The following originally posted on Focus on Agriculture, a blog by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
By Marsha Purcell
Some days are suited for reflection, and today is one of those. I am thinking of how grateful I am to members of the surgical team who replaced my husband’s aortic heart valve earlier this year. It is amazing to think that such an intricate surgery is considered commonplace, with about 80,000 adults in the U.S. having this procedure each year. I am also thinking of how grateful I am to the farmer or rancher who raised the animal from which the valve came.
Agriculture is under a constant barrage of criticism from those who oppose eating meat. The farmers and ranchers who face that criticism—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—and continue to do their jobs have my greatest admiration.
I have had opportunities to visit farms and ranches and to talk about livestock production with those who do it every day. They are caring, dedicated people who want their animals to be healthy. They spend countless hours and dollars determining the proper care for their animals. They spend many sleepless nights helping a cow, ewe or sow through difficult deliveries or feeding baby animals when their mothers are unable to do so. They work with nutritionists to determine the best feed for the animals and with veterinarians who determine the best health care practices. They teach their children the value of raising an animal that will provide nutritious food and many other valuable products.
Initially, we did not know if my husband had a porcine (pig), ovine (sheep) or bovine (cow) valve. We joked about whether he would begin to “oink,” “baa” or “moo.” We later found that he has a bovine valve, and we do know that his heart is stronger. We know that his long-term prognosis is very positive. And we know that in addition to thanking God and the surgical team, we owe a debt of gratitude to the livestock producer. There are probably thousands of people today who are alive and well because of a tissue valve from an animal. I am hopeful those recipients are appreciative of the farmers and ranchers who made those life-saving surgeries possible, rather than critical.
As for my family, we will always support animal agriculture, not only when we eat meat, but also when we enjoy many more years together thanks to a new heart valve.
Marsha Purcell is director of membership and program development at the American Farm Bureau Federation.