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Have a Farm Question? Ask a Farmer, Not a Restaurant

Social Media is ablaze recently with discussion about the Chipotle commercial on family farms and the McDonald’s position on use of gestation crates for sows. Isn’t it funny how blindly people assume that because Chipotle or McDonald’s makes a statement about how their food gets from farm to restaurant, that the vast majority actually BELIEVES what they say is true? This is what highly paid marketing professionals call “framing the discussion”. They do so in ways that give them the appearance of respectability and truth. We as consumers take it in and make assumptions, misinformed, misguided, and otherwise inaccurate, based on what was presented…unless we’re astute enough to do our own research. (This research method by the way, is highly advisable, and is the crux of my blog).

Case in point – I’m guilty. For about 50 years, our family farm was a farrow to finish (birth to 250 pounds) hog farm. It takes a pig about 6 months to grow from birth to 250 pounds. Our operation was all outdoors, very labor intensive, not particularly good for control of erosion because hogs rutted up the fields, not particularly good for environmental control of manure, and not very cost-effective either. We closed up shop on our livestock production about 15 years ago due to those last 2 points – environmental regulations and the cost of raising hogs.  So when I hear that McDonald’s wants their growers to phase out gestation crates, as a former hog farmer, I actually have no idea what they are talking about. We never had gestation crates. But being the good consumer that I am, I investigate.

I called my neighbor who is a hog farmer. I asked her “So what is with this McDonald’s deal and gestation crates?” (I assumed her farm used them).

Her response?


Wow – I am GUILTY. I bought into the marketing message that McDonald’s is now advertising. I mean surely McDonald’s is correct in that ALL hog farmers’ use them right? WRONG!!!

So my point being, don’t do what I just did and what a lot of social media activists are doing which is making you believe that because there is a certain farming practice out there, all farmers must be using that practice. IT’S NOT TRUE.

Remember that marketing messages are designed to present one side of the story. It is “framed” a certain way to communicate a specific message, correctly or incorrectly. Be an informed consumer. Check out the other side of the story. If you want to understand how your food is grown, ask a farmer, not a marketing professional or restaurant chain.

Don’t know any farmers personally? I know of a great resource for you! Visit the website http://www.findourcommonground.com/. Click on “Food Facts” tab, and watch some really great videos from volunteer farm women around the USA who are growing your food and telling their farm’s story so that consumers understand what we farmers do to provide healthy and safe food, keep our livestock well and content, be good stewards of the land and resources we have, and provide the opportunity for our kids to own the next generation of family farms.

You can also leave me a comment and I will try to answer it. If I don't know the answer personally, I will call a farmer friend to find out for you and blog about the answer.
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