Jolley: Five Minutes with Trent LoosTrent talks…a lot.  He talks on his radio program, on planes and in airports. It’s his thing.  I took this from his web site (www.loostales.com), “Loos records, produces and sends his radio programs from wherever his travels take him using his laptop computer and the Internet. He presently has a radio listening audience of 4 million and can be heard on more than 100 stations across the country.”

Loos is also a contributing columnist to the High Plains Journal and writes a blog, Truth be Told, that explores the myths, misconceptions and untruths about American agriculture.  His need to communicate started about a decade ago when he heard an actor speak against animal agriculture at an HSUS sponsored event.  “It p**sed me off,” he said and he knew he had to stand up for agriculture

He became an avid and early agvocate who delights in speaking to agricultural and non-agricultural groups. He talks with youth about “the importance of food as a matter of national security and the value of their involvement in today's food production system.”

Loos is a big man, easy to spot.  His trademark handle bar ‘stache and black cowboy hat are familiar to everyone who attends cattle industry events.

His radio program is an interesting amalgam of personal opinion and interviews with people he finds interesting.  He sometimes shows the same ‘harumphing’ curmudgeonly attitude of a cowboy-Andy Rooney when he takes on a subject that strikes him as annoying, misguided or just plain stupid.

Ask him about the policies pursued by the HSUS or listen to him ‘discussing’ the Yellow Tail wine controversy two years ago.  Yeah, he can saddle up on a subject and ride it hard, very hard.

So I asked him to talk about a few things.  He got a bit rankled when I suggested a few of his positions on political issues might fall just a bit to the left of center.  He believes in self sufficiency and taking personal responsibility for your decisions; keeping the government as far away from the business of agriculture as possible.  Definitely right of center. 

Q. Can we start with a discussion of politics?  I’ve read or listened to a lot of Loos Tales and you’re hard to pinpoint.  Most of your opinions are definitely to the right of center; some drift a little to the left.  So how do you define yourself?

A. I am an American who believes he has a very clear vision about how people, through the choices they make and personal responsibility, can improve their lives and the environment around them. I do believe, though, that you would find more cattlemen celebrating a chicken barbeque contest than people who have accused me of being left of center.

Q. Talking with a few cattlemen recently, I said animal agriculture is experiencing the greatest change in the way it does business than at any time in history.  Some agreed but the oldest said, “Business as usual.”  From your point-of-view, how goes the industry?

A. Your place in the American food system is what you make it. I don’t believe we have lost any cattlemen as they were trailing cattle crossing a river this year. My point is that drowning was the number one cause of death for drovers in the cattle drive era. We have conquered challenge after challenge but nobody ever promised it would be easy. The sense of accomplishment in improving human lives by converting the natural resources into human consumeable products (food, fiber, fuel and pharmaceuticals) are what really drives us.

I will tell you that in agriculture, crossing the river that Uncle Sam has created for us may take additional lives. You will never hear me cry the blues about those farmers that were not strong enough to survive. If the population of United States farmers were a cow herd, I would say that we have culled the weak and the 76,000 farm families left are the best in the world.

Q. Business as usual or not, there are definitely some new challenges we’re facing.  What are the most critical and how do we manage them?

A. As I previously alluded to, the bureaucracy and overzealous regulations are without question our greatest challenge. So many people want to point to animal rights groups or pseudo-environmental organizations as the challenge but they are only a challenge for two reasons: One, if we allow complacency to continue and we do not engage in the process of a representative republic. Second, and quite possibly the biggest hurdle, is the number of people that have worked their way up the ranks or been appointed to positions of authority within the government structure.

A perfect example is Sarah L. Conant who, just one year ago was employed by the Humane Society of the United States, but today the Chief of Animal Health and Welfare Enforcement Branch Investigative and Enforcement Services for the USDA.  That is a whole new hurdle that needs to be dealt with swiftly.

