Voting With Your Food Dollars

farmer holding a sleeping piglet
The American food system has progressively moved to a system full of disconnects. Not just from one part of the equation, honestly, it’s all parts. This post is not about seeking a debate. If anyone knows me, you know that I’m not doing what we do because I’m an Ag-tivist. Reality is, if we are arguing about the quality of food, this shows our hand to truly the first world problems that we face when people around the world are starving for food. They aren’t picky, they just need food.

Conventional farms feed the vast majority of the population in the United States. We have created massive cities that have pushed the small family farms to the far reaches of those cities. Today, consumers want cheap food. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) help greatly with this. Packing animals into smaller spaces with controlled environments, means greater feed conversions resulting in more gain per pound of feed consumed. This helps to lower input costs, speed up production, and produce more pounds per square foot. Through these production models and government subsidies, conventional farmers now have the average American grocery bill accounting for less than 10% of their gross income. (The rest of the world is around 30%). This is an amazing feat but also carries a lot of unintended consequences.

The disconnect happens here. It’s what we call profit maximization over profitability. Every business has to be profitable, but maximizing those profits means eyeing every penny and trying to squeeze every ounce of life out of it. This means we neglect the deeper issues of animal welfare. The deeper issues of employee happiness at the workplace. Yes, the animals in CAFO’s are kept alive. They have shelter, food, water and controlled environments. But are they happy? Are the natural instincts these animals have allowed to be expressed? Having the freedom to use the tools they were given, that makes them who they are. A pig to root, waller, run around in the environment of the season. A chicken to scratch, hunt bugs, eat grass, and be the tiny velociraptors they are. Calves and lambs being able to graze green forage, using their amazing multi stomachs and rumen to convert grass into protein. The ability to have space. To have fresh air. To roam, run, soak up the sun or sit in the shade. Choices. It boils down to choices.

Listen. Whether we like it or not, we as humans are the apex predator in the food chain. We have thumbs yes, but the ability to think beyond simply being instinctual is what separates us. Every animal in nature will eventually be eaten. It’s a fact. It ain’t called the circle of life for nothing. Little things get eaten by bigger things. Bigger things that have no enemies end up getting eaten by the little things when they die. But eventually, all will be eaten. Even if we think we can thwart that by burying death. The worms will eventually win. So this desire to end the eating of all meat is going against nature itself. There will always be meat eaters and those meat eaters will eventually eat other meat eaters and things that only eat plants. It’s just how it works. But, as those who facilitate the production of these animals, removing them from nature and onto “farms” there are those who strive to do better.

So this is where the rubber meets the road. We aren’t here to tell you that the American conventional food model should go away. Reality is, a vast majority of the population vote 3 times daily to fund it and keep it going strong. From your grocery store choices, fast food choices, restaurant choices, concession stand choices, and heck, gas station choices. Everyday we are flooded with choices. Most of which are fueled by how much money something is worth to us. Many people feel they can’t afford higher quality food. I’m not here to tell you I know their situation better than themselves. However, for those who feel there has to be a better, more responsible way, we are here for you. Understanding that all animals were designed to eventually feed someone (if not you then the worms) we want to create an environment for our animals that allows them to have choices. Choices to live their lives in a way that gives them the freedom to express their natural instincts. Yes, eventually there will be a day when they must be harvested (we like to call this their “one bad day”) but up until that day we want them to have a fulfilled life of happiness and comfort. Sounds silly saying that for animals that you know will eventually be eaten but call us crazy then. If you are going to take the life of another living thing, we ought to try and honor them in every way possible. This teaches us to be less wasteful, less disconnected, and more appreciative of what we tend to give no thought to. The feeding of our families.

Eating shouldn’t me mindless. It’s probably the only thing we do at least 3 times a day. For those of you who want something different, we are here for you. Our farm is 100% certified transparent and our goal is to connect you fully with the food system you’re investing in. A true community through food supporting food with a story. For those of you who are happy with where you are at, you’re grown, so you do you. I’m not here to debate. Like I said, we should count our blessings for getting to live in a country that has so many food choices. But let’s all agree that it can always improve. We are the investors that keep all food systems going so let’s invest wisely.

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