Do you like dairy products such as milk, cheese and ice cream? Do you appreciate scrambled eggs for breakfast or enjoy going to the fine restaurants in the Peoria area and ordering steak for dinner? All of these foods are important in a healthy diet.

In fact, the USDA food pyramid has five categories. These are grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and meat/beans. According to its daily requirements, a person should consume 5.5 ounces of meat, and children between the ages of eight and 12 should have three cups of milk. Meat, milk and eggs provide much-needed protein, iron and Vitamin D. A healthy diet improves productivity and attitude and lessens our skyrocketing healthcare expenses, but I think most of us would agree that there could be some vast improvements in healthy eating.

These days, there are many in our society with tastes other than meat, milk and eggs. Hey, we do still live in a free country. Vegetarians and vegans have good intentions, and they create another market segment to serve. All of us have to eat something, whatever it is. Farmers will do their best to produce a safe, abundant supply in an efficient and responsible manner.

We wouldn’t dare think of trying to shove meat, eggs and dairy products down someone’s throat if that is not what they wanted to eat. But today, there are people who want to take away your choice to eat what you like. Ballot initiatives against common, modern livestock production methods, launched under the guise of caring about how animals are treated, are driving up the cost and complexity of raising farm animals to the point where a livestock farmer cannot make a profit.

So far, initiatives have passed in Florida, Arizona and California to ban certain types of animal housing. It happened first in Florida, then Arizona, and just last fall, voters in California passed a law (Proposition 2) that will make their food supply chain less efficient and ultimately result in higher costs at the grocery store for consumers. There probably won’t be any egg production left in California after Proposition 2 takes effect, as it banned the type of poultry housing used on most egg farms. Importing eggs to California residents is going to decrease the efficiency of the food chain system in that state.

The initiatives passed in Florida and Arizona primarily dealt with housing for pigs. Some don’t like those animals housed in individual pens. Sows (mother pigs) can have attitudes. As far as I know, people can have attitudes too. The point is that, sometimes it’s best if sows have a pen to themselves to prevent kicking and biting.
Recently, in our own state, bills were introduced that basically ban the use of gestation stalls in the pork industry, tail docking for animals, and double-decker trailer transportation for equine.

Even though food prices at the grocery rose 5.5 percent in 2008 compared to the annual average increase of three percent, American consumers still receive the most value for their food dollar. The average American will spend just 10 percent of his or her annual income on food. This is the lowest of any country in the world, thanks to the hard work and efficiency of farmers and our food chain industry. This percentage is going to increase if new laws continue to be passed that create an inefficient food chain system. iBi