I am not a factory

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Anne Burkholder Feedlots and other livestock operations of a certain size are called CAFOs – confined animal feeding operations. Some in the industry shy away from calling their operation a CAFO in conversation because somehow it has an “industrial” connotation.

Not Anne Burkholder.

Burkholder, owner of Will Feed, Inc., Cozad, Neb., is proud of the cattle she produces at her feedlot and embraces the term CAFO as she explains its meaning to consumers who read her Feed Yard Foodie blog. Burkholder’s August 2 post, “I’m Not a Factory Farm,” explains to readers what a CAFO is and that Burkholder is in no way, shape or form a “factory”. Her blog says, “My CAFO houses cattle who are cared for by people. There is no mechanized ‘factory’ that accomplishes this.”

I asked Burkholder why she chose to liberally use the word CAFO in this week’s blog. Burkholder, who was busy attending the NCBA summer conference in Orlando, e-mailed me some very thoughtful comments back. “I think that we as beef producers need to be proud and stand behind who we are,” she says.

“I am proud to care for cattle and raise beef. I am proud to own and manage a CAFO.  ‘Putting a face’ on CAFOs and ‘factory farms’ helps to define them in honest and accurate terms. It is easy to hate a negative image, but much harder to hate a person. We can't hide from the terms because someone else has defined them in a pejorative way, but we can redefine them honestly and with the transparency that the consumer is asking for.”

Burkholder’s blogs are filled with photos from the feedyard that show consumers everything from cattle pens, how feed is delivered and the people who care for the cattle every day.

A wife and mother of three, Burkholder understands the modern consumer’s wants, needs and concerns about the food they put on their families’ tables. In her blog she uses pop culture examples to make her point with other mothers. “The term ‘factory farm’ has been defined by some media and special interest groups in a terribly pejorative sense,” she explains. “I used a Harry Potter example in my post because I thought that was something that everyone could visually picture--then I could juxtapose that image with the true image of my feed yard. I really struggled as I wrote this post because it is such a difficult topic to talk about.

“I am so proud of what I do,” Burkholder continues. “I truly believe that I live an admirable life caring for cattle. I am devoted to quality cattle care and quality beef production. I want the consumer to know how much I care, and to realize that a term like ‘factory farming’ is a sensational term that has little in common with the way that I care for cattle and raise beef.”

Burkholder says this is a very difficult topic to talk about. “Emotional issues are hard to write about, and I have been personally attacked on this topic and that makes it even more difficult. I tell my kids that ‘the right thing is not always the easy thing to do’, and I took that to heart when I wrote it.”

Burkholder’s article finishes with these sentiments:
I am an American.  
I am a wife.

I am a mother.
I am a cattle caregiver.
I work at a CAFO.
I laugh, I cry, I love, I live, I care with every fiber of my being.
I hope that you think of me when you go the grocery store and look at the beef in the meat-case because it is people like me that care for cattle and raise beef.

I am not a factory.

Read Burkholder’s Feed Yard Foodie blog here.


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Janet Weeks    
California  |  August, 04, 2011 at 11:26 AM

Cattle "caregiver," give me a break. The sense I get from "beef" producers is that they "care" about cattle only to the point of turning a profit, and only to the point of putting their "beloved" product on the truck bound for slaughter. "Burkholder’s blogs are filled with photos from the feedyard that show consumers everything from cattle pens, how feed is delivered and the people who care for the cattle every day." These are photos that show consumers EVERYTHING?! Hardly! The photos may show the feeding part of "beef" production, but they by no means show the ending part: the transport to slaughter, the slaughter itself, and the "processing" of dead animal body parts. What is a factory but something that produces a marketable product. Cattle in a feedlot are nothing more than a commodity or marketable product. When each "unit" is fat enough to "process," off "it" goes to be "harvested," a euphemism if ever there was one. What consumers need to see is the WHOLE story. You see, when "beef" producers tell half truths and half the story, consumers feel they've been deliberately duped and deceived. We feel as if we've been taken for fools. But no worries. With the Internet and undercover videos aplenty, consumers are finding out what happens from "farm to fridge." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THIODWTqx5E&feature=player_embedded And the more we know, the more empowered we are to make conscientious consumer choices.

Veganforlife    
California  |  August, 04, 2011 at 11:28 AM

Cattle "caregiver," give me a break. The sense I get from "beef" producers is that they "care" about cattle only to the point of turning a profit, and only to the point of putting their "beloved" product on the truck bound for slaughter. "Burkholder’s blogs are filled with photos from the feedyard that show consumers everything from cattle pens, how feed is delivered and the people who care for the cattle every day." These are photos that show consumers EVERYTHING?! Hardly! The photos may show the feeding part of "beef" production, but they by no means show the ending part: the transport to slaughter, the slaughter itself, and the "processing" of dead animal body parts. What is a factory but something that produces a marketable product. Cattle in a feedlot are nothing more than a commodity or marketable product. When each "unit" is fat enough to "process," off "it" goes to be "harvested," a euphemism if ever there was one. What consumers need to see is the WHOLE story. You see, when "beef" producers tell half truths and half the story, consumers feel they've been deliberately duped and deceived. We feel as if we've been taken for fools. But no worries. With the Internet and undercover videos aplenty, consumers are finding out what happens from "farm to fridge." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THIODWTqx5E&feature=player_embedded And the more we know, the more empowered we are to make conscientious consumer choices.

Hollister    
New England  |  August, 06, 2011 at 09:20 AM

Why are vegan propaganda artists allowed to post on a pro-cattle farming site? I would think this site would be a safe haven from their garbage. I guess they won't miss a chance to troll on any pro-meat/pro-animal agriculture posting, no matter how far removed from other vegans they may be.

