Across the pond

As I sit in London’s Heathrow airport awaiting my flight back to the states, I reflect upon five tremendous days here in the United Kingdom. The United States free trade discussions have just begun with the UK.

I simply took it upon myself to come spend time in the country with farmers and visit the U.S. Embassy to see how I could assist in making sure factual information about U.S. farming gets presented to the public. The disconnect between UK farmers and their consumers is no better than it is at home. And now a few are even trying to make it worse.

The reason the UK citizens said (on three occasions), “We are leaving the EU” was almost solely because of federal control. The fact that the European Union mandated certaining farming methods and did not honor the British waters to protect UK fishermen were core reasons for Brexit. For the record, that exit officially happened on Feb. 1, 2020, but the details on trade are just being worked out now.

I have been talking about chlorinated chicken. Several years ago a hit piece from the U.S. aired on television over here about the use of chlorine in cooling processed chickens. Individuals in the EU hijacked that story for their own protectionist measures and have convinced everyone that processors in the U.S. dip chickens in a big vat of chlorine because our animal husbandry methods suck. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have been using chlorine in our cooling system as a coolant agent in a perfectly safe manner.

Chlorine chemistry is also used to manufacture residential and commercial air conditioning refrigerants, hybrid car batteries and high-performance magnets.

According to, chlorine chemistry helps provide safe and abundant food by protecting crops from pests and keeping kitchen counters and other food-contact surfaces disinfected, destroying E. coli, salmonella and a host of other foodborne germs.

So what is the downside of using chlorine as a cooling agent to protect food safety? I don’t believe there is one. Nonetheless, I have learned that the last turkey plant and last two U.S. chicken plants constructed in the U.S. were built with non-chlorine cooling methods. So the good news is that now you have choices when you visit the poultry aisle in the grocery store.

The other topic that is always on the table for conversation is animal welfare. European farmers and consumers are quick to point out that UK farmers implement the best animal welfare in the world. After my visit to farms with beef and dairy cattle, pigs and chickens, I am here to tell you that they do a good job but they are no better or no worse than U.S. farmers. I do see the public putting tons of pressure on farmers to do the best they can without hurting them. For example, there is a badger lobby to prevent livestock producers from killing rodents with potential disease threats. Feeding intact boars is another UK practice that is way beyond what I can comprehend but I take my hat off to the farmer who finds a way to make it work.

In summary, it is no different than it is at home; if we truly want the best in animal care we allow the farmers to decide which is the best management strategy to minimize stress and produce high quality products, not some marketing guru in a cubicle.

Another observation is the vegan religion. I call it a religion, not a food choice, because I am yet to meet a vegan who doesn’t worship the animal instead of God. I have heard all the noise about how the UK is a runaway vegan mecca. Honestly, I did not see that. In the rural countryside, I saw zero evidence, although clearly the London experience was quite different. A vegan presence was felt but as I look at food consumption data from 2019, I only see a slight downturn in meat consumption.

The data clearly shows a slight reduction in beef and lamb consumption but increases in pork and poultry. That is believed to be a direct result of the pressure to acquire lower cost protein sources not vegan preferences. Honestly, based on the cost per unit of protein, animal sources will always be the leader not to even mention the abundance of essential nutrients provided in addition to protein.

My concern is something that is a direct parallel to where we are in the U.S. The UK consumer is demanding more control over production methods and yet putting pressure on the price. As we move forward in feeding not only our own country but the ever-growing world, we must all be mindful that if the farmer does not maintain a margin while producing high-quality, safe and healthy products, he will cease to exist and everyone will be scrambling for food.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at, or email Trent at [email protected].