Farm Babe: Modern pig ‘factory’ farming: Does reality line up with your view?


By Michelle Miller, Farm Babe

via AgDaily - January 08, 2019


I’m a farmer, but I used to be a big-city girl — at a time during my 20s when felt I should only eat meats with the best-sounding labels on them.


While there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying some of those kinds of products, for me, I felt guilty back then that if I wasn’t buying these labels, I was part of the “problem” of an agricultural system that many saw as too big and detached.


“Factory farming” was a term that used to frighten me. I was under the impression these animal were raised in cruel conditions by corporations that didn’t care. That animals were pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and that all the “factory farms” cared about was profit.


I was wrong.


After becoming a farm writer and advocate for agriculture, I wanted to know the truth and see the reality with my own two eyes, and all I can say is WOW. I am beyond impressed with what I’ve seen. I’ve been to dozens of “factory” farms now and realized that nearly all farms are actually owned by families who really care. They’re business people, and to make a business grow, you have to create a good and healthy product. This means mitigating risk, using fewer inputs, less antibiotics (hormones are not even used in pig farming), and put their care first.


One farm experience I went to recently was in southern Minnesota. A pig farm (raising pork for Schwartz Farms Inc.) and feed research facility for Hubbard Feeds and Alltech, run by Melissa and Jamie Pietig. With agriculture degrees from South Dakota State University, the Pietigs are a young farming couple fully embracing modern tech on their farm, built in 2017. When you first walk in, you see posters that explain regulations and the top-notch care the animals receive. Everything is disinfected, and you’re required to shower and change into clothes and boots they provide, so as to not bring in any outside diseases. These biosecurity efforts mean that these modern farms are now able to raise a vast majority of their pigs with no antibiotics, ever. Years ago when pigs were raised in outdoor lots, they were much more susceptible to disease and to the elements — the flu or other diseases, predators, and harsh weather. There were a lot more antibiotics back then, and protocols weren’t nearly as strict as they are now.


Thank you, technology! And when you first walk into their farm, you’re greeted with with this edge controller Automated Production Cumberland System by AGCO. These high-tech farm “brains” will email the operators if the temp gets too hot or cold, if the feed isn’t dispersing correctly, or if filters or alarms aren’t working right. It’s connected to backup data and power generators and the piglets come onto the farm shortly after they’ve been weaned. The comfortable 84 degree temps for smaller piglets slowly works its way down as they grow...


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