Change journal, that this level “will likely never fall below that line again in our lifetimes.” Based on unchecked climate change, Noam Chomsky and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced their Doomsday Clock to three minutes before midnight, a global threat level that has not been reached for 30 years.

Animal agriculture, dominated by Big Ag, is by far the most climate damaging industry on our planet, dwarfing even the oil, gas and petrochemical industry in comparison. For our health and our planets' each of us must reduce the amount of meat and dairy we consume in favor of fruits and vegetables. And factory farming must be stopped.

Finally, despite rising national awareness about the grave health risks involved in diets heavy in meat and diary consumption, you would think Americans are getting the message. However, in Pretty Much Nobody In The U.S. Leads A Healthy Lifestyle, Erin Schumaker finds that ONLY 2.7% “of U.S. adults hit the four key metrics of living a healthy lifestyle - abstaining from smoking, eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy body fat percentage.” A UCLA study published in March found that 46% of California adults are pre-diabetic.

Are you one of them? Or perhaps someone care about, or someone you know? By the time a person is diagnosed with diabetes, regardless of age, irreversible damage has been done. Studies show that, even with lifestyle changes and medical treatment, for those diagnosed diabetic, on average, their life expectancy has been reduced by 10 years.

So THIS IS WHERE we come in.

Eat less meat and dairy. Do everything you can to campaign against factory farms. Spread awareness to your friends and throughout your social networks. Share this post. Invite people to read more about this on our site. Sign petitions, get active. Effect change at the state and local levels.

faCE LIFT has a petition to sign, good news regarding the health benefits of eating less meat, the Rapid Rise of Sustainable Plant-Based Foods, and reveals who is driving this surging demand.

In faCE LOVE, we profile one of our heros, Steve Ells , a man who started a small restaurant in 1993 and today, oversees 1900 of them – 1900 Chipotles. His company mandate was and remains to make best efforts to buy produce locally and from farmers who use crop rotation to protect the quality of their soil, and to source pigs that are humanely raised. Last year, when he could find NO PIGS IN THE COUNTRY that were humanely raised, he pulled popular carnitas off his menus – risking that his customers would head down the street to eat at a competitor’s, somewhere that served pork and didn’t care much about where it came from. And it is no coincidence that pork suppliers are now changing the way they raise their pigs. As Chipotle rebounds from food supply bacteria outbreaks last year, his customers remain loyal.

We also look at Willie Nelson,  Neil Young and those at Farm Aid as they take on the DARK Act.

Please get active on behalf of animals. Help us all end the cruelty of factory farming. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about awareness - and solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Eat less meat and dairy. 
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed. TELL THEM TO JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST!

Love, value and care for life. All life.


Alan Lewis Interview - Part 3

Alan Lewis directs Government Affairs and Food and Agriculture Policy for Natural Grocers - Vitamin Cottage, a thriving 60-year-old natural food grocery chain operating 90 stores in fifteen states. His work sourcing healthy sustainably farmed foods for Natural Grocers keeps his customers happy and healthy and enables numerous family farmers to thrive. Alan is active in many trade organizations and sits on the Boulder County Food and Agriculture Policy Council. His focus is on communicating with local and federal policy makers using frameworks that are non-confrontational and inclusive. In his TEDx talk, archived in VIDEO’s – Candy’s Room, Alan reveals the sophisticated methods used by the food industry “fibberati” to manipulate, deceive and distract us and suggests that we can resist these nefarious tactics by making conscious food choices based on core values that support a sustainable and just food system.

As an industry insider, Alan Lewis knows just how badly the food system is broken. Alan’s insights are far reaching. In this, the third part of my interview with Alan, we discuss the extent of Big Ag's control over government farm policy, and promising solutions going forward including the battle to protect meaningful truthful product labeling, the resurgence of small family farms, localized food distribution and the coming food revolution.

Realize the powerful role you can play in this sea change. Click here to read part one of this interview, or here for part two. Here’s part three:


STEPHEN: I notice a groundswell. Many people are interested in becoming sustainable, small family farmers. Everyone is sharing knowledge, sharing information, success stories. Are you seeing that too?

ALAN: There are two parts to that. One is just urban agriculture. People planting farms or large gardens on urban lots and in their yards. And typically people produce far more food, far more zucchini, far more tomatoes, far more cucumbers than they want to eat or can or preserve. That’s excess, fresh produce that goes out in the community. So in my neighborhood, Elise Raw - that’s her real name - has a system to collect all that excess garden goods and then redistribute them to people for free. If you get sophisticated about urban farming, then you’re sophisticated about preserving and canning and processing. And in your pantry you’ve got salsas and preserves or whatever that will keep you going for 6 or 7 months. And it’s fresh and it’s nutritious and it’s really low cost because you grow it in your own garden.

STEPHEN: Systems have to be created where people collect all these overages and share it amongst each other. So if I’ve got a hundred zucchinis I don’t need, would there be a food pantry somewhere where I could trade or give it away?

ALAN: You wrap it up during the week. And on Saturday, there’s share day, and anyone who comes in, doesn’t matter who they are or how much they have or what car they’re driving. That’s share day.

STEPHEN: Would it be house to house or an assembly point?

ALAN: Well, in my neighborhood, Elise Raw at The Garden has a place where she’s intentionally building this urban agricultural center as a resource for the community. But she’s also got specialized bikes with trailers. These human powered bikes are loaded with fresh produce, They’re going down the streets, and they’re going to people who are shut ins or have identified themselves as in need, and the produce is delivered door to door. Very cool. All year long they are collecting and distributing rescued food from the nearby grocery stores. This is good quality stuff. Does it necessarily change someone’s life to have a couple zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes? Not so much, but it changes your outlook when your neighbors are taking care of you.

STEPHEN: I bet those people are really looking forward to those deliveries, when the person on the bike comes around.

ALAN: You bet. Big smiles. Scaling that up one notch, you’ve got the farmers and ranchers - and I’m going to speak about Colorado - that are redeveloping local production and processing.

Typically a rancher will have a cow/calf operation which is a fancy word for a couple of bulls, hundreds of cows, and those calves come out, and they’re raised for 8, 9 months on grass and grain and they’re sold to the feed lots. The feedlot is going to take subsidized corn and soy and lots of antibiotic growth hormones and pump that steer or that calf up until they’re well over 1,200 pounds. The slaughterhouse buys them by the truckload.

But that gets us back to vertically integrated processing. The profit in the value chain is going back to that feedlot that’s buying subsidized corn and selling those full weight animals to the slaughterhouse. So, regionally, the ranchers are getting together and rebuilding the old slaughterhouses so that they can put those calves out on pasture for an additional year and have a full weight animal to take to market. They have it slaughtered nearby, on their behalf. They get the meat and the profit. They can sell it, eat it, share it. But they’re getting the full value of that animal, and the cost to raise it on their own grass pastures is really, really low.

STEPHEN: That’s really great, because that’s a problem here in California.

ALAN: You guys lost Bell Campo, and that’s part of the regional system that was pretty much outside of the Big AG game.

STEPHEN:  I know farmers or ranchers who, when they need an animal slaughtered, have to call someone who is licensed who drives all the way in from El Paso in his mobile unit to do that.

It’s hard for me to imagine. These farmers or ranchers, raise organic, healthy, antibiotic free animals only to find their only choice when it’s time to process, is a slaughterhouse controlled by Big Ag. At those feedlots, their healthy animals will coexist side by side for weeks with unhealthy, factory farmed animals in crowded dirt pens, covered with their own waste, before passing through a high speed slaughtering plant alongside these sick factory farmed animals - a very virulent environment. The farmer or rancher is not even sure what condition the meat is in when he gets it back.

ALAN: And then you’re suddenly paying an immigrant $7 an hour, who is three hundred miles away, while you’ve got people in your community looking for work. What the hell is that, right? When you start looking at these holistic feedback loops of the integrated economy: of keeping this processing local and keeping the food local, it has these really dynamic effects that reinforce themselves and really reinvigorate a local community. My neighbors are so much better off buying directly from nearby farmers and ranchers.

STEPHEN: So a goal is to regain control again of the processing facilities. When Tyson and the other huge agri-businesses came in they took over all the slaughterhouses. They suggested guidelines, an industry ‘wish list’ for government legislation containing rules for ‘public safety’ creating huge hurdles and red tape for anyone who wanted to start up their own community slaughterhouse again.



ALAN: That strategy was reinforced by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

After the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, they had one last hurrah after losing the midterm elections. In mid December 2010, they passed the Food Safety Modernization Act. People in food and ranching, the small producers, were just aghast at the requirements in that thing. The guidelines came out, and they were just unbelievably bureaucratic baloney. You’ve got to test your irrigation water every week. Well, that’s a $7000 or $8000 dollar bill every year. For what? By the time you get the test back, that water has been irrigated and it’s moved down the river or it’s evaporated. The testing regimen has no meaning to anything related to safety. That’s F.S.M.A. It’s a product of the biggest conglomerated Ag corporate interests putting rules in place that kind of make sense for their scale of operation. At least they can afford it, but they damn well know their smaller competitors and new entrants can’t.

STEPHEN: The Democratic Party’s ideology is to protect the middle class, blue-collar workers, and the disenfranchised. Why would the Democrats want to pass that?

ALAN: The Democrats do have this innate suspicion of corporate interests. But when I find small farmers and ranchers who are looking at those FSMA regulations and deciding to sell their farms, I know there’s something wrong.

STEPHEN: Obama was a champion, going back when he was campaigning through Iowa, for meaningful change on behalf of the small farmer. He’s very principled, but once he was elected, he had to act to rescue a national economy spiraling in free-fall toward a depression, he had to save Detroit, he had to fight tooth-and-nail to get successive economic stimulus packages passed. Passing the Affordable Care Act took enormous political capital. You can only fight so many battles. I get that. But I am so disappointed about the Farm Bill. It’s amazing, on a federal level, the power of Big Agriculture and their lobby. The meaningful change President Obama spoke of on behalf of the small farmer never happened.

ALAN: For the food movement, there’s nobody that looks to him for leadership, whatsoever. And Michelle Obama, who we also thought was our champion? She went to politically safer areas of fitness and nutrition. So the Obama administration -- partly because of the Clintons and the Gates foundation and others (who are) pro GMO, pro Big Ag - those people got their say and a lot of viable initiatives were marginalized.

STEPHEN: Change is going to have to be from the bottom up.

ALAN: That’s right. Progress can only be made outside of the system and without depending on the system. The idea of farmers creating cooperatives to build packing houses or granaries is the oldest idea in the book. All of these grain elevators and seed companies, these were all started as farmer co-ops. County level and regional level co-ops pooled capital, built the business, put their people in charge, and used the services they owned. When a company like Cargill has an opportunity to buy out one of those co-ops, or Monsanto can buy out one of those seed co-ops, they couldn’t be happier. You know what Cargill does to a co-op?

STEPHEN: They gut it.

ALAN: Not just gut it. They take out the equipment, they take out the plumbing, they take out the electrical wiring. They make damn sure that building will never be used again. That’s what Cargill does to a co-op.

STEPHEN: It’s war.

ALAN: A war backed by lobbying and propaganda. There’s a Cargill advertising campaign called ‘America’s Independent Farmers.’ Beautiful videos that go on for 3 minutes. There’s mom and dad and the kid, and the dog barking at the goat, and the sun setting in the pasture, and the outside of the barn. They don’t show that inside that barn are 20,000 squawking turkeys, desperate to get out. They don’t show all of that vertical integrated indenture that that farmer suffers. So Cargill is maintaining this fiction that there’s an independent American farmer. Their branded products, like Shady Brook Farms – are made to look like they are produced with integrity and sustainable practices. Please!

STEPHEN: Well, that’s the propaganda, that’s the image.

ALAN: It’s really effective, it’s pervasive. We all want to believe what we are being told. Independent family farmer. There’s nothing independent about that family in the video, and yet, I’ll defend their choices. That was their best decision. I’m not going to tell them that was the wrong decision. How would I know? But at least Cargill could be honest about the system that they’re running, the game that they’re playing. It’s a big buy-in (for the farmer) and the odds are no better than 50/50 that the farmer will survive.

STEPHEN: With the Internet and social media, we have to increase awareness about the reality of the situation.

ALAN: I don’t think we’ll win that game. I don’t think we’ll win the propaganda game, because they have so much money and they’re so sophisticated. Remember, they did it with lead, with arsenic, with DDT, with asbestos, with tobacco. That’s institutional knowledge and research and expertise that no community group is going to replicate. You and I can’t fight back against such a sophisticated campaign.

So instead we step outside of their system and we create our own food system. We create our own reality that isn’t’ referencing anything that’s being told to us. We, and our neighbors and our farmers build something independent.

STEPHEN: And community by community, business by business, you make it work.

ALAN: Right. And remember how I said that the farmers realize how much power a community has? I’ve been telling these local food groups to really pay attention to how powerful they can be. The only thing I warn them of is that Monsanto is not stupid. They know about your grass roots campaign. They can’t beat you with grass roots, so they will start co-opting you. So watch out when you see their hipster PR flacks wanting to sponsor you and give you resources and advice, or when the extension agent shows up saying, “I’m from the government, I’d like to help ya.” Understand, that’s their response to you threatening their control with the system. Make no mistake, that’s their calculated response. And every time I say that, someone in the group says, ‘That just happened to us.’

So Monsanto and Cargill, in some odd twisted logic, want to act as champions of local food systems. You think they do - or maybe not?

STEPHEN: Maybe not. It’s diabolical, but they have all the tools. And their target is a community with isolated individuals in different stages of need.



ALAN: Our land grant colleges and their extension services are part and parcel of this industrialized, vertically integrated system. It’s just amazing how these folks can hold these two thoughts in their heads: they like the idea of the small independent American family farmer, yet everything they do supports a food system where the farmer makes no profit and takes all the risk.

STEPHEN: Right. There are college and university departments all across the country focusing on food and agriculture research and policy.

ALAN: And you know how they did that? They changed the law. In 1984, they changed the law to say, ‘Hey, if you develop any patented proprietary processes or products at a land grant university, you just go right ahead and patent that for yourself. Don’t worry about the public or government interest.’ Well, hell. Really? That’s my university. That’s my tax dollars. Those are my professors and research labs. But Monsanto gets the patent?

