Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Large or Small, We Need Them All!!!

I want to start this post by saying that my intention with this blog is to educate, empower, motivate and provide personal insight into faith, country life, agriculture and the beef industry. I personally believe writing a blog without a defined purpose and goal doesn't make much sense. With that said, what I'm about to write is more of a personal stance and perspective if you will. I guess you could even consider it an opinion post. However, at the same time I truly hope that you will learn something, gain a perspective and understanding and maybe even an appreciation for what I have to say.

It seems that as of late, there is more and more scrutiny, opinions, ideas, criticisms, and debates over agriculture as a whole and the way our food is raised and produced. In recent years consumers have been encouraged and motivated to examine the origins and makeup of their food.  As a result, more and more people have become innately in tune to learning and voicing opinions of how they think their food should be raised, produced and provided to them. I'll stop right here and say I am very glad consumers are making a connection with what they eat and that they desire to know the facts about it's origin, and I believe it is healthy for society to desire the best food possible.

Even though they are in a confined area, these cattle receive
excellent care and treatment and are ensured to provide healthy
food to consumers.
Now, with that said, let me continue on a different path. What has seemed to come along with this movement is many misconceptions, a lot of misunderstanding, and even more ignorance in some areas. Just like every other societal push of thinking and new idea, there is a driving force behind the cause, belief, or motive. Unfortunately, and in some cases detrimentally, in agriculture's case the driving force has been those who feel the current food system is unsafe, unhealthy, and inhumane. The force has been people who believe that anything large when it comes to producing food is bad, that commercial and agriculture don't go together, and progress - well how dare that ever happen!! Instead, these people have promoted and encouraged consumers to pursue organic, all-natural, local, cage-free, crate-free, grass-finished, "sustainable" products ONLY. They have stated that modern production agriculture in essence is too big to care for the animal OR the consumer, only strives to make money, and provides unhealthy food.

It's time for me to get honest. I am so sick and tired of hearing people make accusations against modern and, yes it's ok to call it this, commercial agriculture saying it doesn't care for animal welfare, only cares about the dollar, and is "corporate". I am enraged, disgusted, and fed up with the belief that even though a farm is run entirely by family members, because they operate a 2,500 head feedlot, farm over 4,000 acres of crops and hay, and gross several hundred thousands dollars a year, could never care for all their livestock, raise all their crops the right way and be allowed to make a decent living by running their farm like a business!!!!!!!

Farming, not matter how big, is a tradition and business that
supports entire families who care about what they do!
We live in an age where technology, progress, and environmental stewardship is highly promoted and encouraged. Yet the very industry that combines all these components together the best is accused of using technology too much, having too much progress and not being environmentally caring.
It just so happens that the technology available to farmers today allows them to produce 60% more beef with 30% fewer cattle and using 30% less land, 14% less water, and 9% less energy than 30 years ago. Furthermore, in the same amount of time Nebraska corn producers have been able to raise an average of 50 bushels more per acre while using 37% less energy. Additionally, last year pork producers raised more pigs PER LITTER than PER SOW in 1978, and have done so while decreasing carbon footprint by 35%, water usage by 41% and land demand by 78% for every 1,000 pounds of pork produced. Now tell me that technology doesn't allow for healthy progress and strong environmental stewardship??!! And the best part of this all is not once has the industry been forced to put into jeopardy the welfare and well being of animals or put profits ahead of it!

Modern hog facilities are designed to provide the optimum
comfort level for animals, while keeping the environment
sanitary and reducing waste pollution.
Now let me go back and address one thing. To avoid creating misconception and misunderstanding myself, I do not oppose any of the above mentioned practices. I believe they all have benefits and their place in the niche marketing realm. Where I draw the line of tolerance is when people claim these methods are SUPERIOR to modern production agriculture and blame the current practices for being cruel, inhumane, unethical and greedy.

I know I can never address all the issues within this discussion and I realize people may not fully agree with me on everything I say or all my opinions. So if you take nothing else away from this blog, please ponder this. All facts and statistics aside, the world's population is continually and rapidly growing. Countries all across the global are demanding better food and more proteins. The land available to produce beef, pork, corn, bean, and wheat is quickly diminishing and the need to be more efficient with production is ever increasing. While many things in the industry have changed, from production methods, to farm size, to marketing channels, and especially the way we perceive production agriculture, one thing has remained the same and will continue to last through the ages. Families and producers have and always will put the care and well being of their animals as first and foremost priority. No matter what the size, operation method, or marketing channel, the people of agriculture are loyal to their customer, their animal, and their industry. Ask any producer and they will tell you the cattle get dinner before the family, there are no days off, and the greatest satisfaction is seeing a healthy and happy animal providing food for the world.

So next time you hear a accusatory claim against modern agriculture or a statement of a superior practice, if you aren't sure of the information and facts, ask someone who you know is. If you know the truth, share it. And please remember that no matter what method or practice we choose, we're all in the glorious industry of agriculture and we're all a big family!!!

To wrap up, I want to share this video produced by the US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. I believe it puts into perspective what this industry is really all about!

Until next time, you can find me off the beaten path and ridin' for the brand!!!

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