Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Nothing humane about animal agriculture

As a 6th generation United States farmer, I have had my fill of people talking about “humanely raised meat” when they don’t have a clue.

As a person who, in my 48 years on this earth, has provided daily care for more than 1 million animals, I think I am qualified to address the topic. The real experts in animal welfare are the farmers and ranchers who actually brave the elements of Mother Nature and get the job done.

Today is a great day to talk about how misguided the concept of “humanely raised meat” that folks like Chipotle are presenting to the public.


The only thing that is “humane” about rearing livestock for human consumption is the farmers and ranchers themselves. There is NOTHING else humane about it. Look the word up in the dictionary if you don't follow my drift.

At midnight last night I was still assisting a sow in the farrowing house by helping a couple of smaller, weak pigs get a good start.

By 5:30 am I was back in the farrowing building but the walk to get there was tough. It was 17 degrees with a 30 mph North wind and 8-10 inches of fresh snow.

Inside the farrowing barn, the sows and pigs were content in the farrowing crates and the temperature was a comfortable 74 degrees. They have no idea what it is like outside.

After completing the inside chores, I started the tough job of providing the feed and water needs to the outside hogs that have access to a bedded shed and the out doors.

Here you can see the sows that live in the environment that some think is ideal. On the other hand, if I were a sow I would choose to live inside where I did not need to pile on top of another pig to protect myself from the howling wind.

Pigs can be managed by good herdsmen to thrive in any type of environment. The farmer, not some pencil pusher in his/her comfortable cubical, should make that decision.

For the non-farm folks today, their romantic notion of pig rearing with access to outdoors and bedding is exactly the way my grandfather raised pigs in 1950.

What other single thing in life do you do like anybody did in 1950? From banking to communicating to driving to acquiring information. Not one single thing today is really like it was in 1950 yet we are told that farming and livestock production should be and we are also expected to feed a population that was unheard of in that era.

Why should we raise animals in “retro-style”?  Certainly not because the animals demand it. Give the sow the choice and she will choose a crate inside a building 100 times out of 100.

So after a couple hours of plowing snow, feeding and watering I make my way back into the temperature controlled farrowing building where another sow has 11 wonderfully active warm pigs that required ZERO assistance.

If that sow was in a pen with bedding and access to outside as demanded for “humane care”, there would be nothing there but a pile of dead pigs. Thanks to the advancements in modern pig rearing, I have a healthy litter of bacon makers on the way.

In closing I am asking that people stop referring to “humanely raised” milk, meat or eggs unless they are talking about the very animal husbandry that the farmer knows best how to provide.

The Chipotles of the world can sell their pig in a blanket, but let the farmer worry about keeping the live pigs warm.

Contact me at TrentLoos@gmail.com or www.LoosTales.com or better yet just call my cell 515 418-8185

59 comments:

Brian Randolph said...

So very true Trent!

M-K said...

Thank for writing this article! I write a blog called the "art of agriculture" and just wrote a post on why I'm an anti-PETA activist. It is so frustrating to listen to people who have never even visited a farm criticize and lecture those who study, live in, and work in the industry. Great article. Sharing!

julia virosteck said...

Excellent post! Thank you for telling it like it really is and thanks for taking such good care of your pigs!

Julie V.

thecommonsensecowgirl said...

Thank you!!! I could not like this post more! (As I'm attempting to regain feeling in my frozen feet from doing chores tonight.)

Greg Vossler said...

I agree completely (while doing chores at 6 degrees) and hope that others will also! It is always sad when those that have so little to do with an industry and a way of life can have such an impact. Keep spreading the truth!

Heath Lee said...

Love it Trent, heard you speak down at the U.S. Custom Harvesters convention last year in Wichita. Did a great job there and did a great job on this topic. Thanks for the post. Stay warm down there its cold here in Hay Springs too.

Jim C said...

Thank you Trent for telling the real story of why we have modern pork production and the reason why we will be able to feed the people in this world in the future! Just as no one wants to saddle up their horse to go to work, modern pork production has tripled the amount of pigs we raise because they are more comfortable and provide the consumer a safer product. Just as every father wants to know where their 16 year old daughter is a night, so do we want to know what our pigs are exposed to at night when we are not around them. Think of that next time you select for free range products when you dine at Chipotle!

Teresa Schoellkopf said...

Thank you. The sour taste I've experienced has been the use of the same and similar as selling points to people looking toward becoming involved in raising their own animals. It makes my skin crawl. It sows disappointment like a seed that sprouts and grows, when things don't go as 'pretty' as they were told. And animals get caught in the shuffle, because they don't have enough freezers. People want instant, anymore. Raising livestock is so far from instant satisfaction when you jump in with a willingness to bring them home to ignorance.

farmer Tom said...