STEPHEN: And increasingly, for professors at those universities who have an opinion that’s contrary to the view that Big Ag supports or espouses, they are increasingly finding it harder to continue there – let alone be hired on as new faculty.

ALAN: Impossible. It’s their way or the highway.

STEPHEN: The whole point of universities should be that critical crucible of exchange and debate and development of ideas and ideology in every subject.

ALAN: Well, they start by over-divisionalizing it. There’s ag, there’s law, there’s English, there’s whatever, and they don’t talk. This is Wendell Berry’s point of view on agri-culture versus the rest of culture, right? And then within a department, especially in ag, they operate in an exclusive environment. There isn’t any debate, ideas aren’t challenged. There’s no self-criticism, there’s no self-awareness. At the Governor’s Ag conference in Colorado, the head of Ag Sciences at Colorado State University gets up. He’s a keynote speaker. He spends 45 minutes on a PowerPoint talking about “the nefarious shadow groups” of the environmental and animal rights activists who are attempting to run initiatives in these states that would hurt agriculture.

STEPHEN: Right, like we’re domestic terrorists or something.

ALAN: He used every word he could but terrorist. So he was describing citizens participating in the democratic process of the ballot initiative, representing their principles that the environment was important in and of itself and that just because you own the land does not mean you had absolute right to damage the quality of the environment. Now, that’s too much for me to agree with or not agree with that moment, but I was so mad at him. He had put up a slide that showed how all the eco-terrorists groups were interrelated. Tracked it back to some citified guy named Mark Ruffalo, in New York City. And some foreign gal named Yoko Ono. A nefarious group! Scary!

So I got up. This is 500 ag leaders from the whole state. I took the audience microphone and said, ‘Good presentation, thanks for being here. I don’t disagree with you on principle, but I have a question. These citizens who are going through the process, representing their principles and stating their case. You seem to think they’re completely illegitimate participants. When one citizen in Colorado wanted GMOs labeled and struggled to put $500,000 together, biotech from across the world descended on the state with 20 million dollars. Were they also illegitimate?’

He went on for 10 minutes, so flustered. He couldn’t answer the question, because there was no answer. It’s the first time anybody had said, ‘What the hell are you saying? You’re the leader of a public land grant university, and this is how you’re spending your time? Demonizing Yoko effing Ono, at age 78? Really?’

So yeah, way to get me going on this stuff, man.



STEPHEN: At the federal level - politics aside - what would be common sense? What are the 5 or 6 most important policies that could achieve the most good at the federal level? For example, ending subsidies to the major agricultural corporations. Creating subsidies, or a program of subsidized small business loans for sustainable family farmers.

ALAN: Create a revenue or income limit for subsidies. If you’re over a million, you can only get so much. If you get to 2 million, it probably drops off. If you get to 5 million, you get zero. The whole system is entirely convoluted. Wipe it and start from scratch. Promote our common goals, not the goals of the Big Ag lobby.

STEPHEN: How about reviewing this mass - this morass - of farm policy laws from the perspective of eliminating anything that impedes small businesses from getting in the game. Streamlining the whole code.

ALAN: Yes. Farm Policy should be renamed Environment, Economic and Food Policy.

STEPHEN: What else? What other policy changes could be made to support a diversified community-based agricultural renaissance? What else could the Fed do, or stop doing?

ALAN: Let me pick off a few things. The department of justice needs to look at the oligopoly of commodity processing, meat processing and seed development. We used to have 500+ independent seed developers, and that’s important, because they’re developing very different types and varieties and stains of sugar beets, sugar, and corn for different regions and climates.

STEPHEN: And all that’s gone now because…

ALAN: Two things happened. 95 percent of them, all but a handful of those original companies, are now owned or controlled by 6 global chemical companies. Some were acquired, but most of them were bought just to be put out of business. So for instance, right now there is no viable non-GMO sugar beet variety being developed.

STEPHEN: So that has to happen.

ALAN: There’s not been a new non-GMO sugar beet variety developed in 20 years. So if you wanted to shift your production to a non-GMO sugar beet for some reason, good luck. The department of justice completely fell down on this. That shouldn’t have been allowed. Because it’s 6 companies, somehow, that’s just under the radar. 4 companies control beef, and that’s just under the radar. The fact is that, in any given place in the United States, if you want to sell your chickens, hogs, or cattle, you’ll have one offer a week, at one price. Where were Obama and Eric Holder? Asleep at the wheel.

STEPHEN: Tyson and these huge corporations are so ruthless. They each wanted to dominate the market, wanted to be number one. There came a point in the ‘60s where they realized they had to coexist, so they decided amongst themselves who the players were going to be in this game. They divvied up the whole country in terms of markets and regions. And the result was, as you just mentioned, that there is just one dominant company controlling each region, one buyer only for the product of the farmers or ranchers in that area.

Christopher Leonard researched that extensively for his book, The Meat Racket. He focused on Don Tyson and the growth of Tyson. It’s like Walmart. Walmart comes into town and many small businesses die. Tyson comes into a region and all the small farmers and ranchers, the regional slaughterhouse, the small businesses that sustain that entire industry, go away. In this case, it’s even sadder. The farmers that wanted to remain farmers had to sign on and embrace the Tyson program. They soon found out that within that program, they can’t survive, they can’t sustain themselves. They’re working 7 days a week, endless hours. They would start to go under. Now why would Tyson rig the game so that these dedicated hard working farmers could not make enough to survive? Tyson needs these farmers, right? Tyson then sought out people overseas who could be induced to immigrate and become their next generation of farm-owner tenants. For example, in Laos or Cambodia there are mountain tribes, the Montagnards. They fought for us in the Vietnam War and have since been repressed by the Communist regime. Tyson encouraged Montagnard family immigration to take over these farms. There are pockets of them throughout Arkansas and Texas. Tyson encouraged this immigration, because they realized these are families - sometimes 2 or 3 families who will live together on one farm - and farm round the clock, and subsist on very little. They’re powerless and they’re used to living very modestly. So Tyson can further increase profitability by, in this case, slicing the farmer’s share of the pie, even smaller.

ALAN: They call it importing a slice of the third world.

STEPHEN: It’s unbelievable, this race to the bottom, in terms of the devastation, the havoc this has caused countless American farm families – the ones that used to do that and now have ‘lost the farm.’ What else?

ALAN: Another key thing is we stripped our universities of public funding, so they’re no longer public universities. They’re private research institutes. Colorado State University behaves like a private industry research institute, particularly for Syngenta’s GMO crops in Colorado. So you have hiring based on a private agenda, you have research based on a private agenda, and you have the resulting publications all based on a private agenda.

STEPHEN: Also, the indoctrination of the students who go through the agricultural program to get a degree.

ALAN: Yeah, and the extension service, right.

Those universities need to reassess their principles. Without that, you can’t have an honest and open ag conversation where a farmer could say, ‘These are my principles. Help me find ag systems and products and methods to reach my values.’ The conversation right now is, ‘We can offer you this. Take it or leave it. Who cares about values?’

The top organic program in the country by some measures is CSU and it’s just an empty shell of a department. There’s no significant activity. It’s just symbolic.

STEPHEN: Tell me a couple of other solutions. You and I are in a perfect world now where we, as the government, can just correct this. What else is there to do?

ALAN: Fund regional and local processing. Let the big conglomerates do what they want, but re-establish rules so that we can process chickens or mill flour. Help us store food locally instead of it going into this massive national system. USDA has all these little programs that make great window dressing, but there’s really no big money or big motivation behind it. It’s really a way to keep the activists at bay and to make people feel good. Fundamentally, it’s not changing the system. We need change.

The heart is these private initiatives. You’re looking at tech entrepreneurs and private foundations providing seed funding for change. Sometimes that’s for the better and sometimes it’s not. But if the Humane Society wants to help fund a local meat processing facility so that cows can eat grass their whole lives, that fits their agenda and mine.

STEPHEN: So you’re suggesting that these kinds of organizations should invest resources in initiatives like this, that they could be part of the solution?

ALAN: If you don’t like industrial feedlots, you try to can shut down feedlots all day long, but they’ll just pop right back up. But if you shift consumer demand to a humane and environmentally responsible meat production system, that doesn’t use feedlot meat, we don’t need the government to intervene. I think a lot of my answers are going to be ‘We don’t need the government for that.’ We need consumer awareness. We need change in consumer demand to drive change.

Milk processing is another thing that’s highly centralized. There are only 3 dairy processors in all of Texas that buy dairy milk. We need smaller buyers that make specialized products for different local markets. The regulatory hurdles and capital costs are enormous.

STEPHEN: With smaller operations, that would still be necessary, because food needs to be safety controlled.

ALAN: Yes, but this whole idea that safety only works on a large scale - there’s no basis for that. Large operations more easily incur and transmit pathogens, and they transmit them to much larger parts of the food chain. How is that safer?

STEPHEN: I was just examining an investigation into Dairygold, and it’s just a horror story, what goes in those dairies.

ALAN: Right. They’re going to be safety issues from time to time, often from uncontrollable events. But if it’s in a JBS packing plant, that’s 30, 40, 100 million pounds of contaminated hamburger on grocery shelves. If it’s in a local or regional processor, it might be a few thousand pounds. Far fewer people are at risk, and its much easier to recall, to get it back. But FSMA was written to favor large scale factories, as if large scale was safer. Very odd. There’s not a lot of logic behind it, except that It’s what will give those companies a leg up.

STEPHEN: Tell me your opinion about ‘Ag Is America.’

ALAN: ‘Ag is America’...  It’s just one of the dozens of front groups put in place by the bitoech and Big Ag lobby to control consumers’ opinions about them. I came across their website because I look at this stuff all the time. I study how Big Ag communicates and messages. I look at the tightly coordinated and time campaigns they roll out on each issue. Since the messaging appears as a thousand whispers in people’s news feeds, they forget it’s a propaganda campaign intentionally designed to confuse them.

Ag Is America. They are part of a campaign in which is attempting to shame farmers who don’t choose to use GMO crops and chemical agriculture. They use attacks like, ‘You are letting ideology get in the way of a choice to use more profitable agricultural systems.’ It’s astounding to see them attack farmers’ values, especially regarding organic and non chemical agriculture. Ideology – it’s a strange and powerful term. It sounds so official and authoritative. But pull back the sheets. Ag Is America is shaming them as if farmers’ long held personal beliefs and values are bad. Big Ag crop systems are more profitable for the GMO crop producer, for the GMO seed company, and the pesticide makers. It’s not more profitable for the farmer. Whose ideology is on display here? Whose ideology is suspect?

STEPHEN: How do we respond to that?

ALAN: There are two ways that food activists fight back. First, there’s the 'Oh my God' commentary. 'Oh My God,' look at what Big AG is doing to these chickens, the hogs, the cows, the environment, whatever, right? Show the pics. Visceral reactions have a role in communicating the importance of an issue and getting others to pay attention.

But the second way to fight back, where I like to be, and what I am fascinated by, is watching the propaganda, the manipulation, the narrative history of these campaigns come together. Show consumers the tricks and manipulation they are subjected to.

This puts the attention-grabbing stuff into context. Then you’ve got a conversation started. That’s my role here. That’s what my TED talk is about, that’s what my speeches are about. Each of us is a part of something bigger. Whether you signed up for it or not, you are a part of something and you are playing a role that matters.

STEPHEN: It’s happening right now.

ALAN: You’re an American and you’re in a point of history that’s critical. Understand who you are and who you can be and what you need to know in order to be effective.

Back to your question about what needs to be done. People need to be empowered. People need to understand that they can make these changes.

STEPHEN: Agreed. They have to become aware, not just of the situation, but aware of their own power. I’m a big believer of that. That’s what this country was built on. It started with‘We don’t want to be subjects anymore.’

ALAN: Yes! It’s the idea of do the One Thing. Do one thing today. Do one thing to make a difference.

STEPHEN: Right. I just think of the potential of a return, a rebirth nationwide of sustainable family farms, of vibrant rural communities, of hundreds of thousands of new, local jobs created by a return to small-scale sustainable family farms - each operation uniquely geared for the modern era. There’s so much happening. Restaurants. Food to table. Lots of people are getting clued in on this, making healthy life choices, getting active. I’m interested in local operations succeeding, flourishing and adjusting so we can get rid of the food deserts, and begin to make a big dent in Big Ag - take the ‘big’ out of Big Ag. I look forward to ending the horror and suffering endured by factory farmed animals.

ALAN: That’s the challenge, right, that’s the fun stuff. It’s local, it’s meaningful. You can watch it happen in your lifetime.

STEPHEN: If the power grows, and it starts to influence economics from the ground up, the government can’t ignore it. It’s not Republican/Democrat, it’s demonstrating how healthy sustainable food systems and businesses should work – and it can set the stage for proper change at higher and higher levels of government. Interesting times. Thanks for this, Alan. It’s a great start.

ALAN: It is. 

Today's Interviews! The Food Revolution Summit

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Alan Lewis Interview - Part II

Alan Lewis directs Government Affairs and Food and Agriculture Policy for Natural Grocers - Vitamin Cottage, a thriving 60-year-old natural food grocery chain operating 90 stores in fifteen states. His work sourcing healthy sustainably farmed foods for Natural Grocers keeps his customers happy and healthy and enables numerous family farmers to thrive. Alan is active in many trade organizations and sits on the Boulder County Food and Agriculture Policy Council. His focus is on communicating with local and federal policy makers using frameworks that are non-confrontational and inclusive. In his TEDx talk, archived in VIDEO’s – Candy’s Room, Alan reveals the sophisticated methods used by the food industry “fibberati” to manipulate, deceive and distract us and suggests that we can resist these nefarious tactics by making conscious food choices based on core values that support a sustainable and just food system.

As an industry insider, Alan Lewis knows just how badly the food system is broken. Alan’s insights are far reaching. In this, the second part of my interview with Alan, we discuss the historical relationship of American farmers and the government, the secret design behind modern government farm policy, and promising solutions going forward including the battle to protect meaningful truthful product labeling.

You can read part one of this interview with this link.  Here’s part two:



ALAN: It’s ironic because the history of the relationship between American farmers and the government is really a history of popular revolt – and of state and federal militias putting down those revolts.

STEPHEN: Explain that.

