But somewhere along the line, the word “efficiency” became conflated with inhumane, unsafe and unsanitary. I think we all know where to point the finger to find the source of this misinformation and confusion, but the point becomes, what do we do about it now?
There’s been a host of bloggers among you producers who discuss the crucial issue of farm size (an issue, I should mention, that we’ll be discussing at our upcoming Stakeholders Summit). You’ve been trying to discern from consumers what “makes” a factory farmer? Is it 100 animals? 1,000? 10,000?
I often wonder if the average consumer believes that a “factory farm” is similar to the fictitious agri-business depicted in Chipotle’s animated video: cows, chickens and pigs in some skyscraper; injected with some sort of greenish-goo and squished and scrunched until the final product rolls off the conveyor in a neat, little cube of protein.
How do we help consumers understand that just because farmers and ranchers collectively raise and grow a lot of food every year that this doesn’t mean there’s some sinister plot underfoot, or that producers are slaves to the almighty dollar or that animal well-being suffers when push comes to shove.
How do we help consumers understand that technology has improved food safety and quality, as well as animal care? Industry innovators including Dr. Temple Grandin have revolutionized procedures – like off-loading cattle at the slaughter house for example—by using intuition and technology to build curving, winding ramps that reduce animal stress and discomfort.
My initial thought is that we have to embrace the rhetoric and turn it on its head.
You know that old saying that when you point the finger at others, three point back at you? Well, that’s probably true of us in agriculture. For too long we’ve tried to paint the rosiest picture, instead of really opening up about the difficulties in agriculture.
We haven’t been honest about why agriculture has embraced technology to improve efficiency—because we need to be as efficient as possible in order to feed our growing population. And because technology is awesome and our industry wants to keep improving, continuously.
We’ve tried to have it both ways by telling consumers that we’re family farmers (which I know 98.7 percent of you are) while trying to minimize the connections between family farms and corporate processing facilities and integrators.
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