I was recently chatting on a facebook post from HumanWatch.org. and they were asking for "ag" people to share their thoughts on some recent HSUS comments. The comments from HSUS basically stated that "they wanted to improve animal agriculture". My first responce on my thoughts were that I trust my veterinarian and sound science to tell me what is acceptable animal husbandry practices and care and what is not over a person who has never cared for a cow, chicken, or hog in their life. I have a hard time believing that people who have never worked with livestock know more about how to properly care for them than people who have devoted their life, work and reasearch to these animals. As a trained beef nutritionist who studied the science behind beef cattle nutrition I feel that I know more about what nutrients my cattle need at the different stages of their life than some man/woman in an suit in Washington DC.
Anyways later in the discussion there was a comment posted saying in a nut shell that if ranchers, feedlots, and meat packers feel that they are doing good by the animal and are not "abusing" them that we should not be so afraid to let the public walk onto our land or into our packing house and see first hand what we do. I responded back to him and discussed the importance of biosecurity as 1 reason I don't have an "open door policy". But it is more than that. Here are some reason that I came up with why we are not "OPEN for the Public"
1 - Biosecurity - diseases can be spread from 1 farm to another through people interaction. For example if someone came onto my farm to see my cattle and happened to visit a farm earlier that had a bad case of scours. Scours are caused by several different pathogens and result in diarrhea in cattle. Young calves can be very susceptible to scours and it can be very deadly and costly to treat. I know we don't hear much about scours on the nightly news but some diseases I have seen floating around the media include Foot and Mouth and Bird Flu. I have no way of knowing where any person who may walk in for a tour has been, what they have been exposed to and if they could bring something in that would harm my cattle's health. The only way I have to prevent this from happening keeping the number of people who enter my farm to a minimum and make sure that those people understand biosecurity. Our farm is also BQA certified (beef quality assurance, I spoke about this previously) and part of being BQA certified is maintaining a biosecurity program to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases. It includes managing not only the animals that enter our property but also vehicles and humans.
2 - My farm is also my home. I guess this comes down to I would not walk into New York city and just expect to be allowed to walk into any one's home or backyard that I choose. I would not expect that all home owners or renters for that would just allow anyone and everyone to enter and take a look around when ever they wanted. One of our constitutional rights is the right to privacy.
3 - My farm is also a place of business. I think about it this way I would not want to walk into my favorite steak house and see customers wandering around back in the kitchen, behind the bar, or around the wait stations. I don't walk into my local businesses and think that I should be given full reign of their office or work area. In some businesses such as the local welding shop, there are hazards and dangers and the welding shop owner wouldn't want a customer to get injured. To put into perspective of the meat packer, they are packing the meat that will be on the table for some family, they have strict sanitation guidelines and as a consumer I don't think I like the idea of random people wandering through the fabrication floor when the ribeyes that I will grill tomorrow night are being cut and packed. They also have safety and hazardous areas that can be very dangerous and the liability for people who could get hurt is extremely large.
One of the great things about the Internet and new social technology is that if you have access to the Internet, or a smart phone (and a large percent of Americans do) you have access to farmers and rancher who share real life un-edited words, photos, and videos everyday in blogs, chat rooms, You Tube, face book, twitter, the list goes on and on. Some of these farmers and ranchers offer web sites where you can buy their farm product direct from the farm. These questions from my potential customers on why and how food gets from my farm/ranch to there plate is 1 reason why I started the blog.