ALAN: Some examples. Shay’s Rebellion. After the American War of Independence, colonial soldiers, a thousand of them, return to their farms. They haven’t been paid so they take out loans on the land. They’re raising their crops, but prices collapse. They can’t pay their bills, they can’t eat, they can’t sell their food except at a loss. The moneylenders come to foreclose on their land. The farmers ask for intervention from the government. The government won’t do anything, so Shay and his followers take up arms. They take flintlocks and pitchforks and march on the government, saying, ‘You have to do something. We’re honorable veterans of this war. You’re not allowing us to survive here.’ Massachusetts’s response was to raise a new militia and put down the rebellion by shooting, killing and arresting its members.

A better known example is the1933 farm crisis during the depression era. There are increases of productivity from improved technology and the demand following World War I. Lots of new land is put into production, increasing supply. Then you have this massive disruption from the stock market crash. Demand crashes. Exports end.

STEPHEN: And the Dust Bowl.

ALAN: And along comes the Dust Bowl. Farmers have debts due, crop prices are low, and that’s bad enough, you know? They’ll suck up and work through it. The Dust Bowl made human survival on the farm unlikely. It made paying debts near impossible. But the banking system was determined to come in and foreclose and consolidate farms.

For those of us who are not farmers, it’s helpful to remember that this is just what they did more recently with the housing bubble. For example, Countrywide Mortgage had 70 people working in foreclosures for every 30 they had bringing in new loans. That was a mortgage mill; they couldn’t have been happier to foreclose on a house. Foreclosure was their goal. They could always make their money back by capturing both the families’ down payment and the appreciation on the property. Profit handsomely, then sell the same house to someone else. The 2008 banking crisis occurred because real estate stopped appreciating. That’s why all those mortgage companies went out of business. Their business model depended on appreciation so they could make risky loans and foreclose at a profit.

This same situation has been a familiar sight to America’s farmers. Operating loans and mortgages on land allowed the Bank to foreclose. The banks are always happy to do so.

So, the1933 farm crisis. All across the agricultural heartland, farmers—

STEPHEN: Are being forced off their farms.

ALAN: They took up arms, they blocked the roads, they surrounded country courthouses, they kidnapped foreclosure judges. They stopped milk trucks and deliveries to cities, they destroyed large amounts of food. They tried to decrease the supply so the prices would come back up so they could pay their loans. Farmer activism was the theme of the 1930s in the heartland. The Dust Bowl made it much worse. That’s also the genesis of the New Deal. It’s bad enough that many urban people couldn’t find work. But when rural America revolted and starved, the New Deal had to be created to support the farmers.

STEPHEN: What happened to that revolt? The same thing again with the government mobilizing folks, the National Guard?

ALAN: What they always do. They called out the militia. In areas where the county sheriffs or state police were sympathetic to the farmers, federal forces were sent in to “restore order.” I’m going to circle back to this in a second, but let me give you one more example.

Springfield, Colorado, 1977. Never heard of it, have you? Population 600. Some big farmers and some small farmers - but a small tight-knit community. Same story. They had borrowed against their land at high values, interest rates had shot up to over 17%. Crop prices dropped along with land values. They can’t make ends meet or pay their loans, through no fault of their own.

Their grandmothers and grandfathers had told them the history of the financial community using a crisis like this as a way to come in and foreclose and consolidate land. That’s the fundamental history of Agriculture in the United States. Folks in Springfield started the American Agriculture Movement, which was essentially farmers striking and refusing to ship goods. ‘You’re not going to pay us enough? We just won’t ship it.’ And that farmer’s strike spread across the country.

What the farmers discovered was that at that level of a community, where neighbors depend on neighbors -- where your sacrifice by me is rewarded by my sacrifice for you -- the whole community gets stronger. They realized that community was where their power came from. And so the American Agriculture Movement is this vast network of small communities feeling that same anger. And you remember Farm Aid and the tractors? Those guys put all their tractors up on manicured lawn at the U.S. Capitol. And remember what happened? Federal troops came in and arrested farmers, beat some guys in overalls, broke out the glass on some tractors. Congress made this big stink about them ruining their lawn. Like, really? In the end, Congress did little to help the small farmers.

Springfield is emblematic of farmers’ frustration with larger government. There is an economic report that specifically concluded ‘We have to reduce the importance of small rural communities because that’s the source of these revolts. We don’t want any towns outside of the county seat because it’s those small towns that we can’t control. They are the source of this anger, the source of popular action.’

The reason they’re the source of popular action, besides neighborly cooperation, is that when the sheriff is your brother in law or cousin or high school classmate, that sheriff is not going to enforce an unfair federal law and let you be foreclosed on in an unfair auction. That report recommended that any community under 500 should be removed from the maps to make it less viable. The USDA embraced this policy of consolidating farms -- and consolidating communities. They were treated as collateral damage in the progress toward efficiency and centralized control.

STEPHEN: You’re certain of this history?

ALAN: I’m not a conspiracy guy. I’ve read this history and a lot more. I have spoken to farmers who were a part of it. If you look, the history is clear. You can read the testimonials of the Minnesota farm advocates in the 1980s that were fighting the Farm Home Administration to prevent unwise lending and unlawful foreclosures. You can read first hand accounts of the Dust Bowl, when these farmers are risking – and these are arch conservative, arch traditional farming communities - risking their own liberty to protect each other from the federal agents enforcing foreclosures. This is the history of agriculture in the United States. It is surreal how surprising it is to average citizens. This is not the history we learn in school.

STEPHEN: Now we circle back.

ALAN: This history of protest gets lost somehow - you just don’t hear about it. You see the bits and pieces, but you don’t see the long-term pattern. All those pearls are connected by a common string. We circle back.



STEPHEN: A corollary is the development of Walmart and the large national retail chains, as well as the Tysons, Smithfields and Cargills with the development of factory farming. The big corporations. The very same dynamic happens.

ALAN: Right.

STEPHEN: Getting rid of the local small businesses, getting rid of the independent family farmers and ranchers. They can’t complete, they go under. Today, these small business owners and family farmers no longer own anything. They are reduced to moving on or working for and being indentured to Big Ag. The corporations are now completely in control of mainstream food production.

ALAN: Yeah. You have to get big or get out, that is the USDA’s motto. And you have to get big to hit the low prices that Cargill and ADM were willing to pay. If you remove regional and local processing, leaving Big Ag processors as the only game in town, you better play by their rules. If Archer Daniels Midlands is the only buyer for wheat and flour, you better produce by their rules and within their cost structure or you’re not going to have a buyer for your crop.

To answer your question directly, here is where we circle around…

Because local farming communities with local processing were too powerful and too independent, the response by Big Ag and the federal government was to say, well, we’ll take care of that. We’ll eliminate them. This is history, not opinion.



STEPHEN: So can a solution today be the redevelopment, the re-emergence of these small communities and sustainable farms? That power, I think, is always there. It was there once, it may be there again going forward. And with modern technology and the flow of information, it will be much harder, given a broad public awareness, for the government, or large corporations, and their lobbyists for that matter, to take the kinds of actions or get away with what they once did not long ago.

ALAN: The local movement isn’t as local as people think. In other words, I’ve talked to farmers across Middle America who are creating local food movements within their little farming communities, and it’s the same motivation, it’s the same pushback against being marginalized by the big players. Local is a national movement.

STEPHEN: I see examples of this in communities all across the country. Cottonwood Creek in Colorado is one. Along the east coast, Middle America, Washington, Oregon big time, California. I’m finding examples of this wherever I go.

ALAN: What they’re doing is they’re bringing in artisanal production. Small, safety compliant on-farm processing operations like Cottonwood Creek has. They’re making cheese, they’re making jam, jellies, preserves, making bread. They are processing meat and grains. And then there’s this local exchange of goods, either for cash or barter. And they’re circumventing Cargill, they’re circumventing Archer Daniels Midland. Frankly, sometimes they’re circumventing Natural Grocers - which was fine with us because it’s such a positive movement. In that sense, our role is to introduce liquidity into the local agricultural system by paying cash for some of its production, even though the bulk of that farm’s production may going into competing CSAs or local exchange economies.

STEPHEN: I love that. That’s also spreading the word about the value of the movement. When you go to a farmer’s market, every week there are new customers there for the first time, some even travelling in from other neighborhoods, to discover what’s there, the healthy fresh organic food, and the value. It’s all about the culture and spreading the word, I think.

ALAN: Whenever Natural Grocers has space in a parking lot or an adjoining space, we will sponsor farmer’s markets on that space. So why would we sponsor competing vegetables selling-

STEPHEN: -right in your parking lot. Why?

ALAN: Because our values are such that first and foremost we want people to eat better. That’s going to start with fresh produce. Organic would be great. Get people eating vegetables and fresh whole food as a main component of their diet. Then all sorts of good things happen. We consider local fresh food programs to be the best possible marketing for what we’re doing. That’s where loyal customers are created. Getting people access to a farmer’s market is key.

STEPHEN: That’s great. What could the solution be for food deserts? The urban communities where many residents are blue collar, on a tight budget, even living below poverty line. Where shopping for food means options limited to Walmart, a smattering of run down grocery stores, 7-11s and liquor stores. These folks are not going to be paying $6 for a dozen eggs. I see community groups active in these areas, charities sourcing food, food banks picking up unused restaurant and grocery store food while it is still good. From the perspective of a grocer, do you see a solution on the horizon to getting good affordable natural food into these neighborhoods?

ALAN: I get so many invitations to meet with and help food groups just in Denver, there’s no way I can attend all those meetings. That would be all I would do. But to your point, people are not waiting anymore for a grocery store to come into their neighborhood.

There’s a dynamic. It’s going to be hard to articulate, but I’m going to give it a shot. Typically, a grocery store needs a pretty large trade area. If you look at maps of grocery stores, the big chain stores, each chain will place a store every 2 miles. If you think of a circle that’s 4 miles across, a two mile radius around each store, that’s its trade area. More or less. I’m greatly over simplifying.

But if you think about that, there’s always going to be places in any city, whether it’s affluent or poor, suburb or exurb, that’s just outside of the trade area or can’t support a second full fledged store. You’re just going to have to drive that few extra minutes or miles to get to the closest store. What I’m getting at is the typical grocery store from a national chain is not going to put in small local stores to fill in these blanks. Economically, it doesn’t make sense. It can take 20 million dollars to open up a store, and if most of those sales are going to cannibalize from an existing store, why would you do that? These are what I call mathematical food deserts. They exist because the math shows that one more store is not economically feasible.

I tell all these groups, stop advocating for a grocery store to come in. First of all, you don’t really want a regular supermarket. Second of all, they’re not going to come in here. It’s economically unsustainable. Their models are opposite of what you’re asking them to do. But jujitsu that. What you have then is a protected trade area. So your new co-op, your local grocery store, your community based food system doesn’t suffer direct competition from a chain grocery store.

STEPHEN: Can you elaborate?

ALAN: Because you’re in an area just outside of these trade areas that won’t support a chain grocery store, instead of asking for the impossible, take that as a positive. Say, ‘Okay, we may live in a food desert but that also means that this trade area can be ours. So how do we supply healthy food within our area, knowing that a big box will never come in?’

STEPHEN: Okay, so then the solution would be--?

ALAN: Pop up groceries. Co-ops. Mobile Groceries. Gardens. Neighborhood distribution. So many people are asking about how to make these ideas work. There is incredible complexity of taking a diverse community and getting people from all different backgrounds to figure out what they want in common. But every now and then, something clicks.

STEPHEN: It’s not easy, is it?

ALAN: No. One of the slides in my presentation says if the people in your community look like you, talk like you, eat like you, act like you and agree with you, that’s not a community. Then I put a picture of the Bush family and say, ‘That’s a hereditary cabal.’ A true community embraces conflicts and disagreements from the start. 

You will not create a sustainable, local community food response if you do not do that. But every one of these community co-op meetings I go to. Know what? Often the people look alike, act alike, dress alike, right? And there’s a fundamental problem, and they’re aware of this because they’re smart people.

If English isn’t your first language, or you can’t speak it at all, period, if you don’t use the terminology and vocabulary. If you’re not used to speaking to a group of people. If you don’t feel like you’re part of that core group. If you don’t have the clothes, you don’t have the time, you don’t have the daycare for a two hour meeting. There are a million reasons, legitimate reasons, why someone is not going to participate in your local community food effort.

So, my admonition to everyone - and I actually made everyone do this – is telling them ‘this is going to be like church.’ Remember when you were mortified as a kid as you were told to turn to the strangers around you and say, ‘May peace be with you?’

STEPHEN: I actually do remember that.

ALAN: Yeah. My dad was a preacher when I was a kid. I was always just mortified at that moment in church. I’ll ask people now. ‘What we’re going to do in this room, 500 of you. You’re going to turn to every person around you and ask, Are you okay? Two words: You okay?’ And it was amazing. I mean, yeah, it’s trite, I don’t want to make too much out of it. But that made people feel good to have someone ask after them, ‘You okay?’ If you do it once out of the blue for no reason, it’s patronizing and condescending. If you do it every day, you see someone on your street, you knock on their door, ‘You okay? Everything good? Anything I can get for you?’ Over time, that develops that trust, that develops that relationship, and that actually allows you to know they’re okay or not okay, or for you to tell them, ‘I need this help. I need my walk shoveled. I’m short on food. I need formula. Can I borrow an egg?’ Anything on the spectrum.

You’re letting me go off like a preacher, but thank you.

But see, that’s what we’re missing. That’s the local democracy that we’ve lost.

STEPHEN: So that’s the lynch pin to developing something in these border areas that can become an actual business endeavor?

ALAN: Yes.

STEPHEN: There has to be commerce, something sustainable.

ALAN: People are asking for $300 to join a co-op in Denver. Really? Do you have any idea how much money that is? People could go for 5 years trying to save $300, and have one setback after another, and you’re asking for them to invest in a co-op so they can buy food for 5% less? It works for some, but not all.



STEPHEN: Earlier we talked about the distinction between Natural Grocers and its “crossover” competitors, the different definitions and levels of natural and organic.

ALAN: In the past, the number that was kicked around was that Whole Foods was trying to get 20 percent organic in their produce department. I’m generalizing about 400 stores right now, all in different environments. Instead of referencing organic now as some key standard, they’ve gone to ‘good, better, and best.’ I can’t tell you what those mean off the top of my head, and frankly, that’s the point. Good, better or best? Ok, so depending on how you feel about that mango or that Meyer lemon or that Romanesco, you may want to pay a little more or a little less based on good, better, or best. But when responsible organic farmers figure out that industrial conventional growers can easily outrank them, look out.