It was warm at your place.

I came out of the finisher unit the other morning, the temp was -5. Inside it was a nice warm 67 degrees.

Thanks for writing this. You are spot on.

Warren Thomas said...

Very well stated. I just returned from the barn, assisting new ewes with 1st time lambs. Cold and snow and I have been at it since 7 AM, it is now 11PM. Will begin tomorrow all over again.

The righteous said...

This article is awful. How about I stick you inside a crate for your entire life and see how you like it ? That little time outside is the only time the sow gets to enjoy life before it is slaughtered... So let's say the same for you. You are born, raised for a few years in a small crate and then slaughtered. Some life huh? These are real sentient animals.... Think about that.

Crystal Perry said...

Trent, I really enjoyed reading this blog. My Dad liked to tell me a story about spending a very cold night in the farrowing shed on his family's farm helping with the birth of pigs. He went back to his house where my Grandma had made some breakfast for him, then went back to the barn where he'd found that the sow had rolled over and smothered all of the pigs. Needless to say, he wasn't happy about spending that cold night for nothing.

robert groom said...

The pig isn't inside a crate it's entire life, it is housed to give birth and rear that litter. Animals are not sentient, they are instinctual "self-righteous" and are bred for a purpose, which farmers and ranchers understand means that a well fed, content animal results in more profit and a better eating experience for the consumer, insuring they remain consumers. But ignorance is bliss isn't it?

D Fitswell said...

You need to do some research on how pigs are raised. Knowledge is power.

Erin said...

Thankfully the truth is finally being brought to light. The farming industry, as so well put by this blogger, is only interested in "bacon makers", not the comfort and welfare of a thinking feeling being. It's all about profit and people are now demanding better for food animals. The people involved in this industry have to try to justify their cruel practices in order to be able to sleep at night. End of story.

Cindie McCutcheon said...

i think the push for pasture raised meat has more to do with the nutrition of that meat once it reaches the plate as than the humane treatment of the creatures. The good stuff they get from consuming grasses and seeing sunshine (vitamin D please!) instead of corn or processed feed transfers into thier meat, mmmm bacon! Not to mention decreased needs for drugs when they aren't packed in a building. That said, snow covers the ground/ food source this time of year and it is cold! I sure am glad to be inside today - and if I were a pig I would surely feel the same

Todd in KS said...

Excellent. People that think otherwise need to spend a couple of weeks tagging along with you to find out what it is really like.

Roger Losey said...

The righteous, farmers like myself bust our asses so people like you have food in front of you. We put in more hours in a day than you ever will. We care for our livestock, food animals, in the best way possible so you can eat, and in an affordable way. You have no clue. ..don't tall with your mouth full. ..

Livestock Farmer said...

So you consider yourself 'The Righteous'. I consider you to be 'The Ignorant with a Keyboard'. It is evident you nothing of livestock farming. Sows are in a farrowing crate for maybe 3 or 4 weeks at a time. That's all. Easy to tell that you're an uninformed city slicker.

David Victor said...

I raise cattle.
Nothing humane? They are grazers. I plant grasses, legumes, clovers, provide the best water and natural water. Maintain natural shelters, ponds, streams. Feed them all they can eat in the winter along w/grain.

I guess I should be more like you once were if you think this is in-humane (?)

Your blog is troubling and one sided.

Ted Nelson said...

Who has lost their rights? The sow to live in a crate for a couple months while the piglets are nursing or the piglets the right to live by not having the mother kill them by laying on them.
Ted

Mylesofsmyles said...

well I find this story intriguing. I am not sure what the take away is. Should we not strive to treat animals with some basic level of comfort. Most sows in the U.S. spend their reproductive lives confined to a gestation crate. These crates are barely bigger than the sow’s body and prohibit her from turning around. I am not okay with that. Are you Trent?

cindy menning said...

Yeah, very well said. I was raised on the farm. Loved that life. loved the animals. Yes there were times when temps were so cold, blizzard going on, school was called off. You still had to go outside to care for the animals. We learned so much as kids growing up. Sitting under a heat lamp helping a sow deliver. Making sure everything would be OK. Keep up the great work.

The real righteous said...

I am surprised you only have one comment so far from a Vegan......Their minds will never be changed, so no need to waste time and energy trying to do so.

Farmer Brad said...

Cows are much more tolerant of the cold. Have you seen a pig? They don't have a thick coat of hair to insulate them like cattle. So not really one sided because these are two different animals. I have both pigs and cattle and our cattle are outside because they can actual tolerate it.

