Rebecca Barton, From Barton Hog Farm’s Michigan: Hog Production How-To? July 25th 2012
There is a huge disconnect between consumers and producers. Many consumers are emotional about their food choices, and use lobbyists and legislation to influence the production process. Producers of course resist, because as the “experts” of animal production, they do not want to change to a process that may be more expensive. There are things that we could change on the farm, and things that we will be forced to change. It’s not being against gestation stalls, its about limiting the government’s ability to regulate our production practices. In a way, the buyers of pork are doing us a favor by not wanting to buy from farms with stalls. If they didn’t take a stand against it due to public pressure, the government would, and in some states has. We need to have the self regulation when at all possible.
Even the type of regulation that could be handed down from the government could vary greatly. In an article from the Pork Network titled Commentary: Who’s in Charge of Animal Welfare, a recent amendment was made to the Farm Bill that would limit what types of laws states could make in regards to animal production. Instead of enacting laws state-by-state, as HSUS currently lobbies to do, laws with have to be made federally, making universal standards for the whole country. Federal laws are generally less efficient, but they also make the production much more cohesive across the country, all farms having the same restrictions to production.
Another area of concern is that our suppliers do not seem to grapple with the same brute force of public opinion as the swine industry does. Pfizer, Merck, Bayer, Novartis, etc., supply us through our vets with pharmaceuticals and feed supplements, seem to not realize that the food production system is under attack. When they come into meetings and discuss new products, they do not talk about more consumer compliant options, or that antibiotic use could be limited. They talk about products that will alter the biology of the animals in a way that makes the packers uncomfortable. When producers ask questions about products and use with impending regulations, the companies don’t seem to think of it as an issue, and quickly go back to promotion. Maybe that is because the real money for them is in companion animal and human health areas, and we are just a segment to diversify the portfolio. I don’t blame these companies, as farmers are buying the products, but I wonder if they are only thinking in the short term.
I have a few vegan friends, most of which are not against meat, just the way it is produced. In their vigor to cut out all things animal, they try to have no animal products used in any part of their lives. Yet they drive cars, ride bikes, use make-up, write with pens, and wear screen printed clothing.
People have this moral dilemma about using animals for nutrition; to sustain life. They feel bad when they think about Fido and how nice he is. They feel bad about making other things suffer. It is a hard dilemma to overcome.
I spent a long portion of some summers in Saskatchewan growing up, and that lead me to come to terms with the way we use animals to maintain ourselves. It’s the nature of the land, of the cycle, of the ecosystem. We happen to find ourselves at the top of the food chain; we shouldn’t feel bad about it. At the same time, we can’t allow wasteful usage of our resources to occur. Each animal needs to be killed for a purpose. We become more efficient in this way, and garner more respect from consumers for using all that we have been given.
A big obstacle is educating the consumer about where their food comes from, and some young farmers have been making inroads. After the success of I’m Farming and I Grow It, another young man has taken to the Internet with some pop music with Farm It Maybe. Enjoy!
I’m a farm girl, proud FFA Alumni and Farm Bureau member, who went to the city for her business degree. I love working out, cooking, and having conversations about agriculture. I see things as part of a connected system, where we have to make choices about what we value and wish to maintain. I’m also an avid reader, and education junkie.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!