Updated: Mar 31, 2020
This morning, as I was laying in bed cuddling with the pups and not quite ready to start my day, I decided to browse through my Facebook. A woman was selling pasture-raised chickens that were butchered, packaged, and ready to hit the freezers on a local Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook Group. She had a picture on her ad of her pasture-raised Cornish hens hanging out in their mobile coop. My eyes were immediately drawn to the comments on the ad, I was not surprised AT ALL by the negative comments that started filtering in.
"How are these pasture-raised when they are in a cage?"
"Looks overcrowded to me..."
The comments went on from there, and it reminded me of my last blog post about how disconnected people have become with food. Normally, I would have scrolled on by as I usually do not stick my nose into situations like that, but this lady was being verbally attacked for just trying to sell some of her homegrown birds. I decided to respond back to the negative comments and here is what I said:
" It is really sad that people are so quick to get their food from a grocery store, yet have to bash or make negative opinions about someone that is trying to raise food in a better way.
These birds feed off the micro-environment living in the grass. Just because we can't always see it certainly does not mean it's not there. Also, if you took a closer look there is a feeder hanging in the mobile coop which would have grower feed in it, and they have plenty of water.
You think the food you buy at the grocery store is raised this way?! Not a chance.
These mobile coops are moved to new patches of grass every few days. Not only is this great for the birds but amazing for the soil environment.
These types of meat birds don't require much room as they are very inactive birds so I don't think over-crowding is an issue.
As someone who raises birds for eggs and meat I think they are doing a good job. If you want to understand better why people raise animals certain ways, please ask us questions first before being negative.
This is the exact reason why there is such disconnect between people and where their food comes from."
To my surprise, that comment got a TON of likes, and all of the negative comments stopped after I posted this comment. I didn't set out to be defensive or try to one-up the negative commenters, but instead, I wanted them to understand that this is how pasture-raised birds are raised (here in the Midwest anyways). This just goes to show again that people have this romanticized idea in their heads of how ALL animals are raised, and yes, some animals are raised in those fashions, but the majority are not. This lady selling her birds was doing a fine job and had a good setup for her birds, but people were quick to think this lady was running some kind of factory farm.
Reality #1 (Clicky Chickens)
I also think that social media is both a help and harm to the agriculture industry. Social media allows us to show people in real-time how our animals are being raised. However, many people only show the good stuff. The beautiful farm scenery. The baby calves. The chicken roosting on the fence-post. They hardly ever show the reality of farming. The chick or calf that didn't make it. The garden that got eaten down to the ground by insects or rodents. The mud and mess from last night's storm. These are the things I try to help people understand through this blog. Yes, there are many picture-perfect moments, but nothing is THAT perfect, especially when animals are involved.
For example, Austin and I had to rebuild a water drainage system for our birds last week, because our coop was a wet mess and stunk so bad it could make your eyes water. The ducks are slobs, and I would have been so embarrassed had anyone seen the state the coop was in for that period of time. I mentioned our first water-collection system build in a previous blog, but that plan quickly failed. This is the reality of farming. We had a bad situation, and we built tubs with drain pipes on them to drain any spilled and slopped water outside the coop. Since then, we have mucked the entire coop, let it dry out, and replaced with new bedding. Now the coop is back to being "picture-perfect".
Reality #2 (Dead Orchard)
Many people in the agriculture industry are afraid to post these real-life situations to their social media accounts because they will instantly be criticized for not properly taking care of their animals, or that they are failing as farmers. That is why I think it's so important that people STOP the negativity, and turn that into asking questions instead. Help to better understand WHY things are done certain ways, before assuming it's cruel and wrong.
Reality #3 (Instagram v.s Reality)
If you are ever unsure if an agricultural practice is a humane practice, or are unsure why we do things the way we do, please ask us first. Please stop assuming that because 1 bad person did something wrong, that everyone in agriculture has the same ethics, because those kind of assumptions are only driving the wedge further between farms and the people that don't quite understand these complex production systems.
If you have not done so already, please go back to Blog Post #15 "The [Short] Food Chain" and read about our journey raising our meat chickens. I don't show any graphic pictures, but I tell you the honest truth about butchering our own birds.
Also, I am an open book. As spending my corporate career in the cattle industry, and having my small farm on the side, I am always happy to answer any and all questions that anyone wants to ask me. Please do not ever hesitate to reach out if you have questions about my farm, the agriculture industry, or specific things I talk about or post to my social media.
Let's work together to build the bridge that gaps the farm and the table.