MORE than 500 people showed up at the campus of Michigan State University last week to hear Dr. Temple Grandin discuss “big” agriculture and how it compares to “small” agriculture.
Grandin began by discussing society’s lack of farm knowledge but noted that many people want to learn about food production and from where their food originates.
She told the attendees that the millennial generation is more concerned about where food comes from, but 31% of kids have never been on a farm. She also referenced a survey from the U.K. that revealed that 50% of young adults in the region failed to connect pigs with bacon.
Fewer people understand agriculture, yet the general public has, nonetheless, become a large influence on U.S. agricultural production practices, especially in animal agriculture.
Grandin used sow gestation stalls as an example of how societal views have changed the pork industry.
“Even though science says gestation stalls are okay, two-thirds of the public says they are not going to accept that kind of confinement” for pigs, she explained, while emphasizing that science is not able to answer every question about animal welfare.
Grandin said she believes that the public’s views lie somewhere in the middle of the road but that one problem with the internet is that it magnifies the voices of the radicals on either side of an issue.
In regards to animal rights websites, she said, “It’s a little bit like saying everybody drives drunk and that a picture of wrecked cars and smashed-up drunken drivers is representative of driving. No, that is just not the case. Things are not all that simple.”
Grandin said one thing that always comes across in survey responses she reads is that “big” is bad.
“I see badly managed big and badly managed small, and vice versa,” Grandin explained. “Overworked and understaffed is bad — big or small. It’s not so simple to say ‘big is bad.’ Big can learn from small, and small can learn from big.”
When asked for specifics, Grandin explained that small farms can learn about quality assurance from big farms, and big farms can learn about cover crops and crop rotation from small farms. READ MORE