STEPHEN: Those are their standards?

ALAN: That’s a made up set of grades. A real standard is like the high jump, either you get over the bar or you don’t. Good-better-best is like the long jump, where everybody gets a participation ribbon no matter how far they make it into the sand box.

STEPHEN: It’s not a uniform standard, just their subjective evaluation?

ALAN: Right, and they tend to be accompanied by pastoral descriptions, as opposed to really meaningful agricultural standards.

STEPHEN: Again, it gets to their problem with sourcing, isn’t it?

ALAN: Well, it’s a lot easier if your “standards” make a place for every grower that shows up with produce at the back door. It’s really challenging for Natural Grocers to only have organic produce in our stores, but our customers think it’s worth it.

As a quick aside, that means we have to educate every single one of your consumers about seasonality and transportation costs. You shouldn’t be eating certain things out of season. And if you want it, it’s going to be so expensive that you wouldn’t buy it anyway, so we’re not bringing it in. We’re not bringing in $20 a pound bell peppers in from Holland in March. Just wait a few months, when they’re $2 a pound locally.

The crossover supermarkets did not do the industry a favor when they positioned healthy food as an affluent, elitist lifestyle. They are now admitting the mistake and they’re backpedaling as fast as they can. People have limited budgets. We should give them the healthiest food we can at the lowest price possible.

STEPHEN: Most Americans really.

ALAN: Like all food markets should, that’s right. So the stepped standards, I think, allow them a huge amount of wiggle room to sell whatever they want and to price something that’s conventional as high as organic. Or at least make it look more desirable.

STEPHEN: Everything you do, not just vegetables, but also your meat involves in essence the best category based on your standards.

ALAN: Our meat standard requires the animals be given no antibiotics or hormones. Cattle need to be grass fed on pasture for at least 120 days. Our long term goal is 100% grass fed. The idea is to reinvigorate small ranchers and the soil in their pastures while keeping the animals healthy and happy. The GAP standard you mentioned is from the Global Animal Partnership.

STEPHEN: Is 5 better?

ALAN: The top GAP grade says that that animal spent its whole life on one farm. Working down from there, you have vague terminology about “animal centered” practices. If they are outside, they should be able to practice natural behaviors. That’s a big if, because nothing in GAP requires the animals to actually be outside. The only practice that seems to be prevented within GAP is caging chickens. They don’t say anything about use of medicines, consumption of forage, unhealthy grain feeding, and other important issues. Just don’t bob their tails.

STEPHEN: Is that 3 or 4 on the list?

ALAN: It’s the first of the three fives. Really, you can’t make this up.

In English though, a standard is a standard. It’s like that bar in the high jump. You either get over it, or you don’t. But GAP puts up five fairly low bars, and suppliers just jump as high as they can. If they knock off the top four bars, they still get a ribbon, because you didn’t knock off the bottom one. It’s not a standard when everybody gets a trophy.

STEPHEN: What is Natural Grocers doing about Dairy?

Dairy. Fantastic. This is an incredibly bold business move. We’re only going to sell dairy products made with milk from pastured, non-confined cows.

This sent a huge ripple through the industry, because the big secret is all of those natural dairy products are made from industrial milk from conventional dairies. Usually without the GMO growth hormones, but we don’t really know, because it’s not necessarily disclosed on the product label.

These are massive confinement dairies. The most the cows get outside is on a dry lot, no vegetation. They’re very stressed, very sick. Lifetime is about 3 years for a dairy cow. When the cost of their medication is high enough that it exceeds the value of their milk, they’re sent off to be ground up into hamburger. What the hell is that about?

STEPHEN: Right. Let alone the life they lead… The suffering, the horrific life of every factory farmed animal. That’s what faCE is trying to change, to put an end to.

ALAN: That’s righteous work!


Where do we come in? What can you and I do to be most effective at a critical moment in humanity’s Modern Era, the age of Antibiotics?

faCE profiled the dangers arising from the overuse of antibiotics on factory farmed animals in faCE ISSUE 3. We return to this subject now as recent news is especially troubling.

Our featured article, Superbug Bacteria Resistant To All Antibiotics Found In The U.K., reports that “government scientists have found a gene, known as mcr-1, that gives bacteria resistance to colistin, (the antibiotic) often used by doctors when other antibiotics fail.”  In her National Geographic blog, Maryn McKenna’s observation that “The resistance factor is showing up in more countries, but, much more important, it has combined in some bacterial samples with genes conferring resistance to other potent drugs, creating bacteria that look effectively untreatable” caused Lance Price, PhD, a prominent resistance microbiologist and founder of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University, to conclude that “We’re watching our demise in real time.”

A sobering conclusion.

Antibiotic Of Last Resort Faces New Superbug Threat, our second faCE TIME article, reveals a new antibiotic resistant bacteria now reported in China.  Jason Best concludes that “we’re watching antibiotics that were once hailed as miracle drugs increasingly lose their ability to fight disease. With fewer effective antibiotics left in their arsenal to prescribe for the worst antibiotic-resistant infections, doctors have had to turn again to colistin, even though they had deemed the drug too dangerous to prescribe not so long ago. But even colistin’s days as a disease fighter may be numbered.”

In a sign of just how quickly things are moving, Jason points out that “the BBC reported last December (2015), experts in the U.K. “thought they had three years before colistin-resistance would spread from China to the UK.” Instead, it’s on their doorstep today.”…

Our third faCE TIME component is an overview published just last week by the PEW Charitable Trusts, Fighting Superbugs In 2016, which outlines the steps being taken by our government to address these threats. Focus is on accelerating the development of new antibiotics, emphasizing antibiotic stewardship programs in health care facilities, and ending antibiotic use for growth promotion in animals.

These changes are urgently needed and can’t happen soon enough. In study after study, in Asia, Europe and the Americas, gene mutations in bacteria making them resistant to antibiotics are showing up in humans and in livestock.

One problem is that once well intentioned, effective government guidelines, such as the FDA’s Guidance for Industry #213, are drafted they can run head on into government entities like the USDA which are under the powerful influence of BigAg and the factory farming industry. When the wolves are running the hen house, the application of these guidelines, their oversight and penalties, are muted. Language in the PEW article implies this. One example: “Drug companies are expected to have removed growth promotion indications from product labels, …”

As Andrew Gage and Dr. Scott Weissman note in Stop The Overuse Of Antibiotics On Factory Farms, “the federal agency responsible for regulating livestock antibiotics — the Food and Drug Administration — is moving at a snail’s pace in responding to the threat. In 2013, the FDA adopted a measure designed to limit antibiotic use on livestock. Unfortunately, the most important restrictions in the rule are easily circumvented. When it was announced, animal pharmaceutical companies said that they anticipated no noticeable changes to their sales — a clear indicator that it is likely to be ineffectual.”  

So THIS IS WHERE we come in.

Andrew Gage and Dr. Scott note that “Countries like Denmark, one of the biggest pork producers in Europe, have already taken meaningful steps to curtail antibiotic abuse on factory farms by banning the administration of antibiotics to healthy animals.” My state, California, enacted California State Assembly Bill 27 last October, which places tough restrictions on the use of all antibiotics on farm animals. This is a monumental victory for animal welfare and for us. “The law is a game-changer,” says Avinash Kar, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It instantly puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to end livestock misuse of antibiotics.”

This is what you can do… Spread awareness of this to your friends and throughout your social networks. Share this post.  Share these articles. Invite people to read more about this on our site. Sign every petition and get active to make sure this issue is addressed by your state legislature. California’s Bill 27 is the preeminent example.

Elsewhere in this Issue, faCE LIFT has a powerful petition to sign and all kinds of good news regarding the health benefits of eating less meat, the Rapid Rise of Sustainable Plant-Based Foods and reveals who is driving this surging demand.

More food chains continue to announce their transition away from purchasing eggs produced by battery-caged hens. Trader Joe's is this weeks latest example.

In faCE LOVE, we profile one of our heros, Steve Ells, a man who started a small restaurant in 1993 and today, oversees as Founder and Co-CEO, 1900 of them – 1900 Chipotles. In the brutally competitive food business, his company mandate was always to make best efforts to buy produce locally and from farmers who use crop rotation to protect the quality of their soil, and to source pigs that are humanely raised. At times, when he could find NO PIGS IN THE COUNTRY that were humanely raised, he pulled popular carnitas off his menus – taking a huge risk that his customers wouldn’t bolt down the street to eat at a competitor’s - somewhere that served pork without regard for where it came from. And it is no coincidence that some pork suppliers are now changing the way they raise their pigs.

We also look at Willie Nelson,  Neil Young and those at Farm Aid as they take on the DARK Act.

Wonderful people, significant accomplishments – and all at a time with the fate of our Modern Era, the Antibiotic Era, hanging in the balance…

Please get active on behalf of animals. Help us all end the cruelty of factory farming. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Eat less meat and dairy.
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed. TELL THEM TO JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST!

Love, value and care for life. All life.


Visit us at farmanimalce.com

Ricky Gervais on Animal Testing

Love Ricky Gervais. THE most entertaining Awards Show host. His edge, his wit - loved his hosting the Golden Globes last week.

I also love his stand against Animal Testing.

Please do not use shampoos, cosmetics or any household products that still test on animals. 4 DECADES ago companies needed to do Draize testing to protect themselves legally. Now, there are many non-animal alternatives so any company that still does is heartless, cruel and scum baggy.

Rabbits, cute bunnies, have no tear ducts. They can't cry. So they're the perfect test subjects to pour chemicals into their eyes, wait a few days and see what happens... DO NOT purchase household products unless they say on the label NOT ANIMAL TESTED. Please.

faCE Issue 7

Over the past several months, there has been good news as some of the largest suppliers and buyers of factory-farmed animals have announced changes which will improve the living conditions of the animals. McDonalds’ commitment that it will begin phasing in the sourcing of only cage-free chickens will effect 2,000,000 chickens each year. Saputo, one of the world’s largest dairy producers stated that it will no longer buy milk from farmers who mistreat their animals. One of North America’s largest pork producers, DuBreton, announces that it will raise an additional 300,000 pigs without cruel gestation crates.

Factory farms are inherently cruel enterprises. Animals are not regarded as living, feeling, sensitive creatures, but as products, commodity units on an assembly line. Factory farmers have never cared for their animals – or they wouldn’t be factory farmers. And they aren’t feeling any sudden vibes of compassion now. These are businesses predicated on the inherently cruel design model of immense animal concentration, absolutely minimal care, and ruthless maximization of profit. They are implementing changes now either because legislation or the threat of legal action forces them to, or in response to a new business incentive: the rising numbers of increasingly aware consumers who are not only insisting upon, but will pay a bit more to purchase healthy, antibiotic free, humanely raised animal products.

Factory farmers are under an immense strain because, fundamentally, they are trapped. Their business model, the factory farm, is inherently, unspeakably cruel and inhumane in its treatment of its animal inhabitants. 

Some factory farmers will make changes where they have to, investing the minimum necessary to adapt and raise a better product. Many others, as well as their BigAg industry representatives, will explore ways to skirt, void or break the new rules. With each of these victories for animals, the cheaters appear…

Major supermarket chains have been caught re-labeling packaged meat – playing a dangerous game with the trust and health of their customers - one with legal repercussions. The Arizona state legislature, under pressure from BigAg and the factory farming industry, is enacting laws described in Arizona Says That Farm Animals Aren’t Animals that will protect continued animal abuse and suffering.  Morgan Yaeger’s article explores how Whole Foods may be either skirting the rules, or through a lax GAP5 system, enabling its animal suppliers to deliver factory-farmed animal product under the guise of being humanely raised. PETA is taking them to task in court. 

The larger issue isn’t the possibility of a supermarket chain, through deceptive practices, deceiving its customers to pay more for something they aren’t truly getting, as well as purchasing a product which, if they knew the truth about it, they would not purchase at all.

The larger issue is THE issue: Animal suffering.

Skirting these standards enables the unconscionable, deliberate cruelty and horror inflicted on millions of innocent factory-farmed animals to continue. Their lifelong misery and suffering is the horror. This is why, whether Whole Foods is responsible, or their suppliers, for enforcing the GAP5 standards, this cheating can’t be allowed to continue. A precedent must be set. Those responsible must be taken to task, damages must be paid, and the industry – Big Ag and the factory farmers - put on notice about the risks and costs of cheating.

Any retailer who re-labels products with misleading labels is cheating. Any BigAg industry group that lobbies the federal government, state legislatures, or health agencies to denude or degrade essential food product definitions such as ‘Organic’ or ‘Natural’ or ‘Humane,’  or lobbies to keep important product health information that consumers want and have a right to know about off of package labelling, or draft and promote state AgGag laws in direct violation of our Constitutional rights, is cheating. (Hear us on that one, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack?) Any factory farmer that markets his or her animals at a humane standard which they are not, is cheating. Each one of these individuals is as morally bankrupt and corrupt as the system of factory farming which they represent.

Standing tall on the right side of this issue, and the compassionate right side of history, is California, my home state. California isn’t messing around. On October 9th it passed State Assembly Bill 27, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the very next day, which will all but eliminate the extreme antibiotic overuse on farmed animals statewide. 

This historic, monumental legislation will eliminate one of the biggest health concerns this country faces – that of the increasing risk of antibiotics becoming ineffective on humans based on their massive overuse on farmed animals. 23,000 Americans lose their lives each year because antibiotics no longer work for them. The number is rising. Imagine you come down with a simple infection. Commonplace. The symptoms are getting worse so you go in for prescribed antibiotics to knock it down. Routine. Been there before. Only the antibiotics, this time, no longer work. Your infection worsens, becomes life threatening - then life extinguishing... This happened to over 23,000 Americans last year. This is examined in detail in the articles and information curated in faCE ISSUE #3, ANTIBIOTICS

Maren McKenna notes in her article that California's action will impact the country because it is one big puppy: "According to the U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, California is the country’s biggest dairy producer and third-leading state (behind Iowa and Texas) for beef cattle. It produces 5 percent of US milk, beef cattle, and chicken eggs."

