Monday, February 27, 2012

Rejected but not neglected

Our "farrowing crate" at South Pork Ranch
Lots of room, lots of bedding' lots of contentment

A few days ago Terra Brockman  http://terrabrockman.com/ contacted me and made me aware of an op-ed piece written in the NY Times by Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Board.

Terra, knowing my strong belief that hogs (along with many other farm animals) are best raised on pasture knew I would want a chance to share my opinion . She was right.  So I did. Unfortunately the Times did not choose my rebuttal for publication.

But, never fear, due to magic of self-promotion through blogation, I have copied my response for you to read right here. Of course to get the whole gist of the issue you must read Mr Hurst's op-ed piece first.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/opinion/happy-pigs-and-unhappy-farmers.html?scp=2&sq=pigs%20mind&st=Search Then after reading mine let me know your thoughts on pastured hogs. Better yet,  let the Times know your thoughts. Maybe you'll have better luck at getting their attention than I did.



Pigs I Have Known
By Donna O’Shaughnessy
Chatsworth, Illinois


Dear Mr. Hurst,
Please forgive the tardiness of this invitation, I had intended to send it immediately after reading your op-ed piece, Don’t Presume to Know a Pig’s Mind, published Feb. 19, 2012, but my husband and I are just two farmers on a small Central Illinois farm and we were busy…keeping our pigs happy.

So, if you are not too busy writing over simplified articles about “inefficient” non CAFO family farms like ours, I’d like you to come to our home for a pasture raised pork chop dinner. Before we eat, we’ll give you a tour.  You should wear rubber boots and a chore coat as it is nearly springtime and parts of our real farm are muddy with large concrete slabs being in limited supply.

We’ll start outside where 90% of our animals reside. The other 10% are those animals needing to calve or farrow inside due to extreme weather conditions.

You stated in a broad generalization, “But for all we know, pigs are ‘happier’ in warm, dry buildings.”  I think Mr. Hurst; you will be pleasantly surprised to see that our animals, which have access to good shelter at all times, will choose to stay outside. Often reclining in the mud, basking in the sunshine, lounging in the rain, or standing shoulder to hip in the middle of their pasture in the midst of a heavy snowstorm, I find it easy to evaluate their happiness. One indicator; they are not screaming, another, they have no open sores on their legs and feet from standing or lying for months at a time on hard surfaces. A third sign, (related to our pregnant sows) their mouths are not bleeding from the endless bar chewing due to the mind blowing boredom of being confined in a 2 foot by 2 foot gestation crate.

When you visit, there will be no need to wear boot covers, masks, or vinyl gloves. Our herd has a very strong immune system, and besides, when scratching behind the ears of our 600 pound Red Wattle Boar Mad Max, rubber gloves will just decrease the pleasure…for him and you.  Yes, I said “pleasure.”  Our animals do feel pleasure. How do we know since they do not speak? They demonstrate their feelings.
 
They sleep well. They eat well. They play with each other.They nuzzle their babies. They cuddle with their bunkmates. They run. They jump. Their coats shine and their eyes sparkle.

Your comment, “either way, the end result, is a plate,” is profoundly bizarre. Are you saying that because the animal’s primary raison d’etre is solely to provide us with a source of protein; it makes no difference the conditions in which the meat is raised? I am sure you are aware extensive research has been done regarding the decrease in meat quality as animal stress increases.

Regarding your gestation crate comments, I must again encourage you to get out of the confinement buildings and onto real soil. Are you so removed from natural animal behavior that you have forgotten the well-known phenomenon of “pecking order?”  Neither good nor bad, pecking orders serve a real purpose of identifying animals of strength and preference for future breeding. And with adequate space and food, each animal is able to consume what it needs for good health. Your belief that animals get into “violent fights” at feeding time can only be a result of your lack of pasture farm visits. “Grouping together in pens” is not the same thing as pastured life; it is just confinement with a cloud ceiling.

 We run an honest farm business here. It is not a hobby, nor is it part of “the entertainment industry” Our prices are comparable to non-organic farms in our area and less than the certified organic competitors. Our 2011 profit per hundred weight of pork was $75-$100,a decent return as compared to the CAFO’s profit of less than $20 per hundredweight. So much Mr. Hurst for your belief that preventing the problems associated with pastured hog farms are, “complicated, expensive and dangerous to the pigs.” Thus the reason we encourage you tovisit us. What better way to assess the happiness of a hog than to visit him in his home?

