Yesterday I watched an ultrasound of my son’s heart. Recent unexplained chest pains, rapid heart rates, and low oxygen levels had brought us to the pediatric cardiologist office that afternoon. I was scared and very anxious as I watched the sound I first heard over 11 years ago suddenly visible on the ultrasound screen. I stood guard as the technician carefully examined each chamber of his heart, taking numerous digital images from varying angles. I saw the bright red and blue colors circulate his heart, indicating the blood flow that was occurring throughout his body. With each rhythmic pump, that powerful muscle was allowing my little boy to live – to breath – and I was truly overwhelmed by the science and technology that allowed us to capture every heartbeat on the screen.
Science in medicine is a beautiful thing. I have confidence in knowing whatever issues my precious boy is facing, medical professionals will use their knowledge and resources to help keep him safe and healthy. However, I am often perplexed why consumers do not have that same trust and confidence in the farmers and the processors who oversee their food. Debates about GMOs, antibiotics, and pesticides are frequent on social media. Strong opinions exist on both sides, and there is very little common ground in these conversations. However, what most consumers fail to understand is the science utilized in crop selection and management is just a small part of the technology used to ensure the food in our grocery stores and farmers markets is safe for human consumption.
As a small meat processor, science plays a huge role in the safety of the food produced at my facility. Multiple e-coli and salmonella tests are required on all carcasses (grain-fed, grass-fed, and even organic) at varying steps in production. Random tests are also done to check for antibiotic residue in the meat. When testing for listeria, everything from the product, to the floor drains, to door handles are sampled to ensure there is absolutely no contamination. As a plant owner, I am responsible for conducting my own microbiological tests, but the FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) officials of the USDA are also on-site, overseeing my operations and performing their own tests throughout the process. Regardless of the production methods utilized in the field, science is vital in bringing safe food products to our grocery store shelves.
As a mom, it is my job to ensure the health and the safety of my children. As a farmer and as a processor, it is also my job to ensure the food that I produce is safe…not only for my family but also for the consumers that we supply. Science plays an important role in both of these endeavors. While most people will never have a cardiologist discuss their little boy’s heart on a monitor or a meat processor examine the results of Shiga toxins in their hamburger, I pray that one day we can all learn to appreciate the science and technology that aids both of these valued professions in doing their job.