Let’s Take The “Factory” Out Of Factory Farms

Factory Farms.

If there is one term I am most frustrated with hearing people say, it is Factory Farms. Why? You may find this a little crazy coming from a hog farmer, but I really don’t know what they are.

What was that? Did you just read what you thought you read?

Yes, I struggle with what a factory farm is.

And the ironic part of this statement is I actually live in the Minnesota county that markets the largest numbers of hogs in the state. In fact, we are also ranked nationally in regards to hogs marketed. So how utterly ridiculous does it sound when I say I don’t know what a factory farm is? 

Our Farm

Our Farm

It’s because my vision of a “factory farm” is not what I see. I envision a factory farm as a place with numerous long, cold, colorless steel buildings whose only goal is to produce as many animals as possible, as fast as possible with the least amount of money and care needed. I think of an uncaring, industrialized operation owned and run by “big money” corporations. An operation that has little to no contact between the animals and people. And this is the same image companies like Chipotle, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes and animal rights activist groups like HSUS want you to envision also when you hear the word “factory farm.” 

But . . .

Instead of seeing factory farms, I see . . .

FARMS. Just farms.

Yes, we have lots of hog farms in rural Minnesota, especially in my county. And who manages and owns these farms? Is it Big Ag? Is it money hungry corporations? 

No. These farms are owned by my neighbors, my friends, fellow church members, parents of my children’s friends and people in my community. People and their families run the farms, NOT Big Ag. Yes, farms have changed over the years. But for the most part, we no longer have “big red barn farms.”  Even though our farms look different, our values have not changed.

We share the same values as our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. We care for our animals daily. It matters and affects us if our animals are sick or injured. Today’s farmers work with a team to assist them in giving the best animal care. Who’s on this team? Usually a veterinarian, an animal nutritionist and other consultants. The purpose of this team? Simple really–to raise healthy animals.

Yes, our animals are housed inside barns, which may look to some as a factory farm. Our hogs are raised in barns because we can take better care of them. The animals no longer have to deal with the extreme effects of weather such as the brutal cold, hot and humid temperatures, snow, rain, blizzards, sun burns, etc. Nor do we have to fear predators hurting our hogs. And with today’s hog genetics, our animals have a much lower fat content and cannot tolerate all the weather conditions. And, yes, we use technology in our barns to improve efficiencies, such as automatic temperature and air controls and automatic feeders. A strict vaccination program developed by veterinarians is also followed. These efficiencies result in better care and a healthier animal. 

Red Barn

“the old red barn”

Why do people insist on using the word factory farm? Factory farm is a term used to evoke emotion, or rather, lack of emotion. It’s a term used by those who oppose modern farming and want farmers to go back “to the good old days” of farming. The problem with “the good old days” is they really weren’t that “good” in regards to animal care. People tend to only think about animals enjoying warm, beautiful summer days of 70 degrees under a shade tree. They don’t think about the days immediately following a blizzard that left 20 inches of snow with -40 degree temperatures and a 30-40 mph wind, which caused the hog waterer to freeze and buried the hog feeder in snow. Or the other extreme of 100 degree days with 70% dew points where hogs are sunburned and miserable from the heat because they can’t sweat to help them cool off. In both cases, pigs die and it’s all about survival for the rest. Efficiencies and sustainability are the last thing on any farmer’s mind during these times. Today’s so-called “factory farms” eliminate many of these deaths and problems.

So let’s just take the “factory” out of factory farms and call them what they really are . . .

Farms, just farms.

 

EmailPinterestShare

Leave a Reply

Comments

  1. Great post! Big doesn’t mean bad! I will be sharing this one!

  2. Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com] says:

    Yes! Farms are farms! 96-98% of farms in the USA and 98% in Canada are family owned whether they are large enough to be considered a “factory” farm anyway. I guess I just try to see the positive aspect on the term ‘factory’ being that it’s “producing a large quantity”, but perhaps I’m wrong in that. I feel, like you, that it’s a negative connotation and served up with a huge side of fear with all the brands/corporations you mentioned in this post.

  3. Great post and it applies across the board to other animals raised by people. We also need to get the word ‘Mill” out of our reference to dog breeders and bird breeders.

  4. Definitely shared this one. Great post, and I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Another terrific blog post! I’ll be sharing this on Twitter and my FB page. I’m not a farmer, although I have many friends and family in farming. I’m a city dweller who is also active in the purebred dog fancy, showing dogs occasionally, co-bred one litter of puppies, but mostly training them for competitions, games, for hunt tests, for therapy work, and for the ultimate teamwork of dog and handler – Search and Recovery for missing people. We in the dog fancy have also been attacked with slang terminology that is meant to evoke disgust and anger, making it very easy for uninformed people to de-humanize us which in turn, makes us easy to attack as being other than a very real, feeling, human being. These labels are usually linked to numbers almost exclusively. Numbers of animals that are beyond what the average person can imagine living in their home like their dog and cat. Numbers of animals become part of the definition, even when they are meaningless for information. So somewhere along the line, people define for themselves what constitutes a factory vs a family farm, and a dog breeder vs a mill of some kind. Language is very powerful, and amplified with strong images. We always remember the horror images, while the ordinary images of life with well cared for animals are just that – ordinary. Not memorable.

