Allen R Williams, Ph.D., Understanding Ag
We are now experiencing times that many alive today have never been exposed to. We are witnessing our own human condition and our response to something that seems overwhelming and possibly insurmountable. The tangible result is being manifested in widespread panic and fear. Fear that we will run out of toilet paper. Fear that we will run out of food. Fear that our businesses and jobs will implode. Fear that we may contract the coronavirus (COVID-19) and become a statistic.
Across the nation, and in my little town of Starkville, MS, we are seeing grocery store shelves being stripped bare of all paper items (toilet tissue, paper towels, napkins), milk, bread, meats, frozen vegetables, and many other food items. In our hometown Kroger, just yesterday, I saw bare shelves where paper products should have been, where bread should have been, where milk and eggs should have been.
So, why is this happening? Why are people panic buying? Are we in danger of running out of food? Let’s take a brief look at some our actual food stocks in the U.S. Realize that farmers and food processors are still actively engaged in the day to day production of our foodstuffs. Fields are still being planted and harvested, livestock are still being raised and harvested. We have tremendous frozen stocks of many food items readily available in public warehouses.
The January 31, 2020 frozen food stocks in the U.S. are actually staggering. We have 480 million pounds of frozen beef, 563 million pounds of frozen pork, 1.2 billion pounds of frozen poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), just over 1 billion pounds of cheese, and 230 million pounds of butter. In addition, we have 1.1 billion pounds of frozen fruit and 1.8 billion pounds of frozen vegetables. Total food available in frozen storage equals just over 8 billion pounds. With just over 329 million people in the U.S., those food stores amount to 24 lbs of food for every man, woman, and child in the U.S., in just the excess frozen stocks.
So why are we panicking over food? Why do we believe that we will run out sometime soon? It is all because of panic buying. The reason for the bare shelves is not due to a lack of food items, but the inability of our transport system to keep up with the panic buying. We have only so many trucks and so many drivers. They cannot make more deliveries than they currently are.
In this time, it is very important that we not only have food available, but foods that are healthy for us. Foods that feed our bodies the vital nutrients we need to promote strong immune systems and ward off challenges like the flu and coronavirus. That is why we believe so strongly in producing foods through the practice of regenerative agriculture. That is why we believe in pastured proteins. Healthy soils promote healthy foods. Healthy foods promote healthy bodies. Healthy bodies have strong and vibrant microbiomes.
I will close today with a poem from imminent farmer/philosopher Wendell Berry. A poem of encouragement and hope.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.