Q: Should we be concerned about how animals are treated on the farm?
Melisa: I love hearing that people care about the well-being and treatment of animals. Farmers, as a whole, have great respect for their livestock and treat them very well. Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples, but this is not representative of American agriculture. Farmers take great pride in the care and well-being of their herds or flocks. Ask any livestock farmer about their animal care practices, and you’re likely to get the full story!
For example, we often hear about how dairy cows are separated from their calves. What we don’t hear is that dairy cows aren’t the most maternal creatures, sometimes causing harm to their calves without meaning to. Not to mention separating the calf allows us to individually monitor the health of each calf.
Q: Are animals raised for food treated humanely?
Melisa: I will say with great confidence that almost all livestock farmers are in this industry because they care about the well-being of their animals. They want their animals to be comfortable, healthy and growing. That can’t happen with mistreatment. Not to mention — most of us could never stomach mistreating an animal. We often take care of our animals long before we feed or care for ourselves.
Q: Why are some chickens raised in cages?
Karah: Chickens raised in cages are raised as humanely as chickens housed in open floor plans and free-range environments. The phrase “pecking order” originated from the pattern that emerges when chickens are housed together and bullies emerge. Cages provide chickens a safe space to live peacefully.
Q: Why isn’t all livestock free-range?
Melisa: Our goal is always to raise safe animals and produce safe food. Oftentimes, a free-range environment allows no control over what our animals may try to eat. Having studied animal science and worked with cattle for years, there are LOTS of things cows will try to eat that could cause serious intestinal issues — and could possibly lead to death. We also have to watch that cows don’t overeat products like corn, alfalfa or clover (found in pastures). Without proper acclimation to these things, they could overeat and develop a number of issues.
Additionally, when kept in pens, animals always have access to clean water. A free-range environment typically means drinking from a stream that could contain any number of harmful bacterias, toxins or trash.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about modern agriculture?
Melisa: I think the biggest and most basic misconception about modern agriculture is that the farmers and ranchers don’t care for the land and animals in their charge — that agriculture has turned into a “big business.” While the industry itself is rather large and does include some big companies, we must remember that the people who are spending every day working the land and caring for the animals do it because they care.