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Who Do You Listen To?

September 3, 2012

As we kick back at BBQ and grilling burgers, hot dogs, steaks and more I think of the information war waged at the food choices you made today. Whatever those choices are someone is opposed to it. There are studies that show vegetarian diet is best and there’s studies that show vegetarian diets are unhealthy. There’s studies that show balance is important and there are people who don’t want balance.

So where do you go for information? Where do you have a conversation about how your food gets to the kitchen you prepared it in? The outlets in the media are many, each finding information that projects their own view, which can influence yours.

Recently my friend Jeff appeared on a panel with Rosanne and several others. The loudest voices prevailed – interrupting and talking over quieter ones and that often happens out here in the real world too. Things are repeated and shouted so “everybody knows ______” when the truth is everybody may know wrong information! The biggest reason I support getting to know those directly who grow food is so you, the ordinary consumer with more power than you realize, has as much information as possible to make a decision, whatever that decision may be.

Do you want low cost bacon? Someone out there is dealing with volume that results in lower costs than others. Do you want hogs to move around? We’re working on that (and with enough people buying farm shares it will happen sooner rather than later). Do you want eggs from hens that are outdoors, or loose in a barn, or whatever the farmer deems the best way for him/her? All of these are choices and all of them have farmers out here providing those choices.

There are many who want ‘humane’ – and in response to the demand there is a rise in agencies who want to verify ‘humane’. Do you know humane when you see it? Are you apt to believe a third party agency to trust they know what they’re talking about? I recently came across standards for rabbit raising. A couple of years ago I asked an agency and there was no standards. One has come up with standards, but it’s not with rabbits in mind!

Now we seek to provide excellent care of our animals, but this isn’t about that. Among the requirements –

2.1.5 Embryo transfer and knowingly using the semen or progeny of animals produced by embryo transfer is prohibited.

The use of embryo transfer has benefits for cattle, horses and sometimes others. For example, with some protocol, rare breeds of sheep and cattle can be brought via embryo transfer or semen (artificial insemination) where live animals cannot be brought. However, this gives a false information in a backhanded way – I know of NO rabbit breeder of any size or breed using embryo transfer or artificial insemination! Not one. Ever. If it’s there someone must be doing it right? Or if it’s there it gives the illusion that the normal is special…because some agency approves.

Here are some other issues – in this faction cages or confinement aren’t allowed. From the standards –

3.0.4 A health plan emphasizing prevention of illness or injury must be prepared in consultation with the farm’s qualified expert advisor to promote positive health and limit the need for treatment. It must address:

  1. Avoidance of physical, nutritional or environmental stress.
  2. Lameness.
  3. Climatic considerations.
  4. Vaccinations and other methods to cope with prevailing disease challenges.
  5. Biosecurity measures.
  6. Nutrition.
  7. Environmental impacts, including manure management and run-off.
  8. Pasture management

This is only part of it of course…but for reasons of biosecurity, environmental, avoidance of physical/environmental stress, improved nutrition, protection from predators – ALL of those is why we have cages/pens/stalls for our rabbits! There aren’t vaccinations for many things that affect rabbits. So if we address all that, but the solution is unacceptable, and in order to be acceptable we must subject our animals to stress, risk of death from predators/environment/disease then is it really about humane?

Are there things we have planned to do differently? Yes! We’re working on a geothermal climate controlled area, seasonal forage pens (planted for maximum forage/nutrition), a special system that allows a den while still allowing us access to monitor kits and remove those that die, for the health of the living ones. This takes more room and, yes, the land that we’re working towards. This allows the best of both worlds on many fronts, but would not meet the certification of organizations or groups that seek to outshout or talk over what we’re doing.

Be it rabbits, hogs, cattle or any other animal raised on farms we all have a priority of insuring productivity and health of the animals – it’s interlinked. Sometimes animals “die without permission” – no signs or symptoms, but found dead in their pen. We get no money from selling those – whether large or small. It’s a loss, not only of the animal but financial too. Yes farming is a business, but it doesn’t mean we’re business only. If money doesn’t matter, how much are you willing to spend for food? I’d bet it’d be more than a farm share.

Is what we say something that you can believe? Do the photos, videos and stories farmers tell make a difference in your view of how your food is produced? How should we react when we’re told our (unedited) videos are fake but the edited ones from critics are true…if what’s there for all to see is the truth then doesn’t it show both can be true? Doesn’t that illustrate the importance in everyone choosing their food?

It’s an avalanche of information out there. Many may have a louder voice and talk over us but does that make it the unvarnished truth? Do you have the capability to take information and make a balanced decision how you want your food raised and follow through with that?


Who – and what – do you believe?

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