As populations continue to grow and evolve so do the conventional practices of modern agriculture. Today we find ourselves facing a technologically savvy customer, who demands to know not only where their food comes from, but how it is grown and processed.
I have to say I cannot blame them. Just like our farm families, agriculture’s customers just want to know what they are consuming so they can feed their families in the best way possible. Because today’s customers are, on average, displaced directly from agriculture by at least two generations, we find them turning to the internet for information to fill the knowledge gap caused by this displacement from the industry.
This is where many organizations take advantage, by placing their agendas ahead of our customers. They do this through propaganda and misleading false information that plays on our customer’s emotions. The Humane Society of the United States is one such organization that often plays on emotion with disregard to the Ag industry to place their agenda before that of our customers.
The Humane Society of the United States (who, might I add, has no affiliation with your local humane society or pet shelter) published a video last Wednesday for National Food Day entitled “A Pig’s Tail”. This animated film was designed to play on the emotions of today’s youth setting aside the facts and understanding of the conventional farming practices that were portrayed.
“A Pigs Tail” shows pigs being raised indoors portraying this as a bad practice. So why do farmers choose to raise these animals inside?
Pigs are very susceptible to disease, parasites and are sensitive to sunlight. Raising them indoors helps the farmer protect the animals from these issues. Raising pigs outdoors would cause a dramatic increase in run-off and damage to the land, which would greatly threaten the environment.
Dr. Beth Young, veterinarian for the University of Missouri commercial agriculture program explains how commercial hog farms and growing methods have not only increased the quality of life for the animals but decreased the risk of disease and parasitic problems farmers and hogs were once faced with. Examples include a decrease in trichinella and toxoplasma along with almost full eradication of lung worms and kidney worms.
HSUS successfully portrayed “Factory Farming” as a torturous way of living for the animals. Are factory farms really bad?
In a previous blog post that showcased my parents and Hayden Farms I tried to shed some light on “Factory Farms”. Factory Farming is defined as the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a business — a practice typical in industrial farming by agribusinesses. This is not a definition that I can agree with. The majority of farmers like my parents and many other farmers and ranchers alike are nothing more than wholesome, down to earth family run operations. This, I believe is something that is disregarded among many organizations who place their agendas above our customers. Whether a farmer has 5 cows or 5,000 cows, the management of those animals will be operated like a business. The mismanagement of 5 cows can break a farmer no different than the mismanagement of 5,000 cows. At the end of the day just because a family owned farm has a large operation doesn’t mean they are a “factory farm”. Small or large, farmers and ranchers strive to maintain a high quality of life for their animals and the land. Ryan Goodman does a good job explaining “Factory Farms”, CAFO’s and cattle feedlots in a previous post “What is a Cattle Feedlot?”.
Gestation crates, are they important?
This is a topic that HSUS has pursued very heavily. Gestation crates are crates large enough to house a full grown sow (female hog) while she is pregnant. These crates separate the sows during pregnancy so the risk of fights and them hurting themselves is eliminated.
Research is currently being conducted to introduce new methods of housing pregnant sows. Animal scientists and industry professionals are constantly working together to uncover new and innovative practices to alleviate the need for gestation crates that are both humane and economical.
In closing I’d like to share a few facts about pork production provided the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
If you have a chance Ryan Goodman answers some questions that I may have left unanswered about HSUS’ “A Pigs Tail” video on his blog Agriculture Proud.