Ethically Raised: It Begins With You

Last night I spent the evening celebrating the upcoming nuptials of one of my closest friends. As I stood, glass of wine in hand, mingling I heard Jay talking with a fellow party goer who was discussing a friend of theirs having turned vegan following some charges being laid against a dairy farm in Chilliwack regarding the unethical treatment of their cows. I'm sure many of you know the video I'm referring to.

"Oh lord, here we go," I couldn't help but think.

Now, I have no problem discussing proper animal husbandry and ethical meat consumption with anyone with an open mind. But, sometimes during a party when someone hears that we're animal farmers they picture the poor life quality of factory farming and pool all us farmers together.

I've only ever been a small scale farmer. And, I've always prided myself on happily raised animals. Central Park Farms will always remain a small producer so we can be sure our animals are treated right.

Jay on the other hand has seen both sides of farming. He is after all a third-generation poultry farmer and was previously the owner of a large commercial farm. So when conversations lead down this path he tends to have a slightly different reaction than I do.

I usually end up lighting the torches and grabbing the pitch fork right along with that party-goer.

'Down with factory farms!,' I'll shout.

But, last night I overheard Jay in a conversation that needs to be had. While he absolutely agrees that the type of farming we do at Central Park Farms is the way to go and is happy that we never have to buy commercially raised meat again, he's also less willing to put the full blame on the farmers.

I listened in as he replied, 'Yes, but consumers are the reason these conditions exist. If you were willing to spend a little more so you could buy quality, well-raised meat then these big commercial farms would either have to raise the bar, or go out of business. But, everyone wants cheap meat.'

It's true. If we as consumers stopped just SAYING we want animals to be raised ethically and actually ACTED on that desire by using our shopping dollars to show meat producers that we aren't willing to accept poor animal husbandry, then it would create the change we all say we want.

My father-in-law who previously sat on the board of directors for the BC Poultry Marketing Board gave me a little insight into why many large factory farms are the way they are. Back when he owned his poultry farm he worked on a 60 cent profit margin per bird. 60 CENTS!

Now imagine how many birds you would need to put in a barn to turn a profit that would support your family. The more room you give an animal in a barn the more you pay in heating, lighting, and bedding, not to mention you need larger buildings and more land to house those buildings.

So now how much money are you left with?

At Thanksgiving when your local Wal-Mart puts their turkeys on sale for .79/lbs people rush down there to snatch them up. We can't honestly believe those are well raised birds, right?

By the end of the conversation our friend began to see that although there are the exceptions where a farm owner or manager turns a blind eye to animal abuse which is absolutely unacceptable, that most of the time these poor conditions we all complain about are because as consumers we've demanded and supported ultra-low prices on meat.

Let's all be the change we want to see and start buying quality, well-raised meat products even if that means we have to eat a bit less to afford it.

A meat producer telling you to eat less meat? Who'da thunk.

Kendall ~ The chick behind Central Park Farms