Busting the 'Factory Farm' Myth


There are many cheap weapons in the arsenal of the anti-conventional agriculture activist. We recently wrote about one of those, the ‘right to harm’ slur used to connect farmers with a sinister motive. Another senseless, cheap tactic used to pull on the emotional heartstrings of citizens and demonize farmers is the myth of factory farms. By using this fictional term, agriculture opponents can vividly connect farmers and ranchers with ideas of profiteering, animal torture, and disregard for the environment. These terms play on the worst fears of the public. With less than 2% of Americans making up the entirety of the farming community, most people are so disconnected from the land that they do not actually understand what is going on in the farming world. Support Family Farmer campaigns are the perfect example of this. People want to help and support local family farmers because they think that they are being crushed by huge agricultural corporations, but according to the USDA almost 97% of US farms are family-owned and operated. What could lead to this misconception? Often, farms can be family-owned AND corporate, but it’s a matter of title and not business practice. An article by Wanda Patsche, a farmer from southern Minnesota, explains the situation perfectly. It can be better for a family to become incorporated to ensure the future of the farm in case of disaster. That doesn’t mean the day-to-day operations change, but they receive a label that is simultaneously better for their family’s future and worse for their image because of activists who only see things in terms of labels. Incorporating allows family members to enter and exit the ‘business’ any time they want, or if there is a death it is easier to manage and continue their work. It ensures the future of the farm and gives the family needed flexibility. It does NOT mean their motives, standards, or way of life is changed. That is not to say that there are not huge corporations in agriculture, because there are. However, they often do not do the actual farming or hard work, instead contracting the farming out to the family-owned operations. What this means is that welfare standards for the food coming from big corporations is the same as the family-owned farms, because the family farms are where it originates! Why do family farmers agree to this? For one, it is easier to get their product from point A to point B and feed America if they are going through a business with many resources. It also gives them security, makes their lives a little easier, and ensures that they are the ones who maintain the care for their animals and land. Imagine how hard it would be for every individual farmer to make deals with grocers like Walmart and Target to sell their products. The limitations based on location, business knowledge, and contracting ability are endless. “Big Ag” companies get food from farmers to stores, and getting food to markets that need it is better for both farmers and consumers. So, yes, there might be a lot of activists with a negative image of agriculture producing videos that blame ‘factory farms', but that is not how the system actually works at all. Don’t get sucked into these lies that agriculture is all about big companies that are simply out for a profit at the expense of the land and animals. These are family-run operations being thrown under the bus by food chains and activists. As we put it in our response to Chipotle’s ad ‘The Scarecrow', “they’ve put forth their own distorted version of reality, attacking modern food production to scare customers straight into their restaurants.” It’s a scare tactic, nothing else. At the most basic level of farming, where environmental and animal welfare concerns are prominent, you have families working day-in and day-out to stay afloat while producing enough to feed America. One of the ways that they do that is through a greater reliance on agricultural technology, and that plays into the false “factory” imagery. But with the help of technology, farmers have the ability to produce more, on less land, using fewer resources, with less of an impact than ever before. How do they do this? Through information and research that allows them to be as efficient as possible. In crop production that means everything from sensors to drones and satellites telling when and where to apply fertilizer, pesticides, and water for the best results. As a result, there is less runoff and less waste that harms the environment. In animal agriculture, it means appropriately-sized cages and other practices that limit disease, predators, cannibalism, and injury. The increased animal welfare practices help make a better product, less waste, and less harm to the animals. So how can this technology be a negative? Every piece of innovation helps limit the environmental impact, increase the nutritional content, and simplify the production of the food that we all consume every day. Technology works, and farmers use technology, but these operations are far from the ‘factory farms’ depicted in negative ads. Everything they do, every piece of technology they implement, is helping make the process better and safer. In fact, the closest thing to the depicted factory farm in the United States gets little-to-no flak from the same activists who are attacking conventional agriculture. A ‘trendy’ new farm in South Philadelphia is literally taking place in a warehouse, with GM crops to resist bugs, and over $1 million in initial investments. Yet it doesn’t get labeled as a “factory farm,” because it is certified vegan. This is not to say that there isn't room for these types of farms in America, but we mention it to point out the hypocrisy of activists. This is the ‘ah-ha’ moment, folks. “Factory farms”, or the way the term is currently applied, are not an actual threat to America, but a fictional concept created by activists who want to end conventional farming. They use it when they are trying to scare you into a new restaurant, solicit donations, or fight needed ballot measures like Right to Farm Amendments. The Myth of Factory Farms is a well-thought out strategy to demonize food producers and turn consumers against them. Help us fight against this negative image, and continue to prove to Americans that their food producers are the individuals and families who have consistently cared about the environment, animal welfare, and nutrition of our food.


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