There is another effect of State Assembly Bill 27 that, we find, may prove to be just as significant. The massive use of antibiotics on livestock, administered routinely in their food and water for disease prevention and control, is a practice that is completely unnecessary when humanely rearing sustainably farmed, pastured livestock – as nearly any small family farmer or rancher will tell you. This massive overuse of antibiotics on livestock for disease prevention and control is administered on factory farms because the living conditions, due to vast overcrowding, are so vile, so toxic and so debilitating that, without constant dosing of antibiotics, large percentages of factory-farmed livestock very probably would succumb to disease and die. Factory farms are a living hell for the creatures captive within their confines. 

By prohibiting antibiotic misuse, Bill 27 should force factory farmers to begin to take steps to lessen animal overcrowding, to clean up their pestilent living environment, perhaps even to abandon the horror that is the system of factory farming itself. 

They certainly will no longer have recourse to the routine dosing of antibiotics to keep these suffering animals alive.

If you haven’t seen how cruel factory farming is, and would prefer not to, just look at Why Are These People Crying? in faCE TIME. This beautiful article doesn’t show you what these people - who are crying -  are watching. With just one simple sentence accompanying each photo which describes what they are watching, it lets you imagine what they are witnessing by experiencing their reactions.

One of my heroes, in this context, is a man who started a small restaurant in 1993. It was popular from the get-go. Today, Steve Ells oversees as Founder and Co-CEO, 1,900 of them – 1,900 Chipotles. In the brutally competitive food business, his company mandate is to make best efforts to buy produce locally and from farmers who use crop rotation to protect the quality of their soil, and to source pigs that are humanely raised. Earlier this year, when he could find NO PIGS IN THE COUNTRY that were humanely raised, he pulled popular carnitas off his menus – taking a huge risk that his customers would bolt down the street to eat at a competitor’s - any one of several who served pork with little concern for the life-long suffering each animal endured or the health risks to you from the virulent environment it came from. His customers stayed loyal. And it is no coincidence that some pork suppliers are now changing the way they raise their pigs. 

Finally, one of the best articles, and one that sums up this powerful Issue 7, is our lead article, Why I’m An Animal Rights Activist When There Is So Much Human Suffering In The World. Tracey Narayani Glover’s piece is a must read. Please do.

In your own way, please get active on behalf of animals.

There is much much more that needs to be done to end the cruelty of factory farming. We're only getting started. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Eat less meat and dairy.
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed. 

Love, value and care for life. All life.


PETA vs. Whole Foods — Essential Exposé or a Misguided Lawsuit?

By Morgan Yaeger

It is no secret that Whole Foods prides itself on sourcing sustainably farmed produce and “humanely” raised meat. In fact, if you’ve ever walked into a Whole Foods, chances are you have been practically blinded by their large, brightly colored signs boasting these practices. This is all part of the Whole Foods experience and a major reason why a growing number of consumers prefer to shop there. This is also why Whole Foods has now found itself to be the defendant in PETA’s latest lawsuit.

Recently, PETA released a video depicting the horrific abuse of pigs at a Whole Foods supplier farm in Pennsylvania. Just a day after the release of that footage, PETA, along with other listed plaintiffs, initiated a class action lawsuit against Whole Foods for unfair and deceptive business practices, calling Whole Foods’“humane meat” claims a “myth.” Jared Goodman, director of animal law for PETA, explained to The Washington Post that the suit “is about Whole Foods misleading consumers that are buying meat,” by using false and idyllic claims of “humane" practices which, in turn, entice consumers to purchase those products. Additionally, consumers pay a higher price for Whole Foods meat based on these sensationalized claims. “‘Humane meat’ is a myth that dupes well-intentioned shoppers into paying higher prices for the very products of crowding, lingering death, and suffering that they were trying to avoid,” Goodman says. PETA is seeking a ruling which will prevent Whole Foods from continuing this marketing as well as to obtain reimbursement for members of the class for any money that Whole Foods procured from them through these deceptive practices.

The crux of the lawsuit centers around Whole Foods’ use of the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-step program. Whole Foods uses this program to certify their meat suppliers and places signage around their stores indicating that those participating suppliers have superior animal welfare practices. The problem is, PETA alleges, the standards of the GAP program are a “sham”and thus the promotion of those products by Whole Foods as “humane” is faulty as well.

Being certified by the GAP program alone, as touted by the Whole Foods website, is intended to signify the producer’s “commitment to animal welfare practices.” The GAP program has five steps at which producers can be certified and the treatment of the animals is supposed to improve with each rising step. However, PETA argues, the steps are essentially meaningless and merely reflect standard industry practices already in place, making this “humane” meat no better than any other product on the market. For example, GAP Step 1 boasts cage-free broiler chickens, despite the fact that cages for broiler chickens are no longer a standard industry practice, PETA claims. This makes claims of superior animal welfare at that Step utterly meaningless. In addition, Step 1 and Step 2 suppliers are permitted to crowd birds into sheds just as tightly as is the industry standard; again debunking the claims of better animal treatment. PETA also claims that the program actually allows for an even higher daily mortality rate for poultry suppliers than the standard industry mandates.

PETA alleges that Whole Foods’ enforcement of these standards is flawed as well. PETA claims that audits occur only every 15 months and that they are pre-arranged, not unannounced, giving suppliers ample time to prepare and perfect their presentation to the auditors. PETA also claims that if a supplier fails aspects of the audit, their certification is not automatically revoked. Instead they are given many chances to make corrections and could possibly be “out of compliance for years without losing [their] certification[s].”

As was expected, the suit has been met with sharp debate and criticism of PETA from concerned consumers. Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb stated that he believed Whole Foods was a poor choice for this suit as Whole Foods’ standards for animal welfare are “the most rigorous — by far — of any grocer.” Robb, along with others, questioned why PETA would choose to target a company that is at least attempting to promote farmed animal welfare and is urging improvements from their suppliers. This is admittedly far better than most grocers today can claim. Rather than turning a blind eye like others, Whole Foods focuses on “providing accountability through collaboration, transparency or production and traceability to source,” Robb says. The efforts of Whole Foods to at least bring farmed animal welfare to light and to encourage sustainable farming practices makes it a far more progressive grocer than most and has some consumers questioning why PETA would be targeting a company that is actually making these efforts.

On the other hand, it is easy to see how Whole Foods’ alleged commitment to and promotion of these practices could be one giant marketing scheme. It is clear that consumers in this day and age are evolving and genuinely care about the morality and sustainability behind the products they purchase. In fact, a 2014 study by the American Humane Association found that almost 95% of participants in a national survey stated that they were “very concerned” about the welfare of farmed animals. Almost 93% answered that it is “very important” to purchase humanely raised animal products. Approximately 76% answered that they are “very willing” to pay more for animal products that have been humanely raised. In short, consumers want to buy so-called “humane” meat and savvy grocers know this. It is easily conceivable that these grocers, like Whole Foods, might be tempted to affix “humane” labels to products not actually raised in such a way in order to charge a higher price from well-intended purchasers. This constitutes an extreme injustice. When this happens, grocers and marketers are taking advantage of consumers’ compassion and preying on their good-hearted attempts to be ethical. Schemes such as these should never go unnoticed and we, as consumers and individuals concerned about animal welfare, should welcome all well-founded attempts to expose them.

Consumers should be afforded the security of knowing that the companies and producers they give their money to are operating in a way that meets their ethical standards. In protecting and enforcing that security, is going after potentially well-meaning, progressive grocers a price we may have to pay? When faced with the possibility that consumers are being deceived into spending extra money purchasing products which they might be actually be opposed to, it seems the answer to that question is “yes.” It is time the truth about farmed animal raising is brought to light so consumers can stop buying into false pretenses and make more informed choices on the products they consume and the companies they support.

PETA’s original article on the lawsuit can be found here: http://www.peta.org/blog/peta-sues-whole-foods-over-humane-meat-claim

faCE Issue 6

The theme of Issue 6 is BIG AG – THE FORCE OF DARKNESS

In the 1900s corporations took control of the nation’s meat supply, making a fortune by creating a system where farmers and ranchers were put on the edge of bankruptcy, slaughterhouse workers were exploited ruthlessly and the suffering of the animals was without parallel. Upton Sinclair’s classic novel, The Jungle raised awareness and motivated the government to step in and brake up the ‘Meat Monopolists.’ Christopher Leonard, reporting in his eye-opening book, The Meat Racket, chronicles the rise of Tyson Foods and Big Ag to the point today where just 4 companies control the vast majority of meat production in this country, destroying the livelihoods of countless small farmers and the economies of small rural towns. Conditions for animals, with the evolution of factory farming, have never been worse.

The data in the Food and Water Watch 2015 report explains why a combination of “trends has eroded rural economies, driven independent producers out of business and allowed the largest livestock operations to dominate animal agriculture in the United States.” Tom Philpott explains this apparent contradiction: We're Eating Less Meat—Yet Factory Farms Are Still Growing. Lindsay Patton writes about how this industry ruthlessly and cruelly manipulates the genetics of its animals with no concern for their suffering, let alone their well being in The Disturbing Ways Factory Farms Have Altered The Size Of Pigs.

It is in no way hyperbole to state that there is no industry on this planet which is more of a threat to our health and well being than Big Agriculture. It has grown into an immensely wealthy and vastly powerful Force of Darkness, guided by soulless executives beholden to nothing but their bottom line.


In the face of this dark reality, there are strong undercurrents forcing change. You are part of this.

·      People are making more informed choices about how they are sourcing their meat and dairy. Hundreds of thousands of people are acting with their pocketbooks. The demand for factory farmed meat is decreasing. As the industry adjusts trying to export it’s tainted products, more and more countries, citing public health concerns, are banning the import of factory-farmed meat and dairy products.

·      Hundreds of thousands of us are signing petitions calling out the corporations who are the largest purchasers and shaming their executives – and one by one corporations are coming around. McDonald’s announced its decision to transition to sourcing eggs only from cage-free hens. 

·      And we are winning in the courts. A Federal Judge in Idaho just struck down Idaho’s Big Ag industry championed Ag-gag law as unconstitutional. This is huge.

The battle is just beginning. We will end the cruelty of factory farming. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Eat less meat and dairy.
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory-farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed, post spreading the word.
  • Sign up for our e-mails to help stay informed.

Love and value life. All life.


McDonald's To Source Only Cage-Free Chickens

Welcome news!  McDonald’s announced earlier this week its plan to transition to sourcing eggs only from cage-free hens. 

The New York Times observed that, since McDonald’s uses 4% of the eggs produced in the U.S. each year (over 2 billion eggs), it will phase in this change over the next 10 years giving its suppliers time to change to cage-free operations.

This will ultimately effect 8 million egg laying hens, and have wider repercussions for the entire industry.

There has been pressure on McDonald’s to change it’s food sourcing to healthier cruelty-free suppliers for years and, for years, the company has resisted. McDonald’s is an increasingly toxic brand to consumers and is trying to stem declining sales. 
McDonald’s now follows in the footsteps of rival Burger King and several large food service suppliers, The Compass Group, Sodexo and Aramark, who have already announced their commitments to sourcing cage-free eggs.

While we applaud McDonald’s decision, we must stay resolute as there is much work that remains to be done.

Improving an important aspect of factory-farmed animal treatment does not in any way equate to ending factory-farmed animal suffering or to ending factory farming. Cage-free does not mean cruelty free. Marion Gross, senior V.P. for supply chain management at McDonald’s is quoted in the N.Y.Times report, “This is truly a move from conventional housing to more enriched housing systems.”

Factory-farmed caged hens live their lives in cages with less individual space to move around than a shoebox or the surface area of an i-Pad. They do not have the room to even flex their wings. The cages are stacked so hens on all but the top row can live under a constant rain of urine and droppings from their neighbors above. 

This is the industry standard ‘conventional housing’ that McDonald’s has been supporting for years:






One cage-free facility that would qualify as what Marion describes as an ‘enriched housing system’ looks like this:






Better - yes. But these cage-free hens do not have access to the outdoors. Much of the suffering and misery these intelligent social animals endure remains. 

We are moving the needle. Progress made can be progress celebrated. But the needle must be moved much further. More on this to come.

top photo: This Is What It’s Like To Live On A Factory Farm Vs. A Sanctuary
bottom photo: The Chicken Industry

faCE Issue 5


At faCE, we have a vision:  500,000 new family farmers. 500,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. A return to the days of profitable small sustainable farms ... farmed in a modern way.

Alan Lewis, as the buyer sourcing local healthy sustainably raised foods for his 90 Natural Grocers stores, keeps customers happy and healthy while enabling numerous family farmers to thrive. My interview with him is posted here. In faCE LOVE, he is our recommended Person.

Chipotle needs a lot of food for its 1,800+ locations. It sources non-GMO and, if it is an animal, one raised cruelty-free. It's scouring the entire country trying to source pigs raised in a humane and healthy manner. 

Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Farm Aid (our faCE LOVE Business recommendation) have raised over $48,000,000 to keep farm families on their land and “promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture.”

Change is underfoot. Change for the better.  The info-graphic How We Shop For Food Is Changing demonstrates a shift in consumer attitude and buying habits. Awareness of the truth is spreading.

Walmart is one of the nation’s largest purchasers of factory-farmed animal 'product.'  Mercy For Animals presented Walmart hard evidence of the horrendous treatment of animals in its supplier factory farms and, as recently announced by MFA, Walmart has now committed “to ending many of the cruelest forms of institutionalized animal abuse in its supply chain," to “ending needless mutilations of animals without painkillers” and more making this “one of the most comprehensive animal welfare policies ever, signaling an important new era and direction for the company and marking a landmark day for the protection of farmed animals in America.“

Welcome news. But today in the U.S., a higher percentage of meat and dairy comes from factory farms than ever.  Most Americans remain unaware of just how dangerous factory farming is.

This year alone, several states have declared emergencies and 38,000,000 factory-farmed birds are being destroyed, having been infected with bird flu. There still is no cure for PEDv, the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus that first appeared in May 2013 and forces the killing and elimination of 100,000 young pigs each week.

Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. And one of those solutions is, for each of us as consumers, to do everything we can to support sustainable family farmers.

  • Eat less meat and dairy.
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory-farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed, post spreading the word.
  • Sign up for our e-mails to help stay informed.

 There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE. 

Love and value life. All life.


