Over the last several decades, the landscape of the agriculture industry has changed tremendously. Gone are the days of subsistence farming and small, family-owned farms. Today, our food comes from a much more commercial setting where large farms dominate the landscape. With this change, as with any, comes misunderstanding and of course, scrutiny.
In recent years, the term “factoring farming” has made its way to the forefront of discussion concerning farming best practices and animal welfare. More often than not, this term is used with a negative connotation to indicate an attitude of misuse, inhumanity and unfeeling when in reality, we growers can agree, that could not be further from the truth.
Today, less than 2% of the American population grow the food that 100% of us eat, making it more and more important to produce meat and crops in the most efficient manner possible. This has meant changing our way of thinking, improving the way we farm and integrating technology into our practices.
The truth is that certain parts of animal production do use mechanical processes similar to a factory, but these decisions are made in order to ensure safe, healthy animals. Chickens, hogs and cattle are housed indoors to eliminate weather stress, predator threats and reduce disease incidence.
Terms like “factory farm” are used to evoke emotion or rather a lack of emotion- to pull the mind of consumers back to “good ole days” of small, red barns. But the truth is, the good ole days were not all that good. We always picture animals on a farm on a beautiful summer afternoon, but we never consider the harsh realities of days with 20 inches of snow, 30 mile an hour winds or 110 degree heat. Today's farming practices are designed to abate these issues in a way that is respectful to the animals we raise and manageable to those doing the raising.
So the next time you hear the phrase “factory farm,” I challenge you to NOT envision a cold, unfeeling place. But rather, think of your friends, family, neighbors and church members that live and work on those farms. The way we farm has changed but the end goal has stayed the same as always- healthy animals, happy farmers.