Janet Weeks    
California  |  August, 06, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Just when I had hoped that at least one person in the business of animal agriculture was beginning to "get it," from the American consumer perspective, now I have my doubts. You in the business should listen to your own, Dr. Kurt Vogel, "a cattle handling expert who learned his trade while a student at Colorado State University from the best – Temple Grandin." We could advance to a mutual understanding and respect for one another if we were to but "listen" to the other side. I am not a troll but one with a valid criticism about the way Big Animal Ag fails the American consumer. Or, as Dr. Vogel so accurately puts it, "In livestock agriculture, we accept the ideology that we are doing everything we can to care for our livestock and that only we know what is best for our animals. When this is questioned by society, we become offended and defensive instead of taking a more objective look at what needs to be explained or improved on our farms. My advice here is: don’t take questions from society personally – calm down, think about them, and respond appropriately." http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/latest/Jolley-Five-Minutes-with-Dr-Kurt-Vogel-ethics-and-animals-126833493.html#tabs-6

Dr. Hill    
wyoming  |  August, 07, 2011 at 12:06 AM

Dear Janet, As a vetrinarian, rancher, father, and lifelong animal lover, I vehemently oppose your simplistic and disingenuine criticisms of Anne and those involved in farming and ranching. You obviously have little or no firsthand knowledge of the commitment, hard work, and physical, mental and emotional difficulty required to raise livestock. Please don't tell me that cowboys riding through blizzards to pair up cows and calves, or push cattle and sheep out of draws where blizzard snow will drift and suffocate them are doing it solely for the money. Please don't tell me that all the times I pulled partially decomposed fetuses from cattle, goats, bison, and sheep while dry heaving - at the least - was done for the money? I suppose staying up all night to run IV fluids to a horse fighting colic was motivated out of greed also? Are you kidding me? Do you know how little large animal veterinarians and livestock raisers make? In case you are completely unaware, lack of profitability is one of the major reasons ag production is failing to keep pace with the worldwide demand for food and a major reason there is a shortage of large animal veterinarians in the US. Did you not see the riots in Egypt? Africa will never be able to produce enough food to support its population now or in the future. Do we turn a blind eye? Don't you understand that in a free market profitability increases ag production and drives food prices lower? As someone who was also educated at Colorado State,including courses by Dr.Grandin and other livestock handling experts,I can state from firsthand experience that most caregivers are just that, and they intuitively understand the concepts the experts are trying to articulate to the masses -- including the willfully ignorant and purposely misinformed.

Janet Weeks    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 07, 2011 at 02:09 PM

Good doctor, you do not advance your cause by insulting or demeaning me or any other member of the public who expresses his or her honest concerns about animal agriculture. Read and take to heart the interview of Dr. Kurt Vogel I posted. http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/latest/Jolley-Five-Minutes-with-Dr-Kurt-Vogel-ethics-and-animals-126833493.html#tabs-6 You could stand to learn some diplomacy in the way you interact with the public. Taking an arrogant, paternalistic, stance will do little good in promoting understanding and respect between the two sides: animal growers and animal protectors. In light of repeated undercover video investigations that tell another truth, many of us have grown mistrustful of industry’s half-truths and outright lies.

Janet Weeks    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 07, 2011 at 02:11 PM

In Vogel's view, "there are a few major mistakes that have been made by animal agriculture in their own promotion. The first is that animal agriculture has been slow to engage the public, and has traditionally tried to limit what the public is able to see out of concern that the public will find some part of what they do to be inflammatory. The second error was the inappropriate use of advertising to portray an image of specific sectors of the industry that is not true.” Mr. Vogel says that beef and dairy producers “expressed disappointment over the California Milk Advisory Board’s “Happy Cows” commercial series because the images of cows on green, rolling pasures were not a true portrayal of the dairy industry. Other sectors of animal agriculture have done the same sort of advertising in some form. When the public realizes that the commercials are not consistent with the industry, they become disgusted.

veganforlife    
California  |  August, 07, 2011 at 05:04 PM

The third error that animal agriculture has made is not focusing enough attention on making sure that egregious abuse issues do not arise. After an undercover video is released that shows unacceptable abuse to animals, it is natural for the public to question what is actually happening on farms.” He goes on to advise, “By starting a dialogue with society and allowing the public to see what happens on farms, at markets, and in slaughter facilities, we can strengthen the future of animal agriculture … but we have to respond to society concerns with clear explanations … and corrective action when necessary. … A great amount of respect could be gained for animal agriculture by openly acknowledging that we aren’t perfect, but we’re working on it.”

Brad    
August, 08, 2011 at 04:29 PM

if you were to visit a peanut butter factory, I bet you wouldn't be too interested in eating peanut butter either.

Janet Weeks    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 08, 2011 at 05:40 PM

I would add a fourth mistake by animal agriculture: industry’s attempt, in four states this year, to silence investigators, cover up, and hide what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses through “ag-gag” legislation. These proposed laws heighten the public’s alarm and skepticism as to what is so damning about animal agriculture that those in the industry are pushing for this type of legislation. Now do you understand where I’m coming from?

Mark A. Furman    
New York  |  August, 22, 2011 at 06:43 PM

I commend Mrs. Burkholder for her efforts to educate the public. As for her profession, it saves me the trouble of trying to raise and slaughter a beef cow in my backyard. Thank you Mrs. Burkholder!

ED    
PA  |  August, 08, 2011 at 09:03 PM

Anne and Dr. Hill Keep up the good work, and thank you for it.

hamza    
pakistan  |  August, 10, 2011 at 03:22 AM

nice........... i love cattles


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