Alan Lewis Interview - Part 1

Alan Lewis directs Government Affairs and Food and Agriculture Policy for Natural Grocers - Vitamin Cottage, a thriving 60-year-old natural food grocery chain operating 90 stores in fifteen states. His work sourcing healthy sustainably farmed foods for Natural Grocers keeps his customers happy and healthy and enables numerous family farmers to thrive. Cottonwood Creek Farms is one example. Alan is active in many trade organizations and sits on the Boulder County Food and Agriculture Policy Council. His focus is on communicating with local and federal policy makers using frameworks that are non-confrontational and inclusive. In his TEDx talk, archived in VIDEO’s – Candy’s Room, Alan reveals the sophisticated methods used by the food industry “fibberati” to manipulate, deceive and distract us and suggests that we can resist these nefarious tactics by making conscious food choices based on core values that support a sustainable and just food system.

As an industry insider, Alan Lewis knows just how badly the food system is broken. Alan’s insights are far reaching…

Here is the first part of my interview with Alan. He talks about what makes Natural Grocers so unique as a natural food grocery store chain and his efforts sourcing natural foods from regional sustainable family farmers, helping them grow their businesses and building the rural communities they are a part of.

In the next part of the interview Alan and I discuss the historical relationship of American farmers and the government, the secret design behind modern government farm policy, the battle to protect meaningful truthful product labeling, Big Ag’s takeover of university agriculture departments, research and ideology. We also discuss localized food re-distribution and other promising solutions going forward.

Sign up with us to receive all of this. Here’s part one:


ALAN: I’m going to start with a little bit of history.  It’s easier to understand the narrative that way. Don’t panic! I’m not going to go too deep into the background. 

60 years ago, 1955, you’ve got a young married mother with several young children. She is making ends meet but she is not feeling well. She doesn’t have enough energy, she’s got a lot of pain, and nothing that her doctors are doing or prescribing is helping her feel better. 

She had a hunch that it was what she was eating. It’s hard to imagine how bad food was back then - it was so processed, so heavily preserved. Talking about Wonder Bread, Margarine, Smuckers, Kool-Aid and Twinkies for lunch on a good day. Her hunch was that if she changed what she ate that she would feel better. So slowly but surely, she started eliminating anything that was suspect -- basically most of the national brands, because they were all heavily preserved, with colors- 


ALAN: Dyes, yep, all of that synthetic chemical junk. It wasn’t very long before her health problems had completely reversed. She became vigorous and clear-headed and energetic. That moment was the genesis for her lifelong mission of finding better ways to eat and helping other people address of their own health problems through better nutrition. So much distress is caused by processed food malnutrition - or dys-nutrition, which is my term for it. 

So leaping all the way ahead to today, that’s why Natural Grocers doesn’t sell anything with artificial ingredients in it. So what are those? Preservatives, sweeteners, colorings, emulsifiers, extenders, whatever. If they really are artificial and they weren’t considered food in the past, then we’re not going to consider them food now. 


ALAN: A lot of this approach is now related to pesticide residues and allergens. Allergens have traditionally been a minor problem for Americans, but they’ve become a huge problem now. Natural Grocers supports all the special diets where people can’t have gluten or peanuts or meat or dairy or nuts. Meat allergy - which my wife has - is now a recognized medical condition related to auto-immune issues. She’s become allergic to animal fat. As much as it smells good to her, she can’t touch it. Our stores are very important to these consumers. We give them many choices, even within their strict dietary regimen.


ALAN: Beyond just that health and ingredients nexus, there’s always been a broader, holistic perspective. If a product is not created in a way that’s sustainable environmentally, or if it’s not created in a way that provides a good living and a safe work environment for the producers, that’s also a problem for us. Sometimes it’s just beyond our view and ability to create change. But a lot of times, because of our history and principles, we were at the forefront in taking action.

Take Mo Siegel, from Celestial Seasonings. He and his merry band of hippies went through the Colorado mountains and meadows looking for wild harvested herbs to make teas and medicinals with. We were his first retailer. He walks into the store one day and says, “I’m gathering stuff. I’d like you to sell it for me.” That’s the kind of relationship we like to have. Where we know and agree with the ethics and the principles of the producer. Where we can be sure or be able to certify about how those products are made. 

Practice aligned with principles can be a very powerful catalyst. Mo did pretty well for himself. Celestial is a global natural food powerhouse right now. It’s still making natural products -- although some people would say, as a company gets that big it may start to lose its way. We’ll see.

STEPHEN: Was this how Natural Grocers started, or is this what Natural Grocers evolved into?

ALAN: It was always a purest health food store focused on educating its customers -- almost to a fault.

STEPHEN: Explain the relationship with the name Vitamin Cottage?

ALAN: Originally, due to the founders’ focus on nutrition, supplementation with vitamins, minerals and herbs was (and is still is) a big part of our ethic. The original company names go way, way back. In 1955, the idea of the business was captured in the name Builder’s Foundation. If you’re going to build your health, here’s the foundation to build it on. We were pretty quirky, right? Both idealistic and stridently forthright.

The first retail operation was established on the west side of Denver, in a house that looked like a cottage. So if you’re selling some fresh whole foods and lots of vitamins from a house that looks like a cottage, it’s not too big of a leap to call it Vitamin Cottage. That name goes back almost 50 years. Even though our vitamin and supplement business has grown substantially, and continues to grow, the natural foods part of our business has grown faster. Food is now over two thirds of our business. Vitamin Cottage Natural Foods Market was used in the 90’s. Natural Grocers has been the primary brand name since 2004.

STEPHEN: The business is doing well. 

ALAN: I can’t answer that directly due to SEC compliance, but yes it has done well. 

We’ll be finishing our second quarter of the fiscal year on March 31st, and then 45 days later we’ll announce the quarter results. But for last fiscal year, we had sales of $540 million. I think we had 90 stores as of September 30th. We beat expectations on a number of measures and the market was happy with us. There was a nice bump in our stock price. So I think the answer is, as of that day, yeah, we’re doing well. 

STEPHEN: Good. Tell me about your competition.

ALAN: It’s very competitive. I’m out here in Los Angeles for Expo West, the national event for natural foods products. The awareness of and demand for health food is still growing really quickly, but there are also a lot more people selling it. 

In a market like Colorado, especially central Denver, you go into a Kroger supermarket, you can find many of the natural products that we sell. You have to dig through the junk food to find the health food, but it is there. All conventional retailers are aggressively pursuing natural and organic product sales. And I saw a billboard yesterday for Kroger. It said “Lower prices on thousands of natural and organic products in our stores." That’s how aggressive they’re getting. And there is Sprout’s and Trader Joe’s – the poser crossover stores -- which market themselves as health food stores but really sell lots of junky cheap food.

And Whole Foods is still being this really fun, smorgasbord kind of glam supermarket. They’re more and more like a conventional grocery every today. They don’t seem to be as dedicated to a creating stronger ethic and higher principles as they might have once wanted to be. We’ll see how they respond to consumer’s having so many new choices.



STEPHEN: Before we talk about the Cottonwood example, let’s talk about how you source and the benefit to the sustainable farmers and their communities. That’s exceptional.

ALAN: At the broadest level, it’s surprising to most people how many organic farms are in Colorado. We have a short 90-day harvest season for the most part. But there are a really large number of natural and organic farms on the western slope of the Rockies, along the Front Range and on the eastern plains. One of the reasons is that Natural Grocers grew up with them and they grew up with us. 

Since the sixties, Colorado consumers grew up in an environment where health food was accessible and local. Because of that, our natural food producers always had opportunities to meet this additional demand. There was a cycling up. More farmers were able to stay organic and become organic because there was growing consumer demand in Colorado. 

The proof is in the pudding. Texas has 25 million people and 25 Whole Foods. Colorado has 5 million people and about 25 Whole Foods. They have not opened more than handful of stores in Texas in the last 5 to 10 years. It seems that where they see the opportunity is in Colorado, not Texas. It always makes me wonder about Texas.

With all due respect, Natural Grocers developed the health food market in Colorado. We were part and parcel of establishing the health food ethic and creating both the demand and the supply. You know, we’re glad the demand has allowed competitors to morph into ersatz health food stores. But, underneath all that is a 60-year history of providing that educational component, setting standards, supporting suppliers and making that connection between the farmer and the consumer. We are very proud of our contribution.

On the other side of the demand curve, we’ve got a farmer who is trying to decide over the next 5 or 10 years what she’s going to grow. Is she going to become certified organic? Is she just going to grow conventional wheat or sugar beets or barley or millet or beans or whatever her farm can support? With our 35 stores in Colorado, and the consistent long term consumers who shop with us — it gives farmers more confidence in natural and organic choices. I think we should take some credit for it. It seems a little bit arrogant, but it shouldn’t. Colorado farmers know that if they grow organic, there’s a steady demand for it and they’re going to get the price premium to make it all worthwhile. 

We’re at a stage where we’re hyper-efficient. Our informal motto is, ‘If you can’t afford it, it’s not health food.’ To keep costs down, we rely heavily on our intermediate produce distributors like Grower’s Organic, Fresh Pack, Albert’s, and dozens of other smaller organic distributors. Instead of a farmer having to load up his truck and use a lot of diesel and his time to make the rounds to each of our stores, Grower’s Organic is pulling up to that farm, loading up the produce that’s harvested and ready to go, and they’re making a single trip to our stores to distribute the product from many farms. One of our initiatives is to preserve the identity of those products as belonging to that farmer and that farm. It may have been handled by an intermediate distributor, but you know that’s Steve Elha’s herbs, or Isabella Farm’s carrots. Our customers love that.

STEPHEN: And Cottonwood Creek Farms was an obvious example, because he had what, 400 hens when you met him? And now he has about 4000.

ALAN: He’s got 4000 now, that’s right. I met Matt Kautz at my neighborhood farmers market when he had only 400 birds. The business was still just a twinkle in his eye. I visited his operation and audited his standards. I told him, if you stick to what your are doing and take out the GMO feed, we will buy every egg you can produce. 

The question is what does he do now? Maybe 4,000 birds is enough, or maybe his extended family and his rural community want to create additional efficiency. Put in more hen houses on different land. Build up an infrastructure for pastured eggs and be able to service a lot more retailers. 

STEPHEN: You have a demand for his eggs. If he had 6000, 8000 hens, can you continue purchasing all of their eggs?

ALAN: There’s a trade off right now, because a $6 a dozen egg is pretty darn expensive compared to cheap industrial eggs. So the conversation is, can Cottonwood Creek scale up to the point where the retail price can come down? Because retailers don’t make a lot of money on dairy, eggs or meat. There’s not a lot left we can give, and there’s distribution costs in the middle. Once Cottonwood Creek has financing paid off, has infrastructure in place, the incremental cost of more production is a lot lower and growth is a lot less risky. It may bring the cost of his entire operation down on a dozen by dozen basis. That may spur demand. 

And so, this is a really critical decision, right? He’s got to trust us, we’ve got trust him and our consumers. That old adage about “betting the farm” is really what happens. What you see is everyone hunkering down with very sharp pencils to decide how much risk there is to growing, and how the standards can be maintained and improved.

Remember, there are still nay sayers who think that natural and organic food is somehow a fad. But that’s a pretty long term fad for it to be susceptible to go away quickly. 

STEPHEN: The supply side of things interests me a great deal. Now that a company like yours is helping establish the demand, the market place for it, what’s next?

ALAN: Back to Matt Kautz at Cottonwood Creek. He’s a really smart guy, and his wife is smarter than him -- which is typical on the farm! He has a very clear goal. His goal is to keep that farm healthy, keep his boys on the farm, raise them in a pristine environment according to his and his family’s values, and build a business that they want to continue down the road so that Matt’s grandchildren have the opportunity being raised in that environment according to those principles. 

Notice that goal didn’t’ say he wants to get rich and retire in Florida. He wants to work hard, we wants to own something meaningful, he wants to build something based on really deep, healthy community values. And that’s what you pay for when you buy Cottonwood Creek Farm eggs. Those values and those principles and the viability and sustainability of that farm cost $6 a dozen. If you wanna pay $1.99 a dozen, you’re paying for something else completely different. 

STEPHEN: When a consumer buys food, is their purchase an investment in the Gulf of Mexico, or to somebody like Matt and his family.

ALAN: The only way you get $1.99 a dozen eggs, first of all, is the retailer is making no money. They’re giving them away just to make you happy. You’ll have at least 10,000 birds in a single closed barn, no access to the outside. They are—

STEPHEN: Suffering in just deplorable living conditions.

ALAN:  Yep, and their natural biological processes are artificially regulated through feed supplements and artificial lighting. Even in a less crowded caged environment, there’s going to be several birds in a cage, and maybe one at a time can flex its wings. You’ve got a lots of die-off inside the barn from chickens that cannot handle the stress. You have the potential for passing along avian flu quickly to the entire population. 

STEPHEN: They require constant doses of antibiotics in their feed.

ALAN: Constant low levels of antibiotics just to keep them healthy, and as a side effect they grow faster. It’s illegal to give them growth hormones, so typically if you see a package that only says ‘raised without hormones’ and nothing else, that’s a dead giveaway that’s a factory farmed chicken.  That’s pretty much GAP standard for one of our main natural foods competitors. Check it out. Look how low that standard is. 

What is the consumer is not paying for at the store? Really unhappy chickens. Massive amount of concentrated toxic chicken poop. Instead of being spread out and worked into the soil by chickens on a pasture, re-invigorating the farmland, like on Cottonwood Creek, it becomes this concentrated environmental Superfund site. 

Whether liquefied or dried, and they can put it on farmland in high concentrations that is not good for the soil. When you dump or spray animal poop heavily onto the land, it really disrupts the soil and vegetation health. It’s not a healthy soil amendment; it acts more like a poison.

STEPHEN: It would accumulate on the topsoil. It doesn’t just ‘self-absorb’ into the soil.

ALAN: Right – most of the nitrogen volatizes. It goes off in the air. And then if you try to incorporate it - it’s always bad to till the soil - you’re going to damage the soil’s natural processes for managing natural nutrient release used by the plants. The soil science is fascinating, and I’m only into my 10th book, so I’m a novice. But the key to the story of industrial chicken production is the intense pollutant that results from it. 

