According to Merriam-Webster, by definition, a farm is a piece of land used for growing crops or raising animals. A factory is a building or group of buildings where products are made. By definition a factory farm is a farm on which large numbers of livestock are raised indoors in conditions intended to maximize production at minimal cost. No where in these definitions does is say anything about animal abuse, causing harm to the environment, or effecting your health. Thanks to Farm Sanctuary, under their Learn tab (good joke), they describe factory farms as, “Factory farms dominate U.S. food production, employing abusive practices that maximize agribusiness profits at the expense of the environment, our communities, animal welfare, and even our health.” (http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/) There seems to be a miscommunication problem. A rather large one at that.
So to help paint a better picture, I’m going to explain my farm and I would like you to let me know what kind of farm you think I work on.
1.) We have a feed yard where the animals have access to hay, feed, and water 24/7.
2.) We give shots to animals that are sick and keep an eye on them for several days to make sure they are recovering.
3.) We drive tractors and plant crops.
4.) We produce products for consumers.
5.) Livestock is provided with protection from the elements.
So, what kind of farm do I live on? What do YOU define as a factory farm or a family farm. To me, they are exactly the same thing, just on a different size level. Just because a farmer has more animals than another farmer doesn’t make him a ‘factory’. Just because a farmer is smaller doesn’t make him a ‘family farmer’. Just like people, farmers are different. You know that saying from when we were kids, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch”? It happens like that to farmers. Expect when one bad apple is exposed, no one is perceived as a juicy, worm-less, shiny, and wonderful apple. We’re all thought of as brown, soft, and rotten.
Remember the other old saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”? Keep that in mind when your stomach is growling. We’ll be there to make that feeling go away because your food comes from a farm. Just that. Not a factory, not a family, but from a farm.
[…] Factory Farms Are Me! … Or Are They?. […]
Hi Kellie! It’s my first time to your site – it looks great! These are my thoughts:
I think it’s most fair to take a balanced approach on topics and recognize strengths and weaknesses of both sides of a topic. Surely there are family farms that get unfairly heaped into the factory farm category; there are people who assume you and other farms are treating animals poorly and polluting the environment and those people don’t knowing anything about the farm or family they are criticizing! That’s not fair. At the same time, it is possible to run an operation where profit is a motive that outstrips a reasonable concern for the health and welfare of animals. Crowding may be extreme. Animals may be treated harshly. Laws may be passed excessively penalizing whistleblowers or people trying to gain access to or footage of animal handling practices (why should these be secret if something isn’t being hidden?) These sorts of things were in the news not long ago. They do happen! The question is how much.
Also, the environment and economics are complicated! Factory vs. family farming is a complex topic that means different things to different people (which can be frustrating). In order to get a better feel for the difference between the two, and to see if a farm is contributing to ” animal abuse, causing harm to the environment, or effecting your health” usually more information is needed.
About your farm in particular:
It seems like your farm isn’t a factory farm! Some more information would be useful, though! How crowded are your animals? (How many do you have, how big is the feedlot, how big is pasture space, etc.) Do they get sick significantly more frequently because of crowding (if they are indeed crowded)? How is all of the manure handled? How much fertilizer and manure nutrients might run-off from your farm (in stormwater)?
There are definitely some reasons to be concerned about the sustainability and environmental impact of farms! Most fertilizer is produced using fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change, have myriad health impacts, and are dwindling in supply. Are you worried about fertilizer prices rising in the future for you or for farmers in the next generations due to the growing scarcity of fossil fuels?
Agricultural runoff is a major cause of toxic algal blooms and eutrophication (there is a gigantic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by agricultural runoff coming down the Mississippi from all over the Midwest), I have a textbook that says a cow poops about ten times as much as a human being. Some farms easily have 10,000 cows pooping in relatively small fields. Can you imagine 100,000 people (10,000 cow equivalent poop-wise) pooping outside all the time in an area much smaller than a town with 100,000 people?
These are some of the sorts of questions that are of concern and the scientific community regularly cites and grapples with. Some people in my department of ecological engineering, for instance, work on anaerobic digestion of dairy manure as a means to reduce nutrient/pollutant release to the environment and generate a renewable source of methane and electricity.
I know this was long but I hope you can appreciate the thought I put into this. I don’t know many farmers so I cherish the opportunity to learn more about the diversity of farms, farming, and farming families in the US!
All the best,
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