Warning: Sarcasm abundant
While on the road, traveling for my job this week, I had the opportunity to drive past hundreds of farms throughout Iowa and Minnesota. When I look at many of these farms, I see progress. I see grain bin setups that have exploded in the last ten years, allowing the farmer to have control of his grain handling, storage and marketing. I see cattle and hog confinement barns that allow farmers to raise livestock more efficiently than ever while giving the animals a healthy environment. On these farms, I also see farmhouses, new and old, with play sets in the yard, gardens growing and children’s toys scattered throughout. This led me to think about the term, “factory farm.”
If you go to google and search, “definition of factory farm,” this is the very first thing that shows up:
“A factory farm is a large, industrial operation that raises large numbers of animals for food. Over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of the animals’ welfare.”
It’s very hard to believe that this definition is actually being applied to the very farms that I spoke of earlier, including our own. I don’t know about you, but the last time I was at a factory, I didn’t see the owner’s house, family and dog located in the front yard greeting the semi trucks with materials coming in and out.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the term “factory farm.” Just like anything else in life, you can find good and bad in it. There are some incredible examples of factories that are run by honest, hard working people who give good jobs to members of the community. A well-run factory is efficient, profitable and provides great products to consumers while taking care of its people and resources. There are also some bad apples, as there always will be. But it’s the definition and the perception of the term that really sticks with me.
Here is what our “factory farm” looks like.
At the head of the operation is our President and CEO, better known as Papa Ken. Then there is our Vice President and Head Chef, Grandma Connie (best chocolate chip cookie maker around). Followed by the Operations Manager, Patrick (son), the Administrative Coordinator (me) and Chore Girls 1 and 2, Laney and Ruthie. We frequently use the corporate vehicle (Polaris Ranger) to travel to and from each of our industrial operations. And we have a strict uniform policy – don’t wear anything that you mind getting manure on. Each employee is subject to “other duties as assigned” and we work evenings, weekends and holidays. Meetings are held in the executive conference room, i.e. the kitchen table. Pets are allowed.
Ok, so this sounds a bit ridiculous, right? Not near as ridiculous as the perception most consumers have about today’s modern farms. The common “factory farm” in America is family owned and family operated just like ours. Our family bonding experiences include working cattle, loading hogs and checking cows. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
The most blaring statement in the definition of a factory farm that I shared previously is, “at the expense of the animals’ welfare.” If a pig, cow, chicken or any other animal is under stress or not properly cared for, it will not grow or produce milk or eggs. Why would a farmer spend thousands of dollars to build a barn and devote hours every day to a facility that was harmful to the animals? They wouldn’t and they don’t.
We care about our animals. We work day and night to keep them healthy and thriving. If we don’t, we will be out of business. And our business is our life.
Come see our “factory farm” sometime. I’m willing to bet, it will change your perception.