TamikaMaria said...

As a rancher that frequents health and nutrition websites and boards, I'm pretty sure neither side understands the other. For instance, I find the way some chickens are raised repugnant (in crates stacked one on the other with so little room they can't stand up), but on the other hand I know that it's not possible for them to be frolicking out in green pastures with rainbows and butterflies above them 365 days a year. A pastured chicken/egg is healthier and is going to taste better, but the health nuts freak out if the chicks get a commercial feed supplement. Hello! They can't live on bugs and grass alone, especially in the winter.

I think more people need to start ranching (and trying to make a living on it) so they can understand it better. As a rancher, my goal is to raise the healthiest, happiest animal I can. I'm never going to raise the green pasture rainbow butterfly chicken or cow because it's not possible, but I'm going to raise the best one I can. And it will be delicious.

Farmgirl said...

Great article! Unless you have lived on a farm and cared for animals throughout all sorts of weather, birth, illness, and death then you really have no idea what it is like. I guess that is what frustrates me the most, the masses of people being influenced by a news story here and there and then become experts on how animals are raised.

Ted Ladner said...

I think you have missed the point completely David. Look up the word Humane and see what the definition says.....

Kim said...

Have you ever seen sows housed together? It's like the world we live in. The bigger and stronger pick on the smaller and weak. If given an option sows choose the confinement over the open. There's a YouTube video on it. I worked as a farrowing manager for 4 years on multiple farms. All are given the best possible care and have better living arrangements and medical care than people.

Bruce Funk said...

You bleeding heart righteous...get a life! You act as if pigs/cow/sheep have souls...they are dumb animals that were created for 1 purpose-feeding those of us who have souls, appetites, and sometimes...clearly thinking brains which we use most of!

Nate Brown said...

I raise pigs as well and couldn't imagine putting a sow in the farrowing crate. What are your feeling Trent about gestation crates? I just couldn't imagine looking a sow in the eyes while they are in a farrowing crate and thinking that was the life the sow would choose. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghq_LCIgduk

Anita Loos (no relaton to author) said...

Awesome article, I am the wife of a farmer that goes out in the below zero weather at ANY time of the day or night to make sure our animals are safe. those who think that pigs are in those crates all of their lives are apparently living in a box themselves! I think those who think that should spend a few months(or years) working on a farm following in the steps of our farmers and LEARN something before opening their pie holes as to what is humane and what's not.

Josh Reid said...

Very good read. Thanks for sharing

Leslie said...

Well said. My family has a small pig operation in NC where it's not near as cold, and our pigs love to come inside the barn and even in and out of the crates very willing. A young girl here has started her own blog called Ruralris dedicated to educating people about all types of agriculture. Check her out.

Zach Allen said...

Grow up, Trent.

KellyS said...

I can tell you for certain, that my chickens would not prefer to be in a battery cage or not allowed outside. Except if it's snowing. Then 90% of them would clearly rather die than be in the snow.

I do think that my rabbits would much rather be out on the ground and in the dirt rather than the cages that they live in, even if the do keep them cleaner and parasite free.

The goats? They've made it abundantly clear that they would far rather be in my house than outside, and outside rather than locked in the barn.

So while your pigs might prefer to be inside, I can hardly believe that they would choose to each be in a farrowing crate than loose. So which would they choose? Hard call.

My point.... there are a lot of points on the spectrum that an animal can survive in, and fewer still that they can thrive in. But be humane? Somewhere between the bullshit that PETA spews, and where you are and where the agribusiness farms are is the truth.

anita bomgaars said...

Hey,
Trent, - this is from Anita in Orange City - you nailed it with this article! I'm still waiting from you to send me that movie script!

Ol' Doc said...

Nicely clarifies the difference between those who claim to "care about" animals, and those who actually "care for" them. But let's be clear: there is no maximum level of "human-like" animal husbandry that would satisfy those who criticize modern agricultural practices. Why? We all know why, though the activists rarely say it squarely: They oppose the carnivorous human diet, seek an end to animal agriculture, will do so incrementally since outright opposition is understood by them to be politically impossible, and those "increments" intentionally include raising the cost of production.....all in the name of greater "humaneness" a concept that, taken to the extreme the activists take it, really doesn't allow for animal agriculture in the first place. Meanwhile, who is harmed most by raising the cost of meat or egg production? Well it's the poor, especially the urban poor, who have fewer shopping choices than others. Take a hard look at the demographics of those involved in the animal extremist movement. You won't see many of those poor involved. And isn't that interesting?

