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Taking Action For Food Choices

September 28, 2012

We’ve been hearing and seeing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of comments about humane treatment of pigs, consumers who want gestation crates done away with, restaurants and food companies who are demanding different management (but not raising themselves nor buying from small producers). Then bring in other factors, including the economic climate for consumers, and there’s a grim outlook. High unemployment, food insecurity and increasing media reports as well as a perfect storm of weather and supply means those who have never worried about food availability would be wise to make some plans. The time has never been better to put action to your food choices and buy direct.

One recent report put hog levels at the lowest since 1975. From:Farmland Forecast, written by Colvin & Co..

“We’re going to see more consolidation in the industry,” said Mark Greenwood, who oversees $1.4 billion of loans and leases to the hog business as a vice president at AgStar Financial Services Inc. in Mankato, Minnesota. “It’s only going to get worse on the higher feed prices.”

For those who are against “factory farms” and large operations, this means the big get bigger in order to meet the demand from those who can’t survive going under. So why are we instituting pig orders now? CHOICES! It’s not just for us. Those smaller places currently in selling to the market are hurting.

Producers may receive about $56 per hundredweight for hogs in the fourth quarter, and the cost of production is estimated at about $72.29 per hundredweight, said Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. That means farmers may earn about $151.20 for a 270- pound hog that cost about $195.18 to produce.

The reason we take orders is to cover those costs up front. These farmers already bore the cost of the feed, and are getting less money for the hogs than what it cost them to produce it? Those who can’t recover, well they won’t be around for next time. Without public support buying direct, farmers have no choice but to take what they can get.

Rising pork prices will boost costs for restaurants and grocery stores. Consumers may pay as much as 3 percent more for pork this year and as much as 3.5 percent more in 2013, the government projects.

So although pork prices will go up, it’s not farmers getting it. Pretty much like dairy farmers when milk goes down and feed goes up, not all will come out the other side. Many complain big farms drive out small, but the truth is your food choices support (or not) all sizes of farms.

There are 5 ways buying direct helps others.

1. It empowers your food choices. You know where your food comes from and how it’s raised. It’s doing something besides just talking, and it’s making a difference for others.

2. It gives small farms a market share – a place where their items are worth something. Our $400 hogs aren’t all profit, and frankly it’ll be a while until there’s any profit. We’ll need to pay the land, facilities, equipment, fencing, feed…all expenses that come out and may go up. We have to be smart enough to plan for that, charge enough to cover it while still remaining a great deal for our buyers. We think we’ve done that.

3. It allows those who don’t have the means to buy direct to have a chance to buy what’s available on store shelves.

4. It reduces demand for those large farms so many love to hate, but who are also bearing the cost of building overhauls to provide what their buyers want. Without a balance we all lose.

5. It spreads out farm and food choices. This is true with hogs as well as chickens, rabbit, beef, lamb and many other foods. You can save money (or pay the same) and eat better if you’re willing to do something in action to make it happen.

The sign is flashing – make your choices now as it can have consequences many years down the road for agriculture. I remember hog farmers 13-14 years ago similarly asking for consumer help in buying direct – and it didn’t come. In the last dozen years, farms got bigger, condemnation of those big farms got larger, undercover videos got worse and in some cases some who don’t need to be in agriculture have a spot because they have the money to survive!

In the end…is it about food? Animals? Farmers? It’s about all of this and more. Make food choices. We all depend on it. We all eat. We all need to make a living. We criticize those who make workers in other countries work in ‘sweat shops’ but hold the business owners (farms) to a standard here they must lose money and some expect them to lose more with lower prices. Buy direct. The time’s never been better. Right now – contact us, contact someone.

Preserve food choices by making them.

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