Food sourcing has become a hot button topic among those in the agriculture community recently. What is food sourcing and how can it affect the mindset of our farm businesses?
The new buzz in the food world is about food sourcing. Where does the food come from? What is it’s story? Is it organic? Is it GMO free? Did my steak have a name? These are all questions that you may here at a farmers market (yes, even the last one). But I believe the topic at the core of this matter is reconnecting the consumer and the producer.
A recent story on Drovers.com brought to attention the pending lawsuit against Valley Oaks Steak Company, a CAFO in Lone Jack, Missouri. The lawsuit describes an atmosphere of flies, increase traffic, pollution and a horrific stench caused Valley Oaks. The suit accuses Valley Oaks of trespassing and being a nuisance.
For anyone who has ever driven past a CAFO, or feed lot, knows that there is a distinctive smell associated with these operations. To many, the smell is a normal part of living. But for others, it gives them a negative view of what animal agriculture is. It makes them believe that cattle are produced like cars in a factory. All jammed packed into a concentrated area for their entire lives, living in misery.
But any of us who have experienced the life cycle of livestock, we know that the CAFOs are just a small portion of their overall life. Regardless if you are conventional or 100 % grass fed ( Salad Bar Beef according to Joel Salatin), we do know that nearly all cattle are born and raised with their mothers in a pasture. Even from time to weaning until heading to finish, calves are turned out on grass as corn is introduced into their diets.
The problem is that we as producers who know the life cycle are so resistant to being transparent to the consumers which we serve. All we want to do is complain about them not “knowing how it really is.” I think its a common behavior among producers to simply complain about a problem instead of facing it head on. We are too worried about doing things the way dad did them or the way the industry has been doing it to even think about a change.
As a true believer in free market capitalism, I believe that we need to embrace this newly found food sourcing movement. I believe that we need to have open conversations between producers and consumers and let them truly decide what they want to feed themselves and their families. I’m not sure of the transparency in the Valley Oaks situation. Maybe Valley Oaks has been completely open and honest about what is going on at their operation. Maybe its the community surrounding them who are the ones being stubborn. But what I do know is that the stress surrounding the future of agriculture can be alleviated if we are open and honest and flexible with our operations. If we talk to the people not involved in the production, but are actively consuming our products, we can take all of the guess work out of it. We can eliminate the boogeyman from coming to get us in our sleep. As the old saying goes, if your not growing, you’re dying.
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