So, back to that $1.99 dozen of eggs. That’s just the agricultural and environmental part. From the economic perspective and political perspective, those farmers have to sign a 7 year agreement with Tyson or Pilgrims or Perdue, and that agreement says, ‘You will build a barn of this size to this specification. You will buy all your feed from me. You wil buy all your chickens from me. You will buy all your medicine from me. I’ll come by in 4 to 6 weeks when your birds are ready, and I’ll decide whether I want them and what price I’ll pay for them. If I take them, I’ll process them, package them, and send them out to the retailers.’

The result of these agreements is that the entire profit in the value chain goes to that vertically integrated processor —it goes to Tyson, or Perdue, or Pilgrim’s Pride. The only thing left in the farmer’s hand is the bank loans and the risk. The only person who is going to lose in that equation, if those birds get sick or fail to thrive or get condemned or whatever, is the farmer. And then that farmer takes the entire brunt of that disaster. Nice system. Enjoy those $1.99 eggs! Someone else paid for them dearly.

STEPHEN: Christopher Leonard in his book The Meat Racket, writes at length about the rigged system of purchase pricing. How Tyson will pay different farmers varying prices for their chickens. A lot of time it’s very subjective. Even when the farmer has a good chicken harvest, and gets a decent price, and things seem to be working out, he can have things turn for the worse at any time in ways completely beyond his control. The farmers in that system never seem to get ahead.

ALAN: And don’t think that he can go out and buy chickens somewhere else. Because they won’t sell them to him, and even if he manages to find chickens or build up a flock of his own, there’s no one who will buy those birds from him because they’ve removed the local and regional processing. 

The only processing available for that number of birds is the massive conglomerate-owned processing plants. This is why Cottonwood Creek, for example, has their own egg cleaning facility on site. It’s outfitted with all refurbished equipment, but it’s FDA inspected and food safety compliant. If he had to send those eggs out and have someone else clean them or sell them into the industrial processing system, he would make nothing on the eggs. The closing of local and regional food processing capability is a longstanding strategy of Big Food. And it’s one of the key methods the food movement is using to fight back.

So little Cottonwood Creek is growing a lot of his own feed, he’s getting good chickens from a small affrodable supplier. He’s providing most of the labor to feed the animals and collect the eggs. He is doing the cleaning, packaging, and labeling on site. He has most of the value chain captured for himself. Our distributor gets a small cut, and then we put a little bit on top. That’s a farmer who is control of his destiny.

STEPHEN: Well, you’re retailing. It’s not charity.

ALAN: It’s responsible retailing, yep. The farmer producing the $1.99 eggs, she is simply indentured to Big Ag and not accounting for external costs. That’s why they’re so cheap.

STEPHEN: Factor in all the subsidies from the government as well.

ALAN: Subsidized grains. Yeah. Don’t get me started!

STEPHEN: Government subsidies come from our taxes. We’re all supporting this.

ALAN: And by the time your kid gets sick and needs antibiotics and they don’t work, take another look at that $1.99 dozen of eggs. See how those savings pale compared to a $12,000 regimen of exotic antibiotics to treat MRSA over six weeks.

STEPHEN: So it’s about raising consumer awareness about how they’re spending their money. First of all, it’s a much better product. It’s a much healthier product.

ALAN: Oh my gosh, I left that part out. The taste and texture. Chefs love these eggs. It’s a different experience. 

STEPHEN: You’re supporting this type of farmer and this type of operation and his family, and on top of that, his success in turn supports all the support businesses in his community. So you’re sending money back into the rural communities. All of that is connected. The goal is to try to sharpen that $6 a dozen price if possible. If they’re selling, there’s the demand, he’s fine. But even so, if they were cheaper, more people are going to be able to afford them.

ALAN: Yeah, and I’m sure that’s Matt’s long term goal, to have more people eating more quality food. It’s not about getting rich or getting big. He wants security and an honorable business. Part of his goal is lowering the price to provide better access to consumers and more opportunities to producers like himself.

STEPHEN: The sustainable farmers I’ve met or learned about all want the same thing. They want to find a way, a method of sustainable farming that’s viable in a modest way, and that there’s some stability there. They do want to control as much of the value chain as you call it as possible, and operate in a localized economy whenever possible.

It is inspiring to me how Natural Grocers, by providing a marketplace where so many people have access to all of this healthy pure organic food, in turn supports so many sustainable organic small family farms and farmers, and, in turn, the rural communities they are a part of.


In the next part of the interview Alan and I discuss:

  • the historical relationship of American farmers and the government,
  • the secret design behind modern government farm policy,
  • the battle to protect meaningful truthful product labeling,
  • Big Ag’s takeover of university agriculture departments, research and ideology.
  • We also discuss localized food re-distribution and other promising solutions going forward.

Sign up with us to receive all of this.

Sustainable Farms: Lou Preston Interview Part 2

Lou Preston runs the Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery, located 10 miles northwest of Healdsburg in the Russian River watershed in California. In faCE LOVE in Issue 2 we recommended Preston Vineyards as a stellar example of a successful sustainable family farm.

In terms of business models, successful family farms are almost as unique as the personalities of the farmers who run them. 

There is a lot to learn from Lou Preston and the way he does things at Preston Farm.  While their grape harvests and wines are exceptional, they experiment with many crops: kale, lettuce, strawberries, rasp, logan and allies, olives for their special olive oils. They plant special grains, barley, Emmer, Sonora and BlueBeard wheats to make their breads. Livestock include sheep and chickens

Here is the second half of our interview: 



Lou:   Some of the things that we are driving by that are of importance to us: Diversity of crop is one thing because you don't over tax one piece of ground with the same mono culture of grapes or whatever. Grapes you can't rotate, but pastures can be rotated with other crops. We also have edge rows everywhere. Here's an edge row of many different species of flowering plants that are habitat for beneficial insects, habitat for other small animals.

Stephen: This is that? Rosemary or lavender?

Lou: That's rosemary there. This is one of our early - we call it a hedge row now - but it was this sort of an alternate crop. Apple trees are mostly what defines the edge of a row of vines. These two blocks of vineyard are now pasture because we have enough grapes.

Stephen: So the plan for this, right now, is just to let it be for the time being? Do you have plans for this pasture for the future, maybe wheats or other grains?

Lou: In fact there were grains here two years ago, three years ago. The grass builds the soil up, it captures and sequesters carbon and you're building up organic matter in the soil and improving the tilt of it. And so when we are ready for this to become a different crop - right now it will be pasture for this year and maybe next year - then we'll turn this under and plant who knows, strawberries or whatever.

Stephen: So this is part of your natural soil nutrition restoration.

Lou: Grass is incredible. There's one book, All Flesh Is Grass, and the idea is that any animal that we eat, it's make up comes initially from grass. That's nitrogen, that's protein and that's a building block of meat. All of this, we can still graze this. It's mustard and grasses and some planted cover crop. Until the vines begin to push we can still graze that.

Stephen: What about the mustard grass? Will the sheep destroy it when they graze? Do you have to replant the mustard or does it just come back on its own?

Lou: It comes back on it's own pretty much. Although when they graze it, they're grazing the flowers, they love the flowers and it's the flowers that become the seed heads that will regenerate the plant. So in grazing it, we get less regeneration of that particular plant but we get enough.



Stephen: It's lovely out here. Tell me about the economics, the business model, of your farm. Winery aside, what factors determine your crop selection strategy? What are the new ways you are marketing your farm’s products? For example your participation in the local outdoor markets, and restaurants.

Lou: (Laughs) That’s an interesting conversation, especially since we haven't figured it all out.

Stephen: Working on this scale it seems like almost everything you're harvesting or growing you're selling.

Lou: Shall we define the topic as, how do you make a diversified small family farm work from a marketing sense, from a cost point of view? It's a major challenge and we're still learning. We've shifted from working with a single commodity, which is grapes, into many different products that potentially all have different customers. Imagine that, let's say, you've got a few loaves of bread and maybe a dozen dozen eggs and you got some cauliflower and maybe some lamb meat to sell. How do you deal with that on a small scale? We’ve found that the people that are interested in locally grow food are interested in the full dimension of it and a lot of our produce goes to chefs in town that have a restaurant that also buys our wine. It's really fun, and it doesn't happen all the time, but you walk in the front door of a restaurant with a case of wine and then you go back out to the truck and you pick up a lamb carcass and you walk back in that same door and maybe if you are lucky you go back out and you get a flat of lettuce. The chefs that we work with most closely will put on their menu a certain dish that is composed of, let’s say Preston lamb or Preston kale, and they will identify that on the menu.

Stephen: They'll cite you. They'll call it Preston lamb or Preston kale.

Lou: Yes. So it becomes sort of free advertising. Now getting that one carcass, that one flat of kale, that one case of wine to a customer can be pretty inefficient and we're still figuring out how to do that. How do you assemble the orders? We have a wine sale director that pretty much concentrates on wine and we have a farmer lady, who has a direct line to the chiefs and we email then regularly. But then somebody has got to take this stuff in, so we're learning how to coordinate across the different departments, the winery, the farm.

Stephen: Making everything run as efficiently as possible.

Lou: We're still building our presence in the restaurant community. Meanwhile we're at three farmer's markets and I'm hoping to add another one in the near future.

Stephen: And you've been instrumental in organizing those farmer's markets?

Lou: I have not, no.

Stephen: But they didn't exist awhile ago right?

Lou: The Healdsburg farmer's market was founded, I think, in the late 70s by a local family, the Bernie family, and they have a number of farming sights in this vicinity. We’ve only been coming for maybe four years and so we're newcomers on the block but we've been selling organic produce at the market. We sell value added things, bread made from our grain, pickles made from our vegetables and it's the diversity of products and the value added character of some of our products that, I think helps to make it successful. It broadens that market for sure.

Where we go with it is a really good question. We would like to take advantage of the fact that we have a destination here with the winery, we have a farm store on the property. We would like to have more people come to the property to satisfy their food needs. And part of the food needs is being part of a food community. It's like the wine club. You guys are part of our wine community and we want to build that on the food side as well. Whether we do it with the CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, where you provide a box once a week or once a month. I don't know if we'll do that, that's a lot of work too but it's a way of building community, that we think is really important. 

Stephen: Could that be another delivery that's integrated in your overall delivery schedule?

Lou: That's right, and instead of delivering three boxes to one restaurant, you are delivering 50 boxes to, to-

Stephen: A distribution hub.

Lou: Yeah - a neighborhood hub or a small town.


Stephen: The groups you mention in your newsletter, the young farmers, you have people over to share information, to share knowledge about how things are done.

Lou: We're getting involved more and more in groups. There's a meeting tomorrow of people that are learning how to grow grain. It's not on this property but it's on another local farm. So we will reach out to groups outside our land and we will invite people here also.

Stephen: You mentioned the Young Farmers Guild and then you also had a small farm conference.

Lou: Sebastopol’s becoming kind of a hot vocal center for young farmers. There is a chapter of the Farmers Guild there and there's a sort of a revival of the grange movement from the early years of the 1900s. It's starting up again, it's a way of again building community and of sharing information and so we're participating in these things. We belong to the Farm Trail, the Sonoma County Farm Trails, which brings people together socially and professionally to share information about farming and then there's this sort of diaspora of customers that they send out into the farm lands to enjoy the adventure of meeting farmers and discovering farms.

Stephen: The great American tragedy of the last 70 years, I feel, is the hundreds of thousands of family farms shuttered, the jobs that have been lost with the advent and growth of factory farming and big agribusiness. Companies like Tyson and Monsanto taking over farming and agriculture and ranching in much the same way Walmart expanded, eliminating small businesses in town after town. I sense a ground swell in recent years. I foresee, over the next decade or so, a great resurgence of small sustainable family farms, that they’ll come back.

Lou: I think they will. It may be different. You think of a traditional family farm. There's a homestead, there was a farm yard, it was self sustaining, you grew what you needed for your family and then you sold the extra. Whether it's going to look like that I don't know. Land is so expensive. Can young farmers afford to build a homestead, have a home site? Or is it going to be rented land? Would they live in town and drive out to a site that's been leased to them or even loaned to them to farm it? I think it's going to be different. But young people are pretty creative. It will get better.

Stephen: I’m interested all these different models. You have the winery. Other sustainable farms are more animal intensive. Others that are more crop intensive. I want to look at the successes, in different regions, what people are doing to make it work. There's a lot of interest in this now. We’re entering a very interesting time. Thank you Lou for your insights and your time.

Lou: Good to spend time with you.  Thank you.


Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery is a beautiful place to visit and to wine-taste. Discover Preston Farm at their website: https://www.prestonvineyards.com Visit them the next time you travel through California wine country. This is one example of a successful sustainable family farm.







Lou Preston, Preston Farm Interview Part 1

Lou Preston runs the Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery, located 10 miles northwest of Healdsburg in the Russian River watershed in California.

In faCE Issue 2 we recommended Preston Vineyards as a stellar example of a successful sustainable family farm. In terms of business models, sustainable family farms are almost as unique as the personalities of the farmers who run them. 

There is a lot to learn from Lou Preston and the way he does things at Preston Farm.  While their grape harvests and wines are exceptional, they experiment with many crops: kale, lettuce, strawberries, rasp, logan and allies, olives for their special olive oils. They plant special grains, barley, Emmer, Sonora and BlueBeard wheats to make their breads. Livestock include sheep and chickens

We visited Lou on February 20, 2015 and recorded this interview. Here is part one: 



Stephen: How do you feed your sheep using your fields and vineyards?

Lou: We follow what's called holistic management which is intensive rotational grazing. This is a practice that was developed by Alan Savory and there are books that are written about it. The idea is that you're mimicking wild animals on the savanna's or on the prairies. Let's say it's a bison or a sheep. They crowd together, it's mob grazing, they stay together to protect themselves against predators. 

Sustainable Farms, Sheep grazing

So containing them but moving them regularly with electric fencing - you could also do it with guard dogs. This emulates this natural movement, this mob grazing of wild animals. And the natural setting.

They stay in one area to graze until the grass is gone and until they’ve fouled that area and then they move to the next area. When they have eaten most of the grass and there’s not too much nutrient left, it's time to move. 

Sheep Dog, Sustainable Farms

Stephen: How often do you move them?   

Lou: For us, every two days works. There are some cattle grazers that will move their cows every day or even twice a day. A lot of work but they have found that they can really optimize the amount of weight gain of meat per unit of land. 

Stephen: By doing that.

