What Are You Willing to Pay for Cheap Meat?

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  1. I actually came across a link to that very article on a other blog yesterday! It deals with a very important subject indeed, and was quite an enlightening read. Though I must say, I couldn’t stomach the videos. I appreciated that they were shared in the article, but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t watch them. You’re right; we don’t have to support PETA to care about other living creatures. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. I was surprised too! It’s commendable I think since this means that kind of information might reach a very different audience than publications dedicated to these sorts of issues, including people that weren’t aware of the problem whatsoever. Of course, whether the increased awareness will lead to behavior changes is the second question…

    1. Thanks for your response, Wanda! As I wrote, I would never want to imply that these are the conditions on ALL American farms; and I agree with you that some of the writing was somewhat sensationalist that could sound offensive to people working in the industry (e.g. the ‘dumping’ antibiotics into the feed or feeding ‘waste’). However, I do think that there are many points that need to be brought up in the general conscience that are addressed in the article. First, I am not sure whether the differentiation between ‘Big Ag’ and family farms is as clear-cut as you say, since vertical integration in the hog industry (as well as other types of meats such as broilers) means that though the hogs are produced on family-owned farms, the hogs are owned by the large corporations anyway (according to this article – http://www.aei.org/files/2012/04/02/-market-structure-and-competition-in-the-us-food-industries_102234192168.pdf -, around 95 – 97% of hogs were produced under contract or were packer-owned in 2012). Then, these ‘Big’ guys can still exert considerable pressure on the actual producer with respect to price, forcing producers to cut costs in raising their hogs that might well influence the living conditions adversely even if the ‘little’ guys don’t intend to do so voluntarily. Similarly, I am sure that the words of ‘dumping’ antibiotics into feed were somewhat ill-chosen; yet, even when veterinarian-approved, preventative use of antibiotics in animal production can be problematic, especially when veterinarians have conflicts of interest since they are also paid by the industry to promote the antibiotic products (as NPR addressed here: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=240278912). Again, I am sure that is not the case for every farm, and I wouldn’t want to make any generalizations on a particular one, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the entire article is overblowing the issue at hand. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts though!

      1. Actually the hogs that are raised in my county (and we are the #9 county in the US) are not owned by large corporations, but rather are owned by local farmers. I know of no hog farm where the hogs are owned by corporations. Yes, we have a marketing agreement with our packer (who happens to be Hormel). The marketing contract actually gives us a better price than if we sold without one. We are paid extra if our hogs meet their expectations as far as leanness, etc. As far as antibiotic use, remember farmers have to pay for those. There is no benefit to us in buying antibiotics when they are not needed because it comes out of our checkbook. Some other farmers may not own the pigs that are raised on their farms. They are paid a fee to take care of the pigs. But the pigs are owned by another local farmer.

        Thank you for the conversation. I think this is so important. From my perspective as being a farmer in southern Minnesota, I felt the article was really overblown. The article is not representative of what is done locally. That is why I responded. I can honestly say that the hog farms here (and there are many) are owned by family farms. These are farmers that I go to church with, we are neighbors and our children went to school together. They are local. It’s a little deceiving because sometimes farmers go together and build a sow farm where they have control over the health, genetics and management of the farm. To outsiders, it may look like “big ag” or “corporate”. But these are all local people.

        Again, thank you for the conversation. I love to talk about these issues with you because you are respectful. I would welcome you to follow my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/minnesotafarmer) and my blog (www.mnfarmliving.com) because I write about what we do and why we do it. There is such a disconnect between farmers and consumers, as you know.

        1. Thank you as well for your fascinating insights, Wanda! I am keenly aware that first-hand farmer accounts such as yours are often direly missing in the conversation between consumers and activists and so I value your input – as well as the time you put into providing it – very highly! Please continue to comment, and I’ll definitely check out your blog as well 🙂 Happy New Year and happy farming!

    1. Rhonda, your question led me down an [albeit fascinating] rabbit hole; I can’t find the original either! The best I can do is a Wendell Berry speech that is sometimes quoted (http://agrecon.mcgill.ca/ecoagr/doc/berry.htm) and this really interesting piece (http://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V41N03_95.pdf) on Benson’s life, philosophy and appointment in which he is quoted as saying “You ask about my advice to farmers who risk losing their homes, equipments, and life savings. If I were in that condition, I would check closely to see if I was operating as efficiently as possible. […] If this still did not prove satisfactory and I had a small farm that did not require my full attention, I would attempt to supplement my income through outside work.” This in response to his 1954 Agricultural Act which slashed a lot of farm subsidies and loosened price support for farmers. This is sort of related to “get big or get out”? But good question! Also, I saw that Earl Butz is sometimes also accredited with that mindset, though he served two decades later under Nixon.

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