Last weekend I ventured out with my fellow Field Moms to Chris Gould’s farm, not far from the big city. We learned about his family’s history with farming, toured the facilities, had lunch, and heard from an expert about some current issues in pork production that are having an impact on a global level.
Having recently read responses on the Watch Us Grow blog to McDonald’s decision to require its pork suppliers to stop using gestation stalls, I was particularly interested in seeing the living conditions of the pigs on the farm. While it was a little shocking to see all the pigs lined up in stalls, it was actually a much calmer, cleaner, humane environment than the media had led me to believe.
What’s important to remember is that it really is in the farmer’s best interests to take good care of their animals. Even if all they cared about was making money, they would still treat their animals as well as possible, because more animals thriving equals a larger profit for the farmer. That’s not to say that farmers have an emotional attachment to each animal they raise, because they don’t – and I think that’s hard for a lot of us non-farmers to understand. People like Chris Gould and Pam Janssen aren’t raising pigs to be family pets – they’re raising them to meet the nutritional needs of our ever-growing global population. There is a huge, important difference there. These pigs are food – not pets.
Even so, clearly the farmers care about the animals’ well-being, and are always looking for ways to improve upon current systems of production. I really loved hearing Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, a researcher from the University of Illinois, speak to us about gestation stalls – why they’re used, and the pros and cons of some alternative methods. It’s easy to see a picture of a pig in a stall and jump to conclusions about that pig’s quality of life, but that’s why I’m so happy to be a Field Mom – I actually got to see how the pigs were treated firsthand. I didn’t see a single pig that I thought was being abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated. On the contrary, I could see how the crates actually keep the pigs healthy by allowing the farmers to efficiently and safely provide them with quality care.
I wrote a blog post a few months ago about how being a Field Mom was enabling me to find my own truth – without any spin from the media, activitists, or corporations. I wish every consumer could have these experiences, because they truly are eye-opening, and I believe seeing these things firsthand is the only way to really make educated, fact-based decisions about where your food is coming from.
Elk Grove Village