Lou: By doing that. It's very efficient and very healthy. A grass based diet is very healthy. Grass is like a natural antibiotic. It minimizes thes development of pathogens and disease organisms. As long as you have healthy grass and it's fresh, your animals don't need vaccinations unless they get an injury.

Stephen: So you use antibiotics only in the case of injury?

Lou: We have almost never used antibiotics except maybe when there was a difficulty with a birthing or something and the mother had a problem with a uterus issue or whatever. Then we might resort to vaccinating or antibiotics but vets are too expensive. You can't afford to get a vet out here all the time. You just need to keep them healthy, so that's our goal.

Stephen: So these sheep here will go somewhere else in 2 days, into another pasture?

Lou: They will probably move over into this section here.


(We shift over to the chickens in another vineyard.)

Lou:  Let's get in there; I want to show you where the chickens are. Our rotation strategy is the sheep which we then follow by our layer hen flock. Hens eat bugs as well as grass, they’re grazers also, and they will eat the larva that develop in the sheep shit. So you take care of this, you avoid the presence of flies by having a flock of chickens following the sheep. 

Stephen: I see how you have the sub-sections with the fence. And then you will move chickens into where they just were.

Lou: Right behind them same day we move the chickens from where the sheep were. They say that ideally you might need the space of maybe four days to allow fly eggs to hatch into larva. And then it's just perfect for the chickens but we found that with fly control, moving the engine right away as been fine. 

Stephen: There are the chickens. So these coops move with them when you rotate your chickens?

Lou: This is all portable. We move it all. These trailers are our invention. It's just a utility trailer that you buy online or you get at the local Northern Tool or whatever and we build the house on top of it. So this is kind of a re-climate that we installed after we had the experience of a bobcat getting inside one of these trailers and eating a bunch of hens. So there's a timer on it or a solar censor or something, I forget what it is. The door will close at the time when all the hens are inside.

Stephen: How does it know one is not missing? A straggler?

Lou: Well then a straggler risks getting eaten.

Stephen: Okay.

Lou: We've already collected the eggs but they have already laid some more. So if you peak in, here’s the laying box. There'll be maybe 25 or 30 hens in here but they share the boxes.

They would rather lay their eggs where there's some other eggs already, rather than start a fresh nest. We put fresh straw in every time we move. My staff used to wash the eggs scrupulously but there's actually a protective coating on here, so you don't want to wash an egg unless it's got poop on it. So we're getting better now at not washing our eggs. If you look inside there, there is a roosting bar. That's where they sleep.

Stephen: Somebody is already in bed. Somebody’s napping. It’s like a little hotel.

Lou: We've got over a hundred hens now. They don't all lay everyday. Winter they lay less because it's fewer daylight hours. I think being out in the pasture, it's not like being in a confined area where they regulate the lights and the feed to maximize the eggs. A commercial hen house - they could probably get 300 eggs a year. You burn it out very quickly, that poor hen. We probably get more like a hundred to 150.

Stephen: That many though? They are amazingly productive, those little birds.

Lou:  Maybe every three days, every two or three days, you'll get an egg.

Lou's Neighbor: And I couldn't even buy one egg here the other day.

Free Range Chicken Sustainable Farming

Lou: Especially on weekends. Somebody is coming here, somebody wipes us out.

Lou's Neighbor:  It was mid week! I had to call first and have them set aside a dozen for me.

Lou: Eggs from pastured hens are so healthy. My breakfast everyday is two raw eggs in raw kefir, raw milk and a little bit of apple cider vinegar in it. So I'm getting all kinds of good organisms and Omega 3s and all that stuff.



The second part of our interview with Lou Preston will focus on CROP DIVERSITY and THE BUSINESS OF SUSTAINABLE FARMING

Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery is a beautiful place to visit and to wine-taste. Discover Preston Farm at their website: https://www.prestonvineyards.com Visit them the next time you travel through California wine country. This is one example of a successful sustainable family farm.


faCE Issue 4


Please listen to Paul McCartney’s music video. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Change is underfoot. Change for the better.  Awareness of the truth is spreading.

Big Ag is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence and control government policy and legislation, to underwrite and disseminate false science denying climate change, and to create misleading advertising campaigns.

Alan Lewis is Director of Special Projects at Natural Grocers, a rapidly expanding natural food store chain, and is a very insightful industry insider who “knows just how badly the food system is broken.”  Please sign up on our e-mail list to this Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement site if you haven't already as I will be publishing a far ranging interview with him, incrementally over the coming weeks. In the meantime watch Alan's engaging TEDx talk, where Alan reveals the "sophisticated methods used by the food industry 'fibberati' to manipulate, deceive and distract us."

Most Americans still remain unaware of just how consequential this problem is. But that’s changing. And as people become more aware, they are acting with their voices, online, and with their purchasing decisions.

Twyla Francois, in Ditching in Droves: Why Canadians Are Dropping Milk, tells us why consumption of milk in Canada has dropped 25%.

Read Contamination and Cruelty in the Chicken Industry and you will probably stop buying factory farmed chicken. Any wonder meat sales in the U.S. are now declining as well? People are becoming more aware, more health conscious. Others are dying.

Is Your Meat Fit To Eat? is a well crafted brochure providing the information you need to make healthy informed choices.

The Voices For Change Are Rising. I want to celebrate that. Here’s examples what the growing ranks of informed people can accomplish.

The Humane League proclaimed victory with their petition, Sodexo - Stop Purchasing Eggs From Battery-Cage Farms. “In just a few short weeks, after hearing from hundreds of thousands of people like you, the second largest food service provider in the country is committing to a new animal welfare policy which will affect millions of animals for years to come - total phase-out of eggs from battery cages, banning veal crates, and a new policy on painkillers for dehorning, tail docking, and castration. This historic victory is one of the largest blows ever to battery cages and sets a new precedent for the industry.”

When Big Ag reacts is to try and criminalize whistleblowers by having Ag Gag legislation proposed in farm states, people are rising up and being heard causing most of these attempts to fail. Washington state is in play right now so Washington: Don't Shield Animal Abusers by Criminalizing Whistleblowers is an important petition.

Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Sign up for our e-mails to help stay informed.
  • Eat less meat and dairy.
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed, post spreading the word.
  • Invite your friends to join our site.

Love and value life. All life.


faCE Issue 3

Issue 3 faCE TIME Landing Page Art.png

The theme of Issue 3 is Antibiotics – specifically the massive misuse of antibiotics in factory farming and the serious health hazard antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses to each of us.

Nicole McCann and Anne Meyer write in Huge “Factory” Farms Are Far Bigger U.S. Health Threat Than Ebola that we are all at the risk of a health catastrophe due to the erosion of antibiotic effectiveness. The blame rests squarely on factory farms and Big Agribusiness.

80% of the 29,000,000 pounds of antibiotics administered in the U.S. each year are given to factory farmed animals in part to enable them to survive the diseases that can quickly spread due to their grossly overcrowded, unnatural, and virulent living conditions. Antibiotic overuse is rendering lifesaving antibiotics less effective by accelerating the evolution of bacteria that are resistant to them.

In our VIDEOS section, Fix Food - Fix Antibiotics - Meat Without Drugs runs less than 90 seconds yet provides an engaging animated refresher on what antibiotics do – and why it is imperative we minimize the risk of a viral mutation resulting in any new antibiotic-resistant Superbug.

Imagine the next time you got an infection from a cut, or a flu and the antibiotic you are given, which has always worked for you…  no longer does. That your infection keeps getting worse, much worse – and you are told there is no other cure. 23,000 Americans suffer this fate, dying each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The number is increasing.

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) is here. It has forced the killing and burying of 100,000 pigs each week since May 2013. In Virus Plagues the Pork Industry, and Environmentalists, Paul Sundberg, V.P. for science and technology at the National Pork Board observes “I’ve been a vet since 1981, and there is no precedent for this. It is devastatingly virulent.”

The article notes that the industry is having problems burying all the dead animals.  “We’re seeing evidence of burial in areas with shallow groundwater that a lot of people rely on for drinking water and recreation,” said Kelly Foster, senior lawyer at the Waterkeeper Alliance.

How else could antibiotic resistant bacteria leave factory farms and travel into your community, or onto your plate?  How Superbugs Hitch a Ride From Hog Farms Into Your Community suggests two ways. “The obvious one is meat: As Food and Drug Administration data shows, the pork chops, chicken parts, and ground beef you find on supermarket shelves routinely carry resistant bacteria strains. But there's another, more subtle way: through the people who work on these operations.”  There are many other paths as well. One is via the vast amounts of sewage factory farms generate, which is allowed to seep into waterways, or is dispersed onto fields. We looked at this pollution in detail as the subject of Issue 2 – all articles are archived on this site.

The findings of a British government-commissioned review is summarized in its title: Antibiotics Resistance Could Kill 10 Million a Year By 2050.

How can you best protect yourself and your loved ones? What can you do to change this?

Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions.

In faCE LIFT, you can sign Everly Macario’s petition asking Kraft/Oscar Mayer to stop using factory farmed meat as an ingredient in its children’s product, Lunchables.  For Everly, “This issue is very personal to me because my otherwise healthy son, Simon, died 10 years ago before the age of two from an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. This issue is also a professional one for me as I have a doctorate in public health from Harvard and am compelled to raise awareness about the public health and medical crisis that is antibiotic resistance.”

Choose Your Food Wisely suggests minimizing meat consumption and gives advice on sourcing sustainably raised antibiotic free meet. This dovetails nicely in faCE LOVE where our business recommendation,  #FarmerFriday: Celebrating Farmers Who Raise Animals Without Antibiotic Overuse, identifies and celebrates 12 family farms who raise healthy, well cared for livestock.

Citizens are discovering the power of speaking out. You can too. Read Consumer Group Calls on McDonald's to Stop Purchase of Meat Raised With Antibiotics in our faCE LIFT section. In faCE LOVE, Power of Legislation, we point out Cities Come Together to Save Antibiotics.

In Issue 3 faCE LOVE’s recommended Person is a team, those creating the powerful research briefs at the PEW Charitable Trusts Human Health and Industrial Farming initiative, making a strong case “to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by phasing out the overuse and misuse of the drugs in food animal production.”

Please watch Lance Price’s insightful and inspiring TED talk, Factory Farms, Antibiotics and Superbugs in the VIDEOS section.


The title of our lead article is Huge “Factory” Farms Are Far Bigger U.S. Health Threat Than Ebola.

As I write this it’s February, 2015. Last year’s Ebola outbreak, which was so threatening and commanded national attention, now seems regionally contained and perhaps even under control.

Do not become complacent, assuming that, based on this, future viral outbreaks will be managed as effectively. The PEDvirus appeared in 2013 and there still is NO KNOWN CURE.

In 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic spread worldwide killing over 50 million people. In 2013, a study concluded that today we can anticipate 188,000–337,000 deaths in the United States from a similar antibiotic-resistant influenza outbreak.

I was surprised to learn that a virus of this type would NOT strike hardest at the most vulnerable among us, infants, the infirm or the elderly. The virus kills by causing a cytokine storm, an overreaction of your immune system. The strongest among us, young adults who have the most robust immune systems, would be the ones most at risk to this virus.

Eat less meat and dairy. Know your food sources. Avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely. Keep your friends and family informed, post spreading the word.

Join our site for updates.

Love and value life. All life.


Kip Anderson Interview

Earlier this month I spoke with filmmaker Kip Anderson who, along with Keegan Kuhn, has made a very important feature-length documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.

In faCE Issue 2 we selected Kip and Keegan as our Recommended Person.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret identifies and examines THE most destructive industry on the planet – large-scale factory farming. They back up their facts with one insightful interview after another with industry experts and watchdogs arriving at the clear realization that: “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean ‘dead zones,’ and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”
At this point, this documentary is only just beginning.
As we noted in our review in Issue 1 of author Jonathan Safran Foer and his book, Eating Animals, sometimes being part of the solution is being able to frame and ask the right questions.  Kip takes his realization and directs it back at the spokespersons and leaders of the Sierra Club and other preeminent environmental organizations – the ones that are supposed to be the watchdogs for the environmental movement.
Their reluctance to acknowledge, and when confronted with the facts, their failure to admit to, let alone address animal agriculture, THE paramount cause of environmental and species degradation worldwide, leaves us as well as Kip dumbfounded. Cowspiracy is a jaw-dropping revelation in this regard.
Since the environmental ‘leaders’ have no solutions to the problem they seem unwilling or unable to address, Kip and Keegan take that upon themselves, suggesting a new path to global sustainability.
When I spoke with Kip, I was most interested in his perspective now, months after completing this film:
SE:  The solution you arrive at in Cowspiracy is that humankind needs to sharply reduce animal agriculture, and as quickly as possible. Since you’ve released the documentary, what do you now see as the most important paths toward that solution?
KA:  As an individual, it’s transforming within yourself, living on a plant-based diet. It’s also important to share this information with everyone. Tag the information you come across out there with the truth about what’s going on.
As a movement, there are several new groups which will soon be arriving on the scene. If existing environmental groups can’t get behind this position, they will be shifted aside by those who do.
I’m very optimistic. A shift is happening really fast. There will be a major shift in public consciousness on this issue over the next couple of years.
SE: Has there been any soul-searching on the part of the environmental groups you interviewed? Have they adopted any new positions or initiatives in this regard?
KA: Recently the Sierra Club polled their members regarding which directions to go. The Rainforest Alliance did a social media campaign regarding the impact of animal agriculture on the environment – but it wasn’t a priority – it wasn’t even on their website. Amazon Watch suggested some vegan lunches and dinners… I’m more disappointed by these groups now than when we made the film.
SE: Why the reluctance on their part? On your site the suggestion is made that they may be ‘afraid.’ Why?
KA: The people in charge of these groups, their boards and the 5% of their donors who contribute the majority of their funding – they eat animal products. They don’t want to have to admit to this if their organization took this position.
Second, they do not want to alienate their top donors. Or risk alienating the majority of their regular donors. They are more concerned with profit over planet. Major donors can have links in the animal industry.  They can be on both sides. The organizations even test their campaigns to pre-determine member support, evaluating whether a campaign will be successful or not in that regard - rather than just doing it because it is the right thing to do.
In our interviews and communication with them, we never asked them to tell their members to do something, just to inform their members.


Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.  Watch this film