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 a factory farm is. The ironic part of this statement is I 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?
WHY THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FACTORY 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 and/or run by my neighbors, my friends, fellow church members, families of my children’s friends and people in my community. People and their families own and/or run the farms, NOT Big Ag. Yes, no question that our farms have changed over the years. The reality is we no longer have “big red barn farms” that we consistently see in the media.
Pigs are housed indoors
Yes, our animals are housed in barns, which may look to some as a factory farm. The bottom line is hogs housed indoors allows us to take better care of them. Our animals are not exposed to the extreme effects of weather such as the brutal cold, hot and humid temperatures, snow, rain, blizzards, sunburns, etc. Nor do we want to fear predators hurting our hogs. Genetics also plays a big part in why they are housed indoors. Today’s hog genetics have a much lower fat content and cannot tolerate the extreme weather conditions.
So Why do people insist on using the word factory farm?
Factory farm is a term used to evoke 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. Many think raising animals outdoors is better. The problem with “the good old days” is they weren’t all that good. People tend to only think about animals enjoying a perfectly warm, beautiful summer days of 70 degrees under a shade tree. We may have 5 days like that in Minnesota. They don’t think about the days immediately following a blizzard that leaves 20 inches of snow with -40 degree temperatures and 30-40 mph winds. Today’s barns eliminate many of the extreme weather conditions and allow more individual care.
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.
So let’s just take the “factory” out of factory farms and call them what they really are . . .
Farms, just farms.
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