    One thing I ask people to do; stop using those words and terms, the meaningless ones, the slang. Practice using descriptive terms instead, it’s not hard. Practicing this has made me more thoughtful and understanding when those rare troubled breeders or farmers are discovered by activists and the media and exploited by the label-makers, the chest thumpers, the self righteous brigade of busybodies who use these rare situations to fuel their anger and raise a lot of money. Life is too short for anyone to keep their blood pressure up with ugly images and judgment of others, I think. Most of the activists don’t have a clue about helping someone, they don’t understand that no one in farming or animal activities desires to hurt animals or neglect them – what would be the point, anyway?

    Thank you!

  6. Love this! As a cleanliness nut in my own small barn, I greatly admire the awesome new hog barns–steel grates, concrete walls, shiny steel feeders & waterers–amazing! People who think the bucolic old red barns are so pretty have never tried to stay warm in one in the winter, or cool in one in the summer. And they’ve for damned sure never tried to sanitize one after an animal gives birth!!

  7. I have noticed a lot of negative comments to this article, and I think most commenters have ignored what the author was trying to get across. These are farms run by people, not robots. That is the difference between factories and farms. Farmers care about there animals they are raising and try to provide the best and safest environment in which to raise them. These are real people, but it is easier to attack a faceless entity. It is easy to send emotional daggers of hatred towards “factories” in which you claim animals are abused. Its much more difficult when you are attacking a tired mother, a grandfather, young children, or a newly married couple that are giving their entire being to farming. Farming is hard work and people don’t invest that many hours, that much heart and soul into something they don’t love. There is too much heartache and hardships for it to be just a job. When you claim they are abusive, you are attacking them as people. I seen barns and animals compared to prisons. Except these aren’t wardens locking up criminals. These people love their animals.

    Conditions have improved over the decades. Food and meat production is safer and more sanitary than it ever was. To the comment that diseases are spread more quickly throughout barns because they are confined, that is ludicrous. Do you think a barnyard was the epitome of sterile environment. Just as humans haven’t developed a resistance to the flu virus by being exposed, pigs haven’t developed a resistance to the porcine virus that is killing thousands of animals. Do you think raising them differently would prevent that?

    How about giving the farmers a break? Do you realize how hard they work? Do you realize how many hours they work? Do you realize they still cry when animals are sick and die? Do you realize that if you keep attacking the American farmer, they might just give up? The next set back, might be the one that breaks them down. There is a reason that big Ag keeps getting bigger. Its because people like you that attack farms in general without regard and keep shooting down the little guys instead.

  8. It is interesting that folks worry about Factory Farming, yet enjoy all the consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals, beauty aids, clothing, automobiles, and books made… in a FACTORY! Why can’t the farmer enjoy the economies of scale, efficiency of labor and shrinkage of carbon footprint that modern Ag gives us. Folks forget that Old McDonald grew his farm bigger to feed the rest of us. I would hate to go hungry just to go back to the farms of yesteryear.

    • I agree. And I would hate for us to go back to yesteryear too, but many people think that would be best for all. I advocate for people to have choice. We can’t allow a small group to push their agenda that takes away choice. And, unfortunately, that’s what I see happening. Thanks for your comments.

  9. Thank you for the thoughtful post! I agree!

  10. Interesting perspective from someone with the “inside scoop” on farming! I especially was impressed by the line: “We care for our animals daily. It matters and affects us if our animals are sick or injured.”

    • Susan, I do think farmers’ perspectives just are not heard. And when you think about it, who is more credible than someone who is with the animals 24/7? Yes, and it does matter to us if they are sick or injured.

  11. I wish what you describe were
    the majority, but I suspect the kind of farms you and your neighbors offer is in the minority. Traveling throughout CA I see the problematic type of places where animals are miserable. Thank you for your comments.

    • Kymberly, I can’t talk to farms in California because I haven’t seen the type of farms that are located there. But sometimes, just how a farm looks isn’t indicative of the conditions. Our farm, even though it has enclosed barns, people may have a different perception by looking on the outside compared to what they really are like in the inside.

Trackbacks

  1. […] because they just can’t be trusted. Evidently Mr. Potter didn’t read my latest post, “Let’s Take the “Factory” out of Factory Farms, where he would have learned that so called “factory farms” are really family […]

  2. […] A family-owned business? (You can see why this gets confusing!). Wanda at Minnesota Farm Living wrote about her thoughts on the term “factory farming” and I think she hit the nail on the head with it—take the “factory” out of […]

%d bloggers like this: