Turkey Farming: You Decide!

Here is a conventional Ohio turkey farmer speaking about his operation. I should note that he does not sell directly to consumers, rather he’s a contract grower for a meat processor:

Here is the Lindenhof Farm, an 85-acre farm in Pennsylvania. I should note that hormones are not allowed in poultry farming, but antibiotics can be used.

Questions to ask after viewing:

1. What are the important differences between the two operations?

2. What are my first reactions to the two different operations?

3. What kind of turkey operation do I want?

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Let’s Clear Up What a CAFO Is, OK?

courtesy of Derekbalsley

I’ve been a little unfair before. I’ve generalized the practices of CAFOs on to the entirety of animal agriculture. I think I need to be more specific and clear up the issue of the CAFO.

Definitions (from the EPA):

AFO (Animal Feeding Operation): You confine animals for at least 45 days in a 12-month period, and there’s no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation): It meets the definition of an AFO, and The operation meets one of the Regulatory Definitions of Large CAFOs, Medium CAFOs, and small CAFOs.

From the USDA: “A production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined spaces, and that substitutes structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls, and manure management) for land and labor.” Side note: This is why the term factory farm is sometimes used interchangeably with CAFOs.

You must look up the regulatory definitions of large, medium and small CAFOs in this pdf from the EPA. There are 1,607 CAFOs in Iowa.

CAFOs make up approximately 15 percent of total AFOs. Why is anyone worried about 15 percent?

From the Union of Concerned Scientists (2008): “CAFOs now produce more than 50 percent of our food animals. They also produce about 65 percent of the manure from U.S. animal operations, or about 300 million tons per year—more than double the amount generated by this country’s entire human population.

So, while the term CAFO may  not describe the majority of farms in the US, it certainly describes where/how the majority of animals are raised in the US.

Benefits of CAFOs:

–Economies of scale, cheaper meat, dairy & eggs

–Greater efficiencies

–Stability in animal environment

Downfalls of CAFOs:

–Potential impact on air & water quality

–Monopolization of the market

–Potential compromise of animal welfare; due to technologies/methods employed

–Lack of biodiversity

–Smell, smell, smell

This list is not exhaustive and potential benefits and downfalls of CAFOs need to be examined more in-depth in subsequent posts.

So, I’ve already mentioned that “factory farm” is sometimes used interchangeably with CAFO. But is factory farm a new term invented by the recent movement of foodie elitist tree-hugging animal rights activists? Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian, 1964:

Factory farming, whether we like it or not, has come to stay. The tide will not be held back, either by the humanitarian outcry of well meaning but sometimes misguided animal lovers, by the threat implicit to traditional farming methods, or by the sentimental approach to a rural way of life.

Why do CAFOs get people worked up? From a philosophical and common sense point of view…

The principle of confinement in so-called animal science is derived from the industrial version of efficiency. The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest numbers in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor, and attention. To subject innocent creatures to such treatment has long been recognized as heartless. Animal factories make an economic virtue of heartlessness toward domestic animals, to which we humans owe instead a large debt of respect and gratitude.”

— Wendell Berry, Stupidity in Concentration

I think a lot of farmers and industry advocates will take offense to Berry’s caricature. I admit it might be too harsh. But that’s how the public sees CAFOs. It’s going to be tough for advocates of intensive production to explain to the public that this system has the animals’ best interest in mind. Most people will see through this and realize that while animal well-being is certainly considered and promoted within the system, the system was ultimately designed with the idea of getting the most out of the least. And for people like myself, I think we owe the animals more respect in the process of farm to plate.