Which makes me wonder, Mr. Hurst, are there any confinement farms in your area actively inviting visitors? Generally when you are proud ofyour farm you enjoy sharing it with others. Just a thought.

34 comments:

  1. Great rebuttal to a "journalist" obviously totally ignorant to the fact that there ARE ways to farm other than what he thinks is the best system; or more like what he has been TOLD, because you know damned well he hasn't been in either type of farm (nasty factory or small family farm). Just goes to show how brainwashed people have become and how the majority of people have disengaged themselves from the fact that the pork chop they just ate was a living, breathing, FEELING animal.

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  2. Oh my. I neglected to read (just until now) the end of the article where is states that he used to raise hogs. If he thinks factory farming if the end-all-be-all....I'd hate to know how he raised HIS hogs.

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  3. Hi Donna - I really enjoyed reading your post today. Extremely well stated!

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  4. Eloquent and profoundly written. Good work!

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  5. Very well written. I'm sorry your article didn't make it into the Times.

    I completely understand your point of view about raising pigs. I moved my goat dairy onto the Rockin H Ranch in southern Missouri late last summer. The ranch raises and direct markets grass fed beef and lamb as well as a very large herd of pastured pigs. The pigs are so happy in their natural environment acting like real pigs not simply a bunch of pork chops waiting to be processed. Yes, you can walk out among these pigs and scratch them behind the ears too.

    Big agriculture needs to wake up before it's too late. The customer certainly has.

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  6. Well said Donna; and I hope you followed-up with a good pitch-fork to his rear!

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  7. Giving you a standing ovation here in NY. Fantastic, just fantastic. Thank you for writing that. I am sorry that the NYTimes readers did not get to see it.

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  8. Articles like that one just make me mad. I hate reading how ignorant some of the world is in regard to how their food is raised and the quality of the product that is produced because of it. What a great response, I wish they had printed it. But the folks with mindsets like this have their heads so far you-know-where anyway, it would have never set in for them. Great article Donna!

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  9. Awww, I got teary eyed reading your rebuttal. Right on!

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  10. Thanks for telling the truth, living the truth, and making it available to anyone who wants to come see for themselves what happy farm animals look like and sound like.

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  11. Great job!!! Your farm sounds so inviting how could anyone pass up an invitation to see a successful family run farm? You are a light in a dark world...keep shining strong, and nurturing real food!!

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  12. YOU GO SEESTER!! YOU KICKED HIS FARM BUTT~!!!!

    LOVE PEG

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  13. Excellent rebuttal. The only point you forgot to make is there is a profound and obvious taste difference in CAFO meat and small farms where animals roam free. I get my meat from Cedar Valley Sustainable (and yes they outsource from nearby local farms) and the meat taste and texture blows away anything I get from the grocery store, even from Whole Foods. Yes, it's more expensive, so we just reduce our meat consumption and enjoy the honest, delicious, happy meat on a less frequent basis. Makes for a healthier diet anyway, reducing meat and increasing whole food consumption.

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  14. So well written...thank you for all you and your family do to preserve the way farms are SUPPOSE to be!

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  15. Maybe the Chipotle commercial is overly simplified, but so are Mr. Hurst's arguments. "The only other ways to prevent these problems are complicated, expensive or dangerous to the pigs." You and I know that this is just plain B.S. There are simple, effective ways to raise hogs that are good for the hog, good for the farmer, good for the environment and good for the consumer. You can't say that about any hog confinement operation that I know of.

    Keep up the great work!

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  16. Hey WAlt ! Your big boy Wally just fathered a litter of 12 with our sow Dot. Beautiful happy PASTURE FARROWED piglets! In February no less and the temp was 25 degrees that night.

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  17. Si viviera cerca de ti, te ayudaria en la finca! Suerte y que Dios envie sus Angeles a ayudarte.

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  18. Great response! Love it when plain common sense just makes sense!

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  19. I just read this (as I just recently discovered your blog and am reading through it). Excellent rebuttal! Your invitation--and pointing out that he's not likely to be invited to tour a CAFO--just sealed your well-made points.

    I'm dismayed that I discovered your blog just in time to see you selling your farm and retiring. I do hope animals will remain in your lives in at least a small way. Until then, I'll keep on enjoying your blog!

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