William Schott said...

Thanks for sharing Trent, I enjoyed reading this. The truth is, is that we raise pigs for food AND THAT IS IT. And as far as crates go......sows have enough room in them to be comfortable. and truthfully 90% of the time the sow will not move anyway. The amount of piglets saved by crates are well worth any "in-humane" practices farmers preform. (Which by the way, we do not practice).

William Schott said...

Thanks for sharing Trent, I enjoyed reading this. The truth is, is that we raise pigs for food AND THAT IS IT. And as far as crates go......sows have enough room in them to be comfortable. and truthfully 90% of the time the sow will not move anyway. The amount of piglets saved by crates are well worth any "in-humane" practices farmers preform. (Which by the way, we do not practice).

Marie said...

First off, THANK YOU for what you do, farmers have to be the single most unappreciated working groups in the world.

That being said, try not to harp too much on the conscientious consumer that is really trying to do what is best for the animal, their personal health, and the environment. Help by educating us (which you have) and give us practical tips to make better choices. We want to make a difference with our limited grocery dollars, and there is a lot of information to sift through. :)

Marc said...

We raise our pigs in a free-range environment. We also use "Behavioral" observations to determine their overall condition, both mentally and physically.

We are in the south, so our harsh weather is usually measured in days... not weeks or months.

We had a high mortality rate when letting the sows farrow naturally. (Our breed has tiny piglets so farrowing is not a problem, but surviving can be)

We decided to increase survivability we would build farrowing pens. We place them so they would black the prevailing winds.

The challenge (we thought) would be getting the sows into the pens..... If these ladies are within a week of farrowing they RUN to the pens, work the straw in their 25 sf under roof area (pens are 75 SF total) and settle in.

Going back to "Behavioral" ... we see know physical or emotional signs of stress .. actually quite opposite... our sows look and act healthier right up to weaning and will usually re-cycle in a week or so.

Jory Blagden said...

Good article. I was lead to it because my wife saw the picture of you with ice in your mustache and thought it was me. I swear I'm looking at myself. LOL Funny how people complain about crap when they have never got their butts out of bed at 5am and almost froze to death taking care of animals.

Darcy Goodrich said...

Hi Trent, while I agree with you that animal care should be up to farmers and ranchers, and I also dislike the use of "humane" as a marketing tactic, I disagree on 2 points. I too am a generational rancher, and am not looking to pick a fight, just offering my opinion.
1-Farmers are not expected to feed a growing population, that is a myth that farmers have built up for themselves through corporate propaganda and their own bull-headed pride to keep doing whatever is necessary for production despite or perhaps in spite of the cost to the ecosystems and people around them, including their own family. I have been that bull-headed rancher too proud to stop and evaluate my choices and how they negatively affected my farm and family. Once I shedded my 5 generations of imprinted paradigms I realized I am obligated to feed myself and my family alone. If there is surplus it can be shared within my community and any effort put into shipping outside of that community/bio-region is always going to present some debit from the ecological bank account of that region.

2-The notion that a sow farrowing outdoors will end up with a pile of dead pigs - perhaps, but it's just as likely to happen indoors. A sow that crushes all her piglets has poor mothering instincts and needs to be bacon herself, this being part of "humane" management also. A livestock operation managed naturally and humanely must implement a bit of an attitude of "The strong survive but the smart do it better." The beauty of livestock is that the weak and dumb taste as good as the strong and smart, so manage for the latter because they're more profitable.

The pig guy said...

To righteous, one thing for you. When you drive your car down the road at 60mph do you ever think about the poor innocent bugs you hit with the windshield of your car. Or the poor innocent bird that flys into your bumper. I didn't think so. To me that's not humane either. So just think about that the next time you bash how us farmers raise our livestock.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Trent. I'm on my way to vet school, and I think the biggest problem is that most people are misinformed. The media spews out mostly false information. Therefore, if you are really concerned about this issue you should visit a farm and talk with farmers. Research has been done to show when sows are given the chance to freely roam or stay in a crate, most actually spend 90% time in their crates. Many people also fail to realize sows are super aggressive especially to other sows when placed together. They bite each others tail constantly and fight. Therefore, it is actually more beneficial in my opinion to separate them so they don't cause injury to each other. As far as the farrowing crates go, they are super beneficial to both the mother and her babies. The media portrays this horrible crate that digs into the sows side, etc. That is not true. They have room to move around, prevents the mother from crushing her babies and allows for moderation of the mother and piglets.It is also very important to monitor the sow when she is gestating. She needs adequate feed and water which can only be precisely monitored in the crates. Otherwise, you have no idea how much that sow ate, etc. Therefore, I support the use of them even though they can cause minor lacerations, many more injuries can happen while not using them.

