Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Benefits of Large-Scale Agriculture...

You will notice that this is a fairly late post today. It was a busy morning that included a trip to check out some storm shelters ... something that is important to think about during this season of the year! Since it is so late in the day I can't take too much time blogging today, but I would like to share a link to a recent article from "Feedstuffs", which is "a weekly newspaper for agribusinness". The title of the article is, "Large-Scale Structure has Benefits," and you can read it for yourself by taking the link above.

Here are a few of my favorite (I use that word loosely) quotes from the article:
  • "ANIMAL agriculture's structure has changed "dramatically" in the last 20 years as cattle feeding and hog and poultry production have transitioned to fewer but larger operations, but the change has benefited sustainability, producers and consumers, according to Dr. James MacDonald, chief of the U.S. Economic Research Service's (ERS) Agricultural Structure & Productivity Branch."
  • "However, he acknowledged that the impact also has included decreased competition and intense concerns related to air and water pollution."
  • "As for size, he said the "midpoint" for a typical dairy in 1987 was 80 head, whereas today, it's 550 head; similarly, feedlots went from 17,500 head to 35,000 head per yard, hog operations went from 1,200 head to 30,000 head and chicken complexes went from 300,000 birds to 600,000 birds."
  • "MacDonald said the fewer-but-larger trend also applies to packers/processors, with basically four major buyers of fed cattle, two to four major buyers of hogs and a handful of chicken integrators that contract production with local farmers. However, he said the marketplace has remained competitive."
I suppose it is an interesting point and I guess I can't really argue with many of the facts that are stated in the article. What can be argued though I believe is the suppositions that the article comes to ... such as the statement that says large-scale agriculture is more sustainable. What do you think about this article?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The old saying that, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall", comes to mind.

dp said...

The article analyzes the situation from the point of view of a business in which input and output numbers are the primary concern (it is an article in an agribusiness publication, afterall). You can't treat living things (and that is fundamentally the basis of food production) in a wholly quantitative manner. If you only compare input to output and prices for the producers and consumers, you leave out some of the more important things, like healthiness of the food (it is, or should be, about food, right?). The industrial model of food production mostly ignores the healthfulness of the product in favor of input vs. output. The whole analysis of this article is flawed because it doesn't consider the qualitative aspects of the situation. For instance, what are the health costs associated with an industrial model for food production?

There is no evidence to back up their claim of sustainability. The only way I see that they are making such a claim is in terms of input vs. output. There is no real consideration of environmental, ecological, social, cultural, or health concerns and the lack of sustainability of agribusiness in light of these.

I think it's a pitiful article because it falls woefully short of a meaningful consideration of the salient aspects of the situation. That is understandable because of the inherent bias of an article written for industrial farming.

kevin said...

first let me say I run a flock of 75 RIR, and Barred rock laying hens( my favorite)I order 100 straight run of each every spring, I sell the roosters as friers at about 16-20 weeks, and some of the pullets to people that want there own laying flock.. I just processed my first 100 white rock X chickens that dressed out to 3.5-4 lbs per bird in 8 weeks, every chicken was sold before they were finished thru a reservation arrangement. The white rock X cost a third to raise at a third the time. I have ordored an additional 200 to be delivered 04-17-09. These meat birds were raised as organicaly as I could, I raise rabbits as well and my garden is 100% organic, no it has never seen a pesticide. It would be wonderfull if all farm animals could be raised as they were 100 years ago but because of time and the fact that only 1.5% of the US population are feeding the rest. Explain to all the people that are struggling to feed there families with no jobs very little money, afraid of losing there homes, why they have to pay twice to three times the cost for food because, factory farms as I call them were outlawed, Its easy for someone that has the land to raise there own food to point there fingers, but do you have enuff land and food to feed the people the couldnt afford to feed their family if it werent for the more industrlized way of Farming

Dave said...

I don't see how something on this large a scale can be more sustainable than small family farms. We do most of the work ourselves, and I know that farms like Stoneyfield are striving to be the best stewards of what God has given us. How can large scale agribusiness have the same level or scale of sustainability as we do?

The Peterson Family said...

I just found your blog today and I am really enjoying it. About this article I just have to say that I wish I was a fly on the wall when the editors were sitting around wondering what to write about. With all the buy local, buy organic, by sustainable putting a wrinkle in the get big or get out plans they must be getting pretty desperate.

http://duskwindfarm.blogspot.com

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