It’s too easy when you’ve been in the cattle business for awhile, to lose sight of what it’s all about. Maybe you can get away with a “who cares” attitude if your time is taken up with EPDs and pour-ons and the price of fertilizer.

But even those of us in the grass fed segment of beef need to be shaken up from time to time. Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was a kind of wake up call and now his “In Defense of Food” reminds me forcefully that what I am doing is more than just feeding some folks; it is contributing in a most essential way to their well-being.

That my fellow cattlemen and women is an awesome responsibility.

Pollan quotes a nutritionist who refuses to dignify most of what is for sale in the supermarket as “food”:

“In the 34 years I’ve been in the field of nutrition, I have watched real food disappear from large areas of the supermarket and from much of the rest of the eating world. Taking its place has been an unending stream of food-like substitutes – products constructed largely around commerce and hope, supported by frighteningly little actual knowledge”.

Pollan’s tip for consumers to avoid the “food-like substitutes”: shop around the edges of supermarkets and avoid the center where all the packaged, processed foods are concentrated. Of course, it is around the edges that you’ll also find milk laced with growth hormones that does not-so-wonderful things for cows and unfortunately also to our little girls.

Then, just as I was adjusting to the implications of the Pollan book, along came the recent ruling by the USDA vouching for the safety of cloned beef. My government, despite 30,000 opinions to the contrary, has decided cloned beef is as safe as today’s beef supply. Worse, a companion article says scientists already are working at eliminating the middle-cow. Forget cloned cows; they’re going straight to cloned meat!

Is anybody paying attention to the research on this? Certainly not the scientists at the USDA. Have they read what I’ve read?

More than 100 nuclear transfer procedures could be required to produce one viable clone. In addition to low success rates, cloned animals tend to have more compromised immune function and higher rates of infection, tumor growth, and other disorders. Japanese studies have shown that cloned mice live in poor health and die early.

About a third of the cloned calves born alive have died young, and many of them were abnormally large. Many cloned animals have not lived long enough to generate good data about how clones age. Appearing healthy at a young age unfortunately is not a good indicator of long term survival. Clones have been known to die mysteriously. For example, Australia’s first cloned sheep appeared healthy and energetic on the day she died, and the results from her autopsy failed to determine a cause of death.

In 2002, researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reported that the genomes of cloned mice are compromised. In analyzing more than 10,000 liver and placenta cells of cloned mice, they discovered that about 4% of genes function abnormally. The abnormalities do not arise from mutations in the genes but from changes in the normal activation or expression of certain genes.

Problems also may result from programming errors in the genetic material from a donor cell. When an embryo is created from the union of a sperm and an egg, the embryo receives copies of most genes from both parents. A process called “imprinting” chemically marks the DNA from the mother and father so that only one copy of a gene (either the maternal or paternal gene) is turned on. Defects in the genetic imprint of DNA from a single donor cell may lead to some of the developmental abnormalities of cloned embryos.

If we are what we eat, what are we about to become? And what pill do we take when we suddenly are confronted with the need to reverse cloning’s effects?

After all, our “substitute food”, certified safe by government experts, in just a few decades has already produced a generation of overweight, disease-ridden, psychotic children. Our pharmaceuticals, certified safe by these same government experts, produce drugs that have to be recalled almost as fast as they’re introduced because they are ineffective or actually worse than the illnesses they’re supposed to cure.

Why would anyone accept the assurances of these same government experts that cloned meat is safe? Why would anyone accept the idea that it should be sold over-the-counter without as much as a warning label?

What can be more frustrating than raising beef in the most responsible way I can and reading what the government experts are doing to the nation’s food supply? I’m a long way off up here in New Meadows, Idaho. Can anyone hear me shouting?