Farmer John said...

As pig farmers know sows behavior changes going into farrowing mode (fever) rolling from side to side pushing out piglets and even eating them.Once she is done she changes into a nurturing mode. Old barn had loose farrowing pen but like most farmers losing half or all the litter is frustrating.New barn is both heated and has farrowing crates and gestation stalls Pigs actually do better and live longer with less problems overall.Up here in Canada we wouldn't even think of raising pigs outside .Plus the environmental pollution with manure getting into water supply is criminal and is collected in pits and is spread and worked into ground prior to planting to fully use all of its nutrient value.Water pollution is considered a crime and farmers have been fined for it latest one was fined $325,000

brace leteer said...

I agree 100%!

brace leteer said...

True, but a bit harsh for the naysayers to swallow.

Rachel Henderson said...

Well now - don't forget - many only care about the right to live - until the live hits the ground and then no-one cares - although I suppose they do have more concern about animals than humans! Just a shame that it's not well placed :(

B Gierman said...

did you read the article ..... they are there until piglets are big enough not to get squished by momma laying on them...

Anonymous said...

Another thing to ponder about "pasture raised" is the decreasing amount if acres available for agriculture. I my state there is a conservation group that has taken over 300,000 acres out of production in order to create a preserve for wildlife. Their goal is to continue buying until they have more than 3 million acres at their disposal. That would put 10% of Montana's cow herd out of work. It is better to keep land in the hands of the true conservationists... ranchers and farmers rather than in the hands of "conservationists" looking to preserve and neglect land for the buffalo and prairie dogs. Because you know they aren't going to improve the land!

Anonymous said...

You will find if looked into that those who complain eat the meat, wear the leather, drive the cars, live in the homes and always complain about others. Liberals....who can figure them out, just a bunch of whinners

Unknown said...

I echo your remarks as I farrowed as many as 50 sows per week. I had way more trouble getting sow out of a farrowing then I ever had getting her into the crate. Sows love farrowing crates. I would open my tailgates, and in they would run and start banging their heads of the feed drops. Oh yes, no more pen gestation fighting over feed! Individualized feeders and waterers! The farrowing house was warmer than the gestation barn. Now, at weaning time, I would back these sows out and hurry and shut the tail gate. And if I was too slow, the sow was right back in her crate. When I had more parking sows to farrow than crates. I had to be creative and wean early or farrow outside. How humanae was that? In all that glistening straw, I'd find dead pigs suffocated and crushed by their mother.

Anonymous said...

I am assuming you live in some type of house. Also that you do not work outside all day. And yet you expect that a tiny little newborn piglet, calf, lamb does just this. You are also expecting that a mother animal who has maybe just given birth also does this. Would you then also demand this of your wife, mother, or sister? or from yourself ? Carolyn Dorn, dairy farmher

Anonymous said...

well said !CArolyn Dorn, dairy farmher

Cynthiadh said...

lmao, hmmm why would you put Liberals?? What people eat has nothing to do with political party, lmao. wow I am a meat eater, live in the country and am a Liberal, wow. moron.

Unknown said...

Well Said. Worked on grandpa's farm as a kid and teenager. Sweating buckets in 98% humidity to haul hay for winter feeding and breaking ice during bitter winter storms while wearing enough clothes to cover 6 cubicle sitting pencil pushers without an understanding of Animal Husbandry. Though, not likely they would wear the style of clothes i had on. Grateful for my experience to know where food comes from and that it take our own blood, sweat and tears to keep our animals happy and healthy. Those who are critical might want to watch a human birth to see the tools, medications and handling of a newborn baby. Probably more technical than your description of the new litter that was natural.

MontanaRancher said...

@therighteous......before you open your mouth and start spewing your crap that falls out of it and falls from your fingers to the keyboard please for the love of all things green go and do not just research but get a degree in agriculture then you can come back and talk behind your keyboard since that's about all you are is a keyboard warrior.

@Erin......you my goodness where do I even begin. Ok so you don't like that animals are slaughtered. I'm assuming you've never worn leather, you've not used electronics, makeup, etc. Because guess what there are animals being used for your luxurious lifestyle. So before you start running your mouth about someone just caring about them to make bacon......be sure you aren't using an electronic to state that. Because otherwise my dear sweet ignorant person.....you're a hypocrite. Learn to listen before you speak, farming and ranching isn't for everyone and neither is ignorance. You don't have to like what we do for a living but at least respect the fact that we are willing to do this so you can have all of the things you want in life.