Q. Let’s talk about meat and a good diet.  One of the ‘new myths’ that you busted was the use of nitrites in cured meats.  The ‘common’ wisdom which became common only 20 years ago was nitrites are carcinogenic, just one of the baseless factoids that have stampeded public opinion.  Your visit with Dr. Nathan Bryan killed the nitrite controversy with science.  So tell me again, why should I eat a serving of beef instead of a serving of kale?

A. I am not sure how we got to the point where we are always trying to eliminate one of the food groups but it seems to be trendy. While I agree that our society today is extremely deficient in dietary nitrate and yes, kale and leafy greens typically have 80 times more available nitrates, a proper diet is a balance of all things. 

My greatest dietary concern though is that people incorrectly eliminate milk, meat or eggs for all the wrong reasons. I think everyone of us knows someone that has had their doctor tell them to stop eating cured meats because of nitrates and increase consumption of leafy greens. See the hypocrisy?

My real pet peeve in the beef marketing arena is our continued reluctance to endorse the fact that intramuscular fat (IMF) from beef is an essential nutrient. We reward cattlemen for a high percentage of IMF and then we market “The power of protein in the land of lean beef” to our consuming public. Why? Meanwhile, the olive oil industry is expanding at an unprecedented pace while we have same heart-healthy benefits but our “experts” are afraid to market it.

Q. About your occasional Andy Rooney-style rant – you were ready to man the ramparts when the National Agriculture Hall of Fame inducted Willie Nelson, pointing out that his resume was a bit short when compared to the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Justin Smith Morrill, Norman Borlaug, John Deere, Eli Whitney, Henry Wallace and Cyrus Hall McCormick.  Those are iconic names of men who died at least half a century ago.  Who should be considered modern era Hall of Famers?

A. Paul Engler is the first person that comes to mind. The man is a true pioneer in the cattle feeding industry in how he implemented technology and economies of scale to the system. The consumer reaps those rewards because we have the same number of cows as we did in the early 1950’s yet we produce twice as much human consumeable protein. Second, he was the Champion in standing up to Oprah when she misled consumers about the safety of beef consumption.

Of course, I am biased because of how well I married, but as I travel the country it is my wife who is home ranching and holding the place together. At some point the underestimated and inadequately recognized women of agriculture need to be applauded for what it is they have done to keep families together and keep the operations sailing upright in the stormiest of seas.

There are also so many amazing scientists that have devoted their entire lives to find better and more efficient methods of getting the job done. The untold story of modern day agriculture is truly the green revolution but we allowed the pseudo-environmentalist to hijack the term.

Q. Let me throw out a few phrases and then get out of the way and let you answer – animal welfare, animal rights, animal abuse.

A. Animal welfare is our moral and ethical obligation. We must provide the essentials of life for the animals in our care. Protection from predators, protection from Mother Nature and adequate food and water supplies are the necessities of animal welfare. All other models, formulas and gauges in developing proper animal welfare are about satisfying the needs of humans, not the animal.

Animals have no rights equal to people and animal abuse can not be tolerated. What you and I consider day-to-day routine care, some might consider animal abuse. That is our fault for failing to educate the consumer as we should. Castrating a calf without a pain killer is not now, nor should it ever be, considered animal abuse. But if we continue on our path of complacency, that could be changed.

Q. Thousands of people read Drovers/CattleNetwork.com.  What would you like to say to them?

A. The last time the cattle industry convention was held in Nashville, TN, Colin Woodall asked me to come and share with the Public Policy Committee who HSUS was and how dangerous they are. Today, we have all become so defensive when we hear those letters, there is no way that we can educate and be unbiased.

God placed grazing animals on this planet to improve planet health and feed and clothe people. I have great concerns that we are spending so much time talking about “how” we take care of animals that the consumer is losing track of “why” we take care of animals.

Animals improve human lives. Meat is not simply some luxury food source that you buy if you have enough money. The consumption of meat, milk and eggs improves human lives. That is why we do what we do. We need to spend 200 percent more time celebrating our accomplishments as opposed to whining about the kid in the store that doesn’t know where his food comes from.

I am damn proud of what we have accomplished in American agriculture and I seek an audience of at least one every single day to share that story with.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Vance Publishing.