Thursday, June 2, 2011

Safest food on the planet, now at lower temperatures!

Hopefully, you were able to enjoy the great weather this past memorial day weekend, and while you were waiting for some tasty cuts of pork or beef to come hot of the grill, you took the time to remember the brave American soldiers who paid the ultimate price to allow us such great freedom. I have nothing but absolute respect and admiration for those men and women, and I must say, I feel a little guilty bringing this up. However, in addition to thanking those brave souls for our freedom, we can also thank the American farmer who helped bring us that meal, and provided us with the safest food on the planet.

Last week, the USDA released a statement telling us something that many farmer have known for years; that it is perfectly safe to cook pork to medium, at 145 degrees internal temperature. This announcement is great news for consumers, and reinforces a basic truth about our food: that it is truly safe, and that modern farming practices have contributed to it. For example, years ago, people were leery of pork, especially under-cooked pork, for many good reasons. The pigs lived outside, basically running loose, eating whatever happened to appear in front of them (I won’t get into details). Today, pigs live comfortably inside clean, well-lit, climate controlled barns; which are probably a lot cooler than my old farmhouse right now. The pork is harvested and processed in state-of-the-art facilities, which are cleaned, scrubbed, and inspected daily within an inch of their lives. The USDA and its watchful eye are never more than a stones throw away, providing guidance and oversight to the industry.

But outside of the processing world, pork farmers are doing the right things as well. Large and small alike, most farmers today are PQA+ Certified, meaning they have taken part in a voluntary program that holds them to a higher standard, and helps them produce a better product.

Farmers today care more about food and consumer safety than ever. As a farmer, it kills me to see a recall, or hear about people getting sick from a food-borne illness, because I feel like I have somehow failed. You depend on me for safe food the same as you would depend on a fireman to come save your house in a fire. We all have a job to do, and we want to do it well. From soldiers to farmers, we’re all working to protect American consumers.

Jeff Vander Werff is a 4th generation farmer from Sparta, Michigan. Learn more about how safe your food really is at